When Dave Brailsford joined Team Sky (a British professional cycling team) in 2010, he faced an incredible challenge.
His goal was to lead a Team Sky rider to a win in the Tour de France — something no British cyclist had ever achieved before.
Brailsford started by optimizing some of the biggest, most important aspects of the cyclist’s routines and practices: things like training programmes, nutrition, bike setup. (In marketing these would be things like your strategy, team organization.)
But then, he got down into the micro details and searched to find every marginal opportunity to improve—no matter how small—from optimising the sleeping position of riders, to having the same pillow when they’re away training or competing.
“They’re tiny things but if you clump them together it makes a big difference,” Brailsford told the BBC.
And a while back, when thinking about the growth of the Buffer blog, we decided to take a similar approach…
Marginal gains in content marketing
Hockey stick growth is great and fun to see, but it’s not always possible, or repeatable.
When you read about the growth, no-one ever boasts about “1% growth.” On the surface, it just doesn’t sound that impressive. But when you add up the impact of continuous, marginal gains, the result is more than the sum of its parts.
You might have 1–2 posts or campaigns that really move the needle each quarter. But there’s no reason you can’t make a simple change to make your site 1% better each day.
Here are some examples (and results) from the Buffer:
1. Updating an SEO headline
We updated the SEO headline for our guide on how to get verified on Twitter. Before we made the change we were seeing a 0.7% CTR from Google searches. Now, we’ve managed to grab an answer box and our CTR has jumped up to 6.2%.
This tactic has worked for us multiple times, and is something I would recommend doing regularly with your archive content. For example, when we updated the SEO headline for our post on the best times to post on Facebook —
- From: Why There’s No Perfect Time to Post on Facebook
- To: How To Find Your Best Time to Post to Facebook: A Complete Guide
— we saw a big jump in CTR and clicks from Google:
And here's how the pageviews also jumped:
2. Reframing a story for long-term traffic
Our post on Facebook’s Stories launch was declining in traffic, so we updated the content to make it less news-y/time-sensitive as well updating the headline and SEO headline. This resulted in a 53% increase in traffic from Google search:
This post still generates 200–250 visits/day:
4. Matching content to searcher intent
We noticed our post on social media logos was showing up for some long-tail Instagram related keywords such as ‘transparent Instagram logo’ so we added some extra content to cover the various types/formats of Instagram’s logo.
Making these small changes (we also updated language and added more specific examples for other logos) resulted in a 50% increase in traffic from Google search (~25 clicks per day):
5. Adding more internal backlinks to relevant content
Internal links are a great way to help Google to decypher how pages on your site relate to each other. And as Yoast explains, by adding the right internal links you make sure Google understands:
- the relevance of pages;
- the relationship between pages;
- and the value of pages.
And to experiment with the power of contextual linking, we started to add more internal backlinks between relevent pieces of content and noticed that our posts would gradually move up Google SERPs.
Here you can see how two posts moved up a couple of places in SERPs after we added more internal backlinks:
Working on better interlinking between all of our Instagram marketing content also resulted in a the weekly organic traffic to our these articles growing by 48 percent from about 27,000 to about 40,000 in six months.
Not every experiment we’re running is a success and we’ve even had a few posts decline slightly after changes. But the process of seeking marginal gains every day has been a positive one.