During the early Venngage days, we would publish content for the sake of publishing content. We read in many content marketing guides that you should publish often, and some studies even suggested that the more you publish, the more shares you will get. So we churned out several posts per week, per author. After a few months of this, I took a step back and asked my team, so how are we measuring our efforts? What is considered a good post? For example, in terms of shares on a blog post, is 50 total shares good? Is 100 good? No one knew the answer. There were a lot of benchmarks on the frequency and volume of posts, and also on the best times to share them, but no actual metrics on how many shares you should be getting to be considered “good”, “average” or plain “bad.”
If you’re like most data-driven marketers, this should bother you. You want a point of reference to compare your performance. In addition, you might want to answer the following questions: How are you doing compared to our competitors? How far away are you compared to the best of the best in the industry? What targets or goals should you be setting for your content team? Are you improving over time or getting worse?
The good news is we’ve done this benchmarking for ourselves, and now we’re sharing it with you. We’re also making this an actionable benchmark because it is designed to get you to measure your own content marketing performance. Yes, it requires you to do work but we’ve done most of the heavy lifting, you just need to plug in a few numbers from your own content. So this isn’t one of those benchmarks that you glance at and then forget. Our hope is that you’ll become a better content marketer by applying the benchmarks and recommendations we put forward here.
Here’s a SlideShare presentation that summarizes the entire study:
What are we benchmarking?
We picked the top 115 marketing tech companies from Inbound.org’s Top MarTech list. Why are we using top companies? Shouldn’t we be using a random sample from all companies? No! There are two reasons why:
First, we wanted a benchmark that compared us to the best in the industry, not to the average/median (remember, we want to be the best!).
Second, as a recent Moz/Buzzsumo study of over 1 million posts shows, the performance of content follows the power law rule and not a normal distribution: it disproportionately rewards the best performers in the group. The cold hard truth is that the vast majority of posts gets zero shares. The median (blue line) is very far from the top performers.
What this means is that whether you like it or not, you’re competing with the the best of the best for attention in this noisy world inundated with content. Producing average content means that no one will see it. You have to break through to the top 10% to even be noticed. Hence, it makes sense to benchmark against the best in the field.
We used Buzzsumo to look at all blog posts of the top MarTech companies for a six month period, from May 1, 2015 to October 31, 2015. The dates were not arbitrary–we did not want to look at any posts less than six months old to make sure there was enough lag time. We also picked the period in the middle of the year to avoid the seasonal peaks/falls associated with the end and start of the year.
What metrics did we benchmark?
We only looked at the performance of blog posts in terms of shares. While internally we measure the performance of a post by other dimensions such as traffic, conversions and backlinks, we wanted to focus this benchmark on a metric that was standardized across all companies. Here are all the metrics we benchmarked:
- Blog Post Total Shares and Shares by Platform (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, G+)
- Blog Post Shares by Followers (shares normalized by the number of followers for that company)
- Blog Post Total Shares by Type (Infographic, Video, Guest Post, Article, Interview)
- Total Shares and Shares by Platform, Per Month (for a company)
- Top Companies
Benchmark Percentile and Grade
Unlike a lot of marketing benchmark studies that use the average numbers as their only benchmark, we used percentiles and grades. We benchmarked each metric to produce their respective 90th, 75th, 50th (median), 25th and 10th percentile numbers. This allows you to grade your content on a percentile scale and use a simple A to F grading system. So, if you’re in the 90th percentile, that means you’re better than 90% of the other sites (or you’re in the top 10%) and you’re an “A” grade performer.
This allows you to be ambitious and target higher percentiles as you get better. Let’s say you start out in the 50th percentile (or “C” grade range), you can target to improve to the 75th percentile (or “B” grade range). When you get to B, you want to move up to the top 10% (A grade).
Blog Post Total Shares
This benchmark measures the total shares a single blog post. The Total Shares of a post is the sum of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and G+ shares.
As you can see, an A grade post has 939 total shares or more, a B post, 357 shares, a C (which is the median) has at least 131 shares.
How do you benchmark your own posts’ total share performance?
Look at the blog posts you have published from the previous month, and get the number of total shares for those posts. You can find this number from your social sharing plugin, or from a tool like Buzzsumo.
For each post, compare the total share number with the benchmark and assign a grade. We’ve created an Excel workbook to help you record and benchmark your results easily. Download it using the download buttons on the right of this page.
After you’ve benchmarked all your posts, you can look at the patterns and adjust your content activities and experiments accordingly. For example, in the month of February we published two original research posts as part of an experiment in “pop economics” content ( one was about falling in love via texting, and the other was about the Oscars and racism –topics very different from our usual content marketing fare). One of them scored a B, and the other a C. Though they did not perform as well as some of our other original content in terms of shares, both articles got us mentions from some unlikely and interesting publications. Having this benchmark gives us a way to compare our efforts in experimenting with different kinds of content.
Blog Post Facebook Shares
This benchmark measures the Facebook shares of a single blog post. Use this benchmark if you’re targeting Facebook as one of your main channels for sharing your content.
In general, Facebook hasn’t been used as much by B2B marketers (as shown by the relatively low number of Facebook shares below, compared to the total shares), though that is quickly changing.
As you can see, an “A” grade post has 144 Facebook shares or more, a B grade post, 43 shares, a C grade (which is average) has at least 12 shares. Use the worksheet in the Excel workbook to put in your own numbers. See our example below:
Blog Post Facebook Shares Per Follower (Normalized)
This measures the Facebook shares of a single blog post in a normalized manner by dividing the Facebook shares by the number of Facebook followers. We use the normalized Facebook shares to level the playing field among companies who have a lot of Facebook followers and those who do not. This allows companies with smaller followings to compare their social shares with larger companies.
For example, Hubspot has a million Facebook followers and an average of, say, 5000 Facebook shares per post. Venngage has only a thousand followers and an average of 50 Facebook shares per post. In absolute terms, Hubspot wins, hands down. But once we normalized these numbers using the number of followers, Hubspot’s normalized shares per follower is 0.5% (5,000 shares/1,000,000 followers), while Venngage’s is 5% (50 shares/1,000 followers). Venngage has a higher FB normalized share number by 10x!
This metric is usually expressed as a percentage, as it can be used as a proxy for the percentage of Facebook followers who shared that post. This is similar to a common measurement for engagement, as in how engaged your Facebook followers are. In truth, there is no way to know from the aggregate number whether the shares came from followers or non-followers. Nevertheless, we will use the percentage format to be consistent with this metric.
As you can see, when normalized, Facebook shares are very small in general. Even the top performing articles get very little Facebook shares when expressed as a percentage of the number of Facebook followers they have.
To help you calculate this number, use the Excel worksheet provided. Put in the number of Facebook followers you have and we’ll calculate the Normalized Facebook Share numbers.
Note: We do not use the Normalized Share benchmarks ourselves because our social following is small, compared to our actual marketing reach.
Blog Post Twitter Shares
This measures the Twitter shares of a single blog post. In general, blog posts get more Twitter shares than Facebook shares. The top performing articles get more than double the amount of Twitter shares compared to Facebook shares.
Use the Excel worksheet to put in your own numbers. Here’s our example:
As you can see, we really suck on Twitter. In February, even our original research content scored a D and C. To be fair, we’ve never focused our marketing efforts on Twitter, nor have we done anything special to promote our content there.
Blog Post Twitter Shares Per Follower (Normalized)
This measures the Twitter shares of a single blog post divided by the number of Twitter followers.
The Normalized Twitter Share levels the playing field among companies who have different amount of Twitter followers. It allows companies with smaller followings to compare their Twitter shares with companies who have larger followings. This metric is expressed as a percentage.
Use the Excel worksheet to put in the number of Twitter followers and it will calculate the normalized shares.
Blog Post LinkedIn Shares
This measures the LinkedIn shares of a single blog post. MarTech blog posts get almost as many LinkedIn shares as Twitter shares in terms of absolute numbers.
Use the Excel worksheet to put in your own numbers. Here’s our example:
We were equally as bad on Linkedin as as we were on Twitter. LinkedIn is actually a channel we value and one that we want to put more effort in. So hopefully our grades here will improve in the coming months as we focus our content and efforts on engaging more of our Linkedin followers.
Blog Post LinkedIn Shares per Follower (Normalized)
This measures the LinkedIn shares of a single blog post divided by the number of LinkedIn followers for the company that produced the post.
The Normalized LinkedIn Share levels the playing field among companies who have different numbers of LinkedIn followers. It allows companies with smaller followings to compare their LinkedIn shares with companies who have larger followings. This metric is expressed as a percentage.
When compared to other social platforms, the Normalized LinkedIn Shares are the highest for all platforms, and by quite a large magnitude. For example, the top 90th percentile is 2.77% shares (compared to a measly 0.46% on Twitter and 0.35% on Facebook).
Use the Excel worksheet to put in the number of LinkedIn followers and it will calculate the normalized shares and grades for you.
Blog Post G+ Shares
This measures the G+ shares of a single blog post. To be honest, we don’t actively use G+ as a marketing channel but we added this metric because it is part of the Total Shares metric.
As you can see, G+ does not get that many shares at all.
Note: We did not include G+ in the worksheet but you can easily create it yourself by copying the previous sheets and changing the numbers for each grade.
Blog Post Benchmarks by Type
How do different types of blog content impact shares? We wanted to know which type of blog post produces more shares, and we also wanted deeper granularity into our content mix. The following benchmark uses Buzzsumo’s post categories: Infographic, Video, Guest Post, Article, Interview.
The first thing you’ll notice is that Infographics have the highest number of shares among all content types. To be honest, even we were surprised at how much better infographics did compared to other content forms. Infographic is the hands-down the most effective content form for MarTech companies.
Our own experience certainly supports this as well. We created one of the best infographic maker tools in the market. We’ve helped hundreds of thousands of marketers and businesses increase their content marketing performance using infographics. If you’d like to learn more about how to use infographics in your content marketing efforts, sign up for free at Venngage.com.
Monthly Shares Per Company
So far, we’ve only looked at benchmarks at a per-post level. While this gives you a measure of how a single post is performing, we also want to look at the aggregate performance of a blog over a period of time (in this case, for a period of one month).
In the following table, we aggregated all the blog posts by each company over the same six-month period and calculated the average monthly shares (total and for each platform) into the same benchmark grading system.
This means the top 90th percentile group gets almost 15k total shares per month, the 75th percentile, about 5k shares per month, and the 50th percentile, 1.6k total shares per month.
Why would you want to look at this benchmark? The rationale for looking at monthly shares per company is to measure the monthly performance of your content management efforts as a whole.
For example, at Venngage, we do not produce many original posts per month. Our publishing rate is low–only one or two original pieces and a few guest posts a month (we decided as an editorial and strategic decision to focus on quality over quantity). While each post does above average when compared to the single post benchmarks, our aggregate performance per month tells a different story. As you can see below, our blog scored a D grade for the month of February. If we wanted to be a top blog, we would not only have to produce a few good posts a month, but be able to scale up the volume and not lose quality.
Use the worksheet in the Excel workbook to add your own post and total shares number and the sheet will aggregate and grade your monthly posts automatically for you. See our example below:
Which are the top MarTech companies when it comes to content marketing? Here are all 115 companies sorted by their total shares from the six month sample period (not all companies are labelled in the X-axis due to space constraints).
You’ll notice that even among the top MarTech companies, the distribution of total shares per company follows the power law rule. In our sample, the top 20 companies account for 80% of all shares. The clear gorilla in this space, HubSpot, represents 25% of all the shares! That is a truly remarkable feat. HubSpot is like the NYTimes or Buzzfeed of marketing content. Here are the top 20 companies and their average monthly total shares.
Hopefully, the benchmarks will be helpful to you. Please feel free to connect with me via Linkedin. Don’t forget to download the FREE eBook and the worksheet. We’ve also included a summary infographic that you can share.
Our infographics and charts are intended for public use in online articles and social media. Please feel encouraged to share them. If you do, we kindly ask you to attribute Venngage using the embed code below:
<img src="https://venngage.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Actionable-Content-Marketing-Benchmarks1.png" alt="Infographic: Content Marketing Benchmarks| Venngage" /> See this infographic on <a href="https://venngage.com/blog/content-marketing-benchmarks">Venngage</a>.