What is the Best Predictor of Traffic Growth with Content Marketing?
Ever been to a networking event?
Of course you have.
In 2010 after AutoGrow was launched I joined a local BNI (Business Networking International) networking group.
Every Thursday I would wake up at 5 AM and drive down to the local diner on Long Island where the networking breakfast was held.
One time some one made the comment, "Hey, we haven't seen you in a while."
I replied that I had been focusing more of my time on building our blog audience instead of going out to networking events.
"That's not going to get you much results, you should be here."
"Maybe," I replied.
In time, it made less and less sense for me to attend because practicing content marketing through our blog was like networking on steroids. If we could build up an audience and traffic over time, we could reach more people and prospects in a single day than I could in an entire month of back-to-back meetups.
Still, I was skeptical. Could I really work from the office and build the business like that?...
Fast forward to today and after twelve months of focused content creation and refining our marketing process, we have:
- 2,900 email subscribers
- Fresh, inbound clients leads every single week
- Nearly 8,000 monthly website visitors and growing
If you can replicate these results and better, it will put you in a position of greater independence because you won't have to rely on slower, less scalable offline marketing tactics.
Why is Content Marketing Such a Valuable Marketing Strategy?
Content marketing is the most reliable and sustainable way to grow your traffic right now.
And it's not going away.
If anything it will only grow.
"But, what if everyone starts doing content marketing?" you might ask.
Doesn't matter, people will consume it, the best content will spread, the least valuable will be ignored.
Plus, that would never happen. Why?
There are too many people who are too busy pursuing easier, less sustainable "shortcuts" to the top. The top of your inbox, newsfeed, or to the top of Google search results.
With content marketing, that coveted position is earned, through continuous iteration, consistently publishing, and creativity.
The best thing about content marketing? It ports into all your other distribution channels perfectly.
- Email? Sure, package it up into a newsletter. The content becomes your vehicle to stay relevant and top-of-mind
- Social media? You bet. Social media is propelled by people who are looking for something to do other than their work, whether the content be entertaining or educational. They want to consume content that's a match with their current interests.
- SEO? Of course. New content works as a beacon to Google an other search engines to tell them what your website is all about and to rank your website as a match with certain keywords searches.
Ok so you get it. Content marketing is great for a variety reasons.
But, that begs the question. How do you know that by practicing it you're going to grow?
How do you know your efforts will generate traffic in advance?
This is an important question because producing great content requires and investment of time, energy, and money.
Well, I think I've found the answer...
After some indepth research and writing over 200 unique article here on AutoGrow I can say that there is no one single best predictor of traffic.
But there are four key principles that are guaranteed to work if you apply them together.
Key Principle #1 - Adopt this habit in order to start "stacking" traffic
The most impressive part about using content as the growth vehicle for your online marketing is that the traffic seems to compound on itself over time.
Some months you might be up, some months you might drop down a bit. But overall all, the traffic just keeps going up and up, like this:
This is the direct result of writing and publishing content consistently. By consistently publishing new pages on your website, search engines are going to rank you in their search results for more and more keywords.
As a result, you show up more often. Assuming searchers see some match between your content and what they are searching for, more will click-through to your site.
Think of it like this: every piece of content is like a little fishing bait in the sea of websites floating around out there. If you're writing content that people in your market are attracted to -- content that matches with information they're seeking out--you're going to progressively rank and attract more visibility over time.
In fact, fresh content helps boost your rankings since it's a key factor in Google's algorithm.
But consistency by itself isn't enough. You need another key ingredient to maximize results.
Key Principle #2 -The next most important thing to focus on: Quality
Content quality and consistently publishing on a regular schedule are the two most important predictors of traffic.
In 2014 whenever traffic dropped on a month-to-month basis it wasn't for any reason other than the fact that what we were publishing that month wasn't as good as the previous articles we had published the month before. As a result, people were sharing what we published less and traffic dropped.
Most of the time you can tell when you're not doing their best -- and in this case, I realized it after fact. Once we corrected the issue, traffic went back up the following month.
Here are a few of the important indicators of content quality:
- Pick a target reader to write for and do research to guarantee that audience wants what you're about to write.
- Establish a set formula that gets results, test it, refine it, and keep building on it (more on this in an upcoming blog article where I'll show you our "Rocket Content" formula)
- Make sure your formula includes more than just your own arguments: cite credible third party research and address key questions your readers would have.
- Add rich media. I've noticed a clear relationship between having written content that's combined with video and images, and an increase in overall inbound traffic as a result of Google ranking us higher AND readers seeing more value, so they share it more often)
- Don't stop writing until the question is completely answered.
- Edit and proofread out loud. Typos look unprofessional and can signal a lack of attention to detail.
Don't gloss over that first point ("Pick a target reader"). It's important to constantly be Pumpkin Hacking your content marketing efforts to get to root what your audience wants.
For example, on one of my favorite YouTube channel's, Vsauce and Vsauce 3, they know their audience is slightly nerdy and likes discussions on things like: the speed of light, black holes, quantum physics, and time travel. So they've progressively made more videos on those topics or include anecdotes about them in their other videos.
In other words, Pumpkin Hacking is like Darwin's "survival of the fittest." It means to let the strong pieces of content grow and flower into additional follow-up posts on the same topic, and let the less popular topics die.
Even with delivering consistently high quality articles, you're leaving a lot of traffic "on the table."
You need to go one step further.
Key Principle #3 - You need a content promotion system
Fellow content marketing experts agree with me on this point:
- Derek Halpern
- Neil Patel
- Brian Dean
We all agree that consistent, quality content isn't enough. You need to actively promote it.
In fact, it's frequently described as 50% of the equation (the first 50% being the research and writing).
Here are "first level" promotion channels. These promotion opportunities represent low-hanging fruit that many businesses who invest in content marketing simply neglect:
- Promote it to your email list
- Share it on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, and Pinterest
Here's what I call "second-level" promotion:
- Schedule your content to be reposted for maximum exposure
- Coordinate with others to post and vote-up your content on niche sites, like growthhacker.org, inbound.org, or specific subreddits (On reddit.com)
- Post on relevant forums, answer a question on a sites like Quora while plugging your own content (as long as it's in context)
- Post in relevant Google+ community groups
- Email companies, organizations, and infuencers mentioned in your article to let them know. Include a "click to tweet" link in case they want to reshare it on Twitter.
Most business who take the time to promote their content stop at step one. Second-level promotion by itself can consistently double or triple your overall exposure.
For instance, on that first point (scheduling your content to be reposted), here's a chart from CoSchedule which demonstrates how that might play out.
I'm skeptical on the accuracy of their exact numerical breakdown at the second and third mention. Regardless, from testing this myself I can tell you it does work.
If you want to see the full-presentation this chart comes from you can read it here.
That brings us to "third-level" promotion. This is the most advanced and most time consuming of the three levels, but it's also the most rewarding long term in terms of total exposure and inbound traffic.
- Compile a list of outdated or incomplete resources compared to the content you've published. The compile a list with contact information of the websites and blogs who linked to each of those undated resources. Reach out to each and let them know about your content.
- Compile a list of bloggers who have written about similar topics in the past. Reach out to each of them to ask if it might be relevant to an upcoming article they might be working on.
- Compile a list of broken links for your target keyword and reach out to each site owner to let them know about it. Plug your content as a replacement to link to.
- Reach out and form relationships with mainstream press writers who publish content read by your target audience. Offer to be a resource for them on any stories they are working on--whether they need feedback, suggestions on resources or introductions to key experts, or even a quote from you directly since you're an expect in X.
Again, do not make the mistake of thinking that the above bullet points are simple to implement.
If you're starting from scratch, to implement each of these third-level promotion strategies would (and should if you're doing it the right way) take several weeks each.
Remember: you need all pieces of the puzzle to guarantee traffic results. The quality of your content is the most important factor that will determine the success of your promotion efforts.
Key Principle #4 - Frequency: scaling your content marketing to 10,000+
Frequency in your publishing is the final step towards predictably stacking your traffic.
In the previous three stages, you were kind of building your content marketing engine--but in this stage all that is done so it's time to step on the accelerator.
I've written an indepth article on the topic of content and frequency of publishing in the recent past if you want to check it out.
Here's the jist of it though. Publishing more often does two things:
- It gives you more opportunities to promote. Again, the content, is the permission-based, value-added "vehicle" into your target market. More opportunities to promote = more impressions = more traffic.
- Publishing more frequently sends a signal to Google that your site is continuously being updated; as I mentioned above content freshness is a key piece of how you rank in Google search results.
- If you're willing to invest in content marketing for your business, it's a much more scalable, and more cost-effective option for amplifying your business's reach--especially when compared to something like going to networking events.
- There are four predictive principle of how successful you'll be traffic-wise with content marketing. They are: consistency, quality, promotion, and frequency.
- Consistency means publishing on a regular schedule (i.e. once a week).
- Quality means setting and keeping a standard that you're going to adhere to in order to (a) position your company as an authority (b) look professional and (c) differentiate your brand in how your deliver on that message.
- Promotion is probably the most challenging and time-consuming part of the content marketing process. But even if you only execute on first and second level promotion strategies while maintaining your content quality and consistency -- you're in pretty darn good shape.
- Frequency is really the last lever to pull on to almost guarantee a progressive increase in traffic. This is where you do all the above steps, but more frequently (i.e. publishing 2-5 times or more per week).
What's your best content promotion strategy? What's holding you back from generating more traffic with content right now? Let me know in the comments.
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