You’ve created your compelling ebook or your fabulous video or your super-handy infographic. Now what? The whole point of your content is lost if you don’t tell the world. Kind of like the Doomsday Machine from the movie Dr. Strangelove.
This content promotion guide will give you a high level strategic view of how to get the word out along with some specific tactical steps to get results.
Be sure to scroll all the way to the bottom of this post for a handy mind map!
Content Promotion Strategy
When putting together a content promotion strategy, I like to think in terms of three key strategic areas. These three areas are divided up based on the amount of control you have and the opportunities they present:
- Places You Own: These are your own digital assets that are completely within your control.
- Places You Visit: In most of the online world, you’re welcome to share your content but it’s important to understand that you’re only a visitor in someone else’s home.
- Places You Rent: Of course, there’s always the option to rent some space in order to spread your message.
Let’s investigate the strengths and weaknesses of each of these and discuss some specific tactics that make up this content promotion guide.
Places You Own
There’s no place like home, right? The places you own belong to you and they’re 100% in your control. Not only can you use them however you like for promotional purposes, but you can usually measure the results pretty well, too. The downside is that the audience may not be as large as you want or need it to be. Here are some specific examples.
This is probably the most obvious digital property you own, but it also seems to be one of the most neglected. The most common failure I see when performing digital marketing evaluations is the poor use (or complete lack) of calls to action and landing pages. Use your web property as a content promotion machine by including clear, attractive, graphical calls to action that funnel visitors to well-designed landing pages.
Here’s an example from a company that provides 3-dimensional metrology, optical alignment, and mechanical services; OASIS Alignment. We helped them create a machine alignment handbook that’s been downloaded almost 1,000 times. As you can see, there’s a clear call to action in the margin of all blog pages on their website. When visitors arrive at the blog via long-tail, organic searches they’re presented with an offer to learn more in addition to the content in the blog post.
One of the most valuable marketing assets any organization can have these days is a high-quality, opt-in email database. Much of your content marketing and lead generation activities should be built with the goal of expanding that database. Once established, there are a few different tools available to leverage such an asset.
- Campaigns: Sending out specific messages around marketing campaigns is one of the most common uses of email marketing. Keeping your email list well-segmented so that you can target those messages will help increase their effectiveness and minimize unsubscribes. Remember the Hippocratic Oath; First, do no harm! You’ve worked hard to get people to opt into your list, so don’t abuse them, don’t spam them, and (for the love of marketing) don’t bore them! This is a great tool to use for content promotion.
- Newsletters: Newsletters are also pretty common in email marketing but also one of the most misunderstood and misused (at least from where I’m sitting). The purpose of your newsletter shouldn’t be to talk about yourself and all of your wonderful accomplishments. It should be to provide value to your reader. Provide them with regular updates on all of the great content on your site and upcoming events. Think of it as a weekly or monthly wrap-up of content you’ve published.
- Auto Responders: Using email auto responders requires a slightly higher level of sophistication than the standard email marketing approaches. First, you’ll need the right digital marketing technology in order to pull it off. Second, you’ll need enough content to create a drip campaign that will keep your subscribers consistently clicking for more. But it’s a great way to leverage your database and keep your content evergreen and always front and center.
Another infrequently used chunk of digital real estate that’s rarely used for content promotion is the email signature. How many emails do you send in a day? And how many inboxes see those emails? If you’re like the rest of us, the number is probably pretty high. Placing links in your email signature is a great way to get some free advertising in a way that’s most likely to bypass spam filters!
Let’s not get so caught up in the digital realm that we forget that there is a physical world as well! Creating printed materials that can be left behind will never completely go out of style. Just be sure to make it attractive and convenient. Include a shortened URL to your content and, if appropriate, a QR code for mobile devices to access quickly and easily.
Here’s a quick tip about URLs! For SEO purposes, you’ll want to include keywords in the URL of landing page that holds your content. But since those URLs are typically longer than you’d want to include on printed materials, create a 301 redirect with a short, memorable name that makes it easier for people to type into their browsers.
Places You Visit
There are thousands of places online you can share your content. Of course, social media sites immediately come to mind. There are several great advantages to leveraging social media as part of a content promotion guide. First, the audience is probably much larger than any of the properties you own. Facebook has 1.28 active monthly users (as of March 31, 2014). YouTube is the world’s second-largest search engine. I think you get the picture. Another great advantage of social media is the sharing that can take place. If you’re sharing truly remarkable content, then people who find it on social media will re-share it with their audiences.
There is a downside to social media, however. And I’m not just talking about all the time sunk into watching cats on treadmills. It’s important to remember that you don’t own your Facebook page or your LinkedIn Group or your Twitter stream. You’re simply visiting. Most of these services have succumbed to community pressure and allow you to download your content, but if you read their terms of service it will become painfully apparent to you that they can shut you down at any time, for any reason, with zero recourse. Sometimes this happens by accident and sometimes they don’t like your content. In either case, you can spend years building a massive online audience and have it taken away with the click of a mouse or the whim of a computer algorithm. While these occurrences are rare, they’re worth mentioning and considering.
Obviously, this is a huge topic. Many, many books, ebooks, and blog posts have been written on the subject and a portion of one blog post certainly won’t do it justice. However, that won’t stop me from trying!
Rather than providing you with a list of content promotion tactics you should implement, I think it’s worth taking a look at how not to suck at social media. These are the top 10 mistakes I see all to often, which hurt credibility and decrease results. Here’s a summary of my top-ten ways to suck at social media along with a full one hour webinar recording with all of the details.
- “Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” Sun Tzu gave us this warning in The Art of War and it’s probably the number one mistake I see businesses make. They jump into social media and start sharing stuff without a plan and then become disappointed when they don’t see results.
- “Don’t be a bragger.” David Meerman Scott is fond of saying that nobody cares about your or your products. They only care about how you can help them. That increases by a factor of ten on social media. Nobody cares what you had for lunch or that you just secured a new client or that you’ve launched a new product.
- “Don’t be diabolical.” What I mean here is, don’t try to bait and switch people. The B.S. detectors of your social media audience are especially sharp and they know when they’re being played.
- “Don’t be a control freak.” Big companies have a real problem with this one. They think that if they open a social media account they might say something wrong or people might say bad things about them. But the Internet abhors a vacuum. The conversations will take place with or without you. Which do you prefer?
- “Don’t herd cats.” Even if you’re doing a great job on your social media channels, your mission can still fail. If your website isn’t optimized and synchronized with your social media strategy in order to convert your audience into leads and customers, what’s the point?
- “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory.” This corollary to #1 tells us that the best plan in the world is useless without action. A solid social media plan needs good content, good execution and – most of all – an ongoing resource commitment.
- “Don’t be boring.” Keep it conversational and engaging on social media. Even if your corporate image is somewhat conservative, that’s not going to build an engaged audience on social media.
- “Don’t be robotic.” There are lots of great marketing automation tools available, and by no means am I suggesting that you not use them. I am saying to be careful and not over-use them.
- “Don’t be long-winded.” This applies to blog posts at least as much as it does social media. Obviously, Twitter and other channels have constraints about how long your messages can be and so you need to be concise.
- “Don’t be repulsive.” Looks matter: You never get a second chance to make a first impression, so be sure you’re using a decent avatar, that you’ve fully completed your profiles, that your cover images are attractive and well-designed, etc.
Is guest blogging dead? Matt Cutts (Google’s head of web spam) said as much earlier this year and it cause a lot of consternation in the SEO community. I encourage you to read his article and watch the videos there. While he’s lamenting how spammy guest blogging has become, he does not say it should be abandoned altogether:
It seems like most people are getting the spirit of what I was trying to say, but I’ll add a bit more context. I’m not trying to throw the baby out with the bath water. There are still many good reasons to do some guest blogging (exposure, branding, increased reach, community, etc.). Those reasons existed way before Google and they’ll continue into the future. And there are absolutely some fantastic, high-quality guest bloggers out there. I changed the title of this post to make it more clear that I’m talking about guest blogging for search engine optimization (SEO) purposes.
I’m also not talking about multi-author blogs. High-quality multi-author blogs like Boing Boing have been around since the beginning of the web, and they can be compelling, wonderful, and useful.
I just want to highlight that a bunch of low-quality or spam sites have latched on to “guest blogging” as their link-building strategy, and we see a lot more spammy attempts to do guest blogging. Because of that, I’d recommend skepticism (or at least caution) when someone reaches out and offers you a guest blog article.
Places You Buy
Finally, you can always buy the attention if it makes sense. Whether or not it makes sense for you depends on a number of factors…
Do you have the budget? Content promotion is usually focused on getting leads into the very top of your sales funnel. As such, it rarely the case that it makes sense for smaller businesses to spend advertising dollars that are usually better spent closer to the bottom of the sales funnel. However, larger businesses frequently apply ad budgets to content marketing campaigns for brand awareness as well as lead generation.
Can you measure it?
Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.
– John Wanamaker
Spending money on online advertising is dicey if you don’t have all of the analytics in place to properly measure your outcomes. This means an end-to-end solution that not only measures clicks and conversions but how many deals you actually close. Typically, this requires tight integration between your website and CRM system.
Pay Per Click
Usually, this is the first avenue to come to mind when it comes to online advertising. It’s still the King of the Hill in paid advertising, but by no means is it the only alternative. There are three different flavors of search engine marketing (particularly in the case of Google); search, display, and video.
Search advertising is by far the most common. It’s the form in which you create text ads that will appear at the top and sides of search engine results pages (SERPs) and/or in context on other websites as part of their ad network. When constructing a PPC campaign, it’s critical that these three components be closely aligned:
- Keywords: The keywords on which you’re bidding should be very tightly grouped together. Creating one, large campaign with unrelated keywords means that the matching will be poor and can’t possibly align well with the other two components – the ad copy and the landing page.
- Ad Copy: The words you use in your ad should include the keyword associated with the ad group. Google highlights them in bold inside your ad in order to show the user how your ad relates to their search. If there’s no match, your click through rates will be poor and your quality score will be low.
- Landing Page: The page to which your ad sends traffic must also be optimized for the keyword(s) you’re buying. Otherwise, Google will assume that it’s a poor user experience and that there’s a disconnect. As such, you’ll get lower conversion rates and a poor quality score.
If these components are well-aligned, you’ll receive a low quality score, which means that you’ll be paying more for your clicks. It’s also the reason why it’s rarely a good idea to send advertising clicks to your home page. First, it’s really hard to optimize a single page for more than one or two keyword phrases. Second, your home page is probably not a proper landing page that’s optimized to solicit a single action.
Display advertising relies on images instead of text. These are generally used as part of ad display networks, like Google’s Double-Click.
Finally, video advertising can be done by placing intro clips in front of YouTube videos. Generally, this isn’t the sort of medium you’d use for content promotion, however.
Ah, the venerable banner advertisement. It’s still alive and kicking – and not to be ignored. The right banner ad on the right website that targets the right audience can still be very effective. Just be sure to properly construct your links with UTM codes so that you can monitor and attribute the traffic. Also, whenever possible, ask the host for regular reports of impressions and clicks.
Paying Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social networks to promote your content is an emerging and dynamic opportunity. They’re very different from search engine advertising in many ways, and (arguably) the most significant of those is intent. When I type “chinese food in manchester,” that’s a pretty clear signal that I have a clear and present need to know which Chinese food restaurants are nearby. However, you don’t get those clear intent signals on social media.
But the one thing some social media platforms have going for them (like Facebook and LinkedIn) is the incredibly detailed demographic information available to advertisers. On those sites, you’re able to target ads with incredible precision based on not just demographics, but expressed affinities. For example, if I wanted to advertise an auto repair shop that specializes in German cars, I could target Facebook users who’ve like BMW, Audi, and/or Volkswagen pages.
I’m including affiliate advertising for the sake of completeness, though it rarely applies to content marketing. The entire premise behind affiliate marketing is that the referring partner receives a commission for sales or leads generated. These commissions usually need to be reasonably generous in order to incentivize the affiliates to apply resources. Larger organizations may have the budgets and rationale for using affiliates as part of the content promotion strategies.
Content Promotion Guide Mind Map
Here’s a mind map you’re welcome to download and keep handy (click image for full resolution version):