As marketers, we realize that hitting the publish button on a new blog post just won’t cut it anymore. “If you build it, they will come” is now a distant fantasy on par with magical, dancing unicorns and candy rainbows.
If you invest the time to craft a great content piece, you owe it to yourself, your client, or your company to PROMOTE it!
So you’ve freed up some budget to promote this content. How should you spend it?
I’ve chosen a $200 budget for this example. It’s arbitrary. It might be a huge number to you, or it could be chump change. Let’s focus more on how we use the money, then you can scale the strategy and tactics based on your personal needs. Sound good?
List of assumptions: -You have invested in professional design for your blog -Your content is worth sharing: It’s ridiculously helpful, controversial, inspirational, long-form. It doesn’t have to be the Sistine Chapel, but you can’t put lipstick on a pig either. -You have some form of email marketing set up. -You have sharing buttons implemented on your blog template.
The Strategy: In a nutshell: you need to leverage as many free traffic channels as possible, and then use paid discovery to jumpstart the content’s exposure and social shares (primarily through native advertising).
In the spirit of using “lean methods“, your paid discovery budget should be spent in a series of quick iterations to find which channels have the highest ROI. In this case, our primary goal is brand exposure and reach, so ROI is a function of both traffic and shares.
1) Make your front door beautiful.
Don’t just slap a title on your blog post and call it a day. Your title is the front door – does it invite strangers to come and knock? You may have written the most epic piece the world will ever see, but without a compelling title, no one will read it.
Write a lot of versions of the same title then test your top picks before publishing. We built a free tool called TitleTester. It lets your friends and followers vote on the most clickable title. There’s also a paid feature to poll a larger audience of up to 1,000 people that we provide (if you don’t want to wear out your favors).
2) Give related bonuses.
Ever see those late night infomercials? I guarantee that you will hear this at some point: “Wait, there’s more!” It’s cheesy, but the marketing takeaway here is legit. Whenever possible, give away something tangible to increase the reader’s perception of value.
In the B2B space, we usually share on social media to be helpful or look smart. You need to give readers a reason to feel like they are achieving one of those goals. Your ideas and information might be interesting enough to read through to the end, but will it compel someone to share? Adding bonus giveaways to the mix will often push someone over the edge.
This tactic KILLED with one of our recent posts on the ripenn blog. We conducted an extensive study on headlines that went viral, and made our spreadsheet available for download (2,616 headlines with social share data). We also introduced TitleTester as a free tool. These two bonuses sweetened the deal for readers and we were rewarded with thousands of social shares, and authoritative links from sites like Entrepreneur.com, Wired, Buffer and more.
3) Don’t hate…curate!
Remember “social bookmarking”? It’s still around and can drive qualified traffic. For those of us in the digital marketing space, we’re lucky to have a number of active niche sites that round-up the best of the best. Here are my top three “bookmarking” communities: Inbound.org. GrowthHackers.com, and ShareBloc.com.
These aren’t places for you to always hawk your own content. The purpose is to add great links on a regular basis that help out the community. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t share your stuff if it’s worthy!
These sites also have an option to “start a discussion”. In a perfect world, everyone would just discuss your brilliance right in the comments section of the post, right? Well, that isn’t always going to work. Increase your reach by starting a discussion, using one of the more salient points from your blog post (and reference it with a link). You’ll add more value to the community and probably meet a few cool new folks who share the same interests!
4) Find relevant, active hashtags.
We have a bad habit of slapping down hashtags #withoutthinking. Research the most relevant hashtags for your blog post. No one buys a billboard ad on a closed highway, so why do we take our chances on a hashtag that could be a ghost town?
Check out hashtagify.me. The tool identifies related hashtags and reveals their relative popularity.
Paid Ones (Remember, we haven’t spent a dime yet)
5) Use Paid Discovery to Jumpstart Traffic and Shares
Using paid discovery is like helping a kid ride a bike without training wheels: you have to give him a little push first and then he can use that momentum to start peddling on his own. In the same way, paid discovery amplifies your content until it can sustain new organic traffic on its own merits.
Native advertising is all the rage, there’s plenty of options, but here are a few places to start:
Outbrain: Good for “mass appeal” content created by B2C brands. For as little as $.06 a click, you can get placement with major publishers like CNN.com
Disqus: Your favorite commenting platform doubles as a way to drive paid clicks to your content piece.
StumbleUpon: Stumbleupon has been hit or miss for me, but if you connect, it produces an avalanche of traffic. The key is to use Stumbleupon’s interest targeting to get in front of the right audience for your content. Clicks are cheap at $.10 a pop. You have to keep in mind that the audience on Stumbleupon has a short attention span. They are meandering about the internet looking for something interesting. You have to catch their eye EARLY in an article to keep them.
Our friends at Siege Media just published an advanced guide to StumbleUpon marketing. I encourage you to start here before setting up your campaign.
Facebook/LinkedIn/Twitter: I’m grouping these into one overly simplified category of “social ads”. There are nuances as to what works for each network, and this blog post isn’t the place to unpack everything. Based on your target audience and current following, choose one for the next step.
6) Fail Fast & Adjust Accordingly
Using our budget of $200, let’s start with $30. You are going to want to set up a segment in Google Analytics for each of these platforms individually, so that you can track their performance separately.
Day 1: Allocate $10 of budget across three different platforms (Try Outbrain, StumbleUpon, Facebook).
Day 2: Take a look at the following metrics from the previous day’s campaign: (a) total traffic (b) cost-per-click and (c) resulting organic reach. You want to evaluate the engagement of visitors from each of these platforms. The goal is to eliminate the lowest performing traffic platform from the mix and re-allocate budgets accordingly. Increase the budgets of the remaining two platforms to $30 each.
Day 3: Using the same criteria from the previous day, checking to see if one platform is substantially outperforming the other. If there is a clear leader, then consider eliminating the other platform and investing 100% of the remaining budget to the leader. If there is only a moderate or slight lead, invest the remaining 80% of the budget to the leader, and 20% to the platform that’s trailing behind.
Recap: 15% (for 3 platforms), 30% (on 2 platforms), 100% on leading platform or 80/20 on both using the remaining budget.
7) Use Retargeting to Multiply Impressions
Ever feel like your are being stalked by ads after visiting one of your favorite websites? That’s called retargeting. Advertisers use it to remind people about that purchase they almost made. But you can use it to keep your brand top of mind for visitors who just read your blog post.
This is an optional step, and I’ve included it for marketers who may be scaling this strategy with a larger budget. There’s a chance you may only pay a minimal amount in retargeting spend, while drastically improving your brand’s visibility and impression share. Larry Kim of Wordstream just published his recent results with retargeting as a branding tool. The results were drastic, seeing a 50% lift in both returning visitors and conversions!
Bio: Josh Sturgeon is the founder of ripenn, a collaboration tool that makes content marketers more creative, efficient, and collaborative. Lover of overstuffed burritos, winter surfing and building things that make life a little sweeter.