Greetings and Salutations from the writing desk,
Ahh, April came and then it went and now here we are, almost done with May. I wanted to share with you some successes from April and some things that we are looking forward to in the upcoming months. So, without much further ado:
Unique Visitors: Up 17.26% from 42,629 to 49,987
Pageviews: Up 21.13% from 107,922 to 130,722
In April we published a total of 16 blog posts. We also welcomed guest writer Jeremey Duvall, who wrote this awesome piece titled, What a workout does to your brain (and why difficult exercises make your brain grow).
In the next few months, we’ll be working on identifying and tracking key metrics related to the main goals of our blog:
- To build trust
- To create value for our members
- To drive awareness for Crew
What we know so far is that each post we write roughly translates into about $7,000 worth of projects that meet our vetting standards but this isn’t the only number that’s important to us. There are multiple factors to consider here and we’re still working on honing our tracking of this data.
Sincerity in writing
People connect the most to pieces that are written in an open way. As a writer, you must be vulnerable to develop a connection with your readers. But that’s easier said than done…really.
When you are writing about yourself you tend to self-edit (it’s a way of protecting your ego). I know this has hurt my writing in the past. People inherently pick up on this–whether they realize it or not. Just like when we are talking with one another face-to-face, readers don’t connect to something they feel is insincere.
Sincerity is one of the reasons why Mikael’s post, Why I Killed My Standing Desk continues to resonate with so many. When I read his post again, I se what people are connecting with. Rather than writing another post about the benefits of a standing desk, Mikael tried to use one himself first. Although a standing desk didn’t work out for him, Mikael wrote from experience, allowing for a deeper connection with the topic and with readers.
We try to do this with every post we write. Writing from experience allows you to go deeper, attacking a subject from different angles you couldn’t reach if you don’t try something yourself.
Here are the top five blog posts from April:
- Why I Killed My Standing Desk (51,211 pageviews)
2. Leaving Work at Work: How to End Your Day (8,042 pageviews)
3. Get Out of Your Head and Start Something (5,735 pageviews)
- How to Use Your Mood to Work Better (4,853 pageviews)
- How to Cure Stage Fright (3,667 pageviews)
Popular Syndicated Posts:
Leave Work at Work on The Next Web (4.7K shares)
7 Things You Can Do Right Now to Protect Your Vision on The Next Web (4.1K shares)
Why I Killed My Standing Desk on Lifehacker (195,492 reads)
One thing that’s clear about the topics of these top posts is they are things that likely interest many people. Since we started writing at Crew, we’ve looked to focus on topics that would not only reach our target customers but a much broader audience.
This strategy was adopted from The Content Marketing Manifesto created by Moz. In this presentation, Moz Founder Rand Fishkin speaks about the purpose of inbound content marketing and why you shouldn’t be overly concerned with the relevance of your content.
The goal of any content marketing strategy should not only be to reach relevant current and potential customers but to reach anyone who might interact with your potential customers.
We’ve see this work firsthand when creating our content. Our top performing articles have a much wider reach than what someone might think would be most relative to our target customers.
Most of our top blog posts are also prime examples of evergreen articles. That means that they don’t lose their relevance over time, they aren’t reliant on the 24-hour news cycle for pageviews. These articles will likely remain just as interesting to people in ten years as they did when they were first published. This is important because building up a blog or any sort of content strategy takes a long time. We want the posts we write to be bricks that get stronger with time.
Are we creating value?
Social sharing (i.e. tweets and people sharing our articles on Facebook) drives more people to the blog than anything else:
That’s good news. We prefer people find our blog through their friends and sharing. It means that what we are writing about resonates enough to share with the people our readers are closest with.
Medium is a horse of a different color, what works on Medium may not work elsewhere and vice-versa. It’s difficult to draw extrapolations about content here because it often feels like a game of chance.
Case in point, Why I Killed My Standing Desk was one of our all-time, best performing posts on the Crew blog but was one of our worst on Medium:
Here’s how the rest of our posts did on Medium in April:
There’s a lot happening behind the scenes at Medium which may contribute to how and why people find our content, which we can’t control for. As such, it’s difficult to make clear cut conclusions on the data without being able to account for each variable. What I can surmise, however, is the following:
One, the headline is almost everything. I mean really, this goes for every blog post. The headline has to be broad enough that it can appeal to a good number of people and leave enough to the imagination that people will be compelled to click on it.
The second takeaway from this is that these posts weren’t short, but they were accessible–readers weren’t drowning in scientific jargon.
This month, we decided to segment out our email lists because we want our readers to feel like we’re looking out for them (and their inboxes). “What will make our readers happy” is something that guides every decision we make with the blog. So when we segmented the list for our new Weekend Reads email campaign, a summary of articles published during the week, we made it very clear what new readers would be opting in to – either posts as they’re published (usually every other day) or only the Weekend Reads campaign ( a weekly summary of articles).
This seems like a small detail but it’s important. When we created this option, we thought most people would want the weekly summary of articles. But it turns out that 77% of new subscribers wanted posts as soon as they were published rather than as a weekly summary. That tells us that as long as the content is good, people don’t mind getting emails from us. It will be interesting to see how this data holds up over the course of the next few months.
Looking at open rates and click-through rates opened my eyes to another bit of valuable insight.
What Every Successful Person Knows was a post that did well as a subject line because it made people wonder. Though I am reticent to use the phrase the “curiosity gap” for fear of looking like I’m promoting click baiting, there is something to be said for leaving a little to the imagination. Also, no one wants to read a 17 word subject line.
The headline “Why I Killed My Standing Desk” worked well for similar reasons:
Using the word “killed” invokes an incredibly strong emotional response. It also goes against conventional wisdom. Most of us have only heard about the wondrous benefits of standing desks, so this tells us something that we haven’t already heard before. The key, then, to a good headline is one that, “does the job neatly and without fuss.”
Mikael had the chance to meet up with author and Business Insider reporter Drake Baer this past month. During their chat, Drake shared an interesting piece of writing advice. Drake noted that getting the headline right can do more than just get people to read your stuff. It can help focus your story. When you start with a clear headline, it acts as a director for the piece. The points that are most important to the piece naturally seem to make their way to the forefront while the unnecessary fades away.
This led us to think about an approach we might try out for the next month – if we can’t think of a good headline first, maybe the post isn’t ready to be written yet.
It can be hard to break free from the “Top 10 reasons why…” or “The Ultimate Guide…” types of headlines. They are prevalent because they work to attract a certain type of reader but we know that spending time searching a bit deeper for the right headline, can go a long way to connect emotionally with readers.
If the right headline doesn’t come right away, sometimes a bit of inspiration can help. Mikael subscribes to InsideHook, a city travel guide, purely for headline inspiration.
We aren’t immune to poor subject lines at Crew, we’ve had a few misses in that department. Finding that perfect balance of tone, curiosity, and emotion is like trying to hold sand in your hand. Each time you think you have it, a little bit slips away, and you’ve got to start all over again. Does that analogy work here? I don’t know, but that’s how it feels sometimes.
Headlines are important but they don’t trump trust. If you become known for quality writing, your readers will expect this. And headlines will have less of an impact.
When I read a great writer, I often find myself not caring what any of their subject lines are. I just want to read their perspective on anything. I don’t care what the headline is.
Everything is competing for your readers attention, which means you don’t have a lot of time to make a good impression but if you write exceptional, useful things on a consistent basis, a headline won’t be the determining factor for a story’s success.
We’ll be running at least one experiment a month on the blog to control for variables. Whether that be publishing times, headlines, etc., one month gives us a relatively good sample size (about 15 articles) to control certain variables so we can see valid results and make adjustments if necessary.
Over the next few months we’ll be experimenting with the following:
1. Article topics
We’ll be looking deeper at what we’re writing to see if there are better ways we might be able to balance the main purposes of the blog (to build trust, to create value for our members, to drive awareness for Crew).
2. Headlines and publishing times
How does changing headlines affects readership and are there are specific days of the week that are better (or worse) for posting?
For instance, I hypothesize that Friday is horrible day for posting because people are looking forward to the weekend/don’t want to sit on their computer once their work day is done. Perhaps we can combat this by posting earlier on Friday as opposed to posting in the evening, which is what we have normally done.
3. The minimum effective dose for publishing
This one’s challenging but it’s something we’ve been thinking about. Since we’re a small company and we don’t have unlimited resources, we’ve been toying with trying to figure out finding the point where the frequency of blog posts might impact the value of each blog post we write. In other words, at what point does the value of each blog post decrease.
For instance, does writing 10 articles per month results in 500 new subscribers, 1,000 social shares and 300 interactions with members but bumping to 20 articles doesn’t substantially impact any of those numbers (or perhaps negatively impacts them).
Could getting too many posts too frequently produce some sort of mental fatigue? If we send posts less frequently, could this result in a different feeling about our writing and better serve our readers and the purpose of our blog?
We’re working on the best way to conduct this experiment because there are many variables to control for (length and topic of posts, etc.). Perhaps the best way is to do a month to month comparison of our Key Metrics of a month where we publish say 10 articles versus 20 articles.
We’ve heard the importance of keeping a blog continually updated (ideally posting almost daily if possible) to build a reader base but we wonder if this is really as impactful as it’s made to seem.
What we do know is that writing consistently good things is the most important. If we get that right first, we’re on the right track.