It’s hard to believe that if the HubSpot blog were a person it would be in high school right now.
That’s right – the HubSpot blog has been posting content for more than a decade to help hundreds of millions of readers discover best practices in marketing, sales, customer service, website development, agency work, and general business best practices .
Behind the scenes, our team is also thinking about how to convince as many readers as possible to become leads and access more information, tools, and resources from HubSpot – and everyone who worked on it Lead generation knows that it is much easier said than done to accomplish this task.
Effective blog lead generation requires both creative and analytical skills. It’s about knowing which numbers to crack, how to analyze your existing data and how to make forecasts based on traffic, monthly search volume and conversion potential.
Additionally, every good marketer needs to understand the human aspect behind this process, and not lose sight of the people who read your blog and the problems your business can help solve.
Over the years, the HubSpot team has come across a process that is generating leads day in and day out, with a reliable blog view-to-lead conversion rate and a steady flow of traffic.
Here are the steps my team at HubSpot is taking to generate leads from our blog.
1. Review existing blog metrics.
To develop a process for increasing our blog lead count, we first had to understand how well we were doing.
To capture the current status of blog lead generation, we calculated the total number of hits and the number of leads generated from the blog. Those two numbers gave us a baseline conversion rate (in this case, the number of leads generated divided by the total views of the HubSpot blog over a period of time) that we knew the team could only go up.
While the number of leads was the ultimate goal for our team, we wanted to take a closer look at the overall conversion rate and the change from month to month. That number would surely let us know if traffic is increasing on posts and topics that are most likely to convert their intended audiences.
The full image conversion rate gave us an important directional view, but if we ever saw a major shift in that conversion rate, we needed to know where that shift was occurring. For example, if we saw an increase in traffic to a low-conversion post, it would affect the overall conversion rate for the blog.
In order to drill down further, we also looked at all the data at post level, i.e. the traffic number of each post, the number of leads generated and the CVR. By exporting and tracking this data on a monthly basis, we were able to determine which posts were weighing on our CVR, which posts kept it strong, and which posts were prime candidates for a better CVR.
To do this:
- Choose a time period (last quarter, last month, etc.) for which you want to know your conversion metrics.
- Determine your total data for traffic and leads generated during this time and calculate the blog’s total CVR.
- Export your traffic and lead numbers for individual blog posts for that period. Depending on your analytics tool, you may need to export data from two different sources and combine metrics using a VLOOKUP in Excel or Google Sheets.
- For each post, divide the number of leads generated by the traffic number to get post-level conversion metrics.
2. Group common posts.
Over the years, HubSpot has released Thousands of blog posts – and while this was immensely helpful in expanding HubSpot’s email subscription base and ranking it for tons of keywords, it made organizing and analyzing conversion metrics extremely difficult.
Fortunately, the blog and SEO teams have developed a model to group posts with similar search intent with the Pillar cluster model. In short, this model was the result of extensive scrutiny to better organize our blog, reduce blog redundancy, and help search engines understand what content should be considered the most authoritative for a given topic.
As a result of this project, all of our blog posts were given a relevant “Topic Tag” – or the cluster to which each post belonged. For example, an “Instagram Marketing” tag is assigned to each Instagram post and a link to our Instagram marketing column page is created.
This process ensures the effectiveness of the analysis of metrics. For example, if we export blog metrics, we can analyze blog posts by tags (i.e. all “Instagram Marketing” posts) that we have a few hundred of which instead of analyzing every single URL that we have over 10,000 .
To do this:
- Export all of your blog posts from your CMS or website analytics tool to a spreadsheet.
- Categorize each of your keywords into a topic cluster. These topic clusters should have a high search volume, be anchored in a long and highly frequented post and be related to one another in terms of the search intent. For example, instead of bundling all of our social media posts into one giant “social media” cluster, we created more niche clusters for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram to make the categorization more precise.
- Correctly categorized with each post, Organize your data with a pivot table to look at the numbers generated by each cluster rather than every URL. Your pivot table should show the number of posts in each cluster, the views generated, and the leads generated. From there, you can calculate the cluster’s CVR by dividing the total number of leads by the total number of views.
3. Determine the best opportunities for content offerings.
One of the main benefits of grouping your posts is to identify an opportunity for content offers that can be effectively promoted in multiple blog posts as opposed to a single post.
As an acquisition marketer, it is tempting for us to optimize the conversion paths for high-traffic posts. However, these high traffic posts are often too general and have nothing to do with what we are trying to market.
This mismatch results in misdirected efforts and unmet lead goals as we are quick to ignore blog posts that, on their own, may have lower traffic numbers but collectively have significant traffic numbers.
Ask yourself which of these two options is better for lead generation.
- A blog post that has little or nothing to do with your product or service, but that is viewed 100,000 times a year.
- 10 individual blog posts that are clearly related to your company’s core competencies, but only generate an average of 10,000 views per year.
In both scenarios, you would optimize the conversion path for 100,000 readers. Only when you group these posts can you realize this Option 2 is a much better option for lead generation.
To address this issue, we organized all of our blog topics based on the potential number of leads they could generate, but easily ruled out any cluster of topics that we questioned converting potential. This crucial step ensured that we only considered ideas that we believed were worth our time and resources to develop.
In addition to creating specific CTAs for each blog post we create, we also create resources for specific topics that we believe have high conversion potential. For example, in this blog post on the e-book format, we created a special resource: 18 free e-book formatting and authoring templates:
To do this:
- Calculate how many leads each topic cluster could generate. At HubSpot, we subtract the individual clusters actual CVR from his Goal CVRand multiplying that difference by that Traffic number for the desired period.
- Organize data by each cluster’s lead generation opportunity – first by the highest chance and last by the lowest chance.
- Search your list of high chance clusters and remove all low intention clusters from your consideration. Make sure that only topic clusters remain that have a direct connection to your products / services.
- Select one (or more) topic clusters that you would like to support with a lead-generating content offer.
4. Create lead generation content.
By this point, you have identified clusters of topics that you think would benefit from new, dedicated lead generation content. Now is the time to create that content.
Understanding what type of content to create is based on knowledge of your industry, your market, and your buyer personalities. In our experience we discovered HubSpot’s blog audience is responsive to actionable, personalized, and customizable content in the form of templates, tools and kits.
However, this is not the case for all organizations. Find out which content format is best for your audience by examining the performance of your current library or testing different formats to see what resonates with your blog readers.
Knowing which formats would be best for our readership, we had to create templates for our most-read, but least-converting clusters, so readers would see our content as an actionable next step for them to apply the knowledge gained in the blog post. Below you will find some examples of how we have assigned an offer to a topic cluster.
The most important things to remember about this step are: Don’t overcomplicate your content. Remember, to ensure a conversion, you need to convince a reader of the quality and relevance of your content. If you’re struggling to make the connection between your blog content and the content of your offering yourself, how well do you think a reader who scans your blog posts will make that connection?
To do this:
- Take a look at the posts in the topic cluster that you would like to tweak with new content and think about what a natural next step for the reader would be.
- Cement an idea for some content that you can create that will help your readers in the next step.
- Create the content in your desired format (PDF for e-books, Google Sheets or Microsoft Word for templates, etc.) and start it behind a lead-generating form on your website.
5. Promote content with CTAs.
To make blog conversion easier, you need to notify blog readers of the new lead-generating content on the same page as your blog content.
Blog CTAs can take a variety of formats. Two of the most popular are:
- Anchor text CTAs – Hyperlink text to the landing page of the offer you are promoting. Remember to keep the anchor text direct and clear so readers know what they are clicking on. Action words like “download” and “access” are helpful here.
- Image CTAs – Hyperlink images to the landing page of your offer. These CTAs might look like a banner ad and include a copy of the offer and a picture explaining the value of the offer. These image CTAs can also be an image of the listing itself, which is useful when promoting a template or tool.
At HubSpot, the majority of our posts contain at least three CTAs – an anchor text and two images. We can add several more, depending on the intent we want readers to have for a particular post. However, all of these decisions are based on years of data collection and A / B testing. We recommend that you rely on this as well to ensure a non-intrusive CTA experience on your blog posts.
To do this:
- Determine the types of CTAs that you want to include for the blog posts you have optimized.
- If necessary, create CTA images with a design tool like Adobe or Canva.
- Add CTAs to each post, either from Use a CTA tool or hyperlinks to any image or line of text you add to your blog posts. We recommend the former.
6. Analyze your results.
We gained confidence that this approach worked best for us when the results confirmed it.
After 30 days of starting a new content offering for a series of blog posts, we always answer two questions:
- How many leads did each blog generate before we optimized it with the new content?
- How many leads did each blog generate after we optimized it with the new content?
Far more often, these clusters see a remarkable increase in CVR, with some increasing many times over more than 1,000%.
However, there have been times when we missed the mark and the offer didn’t go as expected. When that happened, we rolled back the changes and went back to the drawing board – armed with knowledge of what didn’t work, which helped us figure out what would help us generate more leads in the future.
To do this:
- Before you replace the CTA, calculate the traffic, lead, and CVR numbers for each blog post that has been optimized with the new offering.
- Do the same for a set period of time after replacing the CTAs.
- Calculate the difference between leads and CVR for each post.
- If the post’s CVR has not increased as expected, you should undo your changes and create a new content offering.
7. Align with SEO.
When we discovered that this process was helping us achieve our goals, our immediate thought was protection. HubSpot writers and SEOs work hard to ensure that our blog posts consistently rank on the first page for search results for their intended keywords – and we don’t want to lose this highly competitive property.
However, like all teams, SEO needs to prioritize which blog posts are most in need of protecting from losing their SERP rankings and traffic. So it became our job to make sure the HubSpot SEO team knew which posts were most important to generating leads.
At HubSpot, we’re fortunate to work with experienced SEOs who are able to quickly and effectively prioritize the right content.
As my colleague Braden Becker – Senior SEO Strategist at HubSpot – said when we were talking about this topic at INBOUND 2020: “The traffic doesn’t pay the bills.”
After we were all on board for prioritization, our teams agreed on how best to manage an SEO strategy for high-lead drivers, while emphasizing the importance of maintaining high traffic numbers for posts across the HubSpot- Blog was taken into account.
The team takes the following steps to ensure that lead generation goals are met:
- Protect drive traffic to high-traffic, high-converting blog posts by regularly reviewing their performance and updating the content of those posts as needed. By optimizing these posts frequently, we are telling search engines that we can quickly add the most relevant information to these pages.
- To grow drive traffic to low-traffic, high-converting blog posts – or make sure those posts have reached their organic traffic potential to the full.
- Create Posts for keywords that we haven’t written articles for – but that match related content offerings or clusters – as these posts can generate significant lead numbers for us. This step requires keyword research to make sure these new posts are generating traffic.
- Stop Protect traffic to high-traffic, low-converting posts. While strong traffic numbers are great, we have concluded that lower traffic numbers are acceptable if it means that our historical optimization efforts are diverted from posts that may not generate as much traffic, but generate significantly more leads than other posts .
To do this:
- Make a list of blog content that you want lead generation traffic to increase or decrease.
- Present this list to your colleagues in Search Engine Optimization to see what action can be taken to redirect traffic growth efforts towards the right posts. Note: It is important to set expectations here as an SEO cannot wave a magic wand and increase the demand for a low-ranking keyword. Sometimes a post ranks as good as it can – but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t double-check to see if there’s an opportunity to increase traffic if possible.
- Present a list of high-traffic, converting blog content to see if there are similar keywords to write about in a new (or updated) blog post, as well as potential keywords that will form the basis of new net posts could form.
- Come with dates. SEOs are not concerned with risk taking. So explain how a traffic victim in some areas can lead to a stronger CVR and lead number on your business blog.
8. Repeat the cycle!
HubSpot’s bloggers are constantly creating new blog posts and optimizing historically existing ones. In other words, my team is always given the opportunity to create new lead generation content and ensure that the content that has already been created continues to exist and is of value to our leads.
Whenever we create gated content, we always follow the seven steps above and are consistently rewarded with an increase in leads from our blog.