The Content Growth Cycle
Content marketing gets easier and delivers better ROI over time.
At the start, it’s a hard slog. New visitors, search rankings, and backlinks are few and far between, but each success builds on the previous one. Every time a visitor clicks through a search result, shares an article, or links to it in their own work, you’re setting the groundwork for your next article—and the next, and the next—to perform even better.
This is the content growth cycle.
It’s something we see often—a virtuous cycle of compounding growth where every new article improves the performance of the next, generating better and better results over time. Stick with it and content marketing becomes a sustainable growth engine.
How the Content Growth Cycle Works
Every new article has a follow-on benefit for all of the content that comes after it. This growth cycle means that each time you publish a new article, you do so from a stronger position. New content improves the performance of future content and grows the business in the process.
Let’s look at this in more detail.
A steady stream of new content is required to initiate the growth cycle. Each new piece creates the opportunity to expose more people to your website. This is the mechanism that makes the next two steps work.
Every time you publish a new article, you increase the chance that the next post will perform even better for three important reasons:
- Distribution. New visitors can subscribe to newsletters and follow you on social media, creating an ever-growing distribution network that can be leveraged over and over. The larger the network, the easier the distribution for each new post.
- Links. New posts are new opportunities for backlinks. Each new link increases the domain authority of the root domain, which helps search performance for all articles.
- Engagement. Every organic search visit provides Google with more data to assess the quality of content: time on page, bounce rate, and pages/visit. The more you publish, the easier it becomes to build a reputation as a provider of useful content—assuming, of course, that you consistently provide useful content.
As your network, rankings, and content quality improve, more people find, read, and share your content. That, in turn, improves the network, ranking factors, and content quality, leading to more people finding, reading and—you guessed it—sharing your content.
As content helps acquire customers and grow the business, more money becomes available to create more and higher quality content. And since you’re publishing even better content on a site with higher domain authority and sending it to a larger email list, it’s much easier to distribute.
This is what makes the content growth cycle go round. It’s also how sites evolve from the occasional, one-off successful blog post to a reliable stream of ever-increasing organic traffic.
The Growth Cycle in Practice
Let’s look at a few examples to see how this works in the real world.
These graphs show identity management tool Auth0’s weekly website traffic from the very beginning. For the first year, traffic is pretty flat (blue), picking up between weeks 50 and 75 to average out at 3,820 weekly sessions. Traffic is growing, but not very fast. This is Phase One, where a steady stream of content is required to get things moving.
Gradually, the benefits of their early posts begin to compound. A steady trickle of visitors, backlinks, and social shares strengthens their domain authority and builds a network of interested readers. A year on, the team sees a big increase in traffic (purple), averaging out at 26,936 sessions per week. This is Phase Two, where the network effect begins to kick in. Traffic grows faster and momentum is building. Growth happens 2.9x faster here than in Phase One.
Each new article feeds into the growth cycle, improving the performance of every article that comes after it. Another year on (yellow) and Auth0 is hitting an average of 116,288 sessions each week. This is Phase Three, where established distribution channels and a strong domain drive business growth, which opens up budget for more and higher quality content. Growth happens 2.8x faster than in Phase Two.
This same pattern repeats for AdEspresso, the Facebook Ad optimization platform.
In Phase One, traffic averages 10,914 sessions per week. Jump forward a year or so to Phase Two and the weekly average has increased to 44,601 sessions and moves 2.1x faster than Phase One. Another year on at Phase Three and the site is generating an average of 90,629 sessions per week—another 1.8x jump over Phase Two.
We see the same trend for Wistia, albeit over a longer period. Traffic growth starts relatively slowly in Phase One, before a sharp increase in the growth rate after two years of compounding content. Momentum starts building in Phase Two— traffic grows 3.2x faster than Phase One. Phase Three is when things really get moving. Traffic grows 2.2x faster than Phase Two thanks to several years of regular publishing.
Unlike the five phases of growth we outlined in The Science Behind 100,000-View Blog Posts, the growth phases here are less distinct. Steady, linear growth—which should be the goal of nearly all B2B content marketing strategies—doesn’t begin on day one and often accelerates beyond a linear growth curve later on.
The exact date where Phase One transitions to Phase Two is not important. What is important, however, is the concept that growth gets easier, faster, and more efficient overtime.
Stick With It
It’s common for content marketing to feel slow at first. In each of the examples above, it took several years to complete the content growth cycle. Rand Fishkin, one of the most popular and well-known creators of marketing content in the world, says he published “no fewer than one thousand blog posts before [they] posts achieved consistent, broad readership.” He doesn’t have that problem anymore, but it took years to get there.
You should see growth in the early days, but don’t be frustrated when it isn’t exponential. Publish, distribute and re-invest—then do it again.