Lies, Damn Lies, and Blogging Statistics
82.64% of all statistics are made up. (lie)
That's a fact. (another lie)
And statistics that aren't made up are often paired with other statistics to try to create a correlation that doesn't actually exist, like how the import price of Uranium correlates with the total revenue generated by arcades in the US.
(ok, that one might not be a lie, but it's kindof funny)
The reality is that there are a lot of extremely helpful and insightful statistics out there with regard to blogging and content marketing, many of which you'll find below. But before I share them with you, I thought it would be helpful if we prepared ourselves for what to expect and how to react.
The Complete And Utter Uselessness Usefulness Of Statistics
"There are three kinds of lies - lies, damned lies, and statistics." - Mark Twain
In his book, Lies, Damned Lies, And Statistics: The Manipulation of Opinion in America, author Michael Wheeler speaks to the heavy impact polling has on public opinion, particularly when it comes to political elections. He writes, "The polls have come to have a far-reaching and often dangerous impact, largely because the pollsters have intimidated most of their potential critics."
As a nation, our government, elections, marketing, and more, have all been positioned over time to not only use polls and statistics, but to rely on them for decision-making. Could this or that candidate stand a chance in the election? Should this or that imagery be used in an ad? Would this or that television program garner the most advertising revenue?
Statistics comfort us. They present us with hard data that supports an idea or decision and makes our commitment toward a course of action more resilient. But do we really know what we're looking at?
As Wheeler points out, "Most of us are impressed by the definitiveness and clarify of statistics but feel utterly incompetent to evaluate them."
And that's why Twain wrote in 1906, "Figures often beguile me, particularly when I have the arranging of them myself; in which case the remark attributed to Disraeli would often apply with justice and force: 'There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.'" [it's presumed Twain invented that quote]
Statistics can be perverted to support a variety of conclusions, and can easily be used to bolster weak arguments. Numbers are incredibly seductive and persuasive.
Which is why, of course, bloggers are encouraged to include statistics within their articles whenever possible. If I tell you something about blogging, I'm relying on my reputation as a blogging authority to back up that statement. But if I can provide you with a statistic that demonstrates real data underlying the claim I just made, then the statement is immediately accepted as fact.
Now, when used properly, that's a good thing, right? We all like numbers and statistics for good reason.
As writers, though, we have a responsibility to ensure that the statistics we offer are correct and valid. If you're looking for a statistic to back up something you've written and can't find anything, or worse, only find statistics that refute your claim, have the professionalism to reconsider your perspective.
As readers, we, too, have a responsibility. Several, in fact.
First, always consider the source. Did the author of the article include attribution for the statistic, or did they just toss it out there? Whether valid or not, statistics without attribution should be ignored. For everything else, look at the source and consider whether they're a reputable agency for providing such measurement.
For instance, I can tell you that on average, companies that blog receive 434% more indexed pages. Without attribution, you have to ask, where did I get that statistic? Did I make it up? Is based on 6 websites I surveyed? Or is it a "real" statistic that was created by an agency that understands proper polling and surveying methodology and used a sample of businesses that was adequate in size?
In this case, the statistic comes from a massive study undertaken by HubSpot and therefore can be accepted as a perfectly valid statistic.
Second, always consider the perspective of the statistic. Some metrics are pure measurements of a set sample, while others are opinions - and opinions can be swayed by the words used to ask the question.
The perfect example is in presidential election polling. If I asked a sample of 1200 people, "If the election were held today, would you vote for Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton," I would get a breakdown that attributed each of those 1200 people to one candidate or the other. That might result in, say, a 53% to 47% result.
But what if I only polled registered, likely voters and gave them the more realistic options of Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, or neither... can you see how suddenly the poll results will be different and more meaningful? Now I'm talking to people who can and fully intend to vote in November, and of those, there's the very real possibility that they may not cast a vote for either candidate. Now, the result might be 43% to 41% with 16% undecided or neither.
So the question matters (as well as the sample audience).
Third, and most importantly, particularly when it comes to marketing statistics - take all statistics addito salis grano - with a grain of salt.
In part, that means to be skeptical, which we've already talked about to some extent. But it also suggests that you don't take statistics literally or assume they're immediately and completely applicable.
In other words, recognize that you and your business are different from every other person or business that was sampled as a part of any given statistic.
Recall that first statistic I shared - on average, companies that blog receive 434% more indexed pages. How large are those companies? How much staff do they assign to their content marketing? How often are they blogging? Do they have eCommerce? Are they creating other pages in addition to blog content?
Now, if our first rules were observed and the statistic was properly attributed, like this: (Source: HubSpot), we would be able to click through to the providing agency and glean a little more about how the statistic was derived.
In this case, we can see that the data is "from 1,531 HubSpot customers (mostly small- and medium-sized businesses). 795 of the businesses in [the] sample blogged, 736 didn't."
We can also see that the data was published in 2009 - not so long ago that it's invalid, but the date of a statistic is always important to consider. Any time we read a statistic from a particular date, we'll have to ask ourselves whether we think it's likely that the industry or landscape in which the statistic comes from has changed remarkably since that time.
While I don't think the benefits or challenges of blogging have changed significantly over the past few years, there are certainly other aspects of content marketing and social media which have. My Social Media Active Users By Network statistics and infograph, for example, changes monthly. If I was still sharing active usage data from 18 months ago, it would not reflect dramatic differences, including the fact that some networks no longer exist!
So pay close attention to the date, the source, the methodology - and then consider whether that statistic really applies to you or not.
If it does, if you can take something from it, then great!
What follows then is a series of statistics on blogging and marketing. Each statistic is properly cited, and is presented to help you A) determine blogging's place in your overall marketing strategy, and B) help you to understand the aspects that might make for more effective blogging.
In other words, use these statistics to see what others are doing and achieving and see if you can't find a few takeaways for yourself. Highlight any statistic that you find interesting and you can share it with your audience.
State of Blogging
76% of B2B marketers say they will produce more content in 2016. (Source: Content Marketing Institute)
The majority (60%) of B2B marketers report that their biggest challenge in 2016 will be producing engaging content. 57% say measuring content effectiveness will be their greatest challenge, and 57% say producing content consistently will be their biggest struggle. (Source: Content Marketing Institute)
81% of U.S. online consumers trust information and advice from blogs. (Source: BlogHer)
61% of U.S. online consumers have made a purchase based on recommendations from a blog. (Source: BlogHer)
60% of consumers feel more positive about a company after reading custom content on its site. (Source: Content Plus)
Brand engagement rises by 28% when consumers are exposed to both professional content and user-generated product video. (Source: comScore)
90% of consumers find custom content useful, 78% believe that companies behind content are interested in building good relationships. (Source: TMG Custom Media)
68% of consumers are likely to spend time reading content from a brand they are interested in. (Source: The CMA)
33% of B2B companies use blogs. (Source: InsideView)
B2B marketers who use blogs generate 67% more leads than those that do not. (Source: InsideView)
By 2020, customers will manage 85% of their relationships without talking to a human. (Source: Kapost)
Blogs have been rated as the 5th most trusted source for accurate online information. (Source: SearchEnginePeople)
37% of marketers say blogs are the most valuable type of content marketing. (Source: Content Plus)
Marketers who have prioritized blogging are 13x more likely to enjoy positive ROI. (Source: Hubspot)
81% of companies consider their blogs "useful," "important," or "critical". (Source: Hubspot)
Small businesses that blog get 126% more lead growth than small businesses that do not blog. (Source: ThinkCreative)
Companies that blog have 97% more inbound links. (Source: Hubspot)
On average, companies that blog receive 434% more indexed pages. (Source: HubSpot)
92% of companies who blog multiple times per day have acquired a customer from their blog. (Source: HubSpot)
Among those who use e-mail marketing, companies that blog get twice as much traffic from their email than those who don't. (Source: HubSpot)
Businesses that blog ≥ 20 times/month get 5x more traffic than those who blog ≤ 4 times/month. (Source: Hubspot)
Companies with fewer than 10 employees typically allocate 42% of their marketing budget to content. (Source: Content Marketing Institute and Marketing Profs)
SEO leads have a 14.6% close rate, while outbound leads (such as direct mail or print advertising) have a 1.7% close rate. (Source: SearchEngineJournal)
Once you write 21-54 blog posts, blog traffic generation increases by up to 30%. (Source: TrafficGenerationCafe)
Articles with images get 94% more views. (Source: Jeff Bullas)
61% of the most effective B2B content marketers meet with their content team daily or weekly. (Source: Content Marketing Institute)
The average word count of top-ranking content (in Google) is between 1,140-1,285 words. (Source: SearchMetrics)
Please Share & Pin!
Visme.co has put together an incredible infograph detailing all of the above statistics:
If you would like to use this graphic on your own site, please include attribution to The Social Media Hat and Visme, and do consider Visme if you need an infograph of their own - they do phenomenal work!
Back To You
So, now that you've eaten your fill of statistics and recommendations, what do you think? Were these helpful to you? Will they help you to craft a more effective marketing strategy for yourself or your business? Let me know in the comments below. And if it was helpful, would you please share with your networks? THANKS! Blog posts that are shared to social media achieve 100% more effectiveness. ;)
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By Mike Allton, Content Marketing Practitioner
Mike is a Content Marketing Practitioner - a title he invented to represent his holistic approach to content marketing that leverages blogging, social media, email marketing and SEO to drive traffic, generate leads, and convert those leads into sales. He is an award-winning Blogger, Speaker, and Author at The Social Media Hat, and Brand Evangelist at Agorapulse (formerly CMO at SiteSell).
As Brand Evangelist, Mike works directly with other social media educators, influencers, agencies and brands to explore and develop profitable relationships with Agorapulse.Follow @Mike_Allton