Put your readers first to win at content marketing

I’ve been anxiously waiting for today to share our results from last week with you.

tldr; When you write an article, sending the full content by email with a link to the blog post is a great experience for your reader (and might be best for you too).

What we’ve learned so far

If you just signed up for the newsletter (Hi New York Times readers), here’s a summary of some of the things we’ve learned over the past few weeks:

Email + Blog = Love

  • Having an email newsletter is a great way to strengthen your relationship with an existing audience.
  • Having a blog is a great way to reach new people (but hard to let them know about new content).
  • Sending a newsletter with a teaser linking to the blog got 50% of people who opened the email to click. It also really annoyed people.

Last week, you received full content by email. There was a link at the top to read online, and a link at the bottom of the email to add a comment on the blog.

How did behavior in the email change when we sent the full content in the email?

Opens – as you might expect, there was no real change here. The open rate was well within the normal range.

Clicks – Clicks in the email went from 48% of opens to 10% of opens.

Anecdotally, here are a couple of comments:

From Sarah:

The full content in the email got me to the bottom to the leave a comment link.

From Matter Design:

As a marketer I normally consider click through rate as a measure of success. However I just read your content in full because it was all in the email.

Great point! If you do this you can’t use click through rate as a measure of success. But it might be a trade-off worth making.

How many people ended up reading the article on the site?

3x as many unique people viewed the article on the blog as opened the email.

Here are visits:

Visits to the blog

  • The first peak is when we sent a teaser email + blog content.
  • The second peak is last weeks email with full content in email and on the blog.
  • The third peak is traffic from a link to Customer.io from a New York Times article on Standing Desks.

Without drawing any conclusions, the number of people reading last week’s newsletter on the blog was greater than the week before.

Let’s see if we can dig a little more into the numbers:

How was it shared on social networks?

Hacker News

One big driver of traffic last week was the website Hacker News. One of you (dsr12) submitted the article. Whomever you are, Thank you!

It received just 10 votes on Hacker News. This resulted in 45% of uniques visits to the article.

For those of you who are unfamiliar, Hacker News is a website for technology folks to share articles. An article on the front page for a long time is a force of nature (see this tweet).

Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Linkedin… are they worth it?

There were 4 Facebook likes, 22 tweets, 3 linked-in shares, and 6 google +1s.

Social sharing

Assuming the numbers for referrals are accurate, social sharing (only) accounted for about 4-5% of traffic to the article.

If that trend continues, I may remove “sharing” from the page completely to streamline the reading & commenting experience.

I’d love to know if you have data that supports or contradicts my findings.

How prominent is mobile?

20% of viewers of the blog post were mobile. iPhone, iPad then the long-tail of android devices. I don’t have stats yet for how many people opened the email on mobile. Our friends at Litmus have a way to track this, so I may give it a shot in a future mailing.

Summary of changes we’ve made to the blog and the emails you receive

  1. Weekly content appears in full on the blog and by email
  2. Emails contain a link to the blog at the top to read online and at the bottom for comments
  3. Blog has a “Sign up for emails” box after you read the article (we set a cookie so you don’t see it after signing up)
  4. The design of the blog focuses on reading with distractions removed.

I’d stand by these recommendations. The primary goal is to provide more value to you, the reader. And I think if what you say and how you deliver it seeks to give value to your audience first, you can’t go too far wrong.

What are some changes you’ve made that have had surprising results? Share your thoughts in the comments.

P.S. This is the last this series about how to package all of the great articles you’ll write into a nice neat bundle.

I’ll continue to experiment on my end and let you know if I learn anything new. But next week, expect an article diving back into our main focus: Helping you write better marketing emails to your customers

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