For most of us mortals, SEO success simply doesn’t happen overnight. Google is getting better at mimicking real world authority buildup patterns and that means new players will have to pay their dues to move up the SERPs. Gone are the days when you can create landing pages, bombard them with unnatural links and get fast results. In this day and age, it takes a serious investment in content and engagement to succeed in search. If you’re putting together a content marketing campaign for a new or a little-known site, this could be a problem. Developing great content is NOT easy work. It takes time, creativity and discipline to come up with content assets that can influence your target audience. The last thing you want to happen is for that content to go unnoticed because your site doesn’t have the authority to rank for its target keywords.
But don’t worry, there’s a lot more to traffic acquisition than just search engine visibility.
In my previous post, I discussed how to set up a solid SEO foundation for your content marketing campaign. This time, we’ll talk about how you can drive targeted traffic to your pages while building up SEO-boosting authority, engagement and trust signals. Almost all of these methods are free and they’re easy to execute. Let’s get started:
Build Offline Relationships
One of the most underrated ways to build an audience is by connecting with real people in the flesh. In an era where most communications are digital, getting off your seat and sharing your time with like-minded people sends a very powerful statement. People remember individuals whom they’ve met in person much more easily than their Facebook friends and Twitter followers. Rapport is easier to establish through live contact and this can be leveraged for future online collaborative opportunities.
In my humble opinion, you get to learn more about a person and his expertise by having a conversation over a bottle of beer than you would while reading several of his blog posts. It’s easier to establish trust and it only takes seconds to make a good impression when you’re face to face with an influencer.
Attend trade shows, join meet-and-greets, speak at conferences and just plain hang out with people in your industry. Personally, attending and speaking at MORCON 2013 was a big turning point for me. It helped me meet a lot of smart people in the Philippine digital marketing scene and those people now constitute a significant portion of my blog’s audience. Without them, I wouldn’t have had an audience that was ready to consume my work from the moment I published my first post.
Mention Your Expert Sources When Sharing
Not all the rewards of blogging come in monetary form. Watching traffic numbers rise, bounce rates fall and positive comments flood in can be just as fulfilling. Being mentioned and quoted by other content publishers falls in the same category of “aw, shucks.”
When you create content, keep track of your information sources and attribute them properly with links and author credits. Not only will you avoid being labelled as a copycat, you’ll also have the chance to catch the attention of the influencers you’re sourcing.
When quoting the work of an influencer, contact him and deliver a direct but courteous message. Let him know that you found his material useful and that you used some of it in your own work. Give the influencer a link to your work and thank him for it. Most of these people will be flattered and they’ll likely give you a pleasant response.
Alternatively, you can mention them on Tweets or tag them on Facebook posts when you promote your content on social media. More often than not, they’ll be glad to retweet or share your post. If you get lucky, the influencer might link to your pages in a future blog post. More importantly, acknowledging your sources opens the door to engage them in conversations which can lead to the development of valuable relationships later on.
Another way to establish a relationship with influencers in your industry is to follow their blogs and leave insightful comments there. Being an active member of the community generates name recall value which is a gateway for the formation of trust. Comment with the purpose of contributing intellectual value to discussions. Keeping things politically correct is a good PR policy. You can disagree with the author and other commenters, but remember to keep the language businesslike and never resort to personal attacks.
Once in a while, there will be appropriate opportunities to post links to your own content. When there’s a need for an in-depth reference to a question, plugging your own resource will be welcome. This gives you the chance to get some quality click-through traffic and maybe some link equity if comment links are not protected with nofollow attributes.
A trackback is a form of link that helps authors keep tabs on who’s linking to their pages. Some blogging platforms can automatically perform pingbacks which makes this process easier. In blogging culture, it’s usually a sign of courtesy when an author\posts a trackback link the page of an entry that contributed to the development of his post.
Similar to the effect of mentioning an influencer whom you used as a source, trackbacks will get your content noticed by your niche’s thought leaders and their audience. This not only gives you an opportunity to get referral traffic, it also positions you for social post mentions and links from the author’s future posts. At the very least, it makes influencers in your niche aware that your site exists.
Diversify Content Formats
Content doesn’t have to be limited to the written form. Sure, blog posts, articles and whitepapers are the most common forms of web content assets, but video, audio and presentations are also legitimate content assets that can be promoted to widen your brand’s reach.
In GDI, we make it a point to be efficient in our content development efforts. We try to write blogs and articles in such a way that they have logical and intuitive flows. We properly segment the sections of each written asset so that it’s easy to create a PowerPoint deck based on it.
Slide decks are very important these days due to the emergence of SlideShare. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s essentially the YouTube for presentations. You can upload them there and people can either watch them or download them. The beauty of SlideShare is that it has a very engaged audience that’s highly interested in information. It also has a large – and growing – audience that can easily give your every upload hundreds, if not thousands, of views.
Don’t stop with just creating a deck from your text content. Repurpose that text into a video script and get someone to voice it over. Take your slide deck, overlay the voice on it and save it as a video. You don’t have to be a professional video editor to do this. Basic software like Windows Movie Maker and some drag-and-drop ability will suffice to create a decent clip that you can upload to YouTube.
As you may know, YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world. It accommodates millions of visitors each day and its pages rank prominently on a lot of Google searches. This opens up yet another distinct set of eyes for your content and gives you the advantage of wider brand reach.
When creating decks and videos, don’t forget to make the look of the assets consistent. Always use your brand colors, display your logo in a prominent but non-obstructive spot, and always deliver a call to action to check out more content right on your website.
Submit to Content Communities
Establishing a presence in online communities is also crucial in driving quality traffic while your SEO hasn’t hit its stride. Forums, Facebook groups and social sharing sites such as Reddit and StumbeUpon are important online meeting places for people who are interested in the kind of content that you have to offer.
I’d recommend that you ingratiate yourself with the content communities that you’re entering before you start sharing links to your own content. Take the time to build a persona up and establish yourself as a knowledgeable contributor of insights. Take the time to speak your mind on forum threads and comment sections. Strive to provide useful information with every post that you make. Again, disagreeing with other people in the community is acceptable but do it responsibly. Back your opinions with facts and exercise sound logic at all times.
Immersing yourself in discussions allows you to get a feel of what topics can start vibrant discussions. These are the topics you can create content about whenever they’re in line with your marketing goals. When you feel that your opinions are respected enough, you can start sharing links to your own content whenever it’s within context and it’s helpful for clarifying issues that people are talking about.
Participating in content communities not only helps you gain traffic, it can also spawn followers of your website. It can also lead to you getting acquainted with other content creators in the industry. This can yield useful collaboration, guest posting and link building opportunities in the future
Build Non-branded Facebook Pages
While it’s important to have your brand represented on Facebook, a lot of content marketers don’t realize that non-branded pages are potential traffic and engagement gold mines. These pages can be transformed into online community hubs where you can establish authority by proactively sharing content that targeted users like.
The main advantage of non-branded pages is the fact that they don’t carry a commercial stigma with them. People don’t get the sensation that they’ll be hit with annoying sales pitches by faceless companies that they can’t really interact with. Non-branded pages have inherent appeal because they give off a risk-free aura that people gravitate to. This makes them easier for your audience to Like, opening up more opportunities for you to engage them.
Case in point: we have a client that sells Italy tours to American tourists. While we have our own brand, we decided to build an “Italy” page on Facebook because we knew that the country captures the imagination of people everywhere. We started posting useful, informative, non-commercial messages on the page and we invited past and current customers to Like it. We kept posting Italy trivia, beautiful images, creative blog post links and Italy-related news. Before we knew it, the page started appearing on the “recommended pages” sections on the timelines of people who had an affinity for the nation. To date, we have over 53,000 Likes for that page and it’s growing by the hundreds each week.
From time to time, we promote our own blog posts, videos and whitepapers on this page. Each month, it supplies us with no less than 2,000 visits. More importantly, it’s a major driver in our lead generation campaigns which directly impact our income.
And it’s not like this is a fluke that only works for this site. For a client that provides home improvement services, we created pages about upholstery, carpets, furniture and safety which all have Likes in the thousands. For a dentistry client, we created a page about white teeth. This non-branded page is easy for our target audience to like because – let’s face it – who doesn’t like white teeth?
I found out about Help a Reporter Out (HARO) through Jason Acidre’s blog post on link building tactics he’s focusing on in 2014. Essentially, it’s a service that allows online journalists to find resource persons whom they can quote to supplement their stories. For content marketers and SEOs, being cited as a source by a major publication offers several benefits including:
- Targeted referral traffic
- Name mentions that boost thought leadership efforts
- Brand mention to help enhance audience recall and search engine authority signals
- Link equity from authority sites that help you climb the SERPs
This is not a free service, so be prepared to invest at least $19 a month. If you really know your industry and you believe you’ll make a credible source, this service will be more than worth what you pay for. I started using it a few months ago and the results have been very encouraging.
You probably know how great Pinterest is. It has 70 million users worldwide and the majority of them use it to form educated buying decisions. For smart content marketers, this should be an irresistible value proposition that has to be taken very seriously.
In my experience, Pinterest used to drive a decent amount of traffic which I noticed but didn’t really rave about. All of that changed when Rich Pins were introduced. A Rich Pin is essentially a Pin plus added information that you can use to increase the chances of getting your target audience to engage you. Rich Pins have to be set up on your site’s pages from a code level so that your marked content shows up on Pinterest every time you publish a new asset.
There are currently five types of Pins: movie, recipe, article, product and place. As a content marketer, the article Rich Pins are the most useful for me.
The only drawback is that Rich Pins need a little bit of code familiarity to set up on your website. You can read up on how to do that here. If what you see on that page doesn’t make sense to you, you’ll have to ask your web developer for assistance. Just be aware that there are certain niches that Pinterest is great for and there are industries where it doesn’t do so well. It generally performs nicely with B2C websites that publish “sexy” content. Clothing, food, gadgets, tourism, perfume, etc. are great fits for Pinterest. Photocopiers, HVAC units, garbage cans and utility gloves may not fare quite as nicely.
These days, Pinterest is a major driver of quality traffic for my B2C clients, In some cases, it drives more traffic than Facebook and Twitter. If you’re an active B2C content publisher, you’re missing out on a lot if you choose to ignore Pinterest.
Taking a page out of the Xight Interactive playbook, I find linker outreach to be useful for driving referral traffic and acquiring quality backlinks. At its core, linker outreach is all about making credible/influential people aware that you create the kind of content that they love to share and link to. If done correctly, you’ll earn legit social sharing traction, potent link equity and pathways to relationships with your industry’s movers and shakers. Jason wrote an in-depth guide to linker outreach a couple of years back and that post holds up after all this time. If you’re not familiar with the process, I suggest you read it. I do it in almost the same way as he does, but with a couple of tweaks here and there to suit my style. Here’s how:
- Identify competitors who have a reputation for being thought leaders and good sources of content in your niche.
- Use a link profile analysis tool to identify which among their pages receive the best volume and quality of links.
- Separate the competitor’s content asset pages from commercial ones.
- Examine the content with your writers and subject matter experts. List down the reasons why the content is good and identify the things that could have been done better. To guide our brainstorming session, we usually ask ourselves the following questions:
- Is the content up to date?
- Is the information comprehensive?
- Is it written in a simple, easy-to-understand manner?
- Is the writing style entertaining or are readers likely to get bored and stop reading?
- Are there enough images to better convey ideas?
- Was the information obtained by the author through his own tests and experiences or is it second hand knowledge?
- Does the content come in text form only or does it have video, podcast and SlideShare counterparts?
- Does the content make use of hooks? If so, what is the hook and are other hooks applicable?
Depending on what we see in the competing content asset, we’ll formulate a plan of attack to one-up it.
- Using your link analysis tool of choice (OSE in my case), trace back where the quality links are coming from. Identify the authors of those pages and analyze the kind of content they source and the type of posts they share on social networking and bookmarking sites.
- Arrange the linkers/influencers by importance on a spreadsheet. Dig up their email addresses or Twitter handles and reach out.
- Make the message polite but straightforward. Tell them you noticed that they’re into topic X and Y, and you think they may be interested in a similar, more recent resource. Give them the link but don’t tell them what to do with it. That’s up to them.
- In my experience, I get more social media mentions out of linker outreach than actual, live links. They tend to link back to my content asset after a few weeks or months depending on when it’s editorially appropriate to do so. That’s okay though: even without a link that passes PageRank, you’ll still receive social signals, targeted traffic and an opportunity to reconnect with the influencer in the future.
Ninja secret: It’s usually better to “set the stage” with the influencer before contacting him. Get him to notice you by commenting on his blog, social media posts and social bookmarking shares. That way, he’ll be more receptive and open-minded when you try and start a conversation. That wraps up our discussion on the ways you can get traffic and ranking signals flowing to your content even if it’s not dominating the SERPs. Got any tactics that I didn’t ,mention here? Educate me in the comments section.