“Help! No one is reading my content!” We have some thoughts …
Whether your site is big or small, we all want more engaged visitors who are reading, watching, and listening to our content.
In this 23-minute episode, Sonia talks about:
- The smartest place (usually) to send paid traffic
- How to generate the “signals of quality” that search engines use to rank good content
- The keys to making content more shareable
- Connecting your content with someone else’s audience
- Why I’m not a fan of purging non-buyers from your email list
The Show Notes
- Our ebook on Effective Content Promotion (free with your My Copyblogger registration)
- Another free ebook in the same library, How to Create Compelling Content that Ranks Well in Search Engines
- My (highly opinionated) post on The Right Way to Think about Google
- If you’re looking to buy some traffic, we’re fans of Andrea Vahl for many things, including her expertise in Facebook advertising
- If you want a bigger audience, you need to make your content easy to share. Here’s a post I wrote on how to do that: A 7-Point Plan for More Shareable Content
- I’m always happy to see your questions or your thoughts on Twitter @soniasimone — and of course it’s always great to see your thoughts in the comments.
Getting More Traffic, Links, and Shares to Your Content
Voiceover: Rainmaker FM.
Sonia Simone: This episode of Copyblogger FM is brought to you by the Rainmaker Platform. I’ll tell you a little bit more about this complete solution for digital marketing and sales later, but you can check it out and take a free spin for yourself at RainmakerPlatform.com.
Well hello there. It is good to see you again. Welcome back to Copyblogger FM, the content marketing podcast. Copyblogger FM is about emerging content marketing trends, interesting disasters, and enduring best practices, along with the occasional rant.
My name is Sonia Simone. I’m the chief content officer for Rainmaker Digital, and I like to hang out with the folks who do the heavy lifting over on the Copyblogger blog. You can always pick up additional links, additional free resources, and other cool things by visiting Copyblogger.FM. That’s also where you’ll find the complete archive for the show.
Today I thought I would talk about one of my favorite topics, and that is how to get more people to your content — how to get more traffic, how to get more ‘likes,’ more shares, how to expand the size of your network, and how to get more people paying attention to the content that you’re writing or producing, either audio or visual.
Because if nobody can find it, nobody can act on it. Content marketing that doesn’t have any traffic also doesn’t have any effectiveness.
Today I’m going to talk about a couple of fairly tried-and-true ways to pick up traffic to get more attention to your content. But I also have a resource for you that spells out some additional strategies, because it’s a big topic, and there are multiple ways to do this.
Actually, before we start, I want to touch on that. Which is: If you only get traffic from one place, you’re putting yourself in a really vulnerable position. For example, there was a time when probably the easiest way to get traffic was to buy it in the form of Google AdWords, to use Google’s advertising platform to buy your traffic. It was very cost effective. It worked really well.
Then a couple of things happened. One, Google would occasionally just shut down somebody’s account for no discernible reason. There was something about it that felt hinky to Google, and they just pulled the plug on it, because they’re Google. And the other thing is that those ads quit being quite so cost effective and started to be actually pretty expensive. If your entire business had depended on being able to buy traffic cheaply from Google, you had a significant problem.
The strategies I’m talking about today, you’re probably not going to want to attack all of them at once, but you want to create a long-term plan for yourself to diversify your sources of attention. Make sure that there are lots of different ways people can find you, people can get to you. Some of them are going to work better than others. That’s just the nature of how things work. You really want to have a diverse profile for how people can find you, so that you don’t have unpleasant surprises with your project or with your business.
Let’s talk about that first source of traffic, which is paid traffic. Now this one waxes and wanes. As I mentioned, there was a time when Google was a great source of very reasonably priced traffic. That’s less true than it used to be, but right now there are some other options.
For example, Facebook has some very cost-effective traffic, and it’s crazy how well targeted it is. Is that going to last forever? Highly unlikely. Paid traffic, good sources of paid traffic, kind of come and go. Right now we’re having a good moment for paid traffic.
Some people are having really nice luck with LinkedIn Paid Traffic, although it is very expensive. For some businesses it is also very cost-effective, because the payout is really good. If you are in a time when paid traffic is working well and you have a good source, it’s a great thing. It’s a wonderful thing to be able to turn the faucet on and off by running more ads or fewer ads.
Paid traffic is one of those things that changes all the time. Andrea Vahl did a really good presentation for us at our live event in Denver on it, for those of you who saw her there.
The Smartest Place (Usually) to Send Paid Traffic
I won’t get into specifics about how to pull it off, because that’s going to change. But I will give you a kind of enduring principle for it. Which is, if you are going to pay for traffic, you’re going to do a pay-per-click advertising program of some kind, what normally works best — and, again, you always have to test when you’re paying for traffic. What normally works best is to send your traffic, the clicks from Facebook or Google or what have you, to strong content that has a call to action to join your email list.
One of the cool things about paid traffic is you can test, for example, which content works particularly well for you. What calls to action work particularly well for you, and then what kinds of offers do well with the traffic that you get? Do you have different offers for your Facebook traffic than your LinkedIn traffic? You probably would.
Paid traffic, when it’s working — and it is working right now — it’s a nice way to boost the signal. I wouldn’t rely on it 100 percent, because again it does wax and wane.
The other time-tested and nail-biting way to get traffic is our old friend SEO, search engine optimization. Almost everybody who’s online has thought about SEO at some point, which is the fine art of getting to a high spot on Google’s first page of the Google search engine results page. Yes, there are other search engines, but when we’re talking SEO, most of the time we are talking about Google.
It’s less technical than it used to be. I will give you kind of a principle for ranking well in search engines, which is that search engines are programmed to detect ‘signals of quality,’ to detect signals that a piece of content is good.
How to Generate the ‘Signals of Quality’ That Search Engines Use to Rank Good Content
The smartest way to play that game is to create content that generates these signals of quality by being good. If you have content that is useful, if you have content that is interesting, and if you have content that speaks to actual audience problems that they care about and solves them in a good way, you will throw off what are called signals of quality.
For example, people will link to you, because your content is good. People will spend more time on your site, because your content is good. People will do all the other things that generate signals of quality.
Volume is helpful. In other words, having a lot of content is helpful, at least today, but only if it’s good. A large volume of thin, weak content — Google kicked that to the curb years ago. Another thing that is helpful is to have a reasonably tight topic focus.
If you have a site about vegan nutrition, then it’s helpful if that’s mostly what you talk about. You talk about specific elements of vegan nutrition in different contexts, and you don’t spend a lot of time talking about the election or favorite distraction at the moment or other topics.
It doesn’t mean you never talk about other topics. It doesn’t mean that you don’t throw in some personal anecdotes or personal stories, things like that. But you’re not doing that for SEO purposes. If it’s too diffuse, the algorithms can sometimes have a hard time figuring out what your site is about.
When you think about ranking in search engines, think about a big useful robot who’s trying to understand your site. What could you do to the site that would help the big useful robot understand what it was about? That’s a useful way to think about it, because it is actually reality.
The algorithms behave just like a robot would. They are in some ways very sophisticated, and in other ways they’re still a bit primitive. Make it simple for the robot to understand what you’re doing. But always with search engine optimization, create content for audiences first, search engines only very distant second.
The Keys to Making Content More Shareable
One of the most important factors when you’re trying to optimize your content for search engines and other forms of sharing is, you want to make sure that your content is very shareable. This actually brings me to a concept that I talk about sometimes called the second customer.
Your customer is somebody who buys from you. That’s a client, a person who pays for your product or service. Simple, right? The second customer is a person who may not actually buy what you have. They may not be in the market for what you have, they may be too advanced, or they just may not be in the market for what you sell.
But they have an audience of people who pay attention to them, and they talk you up. This could be a big blogger, it could be something with a massive social media presence, but it can also just be somebody who has a lot of friends who are interested in the kind of topic that your business is around.
These are the people. They think what you’re doing is cool, they think the way that you are doing it is cool, and they will share your content like crazy, if you give them the opportunity.
Why Sonia’s Not a Fan of Purging Non-Buyers from Your Email List
This is one reason that I happen to believe that purging your email list of people that you don’t think are clicking or that you don’t think are buying is not a good idea, because you do not know what’s hiding there in the behavior.
Email lists are not perfectly transparent. We don’t always see when somebody comes to our site. Maybe they picked up a link in their email box, and they said, “Oh, Copyblogger. There’s a new Copyblogger post up.” They may not click on the link. They may go right to the site. They may forward it to a friend, who ends up being an amazing customer. They may tell their own lists about it. They may talk you up on social media. They maybe using a different email address with their PayPal.
I’m not a fan of this idea of purging your email list of people who don’t click or don’t buy. You save a couple of cents on your email program, but I think what you potentially miss out on, even if you’re only missing out on a few people whose behavior you can’t see, I just don’t think the upside is there.
Checking in with my friends who are more knowledgeable than I am about the technology of email, I can’t find anybody who really believes that you get into more spam filters if you have kind of dead weight on your list, if you have people on your list who just aren’t engaged. The people I’m talking to don’t think that’s true, so that’s probably one of those topics of high controversy that we could have a conversation about.
The second customer is somebody who shares your material, may or may not be a buyer. What does it take to make that person happy? What does it take to make the influencers share your content?
First, of course, you know I’m going to say this: Your content has to be good. What does that mean? It means that your content has to be useful and it has to be interesting. It needs to be both. Your content solves some kind of useful problem that annoys people, and it does that in an engaging and interesting way with some personality. It’s lively, it’s easy to read, and it’s enjoyable to consume.
When you want to optimize sharing, you also want to make sure that your site has immediate appeal. That means it doesn’t look shady. Your web design’s not super dated. The colors are reasonably nice. The design is reasonably good. It does not have to win a design award, but it has to look reasonably good.
It also needs to be formatted well, so you haven’t created this wall of gray-on-gray text in a tiny little font that nobody can read. You’ve used things like subheads to break up your content and make it fresh, approachable, readable, and shareable.
We’re going to pause here for just a moment and hear a few words about the Rainmaker Platform.
This episode of Copyblogger FM is brought to you by the Rainmaker Platform. I have to tell you, I have owned a digital business in one form or another for a long time. When I started out, I have to say, building a reasonably complex, functioning website was just hard. It was expensive. It took a lot longer than you wanted it to. And it didn’t necessarily work exactly the way that you hoped it would work when you rolled it out.
Those kinds of frustrations were exactly what led us to develop the Rainmaker Platform. We wanted to make it simple enough that you could make a fast start, but also robust enough that you could add that more complex functionality that can change things for a digital business.
I’m talking about elements like a membership community, multiple products, free and paid products, and email automation. We also threw in all of the things that tend to be a hassle to manage. Rainmaker Platform includes premium hosting, it includes all of your WordPress upgrades, and it includes some very serious security, as well as your business email. All of that is wrapped up in your choice of dozens of great-looking mobile-responsive design frameworks, which you can literally change anytime you like by clicking a button.
I have to say, right now Rainmaker Platform, which includes the premium hosting, includes all the features — the cool membership capability, the email automation, landing pages, podcasting tools, all the bells and whistles. Right now, Rainmaker Platform is a lower monthly fee than I was paying just for email on my old personal site.
I don’t need any kind of expensive consulting to get it set up. I can just get started. That’s not an uncommon scenario. It all works together, which means it works. And as your sophistication as a business owner grows, the features are there to grow right with you.
You can get started at Rainmaker.FM/Platform. Right now you can get 14 days free to try it out and get a taste for how quickly you can get up and running with a truly powerful website for your business. You can get that rolling at Rainmaker.FM/Platform.
Then, of course, you know your site has to be secure. If you have a problem with that and your site gets hacked, that really takes a toll on your shareability. People, obviously, they’re not going to want to share content from a site that’s been hacked, and you’ll have a little residue of unease around that for a while.
Obviously things happen, sites do get hacked. You just want to take it very seriously, take your site’s security very seriously to minimize the chance of that happening and to fix it very promptly if it does happen.
The overarching principle that makes the second customer share, that makes anybody share content, is that it makes them look like heroes for finding it. That goes back to the useful and interesting. If you publish something really cool and nifty, those influencers — that’s what they do, they go around on the web and they find things that are cool and nifty and share them. That person becomes a hero with their audience for sharing it.
Connecting Your Content with Someone Else’s Audience
The second customer is sort of one angle on something that people call ‘OPT,’ other people’s traffic, you could call it ‘other people’s audience.’ That’s sitting down, if you are not getting the amount of people you want to get for your content — your written content, audio content, I don’t care what it is. You need to think about who else has the audience that you want.
Now some industries are what’s been called a non-zero-sum game. What that means is, nobody buys one diet book. The number of diet books that people buy is either zero or a whole bunch. People who buy diet books — diets don’t really work very well, so people buy one thinking, “Well this one’s going to do it.” And then it doesn’t do it, and then they buy another one.
Business books are this way, hopefully not for exactly the same reason, but because business is a complex topic. It’s a topic about really executing on the fundamentals, which I think you could also argue fitness and nutrition is also true of.
People need ongoing refreshment on the fundamentals. New ways of thinking about them, new takes on them, and just new inspiration to keep executing on the basics. Study guides, even — if you’re going to take a big test, if you’re going to take the LSAT or something like that, you probably pick up two or three or four study guides and then focus most of your time on the one you find the best. But you bought three or four.
There’s some industries in which it’s not a zero-sum game. You can have more than one winner. If that is your kind of business, then there will be other publishers in your topic, and you will have more success together than you will individually.
If you are a fitness blogger or a nutrition blogger, make lots of friends in your industry and be on one another’s podcasts, hang out on one another’s Facebook pages, and create content for each other. Obviously among people who have the same philosophies you do, the same basic ethos of your topic that you do, more is better. You can go farther together than you can by yourself.
Sometimes, either for real reasons or for illusory reasons, we are playing a zero-sum game. If I’m going to get knee surgery, I’m going to use one surgeon, right? I’m not going to get knee surgery with this doctor and then just get knee surgery on the other knee with another doctor, because that was so much fun the first time.
Some things really are a zero-sum game. There is a winner and everybody else loses. Obviously, elections work this way. Sometimes it’s not a zero-sum game, but people think it is.
I remember I had a beauty blogger in one of our communities. She was really frustrated, because she couldn’t get anywhere to guest post, because other beauty bloggers were kind of jealous of their position and they didn’t want to share content with anybody else. They didn’t want to give anybody else space on their blog.
That is less true now. So the beauty YouTubers, the beauty bloggers, and the nail bloggers and YouTubers, they do kind of hang out on each other’s channels. At the time, the perception wasn’t there. The perception was that it was a zero-sum game, and she couldn’t get any traction with other beauty bloggers.
That’s when you ask yourself that question: Who else has the audience that I want? If you’re a beauty blogger, there’s all kinds of content creators that might want to talk with you, have you create a guest post, or have you on a podcast. Anything from parenting bloggers, to somebody blogging about career and professionalism, to somebody blogging about work–life balance.
There’s all kinds of things. Those people have the audience you want, you just have to craft your content to build the bridge.
Those are some preliminary ideas for finding more traffic. You can pay for it, you can network for it — so you can go out to other people’s audiences, other blogs, other content publishers, also other big social media presences, like someone with a big Facebook page. You can use organic search. That one, again, a little bit like paid traffic, be careful about relying on organic search for all your traffic, because the algorithms do change and businesses do get left high and dry if 100 percent of your business is coming from search.
Other Tactics for Finding More Traffic
There are some other techniques and tactics that I have talked about. I actually have a free ebook. It’s called Effective Content Promotion. It talks about what I talked about today, but it also talks about things, like why you can get more traffic by making more enemies. It talks about using the power of community identity. We’ve been talking a lot about that on Copyblogger lately.
It gets into four ways that guest blogging can help you grow your audience, and guest blogging’s still very powerful. Sometimes people think it doesn’t work anymore, but actually, if you do it correctly and you understand why you’re doing it, it works very well. It does not work as a cheap SEO tactic, but it works very well when it’s done well as an audience-growing technique that also has SEO benefits.
In some ways, kind of the hardest part is finding other people in your network, finding people other content publishers — again, the people with the big Facebook group. And not only finding them, but making a meaningful connection to them. I also included a 10-point plan for connecting with influencers.
That really comes from my own observation and watching how people interact with me, how I have interacted with other people — people I have been able to reach, people I haven’t been able to reach — and just really sharing everything I’ve observed on that topic.
I think it’s tricky. It’s a little bit emotionally laden, because we admire people, and sometimes we get a little insecure about approaching them. But there really are some ways to do it that can be very effective, as well as a few ways to do it that are not so effective that we’ll talk about as well.
That ebook is called Effective Content Promotion. It is part of the free content marketing library at My Copyblogger. We have I don’t even remember how many, a whole bunch, like way over a dozen free ebooks for you on all different elements of content marketing strategy.
There is an ebook there on search engine optimization that I think you’ll find very helpful, as well things like content strategy, keyword research.
You can get access to the complete content marketing library by going to Copyblogger.com. If you look on the education tab, there’s a little subsection there free, My Copyblogger. That’s where all of the cool free stuff is. You can get access to it right away, drop your email address in there, and we will get the whole library over to you, as well as some other stuff that I think you’re going to find useful.
That’s it for today. If you have a favorite traffic strategy, drop it in the comments. We would love to hear more about it. You can find those at Copyblogger.FM.