Content marketing is a term that is often bandied around with reckless abandon. You might think all you need to do to is produce a lot of content. But that’s simply not the case, and if your business is fairly new and not getting much traffic, producing endless content won’t get you anywhere.
So what’s a small business to do?
1: Planning Your Content Strategy
To perform well, your content needs to be good, really good in fact, and producing endless reams of content won’t achieve that. So the first thing you need to do is stop writing and take a moment to really think about your content.
What do you want to achieve and who are you writing for?
Plan each piece of content carefully and figure out what structure it will take, how you will market it, and what its purpose is within your content marketing strategy.
Broadly speaking, every piece of content should fit within one or more of the following categories:
This would generally be a really in-depth content piece that you hope will earn links just by virtue of being awesome. If you don’t have much of an audience yet then such assets will be long-term investments, but as long as the content is reasonably ever-green there’s nothing wrong with that. Neil Patel is a big fan of such assets and has produced several very long guides, such as his definitive guide to content marketing.
Link bait is similar to a linkable asset, but it is generally less in-depth and more novel. If you don’t already have a lot of traffic you will need to push your link bait in order to get people to actually find it (and hopefully link to it).
Not every piece of content needs to gain links, and most blogs will have some content which is less carefully planned and is targeted more at existing readers and anyone who happens across your blog. Obviously if you have no traffic this type of content won’t help you a lot, but there’s no harm in the occasional post aimed at your existing readers, as you will hopefully be building up a reader base, and it’s good to communicate with them.
Linkable assets often fall into this category too. Long-tail content is content that actually targets some long-tail keyword phrases in the hopes of ranking and gaining some search engine traffic. This sort of content needs to be niche and in-depth. The great thing is you can target some very easy to rank phrases. These phrases may be very low search volume, but once you have produced a couple of hundred such posts, those small bits of traffic add up.
2: Building Your Traffic
As a new site, you have two ways to build traffic, which I mentioned above. The first is to build links, because of course links can send you traffic as well as improving your rankings. Indeed, in the early days, the SEO value of those links is much lower than the potential traffic value. The second way is to build long-tail traffic through long-tail content.
(Screenshot from ThinkTraffic.co.uk blog showing a recent post
of ours designed to help start a relationship with some bloggers.)
My recommendation is that new and low traffic site owners try to split their time between the four content types above.
Try to create one or two linkable assets, but take your time, remember these are long-term investments and they are not going to bring you huge traffic immediately. At the same time, go for a mix of link bait and long-tail content, so that you can simultaneously build links and niche traffic.
Finally, use general content to engage any returning readers as they start to trickle in. And also to prevent your blog from seeming like an endless stream of link bait! Variety is the spice of life ya know. 🙂
3: Building Relationships
I’m not actually a big fan of the term link bait because it can be a bit superficial, so let’s talk about link bait and relationships at the same time. Because what you really want to do is build relationships with the sorts of people who have the ability to help promote your business.
(Twitter interaction that resulted from sharing another blogger’s post.)
Obviously people will only do this if they like you and your business, so the first step is to make sure people know about you. And let’s face it, sending a blogger an email saying “hey, I exist” is a bit desperate (and odd).
So here are some ways to build a rapport:
Commenting on Blogs
Blog commenting used to be a link building strategy, it was pretty well abused and these days is considered a bit spammy, which is a shame because genuine commenting is a great way to interact with bloggers. We do it regularly and it’s a great way to make bloggers aware of you while at the same time contributing to their blog. It’s not about the links, it’s about connecting with the sorts of people you want to be friends with.
Interacting on Twitter
Twitter, of course, is the modern version of blog commenting, and the same thing applies. If you follow a blogger on Twitter you can reply to their tweets and try to start a conversation. Again, this is a good way to make them aware of you.
Link Roundup Posts
Create a post each month, or even each week and send out some link love to other bloggers. Tell your readers about the latest posts from your favourite bloggers and link to them. These posts are great link bait because they make awesome resources. You can also email each blogger you link to and let them know. This is a much better way to make an introduction than just emailing out of the blue and asking them for something (eg, a guest post)!
Group Interview Posts
In a similar vein to link roundups, a group interview is where you ask a handful of bloggers to give their opinions and thoughts to one or two questions. You then group those responses together and publish a post on your own blog. Again, these sorts of posts are always popular and you will of course credit each blogger who contributes, so when the post goes live, you can let them know, and thank them with a link.
4: Earning Links
You may have noticed that in this post I haven’t really talked about actually building any links. Don’t worry, that’s intentional.
The right way to do content marketing is to use your content to earn links and build relationships. All of the strategies I have talked about above fall into one or more of three categories:
- Content to engage your readers
- Content that deserves to be linked to
- Content to help you build relationships
If you have content that deserves links and you have strong relationships with the sorts of people who can link to your content, you will gain links, it’s that simple. Neither ingredient on its own is sufficient, but putting both together creates a powerful link building chain reaction.
Keep in Touch
The final piece of the puzzle, then, is to work on building those relationships by keeping in touch with the bloggers that you connect with. Once you have established a rapport, make sure you continue to touch base and try to help them out. Don’t worry about asking for links – that’s a bit too obvious, and most bloggers are already sick of it.
But if you regularly comment on their posts, interact with them on Twitter, link to them, and so forth, sooner or later they will start to take notice.
Really, this should all work just like in real life. Not everyone you reach out to will want to connect, but many will. Just treat it as a friend building exercise and it should all come pretty naturally!
What have I missed? How do you use content marketing? Do you focus on relationships or on links? Share your ideas in the comments!