10 Lessons from Analyzing The Top 1300 Submissions to Inbound.org in 2014


With Inbound.org quickly becoming a go-to for Internet Marketing, analyzing the top performing posts on Inbound will give you an understanding of what is performing well in the industry.

Over the year, there have been hundreds of thousands of submissions to Inbound.org. Have you ever wondered what causes a post to do well on Inbound.org? Or what qualities are needed to make a piece sharable in general? What follows is an analysis of the top 1300 submissions to Inbound.org during 2014; from this data, a number of factors have emerged as determinants for the success of an article, including the timing of the post, length, subject, and engagement.

Methodology

The data in the analysis is drawn from the Top All-Time Posts from Inbound.org. I downloaded over 3,000 URLs in the analysis.

all-time-inbound

After downloading the data, I removed all entries from previous years. Additionally, I removed all entries that had less than 30 ^ up votes. (30 was a reasonable number, as many of the posts began to clutter below 29 up votes.)

In all, I was left with 1,300 entires that were created in 2014 and that had 30 or more upvotes.

Data from Analyzing Inboundorg

If you would like access to the data for your own analysis, you can download it here. Below are my findings from the data. (*Data was collected on December 27th, 2014. There may be a few last minute 2014 submissions that are not on the list).

The Best Day to Submit is Monday

Out of the 1300 Top Submissions to Inbound.org, 283 posts (21.77%) were submitted on a Monday. Those posts generally did well because they could ride the momentum of visitors throughout the week. Although Thursday posts saw a spike as well (20.92%), those posts lost momentum going into the weekend.

inbound post day of week

As you can see from the graph above, Monday and Thursday are the best days for top submissions.

Lesson Learned: If you want a post or submission to do well, don’t release it on a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday. 

January Will be a Great Month to Submit

As you can see from the graph below, the greatest amount of top submissions were posted last January. There was a small spike again in July, but then the numbers drop off. Interestingly enough, Inbound.org’s community size has increased dramatically, but quality submissions have dropped.

Inbound Top Post by Month

There are a multitude of possibilities to explain this, but here are two of the most likely explanations:

  1. January is the best month for quality content. January is when organizations publish lessons learned, 2014 analysis, and  2015 predictions. Content of the articles is both intriguing and important. January is also the month where content producers set resolutions to “make great content,” but then come February, other priorities often set in, and content becomes mediocre once more (been there, done that).
  2. The other possibility – and the more likely possibility – Inbound.org’s community is over saturated with content. With 50,000+ members submitting posts every minute (perhaps every second), good and bad content alike can drown and disappear in the sheer vastness of articles, and it becomes increasingly difficult to break through the 30 barrier. Although the upvotes do help separate quality content, if your submission doesn’t get any votes in the first hour, you might as well call your piece done. The moderators and admins can promote quality content, but with that volume, they are bound to miss some. (Perhaps @edfryed and @dharmesh have an algorithmic like fix.)

As you can see from the screenshot below, even on the slower Sunday, submissions (quality or not) just pile on top of one another. Unless you have friends upvoting your article or a moderator flags it as insightful, your submission may get lost in the crowd.

inbound submissions

Lesson learned: If you want your submission to do well, write quality content and then tweet at Inboundorg, Ed, Mary, etc. It may work, it may not. Even now, as I write this post, I have no idea how well it will perform, or if it’ll just get lost in the crowd. 

If Submitting an Article for Inbound.org: Make the Post Long

Below are the top 15 Article Submissions of 2014 (Ask Inbound, Discussions, and Tools were all removed). The shortest article about a MajesticSEO clone was 300 words, the longest was 12,300 words (by yours truly), and the average post length was just north of 3,300 words. 

Article Word Count
8 Lies About Content Marketing You Probably Believe 2844
A Long, Ugly Year of Depression That’s Finally Fading – Rand’s Blog 3812
Google Propaganda, SEO and Why Marketers Need to Wake Up 3305
How I Lost My $50,000 Twitter Username 1890
Why Content Goes Viral: What Analyzing 100 Million Articles Taught Us. 3604
21 SEO Techniques You Can Use Today to Get More Search Engine Traffi 5073
The decay and fall of guest blogging 982
Google Kills Authorship  2440
Ello User Guide: Everything You Need to Know to Use the Ello Social Network 6500
The Ridiculous Power of Blog Commenting 1593
Someone wants a MajesticSEO Clone for £750 – Majestic MD puts in a bid… 300
We Analyzed the 3,000 Most Successful LinkedIn Publishing Posts 1951
An In-Depth Inbound Marketing Audit of Buffer 12298
A Content Marketer’s Guide to Data Scraping 2724
In case you need something hilarious today: “10 Times Personalization Makes You Feel Terrible About Yourself” 318

As you can see from the chart below, many of the top posts were between 2,000 words and 4,000 words (a far cry from the traditional 300-500 words). There were two posts that were at 300 words, but were comedic in nature and had effects of virality.

Word Count for Inbound Top Posts

Lesson Learned: If you want an article to perform well on Inbound, put a lot of time and effort into it. Most of the top performing articles were 3,000 words, or roughly a 10 minute read (this article – research included – took around 8-10 hours). 

The Top Submissions Are from a Small Handful (Mostly Moderators and Admins)

As you can see below, many of the top submissions come from Moderators or Admins. One could say they do get paid to post (or volunteer), but in reality, they should be posting the most because they are in touch with the industry and audience.

For example:

  • dharmesh (Dharmesh Shah) CTO of HubSpot
  • Malikarjunan (Sam Mallikarjunan) Head of eCommerce Marketing at HubSpot *FYI – if you are looking for someone to follow and learn from, you could not pick a smarter or kinder guy. Also, check out his top submission rate: 15.38% – He knows what quality content is. 

Rounding out the rest of the top 10 are fighto and victorpan, who both work for Catalyst Search Marketing (and they normally don’t promote their own stuff).

Moderators and Admin Inbound

As you can see from the graph below, many users have less than one top submission. Again, this could be attributed to quality submissions getting lost in content, but it’s more than likely due to lack of submissions. There are many users on inbound with only a handful of submissions (or none).

Screen Shot 2014-12-27 at 6.38.10 PMLesson Learned: Post quality content often. Don’t promote you own content, but do keep the submissions coming. If you want to have submissions do well, keep at it. 

Title Length is Everything: 56 Characters is Average

As you can see from the chart below, may of the titles were between 48 and 61 characters. 30% of the top posts fall in the range.

character length inbound title

Although Inbound.org doesn’t truncate long titles – the one below is 110 characters, only 1.8% of the top posts had more than 100 characters.

Long form titleLesson learned: Keep your title succinct.

Odd or Even Number in Posts: No Significance

On Inbound.org, it’s a myth that articles with odd numbers perform better. 52% of the posts that led with a number (ie, 8 ways to…) contained an even number, while 48% contained an odd number (ie, 7 ways too…).

Lesson learned: Even or odd, it doesn’t really matter.

Top Websites Submitted: Moz Dominates Inbound.org, followed by Slideshare, and SE Land

Below are the best performing websites in terms of top submissions. As you can see, Moz dominates.

Website

Top Submissions

moz.com 114
slideshare.net 30
searchengineland.com 20
medium.com 16
setalks.com 16
techwyse.com 15
searchenginejournal.com 13
searchenginewatch.com 13
blog.hubspot.com 12
impactbnd.com 12
reddit.com 12
moblized.com 11
wordstream.com 11
backlinko.com 10
kaiserthesage.com 10
unbounce.com 10
viperchill.com 10
blindfiveyearold.com 9
okdork.com 9

The most promising fact is that although Inbound.org is maintained by HubSpot Labs, HubSpot isn’t pumping and promoting their content throughout. Even the 12 submissions could be attributed to others outside of the organization.

In a future analysis, it would be fascinating to research if any of the Moz community has drifted away from commenting and interacting on Moz.com and now interact on Inbound.org.

Lesson Learned: Although the major industry organizations do dominate the top posts, 60% of the other top performing submissions come from smaller websites (like this one.) 

Top Keywords in Title: Marketing, Content, and Google are Top 3

Successful titles have included: Google, SEO, inbound, content, etc. Generally, the top titles were written without a positive or negative opinion; they were simply statements.

keywords in titles

Top Categories: SEO, Content, and Social

The top categories on Inbound.org are shown below.

top categories inbound

Lesson Learned: If you are looking for topics to write about, consider the words and categories above as a starting point. 

Comments Mean Upvotes

The correlation between comments and upvotes is statistically significant. There were only 7 (less than .5%) instances in which there were more comments than upvotes.

Comments and Upvotes Inbound

Lesson Learned: If you want to have a submission or post do well on Inbound.org, make it interactive. You can do this many ways, but here are 3:

  1. Comment on other submissions and in turn, you’ll build a community in which others are invited to add something to your submission.
  2. Get your friends and colleagues to comment on your submissions.
  3. In addition to posting your article, pose questions at the end. Move the commenters (if it is a post) from the blog to inbound.

If you want a Top Submission, Start a Discussion

The best submissions on Inbound.org are actually not articles, they are discussions. (Ask me Anything, Ask Inbound, Community, etc). More than 15% of the top submissions on Inbound.org were discussions.

Why?

Comments and Interactions lead to upvotes.

Lesson Learned: Although you may not be driving people back to your site, you can build a quality audience on Inbound.org. Post an article with the intent of creating discussion – that is what Inbound is all about, isn’t it? 

So, with 2015 just around the corner, keep these lessons from 2014 in mind. Best of luck!