As Blog & Community Manager at SmartBear Software, I’ve been put in an enviable position where I’m able to experiment with just about every pliable statistic and data point I come across.
If an unfamiliar content creating technique, topic, or medium crosses my desk, my bosses generally don’t shy away in an effort to avoid potential failure. Quite the contrary, actually. Even if they don’t believe in their hearts that it will be successful, I’m often encouraged to make an experiment of a new idea and let the resulting data do the talking.
Still, one test that I have gotten minor push back from my extended team is posting presumably valuable content on or around a holiday. Writers cringe when they see their post is scheduled for a national vacation, and management often tsk-tsks if they get word that I’m planning to publish at 9 a.m. on New Years Day.
In the last year, however, I’ve noticed that posting on contra-comeptitive dates can result in very generous traffic spikes for our blog and social media. Yes, I know that I’m not the first person to talk about the benefits of “contra-timing”, but I wanted to share some of the data I’ve collected over the past year in order to help make the case for any content marketers who haven’t been given the same flexibility that I’ve been afforded.
Inbound marketing becomes much easier when you’re able to gather the data (nay, the correct data) to back up an assumption. Unfortunately, when I started trying to experiment with contra-competitive publishing, I didn’t have the historic data necessary to convince my boss to let me publish new, valuable content on Christmas day 2012. Instead, I published some soft, holiday-themed blog posts and saw the middling results you’d expect.
The week after Christmas, however, I decided to give this contra-timing thing a shot by re-purposing some evergreen content by publishing it to a handful of third-party sites — Reddit, HackerNews, and DZone, in our case. Guess what happened…
Yes, you’re reading that correctly.
Between New Years Eve and New Years Day, which is a generally acknowledged vacation day in both America and Europe, our company blog saw a huge traffic spike, drawing in 31,500 visits in less than 36 hours. That was by far the largest influx the company had ever seen, and it spanned across both our blog and our social media platforms.
And the coolest part? I could prove that it wasn’t just a fluke caused by an extraordinary piece of content because it was content that had been published and available on our site months before I joined the company.
With a bit of data helping my case, I waited patiently for another chance to test the contra-timing theory. It took a few months, but another major national holiday finally came around in the middle of the week, and I jumped on the opportunity:
This one is on a bit smaller scale, but it’s definitely notable that – over a two week span in the middle of summer – July 4th stood out as a relatively high traffic day on our site.
Okay okay, looking for more proof?
How about the busiest traffic day in America?
It would be easy to assume that, with so many people traveling the day before Thanksgiving, Web traffic would ultimately suffer. The result was actually quite the opposite, as Thanksgiving Eve was not only the best overall traffic day for the month of November, it was also our 2nd best organic traffic day year-to-date.
Finally, last week, I was able to bring my contra-competitive publishing experiment full circle:
With enough data in my back pocket, I felt confident enough to publish a pretty substantial piece of fresh content on the most taboo of all publishing days, Christmas Eve. This is a day that is not only seen as a vacation for the vast majority of English speaking countries, it’s also inconveniently located at the very end of the year, when people who are unlucky enough to be working are stretching to hit their annual goals and aren’t likely to be browsing around tech blogs and Twitter.
However, the combination of a new, high-quality article and a piece of re-purposed evergreen content (on a few of the aggregate social sites listed above) turned this dud of a business day into one of our five best traffic days of 2013.
Of course, all good data needs to be put into context. I also want to point out, before everyone else does, that correlation is not causation. I understand that. And that’s why I want to leave you with a few takeaways that will help you see similar results on your company website or blog.
Quality Content is King
A bit of warning: You can’t just publish crap and expect it to do well. Ever. Regardless of any tricks or tips you come across, nothing will give more ROI than a focus on creating engaging, thoughtful content. Go ahead and count how many times I said “high-quality” or “solid” when referring to a blog post above. Publishing a mediocre piece of content at a contra-competitive time isn’t going to suddenly make the content better. It could, however, give a good piece of content an advantage to get in front of more eyeballs, since there tends to be less noise to fight through on these dates.
Just remember: Quality content comes first. Everything else is just fighting for second place.
Timing Still Matters on the Holiday
Please take note of the days of the week that the data above was pulled from. Each of my contra-competitive successes came during the middle of the week, when our blog traffic tends to be highest anyway. Yes, the lack of blogosphere noise definitely helped create some great spikes, but I would be very wary of posting something on, say Easter, because we don’t see much traffic on weekends.
You also want to make sure you are sticking with best practices for the time of day you publish or promote your content. You can’t expect this to be a realistic timeline on Thanksgiving day:Step 1 – Wake Up at 10 a.m. Step 2 – Publish Content Step 3 – Stuff Face Step 4 – Watch Football Step 5 – Promote Content Step 6 – ???? Step 7 – Go Viral
If you’re looking for the best ROI, use your own data to find out what time of day you get the most visits and shares, schedule your content to publish at the optimum time, and get a good jump on promoting the thing. The point in all of this is that you’re supposed to be treating these days like a regular workday. If you treat it like a holiday, expect to see the same unexceptional results as all the other shlubs who are taking the day off.
Adapt to Your Audience
All the data and tips I’ve laid out above should help build the case, and potentially work as a template, for contra-competitive timing. That’s it.
Now it’s up to you to adapt all of that information to fit your own audience and schedule. As I said above, we generally don’t see a lot of traffic on the weekends (yes, we’ve tested it) but that might not be true for your site. Our site sees the majority of our traffic before 12 p.m., while your audience might be more apt to visit after work.
This is not an SEO hack. This is not a guarantee. This is simply more proof that, in content marketing, hard work really does pay off, and that it’s worth the effort to strike while your competitors are asleep.
Do you have a contra-competitive success story? Are you still struggling to see similar results? Tell us your story in the comments section below!