There have been hundreds of articles written already about content promotion. If you Google “content promotion Sujan Patel,” you’ll see that I’ve written a few of them myself (see here and here).

But add up the number of tactics each of these articles shares. My articles on the subject alone cover hundreds of ways to promote content – and they’re hardly comprehensive. Ultimately, they add up to a ton of different tactics you can use to promote your work.

But which of them should you do? Which of them really work, and which just result in wasted time, effort and spend on your part? Having more techniques available to you doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to get better results.

Throughout 2017, I promoted over 100 articles for 20+ websites, and in that time, I’ve found that there are 4-5 “tried and true” things we do consistently that make 90% of the impact for our campaigns. I’ve outlined them below for your reference. Use them to streamline and optimize your own efforts to get eyes on your content.

The State of Content

Competition in content – as you’ve probably noticed – is fierce. The industry is already saturated, and it’s getting more competitive by the day. If you think you were great six months ago, the bar has already leveled up. Everything that you know “works” has to be re-evaluated.

Take, for example, the whole idea of “publishing content regularly.” The thing about publishing regularly is that it only works to nurture your email list and your existing audience. It really doesn’t help create a long-term overall increase in traffic.

But, at the same time, you can’t expect that your new content will spread like wildfire on social media the way so many people believe it will. The whole “new, shiny ball” of social traffic has come and gone.

BuzzSumo’s recent Content Trends 2018 report confirms this, finding that:

  • Based on a sample of 100 million posts published in 2017, social sharing of content has been cut in half since 2015.
  • Social traffic referrals have declined sharply, with Google sites now driving twice as many referrals to publishers.
  • Average sharing of content on social networks fell due to increased competition, a rise in private sharing and Facebook algorithm changes.

That leaves more people banking on a long-term play for organic Google traffic, which is good. It’s a more sustainable approach – and it’s one that’s unfortunately been ignored for a while as marketers have been wrapped up in social promotion. But the thing is, it takes a while. You can’t expect big wins overnight.

When we promote content, we do so, on average, for about four months. Some content is promoted longer and some is promoted for shorter periods, but the reason we’re actively promoting for such a long time is that we’re in it for the long haul. That’s really how you get the organic traffic increases you need to sustain your content in this competitive landscape.

Planning Your Content Promotions

So, knowing that long-term organic plays are your best bet in saturated markets, how can you plan your content promotions to deliver the greatest possible benefit – both now and in the future?

Well, instead of thinking of the immediate value of every content piece you produce, you can use this new timeline to lay the groundwork for next year or six months from now, with some base level content. Don’t look for big wins right away. Instead, think about how every content piece contributes to the value of a larger campaign that may not pay off for a year or so.

It’s also important that you rethink your strategies to make sure that the tactics you’re using are as likely as possible to benefit you in this new competitive landscape.

Start with the Right Topic

When it comes to content, it’s all about the topic. If you choose a bad topic, no amount of promotion is going to overcome the fact that people just won’t want to read what you’ve written.

There are different ways you can come up with a good topic, but my two favorite strategies in 2017 were:

  • Piggybacking off a popular topic
  • Filling a content gap

Piggybacking off a Popular Topic

When you start with a content piece that’s been done well, there’s hype around it. There are people who actually care. There’s interest. Ultimately, there’s demand.

Without the demand, it’s going to be tough – no matter what you create. If you can piggyback off a popular topic, that’s going to help – especially if you leverage the original article. Then you can tap into the people who have already engaged with it, and maybe even work with those people.

Fill a Content Gap

Filling a content gap involves taking a mid- to long-tail approach. I like this approach because you can get the ROI of it in a shorter period of time. Ultimately, even a regular blog post – a couple thousand word blog post – can really do numbers if you fill a place where there’s a lack of information.

See It In Practice

Let me give you an example that combines these two tactics…

Back in 2015, I created an article called “150 Buyer Persona Questions You Must Ask.”

Around that time, as I was looking into the idea of customer personas and buyer personas, I noticed that coverage of the topic was lacking in a few specific ways. There were templates, there were guides about why they’re important, and recommendations about talking to your customers, but no one was talking about what to actually say when you got them on the phone. No one was sharing the specific questions you should ask.

That’s where I saw a content gap. It filled a need for a bigger, broader topic – which was customer personas and buyer personas – but then I went super-tactical and really into the weeds on all these specific questions.

This worked for two reasons:

  • It went really specific into an area where there was a lack of information, but a proven level of interest.
  • It meant that anyone who’d ever written about buyer personas could be a potential promoter.

You see, when you’re coming up with a topic, the next thing you have to be asking yourself is, “How the hell am I going to promote this?” You have to think about it. If you can’t come up with anything, your idea probably isn’t any good. It should just be killed.

What I did in this instance was to Google “customer persona” and search for the phrase using BuzzSumo. I followed every link I could about customer personas, buyer personas, and buyer persona templates, and then I reached out to all of the authors I found, saying, “Hey, your article inspired me to create something really specific about what you should do after you get in touch with your customers.”

Even more importantly, I reached out while I was creating the post – not after the fact. Effectively, the promotion happened during the content creation. It’s a parallel thing you can do that makes your team more effective. Because of that, I was able to ask all those people to contribute to the article, and I was able to get their help promoting it later on.

As a side note, you’ve probably seen this tactic being used in “expert roundups” lately. The general idea behind it is getting somebody who’s knowledgeable – who’s an influencer or authority on a given topic – to contribute to an article. I think a lot of people are abusing this strategy these days, but the foundation of it never goes away. It’s the reason we quote Einstein every day; because he came up with something that changed everyone’s lives.

So, out of those 100+ people I reached out to, about 30-40 actually contributed to the article or gave me feedback. Then, they shared it with their audiences. As a result, we ended up getting about 15,000 visitors and about 45 or so backlinks to the article.

Keep in mind, this is just a regular blog post. It didn’t cost any more than I normally would spend. It didn’t do anything special. The process was longer, but ultimately, the process to create content that’s actually promotable is much longer in general.

HubWorks

Let me give you another example. A while back, my company wrote a guest post for a company called HubWorks. We’re writing for SMBs, so we had to start by finding the best blogs targeting SMBs. We literally Googled “top SMB blogs,” we looked at BuzzSumo, at Ahrefs, at backlinks, at traffic, and at social shares. And one of the sites that kept coming up over and over again was Glassdoor’s blog.

We obviously knew that they were creating content that was really popular, so we looked at their best content. And we noticed that, every year, these guys create a “Top 50 SMBs” list. So that was our anchor. We combined that with keyword research that told us we wanted to publish something around “employee engagement,” and came up with the idea to put together a post on “50 Employee Engagement Ideas from Glassdoor’s Top 50 SMBs.”

So now, there are 50 SMBs we can reach out to (51 if we include Glassdoor). Again, we’re crowdsourcing. We’re getting information. It’s almost like an expert round-up, to be honest, except that we were targeting companies, not people.

We didn’t get a lot of responses, which we expected. You’re never going to get everybody to respond, but you don’t need them to, either. Our goal wasn’t to get links or shares. What we wanted was to build relationships with companies in our space that we wanted to work with, whether in the form of cross-promotion, co-marketing or guest posts. Our end goal was to build relationships with these people, and we used this piece of content to open that door.

Even for those companies that didn’t contribute, we input information from their blogs and comments they’d made around employee engagement so that we could give attribution to them. Every time we did that, we’d tag them on social media so that their social teams would get involved and re-promote it. Any time you make somebody look good, they’ll re-share it. It’s almost guaranteed.

The result was that we ended up getting 32,000+ visitors and 152 backlinks. We were able to use the relationships we’d developed to get more links, more guest posts and even co-marketing webinars out of this single post.

Mailshake

This tactic still works, by the way. In the last two years, we created an Email Outreach Playbook and a Cold Email Masterclass for Mailshake, and both of those pieces of content have done exceptionally well. When you create a piece of content that’s big enough, you can promote it like a product. We were able to launch on Product Hunt, promote on Facebook groups and LinkedIn groups, and share to all these private Slack networks.

We even pitched a lot of the sales, marketing, and blogging newsletters and got a lot of interest there. One of the big things I think people forget about is that they always go for links, traffic and shares, but there are a ton of newsletters out there that are curating really good content. If you can get your content on that list, you get in front of a lot of people and you get instant traffic.

Update Past Content

Another strategy you shouldn’t ignore is updating your existing content. Instead of going and putting a ton of effort into creating new content, I’ll go back and update old content. Sometimes that means expanding and repurposing it, but it might also mean simply adding more details or newer case studies to make them better and better.

The best way to do it is to take content that gets some traffic organically or that’s had traction in the last six months and make it better by expanding it. That way, the URL continues to provide SEO value, but for new readers (or even old users or old email opt-ins), it’s new content to them. Sometimes, I’ve seen re-promoting some of the older stuff work even better than creating new articles.

To do this, start by logging into your analytics account and finding older articles that are still getting views, whether from organic search, social, inclusion in email newsletters or any other channels. Open them up and ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is this information still relevant to my audience?
  • What questions have I left unanswered?
  • Are there out-of-date statistics, case studies or examples that could be replaced?

If an article is fully out-of-date (for example, if you’ve written about how to use blog networks for SEO link building), it might not make sense to invest in updating the content. Either delete it or leave it as-is before moving on to another option.

But let’s walk through my post on “50 Promotion Tactics to Use in Your Content Marketing Strategy.”

Even though the post isn’t that old, I can see a few things that might be worth changing:

  • Some of the stats on video marketing are from 2015 and 2016. Things change so quickly in the world of digital marketing that there may be newer, more current statistics I could replace those with.
  • Some of the tools mentioned – Odesk, for instance – no longer exist. Going through the post and adding current recommendations would make it more useful for readers.
  • The piece doesn’t touch on expert roundups at all. Since this topic has become so huge in content promotion, adding it would be worthwhile.

Those are just a few of the changes I could make (and may have made by the time you’re reading this post). Once I’d made them, I’d want to make it clear that the post has been updated – as you can see in my post on “100+ Ways to Promote Your Content – 2016 Update,” where I’ve called out changes I made back in 2016.

This post may be ready for its own update again, but that should give you a feel for the kind of process you can use when implementing this technique.

Focus on Building Relationships

Looking at the tactics I described above, there’s a huge theme running throughout that I think most people talking about content promotion forget: relationships.

Find Your Network

In every industry, there are movers and shakers. Whether they’re influencers, your competitors or someone else, there are people in your space that you can build relationships with.

When you do that, you get cited more often. You build links. People talk about you. They quote you. Over the last few years, I’ve made it a point to connect with marketers and practitioners who are going out and building their brands. I don’t connect with them to promote my content. I connect with them because they’re doing something interesting.

Initially, it was all outbound. Now, I’m more inbound. These people are my friends now. I have a Slack group where we all hang out and chat, and guess what happens? Because we’re all marketers and we write a lot of content, they reference me and I reference them without even asking – mainly because we’re all top-of-mind.

The same thing works in any industry. Your goal shouldn’t be about self-promotion. The bigger goal should be about building relationships with everybody, and the best way to start is by helping. Don’t ask for something. Help.

Connect with Influencers

This is how you build relationships. At Mailshake, we’ve created a list of a hundred different influencers and content creators in the sales space that we want to build relationships with. Now, we’re just chipping away at it. We have a monthly hit list, and we’re tracking how we can get in touch with people and get our name out there by giving away information.

When you’re looking for companies you want to work with and people that are influencers, find the newsletters, because these guys are your best friends. They have an email list. They’re always looking for content, whether it’s weekly, monthly, or whatever. If you can get on their list, it can be a constant source of promotion. One email newsletter might have hundreds of thousands of subscribers. It’s not always easy, but it can be a consistent way to get traffic.

Monitor Your Competitors

Finally, you have to think about your competitors when you’re planning your content execution and promotions.

I stalk and troll my competitors’ content and link-building efforts using BuzzSumo and Brand24. What I’m looking for is, how many times are they getting mentioned a month? That’s my bar of what I need to beat. How are they getting mentioned, and where are they getting links from? If you watch for just a few months, you’ll easily find out what they’re doing that’s working.

One of the biggest mistakes and misconceptions in the content marketing space is that, because people in the industry are doing it, it’s working. The reality is, for most people you see that are successful, it’s not what they’re doing today that’s working. It’s what they’ve done in the past.

For example, you can’t do what HubSpot does today and expect to get the same results as HubSpot. They started 10+ years ago, and now they have so much traffic that they can do whatever they want, and it still works. Look at what their current activities are, and then look at the backlinks. You’ll notice it’s their older stuff that’s getting linked to and mentioned, not their newer stuff.

If you want to copy your competitors or figure out what they’re doing, at least figure out if the stuff they’re doing is actually the right thing.

So that’s it for what’s working for me with content promotion in 2018. Got another tactic you’ve been loving? Leave me a note in the comments below:

Image: Pixabay

Comments
  1. Great article, Sujan! Thanks for the examples and detailed insights.

    I’d like to add one more strategy that has worked for me. It’s republishing the content also on popular Medium publications. Medium is an awesome platform and there are many publications who are open to allow you to post great content there. They have the audience that’s relevant to the topic and the engagement is also high.

    So simply by reaching out to those publications, marketers can get access to republish their article on the publication, get organic views from the relevant audience and also all the SEO juice goes to the original blog post when you use Medium’s built-in Import tool (it automatically adds the canonical tag).

    For example one of our articles about measuring UX with Google HEART framework has generated around 30K views just on Medium and still gets a lot of views and drives signups for our platform.

    What do you think about this tactic? Have you tried it?

  2. Hi Sujan, thanks for such detailed post.

    I’m working on a content marketing strategy for our startup, found your article and will apply some of the advice. I think creating long-term value is one of the key points now.

    However, there is one thing I’d like to add. Gary Vee and Neil Patel wrote about it, and you’re doing it also. It’s a power of storytelling.

    When you don’t pitch ideas, but tell about your personal experience, it works like magic (from a reader perspective – I didn’t try it yet).

    GrooveHQ.com blog is the excellent example how a small team attracted a lot of attention just by sharing what they do with all their wins and pitfalls.

    1. Alex,

      Your absolutely right! I think story telling has a lot more indirect effect on driving new traffic but is absolutely a must for engaging your audience.

  3. Great Article Sujan,

    I like the fact you have given practical example for each strategy which has worked alongside with the metrics.

    I will incorporate these strategies in our content marketing plan 🙂

  4. This post is absolutely spot on! I’ve been wondering why promotion on twitter has seemed harder this year than before, and it’s because content promotion has changed in 2018. Your advice couldn’t have come at a better time.

    I’m focusing on building authentic relationships and will use those to further my content promotion. It’s a slower but longer lasting tactic.

    1. Thanks Niel! Good luck on building real relationships 🙂 Long term those efforts will help you ten fold 🙂

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