Social Media Research

Why Content Marketers Need Better Statistics

One recent morning, a client got in touch and asked me to find a widely cited statistic that supports the use of behavioral job interview techniques.

The client needed to show that behavioral interviews resulted in lower overall hiring costs, lower turnover rates, or increased productivity. They needed the statistic within two hours for use in an important piece of long form content.

I didn’t have access to any paid research resources like JSTOR or a real library. I just had the internet. Sounds easy right?


One hour later I had located about twenty different human resources and hiring blogs all citing the same figure. Yet, not one of these blogs or websites provided the source for this statistic:

Behavioral interviewing is said to be 55 percent predictive of future on-the-job behavior, while traditional interviewing is only 10 percent predictive.

This is exactly the kind of statistic that the client wanted. But without a citation, this information was completely unfounded and useless. The closest I eventually got to locating a source for this statistic was a citation I found buried in a document from Google Scholar search:

1997 by Salgado, J.F. in “Personnel Selection Methods” – in C.L. Cooper and I.T. Robinson, International Review of Industrial Organizational Psychology New York: Wiley – it was shown that behavioral interviewing can increase by nearly 50 percent your chances of hiring the right employee.

Even the above citation does not help to ground the initial statistic in reality, especially because the citation was related to a 50 percent improvement in hire quality, while the other widely used but un-cited statistic claimed a 55 percent increase in hire quality. I also could not find this exact publication anywhere online.

Ultimately, I came up empty-handed and recommended the client include a more generalized statement such as, “Leading human resource experts believe behavioral interviewing may increase hire quality by more than 50 percent,” or avoid using a statistic altogether.

As a content marketer, I am always backing up my white papers, ebooks, and blogs with powerful statistics and research that tell a story.  I’ve spent many hours combing through a network of poorly cited website and blog statistics hunting for the original source. However, this was the first time I was completely unable to find a well-cited data point.

Become a Data Authority

Despite this negative online experience where I was unable to find a statistic, I learned something new about content marketing: the value of well-cited data online.

The following tips explain more about how businesses can use statistics and the absence of online citation to improve SEO and increase sales:

1. Create an online landing page filled with properly cited statistics for your industry or area of expertise.

Here is an example of a software provider in the hiring and background check industry with a static page sharing facts and statistics. In conducting research for this industry, I’ve used this page to find original sources and have seen countless other human resources and hiring blogs cite, copy, link to, and borrow stats from this page. Using SEOMoz’s Open Site Explorer, you can see that this page has a total of 725 backlinks pointing to it, which is a huge SEO signal to Google that this page is authoritative and relevant for key hiring and human resources topics and keywords.

2. Better yet, make your list of facts tweetable or easy to share.

HubSpot frequently posts blogs like this one, “The Ultimate List of 2012 Email Marketing Stats.“  Not only does HubSpot share stats and cite the sources, it also provides “Tweet This Stat” links that allow readers to instantly share the stat with their followers. This sharing functionality provides amazing word-of-mouth for HubSpot and generates social signals like Tweets and Retweets pointing back to HubSpot. (SEOs believe that Google is now factoring social signals into search results). Below is a screenshot of the tweet generated when you click “Tweet This Stat” on HubSpot’s blog:

Screen shot 2013-03-30 at 12.56.16 PM

The Marketing Benefits of A Citation Heavy, Fact-Filled Landing Page

1. More Backlinks for SEO

A landing page full of cited facts and statistics can help your business generate more inbound backlinks. Other bloggers and website owners will link back to your page as a resource or as a source for their own writing.

2. Increased Conversions

With the right statistics, you can even tell a story that helps to convert more website visitors into leads or customers.

For example, a plumbing company website could post a page full of statistics showing how much a homeowner can save on utility bills with a tankless water heater or low-flow toilet. A list of persuasive statistics may convince a greater number of website visitors to call the plumbing company and get those money-saving fixtures installed.

Even though I did not find the stat I was looking for, this experience helped to identify an easy-to-implement SEO and marketing tactic for businesses.

Now, I have to work on posting my own “fast facts” page about how blogging and content marketing can increase leads and revenue for businesses!

Editor’s Note: A version of this post originally appeared on

Facebook Comments


  1. says

    This is an interesting and unusual post, with a couple of excellent ideas about how to exploit the stats that we put so much effort into researching.

    But it’s a pity that you weren’t able to solve your original research problem and share with us how you did that. Better still, a full-fledged tutorial on basic online statistical research would be really useful.

    Like you, I am currently struggling to find some elusive stats. In my case, I need data about the prevalence of split testing and the spread of results typically achievable. I thought I had found something very close in WhichTestWon’s “State of Online Testing” report, but there were a couple of anomalies in the data and I was reluctant to use them without being sure that I had interpreted them correctly. I’ve contacted the publisher several times for clarification, but never received a reply. Any suggestions?

    • BrittBrouse says

      Thanks for the question Tim. That’s a tough one because the data you found is “citable,” in that it’s from a published report and a reliable source. In addition to clarifying that information with the report publisher, I would also go to the software providers like Unbounce and Visual Website Optimizer and see if they publish any stats about A/B test usage and average results. These stats may even be hiding in their B2B sales materials too. I agree that a follow-up post with high-level tips for online research would be very useful. Great idea! (Adding that to my to-do list now).

  2. Russ_Somers says

    Great post, Britt. I’ve found that strategy highly effective. Sometimes even competitors will cite and link!

  3. Neicole Crepeau says

    Nice post. I’ve been on similar searches to yours, Britt. usually with success, but sometimes unable to track down the original source of an oft-quoted statistic. I’ve had to do this kind of sleuthing both for marketing pieces and for investor decks. I must be a serious nerd, because I really find it fun trying to dig up relevant data from original sources! I think it’s a great idea to keep a clipboard or document with all the various statistics and sources you find along the way, as they often come in handy on later materials or projects.

    Thanks for writing!

    • BrittBrouse says

      Thanks Neicole. That’s a great idea to keep a clipboard of data sources handy. Especially if you are repeatedly writing content for a handful of industries.

  4. says

    Thanks for sharing this very informative article Britt. It’s my first time to read an article from you and I was really amazed. I’m looking forward to reading more posts from you.

  5. gordongraham says

    Great post, Britt. With a very good tip about creating a page listing the best stats and sources for a certain sector.

    BTW I share your research frustration at times.

    I tried to find research about the impact of color on communications. Everyone from Xerox and HP on down says that color attracts attention, boosts conversions, builds sales. It’s obvious, right? But after spending hours Googling and a whole day in Canada’s largest reference library in Toronto, I found absolutely no original research to back up this claim. It’s just something everyone says.

    Similar chestnuts concern so-called “learning styles” and different “intelligences” and the notion that people only learn X% of what they see, Y% of what they hear, and so on. I couldn’t find any scientific basis for these claims at all. They were just made up by psychologists and everyone started citing everyone else in a merry-go-round.

    The corollary to your piece is NOT to believe everything you read and hear without attribution. If more buyers were more critical, marketers couldn’t get away with so much insubstantial fluff.

    • BrittBrouse says

      Thanks Gordon! Glad to hear I am not alone in the frustrating quest to source information. We definitely need to elevate industry standards to reduce all of the “fluff” and “data-noise.”

  6. Akash Agarwal says

    It’s a great post on content marketing. Thanks for sharing this great tricks about content marketing.

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