2016 was a big year for Ladder's content marketing efforts. It was the first time in Ladder's 2+ years of operation that we took content seriously, and it paid off in a major way.
We started off by dipping our toes into writing some blog posts on Medium. There, Ladder co-founder and CPO Michael Taylor started sharing some of his growth marketing wisdom, backed by >$25m in marketing spend across all growth channels.
That minimal content strategy did ok, but it was barebones, wasn't a regular occurrence, and wasn't a major focus. The top-performing post of that period was "Marketing Plan and Chill," an exploration of the process of creating a marketing plan (for a startup called "And Chill"). It was featured in the Chatbots Magazine publication, which gave it a sizable boost.
That was it for Q1 and Q2 of 2016. Not much in the way of actual performance and lead generation resulted from this approach, but dipping our toes into content showed us that it was not only something Ladder wanted to do, but something that we could succeed at.
So we ramped up our efforts starting in Q2 by hiring a Head of Content Marketing. We started our own blog. We started writing and publishing on a weekly basis.
And here's what Ladder has accomplished with content as a result:
- 92k pageviews
- 77k sessions
- 6:56 avg time on site
- Top 5 posts:
- Top 5 Sources:
- Hacker News (23k sessions, 29.6% of traffic)
- Direct (21k sessions, 27% of traffic)
- Newsletter (6k sessions, 7.8% of traffic)
- Reddit (3.5k sessions, 4.4% of traffic)
- Google Organic (3.1k sessions, 4.1% of traffic)
- 288 leads generated across blog, newsletter, partner, and social content channels
- 169 leads generated from blog clicks to Ladder.io
- 25% of all leads generated came from content since blog kickoff
- 13% of all 2016 leads came from content
- Q3+Q4 2016 Ladder.io traffic saw a 226% increase in sessions over Q1+Q2
- 12.45% of Ladder.io traffic originates on blog (since blog kickoff)
All of this serves to say that content was a highly valuable source of traffic and performance for Ladder.
This post will talk a bit about the different articles that performed the best for us, from posts on our blog to guest articles and beyond.
Let's dive in by talking about our biggest hit to date:
That was the title of our biggest hit of 2016. The post that boosted Ladder's blog to prominence certainly wasn't our first, but it was our most impactful.
A monster post clocking in at over 9,000 words, this post explored how entrepreneurs can validate an entire business idea from the ground up before they even think of quitting their jobs.
This post resonated extremely well on Hacker News, where it drew a ton of great conversation, plenty of upvotes, and a torrent of traffic.
The post stood on the shoulders of giants like Eric Ries, Ash Maurya, Steve Blank, and Alistair Croll, and gave a direct, example-filled guide of how to validate each step of a business idea before actually committing 100%.
Driven by Ladder's test-driven, ROI-oriented marketing methodology, we talked about how to find a target audience, build a minimum viable product, and get comfortable talking to customers, among many other things.
If you're looking to start a company or launch a new product, this post is where to start.
The growth strategies post was the centerpiece of Ladder's content marketing strategy in our first days. As the first major post we published, it continues to serve as a repository of Ladder's best ROI-driven strategies.
We covered all the "pirate metrics" with tactics that we consider go-to and high-ROI for our clients. From tactics about audience targeting to email marketing ideas, we made sure to be as comprehensive as possible while being highly concise about which tactics we included.
The growth strategies post serves as the playbook that we at Ladder and hopefully those who read it use to grow businesses.
So if you're looking for growth ideas and inspiration, look no further.
Now you must be thinking "What's an interview doing on here anyways?"
Fair question. Here's why we consider this one of our top posts of the year:
- It describes Ladder's process: From top to bottom, this interview is all about how Ladder grows businesses and how we reached >$150k monthly recurring revenue.
- It's our business manifesto: What you read is what you'll get in this interview. This is how we started Ladder, how we turned into a tech-powered services business, and how we grow our revenue.
- It's introspective: In too many ways, businesses forget to look inwards when they think about their past and future. This interview talks about what went both right and wrong for Ladder, which guides our future efforts.
- It's a performance beast: This post absolutely killed it in terms of lead generation. We generated a grand total of 59 leads from this interview.
Here's my favorite bit of advice from it:
"Your business is only valuable if an idiot could run it. Work as hard as possible to automate and delegate as much as possible. You'll be surprised at how inessential you really are, and how smart your team really is when fully trusted."
So if you want to learn about Ladder, hear about our process, and understand how we grow our business so we can grow other businesses, check out our IndieHackers interview.
Career Education Series
At Ladder, we love writing about how budding marketers can properly educate themselves to succeed in digital marketing. To that end, we shared a lot about our hiring process, Excel, marketing certifications, and more.
These proved to be extremely high-value posts as far as traffic goes.
Here are the best performers:
So why did we share all this information -- especially about our hiring process -- to the public? After all, shouldn't we keep our hiring process under wraps so that some candidates don't gain an "unfair" advantage?
No -- an unfair advantage is what we strive to give to our clients, and we want candidates who take the time to research Ladder, read our blog, find the information we make public, and learn from it to apply.
In itself, that's an extremely impressive trait. So we give the resources that a potential hire might need right up front
Whether you're a candidate interested in Ladder, or you're looking to ramp up your marketing team, be sure to check out our top-performing career education posts of 2016.
- 8 Marketing Certifications That Can Land You a Job at Ladder
- How We Hire A New Marketer Every Month
- The Excel Tutorial We Made For Our New Marketing Hires
We had two types of "centerpiece" posts in 2016 as we grew the Ladder blog from 0 to 100,000 pageviews. One was our highly successful "process post" format, where we would describe a different process, whether it's validating a business idea, hiring new marketers, conducting marketing analysis, building out event tracking, etc...
The other was much more niche as far as a content approach goes, and as a result individual posts got a lower overall pageview count. These posts are what we like to call "tactic posts," or posts that focus on a subset of tactics that we consider high-performance for a specific business context.
Here are some of our best ones:
- 10 Go-To B2B Marketing Tactics Guaranteed to Increase ROI
- Step-By-Step Keyword Tactics for Effective Google AdWords Campaigns
- 41 Ad Copy Approaches to Increase Ad Click Rates
- 21 Conversion-Oriented Landing Page Tests for Your Business
We have tons of tactic-oriented posts on the Ladder blog, and they'll allow you to gather ideas about the best tactics for a specific type of marketing. So if you're out of ideas of your own or if our Growth Strategies post wasn't niche enough for you, give our tactic posts a read!
We shared every single tool we use to grow businesses, and that resonated with our audience.
Our blog audience and our clients have proven to be technically-minded, forward-thinking marketers who are eager to stay at the forefront of marketing technology. And part of what drives people to Ladder is that we provide a tech-powered services approach with everything from the Ladder Planner to tools like VWO and SumoMe at our disposal.
We cover all channels and all growth stages, so it makes sense to have a robust marketing stack. And our audience and clients are eager to learn about the latest and greatest tech tools we use to grow businesses.
That eagerness to try new solutions, from landing page builders to conversion rate optimization tools and beyond, meant that a post like this one would do extremely well with our readers.
So we'll keep sharing our marketing stack as it evolves. After all, we constantly evaluate new products for use with our clients, and sometimes we find better solutions to problems. This robustness and willingness to adapt is something our current clients place high value on, and sharing our marketing stack with the public is another way for us to earn trust and readership.
In the meantime, be sure to take a look at the 45 tools we currently use to grow businesses.
Ladder 2017 Marketing Plan
As December kicked into gear, we started making public our plans for marketing Ladder in 2017. We're open-sourcing our entire marketing plan for the new year, but we started that entire process with a full audit of all our marketing efforts of 2016.
It turned out that those audits were considered extremely valuable by our audience. It's a level of transparency and a deep, analytics-fueled insight into a company that most companies don't bother to publish. But transparency is in Ladder's DNA, so we went ahead and published everything - the good and the bad - for our audience to see.
Here are those audits:
- PPC Audit - a full rundown of our current PPC campaigns, looking for problems and finding top performers.
- Analytics Audit - a step-by-step runthrough of our analytics and tracking setup.
- UX Audit - a teardown of our UX to find usability, design, and techincal issues.
- Email Marketing Audit - an analysis of our email marketing campaigns, from sales to our newsletter and more.
- SEO Audit - a dive into Ladder's SEO to discover organic growth opportunities.
Read through our audit series to get a deep look at how an agency markets itself. Hopefully you'll learn a bit about how we do things for Ladder, what can and will go wrong in marketing, and how issues and errors are actually opportunities for growth.
- We Audited Our PPC Ad Campaigns. Here's What We Learned:
- We Audited Our Analytics Setup. Here's What We Learned:
- UX Teardown: What We Learned by Auditing Our User Experience
- We Audited Our Email Marketing Campaigns. Here's What We Learned:
- [SEO Audit] We Analyzed Our SEO. Here's What We Learned:
Check 'em out!
And that's a review of Ladder's top posts of 2016. A lot went down in the 6 months since we started our content strategy in earnest, and in reality, we've only been blogging since August (just 5 months!). But our content strategy has gotten very far since then, and it's helped us grow and contributed to an immensely successful 2016.
Want to build out a content strategy of your own? Ladder can help!
Set up a 20-minute chat with a Ladder Strategist and review your content marketing goals.