One of my favorite myths on the Web is that great content markets itself. It doesn’t. It didn’t back in Shakespeare’s day and it certainly doesn’t now that your customers have an entire Internet competing for ther attention. It doesn’t matter how good your content naturally is, if you don’t promote it, you’re wasting it.
Good content needs a home. And it’s your job to make sure your content finds one.
Often when a client comes to us for content services, they’re looking for us to do the actual creating. They don’t know how to track down quick content ideas or how to cash in with other people’s content, so they call us for some consulting. However, that’s not always the case. Sometimes we run into folks who are sitting on a goldmine of killer content. They just don’t know what to do with it. [I love these people]
Here’s my four step process for promoting good content.
Identify and Chart “Your People”
This is actually a bit more complicated than it sounds and goes far deeper than the trite “find your influencers” pitch you’re probably used to receiving. There’s a difference between “knowing” who you’re supposed to be feeding content and actually creating a strategy that incorporates it. This step is about mapping out that strategy, putting names on faces, and creating points of contact.
- Who are your people? They are the people on the Web capable of and pre-disposed to linking to and passing around content they like. This include those on Twitter and social media already submitting and talking about your content, the high authority bloggers/reporters in your niche who haven’t yet found you, the familiar names commenting on your blog, and even the loud folks who sit a layer or two outside of the community you’re trying to target. They are everyone in, around, and just outside your bubble.
- How do you find your people? You go to them. Search Digg, Reddit, Delicious, StumbleUpon, Mixx for articles from your domain and find out who is responsible for submitting them. You set up a listening station to track where your mentions are already coming from and who’s doing the mentioning. You search Technorati to locate the most authoritative blogs in your niche and the bloggers you want to be talking about. You repeat that process using Google News. You study your blog activity to understand which posts get the highest success rate and who comments on those types of posts most often.
- How do you chart them? You turn usernames into real people. Take those users/bloggers/reporters you just found and map them out. Some traits you’ll want to note:
- The name of the blogger responsible for the blog or your category
- Their direct email address
- Their Twitter handle
- The angle they take on stories
- The topics they like to write about
Create an informal database to keep track of when you’ve last contacted them, the piece that you sent them, and whether the response was positive (a mention) or negative (no mention). Rank bloggers and categorize them into A, B and C importance groups so that you’re prioritizing your list of people (sorry. Some people are prettier than others). It seems like a lot of work, and really, it is, but it’s the best way to keep tabs on who’ve reached out to, who likes what and what’s already been pitched. I know most SEOs have no respect for bloggers and reports, but pissing them off is typically not in your best interest. Paying them some respect and not pitching them pieces they have no interest in or have already turned down is not going to be good for your online reputation management strategy. Trust me, blogger relations is important.
Get On Their Radar
Once you’ve successfully stalked your new 200 or so friends, start forming relationships by reaching out to them on a personal level and getting on their radar.
- People who already know you: When you notice someone is spending a lot of time submitting your pieces to social media or bookmarking them, drop a note to say thank you. Do NOT give tips on how they can optimize their titles, descriptions or get more votes. Just email to let them know that, hey, you noticed their support and you really appreciate it. Do the same thing for blog commenters who are also powerful social media members. Chances are that person is going to email you back to say thank you and further build out the relationship.
- People you want to know: The best way to get on someone’s radar? Promote them. Not in a stalker way, but in a genuine way. When they publish something especially kickass, tweet it. Submit it to social media for them. Drop them an email to say kudos and a virtual high five. Participate in the same communities that they do. The same way you semi-stalk people IRL that you want to get close to and make notice you, do it online. Just say hi, be helpful and make them feel good about themselves. Do not promote yourself. Just get on their radar. People love people who tell them they’re pretty.
Create Your Content
Not all of your content will be designed to get you massive amounts of traffic and attention. But when you do create a piece that you want to see take off, craft it around an identified audience. Not a vague audience, but one where you’ve already matched the piece to a selection of the names, faces and emails collected on your press list. Know what they’re inclined to want to read. Some groups will like big resource or directory-type posts, others will like sexier pieces or media-filled content. Make sure you know where it’s going and build it accordingly.
I like to group my press list into different angle categories so I know who I’m going to go to for the different kinds of content pieces. I’m a bit OCD so this helps me ensure that I’m hitting people at appropriate intervals and covering all interests. It also gives me an idea of who I want to link out to in the post, which blogs I’ll want to mention, and how much vanity bait I can apply to the piece to maximize attention.
Know When to Publish & Promote the Content
Know when it’s the right time to publish and promote your content so it doesn’t suck. Because most of the world works on an East Coast publishing schedule, do NOT start promoting your awesome link magnet at 7pm on a Thursday evening. Even if you’re on the West Coast, no one cares. You’re going to miss your audience. You want to publish when your community is most active and when you’ll get the most attention. That may mean sitting on a post for a day or, you know, actually planning ahead.
If it’s possible for you to seed your content before alerting the masses that it’s live, do it. If not, don’t worry too much about it and start the promotion process. Go through your press list and start contacting people who you think would be interested in what you’ve just created. Do NOT ask them to submit it to social media, to link to it, to comment on it, etc. Just drop a quick email or tweet in their direction to let them know that you wrote something their audience may be interested in. If you mentioned someone in your article or used a photo with permission, let them know. The more targeted you’ve made your press list, the better you’ll be able to match content to bloggers.
If you feel slimy about alerting someone to the content piece you created, STOP. It means the piece isn’t very good. If it was good, you’d be excited to share. People like hearing about content that is unique/interesting/informative. They like getting the scoop and being among the first to tweet it out. As long as you’ve written something that is worth the interest, you’re not wasting their time. If you DON’T feel good about emailing people about what you just created, then you haven’t created something worth their time. People won’t share content that doesn’t excite them. If you’re not excited by it, then you need to go back to the drawing board and fix your article.
Promoting good content is really about finding it home. Get to know the important folks in your industry, learn their habits, and then reach out to them accordingly. And though I hate the term “linkbait”, I do recommend
Aaron’s Peter Da Vanzo’s post on the LinkBait Launch Cycle.