This is the second part of a two-part series on non-paid content promotion strategies. If you haven’t read the first part, I suggest you do so before moving on.
DR: When we last spoke, we were talking about the ability to leverage content communities, and I would like for you to talk a little bit about executing this strategy.
AC: Sure. So, there are groups of us, and we live on an island, and it's a bad thing that we're on an island in some ways, because we tend to just talk to ourselves and stay within our groups, but it's a good thing to be an island in a way, because you can build a community, and you can become more active with people. So, an example - I think one of the things we were talking about was like private Slack boards, and different LinkedIn groups, things like that? So, here's an example. I'm publishing a piece of research, it's a survey of a thousand bloggers, and I've been working really hard at it, and it's going to live on Thursday, and I'm hoping people pick it up, and cover it, and talk about it. So, this morning when I got to work, I took a minute, and I posted a little taste of it, a couple of charts, on several private Slack boards, and the immediate response was, 'I'd like to write about that', and people start sending me direct messages. I reply with more research. It was a tactic that took me minutes, really. Right? Maybe I spend a half hour on it total, but because of that, there are probably half a dozen websites that will all be writing about this research that we're publishing.
Benefits of Private Groups
DR: Can you back up a little bit though, to private Slack boards? I bet you that that's not common knowledge for people, and then we can talk about what's going to happen. Can you talk a little bit about that real quick?
AC: So, there is a startup that is a darling in the venture capital community called Slack. Slack is a messaging platform. There's a free version, and I'd recommend it for organizations to communicate with each other, that is a little bit like an overlap between like G-chat, or any chat messaging system, and like a private version of Twitter. You can have a Slack board, which is like your team, and within your Slack board, there's little groups. like chat rooms, which are the different streams, and anyone in that room can post, and people can direct message each other. So, there are several of these out there now that I know of, probably hundreds of them, which are simply groups of content marketers who are all in these little like mutual beneficial promotion groups. I'm in one called Growth Chat, there's another one called Boost Chat, or Growth Slack.
DR: How do you find them?
AC: You can make them. All you do is start a Slack account and just reach out to twenty-five people who are all interested in getting more traffic, and we're all consistent publishers who all have good quality, and who all have a similar social following, and just create one. I know one of them was made by Jonathan Dane, I know one of them was made by Sujan Patel. There are just different people who have just made these things. There's no magic to it at all. So, one of the little rooms in there, or streams, is called Promotion Help. That's by far the most active. So, the real purpose of these Slack boards, or a private Facebook group - there's nothing magical to Slack. What content marketers are doing is creating little private communities. Some of the more interesting social media is actually happening inside these little private communities, and what people are doing is just helping each other get traction.
So, let's say right now, David, you and I start a group and we've got twenty-five people in it, and one of the channels in there is the Promotion Help. If you post something, me and twenty-four other people all share it immediately. If I post something, you and twenty-five other people all share it immediately. It's like an unfair advantage.
I can say 'Hey, I posted this on this community. Can everyone please go help me with some votes?' People upvoting each other's stuff. 'I've got a new thing live on Facebook. Can people go help me share it or like it?' It's a big benefit, because a lot of those things like Instagram, and Facebook, and LinkedIn, they have algorithms that decide how many people will view something. So, if you can share something with a little community, or a group of helpers who all take action on it quickly, you can trigger the feedback loop inside these algorithmic social platforms that make that thing more visible to a much larger group. For example, take like Hacker News, or Reddit, or inbound.org, or Growth Hackers. These are communities where if people start to view something, or like something, or interact, or comment, then that thing is much more likely to become visible to a much, much larger audience, right? It's algorithmic. There's a curve. So, the goal is to quickly push it up the curve, so that's just one of the ways in which people are using these groups to help and find good stuff - I mean, I've found great articles that these people are sharing with each other - and to find good stuff to share with your audience, promoting industry stuff, and to get your stuff promoted better.
Finally, they're just great collaborators, so if I say, 'Hey, I'm looking for someone to contribute to a piece I'm doing on topic x,'. I'm going to find them very quickly inside these groups.
The Return is Dependent on Your Investment
DR: What about other communities, that aren’s quite as intimate- like business to the community, inbound.org, even BizSugar, Triberr, Blog Engage, things like that. Do you suggest posting there as well?
AC: The return is going to be dependent on your investment. So, what's not going to work is to just do a drive by, and to cruise past the community, and just dump a link there, and then leave and not interact. So, the entire point of any community is trust, and mutualism, and reciprocity, so you should be prepared to give first. So, any of them, any of these groups that you find that are like that, if you want that network to be there for you, to share something when you post it week, you should be there this week, and if it's Slack it's actually pretty easy, because the app is nice, and the user interface is beautiful. But whatever you do, anywhere you go, anything at all, you've got to give before you get.
There are two ways to make yourself more effective and move the fulcrum over. One is delegation, the other is automation. There are tools for making simple tasks much easier, and making them kind of automatic. One of the tools that I use that saves me probably six or eight hours a month at least, is a tool called Edgar. It is fifty bucks a month, it might be more now. Edgar is a way for you to load up your content just as if you would with Buffer. It keeps things in rotation forever. Buffer runs out, Edgar keeps going. So, it's going to keep sharing these things repeatedly over time. So, that's a type of automation, one of the few types of automation that I use. Actually, there's another tool that I'm using now which is brilliant, it’s called x.ai, and it's like a virtual assistant, but it's a robot. So, her name is Amy, and if you wanted to set up a meeting with me, which we are planning to do here soon, I can just be like, 'Hey, let's meet maybe sometime in a week or two.' I'm copying Amy on this email, and she has access to my calendar, and she'll help us find a time.
Amy then writes to you and says, 'Andy is available at these four different times,' she can see my calendar. You email back and forth with her. Once you settle on a time, she puts it on my calendar, I'm done. She set up nine meetings for me last week, and she is not a human being, she's a total robot.
Now, what I've done the last few weeks is, the first thing I do every morning is I document another process like that, and now I have like an eight-page handbook on everything - how to do social media promotion for anything that touches this company. Now, it's probably like a twenty dollar an hour person, right? It's like a VA. Hire a VA, write the instruction manual for all of those routine tasks, and then hire a VA. If it doesn't work, no problem. Try another one. Because you have the instruction manual, just keep trying until you find someone who works. You'll save yourself probably four hours a week.
Best Practices for Distribution
DR: Give me some of your best practices for this distribution. Well, first of all, tell me if you do agree that it is a gem, and number two, talk about some of your best practices in regards to collecting emails, sending them out, and the like.
AC: I love email. Of all the sources of traffic that you have, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google -- those are all companies that are not really trying to help you make money, they're doing their own thing, they're trying to make money themselves, so you can't rely on them long term to create a sustainable source of traffic for you. You don't own them, you don't own your Facebook likes, you don't own your Google ranking. The only things you own in your marketing are your content, your website, and your email list. That should be enough to convince you that yes, the same way that a financial advisor would say diversify your sources of income, or your portfolio, you need to diversify your sources of traffic. So, I'm a huge fan of e-mail, it decouples you from these companies that you really can't control. Facebook's going to change again forever, Facebook and Google are making more money than ever and it's not surprising.
So, grow your list. It puts you in control. Live up to the promise and send people whatever you committed to.
The 3 P's to Gaining Email Signups
The first trick is to grow the list, and step one is to make sure you have a high converting email signup form.
The three Ps for your email signup form are going to be next to the content, which is where people are most likely to describe.
- The first p is prominent, it stands out. You can use a light box. I've never done it, but that's a great way to be super prominent. I use a red box on a white background on the right side, and it's sticky, so no matter how far down you scroll on a piece it's always right there. So, visual prominence is one thing. It can't just be in the footer.
- The next thing is, it needs to make a promise. So, it needs to tell people what they're going to get. Web marketing tips. How often? Biweekly .I have a bi-weekly web marketing tip, and if that's what it says in the call to action - again, if it's just in the folder, and it just says email signup, you're not actually promising anybody anything. There's no reason they would take that action. You didn't even tell them why they should, like what they would get. You didn't put a package on your product. So, definitely promise people something.
- The third p is proof, like social proof. Like, a person should sense that someone else has taken this action before. So, if you have just a tiny list, you can use a testimonial. 'Hey, David's podcast is the best, I highly recommend. Drop off your email address to get it sent straight to your inbox.'
DR: Awesome. And what about thank you pages? I've recently seen some good tips on that. Can you have something like after somebody subscribes, what they get?
AC: Yeah. The main message about thank you pages is to never create a dead end on your website. There should never be a page that has nothing subsequent for the person to do. So, after the person does subscribe, they should land on a page. Not a thank you message, like a little message box, but a thank you page, like a URL. That URL lets you create the destination goal using Google Analytics. So, when someone takes an action on your website, and they convert from a visitor into a lead, or a visitor into a subscriber, there's actually five things that should happen.
5 Steps of an Email Conversion
- They land on a thank you page, which has a subsequent call to action, which is 'follow us on Facebook' or 'read this other article'.
- They get an email auto response or the first email in an auto response sequence, and that also has another call to action, or some other marketing incentive, or some other value you're offering.
- They should trigger as a goal in Google Analytics.
- You should get an e-mail letting you know that that person converted, especially for a lead, maybe not for email.
- And then the fifth and final thing would be that they stored to a database.
So, email isn't totally reliable as a way to get your leads, but storing them in a database is a nice thing to do. You might integrate it with MailChimp or something else, so you don't have to migrate them in manually. The downside to integrating with MailChimp and having each person who subscribes go directly into MailChimp is that you might not get exact control over the thank you page. MailChimp might want you to do a double opt in the process with lots of little things in which you lose control. You trade. It's like, 'Oh, I don't want to manually move anybody.' That's nice, but you're going to make some other tradeoffs.
DR: You can get your list and download it into Excel or something.
AC: Yeah. Ask yourself this question - how many subscribers are worth the same as Facebook likes? I'd rather have one subscriber than 25 Facebook likes.
Promoting Your Content Through SEO
DR: Can you talk about the most important things to consider for each specific blog post?
AC: Well, if you're serious about an SEO strategy, then you have to understand authority and your relative likelihood of rank. Google doesn't share the so called 'page rank data' anymore, so we all use a proxy, or like a substitute metric that Moz created, and it's called domain authority. So, you should really only target phrases in Google on your content. If your domain authority is kind of in the same range as the domain authority of the other websites that rank for that phrase, if you are targeting a phrase with the other websites that rank for the phrase that have a much higher domain authority, you really don't have a chance of ranking, and no matter what you do, nothing's going to work. So, that's an important first step, is to understand, and I could give you an article as a link in the show notes or something but that's an important first step to understanding how SEO works, and how to target phrases for which you really do have a chance. The next thing is to just indicate the relevance of the topic. So, you want to use the targeted key phrase in the title, in the header, and in the body text. That's it. That's pretty simple. It's called relevance. So, authority is half of it, relevance is the other half.
Now, Google likes deep content, and long pages with lots of information in detail, thorough information. So, it's going to benefit you to make what is quite literally, and in your view without question, the best page on the internet for that topic. So, let's say I have a low domain authority, and you want to write something about private content marketing communities. You need to target like a long specific phrase because there'll be less competition for it. 'How to find private social media groups for marketing'. Okay, that's a really long like seven-word phrase or something. You could probably rank number one for that with very little effort, even if you have a young website with low authority. If you want to target more competitive phrases, you need a higher level of authority, such as 'private marketing communities'. That's probably a much more competitive phrase, it's a three-word phrase, but regardless, either case, no matter who you are, you're trying to make the best article on the internet for private marketing communities, or how to find a private social media group for marketing, whatever it might be.
That thing is probably going to be like a thousand words long, and you're going to be covering that topic from every angle. You're going to answer all kinds of related questions. You're going to be writing bullet lists and numbered lists, and tips, and putting contributor quotes, then you're going to find statistics and trends, and you're going to be citing useful resources. So, you made a great page on the topic, you targeted a phrase you had a chance of ranking for, you use the phrase appropriately in the title, in the header, and in the body text - that's pretty much it. Everything after that is kind of a much more detailed, fine tuning thing, like link to the post from other posts, link to the new thing you made from something old. Here's a tip, almost no one does this. You're not done publishing something new until you link to it from something old. So, go back and find another article you wrote on the topic, and link to your new article from that old thing, and put the keyword in the link from the old thing to the new.
So, you found an old article on your site that mentions private marketing groups, and you link the new thing with the key phrase in the link 'private marketing groups'. Another thing you can do that is kind of fine tuning, is to make sure that you're not just using the target key phrase in private marketing groups. Find related words that Google thinks are connected to the topic and use those phrases. It’s called Semantic SEO.
DR: Why don't you dig into that? Just wanted to bring some extra attention to this.
AC: So, let's take 'private social media groups'. If I search for 'private social media groups', at the bottom of the Google search results page, it says 'searches related' to private social media groups, and it says 'private social network for business', 'private social network platform', 'private social media sites', so the words business, platform, network, sites - those are all words that are connected to my topic, but that did not appear in my initial target phrase. So, I want to spread out my meaning across not just the target phrase, but across the broader topic, by finding those semantically connected words, and I just told you one place you can find them, and then using those somewhere in my article. Pretty prescriptive, a little bit more of like a fine-tuning thing, definitely a smart way to approach SEO for the long run, but that's sort of a very basic way, understanding authority, indicating relevance, and then finally getting a little bit fancier with it.
DR: I would like to just point out that you were mentioning if you don't have a chance to rank for those, if you're a new site, and Andy I'm sure doesn't want to either, and we don't want to discourage people who are just getting going on blogging, and even a new company, a new website. You just need to understand that it's not going to happen immediately. But you want to have a strategy, and to find out what we're talking about, keyword competitiveness and search volume, you're going to have to most likely use a service like an SEO Moz, or a SEM Rush, or someone like that to help you, because I think Google has kind of removed some of the data from what they offer. So, you want to use that as a starting point to see low hanging fruit and what you want to go after, but if you do the things that Andy's suggesting, and find the ones that you want to go after in general, and some of them could be higher competitive ones, because those are going to be the higher search volumes, so you're going to want to obviously have an eye on them, but just don't expect anything right away.
But if you do the things that Andy's talking about, and you do them consistently, and you're blogging once/twice a week, and you're putting stuff out, over time you have a chance to rank for those things, but it's going to take time for something. So, I think the point you were making is, don't expect anything this one time.
Slow and Steady Wins the Race
AC: It's the slowest form of marketing I can think of.
DR: It's the slowest, but it's the most powerful if done over time.
AC: So powerful.
DR: And that's the key to marketers and agencies that are trying to sell other accounts and marketers who are trying to sell to their bosses the proper strategy. You've got to invest. It's a marathon, not a sprint, but you're building a brick house. But to build that brick house, you've got to lay the bricks right, you've got to lay the mortar right, you've got to do all this stuff right, and that's what Andy's giving you. So, don't get discouraged that you can't do it. Just understand it's going to take time, but don't just frivolously put stuff up or do it the wrong way, because then at that point, just don't do it at all. Go walk around the block and start knocking on doors, because that's going to be more effective. But if you do it the right way, over time you will have a chance to rank, just understand what you're dealing with on that.
Now, what are some other on page ideas you can give to help drive traffic? And what I mean by that aren't the elements within the blog like you just mentioned, I'm talking about other strategic actions you can take, such as putting stuff on your home page and what not. Can you talk about that?
AC: Well, do you mean the construction of content, like the aspects of an article that make it successful?
DR: Not necessarily. Things that you can do strategically, putting it on your home page possibly - we talked about already putting it in your thank you page, you could have a super duper piece of content that you want to like, 'Hey, thanks for subscribing to my email list. By the way, check out -' stuff like that.
AC: Everything I do is free. I'm the type of person that, I don't do any paid advertising at all, but there are lots and lots of little things that you can do to make an article more visible. The idea is actually to figure out which of your articles gets the biggest percentage of visitors to subscribe first, and then those are the ones that you want to do this with. And there's a special way to do that which, we could talk about another day, but it's how to calculate the conversion rate from a visitor into a subscriber from each of your pieces of content. So, let's say we've done that, and we know that these are the three articles that when people see them they're the most likely to take action and become a newsletter subscriber, Great. Now, the places I can put those, my email signature I think you mentioned, my home page if I have a content area on that, I can put them at the bottom of other high traffic posts. That's probably the best trick. You have certain high converting posts, you have other high traffic posts - one of the fastest ways to get better results is to connect the traffic champions to the conversion champions.
That's the one link that will grow your list the fastest. If you have three minutes to do marketing, that's it. Connect your best cheese to your best mousetraps. That's what very few marketers do, but it's a no brainer when you think about it. The trick is just to look at your analytics and figure out what's your best cheese, what's your best mousetraps.
DR: Fantastic pointer. That's something that I haven't really put emphasis on. I know we do other related articles, we try to make them related, but I haven't taken that next step and thought that through, so thank you on a personal level there. Awesome.
AC: And it's probably like ten x. You've got a small number of articles that are getting much, much more traffic than others, you've got a small number of articles that are inspiring much, much more conversions than others. As soon as you know what those are, I don't even need to make any recommendations. You will get sixty-five ideas on how to either create more traffic and conversion champions or how to connect these things. One of the things that may be less obvious, I know a guy, Larry Kim from WordStream. He says, 'These are your unicorns. They'll jump out at you, and as soon as you find a unicorn, your job is to make baby unicorns.' You need to go, and whatever that thing was, that article that you wrote about private social networks or something like that, now you want to go and make that article into a video, make that article into a diagram, make that article into an interview, write that article for someone else. Do a roundup on that topic. Now that you know that this is the thing that is working well for your readers, you want to create more stuff on that topic. Now the people who subscribed, or the people who followed you, or the people who clicked on the search result, have more to dig into.
5 Ways to Show Related Content
Why is Wikipedia such a time stock? Because there's related stuff for everything. If you don't have the related thing, if your unicorn is a solo thing, like it's all lonely out there, that visitor is not likely to fall into that click hole and stay longer, so definitely, as soon as you find these champions, traffic or conversion champions, you want to promote them, and there's like five ways. You want to publish on different:
- Different keywords
- Different formats
- Podcast with different collaborators -- there's an influencer for everything
- Different locations on related websites that cover these things
So, now you're building a hub of interrelated content. Very few marketers do it, and just that alone will put you in the top one percent. If you've published for even a year, you probably have one or two of these on your site. Time to build up more on that interrelated, interconnected content, go deeper, be more persistent, be more structured. This is how the greats really do it. They're just making decisions based on a little bit of data, and then turning that winner into a whole family of winners. Now you've got a lot of unicorns.
DR: That's wonderful. Do you have a certain procedure, how you make sure you remind yourself to do that over a certain period of time?
AC: Well, one of the things that I'm doing is tracking my performance in Moz for different key phrases. Now, if I know that I'm tracking a hundred or more key phrases in Moz, and I know that these are traffic magnets, I'm not just tracking the traffic, I know the rank, and Moz will track the rank over time for me. It's like a hundred-and-twenty-five-dollar tool, it's one of the few tools I pay for. So, what Moz lets me do then, is to see what's going up and what's going down. I'm watching for things that are close to tipping points, or behind a threshold, and if I see that I've got an article that the rank is starting to drop out of the top three, or the rank is almost on page one, then I'm going to focus on that. I have literally a list called Focus, and when I am invited to write for something, or I have to decide what to publish next, I'm going to focus on things that I know are going to give me better results, because they're right there on that edge. I'm going to strategically focus on those things where the smallest effort gets me the best results.
DR: How often do you do that? How often do you review that?
AC: I get a notification email from Moz once a week, so I'll look at it once a week. I update the Focus list about once a month because it doesn't change that fast. Probably once a month I'll decide to make a list of five or so things that I'm going to be rotating in and out of my focus, mentioning it other places, including in contributions or that kind of thing.
DR: How can people continue to learn from you?
AC: David, this is great. Aside from this podcast, you can find me on orbitmedia.com/blog is where I put my latest and greatest. I write there about every other week. The book is anywhere, it's in its fourth edition, you can find it on Amazon, it's called Content chemistry. I've got a podcast which, if you search for it, is called Content Matters, my Twitter handle is my last name. I'm an easy guy to reach.
Andy Crestodina, of Orbit Media, has been in the web design and interactive marketing space since January of 2000. In that time, he’s helped thousands of people do a better job getting results online. He’s a true evangelist for content marketing and ethical digital marketing. Together with the team at Orbit Media, Andy has put out some of the best digital marketing advice available in hundreds of practical articles, including posts on virtually all of the top marketing websites. Then there’s his book, Content Chemistry, which currently in its fourth edition. Not only is Andy a founder of Content Jam, Chicago’s largest content marketing conference, which is currently in its fifth year, but he’s also a regular face on the national circuit, and if you go to a content marketing conference, the one Chicagoan you’re mostly likely to hear is Andy Crestodina.
ABOUT ANDY CRESTODINA
Andy has been in the web design and interactive marketing space since January of 2000. In that time, he’s helped thousands of people do a better job getting results online. He’s a true evangelist for content marketing and ethical digital marketing.
Together with the team at Orbit Media, Andy has put out some of the best digital marketing advice available in hundreds of practical articles, including posts on virtually all of the top marketing websites. Then there’s the book, Content Chemistry, which is currently in it’s third edition.
Andy is also a regular speaker both locally and nationally. Not only is Andy a founder of Content Jam, Chicago’s largest content marketing conference (currently in it’s fifth year) but he’s also a regular face on the national circuit. If you go to a content marketing conference, the one Chicagoan you’re mostly likely to hear is Andy Crestodina.