5 Traffic Strategies That Build Your Curation Audience

This is the third of three core lessons related to content curation based on a case study of my new email newsletter Further.

You can listen to the initial two episodes here:

Now we tackle the eternal question: how do you get traffic to your curation site so you can build an email list? Should we start building a war chest for advertising?

Not yet. First we’re going to apply some creativity and sweat into driving traffic. Some of these methods are tried and true, but need to be executed a certain way for a curation project. Others are seemingly a little “outside the box,” and yet they complement a curated email newsletter perfectly.

In this 22-minute episode Robert Bruce and I discuss:

  • What makes curated content shareable and linkable
  • The best audience building strategy on the planet
  • How to borrow (and delight) a massive audience
  • How to get others to share your curated content
  • Why infographics are pure media curation
  • How to take advantage of visual microcontent
  • The true value of iTunes for audience building
  • The podcast interview as valuable curation content
  • The viral catalyst that exploded Copyblogger in the early days

The Show Notes

5 Traffic Strategies That Build Your Curation Audience

Robert Bruce: So, I’m in the middle of the Oregon winter here, which means rain all the time, and you’ve set up this company meeting in Dallas. So I’m thinking, “Great, I’ll get some sun. Go to Dallas. Get some sunshine and get out of the rain for a little bit.” I get there and it’s raining, and 25F. I thought you had connections down there?

Brian Clark: It wasn’t me who chose Dallas. I would have stayed right here at home, and that’s what we are going to do next time.

Robert Bruce: Oh yeah. But it’s snowing there, right? How much snow is on the ground right now?

Brian Clark: It’s all gone.

Robert Bruce: All right. Brian, this episode is titled “5 Traffic Strategies That Build Your Curation Audience.” Of course, that means paid advertising, right?

Brian Clark: Not yet but we are going to get into that topic, which is a new one for us. And you can bet I’m going to be having some smarter than me guests on those shows because I literally want free consulting. Isn’t that a great gig about having a podcast? I’m going to ring up some really smart people and say, “Hey, want to come on the show?”

Robert Bruce: I’m starting to think that might be the only reason to have a podcast.

Brian Clark: It may be.

What Makes Curated Content Shareable and Linkable

Robert Bruce: All right. Now, you’ve got a great list of five things here, a couple of which people will be familiar with. But, there is a reason we keep beating these drums because this is what you have got to do. Right? Starting with something that everybody listening to this and anyone familiar with what we do, is going to be familiar with, which is content.

Brian Clark: Number one is content. We are going to talk about it again but very specifically in the context of curation. Because the general rule of thumb that you would think, is that the original content providers that you are curating get more benefit from sharing and linking than you do. Right?

And that’s why I have been trying to lead by example and also steer people away from the link post, like we used to do in the old days of blogging. Just a collection of links. Maybe just the meta description from the publisher themselves. No original content.

The problem with that is it’s not sharable and it’s not linkable. And here’s what I mean by that. Number one of course, shareable. Last week we talked about the good old fashion early days of the social share button, which was the email forward. And I even made a joke about that in this week’s issue of Further because that was truly awful, when some people forwarded every stupid email joke they got 5 times a day.

So that’s not going to happen. But, it is conceivable that when you put out a good publication by email, you are going to get the benefit of forwards. You know, when you subscribe to something cool and it’s perfect for someone else, it’s just easy to hit ‘Forward’ and send it along.

You and I do that, right? That’s about it. You aren’t going to get the tweets. You aren’t going to get the Facebook shares. You’ve got to create curation that is content.

So on one end, Jason Hirschhorn, who does Media Refined is just links, and I share that content all the time. Not his. I share the articles themselves and Jason is not getting the benefit of that. Then on the other end of the spectrum, Brain Pickings. Maria. What’s her last name?

Robert Bruce: Popova.

Brian Clark: Yeah. She’s a genius. But that’s all curation. She quotes liberally. I think she pushes the bounds of fair use but in a good way.

She constructs new and original content, even though she still is, either reviewing a book and quoting from it, or some other piece of work. So she is the curator’s curator and that site gets linked to and shared across the board.

So somewhere in the middle of that is Further and that’s why I took the format that I did with a feature, which often at times might be, as in this week, it’s really talking about one chapter in a book. So it’s not freely available on the web but it’s still curation. And that kind of stands alone as something that is getting shared, as we speak.

The other thing I want to talk about with your content is even more so, no one is going to link to a list of links. But if you do have that content standalone feel, then you might attract links, which is a good thing. But more importantly, as we talk about in the next section, you can link to yourself.

Robert Bruce: Okay. So if anybody has any confusion about this, you can go over to Further.net and see what Brian is talking about in terms of how he is doing it, because it is a different kind of curation play than what you are probably normally familiar with, in creating a piece of content that is shareable. Yes.

How to Borrow (and Delight) a Massive Audience

Robert Bruce: Okay. Let’s move onto number two. And that is good old fashioned guest posting.

Brian Clark: Absolutely. Now everything from Zen Habits by Leo, to some of our marketing friends, entire businesses have been built with their own content and then going on a mad blitz of creating content in other channels and pointing people back to your home base.

Now, that actually works really well with a curation project because you are not going to contribute content to someone, if they don’t allow you to have a bio with a link back to your site, and a compelling description.

Last week we talked about creating a really high value ethical bribe. This is where it comes in handy. That’s a call to action and you want it to be as compelling as possible. So at a bare minimum, if you are going to be out guest posting, that’s what you are looking for in return.

I say link to yourself. Now the bio is great, the link is great and the call to action is great. But if you can link to yourself editorially and have it be valid, because think about it, you are writing articles on the same topic that you curate. Right? In fact, some of the features that I’ve done for Further, with just a tiny bit of elaboration, could be stand alone articles on someone else’s site.

And what I am talking about when you can link to yourself in the body of the content. If you have a relevant feature, even if it’s curated, say it is a book review to a certain degree, but if you look at what I did in this week’s issue of Further, it’s not necessarily a book review, it’s actually sharing a small part of what I learned from the book.

So it kind of is a stand alone educational piece of content. So if I am off writing say, Mind Body Green, or some other website where I am trying to attract that target audience, I can link back to myself and if they are cool with it editorially, because it is a stand alone piece of content, that’s a very valuable way to guest post.

So not everyone is going to agree and you need to make sure you only do that with your best stuff but it is a benefit, going back to why content is a traffic strategy. Because you need people linking to you but you also need to be able to point back to that content on your guest posting spree because you will build traffic a lot faster that way.

Robert Bruce: Yeah. A couple of quick finer points on guest posting. I’m going to link a few articles we’ve written into the show notes for this episode because we’ve gone on and on and on about this. Obviously you want to target sites and media properties that are related to your topical market. Things that are going to make sense.

Brian Clark: Yeah, who’s audience do you want to borrow?

Robert Bruce: Yeah.

Brian Clark: Because that’s what guest posting is.

Robert Bruce: Yep. Also, patience is a thing here. I’ve just had a conversation with Stephanie Flaxman, our Editor in Chief over at Copyblogger.com and she told me something that I had completely forgotten about. And that is, she told me that her editing business is still going and that several years ago, I don’t remember the timeline, but she sent in a guest post submission to Copyblogger that was not accepted. Then probably two and a half years later, here she is employed by Copyblogger.

In your example here you are not talking necessarily about employment, but, the idea being patience. The idea being, “Keep doing your best work. Keep submitting.” And over time you build that relationship, which you’ve talked about a lot. How in the early days of Copyblogger nobody knew you, you were a nobody in this field and you built relationships over time, slowly through writing for other sites. Bigger and bigger sites. And I think that’s one of the main benefits of guest posting is, the relationships you build with those other publishers.

Brian Clark: Absolutely. Those relationships feed every other strategy. When people know you, they are more likely to share, are more likely to link and they are more likely to agree to come on your show as a guest. You get access to people and that’s immeasurably valuable.

Why Infographics are Pure Media Curation

Robert Bruce: Let’s move onto number three. And this is something that we have done quite a bit of but we haven’t really talked about it a lot, and that is image marketing. What do you mean by this?

Brian Clark: In past shows we talked about how because of you complaining about my stock photos, I stumbled onto a combination of image and a quote, along with a certain black and white feel. It’s amazing. I mean the same piece of content gets shared four or five times more with the different image.

Robert Bruce: Is that still happening? Are you still seeing those results?

Brian Clark: Yeah, that’s still happening. And it really just depends on the topic. You know, my John Lydon image of this week has not been shared as much as the Albert Einstein from last week but I don’t care. I wanted to do the Lydon image and I’m having a great time with it. It’s still doing better than with no image or kind of a lame stock photo.

This opens up a whole bunch of possibilities where the images that you are creating for your post are getting pinned on Pinterest, you can share them on Instagram and all sorts of stuff that I have never really done before. So in future episodes, I will be sharing with the audience how this is going. But one thing I have been thinking about all along is, that infographics are curation. They are a collection of reference sources. If you ever look at the bottom of an infographic, you’ll see all the links to the sources of the material.

Now as you are curating over time, you are going to start coming up with thematic bundles of content that will lend themselves to piecing them together in a visual form. So, you’ll definitely see me experimenting with putting infographics together. I’ve got a few ideas but if you hit the right infographic, it spreads like crazy. You get links back every time it’s put on another site. If you embed the code, like you do at the bottom, it’s amazing. It’s an amazing traffic strategy. It’s more cost intensive. I don’t expect anyone, including me, to just jump in and create an infographic, but like I said, doing the job provides you the material. You know what stuff is resonating with people and then you put something together that takes off.

I’m going to experiment on my dime, for you guys, to see what happens. So we’ll talk about it more in the future.

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A quick note here Brian, we saw some cool stuff that’s coming out in Rainmaker at the company meeting in Dallas. Any thoughts in particular on what you saw? Little previews or in conversation.

Brian Clark: What I saw was amazing and of course, I would expect nothing else. But some of the ideas that go beyond what’s coming in the next two months, holy cow. Yeah, that’s what’s really got me excited but we’ll talk about that in the future.

The True Value of iTunes for Audience Building

Robert Bruce: Yeah. A couple of those things that we saw related to item number four here, in your list of five traffic strategies to build your curation audience, and that is iTunes.

We’ve been talking some weird stuff about iTunes. Not weird generally, but weird maybe in the context of Copyblogger. Things that we have never talked about before.

Brian Clark: Yeah, iTunes is amazing. Podcasting has more than arrived. 2014 was the big breakthrough year where it all kind of came together. Great content, ease of subscription, familiarity with the medium.

With Bluetooth being braindead easy in your car and all that kind of stuff, people are listening to podcasts like crazy because it is mobile entertainment. Its on demand education. It’s a lot of cool stuff. So to ignore it as a curator, I think is a mistake.

The Podcast Interview as Valuable Curation Content

Brian Clark: Now, we talked about this in the past, that the podcast interview is another example of curation. You are asking questions of someone else’s expertise in order to inform and educate your audience. So there’s that. And of course, you can use three, five, seven of those type interviews to create that ethical bribe.

Of course, put it in Rainmaker, drip it out into an access strategy, so when you are going out with guest posting and you are pulling back to your site and are trying to maximise opt-ins, you’ve got a very compelling free offer, in addition to the regular curation that you are going to be doing week to week. But get this, this later occurred to me, and it’s funny because I didn’t think about it from the beginning, but the way that I am doing these features, how long do you think that would be for me to recite that in audio format? Maybe two or three minutes each?

Robert Bruce: Yeah, somewhere around there.

Brian Clark: It’s a perfect bite-sized podcast.

Robert Bruce: Yep.

Brian Clark: And, so then you are saying, “Well how do you drive people back to your site?” Well, all the links are on the site, so you basically say, “If you want the show notes related to this podcast, go to Further.net/current” because each week would coincide with the current issue. And then of course you have got “plus, you’ll get links to over another dozen amazing stories about health, wealth and wisdom.”

So you are doing your own Paul Harvey. There is true added benefit to go back to the site. Once they are there, hopefully they say, “Hell, I don’t want to take a chance on missing this again” and they hop on the email list.

So audio. I think it’s unconventional to pair an email newsletter with a podcast but wait a minute, isn’t that exactly what we did with this very show at the beginning?

Robert Bruce: Yeah.

Brian Clark: We built an email list and we’re more concerned with that, than we were necessarily with iTune subscriptions but both grew in tandem.

Robert Bruce: So I can send you my rate card for voice over services?

Brian Clark: Uh well, we can discuss something to that effect, related to your continued compensation.

Robert Bruce: Continued? You heard it hear.

The Viral Catalyst That Exploded Copyblogger in the Early Days

Robert Bruce: Okay. Number five on this list and this goes way back too. We are going old school on this. Things like this you know they work, and they work and they work, and that is developing and writing a free report, then putting it out there with a twist.

Brian Clark: Yeah. So this goes back to the catalyst that broke Copyblogger open. Remember there were three months of crickets and deafening silence until I found the thing that broke out and it was a free report. It was called Viral Copy and it indeed did go viral because there was no opt-in. It was launched freely into the world and it pointed people back to Copyblogger.

Now you are saying, “Well wait a minute, why would I do that? Why isn’t that the ethical bribe?” Because it could be your ethical bribe but you are still stuck with no traffic. Put something out there that spreads and then you’ve got to use your best content and copywriting skills. It’s effectively a sales letter for your site.

So for Further, you know, I’m still trying to figure it out. I’ve got a rough idea. Like some sort of manifesto or something that gets people really fired up, drives them back to the site, they check it out. They are like “Yes, this is something that I think will add value to my life.”

With Viral Copy in 2006, they spread it around. You know, a lot of existing bloggers didn’t like what I had to say. A lot of them did. Either way, they talked about it, they linked and that was really the thing. It blew Copyblogger up and from there it just kept going because that’s when I hit what we call the minimum viable audience. And enough people were following and they continued to spread the word.

In Viral Copy I was talking about all these. It was basically the premise of Copyblogger. You apply copywriting techniques to content, not to sell something, but to attract and engage a bigger audience. And I demonstrated all that stuff in the report. It was effectively a sales letter for Copyblogger because the call to action was, “Hey, this is what this site is about. I’m going to teach you how to do all of this stuff, week in and week out, for free.” So it’s got to be something similar to that.

Now Further is much more about personal development. It’s much more inspirational. Aspirational, if you will. So I need something that gets people fired up. Someone like Chris Guillebeau. I should just ask Guillebeau. He’ll know. He’ll know what to do. I’ll have him on the show and ask him, so I get free consulting again.

Robert Bruce: All right Brian. Anything else on these five items before we say farewell for this episode?

Brian Clark: I’ve had some people go, “Oh, I wish you would talk about this for more than three episodes.” Don’t worry. These three episodes are the fundamentals. They are the things I know will more or less work and then I’m actually going to do. But as we progress through the year and I figure out new things, I figure out where I am wrong and I figure out what surprised me, I will return to the topic.

We will have some interviews, so we can talk about things like building an email list with Facebook advertising. You do not want to spend money until you’ve got it down cold, and there are a lot of nuances to it, but, it is doable. We are going to share that with you.

Next week I’m actually going to talk with Joanna Wiebe about doing split testing. You’ve already heard us talk about it a couple of times. I’ve tested a headline already and chose one. I plan to do more of that. But we need to know what we are doing. So I am going to have her on the show and she is going to share a lot of good information with not only you guys but me. There you go.

Robert Bruce: Thanks for listening to Rainmaker.FM. If you like what you are hearing here, please let us know by heading over to iTunes and dropping a rating or a comment there. And if you’ve found this broadcast somewhere else out there on the Internet, go ahead and sign up to get free email updates for future episodes, as well as our free 10-part online marketing course at Rainmaker.FM. You’ll see a big green button under the headline there. Just click it and join over 27,000 other people who have changed the way they think about online marketing. That’s Rainmaker.FM.

Brian, we’ll see you next week.

Brian Clark: Thank you, sir.