Report: ranking the inbound marketing of 100 UK businesses

Report: ranking the inbound marketing of 100 UK businesses

You might be forgiven for making the assumption that bigger company + more revenue = better marketing. And for a growing business in 2017, online presence and inbound marketing is something you would expect to be the jewel in the crown of their marketing activity. It turns out this isn’t necessarily the case.

As a growing agency, we’re passionate about helping businesses develop and succeed through inbound marketing. We’re also curious about what’s out there – who are the top performers, and in what industry?

To this end, we took launched a research project. Using Real Business’ latest Hot 100 list – a ranking of the UK’s fastest growing private companies, we delved into the depths of each company’s website and online activity, analysed it, and gave them a score based on their performance. Our analysis covered 4 key areas:

  • Content (blogs and general website copy)
  • SEO (technical health, optimisation and domain authority)
  • Lead generation (call-to-actions, accessibility and usability)
  • Social media (update frequency, engagement, quality of activity)

Using this blueprint, we were able to get a pretty decent overview of how well the UK’s hottest companies were doing (or not doing) inbound marketing.
You can download the full report here, but in this article, I’m going to cover a few key takeaways. 


Which sectors performed best?



The best performing sector by far was Travel, which on average achieved a total score of 134, which as you can see from the above chart, put them pretty much head and shoulders above even the top performers. Being high-flyers (see what I did there?) was something I expected to see for Travel, which a sector relying more and more on web traffic and an absolute gold mine in terms of shareable content. Two Travel companies – Barrhead Travel and Hays Travel achieved the best overall score. In particular, the use of social media and blog content for travel was particularly good. 

I was surprised that Hospitality didn’t perform better – they got an average score of just 52 out of a possible 167. You’d think Hospitality, similar to Travel would be another area with a deep well of shareable content, and being competitive, businesses would need to make their websites and messaging stand out. This didn’t seem to be the case!

The average score for businesses across all sectors was 71 out of 167. This means that overall, on average these growing businesses were operating their online marketing at just 42% effectiveness. Imagine what they could if they pushed forward on the other 68%!


Which was the best performing tactic?

Social media was by far the best performing tactic, with the companies achieving on average 53% of the total possible score. But I had to ask myself; if they’re doing social media so well, where are they sending all of this traffic? Given that content performed the worst, were these companies making the most of their social media engagement?

Perhaps most surprising, particularly in 2017, is that 22 of the businesses didn’t have social media at all, and 30 didn’t have any sort of blog on their website. In fact – this brings me quite neatly to the most shocking statistic of all – 2 of the UK’s fastest growing businesses DO NOT HAVE A WEBSITE. Nothing. Nada.

I had nothing to analyse. One of the businesses is turned over £50.2m last year, and the other £11.9m. One can only assume these businesses have relied heavily on word of mouth and existing relationships to achieve their success. At risk of repeating myself – imagine what they could do with a website!

Which sectors did which tactics well?

As I’ve already touched on, Travel performed pretty well across the board, but they were most successful in social media and content, achieving a percentage score of a whopping 91% and 80% respectively.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, what you might call more “niche” industries – Agriculture, Aggregates, Funerals, and Plumbing – were seriously underperforming in terms of content. Between, they achieved an average percentage score of just 38%. So if you’re in any of those industries, your ears should’ve just pricked up – start smashing content, and you’ll be light years ahead of the fastest growing companies in your industry.


How did businesses perform compared to revenue?

As I stated at the start of the article – you might be forgiven for thinking bigger business = better marketing.
Not quite.


Putting the data onto one of those fancy correlation graph things, we see there isn’t much correlation between performance and revenue.



Grouping the companies by revenue band, we get a clearer picture. It would seem to follow expectations up to a point, but there is an interesting drop-off in performance at the £151-349m point. Companies in this revenue band achieved an average score of 69, almost as low as those with revenue under £30m. Good news though – once they broke over the £350m line, performance was back on track.


Overall, I don’t think I was that surprised by the results. In my experience, many established businesses in the UK are yet to become fully switched on to the benefits of inbound marketing. They’ve made a name for themselves in the industry and do so well off their reputation. But I can’t help thinking if they nailed their inbound strategy, they could push things even further. I’d be interested to revisit this list in a couple of years to see if there was any massive change. That’s if I get a spare few weeks.

What do you think?