Content Strategy Visualized – The Blog Tree Sprouts New Growth

The most popular article I’ve written thus far posed the question: “will content strategy save marketing?

The question is being asked by marketing leaders at companies large and small. And it is being answered by thought leaders like Ardath AlbeeAnn Handley and CC Chapman, by the emergence of experts like the folks at The Content Marketing Institute, and in blogs like Junta42 by Joe Pulizzi.

When I speak about content strategy, I often see eyes glaze over . . . until I show them the Eloqua Content Grid and talk about the amazing progress made by their VP of Content Strategy Joe Chernov. (They recently updated the grid to a much-improved Content Grid v2.)

They followed the Content Grid with the highly successful Blog Tree and have just announced an update: the New Blog Tree.

So If you are looking for real examples of how to define and execute a content strategy, look no further than the visualizations created by Joe and his team…

In December, Eloqua and JESS3 announced The Blog Tree, where they went beyond a simple list of top blogs and instead created a “rich and playful visual” that showed the relationships between blogs in the marketing, PR and social media categories.

As proof of the power of inbound marketing, Eloqua reports that the infograph resulted in nearly a thousand tweets, hundreds of inbound links and 49 sales opportunities. Not bad for a piece of content.

When I saw it, I immediately went to their Facebook page to “like it” and request that I be added to the next one. And I was truly honored when Joe sent the email to me and the list of fellow bloggers earlier this week telling us that we would be included in the New Blog Tree.

The New Blog Tree states “The internet is saturated. Launching a blog today is a bold move. This infograph cheers those driven enough to introduce a new blog and remarkable enough to earn our attention.”

According to Joe, this new edition “curates 64 new blogs — sites launched after 1/1/09 — that have captured our attention. Because traffic alone is a poor proxy for success for a young blog, we’ve used Edelman’s BlogLevel tool as our grader. BlogLevel takes into account attributes like frequency and engagement, which aren’t inherently biased toward longevity.”

It also improves on the previous edition by adding interactivity. Each leaf on the tree is a link to the actual blog. (Thanks for the inbound link juice!)

So why are the Content Grid and The Blog Tree great examples of Content Strategy?

  1. They represent compelling content that helps meet the needs of their target audience (exposure).
  2. They help to drive community. In the case of the Blog Tree, the content itself represents a community.
  3. They create affinity for their brand without even talking about their brand. No sales pitch necessary.
  4. They provide incentives for sharing, amplification and self-distribution. No paid media required here.
  5. They are promoted in all the places where their audience shares content (slideshare, twitter, blog, Facebook).
  6. They are updated and extended based on feedback from the community.
  7. They drive real business results like sales opportunities through inbound links, shares and traffic.

So thanks to Joe and team for the inclusion. Congratulations to all my fellow bloggers who made the list. And I hope you find this example helpful as you think about the opportunity to implement a content strategy.

Below is a link to the interactive version of the Blog Tree in slideshare as well as an old-school list of the blogs included.

The Blog Tree: New Growth

View more documents from Eloqua

If you’d like to follow these bloggers on Twitter, you can also follow this handy Twitter list of the authors.

Design/Data Visualization:

Cool Infographics
Fast Codesign
Pop Chart Lab
Column Five Media
The Inforgraphics Blog
Information is Beautiful
Making Data Work


Established Company:

It’s All About Revenue
Cloud Blog
Lewis 360
Q1 Blog
Cloud Net Suite
Openview Blog
Technically Marketing
Chatter blog
The Employer Solutions Blog
Simple Marketing Blog



Social Media B2B
About Foursquare
Content Marketing Institute Blog
B2B Bloggers
Savvy B2B Marketing
Pushing Social
Tech Busy


Personal (Marketer):

B2B Marketing Insider
The Sales Lion
Brian Vellmure’s CRM Strategies Blog
Mack Collier
Helicopter to Work
Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics


Personal (Author):

Brass Tack Thinking
Pam Moore The Marketing Nut
Pros in Training
The Dragonfly Effect Blog
The Change Agent


Personal (Journalist):

Communications Conversations
Jolie O’Dell
Villagers with Pitchforks
Robin Wauters
Chris Koch’s B2B Marketing Blog
Social Nerdia
A New Generation Marketer
Jessica Lawrence



Y Combinator
Brain Traffic Blog
The Official Klout Blog
The Empire Avenue Blog
Perfect Market
Likeable Media Blog
Brafton Blog
the “er” blog
Tippingpoint Labs Blog
Spark Boutik


Root System:

Marketing Sherpa
Venture Beat
Read Write Web
The Next Web
GOOD Magazine


Michael Brenner

Michael Brenner  is a Top CMO, Content Marketing and Digital Marketing Influencer, an international keynote speaker, author of "Mean People Suck" and "The Content Formula" and he is the CEO and Founder of Marketing Insider Group, a leading Content Marketing Agency . He has worked in leadership positions in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as for thriving startups. Today, Michael helps build successful content marketing programs for leading brands and startups alike. Subscribe here for regular updates.

13 thoughts on “Content Strategy Visualized – The Blog Tree Sprouts New Growth

  1. Thanks, Michael, for the remarkable post. Immensely flattering. I think I am going to need to recruit you to speak to my executive team the next time someone asks, “And we do these infographics … why?” 😉

    Your fan,

    1. Feeling is mutual. Was also thinking of inviting you to speak to ours…no really! I’m serious…

      I think one of the toughest decisions from a marketing strategy point of view is deciding what NOT to do. Your successes help us all to make the case and to challenge the status quo that creeps into any organization. And as you continue to hit these home runs, I will continue to support and cheer you on!

      Best, Michael

  2. I’m sorry… but this infographic does nothing for me.

    – It’s not highlighting relationships.
    – It’s not using space or juxtaposition of information to reveal truth.
    – It’s not built around an intuitive or useful metaphor.

    It’s handwritten link-bait. It generates a lot of traffic in the form of “Thank you for including me,” so I suppose it is a success. But it has no value other than that.

    1. Hi Ike,

      Clearly I’m biased since I made onto the tree! But with that caveat, I will offer this alternative point of view:

      1. Their first blog tree highlighted a number of blogs that I was not aware of. Those blogs have provided me with tremendous amounts of useful thought leadership (and some new friends) since they produced it. So from that perspective it was very helpful to me as a piece of curated content, in this case a list of important marketing blogs.
      2. I believe it is a perfect metaphor showing how the blogging pioneers in our space have built upon each other to “grow” into a body of marketing thought leadership
      3. It shows the inter-relatedness of blogs by topic specialty and also the relative influence of each
      4. As a successful piece of content, I am sure it provides valuable inbound links to the company but it does so only by providing marketers with useful information, presented (imho) in a clever way, and also provides a positive incentive for us that were included to share.
      5. It’s better than some marketing promotional blah-blah “why you should buy” their product

      So for me, it provides useful value to their target audience, it produces inbound links for them, and as you say it is a success. Seems pretty valuable to me…

  3. Michael, I am glad you were included. But please don’t let the flattery go to your head.

    The list you provided beneath the graphic is actually MUCH more useful. It’s curated, it’s very easy to copy, and it is organized. I can paste it right into my Evernote, and it is even searchable.

    If one is going to the trouble of creating a graphic that requires a PDF to house the links, then it better bring some insight or relationships.

    Quite frankly, there is none of the above there.

    A tree, as a metaphor, is a failure here. It suggests influence and/or lineage, but we have no proof of any of that. Those with the inner trunk branches had nothing to do with the “progeny” down the line. (Why is Mack Collier way out on the fringe, for instance? He’s anything but new and green. And while we’re at it, if you’re only looking from 2009 on why is he even on the list? Just because he posted his Blogger content over to a new URL?)

    Your list is a FAR more valuable service to me, because it is not pretending to be something it isn’t. Eloqua is capable of much better work than this — the more I look at it, the less I know.

    Now, to be fair, how could it be done differently?

    You could start by working within certain silos, highlighting the sites that anchored those slots in the past, and show a progression to who has taken the torch and advanced the cause. A USEFUL graphic would allow me to start in the past with a Steve Rubel or a Robert Scoble, and scan forward to see who has assumed the mantle of Technology Evangelist. Or to look at the Jeff Jarvis of today, and scroll back to discover who was banging the drum of media criticism. THAT would be an exercise in discovery that an infographic could provide me. Especially one based on a tree paradigm.

    1. Hey Ike,

      I appreciate your passion for the topic and also that you were able to articulate specifically what you would improve upon it. No one can argue that anything is perfect!

      Best, Michael

  4. Sounds like a compelling concept, but I guess I’m not really sure I still quite understand the tenants of it. Is there a PDF available for download anywhere out there for further study? Thanks!

  5. Great illustration that highlights what blogging is really about which is forming a community. Blogs are the original social media networks. Before people were sharing thoughts on Facebook and Twitter, they were sharing them in blogs. Blogging is a great way to get to know others in the industry and form relationships that may lead to new business ventures and opportunities.

    1. Thanks Nick, I appreciate the support and totally agree. Community is the ultimate goal of all our social and marketing efforts. And I think it comes down to simple math: push-based marketing simply can’t compete with the amplification power of a community sharing good content.

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