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How HubSpot Ranked a Competitive Product Page in 3 Months (for a Product That Didn’t Exist Yet)

SEO is hard. SEO for product pages is even harder. SEO for product pages for products that don’t exist? Seemingly impossible. However, with the right approach, it’s really not much harder than ranking top-of-the-funnel blog content. In fact, the process can be scalable across multiple product pages and you can leverage quality content creation to […]

SEO is hard. SEO for product pages is even harder. SEO for product pages for products that don’t exist? Seemingly impossible.

However, with the right approach, it’s really not much harder than ranking top-of-the-funnel blog content. In fact, the process can be scalable across multiple product pages and you can leverage quality content creation to do so (not just a high domain authority or thousands of pages and user generated content).

At HubSpot, Scott Tousley and I took on the challenge of ranking product pages for products that are yet to exist. We did it through a traditional HubSpot content-heavy approach, and leveraged what is known as our Pillar & Cluster model (more details on this in a minute) to feed product page SEO (more details on the model in a bit). We also heavily invested in content promotion and link building tactics, which anyone can do, regardless of resources or company size.

The results in only 3 months (October through December 2017) were solid. Here’s an example of our customer feedback software page ranking at number 3 (above companies with live products):

In this article, I’ll walk through the higher level strategy of why we chose the approach we did, and then I’ll also dive into tactical tips to apply this knowledge at whatever business scale you’re operating.

Product Page SEO: An Indirect Content-Based Approach

It’s really hard to build links to product pages.

For obvious reasons, those writing content are not jumping in excitement to write promotional pieces with product links. Some opportunities exist, but not enough to outrank product pages that have been around for years and that have acquired natural editorial links with time.

Similarly, it’s not feasible to create massive content-heavy product pages. We needed something simple, because as I mentioned, the product wasn’t actually live yet.

So to get past those hurdles, we leveraged link equity and site architecture.

Specifically, we followed HubSpot’s Pillar and Cluster model and relied heavily on internal linking and external link building on our massive “Pillar” content.

Let’s step back and define some of those terms, because there’s a bit of jargon here that’s necessary to understand.

  • Link Equity: Also known as “link juice,” it’s the idea that certain links pass value and authority from one page to another.
  • Site Architecture: The planning and structuring of website content.
  • Internal Linking: Hyperlinking content within your own site.
  • Pillar & Cluster model: A model created by HubSpot that values topics over keywords to boost SEO as well as UX.

While some of it is speculative, there are some general heuristics when it comes to link equity that come in handy when it comes to ranking product or transactional pages. According to an episode of Whiteboard Friday, here are three principles for link equity:

  1. External links generally give more ranking value and potential ranking boosts than internal links.
  2. Well-linked-to pages, both internal and external, pass more link equity than those that are poorly linked to.
  3. Pages with fewer links tend to pass more equity to their targets than pages with more links.

With that in mind, we created massive guides for topics with lots of search traffic volume. These are our “pillar pages,” or in other words, our 10X content.

We expected these to attract the most links, and we directed all of our link building efforts towards these pieces.

We complemented these pillar pages with “cluster” content, articles with similar topic themes that focus on longer tail keywords. These linked back to our pillar pages as well as to each other.

Finally, on all of our pillar pages and our cluster content, we linked as high on the page as possible to our product pages.

Again, this is based on the HubSpot Pillar & Cluster framework, which looks like this, structurally:

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Or to get super specific, here’s the actual visualization we used to show our particular efforts:

As a specific illustration, here are three pieces of content we created that actually correspond to this strategic architecture:

This video does a good job explaining the general gist of the idea. Essentially it’s an architectural view of content creation, particularly for blogging and SEO:

This process of content planning is an iteration of website architecture, which is basically the “planning and design of the technical, functional and visual components of a website – before it is designed, developed and deployed.” It’s also a strategic method of content planning that helps build authority on specific topics.

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Organizing your site in a logical way isn’t just good for SEO, it’s good for user experience and navigation in general.

With that in mind, here’s how the specific process looked when it came to content creation.

 

Planning Content for SEO Volume and Easier Link Acquisition

To start, we aligned our content from the bottom up, meaning we knew which products we were attempting to rank and had to work from bottom-of-the-funnel up to the top.

So, let’s go back to our example, Customer Feedback Software.

We knew we’d have a product page for this where people could actually sign up. But from there, we worked backwards to research which terms commanded the most search traffic around that theme.

In this case, both Customer Feedback and Customer Satisfaction drove a ton of demand, so we created pillar pages for both of those that both linked back to the feedback software product page. Here are the specific pillar pages we ended up creating:

SEO research for the pillar pages also included comprehensive long tail keyword research based on questions we could answer on the broader topic. These longer tail keywords would eventually be spun out into individual cluster posts (i.e. blog posts), but also incorporated into the pillar content itself. Some of these posts included:

…and many, many more of course. These were more specific and lower search volume posts that complemented the larger themes of customer satisfaction and feedback.

So, for a post on Customer Satisfaction, we included sections on things like customer satisfaction software and how to improve customer satisfaction scores:

In addition, we aligned with our content team to create tons and tons of cluster blog posts that linked to and supported the themes set up by the pillar pages. An example is this blog post we published on customer feedback survey mistakes:

Finally, all of these posts – whether pillar or cluster – included product page links, and cluster blog posts also included links to our pillar pages (with exact match anchor text, as you can see above).

We also included CTAs on our pillar pages that lead to our product landing pages:

In all cases, no matter what type of content we were created, we sought to create 10x content, the kind you’d actually want to link to. Particularly with our pillar pages, this meant included linkable content “hooks,” such as:

  • Original data & stats
  • Original Images
  • Charts and Graphs
  • Quotes from influencers
  • Frameworks
  • Pros and Cons Tables

We tried to include anything we could that was outside the typical Wikipedia-style me-too content. We didn’t want to rehash what was already out there, we wanted to be better and different. So, for example, we designed our own survey examples, like this one for NPS:

Or, for example, for our Customer Feedback page, we included pros and cons tables to help visitors decide which type of feedback surveys to use:

Now that we had a solid base of quality content, we built out a distribution and link building process to make sure we rose in the rankings and got some eyes on the pages.

 

Building Links and Distributing Content

Link building is its own monster, and to do it true justice would require its own multi-thousand word blog post.

To summarize, however, we tried all the major link building tactics and some worked better than others.

Generally speaking, the ones that worked the best were the least scalable: they involved relationships that had been built over months and years. On a similar point, the ones that were the least effective were the ones that are the most popular and overused: Skyscraper Technique link building, HARO pitches, roundup posts, etc.

The most important part, in fact, was the process of discovering influencers and link targets to begin with. Since we wanted both high relevance and high authority links, we created a “bullseye” framework to distinguish between Tier 1, 2, and 3 targets.

  • Tier 1 – Blogs and influencers directly related to the Service Hub. These include bloggers who write about customer success and customer success practitioner. It may also include direct competitors to our tools.
  • Tier 2 – Blogs and influencers who are semi-related to customer success. Includes customer experience, survey tools, and user experience software & experts. It may also include other products that don’t directly compete, but they are still kind of related to customer success/support.
  • Tier 3 – Larger blogs and influencers who focus on broader marketing and business topics. Not super related, but due to high domain authority, still opportune link building opportunities (plus, there’s no competitive nature to these sites, so they’re more willing to link to us).

There existed an inverse correlation between our Tiers and the ease of link acquisition.

Tier 1 was the most difficult, mainly because most of the sites and influencers were competing for the same keywords. On the other end of the spectrum, large blogs that write on broad marketing topics generally weren’t too concerned about competing, so it was much easier to work with them.

 

Measuring, Optimizing, and Beyond

Measurement is important in SEO, and in marketing in general. You need to know if you’re moving in the right direction, and if not, how you can possibly remedy that or optimize your efforts.

To do that without going too crazy watching too many keywords, we followed only the spearheads topics of our content strategy using Accuranker. We figured that if we ranked these, the longer tail keywords and most specific cluster posts would easily follow (and if they didn’t, it would be easy enough to optimize them later on).

Here’s what a typical Accuranker report looked like earlier on in our efforts:

Which is much better than where we started, which is from scratch:

You can use other tools for this, such as Ahrefs and I’m sure a dozen more, as well.

If you’re operating at large scale and want to customize your reports more, you can build a homebrew tool, though if you’re just beginning in your SEO and measurement efforts, it might not hurt to start with a software solution so you can focus on your actual SEO execution.

Hopefully, you can choose a solution that allows you to get a weekly email report with your rankings. Peaking too often can be tempting but ultimately unhelpful due to natural fluctuations in SERP rankings (especially in the first few months of publishing content).

When you know your weekly ranking trends, you can spot early ineffectiveness and course correct.

For instance, our knowledge base guide wasn’t moving at all into the top 500, but all our other content was. So, we 1) added about 1000 words and more influencers quotes to our pillar page 2) changed the title and the H2 subtitles and 3) went super hard on link building to our pillar page. As of today it’s sitting at position 5.

Similarly, I saw that we weren’t ranking for the cluster article we wrote on “customer satisfaction surveys,” even though it was a few thousand words, and in my mind, quality content. We simply changed the title and the following week it was ranking.

Finally, we tracked user acquisition as well. You can and should be doing this anyway through your tool of choice (Google Analytics, Amplitude, etc.). As a result of our SEO efforts, our beta requests saw a sharp increase:

 

Conclusion

Good SEO is rarely the result of sporadic hacks and luck, rather, at scale and for acquisition, it’s the result of a solid process and playbook (just like any other aspect of growth marketing).

This playbook should have multiple components, ranging from content strategy and architecture to differentiated and compelling content creation and all the way to promotion and link building. All the pieces matter, some more than others depending on your specific situation.

For instance, a smaller authority site may have to put a lot more effort into content creation and link building that a large site like HubSpot or Shopify. It all depends on where your competitive advantage lies.

However, with a bit of strategy and content architecture, no matter the size or scale of your company, you can get product pages to rank and actually acquire users from SEO, not just top-of-funnel vanity traffic.

25 B2B Marketing Strategies You Probably Haven’t Tried

There are plenty of articles touting the importance of lead generation and building up your pipeline for your B2B marketing. It’s easy to get in a rut in your business and assume every strategy has already been done. But there are still lots of B2B marketing strategies out there that you probably haven’t heard of. […]

There are plenty of articles touting the importance of lead generation and building up your pipeline for your B2B marketing. It’s easy to get in a rut in your business and assume every strategy has already been done. But there are still lots of B2B marketing strategies out there that you probably haven’t heard of. If you’re one of the 78% of businesses that aren’t satisfied with their conversion rates, try mixing up your B2B marketing strategy with something different. Here are 25 ideas to get you started.

 

Ryan Farley

1. Use Autopilot for LinkedIn

“A tactic I’ve seen work is using Autopilot for LinkedIn to crawl mass numbers of profiles of your target audience. You put a click-baity headline in your profile, along with a call to action. Then, you can track clickthroughs and see who viewed your profile, and reach back out to them.” – Ryan Farley, co-founder of LawnStarter

 

 

 

Bill Widmer

2. Send Gifts

“Sending gifts is an incredible way to get on someone’s radar. It also plays on psychology and reciprocity – they’ll feel like they owe you something in exchange. Of course, I’m not saying send them something to try and get them indebted to you. That’s just being a ****. Don’t expect anything in return – just build that relationship, and it can naturally open up to greater opportunities, higher CLV, and juicy referrals. Everyone loves getting gifts in a world of junk mail and hiding behind screens.” – Bill Widmer, Ecommerce Content Marketing expert

 

Christopher Kelly

3. Handwritten Notes

“Sending handwritten notes to team members and clients goes further today than at any other point in history. There was a day not too long ago when receiving an email was exciting: Your computer would announce ‘You’ve got mail’ and you would run to see what had arrived. Today, a handwritten note cuts through the digital clutter and is received with a similar anticipation.” – Christopher Kelly, writing for Tech.co

 

 

 

 

Joel Klettke

4. Use Geo-Targeted Ads During Events

“I haven’t seen many companies running geo-targeted ads when events happen in their industry. I’ve had huge wins targeting conference hashtags and combining that targeting with geofencing that only hits people who are actually there, at the event. You can be hyper-relevant across multiple platforms, with just-in-time personalized offers and deals.” – Joel Klettke, Founder of Case Study Buddy

 

 

 

Hans van Gent

5. Empower Your Customers and Start a Dialogue

“A significant trend in content marketing has been the rise of audio in 2016 (podcast listening grew by 23% over 2015). With the release of Anchor 2.0 in March this year, it opens up a whole new way of empowering your customers and starting that dialogue with them in a unique way. And the beauty of it? The app is mostly still undiscovered territory for a lot of marketers so you can have the first mover advantage.” – Hans van Gent, Founder @ Inbound Rocket

 

 

Andrew Dennis

6. Upgrade and Update Your Marketing Funnel

“Upgrade and update your top/middle of the funnel content to build your email list. With this strategy, you take existing content that is ranking well and update or upgrade it in some fashion (add visuals, video, interactives, etc.) to breathe new life into the content and further improve or solidify rankings in a competitive space. Along with updating, add relevant CTAs and/or downloadables to drive email signups and build your marketing list.” – Andrew Dennis, Senior Content Marketing Specialist @ Siege Media 

 

 

 

Sid Bharath

7. Start with a Survey

“Instead of soliciting business through cold email, start with a survey. The benefits of this are two-fold. First, you get to collect data on your industry which you can publish as a content piece. Second, you essentially warm up those cold leads and you can move forward with a sales conversation without coming across as the spammy sales person.” – Sid Bharath, VP of Growth @ Thinkific

 

 

 

 

Brad Smith

8. Do Things That Don’t Scale

“Trying to get your foot in the door? Go old school with direct mail. While everyone else is getting ~1% spamming people on LinkedIn, direct mail recipients visit a promoted website 60% of the time (https://www.usps.com/business/pdf/FY08_DM%20Onl_Sales%20WP.pdf). And also visited the promoted website according to a USPS study (with first-time shoppers being the most influenced). “And one company has seen 25% response rates with companies making over $30 million a year.

So no, it doesn’t scale. Not at first anyway. But prove it on a small scale, and then get some free interns to hand-write mailing addresses for you. Make the unscalable, scalable.” – Brad Smith, Founder of Codeless

 

Ross Simmonds

9. Leverage Niche Communities

“One of the more unique B2B marketing tactics is leveraging niche communities like Reddit to build trust and credibility. Far too many marketers think that B2B marketers can only be reached on LinkedIn or at a conference – in reality, many C-suite executives are browsing Reddit just like the rest of us. If you can create content that relevant subreddits find interesting and valuable – opportunities await.”  – Ross Simmonds, Digital Strategist @ Foundation Marketing

 

 

 

 

Sweta Patel

10. Host an Awards Ceremony

“One of the most unique marketing strategies entails making people feel valued and giving them credit for the work they do. Most people don’t realize the value of people’s work in the company because they are so focused on task over humanity. Most workplaces require more out of individuals in this revenue and data-driven world. Sometimes it’s best to create a strategy that recognizes “rising stars” with their hard work. This is one way of winning credibility with them.

“One tactic is to put on a special awards night event that recognizes your prospects. This way you will win their trust. You can give them ‘special trophies’ and awards that acknowledges their expertise. The nominees can invite their fans and this will help you increase the reach in your business. For example, nominate your top 50 rising prospects and invite them to the award show to collect their prize and trophy with a speech at hand. Tell them to invite their fans for their big ‘spotlight’ ceremony. Make it a sophisticated event.” – Sweta Patel, Director of Demand Generation @ Cognoa

 

 

Patrick Whatman

11. Create Standalone Products

“I love seeing standalone products from companies trying to bring new users into their ecosystems. Followerwonk (by Moz) and the Headline Analyzer (by CoSchedule) are great examples. These are products that help people separate from these companies’ main offerings, but help to build awareness and recognition about the parent company. And they’re great for lead generation.” – Patrick Whatman, Head of Content @ Mention

 

 

 

 

 

Cameron Conaway

12. Send People a Value-Packed Slide Deck

“I’ve come to love Andy Crestodina’s conference-based approach. When he speaks he packs so much valuable content into his slides, too much to possibly cover during the talk, and he asks people to get him their business card after the talk so he can send them the slide deck immediately after the conference. I’ve watched hundreds of people wait in line just to give him their card.

“Then, in the email he sends, he mentions his blog and asks attendees, alongside the amazing deck he’s giving them, if they’d also like to subscribe. I don’t subscribe to many blogs, but I subscribed to his. When somebody completely over delivers like this it makes you trust that they will continue to provide relevant and valuable content.” – Cameron Conaway, Content Marketing Manager @ Klipfolio

 

Cara Hogan

13. Interview an Expert from a Target Account

“I got really creative in integrating expert interviews into an Account Based Marketing (ABM) strategy. Rather than just interviewing an expert in your field, interview an expert from an identified target account.

“For example, if you’re selling to a mid-size startup, interview their CEO, VP of Marketing, or even one of the VCs who is a primary investor. Then, when sales approaches the decision maker for that account, they can send them a link to the interview you’ve done, giving your brand immediate credibility and clout. It makes every sales conversation immediately easier and more likely to end in a closed deal.” – Cara Hogan, Content Strategist @ Zaius

 

 

Rob Wormley

14. Use Live Video to Sell Products in Real-Time

“Using live video to build awareness, connect with more prospects, and actually sell products in real-time. We’re doing it with Climb and making it possible for retailers, brands, and influencers to make sales in real-time on Facebook Live. The future of selling online is all about engagement, entertainment, and experience.” – Rob Wormley, CMO & Co-Founder @ Climb

Kaleigh Moore

15. Create Interactive Content

“Use interactive content as part of a larger lead gen strategy, so the convo doesn’t stop after the quiz, but is further personalized based on responses.” – Kaleigh Moore, freelance SaaS writer 

 

 

 

 

 

Robert Katai

16. Sell to Human Beings

“I strongly believe in 2 content marketing that is personalized and has a real business purpose. Don’t just create content because it’s trendy or cool, but create content because your audience needs it and wants it. Behind every “B” is a “H” from human. And we are not selling to businesses and brands, we are selling to human beings. And people buy from people!” – Robert Katai, Visual Marketer and Content Strategist @ Bannersnack

 

 

Will Blunt

17. Meet in Person

“It’s not unique, but it’s definitely underutilized… With a large chunk of B2B organizations obsessing over ‘inbound’ and content, we have forgotten about how effective a phone call or face-to-face meeting can be for building trust and closing deals. Use your content to build a base level of trust and credibility for you and your business.

“Then use your team to research and identify a short-list of your perfect clients (the information is all available online). Create a personalized profile of each them. Interact, engage and build a meaningful ‘online’ relationship. When the time is right, get that person into a meeting room or on a video call. Close the deal, be friends forever.” – Will Blunt, Founder of Blogger Sidekick

 

 

Ty Magnin

18. Send Retargeting Emails

“We send what I call ‘retargeting emails’ to people at companies who hit our site and don’t convert. It’s a nice way to engage a passive audience from their inbox.” – Ty Magnin, Director of Marketing @ Appcues

 

 

 

 

Benji Hyam

19. Show Leads You’re Sending Them Traffic

“Brian Swichkow of Ghost Influence taught me this one. If you’re investing in content marketing and want to get the attention of a company, include a link in the post to the company and add campaign tracking to the URL with your site name in it. For example: growandconvert.com/?utm_source=growandconvert&utm_medium=blogpostname

“That way, when readers of your post click the link, the company you’re trying to get in contact with will see traffic being sent to their site by your site. The company is more likely to have a conversation with you when they’re aware of you because you’ve sent a good amount of traffic to their site.” – Benji Hyam, co-founder @ Grow & Convert and Wordable.io

 

 

 

Devesh Khanal

20. Create In-Depth Data Analysis

“Consolidate data relevant to your industry, analyze it, and publish an in-depth data analysis article or study. Very few companies are doing this. Most are doing the same old ebooks and whitepapers. This is evergreen content that is linked to like crazy and shared easily. It’s content that turns you into a thought leader.” – Devesh Khanal, Founder, Grow and Convert

 

 

 

 

Shanelle Mullin

21. Use the Tools Your Ideal Customers Are Using

“Add a Chrome extension like Ghostery or use a tool like BuiltWith. You’ll then be able to see what tools your ideal customers are using. Build a list of those tools and begin reaching out to their content teams. Can you co-host a webinar together? Publish a new guide together? It’s an easy way to get in front of their highly aligned audience (often, by email), especially if you’re going to be producing a lot of content anyway.” – Shanelle Mullin, Content & Growth at Shopify

 

 

 

 

Kylie Ora Lobell

22. Write White Papers Around Pain Points

“White papers are excellent for the beginning stages of the sales funnel. They convince potential customers that your company is worth looking into, and can push them from being marketing-qualified leads to sales-qualified leads.” – Kylie Ora Lobell, writing for Directive Consulting

 

 

 

Ed Zitron

23. Say Thanks in a Creative Way

“TD Canada Trust shared over 300,000 $20 gift certificates for their ‘TD Thanks You’ campaign. You don’t have to go that big, but thanking someone by giving something back to them resonates in a special way with consumers.

It can be as simple as a gift-code, which you’ll see small niche sites like dog treat site BestBullySticks do, or Opentable’s VIP program that gives points per reservation that eventually convert into gift certificates.” – Ed Zitron, CEO of EZ-PR.com, writing for Inc.

 

Margaret Austin

24. Introduce Your Employees

“Giving a face to your brand helps to engage your customers and give them a greater sense of trust in you and your services. We all like to see that there’s a real person behind the company image. This doesn’t mean showing everyone working studiously at their desks nor letting it all hang out at the office party. Create a friendly and approachable video revealing a day in the work life of one of your employees or get them to talk about what it is they do and what your customers can expect from them. And then do some good editing; a static talking head video is unlikely to hold anyone’s attention for long.” -Margaret Austin, writing for B2B News Network

 

 

 

Will Williamson

25. Use Dynamic and Behavioral Lead Scoring

“Knowing how prospects are likely to behave is as important, if not more so, than understanding ‘who they are’ as people. The two don’t always go together. By using information aside from the standard demographics (age, gender, pay bracket etc.), you’ll be able to make lead qualification work better for you.

“You’ll get a better understanding of where the lead came from, how they found your website, and the actions they’ve taken while on the site. This important information gives you an insight on what is involved with the journey of the buyer and what motivates your prospects. As an example, did they find your website through a backlink and go through every page on the site? Or did they enter the site from a search engine and go directly to your product page? Armed with behavioural data, you can set up a targeted email marketing programme that sends them relevant content based on behavioural triggers.” – Will Williamson, writing for JDR Group

Importance of Having Influencers Involved in Your Content

What did you want to be when you grew up? A doctor? A teacher? A lawyer? If you asked a child this question today, odds are you wouldn’t hear any of those responses. In a recent survey, 75% of children said that they want to grow up to be a vlogger – or in other […]

What did you want to be when you grew up?

A doctor? A teacher? A lawyer?

If you asked a child this question today, odds are you wouldn’t hear any of those responses. In a recent survey, 75% of children said that they want to grow up to be a vlogger – or in other words, an influencer.

Of course, as with any career associated with fame and fortune, only a handful of those who dream of being the next big thing will ever make it.

In fact, even now there are countless bloggers, vloggers, and podcasters who consider themselves influential, but aren’t.

So what constitutes an influencer? And how can you make sure you’re picking the right influencer for your brand?

There’s more to being an influencer than having thousands of followers (especially when those numbers are so easy to fake).

Needless to say, influencers influence. Their followers actually engage with their content, listen to what they have to say, and take action as a result of their requests or recommendations.

This means the right influencer for you – i.e. someone who not only has a decent-sized following, but who also has an engaged following that fits your brand – can be invaluable to your content.

In fact, one in three consumers reportedly trust the words of an influencer over the brand itself.

That said, that isn’t the only reason getting influencers involved in your content is so important. There are a number of ways they can be invaluable to its creation and distribution.

They Probably Know Things You Don’t

There’s no doubt that some influencers gain their fame by faking it, but those aren’t the influencers you want to be working with, regardless of how many followers they have or how engaged those followers are.

When researching influencers, do some digging to find out whether they legitimately know their stuff. Read their blog. Watch their YouTube content. Listen to podcasts they’ve appeared on (or host themselves).

This is vital, since influencers who are more knowledgeable than you can add value to your content by contributing tips or sharing information that’s brand new to you, or that you hadn’t considered including.

This is great for you (it makes you look more authoritative, even if the information has clearly come from the influencer) and it adds value for your audience.

They’re Invaluable to Content Distribution

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the more people you reach with your content, the more effective it will be. More eyes means more brand awareness and more shares (which in turn leads to more shares and more visibility – a cycle that, all being well, will continue).

Better yet, the more people who see your content, the greater the odds it will lead to other wins, like links, email subscribers, and sales.

Unfortunately, it can be difficult for you to start that chain reaction if your brand is largely unknown and your social media accounts have only a handful of followers.

This is where influencers come in.

When we see an influencer sharing a piece of content, we’re far more likely to reshare it than if we see the content being shared by someone unknown, even if we don’t bother looking at the content ourselves (admit it – we’ve all done it)!

This is primarily because if we trust the person sharing the content, we trust the content will be worth resharing.

However, while influencers do typically share content they’re involved in, you can’t count on it.

So what can you do to up the odds that influencers will play a part in content distribution?

One option is to make sharing the content part of your initial arrangement. Unfortunately, this condition is only really fair if you’re paying an influencer for their involvement. If you’re asking them to help out of the goodness of their hearts, you can’t expect anything else from them.
Sure, you can ask if they would mind sharing it, but you can’t assume they’ll oblige.

So, if you’re not compensating influencers, bear this in mind: the quality of your content will make a big difference in whether or not they’ll push it out to their following.

Influencers are much less likely to share their contribution to “50 Growth Tips from 50 Marketers,” for example, than a quality ebook. Influencers only want to share great content, and if anything, they’ll be less likely to share something substandard because they won’t want to advertise their involvement.

They Increase Your Authority

Simply put, working with an influencer earns you a “seal of approval” and makes you more influential in the eyes of your target audience.

In other words, it’s authority by association.

If an influencer is seen to endorse you, their audience is more likely to buy into what you have to say, to follow you, and to (potentially) purchase from you.

It May Lead to Other Opportunities Down the Line

Don’t “use” an influencer to your advantage and then disappear. Use this initial partnership as an opportunity to build a genuine relationship with this person.

Do that, and odds are it will lead to bigger and better things in the future – things like:

  • More detailed contributions to your content
  • Speaking opportunities
  • Distribution of content (whether or not the influencer in question was involved)
  • The chance to collaborate 50/50 on content – i.e. create an ebook together, speak on a podcast, or appear in a YouTube video

How to Get Influencers Involved in Your Content

So you want to get an influencer involved in your content, and based on the number of followers they have, how engaged those followers are, and how relevant the influencer is to your target audience, you’ve drawn up a shortlist of who you’d like to work with …

What happens next?

While there are agencies that can organize campaigns for you, going down that road limits your options. It also, of course, entails paying for an influencer’s involvement and chances are, you’ll be paying more than necessary, compared to going direct.

So what’s the alternative?

Start by tracking down the email address of everyone on your shortlist (you can do this en-masse using a tool like Voila Norbert). Then, once you’re ready, send a personalized pitch to influencers you want to work with. You can also streamline the process of contacting influencers and manage campaigns more effectively with platforms such as Mailshake.

In your pitch, briefly detail:

  • The project you want their involvement in
  • What you’d ideally like their involvement to consist of – this could mean contributing to a blog post you’re writing, but it could also entail things like writing a guest post for your blog or appearing on your podcast or YouTube channel
  • Why you think they’re a great match for this project (in other words, butter them up)
  • Any compensation you can offer (if applicable)

This approach is a little different than what I’d advocate using in most outreach emails.

In the majority of outreach emails, it’s critical to highlight what’s in it for the recipient. However, unless you’re offering some sort of compensation, the influencer doesn’t get much from participating.

They’re an influencer because their audience is bigger than yours – they don’t need to help you, and they have little to gain.

You have to make them want to work with you because you’re a likeable person who follows what they do, and has a genuinely interesting project for them to be involved in.

Your email should be about them, but it shouldn’t be about what’s in it for them (unless you’re offering actual compensation).

Have you ever had influencers involved in your content? Do you have any tips for getting them involved, or getting more out of their contributions? It’d be great if you could share your tips in the comments below:

6 SEO Tips to Drive Meaningful Traffic to Your Website in 2018

Do any of these headings sound familiar? The Top 4 Reasons SEO Is Dead Why SEO is Dead SEO IS DEAD! Misguided marketers that (at a wild guess) want to present themselves as forward-thinking, have been making the claim that SEO is dead and buried for almost as long as search engines have existed. In […]

Do any of these headings sound familiar?

  • The Top 4 Reasons SEO Is Dead
  • Why SEO is Dead
  • SEO IS DEAD!

Misguided marketers that (at a wild guess) want to present themselves as forward-thinking, have been making the claim that SEO is dead and buried for almost as long as search engines have existed.

In fact, here’s a handy little chart from Portent SEO that demonstrates just how long this idea has been around:

However, regardless of how often it’s said or how loud it’s shouted, it’s wrong.

The reality is that as long as there are search engines, there will be SEO. All that’s changed (and continues to change) is the approach we need to take when it comes to optimizing sites.

While this list is by no means exhaustive, here are 6 of the most effective SEO tips for driving meaningful traffic to your website in 2018.

1. Prioritize Technical SEO

You may have heard the odd SEO state that technical SEO isn’t important, that “content is king,” and that if you get that bit right, everything else will just fall into place.

Just like those who claim SEO is dead, they couldn’t be more wrong.

Technical forms the foundation of any SEO strategy, and ensuring a site is technically sound should take precedence over anything else.

Even small mistakes can hinder a site’s performance in the SERPs, such as:

  • Failing to use H1s or title tags correctly
  • Implementing redirects to unsuitable pages
  • Using 302 redirects in place of 301s

These are all common mistakes that, in isolation, might not have a huge impact. Collectively, though, they tell a different story.

Some mistakes, however, can have a devastating impact and prevent whole sections, or even entire sites, from being indexed by search engines – i.e. the classic disallow fail – placing, or leaving, this in your robots.txt file:

User-agent: *
Disallow: /

Unfortunately, technical SEO can quickly get complicated. If your knowledge is lacking, it would be advisable to seek help from someone who specializes in this area. That said, if you want to have a go at it yourself, here are a couple of resources to get you started:

In addition to this, you’re also going to need at least one tool that will crawl your site and help you identify technical roadblocks:

  • Screaming Frog – Arguably the best-known.
  • Botify – Awesome but pricey, and typically aimed at a more advanced market.
  • Sitebulb – Also awesome, affordable, and, thanks to its user-friendly interface, ideal for both beginner and advanced SEOs.

2. Write Content with Users and Search Engines in Mind

Do you remember the days when SEO copywriters were instructed to write first and foremost for search engines? When the aim of the game was to practically force-feed search spiders the subject of a page by working one or two specific keywords into a piece of content multiple times?

Fast forward a few years and things have changed – a lot. The general consensus today is to forget what search engines want, and just write for users.

However, while writing for users and users only is a far better approach than keyword stuffing (after all, at the end of the day, all search engines want is to serve the best possible results to users), it still pays to understand how the search engines themselves work.

The fact is that keywords still matter – just not in the way they used to.

Today, Google uses algorithms like TF*IDF to understand how often, and where, specific words should appear in a piece of content. It also looks at the semantic relationship between words and phrases in order to better establish the subject matter and relevancy of a page.

Thankfully, writing for the modern search engine doesn’t have to be as complicated as it might sound. You simply need to use long-tail keyword research in order to pinpoint semantic words and phrases that can be used to enhance your content, and the relevancy of its subject matter in the eyes of search engines.

3. Analyze and Optimize Your Search Snippets

For anyone who’s not sure, this is a search snippet:

A search snippet features your title tag at the top, the URL of the page in the middle, and below that, your meta description.

A well-written search snippet can make a massive difference to your site’s performance in the organic search results for two reasons:

  1. The keywords you include in your title tag impact rankings.
  2. Informative, enticing and persuasive title tags and meta descriptions can improve click-through rates.

Unfortunately, a lot of marketers make these common mistakes:

  1. They don’t give search snippets the time and attention they ought to.
  2. They stuff too many keywords into title tags.
  3. They overlook search snippets altogether.

The contents of your search snippets are an opportunity to sell your site and increase click-throughs. This applies to both your title tag and your meta description, so while you should include a keyword (maybe even two) in your title tag, your main focus should be the user, and how you can persuade them to click onto your site, instead of a competitor’s.

For even better results, you shouldn’t just be optimizing your search snippets – you should also be analyzing the snippets of those you’re up against in the SERPs.

To do this, take your most important pages, and their top-ranking keywords, and compare your search snippets against those that rank around you.

What can you do to stand out and increase your share of the clicks?

Of course, unless your site’s very small, you can’t be analyzing the competition and writing bespoke snippets for every page of your site – especially if you’re working on a large ecommerce site.

So what’s the solution?

Write bespoke snippets for your most important pages, and create rules that will automatically populate title tags and descriptions on the rest of the site. For example, the rule for title tags would typically involve pulling in the page’s H1 tag, followed by the brand name.

4. Optimize for Voice Search

Perhaps the biggest challenge facing SEOs today is voice search.

No one knows for certain how many voice searches are actually taking place, but Location World estimated that in 2016, 40% of adults were using voice search on a daily basis, while ComScore predicts that by 2020, 50% of all searches will be voice-based.

Needless to say, if you’re not considering voice search as part of your SEO strategy, you’re missing out.

So how do you optimize for voice search?

Consider the difference between how people talk and how they type. Voice searches tend to be longer and more conversational. Keep this in mind when creating content for your site.

Create content with featured snippets in mind. Research from Dr. Pete found that 53% of voice search results were being pulled from featured snippets. You can read the full research here.

5. Don’t Forget About Links

As much work as Google may have put into devaluing them, as of 2017, links still carried more weight than anything else in the search giant’s algorithms (even if they don’t carry as much weight as they used to).

This means generating quality, natural links (or at least, links that appear natural) is as important a part of SEO strategy as it’s ever been.

Without going into too much detail, here are a few search engine-friendly ways to generate links that will boost your site’s domain authority and in turn, its visibility in the search results.

  • Write great content that answers common questions and is formatted for featured snippets (other sites may link to it as a resource in their own content).
  • Go one better and create playbooks or ebooks.
  • Start guest posting (the right way).
  • Gather original, firsthand data that’s of interest to your industry (better yet, create data visualizations to accompany it) and promote the heck out of it.
  • Upload and optimize high-quality photographs to Flickr, apply the Creative Commons license, and request in the description that if the image is used, they should link to your site as the source.
  • Create free, embeddable tools that you can promote and feature on your site (again, requesting that if the tool is reproduced, your site is linked to as the source).

6. Don’t Forget About Internal Links, Either

Internal links help users and search engine spiders navigate your website. They’re pretty damn important, and yet they’re often overlooked (particularly as a site grows).

A poor internal linking strategy can diminish the value of key pages, or leave pages orphaned altogether.

What’s more, search engines use the anchor text of internal links as an indicator of the content of the destination URL. Unlike with external links, you can use pretty much whatever you want as the anchor text (within reason) without being at risk of getting a penalty. However, it’s poor practice to use anchor text like “here” on internal links. Use text that accurately describes the content of the destination page instead.

Unfortunately, implementing an effective internal linking strategy tends to be much more complicated than that (and the bigger the site, the more complicated things get). If you want to learn more, I can’t recommend this resource from Shaun Anderson enough.

What other SEO tips would you suggest using in 2018? Comments are below if you can spare a second to share your ideas.

3 Reasons Why Nobody Is Reading Your Content

Do you hear crickets when you publish new content? It’s easy to get discouraged, burned out, or even feel like quitting if traffic or engagement doesn’t materialize, especially if you’ve poured your heart and soul into creating a piece of work you’re truly proud of. Nearly all content creators struggle with gaining readership at some […]

Do you hear crickets when you publish new content?

It’s easy to get discouraged, burned out, or even feel like quitting if traffic or engagement doesn’t materialize, especially if you’ve poured your heart and soul into creating a piece of work you’re truly proud of. Nearly all content creators struggle with gaining readership at some point in their careers; but despite what you may think now, there are solutions to this problem.

No one’s promising overnight success, but implementing some or all of the strategies and lessons in this article can take your content from the desert to the oasis of engagement and readership. Let’s dive into the three main reasons why nobody is reading your content.

1. Your Content Is Missing A Hook

National Geographic does a fantastic job of capturing the attention of its target audience across all of its platforms. In fact, National Geographic is so successful that its monthly organic search volume is roughly 6 million visitors and its Instagram has nearly 90 million followers, making it the leading brand on the site. So what’s their secret?

Nat Geo’s content is eye-catching, littered with great storytelling, and backed by striking visuals that make you want to know the full story. The material it produces almost always contains a “wow factor” that stops readers in their tracks and makes them want to escape to the unknown location – or at the very least, learn more.

So how can you mimic some of that success?

For starters, it doesn’t matter if your article is Pulitzer Prize-worthy. If your headline and intro aren’t attention-grabbing and downright spectacular, then no one will ever read it.

Here are a handful of tips that can help you grab your audience’s attention right away and keep it:

Dedicate a lot more time and effort to nailing the headline

Ann Handley sums it up best: “Spend as much time writing the headline as you do an entire blog post or social post.” Seems excessive, right? Perhaps not. Consumers are flooded with headline after headline across all platforms vying for their attention. The headline you choose is the first, and possibly only, chance you’ll have to make an impression on a potential reader.

The #1 tip for writing magnetic headlines is to keep it simple and answer the question, “What’s in it for the reader?” Convey usefulness and make it clear what reading that article will do for them.

Write the introduction last

The thesis, or meat of your story, should drive what’s in your introduction, not the other way around. Similar to the headline, the introduction is your first impression. You’ve spent all that time on the headline to get them there – now you have to keep them interested.

Here a few proven hooks for article introductions:

  • Lead with interesting and relevant facts or stats such as, “Marketers in nearly all industries are investing big in email marketing because every one dollar spent on email marketing provides, on average, a return of $38.”
  • Try using a proven formula for your introduction like Brian Dean’s APP (Agree, Promise, & Preview). Lead with something you and the reader agree on (typically a pain point or problem), promise you can show them a better world, and preview precisely what you have in store for them, what they can expect to achieve, or what they will learn from reading your content.
  • Use emotion or controversy to grab their attention. Ask a thought-provoking or challenging question. Marketing to their gut instead of their brain is akin to selling benefits, not features. People aren’t as logical as we would like to think, so leading with an emotion-provoking statement or question can hook readers from the start.

 

2. Your Content Promotion Strategy Is Weak

Back in the day, a strong content promotion strategy was building black hat links, tweeting a dozen times a day, and stuffing keywords throughout your content. These days, it isn’t so cut-and-dried. Google and social media sites don’t care about the content you create. It’s all about more links, more followers, and higher domain authority.

For better content promotion, try these strategies:

1. Have a list of influencers you can call on when you publish

Asking influencers to share your work before publishing is more interesting and sincere than sending a link to already-published content and appearing spammy. Start by creating a list of people who’ve shared content similar to yours in the past. BuzzSumo is an excellent tool for this, but you can also search for articles with related keywords or find hashtags of people talking about the subject to reach out to.

Begin prospecting by sending emails using a service like Mailshake to automatically follow up on a preset schedule. Connecting with influencers and content creators in your space is an invaluable content promotion strategy and shouldn’t be overlooked.

2. Contribute to communities to establish subject authority

Small active communities in every industry exist online and can grant you loads of engagement, shares, and free promotion if they’re approached correctly.

Sites like Quora, Reddit, and even Facebook groups can be melting pots for industry discussion. Communities like these drive a lot of quality traffic and promote engagement but aren’t tolerant of blatant self-promotion, so proceed with caution.

Try becoming an active member of the community by answering questions, giving feedback, and posting your own questions. With a little authority and credibility built up, the community will be more welcoming if you make a post or answer something with your content, as long as it’s highly relevant and high-quality.

3. Your Content Lacks Real Value

According to a NewsCred Insights post, the median average time people spend on an article is 37 seconds. We all value skimmable content, but how often do you come across an article that is thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish?

Chances are, if people aren’t sharing or engaging with your content, it’s because you’re not providing enough value. So how do you do that?

Strive For Evergreen Content and Avoid Mirage Content

Don’t create “Mirage Content,” which is basically recycled content that’s unoriginal, vague, won’t stand the test of time, and lacks any real actionable advice. You know this content the minute you see it. It has headings like:

“Use your Facebook and Twitter Accounts to Boost Engagement” or “Update the Content of Your Site Frequently.”

Reading articles with “hard-hitting” advice like that leaves you wishing you could get those five minutes back. Instead, try creating content that you yourself would read. Create content that you can’t find anywhere else.

Focus on writing evergreen content. Evergreen content transcends time. It stays fresh for readers throughout the years and remains relevant long after the post was originally published. It’s quite common for evergreen content to produce more traffic as time goes by, instead of the other way around (as with most content).

Evergreen content typically involves detailed case studies, data or statistics to back it up, dives deep into a subject, and is characterized by being difficult to produce. But even though it isn’t easy content to create, it’s worth all the extra effort.

Make Your Content More Memorable Through Storytelling

In the book “Made to Stick,” author Chip Heath performed a study with his students at Stanford. They were asked to share facts with their classmates and after 10 minutes try to recall and repeat the information. The result was that 63% of the students remembered the stories that were told, while only 5% remembered the actual statistics that were cited.

Sticky ideas and memorable content often involve some sort of case study or storytelling. The blog Wait But Why by Tim Urban has a massive loyal readership that naturally gravitates to his gift of breaking down extremely complex and interesting subjects into stick figure drawings that tell stories and make subjects easy to comprehend.

Or check out Seth Godin’s article on How To Tell A Great Story from a marketer’s perspective.

Create Content That Isn’t Salesy Or Untrustworthy

One thing your content absolutely shouldn’t be is salesy. If your content reads like a giant brochure for your product, then you’re likely turning off customers. It’s like only talking about yourself on a date – it seems selfish, fake, and downright untrustworthy.

Rather than writing about your product or why your company is so great, try to serve your audience. Give away secrets, provide in-depth actionable advice, and help them solve problems or achieve their goals. Be a Go-Giver. Become a trusted advisor, win their heart, and in all likelihood, you’ll win their business.

Content that serves its readers rather than its creator often has hard evidence to support its claims, such as statistics, data points, or case studies. That kind of content includes voices other than your own, which gives the content greater credibility.

As Ann Handley says in her book Everybody Writes, “What would your content look like if your customer signed your paycheck? That’s how you should write.”

How have you improved readership and engagement with the content you publish? Share your advice in the comments below:

Why Content Marketing Really Matters and How to Prove It

Call it content marketing, inbound marketing, or just call it the company blog. Whatever the name you give to the act of churning out regular, high quality, SEO-optimized writing, the benefits are manifold. But how do you prove that your content marketing efforts are paying off? You need to show results to your bosses or, […]

Call it content marketing, inbound marketing, or just call it the company blog.

Whatever the name you give to the act of churning out regular, high quality, SEO-optimized writing, the benefits are manifold.

But how do you prove that your content marketing efforts are paying off?

You need to show results to your bosses or, if you’re a freelancer, your clients want tangible proof that their investment has a return. And considering that good content strategy takes a long view, how do you justify the paycheck?

We’ll look at various reports and metrics that will work for you, the mastermind behind the content, and prove the value of your wordsmithing.

The Goals Of Content Marketing

To demonstrate the impact of content marketing, first lay out the business goals you aim to influence. Content marketing has many benefits, but we’ll pick a few and discuss the measurement strategies needed to show success (or the need for improvement).

I’ll focus on five goals of content marketing but, to be sure, there are other goals and benefits. A good marketing strategy will leverage content marketing in positively affecting multiple goals, but each of these goals will have different metrics and reports to track outcomes.

  1. Brand Identity
  2. Micro-moments and the Customer Journey
  3. Search Engine Ranking
  4. Generate Leads
  5. Customer Re-engagement

 

Content Marketing Goal 1: Brand Identity

A company’s brand is the voice with which the business communicates with customers; it is the foundation upon which customer relationships are built. The company’s brand is also a major part of how the business is positioned in the customer’s mind concerning their needs and in relation to rivals. Brand imparts credibility, implies price, and influences word-of-mouth growth.

Measuring the impact of content on brand is tricky, but possible.

In general, brand performance and brand awareness are outside the scope of a content marketer, but if this is a priority for the business, then these metrics can demonstrate success.

 

Measuring Brand Through Social Media Activity

Many companies equate brand awareness with “people talking about us.” Your content’s shares on Facebook, Reddit, Twitter and elsewhere are excellent indicators that the content and thus the brand is being well received and gaining traction in the public’s mind.

One quick way to show impact is to merely illustrate the traffic from social media in relation to the company’s overall traffic. I’ll use a simple Teacup dashboard summary to demonstrate:

Measuring Brand Through Social Media Activity

Simple Social Media Traffic Comparison

Alternately, I often show the trend of social media traffic with another more in-depth report called “How Much Quality Traffic Is Coming To My Site From Social Media?”

This report highlights the traffic trend over the last few months, the quality of the traffic and allows for more detailed analysis.

In the “Detail Breakdown” section of the report, you can see the number of new visitors, as well as which articles (landing pages) drove the most traffic.  

Of course, the “source” row shows which social media platform your traffic comes from.

Social Media Traffic Report

Social Media Traffic Report

Demographic Site Traffic Analysis

Diving into the demographics of web traffic can show the impact of the articles in bringing new people or engaging existing customers (or past customers).

You can find this info in Google Analytics here: Audience > Behavior > New vs. Returning. I prefer to use a Teacup report again because it makes it easier to drill down into the landing pages that are drawing in the visitor types. Also, you can glance at other fun metrics like frequency, recency, device, etc.

New vs. Returning Web Traffic Report

New vs. Returning Web Traffic Report

However, back in Google Analytics directly, you can combine the audience interests with the landing pages that attract them. 

Give this a shot:

  1. Click Audience > Interests > In-Market Segments

In-market segments are the people who, based on their browsing data are actively looking to purchase. i.e., they’re “in the market for…”

  1. Click on “Secondary dimension” and choose “Landing Page.”

At this point, you’ll see something like this:

Google Analytics Interests

Notice that the home page seems to loom large. That’s ok. We can clean this up quickly.

  1. Click on the “advanced” option and exclude the home page.

Like this:

Google Analytics Interests By Landing Page

That’s it!

Now you can see which landing pages attract which customers based on their interests. You’ll demonstrate the effectiveness of your content in reaching the right potential customers.

 

Taking Control Of Brand Identity

What if your content is not driving the amount of engagement you want? How do you positively influence these metrics and not only demonstrate your writing’s quality, but demonstrate an ability to drive engagement?

Take Distribution Seriously

As a content marketer, you’re being paid not only for content but also for marketing. Thus you need a distribution plan for each client including:

  • Relevant websites where you can share your content. I call this a distribution list.
  • A network that will share your content on social media
  • A strategy to drive back-links to your content
  • A social media strategy for your client to share the content to their network. This includes graphics, multiple variations of posts and a posting schedule.

Low-Cost Pay-To-Play Strategies To Boost The Brand

If your client is investing in your top-notch writing, you should convince them to maximize their investment by providing support and creating a budget for:

  • Boosting posts on Facebook. Using the in-market segments you discovered in Google, you’re primed to target the right Facebook segments.
  • Remarketing on both Google and Facebook. Sure, this is out of the scope of most content marketers, but this is also a way to increase your value and billable hours. Besides, a company like Teacup can do the heavy lifting here.
  • Search Engine Marketing. If your content factors in the buyer-journey and micro-moments, it may be worth marketing your content based on keyword searches too.

Again, this is where a partnership with a freelancer or a service like Teacup comes in. You can offer the service to your client and sub-contract digital marketing to someone else, freeing you up to do what you love.

 

Content Marketing Goal 2: Micro-Moments and the Customer Journey

Micro-moments describe the many instances in a day that consumers turn to their phones to get help making a decision. Micro-moments are opportunities for a business to connect with customers at the instant of need.

I’ve written extensively about micro-moments, what they are, and how to measure them here.

Fact is, the only possible way for a business to be there for the customer when a micro-moment arises is through thoughtful content and requires research into the customer journeys the buyer process.

Then you’ll need to map out the micro-moments for each type:

  • I-want-to-know
  • I-want-to-go
  • I-want-to-do
  • I-want-to-buy

If you, as a content marketer take the time to work with your clients in discovering these moments, you’ll not only generate a lot of work to be done (billings!), you’ll help your clients with a marketing tactic that pays dividends over time.

 

Measuring The Micro-Moment Impact Of Your Content

The micro-moment frames your client as the answer to the customer’s question. Whether it’s a comparison of luxury watches or affirming the buying decision with technical specifications, this is an opportunity to help your client build relationships with customers by providing useful information.

81% of people turn to search when they have1 experience a micro-moment and your client can play a role in providing advice to these searchers.

As before, Google Analytics provides useful micro-moment measurement. Head over to Google Analytics and click on Acquisition > Search Console > Queries.

You’ll want to go for the long-tail here and set the number of rows to 100 or more. The lower down you explore, the more specific the queries become. As you look for those moments, you’ll notice patterns in the search queries that imply the topics that interest people. Take a look at this tour operator’s results:

Search Queries Report

These searchers are exploring the idea of travel to Africa. If your content is meeting the needs of informational searches like these and drawing in people to your client’s site, you’re doing your job!

Looking at the keywords report in Google Analytics can also offer insight. However, due to the frequent issue of keywords showing as (not provided), the usefulness here is minimized. Keywords are the high-level idea or overall topic while queries are what people type into the search engine. That’s why I find search queries to be the best option here when demonstrating the relevance of your content.

Another fantastic report to show clients the long-term impact of your content is to use multi-channel attribution and the assisted conversion report.

In Google Analytics, click on Conversions > Multi-Channel Funnels > Assisted Conversions. It’ll look something like this:

Multi-Channel Attribution Assisted Conversions Report

Then, add Landing Page as a secondary dimension like this:

Multi-Channel Attribution Assisted Conversions Report

Ok, so what are you looking at in the Assisted Conversions report?

You’re noticing which landing pages played a role in driving sales for your client during the entire buyer journey. Pretty cool, right? This way, your content gets credit for the sale, even if the customer purchased two weeks after they read your article and entered the site through an ad.

If your content has either Assisted Conversions or Last Click Conversions, then your content paid a return on your client’s investment in you.

 

Make Sure You’re Part Of The Solution

Your content is part of the solution when it comes to answering customer questions and driving sales over time.

The challenge is in making sure that you’re writing the right content for the right micro-moments and then tracking them.

 

Finding The Micro-Moments, You Need To Impact

First, you need to talk to your clients and create a plan. Think of every objection, concern, competitor or question that a customer faces during their buyer journey. Each of those items will need you, the writer, to craft answers. It can add up quickly, so think which micro-moments you’re best suited to help by walking in the customer’s shoes.

Where are the gaps in the customer’s search for a solution? Where do they see your client’s business and where do competitors win them over? A great example is the search keywords “buy” or “near me.”

Imagine a brand new Aunt whose sister just had her first child. Auntie might google something like “what do new mothers need?”

Here’s where useful content like “The top 10 products every new mother needs” would win over an E-commerce-centric page. Then, later the Aunt will search “buy Happy Brand diapers” and find their way back to your client’s site.

In competitive industries, educational content is gold in the long run, and the only way to solve this is through great content that helps customers make good decisions. Combined with well-designed websites with calls-to-action micro-moment friendly content generates revenue.

 

Can AdWords Boost Micro-Moment Visibility?

Yes, Adwords with good content can help reach customers at the right micro-moment. It requires a moderately sophisticated understanding of your client’s customers and the buyer journey.  

The good news is that the AdWords Search campaign will, by nature, focus on searches that are long-tail. That’s good news because long-tail keywords are also often low-cost keywords. If your customer research finds the “how do I…” or “what are the…” or “the best…” types of searches then you can target those and deliver the content at the perfect moment.

Answer the Public is a fantastic tool to find these questions.

 

Content Marketing Goal 3: Search Engine Ranking

Rising in rank in Google’s search results is the holy grail of online marketing.

A good organic search ranking is a long-term strategy that requires long-term thinking, and in the end, it results in regular traffic and leads arriving at your digital doorstep.

The bad news is that from your client’s perspective, waiting for an ROI somewhere out there in the murky future can feel like they’re being taken for a fool.

 

Short-Term Measurement Of Long-Term Gain

It might be almost intangible to show the power of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) but the operative word there is almost.

It is indeed possible.

The trick to keeping clients happy during the long haul to first-page ranking is communication.

Start here.

Write out a list of the essential keywords that your client wants to rank for. There could be 10, 20 or even 50 or more keywords relevant to the business. Think long tail, short tail and you can also refer to the micro-moments above for some ideas.

Then, armed with this list, show your client exactly where they rank in search engine results for each of those keywords. The best tool that I know of is Moz Pro. With SERP tools, that’s Search Engine Results Page tools, like Moz, you can follow the keywords, just like fans watch their sports team in a league.  

The point on all this is that you can show how your client rises, slow but steady from position 50 on a specific keyword to carving out a spot on the first page.

 

Tracking The Increase In Organic Search Traffic

Want more metrics to measure your content marketing magic?

The super simple metric is the number of website visits your client gets through organic search.

Organic Search Traffic Report

By showing a steady climb over time in the number of organic search visitors, you can demonstrate the efficacy of your content. A word of warning, though it probably isn’t needed.

Search engine traffic takes time to start appearing, and it grows as your rankings improve. Keep your client grounded in realistic expectations and educate them.

Also, keep in kind the power of multi-channel attribution that was mentioned above in the micro-moments section. You can always show your client the impact of Organic search in assisting conversions. Combined with growth in rankings and traffic, Multi-channel attribution is a cherry on the analytics sundae.

 

How To Rise Up The Ranks Through Through Good Content

There are three primary elements needed to improve ranking in the results. You won’t be able to influence all three as a content marketer, but you can indeed be instrumental in influencing your client! These pillars of ranking are site structure, backlinks, and quality content.

Website Structure and SEO

Google and other search engines need understand your client’s website to know where to rank it.

To facilitate Google’s understanding, the site should be appropriately structured, with descriptive Semantic HTML, Schema, appropriate meta tags, sitemaps and a whole host of other structural requirements. These are the domain of web designers, not content marketers.

If you’re writing your heart out, it behooves you to set yourself up for success. Encourage your client to take this seriously.

Grab a report at WooRank and show your client where their big SEO structural pitfalls are. Don’t be afraid to nag your client, from time to time either so they fix some of the more pressing issues.

Also, make sure Google indexes their website.

Find out who the IT guy or webmaster is and push hard for confirmation that they take this seriously. If you can swing it, get access to their Search Console account (or set it up yourself with Google Analytics as the validation) and make sure Google is crawling your content.

While your site will still be indexed without this step, being engaged here will help you uncover any issues that might prevent your site from being indexed.

 

Building Backlinks

Backlink-building is contentious due to black-hat corruption. Anytime a “trick” to improving SEO arises, someone inevitably abuses it and ultimately, Google finds a new way to determine rank. Regardless, if reputable websites, related to the content you’re righting, are sharing or linking to your content then Google will consider you to be respectable too.

Distribution matters here and the advice as we gave earlier applies just as much here. Distribution of your content helps your SEO.

Create a plan, find friendly sites which can share your content and don’t leave it up to your client.

 

Quality Content Consistently

Quality and consistency are immune to the whims of Google updates and black-hat tactics. If you regularly write new content that is of value to customers, Google will reward you.

Be uncompromising in your goal to write quality content that serves the searcher and potential customers. Be consistent in releasing new material and keeping old content fresh.

That’s it!

 

Content Marketing Goal 4: Generate Leads

Generating leads for your clients is a primary reason they’re paying for great content. You’re there to help their salespeople receive engaged inbound leads.

Tracking this is obvious – you directly measure the number of leads. The challenge is in making sure leads are indeed counted.

When someone fills out a “get a quote” form on a client’s website, that needs to be tracked as a conversion. Once that is done, you’re all set to use the tools we’ve discussed above to prove that your content was part of the customer journey. Multi-channel attribution is a meaningful way to ensure you get the credit for the lead taking that final step and reaching out.

But that isn’t all. If you’re creating compelling content, you’ll want to ensure that you can turn readers into leads by including your client’s phone number, or a contact form and again, ensuring that any signups from these pages are correctly attributed to you.

 

Getting Leads Through E-books, Whitepapers or Guides

The list of companies that use this tactic is vast. Offering a guide to your client’s chief specialty and requiring an email or phone number before gaining access to the knowledge is a conventional method of lead generation.

When you look at what many online companies do, is they compile related articles into a single e-book, create a landing page and voila! Crafting an e-book requires some design efforts, but it’s an efficient way to repurpose past content and “stretch” the value of your content.

 

Connecting Content Marketing To Lead Generation

To highlight the role you’re playing in generating leads and revenue for your clients requires some nagging. You’ll need to nag your clients into setting up appropriate tracking and into sharing the data with you. If this is done correctly, whether your client sees this in their company reports or you show them via your reporting, all depends on how they track leads. 

If your client is amenable to it, find out what their close rate is and also their average revenue per customer. You can then calculate the exact ROI of your content.

Content Marketing ROI = Leads divided by Sales multiplied by Avg. Revenue.

For example, let’s say you generate 50 leads through your content and the sales team closes on 10 of them. Each sale is worth $3,000. That looks like:

50/10 * $3,000 = $15,000

Your content is worth $15,000 in gross revenue.

The hard part, as always, is getting access to this information. Try to convince your client that they’ll get more transparency and accountability if they share.

 

Generating More Leads Through Paid Channels

If no one sees your content, you’re merely treading water so distributing your content to new eyes is vital to finding new leads. One of the most effective channels is Facebook but cutting through the noise is getting harder and harder, especially when relying on organic methods.

Avinash Kaushik has written a blistering indictment of the impact of organic social media: Stop All Social Media Activity (Organic).

However, you’re able to generate new leads by paid boosts of your content on Facebook. Facebook makes it easy to “boost” any post, and your top content should get the financial backing. That’s the crux of our article. Investing in great content also means spending in sharing the content.

However, taking your best content and turning it into regular Facebook ads can also reap benefits, primarily if the content is hosted on a page that encourages form submission.

If you followed the e-book route we describe above, then paid ads is a valuable way to find the people most likely to benefit from your guide. When your client’s industry is very competitive, advertising a “buyers guide” on the keywords in AdWords can be an effective way to beat the sale-schtick of competitors ads and, indeed, get those leads.

 

Content Marketing Goal 5: Customer Re-Engagement

A standard business truism states that it’s easier and cheaper to sell to existing customers than to acquire new customers. That’s where you come in! Staying in touch with past customers requires great content disseminated frequently.

Great blog posts, email newsletters, marketing automation and social media; these are all content marketing channels.

 

Newsletters For Customer Re-Engagement

My favorite tool to stay in touch with existing customers is email newsletters. Where so many companies fail is that they use newsletters like digital “flyers” which sell, sell, sell and treat customer inboxes as a dumping ground for marketing junk.

The reality is that we all read emails from businesses when the content is exciting and informative. Again, this is where helpful content wins.

If you’re writing excellent blog posts for your client, then the newsletter ensures a baseline readership. So every blog post should become a newsletter or, at the very least, should be included in a regular newsletter.

Push for ownership of your client’s monthly newsletter, and you’ll end up with a client who relies on you more and more.

 

Proving Content Marketing’s Role In Repeat Business

Measurement is fractured when measuring repeat business. There are newsletter opens and clicks. There is “returning” blog visits which are tracked in Google Analytics. There is also “mindshare” which can be nigh impossible to measure.

So, how do you do it?

Well, you do it all together.

Using Google Analytics data, you can track some fascinating metrics like Frequency, Recency and, the trend of retaining past visitors. I’ll demonstrate with a Teacup report called Am I Attracting Both New And Return Visitors To My Website?

New Vs. Returning Line Graph

We’re looking at the trend of return visitors. As long as it’s increasing over time, this implies that you’re retaining past visitors and converting first-time visitors into repeat traffic.

You can also track conversions in this report specific to returning visitors to show that repeat visits translate into repeat business:

Returning visitors report

In this same report, you can see Frequency which describes how often people return to the site. You can view this in more detail in a unique Frequency report too. Superficially, this context should suffice. Measuring conversions alongside frequency can demonstrate how many visits it takes before a visitor converts.

Cool, right?!

 

Remarketing To Past Customers

Businesses often use Remarketing to close sales that didn’t complete their journey through the funnel on the first visit. However, a great benefit of remarketing is, in fact, re-engagement of existing customers.

Both AdWords and Facebook allow for you upload your customer lists and market to them but I prefer Facebook for this idea. Consider this. Sharing new articles, new ideas and new products with people who already know and love you is the most granular targeting I can think of. It is far cheaper and more potent than a spray-and-pray boost on any ad network too.

So, suggest to your clients that they help share great content with those most likely to care!

If past customers love your clients’ company, staying in touch is worth the investment in generating more sales through directly sharing great content.

 

The Measurement Of Content Creation

At no point do I recommend enacting all the suggestions in this article.

Pick and choose whatever might fit but I hope this serves as inspiration. The goal denoted to help you think creatively about measurement as it pertains to content creation. The other goal was to help your clients feel great each time they sign your paycheck.

Let me know how it goes or ask me anything, anytime!

 

Footnote:

1. Google/Purchased Digital Diary “How Consumers Solve Their Needs In The Moment

20 Marketing Experts Share The Growth Marketing Trends That Will Dominate 2018

  With 2018 fast approaching, we asked 20 marketing experts for the growth marketing trends, tactics, and strategies they see taking center stage in 2018. We’ve organized their responses into 7 categories: SEO/Content Data and Analytics Paid Acquisition Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning Video and Live Streaming Other Channels and Strategies General Growth Marketing Check […]

 

With 2018 fast approaching, we asked 20 marketing experts for the growth marketing trends, tactics, and strategies they see taking center stage in 2018. We’ve organized their responses into 7 categories:

  • SEO/Content
  • Data and Analytics
  • Paid Acquisition
  • Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning
  • Video and Live Streaming
  • Other Channels and Strategies
  • General Growth Marketing

Check out some of the folks below Thursday, December 7th at the Growth Marketing Conference in San Francisco! Click here to buy your ticket.

 

SEO and Content

Brian Dean

 

The big SEO trend in 2018 will be Google’s AI algorithm. The days of a bunch of nerdy engineers turning the dials at Mountain View are fading fast. Instead, Google’s AI program (RankBrain) is figuring out if users are satisfied… and shuffling around the search results accordingly. That said, links, on-page SEO, keyword research and the other “traditional” SEO strategies will still be important. But they’ll be less important as time goes on. – Brian Dean, Backlinko

 

 

 

Casey Armstrong

SEO Tip: At its core, SEO is about content and links. Stop trying to re-create the wheel and stop reading so many blog posts. Dive into Google Search Console, see which high intent queries you are getting volume, but have a poor impression-to-click ratio, and optimize accordingly.

SEO Trends: Both of these have been around for a bit, but semantic relevancy and snippets will continue to be huge in 2018. These both take some creative “hacking” or knowing where to look, but can provide step function lifts in your organic traffic and allow you to leapfrog competitors with stronger domains and backlink profiles. – Casey ArmstrongBigCommerce

 

 

 

Tim Ash

There is no ‘best” on-average website for all visitors. Copying your competitors is never a good idea, because you do not understand key aspects of their business model, audience, brand strength, or strategy.

So what is the right answer?

You need to actually listen to your site visitors. The best way to do that is to pay attention to what they do on your site. Based on this information, you can change the site experience in real-time. Personalization can pay huge dividends because it makes the visitor feel special and dramatically increases relevance for them. – Tim AshSiteTuners

 

 

 

Lars Lofgren

 

AMP isn’t gaining headlines or a sexy growth hack right now but it’s not going away, it’s steadily gaining steam. In the SEO world, I wouldn’t be surprised if AMP moves from a “nice-to-have” to a “make-the-switch-right-now” over 2018-2019. Even though giving Google control of our site makes me super nervous over the long-term, I’m beginning to wonder if it’s a deal with the devil that I’ll get forced into signing. – Lars LofgrenI Will Teach You To Be Rich

 

 

 

Barron Ernst

It’s more important than ever to make sure you do a good job targeting email based on actions and other elements of personalization. The era of the generic newsletter is over and click thru rates continue to decline for it. It’s key that the message has some relevance to the customer and addresses their specific user behavior within your product. And you should tie your email to a specific business outcome, not just to clicks on the email.

Also, people still don’t understand the basics of deliverability. Spend time understanding why you need multiple IP addresses, how to monitor inboxing across various ISPs, and what leads to bad and spammy emails. Make sure you are spending the time to deeply understand what drive success of emails hitting people’s inbox. This is especially important if you are growing and changing email providers. It’s very common for this transition to cause problems as you transition your IP addresses, sending domains, and get started on a new email service. – Barron ErnstShowmax/Growth Consultant

 

 

Dominic Coryell

 

I’m a big fan of Zaius for email marketing right now. They take a B2C CRM approach which allows me to easily spin up behavioral emails based on a seemingly unlimited # of micro-segments. – Dominic CoryellGrabr

 

 

 

 

Data and Analytics

Benji Hyam

 

I hope more companies will move from a last-touch attribution model to measure ROI from channels, to a first-touch and last touch attribution model. Last touch isn’t a good representation of what drove a potential customer to take action or make a decision. By also taking first-touch attribution into consideration, companies will get a better idea for what channels influence a sale and be better at allocating budget. – Benji HyamGrow and Convert

 

 

 

Melinda Byerley

 

Google Analytics + Salesforce integration could be a game changer for B2B Marketing. Attributing marketing spend in sales-driven organizations is a perennial challenge, and the connection between the two platforms is notoriously difficult and error-prone. We’re optimistic about this opportunity and encouraging our B2B clients to explore it as a top priority in 2018. – Melinda Byerley, Timeshare CMO

 

 

 

 

Nate Moch

 

Building a platform that can tie together all of your data across channels is going to be a fundamental requirement to growth. The future of growth is in machine learning as it will be used for everything from personalization to activation, from content to marketing. You can’t take advantage of the potential of machine learning without access to all of your data in one place. If you haven’t invested in your data infrastructure, make it happen in 2018. – Nate Moch, Zillow

 

 

 

Paid Acquisition

Logan Young

 

Optimize your content for mobile. Not only are users viewing content on their mobile devices at an increasing rate, they’re also becoming more comfortable going through the entire purchasing process from their smart phone (as opposed to switching to desktop to buy). Shoot vertical videos, use images/headlines that have stopping power, don’t ask users to leave social and go to a site with bad loading time since most are using data and will abandon the request if load time is longer than 3 seconds.- Logan Young, BlitzMetrics

 

 

 

Brian Rothenberg

 

Paid acquisition will continue to be a viable tactic for many, and a required one given the diminishing reach of organic social and other platforms. Competition is increasing, so CPMs and CPCs are as well – this will require the most successful paid marketers to better leverage data (ideally first-party data for segmentation and lookalike audiences), and/or to better monetize their services which in turn enables higher spending via paid acquisition. Paid acquisition is a tool in the toolkit, but don’t let it be the only one — if you do, the only long-term winner is going to be Facebook/Google. – Brian RothenbergEventbrite

 

 

 

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

Will Bunker

 

The cost of doing machine learning is really low. All the algorithms are available on open source and cloud platforms. It is a matter of finding the most interesting data to use for insights. The data can be trained to better identify who has a higher probability of being a great customer or predict churn and allow companies to be proactive. – Will BunkerGrowthX

 

 

 

Conor Lee

 

The most hyped thing ever. Few teams have the talent resources necessary to really apply it. – Conor LeeHipLead

 

 

 

 

 

Eric Siu

 

Using a tool like Automated Insights can help you crank out unique content at scale (that doesn’t sound like a robot). – Eric Siu, Single Grain 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oli Gardner

 

Machine learning and AI will create smarter systems. If they are exposed via APIs that will empower the growth marketer even greater acceleration and experimentation potential. – Oli Gardner, Unbounce

 

 

 

Video and Live Streaming

Dennis Yu

 

Video will become central to the modern marketer’s strategy– not some side thing or freelancer project. Central means that the company produces video as their primary form of content, produced by the company themselves (not hired actors), and edited by an in-house team. – Dennis YuBlitzMetrics

 

 

 

 

Tony Tie

 

The boom of live streaming is going to heavily depend on internet bandwidth and improving speeds. I don’t know if we are going to make leaps in access and speed in 2018, but the moment the streaming experience is as seamless as a prerecorded video, it will take off. – Tony Tie, Expedia

 

 

 

Other Channels and Strategies

Todd Wilms

 

One of the bigger challenges for marketing is internal not external – the sales organization. “He Said, She Said” in-fighting over leads kills the pipeline and only leads teams to play it safe. Build alignment by have shared goals (revenue, touches to closure, lead to closure duration, etc.) that both teams own and share responsibility. You are one big team driving growth so act like it. – Todd WilmsThe Consultant’s Collective

 

 

 

Sean Work

Focus on improving your brand. Work on improving your image, trust and authority. This is the stealth CRO hack that no one can steal from you and it will improve your conversion rates across the board. When people are familiar with your brand and your brand looks/feels sharp, trustworthy, friendly (and not some fly-by-night operations)…guess what? You’ll close more deals, sell more products…..you’ll grow! – Sean WorkCrazy Egg

 

 

 

Sean Sheppard

 

Be pro-active and lead your customers to their desired outcomes with actionable insights. The most successful companies generate the majority of their revenue with existing customers. Find ways to grow with them! – Sean Sheppard, GrowthX

 

 

 

 

Ryan Kulp

 

If you build a chatbot, make sure the customer knows this is a bot. NO bots are good enough to “trick” people into thinking they’re real… that’s called ‘Passing the Turing Test’ and Facebook Messenger won’t do this anytime soon. Instead, make your chatbot so *obviously* a chatbot, that your prospects and customers will get a “kick” out of interacting with it. –Ryan Kulp, Fomo

 

 

General Growth Marketing

Ada Chen

 

There are certain marketing channels that are incredibly specialized like paid marketing, email marketing, and SEO where a world-class practitioner is worth their weight in gold. As growth marketing matures, I think we’ll see less generalized ‘growth marketing’ roles in teams and more focus on building teams with channel experts. – Ada Chen, Notejoy

 

 

 

Brandon Redlinger

The majority of companies will get growth wrong. Instead of focusing on “how can we build a better product and deliver more value to customers,” the focus will remain internal. They’ll still be trying to figure out “how do we get more money from our customers?” The allure of VC money and front page headlines that our society so prizes are only distractions. As a consequence, they will miss the real revenue opportunity.

However, I’m very bullish on the growth marketing movement in the long run. I think companies will wise-up. The smartest companies will re-think roles, responsibilities, and relationships of the growth marketers, and they will be given more responsibility for the customer experience. – Brandon Redlinger, Engagio

 

 

Hana Abaza

 

I think it’s never been harder to move the needle. It’ll be less about tactics and hacks and more about sustainability and actually deliver something your audience wants. – Hana Abaza, Shopify Plus

10 Ways Successful Growth Marketers Think Differently

To some, marketing and growth marketing are interchangeable. After all, the end goal of all marketing is growth, so surely growth marketing is just “marketing”… right? This isn’t entirely illogical, but it is wrong. Marketing is a broad term that comprises all channels and techniques used to help a business grow – from SEO and […]

To some, marketing and growth marketing are interchangeable. After all, the end goal of all marketing is growth, so surely growth marketing is just “marketing”… right?

This isn’t entirely illogical, but it is wrong.

Marketing is a broad term that comprises all channels and techniques used to help a business grow – from SEO and PPC, to email marketing, direct mail and much more – including, of course, growth marketing.

Most marketers will drive revenue via a group of very specific channels. An SEO, for instance, will optimize a site, assess and fix technical errors, and implement a strategy for driving backlinks. A paid search expert will leverage digital ad platforms to drive qualified traffic to specific pages of a site.

A growth marketer, however, might use one – or all – of the channels just mentioned (plus many more). What’s different is that they’re in a constant state of flux. They’re always testing, always trying new channels or figuring out how to leverage existing channels more effectively.

In fact, the channel itself is secondary to a growth marketer’s goal: driving fast, sustainable, scalable growth.

“A growth hacker is a person whose true north is growth.” Sean Ellis, Startup Marketing  

Here are 10 ways successful growth marketers think differently, and how you can start thinking the same way, too.

 

1.They fail fast

 

To “fail fast” means to figure out when something isn’t working, to learn from it, and to move on ASAP.

It doesn’t mean trying to fail.

It’s an ideology that can stop companies from wasting cash propping up a failing venture. Other times, it offers a chance to adjust how and where cash is being spent – potentially preventing a company from going under.

Fail fast (or be ready to), and you’ll protect yourself from making a rookie mistake: overinvesting in channels or concepts that aren’t working.

Good growth marketers are hardwired to think on their feet and be fluid in their approach. Failing fast should come naturally to them.

To mirror this mentality, set aside time, once a week or so, to sit back and take stock of your situation. Be totally honest with yourself about what is and isn’t working and resist the urge to keep plugging away at something you know isn’t delivering – even if it was your idea (great growth marketers never get emotionally attached to ideas).

 

2.They measure everything

Or pretty much.

Not everything can be accurately measured (customer delight, for one) or should be measured. If a metric can help a growth marketer make better decisions, however, they will measure it. After all, if we don’t assign KPIs to our activities and track progress against them, how will we know when we’ve failed?

This is inherent to the growth-marketer’s mindset and essential to their success.

If you’re not measuring everything you do, don’t worry – it’s not too late to start. Look at all your marketing tactics in isolation and establish what metric or metrics will help you understand how effective each one is at meeting its goals. This might be leads generated, links gained, number of social shares, number of email opt-ins, or any other sensible, actionable metric. Exactly what you measure is unimportant. What matters is that you’re tracking something which lets you assess whether your work is getting results.

 

3.They focus on the metrics that matter

We already know that not everything which can be measured should be measured. If you do fall into that trap (of trying to measure everything) one of two things is likely to happen.

  1. You waste time worrying about metrics that don’t matter. This is the best-case scenario.
  2. You get sidetracked by trivial data and make poor decisions as a result.

To figure out which metrics matter, you should start by learning the difference between vanity and actionable metrics.

Vanity metrics: Numbers or stats that look good on paper, but don’t really mean anything important.

Actionable metrics: Stats that tie to specific and repeatable tasks you can improve and to the goals of your business.” Caleb Wojcik, Fizzle

Web traffic is a good example of a vanity metric. It’s also commonly (and incorrectly) used as a KPI.

This is because web traffic is just a number. You could have a million unique visitors a month but that’s irrelevant unless those visitors are impacting your bottom line.

You have to know where your traffic’s coming from and why, and what it’s doing next. Referral traffic from an unrelated site or organic traffic from an irrelevant keyword is – by and large – going to bounce. Sure, one or two visitors that arrive on your site by chance might actually be interested in what you do and become leads or customers, but most of them will look at the page they landed on, then leave.

Mirror the habits of growth marketers by only measuring metrics you can act on.

 

4.They’re agile

The best growth marketers know that few campaigns go exactly as planned, and that a channel or strategy working once does not mean it will work again. They understand that every facet of marketing is constantly changing and that to keep up, they have to be changing with it.

Agile marketing is the polar opposite of the approach adopted by many seasoned marketers – waterfall marketing. This is a highly organized but rigid approach to marketing that favors very explicit plans and discourages fluidity.

Image Credit

“Agile methods support rapid adaptation in a strategic, balanced way. Agile teams may be fast, but they aren’t chaotic. Choices are considered; decisions are not reactive.” Andrea Fryrear, writing for CMI

Becoming more agile in the workplace usually means:

  • Testing campaigns in short sprints – around 6 weeks, on average.
  • Making decisions based on data, not gut instinct.
  • Tracking the market and the channels you use and reacting fast to any changes that might impact your efforts.
  • Valuing the input of your whole team.

If you’re afraid of change or just stuck in your ways, you have a lot of work to do. Embracing change is essential for any marketer today.

 

5.They optimize the full funnel

Before deciding to make a purchase, every single one of us goes through the process of the sales funnel, which usually looks something like this:

Image Credit

The top of the funnel represents consumers who know they have a need or problem, but they don’t yet know how to fix it. Consumers at the top of the funnel are yet to be exposed to your brand, so your job is to get it in front of them.

At the bottom of the funnel are consumers that are nearly ready to buy – you just need to give them a final push before they’ll convert.

Good growth marketers know that in order to be successful they have to consider all of this funnel. If they only focus on one or two stages of that funnel, they’re either:

  1. Not doing enough to generate new leads.
  2. Not doing enough to turn those new leads into customers.

Both scenarios limit growth. To counteract this, it’s imperative that you consider the whole funnel and implement strategies designed to drive both customer acquisition and conversions.

 

6.They prioritize relationships

Many marketers seem to place developing and maintaining relationships at the bottom of their list of priorities. The reason being – in my experience – is that relationships take time to build and are difficult, if not impossible, to scale. It can also take a while to see an ROI on your efforts.

I think this is a mistake.

Healthy relationships with clients and customers – even competitors – can make a big difference to your business. People don’t just buy from those they trust – they tell others, too. Competitors, on the other hand, can impart wisdom and advice. They might even offer chances to collaborate.

Growth marketers know this.

Marketers that don’t are missing out.

 

7.They know brand matters

If you’ve ever visited the supermarket and chosen a product from a well-known brand over a cheaper own brand version, you’ve been influenced by branding. By extension, you probably have an understanding of why this is.

There have been numerous studies on how a brand name affects consumers’ perception of the product. The general consensus is that we (consumers) perceive the branded products to be better quality than their unbranded equivalents.

“Both brand names and brand packaging do influence the consumers’ quality evaluations.” Influences of Brand Name and Packaging on Perceived Quality

In other words, consumers trust names they know (at least, they do if that brand has a history of producing quality products).

To incorporate brand-building into your growth strategy, you first have to understand what a brand is. It’s much more than colors, fonts, or a logo. A brand is how your customers perceive you.

Unfortunately you can’t control this, but you can guide them in the right direction.

To do that, it’s essential your marketing portrays your company in a consistent light. This means only proceeding with campaigns that align with how you want to be seen, and being ready and willing to adjust or drop campaigns that don’t fit.

 

8.They’re never satisfied

Growth marketers don’t find something that works and hit repeat. They know there is always a way to do things better, and they’re programed to try and find it.

This kind of attitude is essential to being successful in growth marketing. Stopping when you do something “good enough” will hinder growth and ensure the brand never achieves its full potential.

If this mindset doesn’t come naturally to you, practice. It will eventually become habit.

“On average, it takes more than 2 months before a new behavior becomes automatic — 66 days to be exact.” James Clear, “How Long Does it Actually Take to Form a New Habit?

Start each day with an analysis of the day before. Run through everything you did and ask yourself how each thing could be improved – how something could happen faster, with less friction or for less cost. Then, find a way to put those improvements into action.

 

9.They do more than the competition

Some companies believe that to make their business a success they have to do as much as, or be as good as, their competition. Growth marketers know this is rarely enough. Instead, they strive to do more than the competition.

This can mean many different things. These are just a few that come to my mind:

  • Offering better and more personal service (this is a good goal if you’re up against big brands that are lacking the personal touch).
  • Targeting a sector of the market your competitor’s overlooked.
  • Leveraging marketing channels they’re not using.
  • Building a faster website with a better user experience.

Long-term it’s going to pay to try and outdo your competition on all fronts, but initially, you might want to focus on identifying and targeting their weak spots.

 

10.They create a ‘Wow” experience for their customers

Measuring metrics and gathering data’s important. Essential, in fact, for any growth marketer. But it’s not the be-all and end-all for successfully growing a business.

A customer is not just a number. Their worth to you should not be determined by their lifetime value or monthly spend. They are people, just like you and me. If you don’t recognize that, eventually they will leave you for a company that does.

Take this campaign from TD Bank.

The bank asked customers to come and test out a new ATM, but instead of an automated teller machine, they were presented with an automated thanking machine. Instead of cash, the machine handed out gifts.

The gifts were highly personalized, including tickets to Disneyland for a mother who had never been able to take her kids, and plane tickets for a mother with a sick daughter in Trinidad. Exactly how TD knew what their customers would appreciate I don’t know, but that’s not the takeaway here. This is something that really made customers go “WOW” (and generated plenty of positive publicity alongside it).

That said, you don’t have to break your budget to create “WOW” experiences. Something as simple as a handwritten note slipped into an order can go a long way towards making customers feel valued.

That said, the best “WOW” experiences are individual to each customer. It’s when you go above and beyond to help a customer in need that you really make an impression on them – as we saw TD do.

Thankfully, doing something similar yourself is easy (and again, doesn’t have to be expensive). Just put yourself in your customers’ shoes. Ask yourself what would make you go “WOW” if you were in their position and (within reason) do it.

Thinking differently

If you understand and enjoy marketing, you probably have what it takes to become a successful growth marketer – you just have to change your mindset. For me, the biggest shift has to be moving away from a waterfall style strategy that favors fixed, long-term plans, to a much more fluid and agile approach. If you can start to measure everything and adapt your strategy in line with the results, you’re well on your way to becoming a successful growth marketer.

How do you believe successful growth marketers think differently? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below:

How Stencil Recruited and Nurtured over 1400 Affiliates for Their SaaS Business

Building an affiliate network can seem a bit daunting at first, but once things start rolling, you’ll see it’s actually not that hard. Nurturing the affiliates and helping them succeed is another story, but we’ll get to that later… There’s no shortage of people out there looking to make a little side income, but the […]

Building an affiliate network can seem a bit daunting at first, but once things start rolling, you’ll see it’s actually not that hard. Nurturing the affiliates and helping them succeed is another story, but we’ll get to that later…

There’s no shortage of people out there looking to make a little side income, but the single most important part of recruiting affiliates is absolutely crucial: You must have a solid product to begin with. If your product is sub par, not only will you have a hard time selling directly to customers, but affiliates will have no interest referring new customers to you. Remember, the quality of your product will be directly reflected by your affiliate. It’s important you make your affiliates look good and of course, that all starts with the product.

Beyond the product itself, there’s a number of different things you can start doing to recruit and attract more affiliates:

 

1. Pay Generously & You’ll Get More Interest

We learned this one the hard way. On our very first stab at building an affiliate program, we were admittedly stingy. We were afraid to be too generous and feared we’d end up losing money. This was a mistake. Not only that, but the referral commission offering was complicated. Just have a look at our convoluted initial offer to new affiliates:

BAD: $30 one-time commission, only on annual subscriptions.

This was less-than-ideal for a number of reasons. First off, it was a pretty crappy deal all around. $30 one-time isn’t that interesting to anyone. Everyone wants recurring revenue and you should be happy to share that with your affiliates. Next, it was very confusing (and annoying) to limit commission to only annual plan signups. This stipulation made it hard for affiliates to sell to their audience and also created the potential for them to refer customers and end up getting nothing in return. For example, if an affiliate sent someone our way but they ended up deciding to go on a monthly plan, the affiliate would get a total of $0 in earnings. Worst. Even still, we would sign up the odd affiliate and go figure, they barely sent anyone our way. There was just very little incentive.

So one day, we decided to start over completely with a much better offering:

GOOD: 30% ongoing commission on ANY customer you refer.

The difference might seem subtle at first glance, but this is a far superior approach and we know it to be true because it resulted in many more affiliate signups. We also saw affiiatings sending more actual referrals our way. It’s simpler, it’s percentage based (so we can mess with our pricing and not have to worry) and includes ALL plans.

Takeaway here is that if you’re fair and your affiliates start to make some real cash, everyone wins.

 

2. Use An Off-The-Shelf Solution to Save Time and Money

Deciding how to manage your affiliate program can be one of the more technically challenging parts of the process. We first thought it would be best to roll our own simple affiliate program internally. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but ultimately, it ended up being time consuming, required a lot of maintenance and kinda just sucked. Since we’re bootstrapped and had to keep things really cost effective, our affiliate program lacked a sales dashboard where affiliates could track their success, download assets and easily get access to their custom link. Being able to see your progress as an affiliate is important and keeps motivation flowing.

We eventually decided to use a third-party service to manage our small, but growing, little army of affiliates. After much research, we ultimately decided on Tapfiliate. It’s not the cheapest solution around, but it’s feature-rich and handles a lot of the pain points of building your own affiliate program. While we’ve found this approach to be much better than our own hacked affiliate program, one clear downside is the lack of access to a network of affiliates. This is where ‘affiliate networks’ like JVZOO, ShareASale and Commission Junction tend to shine. I can’t speak much to these since we haven’t explored them yet, but it’s generally regarded as a good practice to use a network in addition to your own affiliate program (either built by yourself or powered by a third-party like Tapfiliate). One very nice thing about networks is that you can tap into thousands of potential affiliates who are eager to find new products to sell. While the network approach is definitely worth exploring, be aware that the network often wants to take a cut or have expensive set up fees.

 

3. Build a Great Landing Page to Signup New Affiliates

Having an easy to understand affiliate signup landing page is essential. We’ve experimented with this a bit and have had good success with keeping things as simple as possible. If the messaging becomes too complicated, affiliates will be deterred and may not trust that they’ll get paid what they expect to be paid.

A simple commission table and a section that explains exactly what an affiliate will get is the best and most straightforward approach:

The table immediately shows the affiliate what they could potentially make and helps us emphasize yearly accounts, which are the subscriptions we like to drive the most.

Another great thing to include on your landing page is a direct contact (or “Affiliate Concierge” as we call it) This has 2 big benefits:

  1. It will make the affiliate feel like they’re taken care of and have a direct contact they can reach out to. It puts the affiliate’s mind at ease.
  2. It creates a relationship between your affiliate and a real person.

#2 is especially powerful because it allows you to stay in constant contact with your best performing affiliates. The challenge there is that you’ll either need to hire someone to do this or do it yourself at first. I’d suggest the latter if you’re just starting out, but ignore this approach at your peril! 

 

4. Start Small and Find Some Lists

Alright, recruiting time! It’s probably a good strategy to be conservative and not try to swing for the fences just yet. There are some super successful affiliates out there and they’re very particular about the product they wanna rep. Avoid going after them first. Try to find smaller niche affiliates first who you can test your pitch on and grow with. Going after the big fish takes a bit of a different approach (admittedly, one we’re still trying to figure out!), you may as well get your feet wet on smaller prospects.

So where do we find these smaller affiliates? A great place to start is finding a list of affiliates who publicly display their monthly affiliate income. These often go by the phrase “Income Reports”. Here’s an income reports list where you can see exactly how big or small the affiliate is, at least in terms of income. Start from the bottom and work your way up, honing your pitch along the way. For most of these affiliates, it turns out the easiest way to contact them is via the contact form on their site. While that sometimes can get a response, you often get mixed in with a giant pile of contact form submissions and you may not get noticed. In addition to filling out their contact form, it’s also a good idea to try and find their email address to contact them directly there as well. A great tool for this is called Voila Norbert and they even have an excellent Chrome Extension so you can find emails on the go.

Sending a direct email (in addition to a contact form submission) has 2 distinct benefits:

  1. It shows you’re persistent and if they get contacted from you in multiple places, they’re more likely to respond.
  2. With an email pitch (as opposed to just an on-site contact form submissions) you can use a tool like Mailshake to automate a sequence of emails and follow-ups. This is a huge time saver and you can even tell Mailshake to only send follow-ups if the prospect didn’t open emails or take action. For more tips on how to do this, check out this great post on how to write the perfect “Ask” in your cold emails.

Generally speaking, these pitches are a bit different than sales pitches, because you’re not actually selling anything in exchange for money. And heck, you know these people are already interested in being affiliates, so the goal is to show them your awesome product and how it can make them money and ultimately make their audience succeed. Oh and bonus tip: After you’ve filled out their contact form and emailed them directly, follow up on Twitter, LinkedIn and eve Facebook to keep reminding them about your existence. Out of sight, out of mind!

 

5. Tap Into Your Own Customer & Mailing Lists

A great place to find affiliates is right within your midst! Your existing users, customers or mailing list subscribers are an excellent source of potential affiliates. This will of course depend on the nature of your product, but chances are if they’ve purchased your product or signed up, they are probably already impressed by your offering. That right there is half the battle and it’s usually pretty easy to turn these folks into affiliates, assuming they’re into that sort of thing. This is where we signed up our very first affiliates. You can do this by emailing your list and announcing your affiliate program. You can be pretty confident that anyone interested will reply. We did this initially and then over time we would continually get requests and questions about the program.

 

6. Partner with Others to Tap Into Their Customer & Mailing Lists

I can pretty confidently say that this is where we’ve signed up the majority of our affiliates. Not to mention, this being our #1 source of new user signups…but that’s another post for another day. Partnering with other services that have an overlap with your audience is incredibly powerful, but it can be a bit tricky. In the end, it ultimately comes down to networking and relationship building, but if you can find a win/win scenario with a similar app or service, it’s a fantastic source of new affiliates. For example, we’ve done several promotional offers with our great friends over at AppSumo and it has resulted in almost 30% of all our new affiliate signups.

 

7. The 80/20 Rule Applies Here Too…But It’s More Like 90/10 With Affiliates

As you begin to start growing your base of affiliates, you’ll realize the horrible truth: Only about 5% of them actually do anything. I know, kinda sucky news, but it’s the reality of most affiliate programs. The good news though, is that the 5% can often send a lot of sales your way. So whatever you do, don’t disregard these high performing affiliates. Try to build a direct relationship with them and always be as helpful as possible. Some ways you can help these affiliates:

  • Provide them with brand assets, banners or any information they need about the product.
  • Help them with blog articles they write about your product.
  • Offer custom coupons they can offer to their audience (keep it reasonable ~10-15% so it doesn’t cut too deeply into your profit margins.)
  • Create content for them like pre-made tweets (make sure to include their affiliate link!), videos and even ‘lead magnets’.
  • Check in with them frequently to see if they need help with anything or even just to say hi.
  • Let them preview new features before they’re publicly available (this makes them feel like VIPs which everyone loves!)

 

8. YouTube Is A Great Place to Find Affiliates

YouTube is an especially good place to find affiliates because they’ll ultimately be creating high quality video content to showcase your product. Even better, if they decide to do “Tutorial style” videos, you can leverage that content and link your existing users/customers to it. So it’s kind of a triple whammy: Get a new affiliate + video content you don’t need to produce yourself + built-in social proof. New customers love hearing from someone — other than you — how great your product is!

 

9. Build a Drip Campaign To Nurture All Your Affiliate Signups

One important thing with new affiliates is remembering to nurture them effectively. If you don’t check in with them every now and then, they may forget all about you and probably won’t send as many referrals as they could. The reality is, you’ve probably got a ton of other things going on with your business and remembering to follow-up with new affiliates can be tough. So, let’s automate it!

To do this, you’ll need to use a service that can send a sequence of emails at a specific frequency, over a given period of time. This is often referred to as a “Drip” campaign. Some tools — just to name a few — that can help you do this:

We used Campaign Monitor for this, because that’s the service we use to manage all of our customer emails. Since Campaign Monitor offers drip tools in what they refer to as “Automation”, we were able to keep things all under one roof and avoid any additional integrations. For some inspiration, here’s our actual affiliate drip that is currently being used. Note that these emails are intended to be very plain looking, so they almost resemble a plain text email. They tend to get better engagement than heavily designed HTML emails.

 

10. Continue Nurturing with a Weekly Affiliate Newsletter

In addition to your affiliate drip campaign (or in place of it) it’s a solid idea to have a weekly affiliate newsletter as well. We’ve seen good stats with these often with over 40% open rates and 10% click through. Here’s an example of one of our affiliate newsletters:

In the newsletter we always include:

  • Links to helpful blog posts from other industry experts
  • Some ideas on how they can promote our service
  • Call to action to login to their affiliate dashboard
  • It can be good to have a ‘theme’ for each newsletter where you can focus on a particular channel for promotion, such as Twitter in the example above.

 

Summing Things Up

That’s a lot of information to take in, but follow these steps and you’ll start to see more and more affiliates trickling in. Much like anything else in growing your business, JAY-Z was right: Progress is a slow process. So this will definitely take some time. But stick with it and you’ll reap the rewards of an affiliate powered promotion engine.

Always be generous to your affiliates because whenever they succeed, you succeed! Keep a close eye on how much you’re paying out to affiliates every month. That number going up is a basic but great indicator that things are going well. One of the best feelings we’ve had as a company is not only seeing some of our own success, but that other people out there can actually make a real income just from promoting your product.

How are you running your affiliate program? Would love to hear some of the stuff that’s worked for you in the comments!

Blogger Outreach: How to Integrate Influencers Into Your Content Marketing Strategy

You’ve slaved away for days on a stellar piece of content for your business’ website. You’ve made sure that it’s optimized just the way that the experts advised. You uploaded it to your site and distributed it to your different social media channels and you gave yourself a well-deserved pat on the back… Then, the […]

You’ve slaved away for days on a stellar piece of content for your business’ website.

You’ve made sure that it’s optimized just the way that the experts advised.

You uploaded it to your site and distributed it to your different social media channels and you gave yourself a well-deserved pat on the back…

Then, the next day, you check your stats and…

You find…NOTHING!

Blogging Conspiracy Keanu

Clearly, the blog post was published, the pat on the back was given, what more do you need?

After all that hard work, you’ve got nothing to show, leaving you feeling frustrated, disappointed, and possibly, disillusioned.

But, whom are we kidding? You’re downright ticked off!

It’s enough for you to start thinking that all the benefits of content marketing are just hype and you’re seriously considering giving up.

Before you throw in the towel on content marketing, I want you to know that I’ve been there, and I feel your pain.

However, at the same time, I’m here to tell you about a strategy that I added into my content marketing activities that’s gotten influential bloggers and startup founders to share my content, get me some guest post invites, rank #2 in Google, and get new clients in the process.

That strategy is blogger outreach.

Blogger outreach (sometimes called influencer outreach) is getting other bloggers within your niche to promote your content and brand on their blog and social media accounts.

Not just any bloggers, of course.

We’re talking here of those established and influential bloggers that’s built themselves a loyal and active following (think Everette Taylor, Ryan Robinson, Joei Chan of Mention, and Growth Marketing Conference speaker and guest blogger, Sujan Patel).

 

Why include blogger outreach in your content marketing strategy?

Well, because it works.

How many times have you come across a blog that seemingly appeared from nowhere, and the author now the newest expert in your niche that’s rubbing elbows (and shoulders) with the A-list bloggers you dream would respond to your emails?

This is what blogger outreach can do for you and your content.

By taking the initiative, you’re getting your content you’ve worked on for hours (even days) the attention it deserves.

If you approach them the right way, blogger outreach can help you quickly build your brand’s credibility. As a result, you’ll start earning more high-quality inbound links, increase your site’s domain authority in Google as well as in other search engines. You’ll also begin attracting better-qualified leads to your business that you can convert into customers more efficiently. More important, you’ll be able to build a relationship with these influential bloggers and startup founders which can lead to co-marketing campaigns.

Tor Resfeld of Time Management Chef’s success is one example (and one of my inspirations).

In addition to getting featured in 158 blogs within 14 months, his blogger outreach efforts paved the way for him get invited to do speaking engagements and interviews that further help build his brand and credibility.

At the same time, the influential bloggers that he’s now developed a relationship with have started driving more qualified leads for his coaching business which went from $0 to $3000 per month in just three months.  

If that’s not enough to convince you to include blogger outreach into your existing content marketing strategy, check out these stats from Sprout Social:

  • 81% of people that go online trust the information they read from these influential blogs.
  • 63% of people today admit that they are more influenced to buy something recommended in a blog than elsewhere.
  • 61% of people purchase a product or service

Getting noticed: the biggest roadblock

All of this sounds well and good. The only problem is: how do you get these people even to notice you?

Ironically, since blogger outreach is an effective content marketing strategy, everyone in your niche that’s doing content marketing is trying to get the very same influencers to notice them. The thing is unless you do something different, the message you send out to these influencers will drown in their inboxes.

Aim to become a purple cow by tapping into untapped niches and making your marketing campaigns stand out. 

As well consider following influencers and editors via Twitter by turning on your mobile notifications to build organic relationships.

As well you may even discover what annoys them the most.

Tips From Editor To Get Featured in Fast Company

Tips To Get Featured in Forbes

Most of all avoid the number one mistake that every content marketer makes when trying to reach out to these influencers: focusing too much on themselves.

If you want to get the attention of these influencers, you need to turn the table around, i.e., making it all about how you can help the influencer.

Yes, it does seem counterintuitive.

After all, why should you be helping someone that’s already established? You’re the struggling newbie here. You’re the one that needs help, right?

It all goes back to the crux of content marketing, which is to create valuable, customer-centric content so that you can establish and build a mutually beneficial relationship. Just like with your target customers, these bloggers are always looking for quality content that provides value to them and their loyal followers.

When you can position yourself as someone who can do just that, you stand to have a much better chance catching their attention, and get them to pay attention to what is it that you have to offer.

 

Steps to integrate blogger outreach

Step 1: Revisit your content marketing goals

Before you start reaching out to influential bloggers, take a few minutes to revisit your content marketing goals because these will tell you what to ask the bloggers best you plan to contact.

Blogger outreach, like any good kind of content marketing strategy, will require a lot of time and effort.

For example, if your goal is to increase your site’s page rank, I found focusing your blogger outreach efforts towards participating in link roundups.

These are primarily blogs that feature other people’s posts that offer additional related and relevant content to their readers.

On the other hand, if you’re looking at using blogger outreach as a way to increase your revenue and get more clients at the door, you may get better results doing an epic roundup post.

This was the case with my good friend Ryan Robinson when he created a roundup post where he shares the best business advice from the most successful entrepreneurs.

Not only did this post build his brand’s credibility and authority, but it also helps him get five of these highly successful entrepreneurs to become his clients.

“While I’ve gone on to land paid contracts with several of the entrepreneurs I featured in my business advice roundup piece, it’s important to note that I didn’t start those conversations with the intention of selling them anything.

My goal was to provide value to them in the form of featuring them to my blog audience of 200,000 monthly readers and through writeups I later did on my publication columns.”

“It was only after this post started getting thousands of shares and once I began publishing pieces mentioning the influencers on my columns for sites like Forbes, Entrepreneur, and Inc that the gears started turning and I got a few requests to chat about how I might be able to help them create similarly successful content for their own blogs and for the startups they ran.

Since then, I’ve been replicating this process.

It’s been by far my most effective outbound selling technique, because it’s based on the foundation of providing massive upfront value (the way my clients want to receive it) and giving them a real-life preview of how my content marketing consulting process functions—rather than just a pitch on what I could do for them.”

 

Step 2: Consult your buyer persona

Even though influencers are your primary “target” when doing a blogger outreach, that doesn’t mean that you’ll have to disregard your buyer persona altogether.

On the contrary, your buyer persona is your compass that points you in the direction where your blogger outreach activities—and, consequently your entire content marketing strategy—should go.

That’s because one of the critical elements in creating a buyer persona is knowing your persona’s content preferences. Part of this is knowing who are the top influencers they follow.

These are the people that you’ll need to include in your blogger outreach list, which we’ll talk about next.

 

Step 3: Make your blogger “hit list”

Now that you’re clear on your content marketing goals and reviewed your buyer persona, the next step is to create your blogger “hit list,” which is mostly a list of influential bloggers in your niche that you want to reach out and build a relationship with.

To do this, first open a new document in Google sheets and create the following headings:

  • The name of the blog
  • The blog’s URL
  • The name of the blogger that owns the blog (you can find this on the blog’s About Page)
  • The blogger’s email address

Once you’ve gotten the headings in place, the next step is to fill them up.

Start off with those blogs you remember right on the top of your head as well as those that you picked up from your buyer persona. Here are some of the tools that I use to help me create and update my blogger outreach list:

 

Google Search

Google is one of the first places I go to when looking for influential bloggers to include in my blogger outreach list. Since Google places the blogs with much authority on the first page when you search, it makes perfect sense to include those that are listed on the first search results page.

In addition to those blogs that are listed on the first page of Google’s search results, I also do a search based on the suggested related searches Google lists at the bottom of their search engine results pages (SERPs).

Blogger Outreach Research

Aside from these being excellent places to also look for influential blogs within your niche, you can also take note of these keyword phrases and use them when creating content.

AllTop

AllTop is a curated list of high-quality blogs in practically every industry and niche. It’s an excellent place for you to discover quality blogs that are within your niche that you may not be familiar with.

When creating a search on AllTop, start off by using a generic keyword.

AllTop will give you a list of related categories based on the keyword you used.

AllTop Influencer Marketing Strategy

Choose the category that best describes the kinds of blogs you’re looking for. AllTop will then give you a list of the all the blogs in that specific category that they classified as being of high-quality.

 

FollowerWonk

Unlike the first two, this tool developed by Moz doesn’t provide you a list of blogs. Instead, it gives you a list of the bios of the people that contain the keyword you used to search.

What’s great about this is that it not only gives you the blogger’s Twitter handle so you can have a way to connect with them, but it also gives you their social authority rank, which is the blogger’s influential content on Twitter.   

One thing to remember when using FollowerWonk is that is lists down all the social authority ranks of everyone whose bios include the keyword you used when searching.

A quick way how to find the most influential ones is to click on the Social Authority tab on the rightmost part of the screen.

Twitter Blogger Outreach Strategy

This will sort out the Twitter handles from highest to lowest social authority ranking, and make it easier to weed out the one worth reaching out to.

 

BuzzSumo

BuzzSumo works very much like FollowerWonk in that it gives you a list of the Twitter handles of the influential bloggers whose bios include the keyword you used in your search.

Of the two, I tend to use this more frequently because it offers a lot more useful information.

For starters, while BuzzSumo doesn’t provide the influencer’s social authority on Twitter, it does give you the domain authority of the influencer’s blog.

This metric gives you an estimate on how well a website or blog ranks on Google and other search engine results pages. The higher the domain authority, the better it will rank.

BuzzSumo Influencer Marketing Research Tool

Another useful piece of information BuzzSumo gives is the average retweets. This metric gives you an average estimate of the number of times an influencer’s post is retweeted by others.

Then there is the influencer’s retweet ratio.

This tells you what percentage of tweets the influencer puts out are retweets. In the image above, for example, Brian Clark of Copyblogger has a 40% retweet ratio. That means that for every 100 tweets he shares on Twitter, 40 of were retweets of other people’s content.

Ideally, you’d want to look for influencers with a very high domain authority, retweet ratio, and average tweets.

These are the best influencers to include in your blogger outreach list.

The number of influencers to include in your list greatly depends on your business.

If you run a niche-specific business, 30 influencers is a good starting point. On the other hand, a blogger outreach list with 100 influencers will be a better option for someone running a SaaS startup.

 

Step 4: Segment your list into tiers

Separating your influencers into different tiers is essential for you to get the most out from your blogger outreach efforts.

Not all blogs are created equal, neither is the manner on how you approach each influencer in your niche.

Getting straight to the point can work with most bloggers when you reach out to them while a little bit more TLC is needed if you’re approaching industry leaders, which can take some time.

By segmenting your list, you’ll be able to maximize your time by starting to generate some buzz and gain some quick wins for you and your business.

 

Step 5: Getting on their radar

Believe it or not, even influential and well-established bloggers keep a close watch on how their content is performing. You can use this to your advantage by regularly sharing their content and commenting on their blog posts to get them to notice you. Unfortunately, the mistake that lots of people do when they try using this technique to grab the influencer’s attention is that they only leave a relatively general comment like the infamous “Great post!” comment.

Let me throw a bit of tough love here: you’re not going to get anywhere when you leave comments like this on their blog posts or when you share their comments on social media.

If you want to grab their attention, take the time to craft a well-thought-of comment to leave in their blog posts. Not only will this be a way for you to show to the influencer that you’re able to provide insights that will help add value to their readers, but it will also help you stand out from the rest of the many others leaving comments on their blog.

Now, when it comes to sharing their posts on social media, make sure that you don’t forget to mention them in the post by using the @ on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn or the “+” on Google+. That way, the influencer will get a notification on their end that you shared their content and left a few insightful thoughts about it as well.

Another method I found to be effective in getting the attention of influencers is by answering questions they send to their followers. Again, this is an excellent opportunity for you to add value to their followers, and get their attention.

When Web Hosting Secret Revealed surveyed what online business owners consider as the best website development tool or platform to use. My response got me featured in the blog post along with the likes of Justin Metros (founder of Radiator), Efe Cakinberk (CEO of Smart DNS Proxy), and Zane McIntyre (owner of Commission Factory).

WishPond Featuring Top Inbound Marketing Consultant Kevin Payne

If you’ve written a piece of content that turns out to be similar or relevant to an existing article an influencer wrote, you can send an email offering to help improve their resources.

After I published my post on the 25 Lead Generation Strategies for SaaS Startups,  I happened to stumble upon James Scherer’s blog post all about using gated content. Even though it’s been two years since he wrote it, the topic was still very relevant.

Since I also talked about using gated content in my blog post, I decided to reach out to James about it.

Not long after, I received a reply from him and I was even more ecstatic when I saw that James listed my blog post as #3 in the list of the related article resource section at the bottom of the blog post:

Lead generation Strategies For Saas Startups

In just a little over a month, this blog post is now ranking #2 in Google beating content written in both Forbes and Inc.com.

Here is another case where The Muse contributor Caroline Liu included a link to my post as one of the resources in her article on finding your life’s passion right alongside prominent names like Entrepreneur, Forbes, and online business entrepreneur Marie Forleo.

How To Find Your Passion in Life

However, my favorite blogger outreach technique would have to be sending a courtesy email to influential bloggers I featured in my blog posts because it’s what gave me the most results regarding my blogger outreach efforts with roundup blog posts.

Since I’m an African American male I have written several articles on minorities (based on ethnic background and gender) in the tech startup scene which has begun to lead to me being able to interview prominent figures via Skype and phone who I wouldn’t have otherwise been able to connect with.

Unlike offering a resource to an influential blogger, a courtesy email is a more direct approach of letting the influencer know that you’ve mentioned them in your blog post and that you’ve included a link to their content.

Even if they are influencers and industry leaders in your niche, they still love it when they learn that you’ve found their content extremely valuable that you’ve used it as a resource in your blog.

Here are some of the things that happened so far as a result of using this technique:

Received a retweet on Twitter from Everette Taylor, a marketing influencer with over 375K followers:

Everette Top Marketer Via Twitter

Received a tweet share from my good friend, Ryan Robinson:

Ryan Robinson: Content Marketer On Twitter

Step 6: Focus on building relationships

This is crucial if you’re aiming to get industry leaders to endorse your business, let alone acknowledge you.

Let’s face it: industry leaders tend to have their guard up whenever businesses and entrepreneurs try to approach them. That’s because more often than not, they do so because they need something from them.

Even though that may be the case, do your best to resist the urge just to ask them a favor. Instead, focus on nothing more than establishing and building a genuine relationship with them. Slowly, the walls will go down, and it will be easier for you to ask them for help.

That was what happened with Jamie Turner of the 60 Second Marketer and me. Unlike the other influencers, I connected with him back in 2016, and he became one of my mentors (and still is). It was not only early this month when I finally submitted a guest post on writing buyer personas for him to consider.

Within a week, he told me that the guest post I sent was approved and published.

 

The Final Step…

I’ve just shared with you what blogger outreach is and the steps to take to integrate it into your content marketing strategy.

Just remember, when reaching out to influencers, make sure that you focus on how you can help them and provide them with additional value.

Yes, blogger outreach takes time.

Yes, blogger outreach requires much effort on your part.

However, in the end, it’s a worthwhile investment that will help take your brand out of the shadows and into the spotlight.

Have you ever attempted to include blogger outreach into your content marketing strategy?

What technique did you use that yielded the most results for you? How has it affected your brand and your business?