It was a few years ago that I started my first in-house content marketing role at a growing B2B tech startup (after spending previous years agency-side), marking the first time I'd ever had full ownership over traffic growth for a new B2B brand. As excited as I was, I had to quickly reign in my excitement since at the time I joined, B2B blog traffic stood at a whopping...zero monthly visitors. In fact, the blog didn’t even exist yet!
With a major uphill climb ahead, I saw at least one clear bright side: going forward, I knew that most of what I’d find in our Google Analytics traffic report could be attributed to the choices I made as the one-person content team. This also meant I could test and adapt very quickly, which is exactly what I did.
I should mention that we spent $0 on driving paid traffic to the blog for those first two years; the priority was to produce high-quality content as efficiently as possible and to discover what really resonates (and frankly, we didn’t have the budget - all of our paid spend was for driving prospects to our B2B landing pages). I was also on parental leave with twins for four months around the end of 2018 / beginning of 2019.
That said, here are the four major lessons and tactics that I learned along the way that ultimately helped me scale a brand new B2B blog that had zero content and a non-existent audience to over 50,000 monthly organic visitors within two years.
In the beginning, quantity does matter
I know this goes contrary to the idea of “quality over quantity”, but when building a blog from scratch, you kind of need to do both. When you’re breaking into the market and you’re trying to get your target audience - and Google - to really notice your content, what you’re really trying to do is gain mindshare in your industry and that can only happen when you’re putting a lot of content out there to be seen and consumed. This is especially true if you have competitors who are really good at posting about your core topics.
Publishing once a week is a great target; more than that is even better if you can manage it. I posted 5-8 new, keyword-focused articles per month for almost the entire first year of the blog.
Do you need to publish that frequently? No. Was everything I published a 1,000+ word pillar posts with an eye-catching title and littered with custom designed images and diagrams? Absolutely not. But I certainly did publish long, value-packed posts regularly (more on that later), alongside a steady stream of shorter, more straightforward articles that answered specific questions that mattered to our target audience. And maybe this goes without saying, but every single blog post we published adhered to standard on-page SEO best practices.
The ideal scenario is where your readers and search engines consume your content and think...“wow, this company really knows their stuff... AND they’re legit enough to be sharing useful content about what they know on a clearly consistent basis”. That’s the goal, and posting a high volume of quality content in the early days of your blog helps you get there.
Regularly publish content that provides “bonus” value
When it comes to growing your blog organically, the best content you can publish contains something so unique and valuable to your readers that they feel compelled to save it, revisit it and / or share it with others. Why? Because all of these actions signal high reader engagement (time on page, repeat visits, backlinks, etc.) which Google rewards with organic traffic.
While this makes it sound like you have to come up with viral posts, that’s not what this really means. What this actually means is that you just have to add something extra to posts you were already going to write anyway. Here are some examples of ways to add “bonus” value to posts - as part of my content strategy I incorporated this tactic ~2-4 times per month:
- Adding a diagram or visual that breaks down a popular industry concept you’re writing about in a compelling or unique way (be sure to optimize the image name, URL and alt attributes!). This 2+ year old article is the #1 image result for “employer branding framework” and #2 on the regular results page.
- Including primary research OR properly cited research findings or statistics as a central element in a post.
- Including a downloadable PDF that packages up all or some highlights of what the post talks about (try to use “PDF” in your page optimization here - you’d be surprised how often it pops up in search queries).
- Featuring a ton of quotes from industry experts regarding a popular topic or problem (this also lends credibility and a set of people who may help share the post for you). This expert roundup I wrote ranks #2 for “how to choose company values” and this one ranks #1 for “why good employees quit”.
- Sharing a well-researched list of the best articles or resources on a particular topic (this saves your reader a ton of time by aggregating information for them)
- A combination of any of the above in a single post
Combine keyword research + social monitoring
I love keyword research. When the blog was brand new I spent hours on SEMrush and Google Suggest (and later added other tools to the mix) to find the best keyword opportunities, uncover topic ideas and assess my content and keyword competition. However, what became clear is that keyword research is only one part of the equation. Yes, keyword research is a powerful and, in my opinion, indispensable aspect of any successful content strategy but it definitely has its blind spots.
For example, sometimes there are keywords that have low search volume but are important topics that your target audience is dying to read about. Or sometimes you might think that one keyword is your key to success, when your audience is actually using a different keyword altogether.
This is where social monitoring comes into play. Sites like Quora, Reddit, BuzzSumo and LinkedIn are great ways to get immediate qualitative data on what your audience is interested in to both supplement what you’ve found through traditional keyword research and also fill out crucial gaps. Taking this approach to your blog strategy gets you away from a common content pitfall of “writing for search engines” and instead writing for human beings (your audience!) - Google much prefers the latter.
Constantly revisit, improve and revive old content
Grant recently shared some great insight about how this tactic helped Unstack’s 500% blog growth and I would echo his thoughts since I’ve had a similar experience. As he says, one of the best low effort ways to help grow your blog is to go back to your top performing posts and make thoughtful additions to the body of those posts. I’ll add a couple of additional points:
- There are lots of different ways you can improve your old content that doesn’t have to include expanding on the copy; things like swapping out or adding optimized images, converting paragraphs to bullet points or numbered lists where applicable (which may be helpful for landing Google featured snippets), adjusting tags and categorization, adding internal or external links or even adding a video.
- Older posts that didn’t perform well are worth revisiting too, especially if you have a lot of them sitting in your archives. Dusting off these older posts and giving them a new spin saves you the time and mental energy it would take to publish a brand new blog post, and it also helps you improve the overall value of your entire blog.
So there you have it. Building organic traffic is definitely a long game, but I promise that applying some of these lessons to your content strategy will make a difference. When done right, it’ll be one of your most steady sources of traffic to add on top of your social, email, direct and referral channels. If you end up using any of these tactics, I’d love to hear if it turned out to be successful for you!