The ultimate goal of Shaped, HMH's company blog, is to help K–12 educators and education leaders. We set out to achieve this by working towards a few key objectives.
Objective 1: Fill content marketing whitespace. When we first created Shaped, no comparable education brand had a robust blog. We saw this as an opportunity to be a market leader in offering free resources and insights to teachers. We currently develop around three blog posts per week, many of which include free downloadable lessons and activities straight from our programs.
Objective 2: Build brand reputation. We maintain an extremely high bar for quality content that is equitable and inclusive of all students, and we seek diverse voices to contribute to the blog. This includes reaching out to industry leaders to write posts, partnering with staff designers to create images and downloadable resources, and subjecting every blog post to an exacting review process that includes stakeholders around the company.
Objective 3: Optimize for organic search. Our blog posts incorporate SEO keywords so that when educators search for questions and information, our blogs are more likely to appear on the first page of search results. In addition, our blogs link to one another, are directionally fine-tuned to reduce search competition, and pertain to overarching themes to improve the company’s authority on a topic.
HMH's blog strategy begins with the people it hires. Current and previous blog staff are hired not just for their mastery in the craft of writing and knowledge of SEO but also for their experiences in journalism and classroom teaching—making Shaped read like an education magazine.
In terms of our day-to-day blog development strategy, we maintain a detailed and ever-evolving calendar of blog posts that are sometimes planned as far as a full year in advance. Our blog is designed to be a hub of insights and resources that span grades and subjects and target a wide range of professional roles within education. In particular, we focus on the K–12 classroom teacher. Blog authors frequently include subject matter experts, authors, and educational thought leaders, along with guest teacher bloggers who share instructional practices and firsthand experiences. We want blog readers to view HMH as a go-to resource for K–12 topics. Moreover, we want blog readers to develop a favorable impression of the HMH brand—a critical takeaway if they are ever involved with choosing a K–12 curriculum for their school or district.
The Shaped blog ultimately fits into a larger marketing strategy, one of generating inbound demand. The work we do developing search-optimized content fuels our demand generation machine. In addition to publishing blog posts, we send a monthly email newsletter highlighting recent and topical posts. We strive to build a subscriber base, segmented by interest in different education topics, so that we can nurture their interests and generate demand for our programs and services.
One of our biggest challenges is that we, the content marketing team, must function in tandem with other marketing and non-marketing groups around the company. Our blog posts are part of a robust demand generation strategy that is based on developing and leveraging segmented email lists of potential customers.
We help support this demand generation strategy by developing pieces of long-form content that relate to large educational themes, for example, “math intervention.” In 2022 we created the “Math Intervention Handbook for Educators,” a 50-page compendium of articles and resources to support educators working with students performing two or more grades below grade level in math. This handbook is offered on our math intervention blog posts so that we can identify users interested in this topic, gather their email addresses, and nurture them towards our relevant math intervention programs. In 2022 we published long-form content for a few other topics as well, such as “classroom activities” and “social and emotional learning.”
Another challenge is that our high bar for quality necessitates an exacting review process including stakeholders from around the company. In particular, we seek stakeholders that represent a diverse range of experiences and expertise.
Our 2022 results were a resounding success. Not only can we applaud a record amount of web traffic, but our blog posts also helped build demand and awareness for HMH products and services.
There are three key metrics we monitored throughout the year: 1) blog pageviews, 2) marketing-sourced revenue, and 3) gated content downloads. All were indicators of a successful strategy and a blog that educators found influential and helpful.
In 2022, our blog received 2.9 million unique pageviews, far exceeding our year over year traffic goals. This represents a 22% increase from 2021, and a 179% increase from 2020. We feel this made our blog an overwhelming success. This volume of pageviews is linked with the success of our larger demand generation strategy, which relies on high-quality top-of-funnel content in order to work. This past year, HMH overshot its goals for marketing-sourced pipeline revenue and tracked a record number of downloads for the gated long-form content featured across our blog, with each download serving as a marketing-qualified lead.
There are less quantitative successes to acknowledge, as well. We regularly receive emails from teachers thanking us for our content and even hear from coworkers around HMH looking to help their children with a topic and stumbling upon our own blog posts when searching online for support! When working in education, there is simply no feeling as powerful as knowing your work helped a child learn something new.
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