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34 Content Marketing Tips Every Marketer Needs To Know – Quick Sprout

34 Content Marketing Tips Every Marketer Needs To Know – Quick Sprout


34 Content Marketing Tips Every Marketer Needs To Know

Posted: 11 Apr 2019 09:35 AM PDT

Creating a content marketing strategy isn’t as easy as it may seem. You can’t just throw hundreds of articles up on the web and expect them magically to rank well on Google.

Yes, understanding that you should be leveraging content marketing is the right first step, but before you launch your campaign, there is a lot that you ought to know.

No matter how awesome your content is, if you’re not marketing it, sharing it, and promoting the heck out of it, nobody will read it.

With this straightforward guide, you’ll learn 34 content marketing tips that every marketer should know.

Let’s get started.

1. Define the objective of your content

The first and most important thing you can do before your pen ever touches paper or your fingers touch the keys is to define the objective of your content.

As the old quote goes,

“Failing to plan is planning to fail.”

If you do not have a definite goal for your content, not only will you likely write an incoherent piece, but you will also likely have difficulty marketing it in the proper channels.

As I detail in my Advanced Guide to Content Marketing, there are several goals you need to define before you start churning out content.

  • Decide how you will use this content to grow your business. (Is it to generate leads, improve sales, boost your marketing, or create a community? There is no wrong answer—it’s up to you.)
  • Decide on a specific goal for the content once you have determined how it will be used.
  • Develop the core message that will be congruent through all your content.
  • Identify your competition and analyze them.

A content marketing Excel sheet like the ones pictured below can be a huge help.

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You can find samples and templates for these spreadsheets online.

Here’s one from the Content Marketing Institute. (Careful. That link will download the spreadsheet automatically.)

Hubspot offers a few as well. I recommend you check these out before you spend hours creating and formatting your own.

A good calendar will include not just dates but the topic, the content, and the keyword focus of the article.

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The level of detail is up to you. Some campaigns are pretty simple and maybe only need a date and a title. Other campaigns can be advanced and may include details such as keyword focus, persona target, author, geotargeting, product focus, seasonal push, etc.

Keep things as simple as possible, and you’re more likely to succeed.

Know your audience: Who is this for?

If you don’t know for whom you’re writing, you’re going to end up writing pointless content. Failure to know your audience is a failure to execute a successful content marketing campaign.

When the failure happens

This failure can take place either prior to launch or during the early stages of a content marketing plan.

Why failure happens

Content is for an audience, not just for your brand. The only way you’re going to survive is if people are actually reading and interacting with the content.

If you don’t have a target audience, then you won’t know what to write, how to write, or how to address the vague and disembodied entity of a “non-audience.”

Solution

Create a user persona. Don’t try to wrap your mind around an audience consisting of thousands of people. That doesn’t work. Instead, just think about the one person that is your customer.

Here’s an example persona that I sketched out:

persona

She has a name, an age, and a location. She has likes and dislikes. (Jen has a nephew named Jackson, who is three years old. She bought him a Despicable Me toy off Amazon for his last birthday.) We have detail, understanding, and the power to write directly to Jen.

Now, we’re going to write content with Jen in mind. Jen is going to type in search queries that direct her to our content. Jen is going to love our content.

What’s more, she’s going to convert — she and about 291,658 other people in your target audience.

Know your message: What are you saying?

Content, by its very definition, says something. What is your content saying? Do you even know?

When the failure happens

This takes place early on in a content marketing campaign. When the hey-let’s-do-content-marketing bug strikes randomly, it causes people to rush into the project without even knowing what their message is.

Why failure happens

Content is meaningless unless it has a message. The message is the one thing that your content all boils down to. You should be able to sum it up in a phrase or a sentence.

If you don’t have a message, you’re going to be producing meaningless words on a screen. Sooner or later, you’ll lose motivation for content because it has no driving force.

Solution

The solution is both simple and relatively easy. You have to understand the purpose of your entire business. Content marketing should serve that purpose by communicating a specific message.

Here’s the three-step process for developing your message:

  1. Get a hold of your mission statement. If you don’t have one, make one. Example from Crazy Egg: to provide affordable, effective heat-mapping technology that helps people improve on-page conversion.
  2. Write down your core message. This is the benefit for your customer. Crazy Egg’s core message: you can boost your website’s profit within 30 days.
  3. Write down your secondary messages. What are the various things that are related to your core message? Crazy Egg’s secondary messages: web design, conversion optimization, blogging for business, conversion, copywriting, scrambled eggs, analytics.

There are a lot of possibilities for content. In the subtext of every blog post, webinar, and YouTube video is this message: We can boost your website’s profits in 30 days.

Not only is the targeted traffic going to rush in, but you’re also going to be delivering a message that hits your customer where it counts.

2. Focus on the headlines

Which would you be more likely to click on?

“How to Totally Shred Pounds of Fat and Uncover Your Dream Body in Only ONE Month!”

Or

“Burn Fat with This Program!”

The answer is obvious.

No matter whether you are creating videos, articles, or podcasts, the headline is one of the most important aspects of successfully getting your content in front of your target audience.

Make your headlines juicy and enticing, and your conversion rates will skyrocket. Bottom line: your business will grow.

Make your headlines boring and generic, and the most you’ll get is maybe hundreds of views (if that).

You’ve seen the juicy and tantalizing headlines all over the web. Even something as mundane as a pipeline can seem exciting when pitched the right way.

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You don’t need to be sensational to craft a great headline. Instead, you need to be hyper-focused on what your readers want and make a promise that earns their click.

In fact, you use a simple formula to make the process easier. Try this one, from Buffer.

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3. Don’t B.S. your readers

In your quest to create epic content, you have to realize that your reputation online is everything. It takes hard work to maintain your reputation, and it can be destroyed in a matter of minutes. Lost reputation can take years to rebuild.

EVERYTHING you publish should be well-researched and fact-checked (or have a decent train of logical thought if the concept you are trying to explain is more philosophical in nature).

If you start creating clickbait content that makes promises you cannot deliver on, your reputation will be tarnished and will be nearly impossible to recover.

However, even if you are putting out less content than the others in your industry, your content will still outperform your competitors’ if it is grounded in hard data. Telling the truth through your content, even when it’s ugly, will earn you a sterling reputation and the trust of your customers.

4. Make your content super actionable

Have you ever noticed that I strive to offer advice you can take action on immediately?

There is a reason why.

When people read articles, especially informative articles, they don’t want theory or conjecture. They want concrete steps they can act on right away—actionable steps.

I’ve learned what my audience wants, and I try as hard as I can to deliver it.

Whether you include an “Action Step” at the end of each of your articles or simply write in a style that carries actionable information throughout an article, it’s up to you. But you have to make sure whatever you put out there, people can act on it and act fast.

The model I use for making my content actionable looks like this:

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  • Create value and fix pain: The headline I created for my article promises a solution to your pain and an offer of value. Heck, it’s free for you to read this article, and you get plenty of great advice, right?
  • Build relationship: I’ve pulled you in. Now, I want to build a relationship with you. If you’ve been a reader for a while, or simply know about my success, you may already have a relationship with me. If not, you can check out my ugly mug on the sidebar or even email me.
  • Earn trust: In my article, I’m proving the fact that you deserve my trust. How? By providing solid researched and experience-based information.
  • Take action: You, the reader, can totally take action on this. In fact, based on these four bullets, you can develop your own plan of attack for an actionable content strategy.

5. Create engaging and original content

The Internet is full of crap, and if you want to succeed, you have to be the shiny diamond in the rough. One of my favorite examples of content that stands out is Craig Clemens’ article on “How to 10x Your Income Over the Next Four Years”.

Where most articles begin with something bland and generic about how you should wake up earlier, skip the Starbucks latte, and invest your pennies in some mutual fund, Craig comes out with a bang, offering the highly controversial, engaging, and original thought: the first step should be to cut out porn.

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This is engaging. Why? Because most people have a visceral response to something like porn.

The content is also original because Craig is willing to say something that not many people can say.

Originality is engaging, so don’t be afraid to stick your neck out there. It’s worth it.

6. Produce consistent content

It’s amazing how many people go “rah-rah, content marketing” but then don’t even have a plan for creating it! The quickest way to kill a content marketing campaign is to have zero content. Or to start to produce content and then stop. I’ve seen this happen way too many times.

When the failure happens

Failure strikes some time after the launch of content marketing. The excitement that initially fueled content marketing gives way to the weariness of producing it. It could be a couple weeks. It could be a few months.

Why failure happens

Content marketing demands consistency. You can’t just throw a bunch of content on the web and expect it to generate traffic for the long haul.

Search engines prefer to rank sites that show signs of life. You’ll reap maximum SEO benefit if you produce fresh content consistently.

When search engines rank results, they tend to prefer pages that have historic authority and fresh content. You can get an idea of how this works by looking at the SERP screenshot below. Notice that the second position result was published just a few weeks ago. The next result down is from two years ago. The fourth result is from several weeks ago. The fifth result is from a couple of months ago.

All of that fresh content is stacking the SERPs with a lot of value. If I wasn’t producing content on a regular basis, I would be losing serious traffic potential.

results

Once you turn off the faucet of content, you turn off a major SEO channel.

Solution

There are a number of reasons why content marketing drops off after a while, but I’ve discovered three main reasons. Here are those reasons and their respective solutions:

  • You run out of ideas: go back to your company message (see the point above). Flesh out your mission statement, core message, and secondary messages. When you do, you should have a list of potential blog topics. Those are your ideas.
  • You don’t have a plan: though an “editorial calendar” may not be your thing, you do need some sort of a plan for producing content. Who’s going to produce what? When will it be published? It helps to create a schedule for this.
  • It takes too much time: if necessary, hire help. There is an army of freelance writers and content creators who will be more than happy to help you develop content. You can find them through Craigslist ads, Textbroker, or ODesk.

7. Always include videos and pictures

A picture is worth a thousand words.

So, what is a 3,000-word article with 6 photos worth to someone?

While I will leave the math to you, it is important to realize humans are visual creatures and we process images much faster than text. If you want to increase the amount of user response and the number of social media shares, adding images and videos can be one of the best ways to do this.

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I try to include as many relevant images as possible in my articles.

It’s hard work finding those pictures and adding them into WordPress, but I’m willing to do it. Why? Because if this 2,000+ word article had zero images, you probably wouldn’t read it.

8. Get an awesome quote from an industry leader

We all know the power of social proof. This power is doubled when you can get it from an industry leader.

If you have created some epic content and already have built a solid platform to share it on (though this can work even if you are a total beginner), reaching out to an industry leader for their thoughts on your work is a great way to improve your content marketing through social proof and get your name associated with A+ players.

The process for reaching out to them is pretty straightforward as well.

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Send them an email or message, and boom. Instant credibility.

9. Turn your content into a video or podcast to broaden its scope

Some people prefer to learn through watching or listening, and some through reading. If you limit your content to the written word, you are massively short-selling yourself and your audience. You are cutting out a whole portion of your audience who might love your work but might not prefer its format.

The same is true if you are a YouTuber, reading this guide. Get on Fiverr, and pay someone to transcribe notes from your informational videos so that people with different learning styles can also have access to that information.

10. Think like a searcher

Which piece of content do you think generates more traffic:

My advanced guide to content marketing that I spent well over $30,000 to produce and was read by 361,494 people when I launched it… or a blog post that I wrote about motivational business quotes that I created in less than two hours?

The one on content marketing, right?

Well, if you look at the screenshot below, you’ll see that the motivational business quotes article got read by 926 people over a period of 24 hours.

business quote traffic

And if you look at this image of statistics on the content marketing guide, you’ll see that only 500 people read it on that day.

content traffic

Sure, if you combine all of the traffic all 3 of my advanced guides get each day, it ranges between 2,000 and 3,000 visitors, but I spent well over $100,000 for all 3 of those guides… while that post on business quotes only took me two hours to write.

Do you know why? It’s because the business quotes blog post is more tailored around search engines than the content marketing guide.

Just think about it… are you more likely to search for “content marketing” or “business quotes”?

google trends

As you can see from the Google trends screenshot, more people are interested in business quotes than they are in content marketing.

When writing, don’t just think about people, but think about searches too. From keywords to queries someone might type into a Google search box, try to write content and titles that appeal to both people and search engines.

If you want to maximize your search traffic by pleasing both people and search engines with your content, check out this case study on Problogger. It breaks down how one company increased their organic traffic by 203.5% in 3 months.

11. Monetize your content

Content is not an end in itself. It serves a purpose: sales. If your content isn’t driving sales, it may look good, but it’s not doing good.

When the failure happens

A company can produce content for a long time without connecting it to its core message and end goal. Content can and should drive conversions.

Why failure happens

The fail point is obvious. If your business isn’t getting conversions from your content, then your content is useless. The entire purpose of content marketing is to drive more sales to your business.

Solution

Don’t be scared of calls to action. This is the only way to get sales.

Look at what I’m doing with my site. I’m producing awesome content because I really do care about you and the success of your online business. But I also have my own business to care for and grow.

So, I use a number of calls to a variety of actions. They’re not annoying, odious, intrusive, obnoxious, or troubling. And they get me results.

First off, every visitor is going to see my first call to action, which is a tool on my homepage.

homepage

Then, from my blog main page, he or she is going to see some more calls to action.

cta

When you scroll down, you’ll see two more:

cta

Click on any blog article, and I still have calls to action.

They are on my persistent header, on the sidebar, and at the end of articles. They are in strategic and optimized spots.

I’m connecting my content to conversions. The solution to conversionless content marketing is simply to use calls to action, to run A/B tests on your calls to action, and to invite users to do the next logical thing…to buy your product.

12. A deal isn’t a deal, unless people think it is

Blog readers don’t like to spend money… there is no way to monetize them, right?

Sure, making a few thousand dollars here or there isn’t too hard, but no one makes millions of dollars from content, right?

In most cases you are right. Most people don’t make much money from their readers. It’s not because your readers aren’t interested in buying your products or services; instead, you just don’t know how to sell to them.

Two people who are really good at converting blog readers into customers are Ryan Deiss and Vishen Lakhiani. They do it so well that they even talk about how they are able to create income streams of over $15,000,000 a year without raising a dollar in venture capital.

One of the most interesting tactics I learned from Ryan is that a great way to convince people to buy a product or service from you is to offer a discount, but not by using the tactic in the image below:

discount

The reason the image above doesn’t make you feel like you are getting a discount is because when you first see this product, you are seeing it for $127. It doesn’t matter that the product was originally priced at $297 because you never experienced the product selling for $297.

If you first drive people to a page that shows that the product is selling for $297 with no discounts, you may make a few sales. If you offer a discount a week later and sell the same product for $127 for a very short period of time, you should make a lot of sales because people originally saw the item for $297.

My buddy recently tried this with his real estate website, and he was able to increase his monthly revenue by 316%. This is also the same reason Groupon works because you know you are getting a good deal when you buy from the site.

Discounts and deals are a great way to monetize your reader base, just make sure they know they really are getting a deal. Putting a few slashes through a price isn’t enough. Your readers need to know that this is a deal of a lifetime and they need to jump on it now.

13. Don’t always go for the sale

Ever feel like a sleazy used car salesman when creating content?

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It’s not a good path to be on.

In fact, this is perhaps the number one way to turn off would-be readers and lose the readers you’ve currently got.

No one wants to be bombarded with “Buy Now!” messages when they’re trying to kick back and read some content.

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It’s distracting and detracts from the overall user experience.

Here’s the thing about content marketing.

It’s one of the more long-term inbound strategies.

It doesn’t typically involve going for an instant sale.

Content marketing is about building relationships, creating rapport with your audience, and establishing trust over time.

The mentality is that if you take the time to create awesome content that’s genuinely useful, you’ll be primed to make a larger volume of sales down the road.

Therefore, it’s important to have the right mindset when approaching your content.

Here are a few techniques that I recommend:

  • Avoid using interstitials on your website. Google actually started penalizing certain sites that use them.
  • Place your focus on educating rather than selling. Believe me. If you educate your audience and solve a problem for them, the sales will follow.
  • Don’t plug your business or include a CTA until the end of your content.
  • Work on building rapport and establishing trust before asking your audience to buy anything.

14. Appeal to your audience’s emotions

As hard as we try to be logical and rational, we’re all emotional beings to some extent.

There’s just no getting around it.

If you can form an emotional connection with your audience, I can guarantee that your content will have a significant impact.

There’s a particular quote I love from an article titled “The Feelings Economy.”

It goes like this:

In an oversupplied economy, customer feelings drive purchase decisions and profitability.

I think this really nails it. The brands that tend to thrive are the ones that are able to elicit the right emotions and hit the sweet spot.

How exactly do you appeal to your audience’s emotions?

Well, you start by understanding which specific emotions on average generate the biggest response:

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According to research from OkDork and Buzzsumo, your best bet is to create content that evokes:

  • Awe
  • Laughter
  • Amusement
  • Joy

More specifically, I recommend using images and stories in your content to trigger these types of emotional responses.

That’s because they’re great at targeting the limbic system, which controls basic emotions.

15. Incorporate images of faces

You might have noticed that I use a lot of images of people’s faces in my content.

Case in point:

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I also place an image of my own mug on my website:

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Why?

Because, as it turns out, there is power in facial expressions. It’s basically the universal language.

Allow me to explain.

Say you’re trying to interact with someone from a foreign country who speaks an entirely different language. Communicating with words is likely to be pointless.

What they’re saying sounds like gibberish to you and vice versa.

But you can always understand facial cues.

In fact, that’s how babies largely understand the world. Before they develop language, they primarily rely upon their parents’ facial expressions and tone of voice to extract meaning.

The point I’m trying to make here is that the human brain has an innate ability to process facial cues, which makes images of people’s faces ideal for conveying emotion.

Images can also help you establish trust.

Notice how Tim Ferriss’s photo gives off the vibe that he knows his stuff and that signing up for his course should prove helpful:

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You can do yourself a big favor by weaving images of people into your content. Doing so can make your audience feel a certain emotion as well as perform a specific action.

16. Use colors to elicit emotion

What’s another way to get your audience to feel a particular way?

Using the right colors.

Each color has a certain meaning, so using the color that matches the emotion you’re looking to target can be highly advantageous.

Here are some examples of the meanings of color in the western world:

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The key is to identify the particular emotion, feeling, vibe you’re going for and incorporate the relevant color(s) in your content.

I don’t have enough time to adequately explain this topic to do it justice here. But I’ve covered it in depth before, and you can learn all about it via this resource.

17. Focus on relieving pain points

Conventional marketing wisdom says that showcasing the benefits of a product/service and ways it will improve your customer’s life is the best way to go.

By explaining the positives, you can target the intrinsic pleasure-seeking part of the human brain.

But in my opinion, this isn’t the best approach to take.

In one of my posts on Inc.com, I mention the fact that “neuromarketing experts say that the brain’s pain avoidance response is almost three times stronger than the brain’s pleasure seeking response.”

I also point out that neuromarketing expert Christophe Morin states that

…humans are pain-avoiding machines.

The bottom line here is that you’re usually better off explaining how you can relieve a pain point than discussing the pleasures of using a product/service.

In other words, focusing on how you can eliminate a negative should have a bigger impact.

18. Capitalize on the law of reciprocity

Have you ever had someone do something really nice for you, even when they didn’t have to, without asking for anything in return?

How did you feel toward them afterward?

The odds are good that you felt a sense of gratitude and probably wanted to consciously (or subconsciously) return the favor in some way.

This is the law of reciprocity at work.

At its core, the law of reciprocity explains why we feel indebted to someone when they do something for us.

This could be something as big as saving one’s life or as small as giving away a copy of an e-book.

Much research has actually been performed on this topic.

In fact, a study back in 2002 explored how patrons tipped in restaurants. The researchers examined how people tipped under three types of scenarios:

  • Scenario 1 – Patrons received a small piece of candy with their check
  • Scenario 2 – They received a larger quantity of candy
  • Scenario 3 – They received no candy at all

The researchers found that “the gift of candy increased the average tip from 15 percent to just under 18 percent.”

Although this wasn’t a dramatic increase, it definitely proves the law of reciprocity and that people feel indebted when you do something nice for them when you don’t have to.

By offering your visitors something like a free trial, a free e-book, a free online course, etc., you can expect more conversions in the long run.

19. Use scarcity as leverage

We humans have some interesting tendencies and preferences.

If there’s less of something, our desire for it increases. If there’s more of something, our desire for it diminishes.

This phenomenon is known as the scarcity effect.

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A now-classic psychological study from 1975 conducted by Worchel, Lee and Adewole examined the effect of scarcity on people.

It was a very simple study involving cookies, but it was very telling nonetheless.

The researchers “put 10 cookies in one jar and two of the same cookies in another jar. The cookies from the two-cookie jar received higher ratings—even though the cookies were exactly the same!”

What does this mean from a marketing standpoint?

It means that you’re far more likely to maximize your impact by leveraging scarcity. For instance, you might say that there’s a limited time offer on a product/service, or you may have a sale that only lasts 24 hours, etc.

That, right there, can increase a person’s urge to buy significantly.

20. Don’t Fatigue your audience

The amount of content on the Internet is mind-boggling.

According to Marketing Profs, roughly two million blog posts are written every single day.

If you really want to get a sense of how much content is being created, check out Every Second on the Internet. It’ll really put this phenomenon into perspective.

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Here’s the thing.

Everyone is trying to outdo one another to claim their piece of the pie and get traffic.

What’s the result?

Many content marketers are grinding out content.

They have the mindset that if they slap up enough content, the leads will come.

They end up flooding their blogs with mediocre content and their social media followers’ feeds with sub-par updates.

This all results in one thing. Content fatigue.

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They fatigue their audiences as well as themselves in the process.

Don’t get me wrong. Fresh content is great.

Of course, you want to post new content consistently.

But I know I feel overwhelmed when someone I follow is constantly blasting me with new content just for the sake of having new content.

I don’t have the time to consume it all.

What I suggest is to chill out with the frequency of your content creation.

Don’t worry so much about constantly populating your blog and social media with new content.

Instead, focus on creating fewer but higher quality pieces.

Try to find the sweet spot between updating your content regularly and giving your audience time to catch their breath.

The sweet spot will differ depending on the nature of your brand and the platform you’re using. Finding it requires a certain level of experimentation on your end.

I also suggest checking out this post from Buffer for advice on this topic. It will give you a better idea of how much you should be posting and how much is too much.

21. Don’t be too content-centric

I love this graphic that illustrates the difference between being content-centric and audience-centric:

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The difference between the two is to whom your content caters: yourself or your audience.

Here’s an example.

Let’s say your brand is passionate about obscure industry trends, so you frequently write about these topics.

That’s all well and good, but if those topics don’t resonate with your audience, you’re unlikely to gain any real traction.

It’s a fairly widespread issue, considering that creating more engaging content is a top priority for 73% of content creators.

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Over time, being too content-centric will minimize the impact of your campaign.

It hinders engagement, lowers readership, and gradually drives your audience away.

Make sure you’re on the audience-centric side of the spectrum— not the content-centric.

How do you accomplish this?

Two words: qualitative research.

If you’re unfamiliar with this term, let’s start with a definition:

Qualitative research is designed to reveal a target audience’s range of behavior and the perceptions that drive it with reference to specific topics or issues. It uses in-depth studies of small groups of people to guide and support the construction of hypotheses.

Rather than merely observing what’s happening, qualitative research seeks to understand why it’s happening.

This type of research enables you to put yourself in your audience’s shoes and be highly informed when creating your content.

I’m not going to launch into a long-winded discussion of every facet of qualitative research, but let me offer a few key strategies:

  • Ask your blog readers what topics they would like you to cover.
  • Use analytics to identify content trends. See which posts are getting more traffic and engagement.
  • See which keywords your visitors are searching before landing on your blog.
  • Pay close attention to readers’ comments. Look for direct feedback. Note the number of comments on a post—it’s usually indicative of interest level.
  • Check your social media analytics. See what types of content are getting the biggest response.

I also recommend checking out this specific posts on this topic: Go Beyond Analytics to Give Customers the Content They Crave from The Content Marketing Institute.

22. Don’t be pretentious

Does your content consist of a steady stream of douchey buzzwords and complicated industry jargon only a handful of individuals will actually understand?

If so, this is guaranteed to turn off your audience.

Don’t get me wrong.

You want to come across as being intelligent, knowledgeable, and generally knowing your stuff.

But I feel there’s a fine line between being smart and being pretentious.

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It can be an issue especially for certain industries such as medical, legal, and finance, where complex subjects are routinely discussed.

If you’re not careful, you can easily launch into some needlessly complicated rant and lose the majority of your audience.

It makes you appear insincere, alienates your audience, and makes it much more difficult to get your point across.

To be totally honest, I have been guilty of it myself at certain times.

However, it’s something I seriously strive to avoid these days.

What’s the solution?

First, try to stick with a natural, conversational tone when it comes to your content.

I try to approach it as if I’m sitting down with someone face-to-face and having a conversation.

That seems to work for me.

Also, don’t try to jam-pack your content with big words just for the sake of using big words.

Always look for the most direct way to say something without using needless buzzwords and industry jargon.

I also recommend asking yourself the following questions when proofreading your content:

  • Will my average reader understand what I’m saying?
  • Am I writing in my own—unique—voice?
  • Can I simplify what I’ve written?
  • Did I use any overly annoying buzzwords

23. Longer is not always better

I used to be a big believer in the longer the better approach to post writing. Heck, I used to even blog on how your meaty content can help you capture search traffic.

But then Upworthy came out. It showed us that not only can you get millions of visitors a month to your site with fewer than 100 words per blog post but that you can also rank for competitive keywords like “tattoos” with that strategy.

You don’t necessarily need text-heavy blog posts, especially if you are writing for the consumer-based market. Sure, if you are writing for businesses, you should consider writing longer posts as it will help build trust, garner more backlinks, and improve your rankings.

Focus on the quality of your content. Having high quality videos, podcasts, and images is a simple way to gain more social and search traffic. Just look at Upworthy’s growth. It’s grown faster than any other blog without writing thousand-word posts.

24. B2C and B2B content marketing strategies are not all the same

Content marketing isn’t the same for a consumer blog as it is for a business blog. Consumers prefer shorter content and content with more visuals, emotions, and trendy information.

Businesses, on the other hand, want How-to type of articles – dry informative pieces that are also actionable. They want to be able to read an article, apply its advice to their businesses, and see some sort of change.

There are many differences between B2C and B2B content marketing. Follow this checklist to see you what you need to do if you are a B2C or B2B blog.

Just don’t use B2B strategies on consumer blogs as you’ll probably bore your readers to death.

25. Build internal links

Internal linking is about SEO. Each piece of content you create should be integrated with the rest of your site. This happens through internal linking.

When the failure happens

Some content marketing plans have no internal linking strategy. It’s possible that they have a legitimate content plan in place, but they don’t understand the power and potential of internal linking.

Why failure happens

When neglected, internal linking produces a website whose SEO is not as strong as it could be.

Solution

Although it’s considered one of the most complex topics in SEO, internal linking is not hard to do. Internal link building simply involves creating links from one page of your website to another. The deeper within your navigation these links spread, the better. For every piece of content you create, add a link or two to some other content that you’ve created that is relevant for your readers.

26. Get more backlinks

If you know me at all, you know that I love organic search engine traffic.

It’s very consistent and typically grows over time if you’re doing content marketing right.

You can see what I mean in the 100k case study.

As you might know, search engine rankings and traffic are tied to backlinks, and that isn’t going to change any time soon.

The more high quality backlinks you have pointing to your content, the more traffic you will get.

I’ve written about how to get these backlinks and how to optimize your content for search engines many times in the past:

In this post, however, I want to focus on determining whether something is wrong with your content marketing.

If all is well, your organic search traffic should increase fairly steadily. Otherwise, we have a problem.

Symptom: Organic search traffic has plateaued or is slowly declining.

Step #1 – Check the numbers: Just as doctors turn to machines to provide them with data about their patients’ health, marketers have analytics to turn to.

Start by going to Google Analytics.

Using the left sidebar, navigate to “Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels,” and then select the “Organic Search” grouping.

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The important part is to look over a long enough time period.

I’ve often had a span of 1-3 months during which traffic remained relatively constant, but if you have a plateau for longer than that, there’s probably an issue (with the exception of a highly seasonal niche):

Here’s an example that shows that there is something wrong:

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There was a really nice increase of search traffic over a few months, but since then, it has either stayed the same or declined.

That indicates that there is something really wrong with this site’s content marketing.

Step #2 – Find the cure: This is a bit tougher but doable with a little bit of effort.

I’m going to assume that you know how to detect a Google penalty and that you’ve already done some basic technical SEO (like having a decent page speed).

Aside from those potential issues, the most common problem by far is not getting enough backlinks to new content.

Let me clarify – high quality backlinks. A link on a forum isn’t going to do much for your search rankings (although it won’t hurt either).

To confirm this, you need to use a link database tool. Ahrefs and Majestic are the best options.

First, input your domain into either tool:

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Once the page loads, you’ll see a graph of the growth of all the links to your site.

Hopefully, it will look something like this:

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As long as your backlink count (and total referring domains) are both steadily increasing, you’re doing something right, and search traffic will almost always go up.

But what if you see a downward trend or a plateau?

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That tells you that your site as a whole isn’t attracting any new backlinks.

Uh oh.

That needs fixing.

It’s a clear sign that your content promotion isn’t up to par.

You should be spending at least as much time promoting your content as you do creating it. If your blog is relatively new, you should spend even more time.

Aim to get at least 20 high quality links from your promotion efforts. This takes a lot of time and persistence. You might have to send out 500+ emails per article. Do it.

You won’t see the results immediately, but after a few months, your search traffic will increase and keep rising if you keep up the work.

27. Email the sources you quote in your articles

If you are writing articles that require you to cite lots of sources, you have yet another great way to improve your content marketing and links!

Contact the most cited sources with the article, letting them know how important their work was to you, and ask if they would be willing to share it along their various channels of influence.

Say please, ask nicely, and you’re likely to get a positive response.

Again, this can be a great way to boost your credibility and get your content out there!

28. Reach out to people you see sharing similar content

If you ever see people who are constantly sharing content related to your niche and who are your Facebook friends, reach out to them and ask for a friendly share.

More often than not, if your content is good, people will be more than happy to do this, and it will likely win you a regular “share buddy” you can go to whenever you create some pretty exceptional content (which, if you remember points 3-5, should be pretty much always).

Besides, a lot of social media people and content creators are always looking for high-value stuff to share. You’re doing them a favor by letting them know about your content!

29. Make your content useful

Think about the basic principles of content marketing.

Your content needs to have value in order to accomplish anything. If your audience isn’t finding your content useful, they’re not going to continue to read it.

This is something you want to catch as quickly as possible, or it can become tremendously hard to reverse.

Here’s what happens with most somewhat loyal readers:

  • they generally like your content, maybe even love it
  • but then they read a post that isn’t very useful. That post alone won’t deter them from coming back.
  • if they come across more posts that aren’t useful within a short time period, they will not come back.

Take a second to understand that sequence.

It’s easy to produce a less than stellar post and let it slip by because your numbers won’t take a hit. In the short term, most of your readers will still be loyal to you.

But if you let 2, 3, or 4 posts that aren’t very valuable slip by, you’ll start seeing your readership decline exponentially.

It happens all the time to even popular sites. They lose a large percentage of longtime loyal readers in just a few months because they start to cut corners.

You can’t afford to do this…ever.

Diagnosing ‘weak’ content: In order to evaluate how your audience perceives your content, you need a few different metrics to get a full picture.

There are a few different symptoms that you’ll need to keep an eye out for.

Symptom #1: Your email open rate goes down…down…and down

I suggest keeping a close eye on your email subscribers at all times. These are typically your most loyal readers, which means they provide reliable, accurate information.

Here, you need to examine your email open rate. All major email marketing service providers offer some sort of report in your account that should show you your overall email open rates over time.

Something like this:

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If it’s staying steady or even going up, great. You’re doing something right.

But if it’s steadily going down, that’s a sign that people are losing interest in your content. If it’s only a slight downward trend, you may be doing okay, but you’ll want to keep an eye on it.

The reason why this is a good metric to look at is because these loyal readers will open most of your emails if they expect there is valuable content in them (why wouldn’t they if your content will improve their lives?)

If your numbers are dropping, it means that more and more of your readers aren’t expecting to find useful content in your emails.

Symptom #2: The number of “actionable comments” goes down dramatically

Truth be told, I don’t really worry about the sheer number of comments I get on posts.

Sometimes I get 20 comments; other times I get 300. A lot of that depends on whether what I am writing about is interesting to all or only certain parts of my audience.

What I do care about is how many actionable comments I get.

For me, an “actionable comment” is a comment that demonstrates that the reader not only liked the content but actually took action to apply it.

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Makes sense, doesn’t it? If you want to see whether your readers find your content useful, see if they actually use it.

Cranking up the value and winning back your readers: The reason behind either (or both) of these symptoms is usually the same.

Some time in the recent past you started publishing content that wasn’t up to the standard you set before.

It’s really easy to do, and there are many things that can cause it:

  • distractions in your personal life
  • falling into a content creation “grind”—feeling burnt out
  • getting overwhelmed by other parts of your work or business

First of all, know that it’s okay. Everyone (including myself) has dips in the quality of their content once in awhile.

But the best marketers spot it really quickly and fix it.

The solution is actually quite simple: start putting more effort into creating more valuable content.

If you can’t do that for some reason, it might be time to at least temporarily hire a writer or editor to help you.

If you’re just feeling a bit lost with your content creation, it may be time to learn some new ways to add value to your content. Here are a few posts I’ve written that will help you inject some new life into your work:

30. Don’t do everything on your own

There is no sustainable way to do everything by yourself once your business reaches a certain size.

If you do try to, three things can happen:

  • you get burnt out
  • you can’t keep up, and your business suffers large setbacks
  • you have to limit your growth

All these cases are obviously bad. And if your current content marketing system relies on you doing everything, it’s broken.

It is not set up for long term success, no matter how passionate, persistent, and intelligent you are.

If this sounds like you, and you feel that one of those three scenarios is happening (or has already happened), you need to take a step back.

Know when it’s better to get help: You wear a lot of different hats as a content marketer.

Content marketing requires a lot of different skills:

  • research
  • design
  • copywriting
  • editing
  • promotion
  • PR
  • link building

And more…

Unless you’re an extremely rare exception, you’re not amazing at all those things.

Like most marketers, you’re probably good to great at a few of them and mediocre at the rest.

By all means, you can improve those weaknesses, or you can get help.

When I tell business owners and marketers to spend more on freelancers (or additional employees), they always resist, saying something along the lines of:

I can’t afford to do that.

They’re right and wrong at the same time.

With their current content marketing system, they can’t afford it. Their growth and results can’t justify increased spending.

But what they don’t realize is that by doing everything themselves, they are costing themselves a huge amount of money.

Hiring good freelancers almost always makes you more money than it costs for a few main reasons:

  • they’re better than you – instead of struggling with one of your weak skills, like design, you can hire a professional graphic designer who spends all their time improving that one skill.
  • it frees up your time – with help, you have more time to spend on the parts of content marketing you excel at. For example, I love creating content, so I do that. Getting help with other things allows me to write several posts a week, and you can’t do that if you’re doing everything else too.
  • it minimizes catastrophes – if you get sick and you’re doing everything on your own, everything shuts down, which is extremely costly. When you have help, others can fill in to keep everything running smoothly.

I really hope that makes sense.

When you hire intelligently, you make even more money, AND you’ll get to do the work you enjoy the most.

How do you hire intelligently? I’ll be honest, hiring the right people isn’t easy. If you hire people who aren’t professional, they might leave you hanging unexpectedly, which can mess up your content strategy.

My first big advice is to know exactly what you want.

Hire for a very specific position (e.g., copywriter, funnel expert, designer, etc.), and make your requirements very clear.

As an example, take a look at 3 job postings I posted on Quick Sprout in 2015:

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You’ll notice that the main thing I look for, besides knowledge, is passion.

I like working with people who love their work and spend a large part of their lives doing it. These are the most likely people to act like professionals and always deliver on their promises.

As long as you return the favor by paying promptly and treating them like professionals, they will make your life a lot easier.

One more thing that you absolutely must do when making hiring decisions is to talk to the person you are considering to hire (phone, Skype, or whatever you prefer).

Get a sense of their expectations so you can determine if they’re a good fit for what you can offer.

Sometimes, you’ll get a gut feeling telling you that you should hire a particular person; other times your gut will tell you to pass. More often than not, that gut feeling is right, so trust your instincts.

Finally, don’t hire all at once.

Once those marketers and business owners see how hiring could actually help them, they often hire too many people too fast.

When you’re planning on working with someone long-term, rushing is the biggest mistake you can make.

Start with one position.

Even if you find a great person to hire, chances are you’ll still do a few things wrong. When you start with just one position, it gives you a chance to learn from your mistakes and then apply those lessons to the next person.

Slowly transition to the business structure you want instead of trying to make it happen overnight.

31. Improve your conversion funnel

One of the biggest reasons why business owners think that content marketing isn’t very effective is that they don’t know how to turn it into sales.

They do a good job when it comes to creating high quality content, but then they expect that their readers would spontaneously start buying their products.

Or they don’t want to upset their audience by selling something to them.

If you relate to either of these types of people, you need to understand that the whole point of content marketing, like most other types of marketing, is to increase profits (sales).

Without any return from content marketing, how are you supposed to justify the investment in more content? You can’t.

Additionally, why would you feel bad about selling a product that will genuinely help your customers?

If you’ve been having success with your content, you understand your reader very well. No one else is in as good a position to create a useful product for them as you are.

So if you don’t have a product to sell, get one.

The more interesting problem to diagnose is when you have poor sales of an actual product despite getting a good amount of traffic.

Possible diagnosis #1 – Your conversion funnel needs work: All products have conversion funnels; some just aren’t very well defined.

A conversion funnel simply describes the path that a customer takes to become an actual customer from being a first time visitor:

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Yes, there are many different paths in each step, but you should be able to define the main channels they pass through.

For example, “visitor > email subscriber > sales pages > customer.”

Once you have your funnel defined, you can use analytics to see where they are dropping off in this funnel.

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You can create a sales funnel in Google Analytics or use some more advanced sales analytics software like Kissmetrics.

If you’re not sure how to build an effective conversion funnel, I have an in-depth guide that will show you how to.

Possible diagnosis #2 – You don’t have product-market fit: Now, if you actually have a good funnel but you can’t figure out why barely anyone is buying your products, you likely have a poor product-market fit.

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Your product-market fit is basically a measure of how well your product meets the needs of your audience.

If no one is buying, it means one of two things:

  • your product sucks
  • you’re targeting it to the wrong audience

Be honest with yourself about your product: is it really good enough to sell? I rarely see this problem with content marketers, however, since they tend to give as much value as possible.

The more common problem is creating the wrong product for your audience.

For example, if you had a blog catered to SEO beginners, would it make sense to try to sell an advanced technical SEO crawler to them?

No, it wouldn’t. Instead, a basic rank tracking tool or email outreach tool would be much more useful for them at the moment.

It’s not that your product isn’t good—it’s that your audience doesn’t have a need for it.

Instead, you should have been writing content that attracts experienced SEOs rather than beginners. Then, you’d be selling the right product to the right audience.

To fix this problem, you either need to create a different product or pivot your content marketing strategy to target the right audience for your product.

32. Collect emails

Do you know what the most engaging traffic source is for Quick Sprout? It’s not search or even social media it is actually email traffic. Over the years, I’ve been collecting email addresses through pop-ups and sidebar opt-in boxes.

email traffic

As you can see, emails account for 13.91% of my overall traffic (it’s listed under campaigns). But what’s really interesting is that those people account for 41% of the overall blog comments. Also, they are 3.9 times more likely to share the content via the social web versus people who came to the site from another traffic source.

The beautiful thing is that it’s not just Quick Sprout who is experiencing this. We are also seeing similar numbers with my other two blogs: KISSmetrics and Crazy Egg.

So, how do you go about collecting more email addresses?

Through WordPress plugins like Popup Domination and Modal Dialog, you can create a pop-up that plugs into your current email solution provider. In addition to that, you can also collect emails by placing offers within your sidebar and below your blog posts, similarly to how I do it on Quick Sprout.

If you don’t have much time, focus your energy on the pop-up as it tends to drive three times the opt-ins compared to a sidebar or below-the-post offer.

If you aren’t sure how to set up a pop-up, read this article.

Here’s some interesting data that might help you create an effective pop-up:

  1. Courses convert better than ebooks – most bloggers typically give away ebooks, but from extensive A/B testing we’ve found that 7-day courses or 30-day courses convert 6% better than ebooks. The main difference between a course and an ebook is that a course is structured more like classroom learning. In a course, you give people bit-sized information that they can easily understand over a period of time.
  2. Don’t forget to add a dollar value – although the information you are giving away is free, it doesn’t mean that it isn’t worth anything. When I added the text “$300 value” to my sidebar opt-in, my opt-in rate increased by 22%.
  3. Be aggressive – there are different settings with your pop-up. From delaying when it shows up to only showing it to people who’ve viewed multiple pages to not showing it on mobile devices, you can get very specific on who sees it and who doesn’t. I’ve found that showing the pop-up to everyone upon their first visit generates 23.5% more opt-ins versus delaying the pop-up by ten seconds.
  4. Color matters – my developer tested out 33 colors (blue, green, red, black, white, pink, grey, purple, yellow, orange, brown, as well as two shades of each color) for the call-to-action button on my pop-up as well as the pop-up on three other blogs. We found that red, green, orange and yellow tend to be the highest converting cal- to-action colors. The colors black, brown and purple where the lowest converting call-to-action colors. Make sure you test these colors on your blog to see which ones work for you.
  5. Don’t ask for too much information – on web-based pop-ups. I typically ask people to enter their name and email. When I performed an A/B test, in which the B test only asked for email only, my conversion rate increased by 17%. What was interesting is that when I did the same A/B test just for mobile traffic, my mobile opt-in rate increased by 39.3%.
  6. Placement is everything – plugins like Popup Domination have multiple design options. Sometimes the email opt-in forms are on the right side of the message, while other times they may be right underneath the offer message. When I tested this on Quick Sprout, I found that having the opt-in below the offer message resulted in an 11% increase in conversion.

Once you have the emails, make sure you notify your readers every time you publish a blog post. This is how I drive 13.91% of my traffic to Quick Sprout each month.

33. Convert readers into fans

Do you know who does a great job of converting readers into fans? WetPaint. Based on an algorithm they created, if they feel that you are an engaged reader, the will display a small box over the content, asking you to like them on Facebook or Twitter to read the rest of the content.

wetpaint traffic

If you don’t want to, you can just click “no thanks” and continue reading their blog. But that one approach has enabled them to get thousands of Facebook fans. Just look at their WetPaint Facebook channel: they have over 380,000 fans.

Can you guess what kind of results this is producing for bloggers? I did a quick test on Quick Sprout over the weekend, and I was able to convert 2.9% of my visitors into fans. That percentage may go down over time because I have a good amount of repeat visitors, but I could counteract the decrease of that percentage by A/B testing the copy. Plus, my version wasn’t as good as WetPaint’s, and I had a few bugs on Internet Explorer and Firefox, so I had to remove it. 🙁

I know those numbers don’t seem huge, but if you are getting 100,000 unique visitors a month, you will be growing your fan page at a pace of 2,900 fans a month. After 12 months, you should have roughly 34,800 fans to direct to your blog or any other website whenever you want.

My test run was so successful that I will be rolling out a bug free version of that on Quick Sprout over the next month or so. 

Encourage your readers to not only share your content across the social web, but also to follow you. Whether you do what WetPaint does or ask your readers directly to follow you on Facebook within your blog sidebar, there are many ways you can grow your social channel. Just pick one or two social channels and encourage your readers to engage with you on it.

In the long run, this will help your content spread more through the social web, which not only will increase your traffic, but search engine rankings as well.

34. Create content worth marketing

Sure, this point may seem redundant, but it is worth repeating.

If your content sucks, why are you even trying to market it? What you are creating needs to offer value to the world, and even if it isn’t 100% original, it should offer insights and present the information in a way that the audience isn’t used to seeing.

You need to create great content before you can be great at marketing it.

Conclusion

Content marketing can be overwhelming.

There are so many different channels to market your content on that you may feel you can’t even choose which one(s) to pursue.

But relax, content marketing shouldn’t be this scary.

What’s most important is to create good content and do what you can to share it. Once you have mastered the basics, you can worry about the hard stuff.

By putting these tips to practice, you can make your content marketing more potent and get more bang for your buck.

Want more ways to improve your content marketing and get more traffic?

I’ve compiled a list of 10 more articles you should read that will not only teach you how to improve your content marketing but will also show you how to generate more traffic and sales.

Here it is:

#1: How to double your traffic through infographics

Although everyone is using infographics these days, they are still powerful at producing results.

At KISSmetrics, we were able to drive over 2 million visitors to our site and generate 41,000 backlinks by creating 47 infographics. That’s not bad, considering we spent $28,200 to produce the graphics.

If you want to learn the exact strategy we used to create these infographics, all you have to do is follow the steps in this article. It will teach you what you need to do to generate 60,000 visitors a year from an infographic:

  • How to Determine the Elements of a Good Infographic
  • How to Come up with Infographic Topics that Actually Work
  • How to Create a Useful and Shareable Infographic
  • How to Get the Infographic Designed
  • How to Distribute Your Infographic
  • How to Test Different Types of Infographics

#2: The advanced guide to content marketing

Content marketing is more than just writing and promoting content. There is a whole process you need to follow if you want to be successful at it.

I’ve created a 30,000-word guide that covers the A to Z of content marketing. It will teach you the following elements of the content marketing process:

  • How to build a strong foundation
  • How to generate content ideas
  • How to plan your content creation strategy
  • How to write content like a pro
  • 12 content writing secrets that you ought to be using
  • Content creation templates
  • How to overcome content roadblocks
  • How to optimize your content for search
  • How to promote your content for traffic and sales
  • How to monetize your content

#3: The complete guide to consumer psychology

Not knowing how your consumers think is a major obstacle to your success in content marketing. If you don’t know what makes your readers tick, you won’t be able to cater to them with your content creation and promotion efforts.

To help you understand how your customers think, I’ve created a 25,000-word guide on consumer psychology.

Here’s what you’ll learn by reading it:

  • The mind of today’s customers
  • The power of emotions
  • The psychology of online consumption
  • How colors affect decisions
  • Small psychological tactics that deliver big results
  • The psychology of pricing
  • How to avoid friction

#4: How to create viral content

I wrote a blog post a few weeks ago that broke down the steps I took to increase my blog traffic by 206%.

Through data and examples, I showed you the process I use to find and create content that will get shared.

So, if you want to grow your blog traffic, read the second section within that article. It discusses data points such as:

  • Social shares versus content length
  • How to generate ideas that will get shared
  • Quick tools you can use to help you generate ideas
  • How Upworthy exploded in its growth
  • Headline templates you can use
  • The number of social buttons you should place on your blog

#5: Skyscraper technique

Brian Dean wrote a great article on how he increased his search traffic by 110% in 14 days by using one simple technique… the skyscraper strategy.

In essence, it teaches you:

  • How to find link-worthy content
  • How to make it even better
  • How to find people to link to it

A good example of this is his article on Google’s 200 ranking factors. In the article, Brian describes in depth each element Google looks at when determining how to rank a website.

Because Brian was able to create the most extensive list, when he did his outreach to build links, it was a slam-dunk. Bloggers were more than happy to link to him because the content was that good.

#6: What analyzing 100 million articles taught us

The beautiful part about online marketing is it gives you access to a ton of data. With the data, you can quickly figure out what works for others and how to replicate it for your own business.

Buzzsumo’s team published an article detailing the findings from their analysis of 100 million articles.

For example, they learned that:

  • Having at least one image per post doubles the number of social shares a post gets.
  • Having Facebook thumbnails for articles increases Facebook shares by roughly 3x.
  • Having a Twitter thumbnail doubles Twitter shares.
  • The emotion to appeal to is “awe.”
  • Infographics and list posts are the two most commonly shared types of articles.

And it doesn’t stop there… Read the article to learn all of their findings.

#7: The differences between B2B and B2C content marketing

Writing content for businesses is different from writing content for consumers. I’ve created a 37-point checklist that breaks down the differences. It also teaches what you need to do in order to appeal to both audiences.

Some of the key points to keep in mind when writing for consumers are:

  • Don’t forget the emotional crack – consumers have a shorter attention span than business readers do. That’s why you need consumer content to be edgier and shorter.
  • Be trendy – if you want your content to gain a lot of traffic, look at trends. Trendier content does better than evergreen content in the consumer world.
  • Timing is everything – you should try to break stories. Use Google Trends and Twitter to stay on top of the latest conversations.

On the flip side, when writing for businesses:

  • Always use data – stats and accuracy are important in the business world. Use data to back everything up.
  • Give them more – offering ebooks and PDFs at the end of each post is a great way to build a loyal audience and collect emails.
  • Use stats within your headlines – headlines that contain data usually get shared more often.

To get a complete list of differences between B2B and B2C content marketing, read the full article.

#8: Emotions that make marketing campaigns go viral

The Harvard Business Review wrote a great article on how emotions can make campaigns go viral. Marketing is expensive. If you can make your content go viral, you’ll get more ROI from it.

Here’s what you’ll learn in this article:

  • How to create a viral coefficient greater than 1.
  • How to tie your brand to an emotional message.
  • How to tie your content to the public good.

If you take one thing away from the article, let it be how to create a viral coefficient greater than 1. Without that, your content won’t be going viral.

#9: How to measure your content’s performance

Everything in marketing needs to be profitable. If it isn’t, you can only do it for so long. You don’t have to have a direct profit, but as long as you know there is indirect ROI, you’re fine.

The Content Marketing Institute broke down 6 ways you can measure the performance of your content marketing. They aren’t just looking at direct ROI. They also show you how to measure indirect ROI.

These measurement techniques will teach you how to:

  • Track brand awareness
  • Find out what content pieces are driving the most referral traffic
  • Use social shares to gauge how much people like your content
  • Assess post performance on LinkedIn
  • Assess post performance on Twitter

By using analytics and data, you’ll be able to create content that people want to read and share versus content that doesn’t drive sales.

#10: How to get your fans to create and share content

Creating content is time-consuming and expensive. But what if I told you that you can get your fans to not only create content for you but also to promote it.

I’ve created an infographic that breaks down how to do that. Here are the four techniques I go over:

  • Trust – without your fans’ trust, you won’t get user-generated content.
  • Reach – how user-generated content can help you get more reach.
  • SEO – the more content you have, the more search traffic you’ll receive.
  • Labor savings – how getting fans to create content will save you money.

 

35 Content Marketing Lessons Learned

Posted: 11 Apr 2019 09:27 AM PDT

Not everyone will have to solve a specific problem for their content marketing, but most companies will.

You can often learn methods to make your current or prospective content marketing more effective.

The way to achieve this is to study other people who have successfully used content marketing to grow their own or their client’s business.

There are 2 schools of thought:

Study companies similar to yours and emulate their strategy. Or study companies different from yours and apply their tactics to your niche.

Both have their merits.

You need a complete view of content marketing as a whole, and to get that, you need to study a wide variety of ­­examples.

For instance, you should study how different companies use content marketing for different purposes.

According to a recent report, the top 3 goals of content marketing are:

  • lead generation
  • thought leadership
  • brand awareness

There are many different ways to achieve each of these 3 broad goals.

Some will come to you naturally, but others won’t make sense until you see the successful example of others.

The problem is that you can’t study just any random company because most don’t understand what your objective is.

In another report, it was found that only 30% of B2B marketers thought that their organization used content marketing effectively.

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Although that’s a respectable percentage, it means that at the same time, there’s a lot of poor content being produced.

You want to steer clear of that since there isn’t much to learn from it.

This is where case studies come in. Typically, only businesses with something to actually show off create public case studies.

I’ve rounded up some of the best case studies I’ve come across that illustrate some important aspects of content marketing.

I’m going to be breaking down 12 lessons from five case studies to show you how you can apply them to your content marketing efforts.

Some may just be good refreshers, while others may be brand new for you. I think most marketers will be able to learn at least a few substantial things from these case studies.

After we explore the specific case studies I am going to give you 23 more lessons that I have learned though years of content marketing and testing too.

Let’s get started.

Case Study #1: PTC used content marketing to go from 0 to 100,000 visitors per month

(Original case study)

For me, crossing the 100,000 visitor per month threshold has always been an important goal.

If you can get to that level, you can sustainably grow just about any kind of business.

This content marketing campaign was more about brand awareness than anything else.

PTC wanted to create awareness for their new product launch in a very crowded space and had the secondary goal of getting initial sales for this product.

Most successful products aren’t brand new inventions. It’s likely that you’ll never sell one.

Nevertheless, you may sell products that are innovative—that improve upon others. Your challenge will be breaking into a crowded market.

You just may be able to learn from this case study.

A quick overview: I’m not going to go into too much depth, but let me give you a quick rundown of what PTC is.

It’s a huge software company that sells software to other companies in a variety of high-tech niches.

First, they decided to try to use content marketing to improve awareness of a new product they were about to launch—Creo.

Creo is a design software that solves many of the problems that other types of CAD software often have.

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Without a doubt, it’s a quality product, which is where you should always begin.

Lesson #1 – Outsourcing content marketing can work

One of the reasons that companies are afraid to really invest in content marketing is because they believe it will take away from their existing marketing efforts.

They believe that they need to get employees to spend time creating blog posts and promoting them.

Understandably, it’s tough to make this kind of commitment when most employees are already overworked.

On top of that, most employees don’t know how to create effective posts that will get results.

The companies that do try content marketing usually conclude that it’s not effective.

There are 2 good reasons to outsource your content marketing:

  1. You don’t have the manpower to execute a content strategy
  2. You don’t have the expertise to develop or execute a content strategy

Lesson #2 – Know your content marketing goals

Content marketing can fulfill many different goals.

The actual goals that you are trying to accomplish will influence what type of content you produce and your overall content strategy.

Let’s take the company PTC as an example. PTC had one main goal that was made clear from the start:

Goal: To create buzz and launch the new Creo product (in the following 8-9 months).

At that point, their target audience had never even heard of Creo, which was another important factor.

If you create a blog for a popular product (e.g., Canva’s design school), you can be successful writing content such as product tutorials.

If you don’t have a product yet, tutorials aren’t going to draw much attention. Instead, you will need to educate the market to provide value.

As you become more trusted, you can steer attention toward a product launch.

Goals dictate what type of content to produce, but also how much to produce.

Since there was a limited amount of time before the launch, Robert and Joe were fairly aggressive with their editorial calendar. They published around a post a day (although the posts were on the shorter side).

Lesson #2b – Goals can change

Your content marketing strategy should always be evolving and growing with your business.

Once the product launch was complete, they shifted  towards improving sales and market share.

If you go to the Creo blog today, you’ll see a different type of content:

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Now that Creo is well known (and multiple versions of it have been released), content can also include product tutorials that show in what way Creo is better than its competitors.

If PTC didn’t re-evaluate their goals, they would have stopped the blog after the product launch.

Instead, they were able to continue to grow the blog and hit 100,000 visitors per month in a pretty “unsexy” niche.

Over 70% of those visitors are also new to PTC and are potential leads.

Case Study #2: Growing to $100,000 per month in revenue behind content marketing

(Original case study)

If you ever want to study a recent example of growing a business using content marketing, Groove is an excellent place to start (also check out my 0 to $100,000 case study posts).

Groove was far from a struggling company when they began their content marketing, but it still had a long way to go in order to hit their goal of $100,000 in monthly revenue:

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If you’re not familiar with Groove, they sell help-desk software, which means that users pay a regular subscription fee every month.

Since they started blogging back in 2013, they’ve easily surpassed their original goal, which shows the effect content marketing can have on sales:

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Lesson #3 – Content marketing isn’t always slow

One of the things I always make sure to mention when I write about content marketing is that it usually takes time to produce results.

You’re not going to get tens of thousands of readers overnight, but it also doesn’t necessarily have to take months to get any traction.

Groove was one of the very notable exceptions to the normal growth of a blog.

On the very first post they published, they received more than 100 comments:

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You can check out the dates on these comments, but most of them were made when it was first published.

And it wasn’t just random people. They even got Gary Vaynerchuk to chime in:

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Considering that these influencers not only commented on the post but shared it as well, it’s not surprising that they were able to pass 1,000 subscribers from that single post.

These aren’t typical results, but they’re possible if you have 2 things:

  1. A really interesting idea
  2. Extensive promotion

One of the key things for Groove was being able to pitch the idea of a behind-the-scenes look at how they were growing their income. Even experienced marketers are interested in that if it’s executed well.

As for the second part, they identified a ton of relevant influencers and found ways to connect with them.

After that, they sent a really well-done email to formally introduce the idea and post:

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If you want big results quickly, you need to implement content marketing tactics better than everyone else.

Lesson #4 – Transparency and content marketing should go hand in hand

If you look at just about any of the content that Groove has published on their blog since its inception, you will get smacked over the head by the transparency (in a good way).

Now that transparency is more common these days (thanks to marketers like Pat Flynn), Groove took it a step further.

Instead of just showing their successes, like most “transparent” bloggers do (which is still pretty interesting), Groove doesn’t hide much of anything.

As long as it adds value to content, they include it for the reader.

When they try different experiments, they share the results of all of them, even the bad ones:

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The real value is in explaining how they overcame their challenges and achieved their successes.

And, of course, they share that too.

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One final note on this: Don’t be transparent for the sake of it. Be transparent if it adds value to your content.

Since Groove usually focuses on their marketing efforts and experiments, the private data behind them actually adds a lot of value to the content, so it makes sense to include it.

Decide what parts of your business your readers would actually be interested in, and don’t be afraid to shed some light on them.

Lesson #5 – Always be actionable

In theory, it’s fairly simple to succeed using content marketing. Just create content that is as valuable as possible.

Of course, it’s more complicated than that in practice because there are many ways to go about it.

There are many key factors behind valuable content, but none is probably as important as its ability to be actionable.

If you can get readers to take action and achieve success with it, you will make your content extremely valuable to them.

By continuously providing actionable content, you attract loyal hordes of readers.

Any chance they get at the Groove blog, they show exactly how they tested something.

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Case Study #3: 1,000 new email subscribers with one content marketing tactic

(Original case study)

This case study isn’t of an overall content marketing strategy—it’s of one specific content marketing tactic.

Jimmy Daly of Vero used Brian Dean’s skyscraper technique and got some amazing results:

  • 30,000 page views
  • 1,000 new email subscribers
  • #2 Google ranking for a fairly competitive term

I think most content marketers would be happy to get these kinds of results with a single piece of content.

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Lesson #6 – Quality always makes the difference

The key principle of the skyscraper technique is to look at the content that contains a particular keyword or subject and then create something on a much higher level.

If you truly have the highest quality content, along with good promotion, you’ll get great results on a consistent basis.

If you’d like to take a look, here’s the post that Jimmy made. Judge the quality for yourself, but I think it’s very high, especially compared to his competition back then.

At the time, he had the following table of contents for the post, which I think is very creative:

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I’ve actually used this table of contents as an example of an effective formatting tactic a few times in the past.

Compare that to your typical table of contents modeled on Wikipedia:

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Sure, it’s still useful, but it’s not of the same level of quality.

Show the 2 different tables of contents to a reader, and most will be unimpressed by the second one, but really impressed by the quality of the first.

If you actually check out his article now, he’s changed his table of contents to this:

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It’s still more attractive than a typical table of contents, even if it’s simpler. I suspect that the reason for this change is to increase usability for mobile readers.

Regardless of the outcome, the intention was good. Jimmy was trying to make his content as high in quality as possible.

If you improve the quality of your content in as many ways as you can, you’ll get amazing results with your content marketing.

Lesson #7 – Influencers can drive explosive results

There are many different ways to grow a website (or more specifically, a blog’s readership).

There are 2 main types of successful blogs.

The first is the grinding blog. They do all the promotion themselves, find their readers, and convince them to come to the blog.

It works, but it can take a very long time.

The other type is the one that comes out of nowhere and becomes very popular in its niche.

Those are the ones that other established influencers love.

Once you can get influencers to support you, they can send you a great deal of consistent, high-quality traffic quickly. If you have enough influencers supporting you, you’ll have everything you need to become one yourself.

This is the ideal case; it’s very difficult to actually implement unless you’re offering something truly exceptional.

But it’s not an all-or-nothing situation.

Just because an influencer isn’t mentioning you at every opportunity doesn’t mean they won’t mention you at all.

Getting a few shares or article mentions from an influencer is a much more realistic, but still really effective, way to grow your blog.

One of the reasons why Jimmy was able to drive the initial burst of traffic to his post was that he connected with a few key influencers.

He emailed them beforehand, telling them about the post, and asked for a short piece of advice to feature in the article.

One of the influencers was Alex (the chief contributing blogger) at Groove:

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Guess what happens when you feature someone in an article like that?

They are much more likely to share and help you promote the article (at least in little ways).

Look for ways to connect with influencers in your niche, and give value to them (in some form). That’s how you start to gain their support, which can accelerate the growth of your blog.

Case Study #4: 500-700 organic search traffic visitors per day with a simple strategy

(Original case study)

The first 2 case studies focused on the results that you can achieve with a great content marketing strategy, but I understand that not everyone is at the level where they’re aiming for hundreds of thousands of visitors per month.

This case study features good results, but nothing anyone else couldn’t achieve too.

After following their content marketing strategy, Express Writers were able to get about 18,000 search visitors per month to their blog—definitely a solid number, but nothing incredibly difficult for someone else.

They are in a fairly crowded niche: selling writing.

They offer a wide variety of writing services to businesses, such as blog post creation, press release writing, etc.

What was the strategy? In the words of one of their bloggers, Julia McCoy:

Four 2000-word pieces per week for our own blog, along with 4-6 more pieces per week for major guest blogs including such high-authority sites as Search Engine Journal, Site Pro News, SEM Rush and Content Marketing Institute.

The result of following that strategy was being able to outrank most of their competitors and getting consistent search traffic:

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Lesson #8 – Successful content marketing is consistent

Unlike a few of the case studies we’ve looked at already, there’s nothing big or peculiar about this strategy.

That’s actually a really good thing.

You don’t want to count on going viral to succeed. It’s nice if it happens, but if you need it to grow your blog significantly, you have other problems.

Most marketers should be growing their blogs by consistently producing high quality content.

Express Writers created 8-10 strong posts every single week, and it led to these results. Keep in mind that the average visitor in this niche is a high value one. A business hiring a writer can spend thousands of dollars on a regular basis.

Additionally, from their regular readers, new readers from search engine results, and visitors from other places, they are able to get about 700 visits a day to their content shop (main sales page).

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With a decent conversion rate, they are generating solid, consistent, and recurring revenue.

Lesson #9 – Practice what you preach

On top of driving traffic to their website with this content marketing strategy, the company enjoyed one other huge benefit—proof of success.

Since Express Writers is a company that sells content creation services, mainly to help clients improve their own traffic, this is a big deal.

A potential client can land on the blog, see that they know what they’re doing, and eventually end up hiring them based on that impression.

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That’s huge.

Even more than that, I think that you should always be able to demonstrate to yourself that your product performs.

When you do that, you will never turn to cheap sales tricks to sell products; you will truly believe (and have the data to back it up) that your product or service is valuable.

It’s easy for this team of writers to sell their content and assert that it’s some of the best out there because it actually gets the results they claim it does.

If you’re advising leads or customers to do or buy something, make sure you’re the one to do it first. It will add an element of power and persuasiveness to your message.

Case Study #5: Image based content marketing tactic to increase overall organic traffic by 175%

(Original case study)

This fifth case study is one shared by Brian Dean again, but it’s his own results.

He used a technique for which he coined a term, guestographics, in order to get more backlinks for a page and improve its search engine rankings.

Originally, he wrote a post about on-page SEO.

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As any other article he posts, this was a high-quality article.

It was getting a bit of search traffic, but not as much as Brian had hoped. So, he used this technique and was able to increase organic search traffic by 175.59%.

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Not too shabby. And it also would have improved his rankings for other related posts on his site.

The tactic itself is pretty simple:

  1. Create a great infographic.
  2. Create a list of sites that write about whatever topic you covered.
  3. Send them a link to your infographic.
  4. Offer to write a custom intro if they agree to post it on their site.

Lesson #10 – Different types of content lets you expand your reach

So far, we’ve mainly looked at standard blog posts being used in content marketing.

Yes, those may make up a larger percentage of the content you end up producing, but there are many other types of content that you can produce.

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For some messages, there are better forms of content than just standard blog posts.

In this case, Brian created an infographic.

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And then, he combined it with his original article.

By doing this, he was able to promote his post again and further improve its rankings. He was able to take the original message of the article and reproduce it in an easier to digest format, which benefits his readers.

The takeaway from this case study is that whenever you create content, you should be thinking of 2 things:

  • What is the best way to cover this topic? (to your readers)
  • Would creating this content in multiple forms enhance the reading experience?

If you said yes to the second, you can get creative with your repurposing to create extra promotional opportunities.

Also, by creating different forms of content, you can expose your content to a new audience that you may not normally reach.

Lesson #11 – Great content is nothing without promotion

One of the biggest aspects of successful content marketing that you need to have drilled into your head until it’s habit is that all content needs promotion.

The only exception is when you have a large audience, because your audience will essentially promote your content for you by sharing it.

Other than that, there’s no point creating content if it isn’t getting in front of new readers.

When Brian created the infographic, he was able to email new sites who didn’t already link to him, and get them to link to his article. Check out what his referring domains graph looked like shortly after:

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That’s a lot of new backlinks and the reason why his organic traffic increased.

Lesson #12 – Good marketing can be simple

You see popular blogs all the time and may think that they must be using some secret marketing techniques.

But the truth is that marketing comes down to building connections with the right people.

In most cases, there’s nothing secret or advanced going on.

In his case study, Brian shared the simple email template that he sent to various website owners to get them to post his infographic on their sites and link to him:

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You could write something like that, couldn’t you?

The difference between someone like Brian and a mediocre marketer is one of the lessons we have already studied—consistency.

He doesn’t just send these types of articles out to 10 or 20 website owners; he sends it out to hundreds.

He doesn’t just do it for one of his posts; he does it for every single post he creates.

This kind of consistent promotion is how you get the backlinks and the search traffic that comes with them.

Don’t stop yourself from taking action just because the content marketing strategy seems too simple or because you think there must be more to it.

Simple strategies are good. Execute them consistently and improve them when you can, and you will get the results you’re looking for.

Next up I am going to provide you with 23 more lessons that I have learned from other case studies and a lot of testing, and that are just as important to know.

I may have touched on some of these in the case studies above but will go into some more detail to help reinforce the ones that really matter.

Lesson #13 – Quantity over quality

I myself prefer writing high quality posts instead of writing large quantities of content, but that strategy doesn’t work well if you are trying to hit 5 or even 10 million unique visitors a month.

All of the 20 blogs I worked with focused on quantity first and then quality. They made sure crap wasn’t thrown onto their blogs, but they had quantity goals…such as posting 4 blog posts a day.

When I had access to all of their analytics stats, I saw there was a direct correlation between how many posts they released a day and how much traffic they received. The blogs that wrote more content tended to be the most popular.

It wasn’t because of social media. It was because of Google. The sites that published over 4 pieces of content a day typically received 55% or more of their traffic from search engines.

growth graph

If you look at the graph above, you’ll notice two lines. The first one shows general traffic growth of their core user base at 8% each month as content is continually published each week.

The second line represents hit content pieces that caused traffic spikes. Because the blog published content so frequently, chances of hitting these traffic spikes increased, which helped take their growth rate from 8% to 10%.

Lesson #14 – Your influence affects your blog’s popularity

Most blog owners who have popular blogs are well networked. Sure, their blogs helped grow their network, but even before they had a successful blog, they were still pretty well connected.

These connections helped them break stories and get more social media traffic. From getting their friends to tweet stuff to having them share it on Facebook, these blog owners leveraged their connections to get as much traffic as possible.

If you want to create a popular blog, you need to work on your networking. The more influential people you get to know, the more social traffic you will generate.

Lesson #15 – Hire influential writers

None of the blogs I worked with were “one-man” shows. It is simply impossible to be that popular with just one writer. There is no way one person can write 10 or even 4 quality blog posts a day.

So, you will have to staff writers to produce more content. When hiring writers, don’t just evaluate their writing ability, but look at how influential they are.

Bigger blogs love hiring people who are well-known. When I started my first blog, Pronet Advertising, I hired MG Siegler because he was a top Digg user, which helped me generate more traffic.

TechCrunch later hired MG as well, and it didn’t hurt that he had a ton of social clout as it can be leveraged to drive traffic. For this reason, he is also one of the more popular tech bloggers on the web.

Lesson #16 – Edit everything, no matter who the author is

If you don’t edit a submitted copy before it goes live, you won’t know if the author has linked to bad sites, submitted a plagiarized copy, or made statements that you don’t agree with.

At the end of the day, you are responsible for the content that gets published on your blog. It doesn’t matter if you were the author or someone else was. It’s your job to make sure it lives up to your standards and company values.

Lesson #17 – Follow the data, not your gut

It’s rare that blogs get popular accidentally or by luck. In most cases, the big blogs are using data to figure out how they can grow their traffic.

One of the main metrics these blogs look at is author stats. They analyze the average traffic, number of comments and social shares per post for each author.

By breaking it down from an author level, they can see which writers drive the most traffic. They then use averages to see which authors drive the most traffic per post. This is important because some will write less than others, and the ones that have a higher traffic-per-post ratio are the ones you want to encourage to write more frequently.

This also helps them determine which writers they should fire. The last thing you want to do is pay a writer who can’t generate traffic.

Lesson #18 – It’s all about the headline

Some editors spend as much time editing as they do helping massage the headline so it hits hard. Without a good headline, your content won’t be read. That is why editors are so picky about post titles.

If you want to get to mass scale, you should hire a good editor who focuses on correcting other people’s posts and ensures that the headlines that are being used on the blog appeal to both users and search engines.

This isn’t an easy skill to acquire or train someone in; instead, you need to look for editors who are creative. It’s extremely hard to teach someone to be creative, so make sure you hire someone who knows what they are doing out of the gate.

In most cases, you can find a good editor by taking someone from the magazine world.

Lesson #19 – Acquire to grow

Once you have the traffic and your high authority in Google, consider acquiring other blogs to fuel your growth. GigaOM acquired The Apple Blog years ago, which helped them drastically increase their Apple traffic.

When they combined all of the blogs – both the ones they started and acquired – under one domain name gigaom.com, they were able to increase their authority in the eyes of Google, which eventually helped them increase their overall traffic.

Acquisitions don’t have to be pricey. Blogs that generate 50,000 or even 100,000 visitors can be bought for five figures or less. You can do that because most of these blogs don’t make any money, so when you offer someone $10,000 for their blog, they get intrigued.

When I bought Gym Junkies, it was generating 170,000 visits a month, and I spent $30,000. That’s not a bad deal considering the site was making $30,000 in profit each year… so, in essence I bought it for one year’s profit.

Lesson #20 – Quality doesn’t guarantee traffic, but it does build loyalty

You can write great content, but it doesn’t mean you will see an increase in traffic. You can write crap content in large quantities, and you are more likely to see your traffic numbers go up.

In the long run, however, crap content will lead to disappointed readers, which hurts your long term traffic. Yes, in the short term, things will grow like a hockey stick, but once search engines continue to see that users are bouncing away and no one is willing to tweet your content or even link to it, eventually your traffic will tank.

You have to consider your strategy not just from a direct traffic standpoint but also from a search engine standpoint. Google looks at the number of pages you have indexed, the number of sites that are linking back, and even the number of social shares you are generating. If you have a good ratio, Google will reward you with higher rankings. If you don’t, you’ll eventually see your rankings tank.

If you want to build a long term blogging strategy like the big boys, you have to focus on high quality content. Quality will help bring loyal readers who will continually share your content via the social web, and these readers will increase your overall word of mouth rate. This will help increase your direct traffic and your referring traffic.

Lesson #21 – Aggressiveness may tick off users, but it usually doesn’t slow down growth

Being aggressive with growth strategies is usually forgiven by your readers if your content is great. I’ve used aggressive strategies in the past with Quick Sprout, and I’ve continually grown. From multiple pop-ups to content blockers, I tested it all. Every time I have done so, I saw that this approach does tick off a few readers, but my traffic continually climbs up and to the right.

Another good example of a blog that uses aggressive strategies is Upworthy. Their blog is extremely popular even though they use popups to try to convince you to friend or like them on Facebook.

upworthy popup

Now, I am not saying you should be aggressive, but the data shows it typically doesn’t increase bounce rates or cause an overall traffic decrease. Upworthy is the fastest growing blog that ever hit the web, and they are extremely aggressive.

Lesson #22 – User-generated content creates a lot of spam

You might now know it but we used to have a forum on Quicksprout. It that contained 346,299 users, 2,788 threads, and 12,731 replies.

forum traffic

The number of users may seem impressive, but over 95% of them were spam users. My developer and I kept fighting these users off, but they found more ways to sign up.

Luckily, through Akismet, very few of these spammers were able to participate. Every once in a while, however, a few would get through, and I would get notified by Google Webmaster Tools through a message similar to the one you saw at the beginning of the post.

Additionally, spam comments went through the roof. Quick Sprout used to generate 1,000 or so spam comments a day, so it was possible for me to have someone go through them to make sure legitimate comments weren’t marked as spam.

Now, I was generating 50,000 to 60,000 spam comments a day, and it’s nearly impossible for me to have someone go through them. This was preventing legitimate comments from being posted on the blog.

For this reason, I removed the forum as the traffic wasn’t substantial and it was creating too many warnings from Google.

Lesson #23 – People are inherently lazy

There is nothing wrong with this as I am inherently lazy too.

But with user-generated content, it’s hard to get people to add large quantities of high quality text. This caused forum pages to have on average 327 words, which doesn’t help very much with search rankings.

As I’ve mentioned in the past, Google tends to rank pages with 2,000+ words of content on page 1.

In order to help boost the word count, I was responding to every single thread. In addition, I recruited moderators to help respond to user questions with high quality content.

But I still couldn’t get the word count high enough without adding tons of fluff, which I didn’t want to do.

For this reason, I wasn’t able to create detailed, Wikipedia-like user-generated content. When you consider that Quick Sprout gets at least 500,000 visitors on a bad month, it shows that you need a lot of traffic to build tons of high quality user-created content.

Lesson #24 – Infographics do extremely well

Infographics tend to get shared 42.4% more times than an average blog post. However, they receive 129% fewer comments. Additionally, every time I send out an email with an infographic, I receive 28.3% less traffic from emails.

Nonetheless, infographics do well overall. You might wonder why I would say that when most of the numbers point to them doing poorly.

The reason they still do well is that on average, an infographic generates 37.5% more backlinks than a standard blog post.

So, what does that mean? During the first 3 months after being released, infographics typically receive 22.6% less traffic than regular blog posts. Over a course of a year, however, infographics receive 35.1% more traffic.

In other words, infographics are great at bringing in long-term traffic. They continually produce even when they get old, whereas standard text-based blog posts don’t perform as well when they age.

Lesson #25 – People enjoy reading personal and controversial stories

My most popular posts by far tend to be both controversial and personal. Examples include:

Those three stories have done exceptionally well. I received a lot of hate email and comments from those stories, and in many cases, I may have been wrong, which is fine. But those posts have received more traffic than other posts I have published.

One thing I learned is that people judge you based on the titles of your blog posts. Many people don’t even read the content within the post—they just make assumptions based on the headline.

From a social traffic standpoint, these types of stories do exceptionally well. The one on clothes received almost double the number of social shares compared to the second most popular post on Quick Sprout.

This has taught me that if I want to grow my traffic at a fast pace, I have to write controversial stories that are personal. When doing so, I have to be careful not to cross any lines or offend people. I also need to make sure the content stays educational.

Lesson #26 – Timing does matter

Over the years, I have tested posting during different days and times. The winner tends to be Monday through Thursday, at 8:00 AM PST. This doesn’t mean that 8:00 AM PST is necessarily the ideal time for every blog, but it is for Quick Sprout.

I’ve tested posting during other days and times, but the 8:00 AM slot tends to perform really well. Monday in particular seems to be the best day of the week, but Tuesday through Thursday are not far behind.

I haven’t experimented much with posting on Saturday and Sunday, but with all of my other blogs, those days tend to be bad traffic days, especially in the business-to-business sector. For that reason, I never post on weekends on Quick Sprout.

The exception to that are news posts

And not just any news…but mainstream news because more people search for it, which means the potential traffic opportunity is greater. For news posts you must actively follow trends and breaking news and post as quickly as you can find them.

One site that leveraged this strategy in the past was Mahalo. They built up a lot of their traffic when they started out by writing about everything mentioned on Google Trends.

mahalo alexa

They don’t leverage this strategy as frequently anymore; hence, you see the drop in traffic when you look at the graph. But as you can notice, it was very effective before.

Lesson #27 – Guides rank better than posts (but for a different reason than you think)

On Quick Sprout, guides rank better for head terms. At first, I thought this was because they get a ton of inbound links and social shares and they contain over 30,000 words on average, but that’s not the case.

All of those factors do help, but when I went back to see what caused them to rank for terms like “online marketing,” it was one specific change that I made that caused all of the guides to rank better.

Can you guess what that change was? I added a link to each and every guide in the sidebar of Quick Sprout. Within 30 days, the rankings started to shoot up, and within 3 months, I noticed a huge increase in search traffic to those guides.

If you want to increase the rankings of your high quality posts, add links to them within the sidebar of your blog.

Lesson #28 – People love data

Out of all the text-based content I wrote on Quick Sprout, I noticed one thing. Blog posts that contained stats and data received 149% more social shares and 283% more backlinks.

This makes sense since posts that contain images such as charts and graphs also get more trackbacks and social shares.

A lot of my blog posts, including this one, start out containing lots of stats and data, so I don’t have to do much more here. Instead, I just have to continue the trend of writing more data-driven posts.

I should also consider hiring a full-time stats guy to dig up data for me to increase the quality of my posts.

The one thing I haven’t been doing is including enough graphs and charts within my posts. For example, this post contains a lot of data, and I could have inserted charts to make the post more visual and easy to understand.

I’ve just been getting too lazy, which is something I need to fix. Failing that, I can always pay someone to go into my posts and add charts/graphs for me.

Lesson #29 – Don’t rely completely on the marketing department

The first and most common mistake is dumping everything on the marketing department. Compared to other departments in the company, the marketing department would be the most logical choice for the job if look at it from the outside. If your company does this, you’re not alone:

content marketing ownership

Content marketing, however, shouldn’t be thought of as purely an extension of marketing, editorial or public relations departments. It should pull from various departments, including design, engineering and even sales, to name a few.

Why? Because the marketing department won’t always know what the best type of content you should be creating. For example, at KISSmetrics, our engineering and design departments recommended various types of content:

  • How to track people –  one of the most common questions we get at KISSmetrics is “how do we track people?”. The marketing department can’t write a piece like this as it would require a deep understanding of our technology.
  • How design affects conversion – a lot of our ideal customers are trying to boost their conversion rates. The design team is not only better suited to write a piece like this, but they can also create design examples.
  • How to delay the loading of external javascripts – a lot of people are concerned about their website load time, so one way to improve the speed is to delay external javascripts. An engineer can not only explain how to do this, but he/she can also break down the code you need to use to accomplish this task.

As you can see from the examples above, the marketing department wouldn’t be able to write all of those content pieces. For that reason, it’s important to have many departments in your company involved in your content marketing strategy. Here’s how you can get the other departments involved:

  • Encourage other departments – tell them the benefits of content marketing for the company and for them personally such as increasing their personal brand. An easy way to do this is to also look for people in the company who are already communicating to customers as they are going to be more open to blogging.
  • Create an editorial board for all content pieces – this will act as both a springboard for ideas and a way to keep the brand and voice consistent through all content marketing channels.
  • Create an email alias or Skype group – add all these members so that you can easily communicate with each other the moment an idea hits or a concept piece is finished.

Lesson #30 – Win customers over

You have the content, but is it really winning customers over? One very common content marketing mistake that’s made with even the best of intentions is to put a positive spin on every piece. For one, your customers aren’t buying it. You and they both know the product or service has flaws or isn’t right for everyone. Every content marketing effort feels more like a sales pitch.

To help avoid this, you may want to invite users to participate in your content marketing efforts. A Vermont ski resort Jay Peak did this by encouraging their users to tag Jay Peak in their instagram photos describing what they love about the mountain. The mention of Jay Peak is secondary to the users emphasizing what they love about skiing there, but the campaign does a great job of sharing the enthusiasm without hyping up the location.

So, how do you do it? You could:

  • Encourage users to pose with your product or showcase your brand name in an unusual way. Nylabone invites their users to post pictures of their dogs using the product, with captions, providing real social proof in a way that marketing videos or photos can’t.
  • Give a shout out to the submitters when you do post their content, since they’re very likely to show both the content and your response to their friends.
  • Focus on feelings rather than the brand itself. Coke’s Happiness Tumblr page and Chobani Greek Yogurt’s Pinterest Page don’t always mention the products themselves, but by interacting with the pages, customers grow to associate the brand with those feelings.

Don’t make the mistake of relying completely on user-generated content. Make sure that you check the sources of uploaded pictures or videos before posting and let the customers know upfront that any content they submit becomes the property of your company to do with as you wish. This will help prevent any controversial or legal issues that could crop up if the campaign truly takes on a life of its own.

If you really want to harness the benefits of user-generated content, you should ask for (and respond) to reviews, both good and bad. For many users, knowing that the company cares and is willing to work with them to resolve the issue will diffuse any anger or frustration, which can be the spark that leads to other disgruntled customers jumping on the bandwagon.

Lesson #31 – Measure the results

The easiest way to gather usable content marketing metrics is to figure out which pages or promotions have the biggest impact on customers, and why. Measuring things like the click-through rate, time spent on site, bounce rate and unique visitors are all sales-focused metrics. You should also look at:

  • The type of media customers engaged with the most – this is a simple metric and boils down to the number of pages, downloads or other raw data. You can use basic tools like Google Analytics to determine this.
  • Where and how the content was shared socially – you can use services like Hootsuite to track the number of social shares and the channels used to share the content.
  • Whether or not content converted into customers – all your content marketing efforts are wasted if your visitors are not turning into paying customers. Start off by learning who’s doing what on your site, how often they participate, and how soon they made a purchase.

Here is an example of what we track on our KISSmetrics blog:

kissmetrics cohort

As you can see from the image above, content URLs are placed on the left and number of times people visit the blog after reading one of those URLs is at the top. So the higher the percentage, the better the content. If you are writing content that causes a low return visit percentage, it means that you are publishing content that people don’t care to read.

At KISSmetrics we try to optimize our blog for return visits because we know it helps create brand loyalty. In the long run, those visitors are more likely to turn into customers.

Lesson #32 –  Don’t just focus on traffic, focus on building the right audience

Another lesson I learned from running the KISSmetrics blog is that traffic isn’t everything. Many of our most popular posts are on social media and content marketing. But there is an issue with these topics and the type of visitors they attract.

Sure, these visitors are interested in online marketing, but very few of them buy our product. Why? Because they are not our ideal customers. E-commerce and SaaS companies are.

So, instead of focusing on building a marketing audience, we should focus on analytics-based content for our target audience. We would probably do well even with providing general marketing advice to them.

Our blog editor is doing a great job at releasing more blog posts that are targeted towards our audience. He is super picky about what he publishes on the blog. He also knows that you can’t just flip a switch and release a different type of content the next day: you have to transition slowly.

If I had to start the KISSmetrics blog all over again, I would focus on helping SaaS and e-commerce companies with their online marketing. This would help generate more qualified leads for our sales team.

Focus on creating the right audience for your blog and not just on building up your traffic.

Lesson #33 – Don’t take your foot off the gas pedal

One of the best strategies we used to grow the KISSmetrics blog was infographics. We’ve probably produced more infographics than anyone else in the marketing space.

Boy, did it pay off. As I explained in this blog post, it is the primary reason for the growth of the blog.

Within the two-year period, we’ve generated 2,512,596 visitors and 41,142 backlinks from 3,741 unique domains, all from those 47 infographics.

But the mistake we made is that we slowed down on infographics.

It wasn’t that we ran out of ideas. We simply shifted our design resources to other projects. Because we are a well-funded startup, cash has never been an issue for us. Even if it cost $5,000 or $10,000 a month, we should have hired a company or an individual to produce more infographics for the blog.

We are getting back into our routine of generating infographics once a week, but if I had to do things over, I wouldn’t have slowed down in the first place.

If you want to grow your blog at a rapid pace, consider creating infographics. They tend to get shared more than text-based blog posts.

Lesson #34 – Monetize early

I used to believe that you should get to 100,000 visitors before you monetize your blog. That way you can focus on building an audience without being distracted.

We actually waited till we hit 200,000 plus visitors a month before we started to generate leads from our KISSmetrics blog. The big problem we ran into was that we found that certain types of content generate better quality leads than others.

For example, webinars convert well. If we monetized early enough, we would have had this data, which would have helped shape the blog from the get go. Now we have to clean up and readjust the type of content we produce and the methods we use to generate leads.

You don’t want to monetize your blog if you have a few thousand visitors a month, but once you hit 10,000 monthly visitors, you should run tests. From there, you can shape your blog and audience the way you want.

You can turn off your monetization after the tests are complete, but before you do, try different methods to see where you stand.

Lesson #35 – Utilize tools (like BuzzSumo)

I use a lot of different tools and various software for marketing. But one of my absolute favorites is BuzzSumo.

I love it!

At this point, I consider it a linchpin useful for several different aspects of marketing.

And apparently I’m not alone.

Big name brands, such as TechRadar, TechTarget and even Rolling Stone magazine, use BuzzSumo to optimize their campaigns.

And because I tend to be compulsive about certain things, I’ve gotten into the habit of checking BuzzSumo every single day.

As you might imagine, I’ve come up with some pretty interesting insights along the way.

In this post, I’ll share with you what I learned from checking BuzzSumo every day for a month.

It’ll tell you, without a doubt, which influencers to target

One of the major selling points of BuzzSumo is it allows me to perform streamlined influencer research.

If you’re wondering whom to target for a guest post, brand endorsement, etc., BuzzSumo will let you know.

Here’s an example of how to use it.

From the dashboard, enter the topic or keyword you’re interested in.

In my case, it’s “digital marketing”:

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Click “Search”:

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This will show you which content has received the most shares.

But I want to take it one step further, so I’m going to click on “Content Analysis” at the top:

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Scroll down a bit, and you’ll see a section called “Most Shared Domains by Network”:

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This lets me know which publications, websites and blogs are getting the most shares, telling me how influential they are.

I also like the pie chart, quickly showing me how things stack up.

If I wanted to pitch a few brands with a guest-posting idea, I would want to aim for some of the top brands on the list, like Search Engine Land, Marketing Land, Social Media Today and so on.

But wait, there’s more.

Go back to the top, and click on “Influencers.”

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Here’s what I get:

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It’s a massive list of influencers along with accompanying key metrics such as their page authority, domain authority, follower count, etc.

I can literally find thousands of influencers in the digital marketing niche.

I can then reach out to any of them by visiting their website or contacting them on Twitter (BuzzSumo provides links to both).

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I honestly can’t think of a more streamlined and efficient way to find the top influencers.

If influencer marketing is your bread and butter, BuzzSumo is a godsend.

You can see where competitors are getting their links from

Backlinks are everything.

It’s a toss up as to which is more important: content or links.

But I think we can all agree that the quality and relevancy of the sites linking to you impact your search rankings heavily.

One of my favorite features on BuzzSumo is “Backlinks.”

With a simple search, you can find out who’s linking to your competitors and which specific pieces of content those links are coming from.

Here’s how you do it.

First, click on “Backlinks” from your dashboard:

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Now, enter the URL of the competitor you want to check out.

I’ll use Kissmetrics as an example:

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Click on “Search.”

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Voila! Just like that, I can see where their backlinks are coming from.

Here are just a few:

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And I can take it one step further by checking the rest of the backlinks coming from a particular website.

Just look at “View [X] More Links”:

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If you see that a particular site is linking to your competitor like crazy, this is a good indicator they may be willing to link to you as well.

This is helpful because it gives me plenty of ideas for backlink opportunities.

By knowing who’s most likely to link to content in my industry, I know to whom I should reach out and who’s most worth my time.

You can tell which topics are trending in your industry

Evergreen content is definitely important and serves its purpose.

In particular, I’m a fan of long-form evergreen pieces.

But as good as evergreen content is, it’s also important to cover the hot topics trending right now.

This is especially true for fast-moving niches like news and politics.

Striking while the iron is hot is a surefire way to bring attention to your brand and grow your audience.

And it just so happens that BuzzSumo is perfect for determining which topics are trending in your industry.

All it takes is a quick search.

You first want to go to your dashboard and filter by a recent date.

I usually look at content from the previous week, but a month or even 24 hours can work as well, depending on your industry.

Click on the filter you want to use:

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Type in your keyword:

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Now click “Search.”

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Within seconds, I can see which topics are trending and the number of shares each piece of content has received:

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The more engagement content receives, the more interested I am in it because people are obviously responding to it favorably.

I know for a fact this content is resonating with my audience at this particular moment.

If I create a similar post or skyscraper it, I’ve got a good chance of getting positive results.

And believe me, this beats the heck out of manually scouring the Internet, trying to figure out what’s working.

Going that route is incredibly arduous and labor intensive.

It also involves too much guesswork for my taste.

By using BuzzSumo, I know for sure what’s trending and have access to several helpful metrics, which means I’m basing my findings on concrete data—not just a hunch.

You can determine which content formats to use

This one’s a biggie.

Which content formats should you use to reach your audience most effectively?

You could always experiment and base your content strategy on speculation.

Or you could use data to guide your strategy.

Although I think most successful marketing campaigns do require a certain amount of experimentation, I’m a fan of using data whenever it’s available.

And in this case, BuzzSumo makes it readily available.

This information is also available in the “Content Analysis” section.

Just look for “Average Shares By Content Type.”

For digital marketing, a list format is your best bet:

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For “IoT” (the Internet of Things), it’s video:

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Just plug your industry/niche into the search box, and you can instantly tell which type of format is resonating the most with your audience.

You can use it to find the sweet spot for content length

I’ve written quite a bit on choosing the right length for your content.

I even published an article that specifically points out what the ideal word count is according to your industry.

And quite frankly, word count is one of the most widely discussed topics in the content marketing world.

If you’re not quite sure how long your posts should be, BuzzSumo can definitely point you in the right direction.

Again, you’ll want to go to “Content Analysis.”

Then scroll down until you reach the section called “Average Shares By Content Length.”

Here’s what pops up for digital marketing:

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I can see that aiming for over 3,000 words is my best bet for maximizing shares.

But this isn’t the case for all industries.

Here are the results I got when searching for IoT:

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In this case, I’m better off aiming for 2,000-3,000 words.

And here’s one more random example—marathon running:

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In this niche, 1,000-2,000 words would be best.

This shows you how this feature can work for almost any industry.

It lets you know which social networks produce the most shares

Another question many marketers have is which social networks they should focus on.

Should you stick with the biggest user base and put the bulk of your attention on Facebook?

Or are you better off opting for another network?

BuzzSumo will let you know for sure which platforms are best for your industry.

Just look for “Average Shares By Network” on the “Content Analysis” page.

Here’s what I got for IoT:

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It’s clear that Facebook is bringing in the most shares, followed by LinkedIn and Twitter.

I would probably want to focus on those networks in that order.

Here’s what I got for digital marketing:

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For this industry, Twitter is actually bringing in the most shares, followed by Facebook and LinkedIn.

You get the idea.

The only catch is you’re limited to these five platforms because BuzzSumo doesn’t currently feature Instagram, Snapchat, Tumblr, etc.

But it’s still a good way to gauge which major networks are most worth your time.

Conclusion

If you ever get overwhelmed or confused during your content marketing journey, take a step back.

No matter what niche you’re in and no matter what type of business you run, someone has done it before.

This means that you can study them, learn from them, and use this information to overcome any obstacles that stand in your way.

In this post, I went over 12 lessons from 5 awesome content marketing case studies. These are lessons that apply to just about any content marketing strategy.

I also gave you 23 more lessons that I have learned over the years, for a grand total of 35 content marketing lessons for you to learn by.

I know it is a lot but I strongly encourage you to implement these lessons as soon as you can.

You’ll reach your goals faster because of it.

A Guide on How To Create a Guide That’ll Drive You 361,494 Visitors

Posted: 09 Apr 2019 09:47 AM PDT

Have you noticed a trend of people creating more detailed guides? You know, ones similar to my guides on SEOgrowth hackingcontent marketing, or landing page optimization that I have released on Quick Sprout?

Vero just released a guide on email marketing, and Qualaroo released one on conversion optimization.

What you may not know is that although I was the one to make the creation of detailed guides popular, I wasn’t the first one to come up with the concept. I actually borrowed the idea from Moz, who released the beginner’s guide to SEO a few years ago.

When they released an article talking about the fact that the guide has received over a million visitors to-date, I decided to take that model and streamline it by producing a new guide each month.

When I first started out, some of the guides only received 68,319 visitors, while others received 128,582 visitors, but I quickly learned what to do and what not to do. Since then, all of my guides have been getting at least 361,494 visitors.

If you want to create guides that generate hundreds of thousand of visitors, here is what you have to do:

1. Only write on advanced topics

I noticed that every time I released a guide on a topic that has already been beaten to death or one that is basic, I barely got any visitors. For example, the guide to online marketing for beginners only received 68,319 visitors.

On the flip side, my guide on growth hacking has already received over 414,209 visitors.

Every time I release a guide on an advanced topic, I receive at least a few hundred thousand visitors.

The same trend exists with my blog. Every time I write on an advanced topic and give detailed steps, my traffic goes through the roof. And basic blog posts tend to flop.

If you are going to invest the time and energy into writing a detailed guide, make sure you pick advanced topics that are continually growing in popularity. You can check this by using Google Trends.

All you have to do is enter in a keyword or phrase of the topic you are trying to write about such as “growth hacking.”

google trends

As long as the graph is going up and to the right at a rapid pace, like the graph above, there is a good chance that if you write on that topic, you’ll get a good amount of traffic.

Once you have your advanced topic, you are now ready to find a writer.

2. Where do you find writers?

If you are a natural born writer and you have the time to create a detailed guide, that’s great! If you don’t, then you’ll want to search for a writer.

A great place to start finding them is by browsing other blogs in your space. Look for popular writers who get a ton of social shares per post as well as comments. Also look for writers who write in a casual tone as you don’t want a writer who writes as if he or she is drafting an essay.

If that doesn’t work, post a job listing at places such as Upwork and Craigslist.

When looking for writers, you have to be very specific. If you aren’t, you will be wasting your time digging through a pile of applicants.

The tricky part about this is that if your job description is too long, people won’t read it, and we’ll just apply. Your goal should be to balance length with specificity.

Here are the main things you need to cover within your job posting:

  • Subject matter – the type of content you want people to produce.
  • Length – business-based posts should be anywhere from 1,500 to 5,000 words depending on your niche. Consumer-facing posts should be fewer than 2,000 words—ideally, under 1,000 words.
  • Tone – do you want your content to sound research-oriented, casual, conversational, etc.? Typically, conversational type of posts perform the best.
  • Examples – send two examples of posts within your industry that you like. If you can’t find any in your industry, find some in any related industry.
  • Purpose – whether you want your content to be humorous or informative, you have to state this to potential writers.

When posting an ad on Problogger or Craigslist, you should consider using an ad similar to this one:

ABC.com is looking for a writer who can talk about sales / crm / motivation in the workplace, business management, increasing revenue, etc.

MUST:

  • Be able to write in a conversational tone
  • Produce informative posts
  • Have personable writing style

Here is an example of two articles with the style of writing we are looking for:

  • example1.com
  • example2.com

We want blog posts written with 1,500-2,000 words.

Please send at least two articles you feel are closest to the writing style we like. If you don’t have any but are certain you can write in that style, send a paragraph within your email using the tone we are looking for 🙂

Once your job postings go live, you’ll receive 100 plus applicants. Just make sure you release the posting on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday. Releasing it on a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday will usually result in 15 to 20% fewer applicants.

3. How do you evaluate writers?

Now that you have a list of applicants, you first want to read their emails. If you notice any grammar or spelling errors within the emails, don’t bother reading their examples. Just cross them off your list.

Why? If they weren’t thorough enough to double-check their emails, they won’t be detail-oriented when creating content for your blog.

For the applicants that have a well-written email, read the first few paragraphs of the examples they included. When reading the first few paragraphs, look for:

  • Conversational tone – the use of the words “you” and “I.”
  • Personality – no one wants to read dry content.
  • Fluff – no one wants to read fluff.
  • Facts – if the writer is making claims, he or she should be linking to sources that back up what the writer is stating.
  • Short paragraphs – ideally, paragraphs should be no longer than 5 or 6 lines.
  • Formatting – if their posts aren’t formatted well, people will have a hard time reading the content.
  • Pictures – each post should start off with an image.

Now that you have narrowed down your list of potentially qualified writers, go back and read the whole blog posts that they linked you to. You should now look for:

  • Subheadings – using them makes content easier to read and skim.
  • Italicizing and bolding – doing these two things to certain words throughout a post makes it easier to read.
  • External links – posts with dozens of relevant external links tend to get shared more on the social web by the website owners you are linking to.
  • Media – pictures, audio, and video are powerful. Not everyone enjoys reading text. If the writer is using media throughout the post, it’s a good sign.
  • Conclusion – wrapping up the post makes it easier for people to digest the information provided.
  • Question – at the end of the post, there should be a question posed to the readers. This will help increase the number of comments generated by your posts.

Most writers won’t meet all of these requirements. But the ones that meet 80% or so are usually going to do a good job.

4. How much should you pay writers?

If you noticed, I didn’t mention the pay within the job posting. That’s because each writer is willing to work for different amounts.

If your number is too low, you will get little to no applicants. If you price it too high, the quotes you will receive will be too high.

By not including a price, you can ask each writer what they will accept. From there, you can negotiate with them and get their prices down.

Typically, expect to spend $100 to $200 per post. I know that may sound expensive, but good content is. If you are paying less, you’ll see that the quality won’t be as high.

If you are on a budget, consider buying less content until you have a larger budget. But don’t skimp on quality. It’s better to pay for one really good blog post than it is to pay for 10 mediocre posts.

5. Get the right content from your writers

Have your writer submit 5 to 10 headline ideas. From there, you can either adjust the headlines or just pick the one that is most appealing to you.

Once you have decided what you’ll want your writer to write about, have the writer create an outline.

The outline should consist of:

  • Introduction – the whole introductory paragraph(s) should be fully written.
  • Body – they should put the main points that will be discussed throughout the body into a bulleted list.
  • Conclusion – the conclusion should end with a question posed to the readers.

If you don’t like the outline or any specific element of it, give the writer feedback and have him or her continually adjust it until you are happy. Once you are happy, you can then have the writer write the post.

Once your writer finishes writing the post, provide more detailed feedback on what you like and dislike.

The whole purpose of this process is to be so picky with the writer that he or she will learn what you like and don’t like. Eventually, the writer will know what you want without much involvement from you.

6. Get the right images

If the writer has included images, make sure they are screenshots, royalty-free images, or ones that were purchased. In other words, make sure you don’t get sued for using the images.

I’ve been stuck in situations where writers used images that they weren’t supposed to, and we published the content. We later got a legal letter from stock photography sites like Getty Images that not only demanded that we take down the image but pay them for the prior use of the image.

This has cost me thousands of dollars over the years, which is why I am very picky about what images can or can’t be used.

7. Create “cornerstone” guides

If you’ve been following my blog for any length of time, you’ve probably noticed I like going big.

By this I mean that I:

  • create long-form guides
  • include a lot of visuals
  • include statistics
  • cover a lot of facts and details that others may not always touch on

In other words, I strive to provide my audience with as much value as possible.

Keep in mind I don’t always drive the ball out of the park with each blog post or guide, but there’s a consistent level of depth I strive to achieve.

And this has been a big part of my success over the years.

This is why I can’t stress enough the importance of creating “cornerstone” guides, and not merely your average, run of the mill posts so common on the Internet.

Here are a few of the benefits of creating comprehensive, long-form content:

  • higher rankings in search engines
  • increased time on site
  • success in social media
  • a position of authority

Now, of course, you probably won’t have the time to create five-plus posts like this each week (or even three).

That’s why I suggest at least considering scaling back your content and focusing on creating fewer but higher quality in-depth guides rather than churning out dozens mediocre ones.

8. Longer isn’t always better

I’ve written guides that were anywhere from 20,000 to 45,000 words long. The one thing I’ve learned is that guides that are 20,000 to 30,000 words long tend to do as well as the ones that are 45,000 words long from a traffic perspective.

So, from a cost perspective, you are probably better off paying for a 20,000-word guide than for a 45,000-word guide.

I’ve also learned through testing that the optimal number of chapters per guide is roughly 7. Having 10 or even 14 chapters won’t drive you much more, if any, traffic. And making your guide into one or several long pages, instead of 7 chapters, will typically drive you less search engine traffic in the long run.

For example, the guide on doubling your traffic in 30 days and the one on doubling your conversions in 30 days get on average 313% less search engine traffic than the other guides due to the fact that they were formatted as one long page instead of being broken down into multiple chapters.

9. Don’t forget to include experts

One of the biggest traffic drivers to these guides is Twitter. I quickly learned from a few of my guides that the easiest way to get more Twitter traffic is to include expert interviews.

Including industry experts throughout your guide will give you the reason to email them upon releasing it, and they will be much more open to tweeting and promoting it. You’ll also find that other people within your industry will be more open to promoting it because the guide will be considered reputable due to the fact that industry people are talking about it.

My guides that have expert round-ups received at least 3 times more Twitter traffic than the ones that don’t.

twitter traffic

If you are going to invest hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars into a guide, you would be foolish not to include expert opinions within it.

10. Pay top dollar for design

The one thing I learned from others is that you can’t take design for granted. Even before Moz, hundreds, if not thousands, of other websites released detailed guides, but Moz was the first to make a detailed guide look pretty. They spent over $20,000 on design just on the beginner’s guide to SEO.

By studying the competition, I quickly saw that the guides that looked pretty tended to get a lot more social shares. This is why I spend so much on design at Quick Sprout.

On sites like Dribbble, you can sift through illustrators and find people who can make your guides look beautiful. On average, you are going to spend $10,000 to $20,000 per guide for an exceptionally good designer, and around $2,500 to $5,000 for a decent designer.

11. File types matter

Once your guide is done, you will have to find someone to code it. You’ll want to create an HTML version that you can place online. This way people can link to it and share it, and your search traffic should increase.

In addition to that, I highly recommend that you create a PDF version that is compatible with mobile devices and tablets. I didn’t do this with my first two guides, and I literally got over 300 emails from people asking to either make the guide compatible with their mobile devices or requesting a PDF version.

12. Make infographics an integral part of your content formula

I feel a little bit like Captain Obvious by pointing out the impact of infographics.

But the bottom line is that this medium is your ticket to massive traffic.

Why? It’s simple. Infographics get shared like crazy.

In fact, “Infographics are Liked and shared on social media 3x more than other content.”

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Here are a few more stats that prove the traffic-generating potential of infographics:

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They’re visual. They’re easy to follow. And they make it incredibly simple to digest complex information that would be difficult to consume in a traditional, text-based format.

Not to mention they’re fun.

There’s something inherently playful about infographics that makes people “eat ’em up.”

Just check out the number of shares this infographic from Copyblogger has gotten since the day it was published back in 2012:

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Pretty impressive.

I realize there are definitely newer, sexier content marketing tactics out there.

I also realize that interest in infographics has waned slightly over the past few years.

But they’re still one of the top forms of content in terms of traffic-generating potential.

That’s why I recommend including infographics as a part of your guides.

13. Get cozy with video

Here are some quick stats from HubSpot regarding the state of live video.

  • “Cisco projects that global Internet traffic from videos will make up 80% of all Internet traffic by 2019.”
  • “4x as many consumers would prefer to watch a video about a product than read about it.”
  • “43% of consumers wanted to see more video content in 2016.”

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No matter which way you slice it, a steady diet of video content is going to crank up your traffic so adding a video or two to each of your guides is always a smart idea.

14. Don’t forget to promote

Before you release your guide, you’ll want to spend a few days hitting up people within your industry, letting them know about it. This is important because you can get them to promote the guide via Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

Although it sounds simple, it works well. I just shoot off emails to people within my industry and say:

Hey [insert your contact’s first name],

Hope things are going well for you and [insert your contact’s business name]. I know you are busy, so I’ll keep this email short.

I just wanted to let you know that I am releasing a free guide for our industry, and it is going to teach everyone about [insert the topic of the guide]. I’m doing this because I feel the industry could use more education, and I love helping people.

I would greatly appreciate it if you can tweet it out or share it. You can find the guide here: [insert URL]

Cheers,

[insert your name]

A lot of people will ignore your email. But typically 5% to 10% of the people you email will promote your guide. This will cause a ripple effect as more people will see it and then promote it as well.

Another great way to promote your guide is to email the sites that you link to within your content.

A good rule of thumb is to add external links only when it makes sense for the reader. Ideally, you should be shooting for 25 external links for every 1,000 words of content you are writing.

Why?

Because I usually email out each of the sites I linked to with the following email:

Subject: I mentioned [insert their site name] in my latest post

Hey [insert their name],

I just wanted to let you know I am a huge fan of your work. I like it so much that I actually linked to [insert their website] within my latest blog post.

[Insert your blog post URL]

I would be honored if you checked it out. And if you love it, feel free to share it on the social web.

Your fan,

[Insert your name]

By doing this, you’ll gain social shares and eventually build up a large enough audience that can be leveraged to promote future guides.

Conclusion

If you follow the steps above, you’ll start attracting thousands of more visitors to your site, generate more backlinks, and improve the recognition of your brand.

Guides are one of my favorite methods to market a business, and it has been extremely effective for me because I follow the tips above.

You don’t have to spend tons of time or money creating these guides. You can always write them internally or have your in-house designer make them look pretty.

Nonetheless, you should be creating guides on a regular basis. They are so effective that I try to release at least one every month.

The Most Important Skills For Content Marketing

Posted: 09 Apr 2019 09:39 AM PDT

Some jobs are easy to define and prepare for:

Want to be an engineer? Go to school and get an engineering degree.

Want to code for Google? Go to school and study computer science.

What do you do when you want to be a content marketer?

Go to school and study content marketing? Hmm…there doesn’t seem to be a program for that, please try again.

Sure, it wouldn’t hurt to study general business or marketing, but that’s not enough either. You’ll end up learning many things you don’t really need and not learning those you do need.

All the top content marketers I know have a wide variety of useful skills that closely relate to content marketing.

This is largely out of necessity.

Content marketing—the modern version of it—didn’t really become popular until the last few years.

If you really want to be a great content marketer, there’s only one place for you to get your education:

The real world.

But do note that the bar has been raised.

Creating great content isn’t enough anymore if you want your content marketing to be successful.

Today, you need to not only create that content but also promote it.

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Many marketers have started to wake up to this fact, which is a good thing.

However, just because they recognize that promotion is important doesn’t mean they know how to do it effectively.

In my experience, only a small percentage of marketers possess the skills that make them effective promoters as well.

The big problem is that if you don’t have these skills, you’ll struggle to learn how to promote effectively.

The reason for this is that there isn’t much help out there.

When it comes to creating great content, you can study the content your favorite blogs publish and attempt to replicate it.

But it’s next to impossible to understand all the work that goes on behind the scenes to promote that content unless the creators are generous enough to share it with you.

It takes a special kind of marketer—the cream of the crop—to learn both from resources (like blog posts) and experience.

These are the complete content marketers that get the results everyone else wants.

In this post, I’ll explain in detail the most important skills that I believe all great content marketers need.

Let’s dive in.

1. The best content marketers all have this skill…

This first skill might be the most important.

Critical thinking.

As a marketer who is still finding your way, you’ll be spending a lot of time learning about different tactics you can use to promote your content.

These might be email outreach tactics, link building tactics, or social media tactics…you get the picture.

But not all marketers who try a specific tactic will succeed with it. You probably know that already from firsthand experience.

It’s not because of luck or skill. Although these factors may play a role, the main factor that determines how successful you are with a tactic is fit.

Some tactics work in some niches and situations better than in others.

If you blindly try different tactics, you’ll have some success but not as much as you’d like.

The really good marketers, or the ones who seem to “get it” really quickly, are the ones who can critically think about a tactic.

They don’t just read a blog post and think, “This is pretty cool; I’d better try it!”

Instead, they think about questions like these:

  • Why does this tactic work?
  • What niches would it work best in? why?
  • Will this work for my content?
  • Can I can tweak it in any way to make it even more effective?
  • How can I test this?

Understanding a tactic before using it is different from just applying it blindly. I hope the reason behind those questions is clear.

Once you truly understand the tactics you learn, all of a sudden you are able to see where they fit together in an overall strategy.

The good news is that no one is born with critical thinking skills—these skills are developed.

And even better news is that you probably already have some, but maybe just need to consciously use them more often.

Regardless of where you are, let’s go through a complete example of how you would approach a tactic in real life.

Examining infographics with critical thinking: Here’s the situation: you come across an article I wrote about creating and promoting infographics.

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Of course, your first reaction is excitement when I explain how infographics can be used to get thousands of visits.

And they can, for sure. But not in all situations.

After you read the post, you want to ask yourself the same questions I listed above.

Q: Why does this tactic work?

Infographics work because they are attractive, easy to consume, and can convey complex information quickly.

On top of that, really good ones stand out and get extra attention.

Because infographics are so shareable, you’ll get a ton of traffic if you can get the initial views to them. Providing an embed code underneath the infographic makes it easy to share (and gets you extra links).

Q: What niches would it work best in? Why?

Infographics are an image-based type of content. Therefore, they probably work best in image dominated niches. Think clothing, design, food, and even marketing to a degree.

The most important factor mentioned was that the topic needs to be interesting, which means that viewers need to care about it.

In “boring” niches like heating or bug removal, which are not that interesting to people (in general), it’s going to be tough to get the infographic to spread.

Q: Can I tweak it in any way to make it even more effective?

The reason why the effectiveness of infographics seems to be declining is that they’re becoming more commonplace.

So, if I can come up with a way to make mine more unique, I should be able to get better results. Perhaps, I can make a gifographic instead.

Q: How can I test this?

To test this tactic fairly, I would need to produce at least 5-10 professionally designed infographics.

This means I’ll likely need a budget of around $2,000-4,000.

I will then determine its effectiveness by looking at a few key metrics:

  • cost per subscriber
  • cost per link
  • cost per visit

Then, I will compare those metrics to the metrics of other tactics I’ve used to determine if I should produce more infographics.

End questions. In reality, you’d probably want to ask yourself even more questions.

How many readers of this blog or any other marketing blog honestly do this after reading about a tactic?

While I have some of the most active readers I’ve ever seen, which is great, I would guess far fewer than half of the readers who read a post do this.

If you want to develop critical thinking skills, you simply need to practice thinking. Ask yourself hard questions and try to get the best answers you can.

It’s okay if they’re not perfect; you’ll get better over time.

2. A love for data analysis sets you apart

A great content marketer is a lover of both content and numbers, which is a rare package.

A great content marketer is results-based: It starts with knowing that you need a way of measuring your results.

To do this, you need to understand the role of metrics in a business. These metrics are also being called key performance indicators (KPIs).

Metrics are a way of describing goals.

If your goal is to increase readership, the metrics you’ll be concerned with are traffic and subscribers.

You can monitor metrics over time to see if you are making progress. If the progress is too slow, you can test different approaches and look at the metrics to see if they are working.

Although every content marketing plan has its own goals, there are a few metrics that are important in nearly every scenario.

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You’ll notice that those metrics cover numbers both before and after a sale.

The most common purpose of content marketing is to improve sales, so you’d better see an increase in revenue if you’re doing it right.

Data collection and analysis are the basic skills a content marketer needs: The first step is realizing that metrics are a necessary part of business.

You don’t need to obsess over them, but you do need to make sure you know how to track and analyze them.

Tracking is very simple.

Know how to install something like Google Analytics or KISSmetrics.

Analytics software not only tracks your readers’ behavior but also provides you with a dashboard for quickly organizing and analyzing it.

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The first big obstacle content marketers need to overcome is learning how to use the analytics software.

You can find tutorials online to help with this, but the simplest way is to simply play around with it yourself and look through different tabs and settings.

The second obstacle is much larger.

You need to learn how to analyze that data.

You can get the basics of this pretty quickly:

  • choose your metrics
  • look at them over a valid time period
  • assess whether the metrics have improved or worsened

The hard part is knowing how to analyze data properly.

Really good content marketers know how to look at the situation, conduct very specific tests, and segment the analytics data to provide meaningful information.

Often, new marketers will make decisions based on analytics, but they don’t look at the right set of users.

For example, if you had two versions of a blog layout and saw that one had a better time on-page, you might conclude that it’s better.

However, it’s possible that it’s really not if you dig into things like:

  • browser
  • returning visitors
  • time of week

It may turn out that the second page performs better in all browsers except Internet Explorer.

That would lead you to investigate why that is, and you’d probably find out that it’s not showing up correctly. Fixing the errors would change the results of your experiment.

By having more experience and knowledge, that content marketer may have just made his or her business tens of thousands of dollars. Repeat that over the course of several years, and you see why a good content marketer is worth a lot.

This is a skill that needs to be developed through experience or mentorship by an expert. There are no shortcuts, e.g., you can’t just read a blog post about it and become an expert.

Every marketer should be able to do basic A/B testing: I’ve already mentioned testing a few times.

While there are a few types of experiments you can run, the most basic is an A/B split test.

First, you should understand what split tests are and why they are valuable.

They allow you to test two different versions of content to see which one leads to better metrics.

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Split-testing is very useful for gaining continual small improvements in metrics such as conversion rate.

These small improvements add up to impressive results over time.

Second, you need to know how to run split tests and analyze the results.

Fortunately, it’s very simple now with modern software.

If you want a more detailed look at running a split test, you can refer to my guide on conversion optimization. Otherwise, there are just a few main steps.

First, you’ll need to pick a piece of software to help set up the test and track the results. For example, you can use Optimizely.

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Then, you’ll need to create a hypothesis for a test.

The best split testers know how to test something that is likely to have a big impact on the metric you’re trying to improve.

These aren’t usually pulled out of thin air. Instead, they are determined based on analyzing analytics and user behavior data.

Software like Crazy Egg can show you how visitors use your website. You can use that information to make an educated guess about how to improve the clarity of your content.

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Finally, you’ll need to determine a significant sample size and collect data. Most types of software do this for you nowadays.

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At the end, you pick the winner and start again.

It will be a big benefit to understand the statistics behind split testing to spot mistakes and set up useful tests.

If you’ve never taken a statistics class, you can take one online free.

There are many, but here one popular class is Intro to Statistics: Making Decisions Based on Data

It’s not mandatory, but it’s a nice asset to have.

3. How far can you dig?

One question that I get all the time is: “How long does it take you to write your posts?”

Truthfully, it doesn’t take that long. Typically, I can do the actual writing in about 3 hours plus some time for editing.

But creating a post takes longer than that. It also takes a lot of research. Some posts, of course, will require more research than others.

Research is one of the most undervalued skills in a content marketer.

With respect to content marketing, there are a few main reasons why your ability to research effectively is so important.

Reason #1 – To understand your customer: If you want to be a good content marketer, you need to understand the type of reader you’re trying to attract.

If you don’t, you can’t produce content that they will be interested in.

You won’t be able to write about the right topics, and you won’t know how your readers enjoy consuming the information.

If you don’t research your target reader and understand them, you’re basically just guessing what they might like.

It can still work, but be prepared to produce hundreds of pieces of content until you learn what works.

Or do some research, and get it right the first time. Clients don’t want to pay you for months on end while you figure things out by trial and error.

So, how do you actually research your reader and customer?

There are tons of ways.

And there are no wrong answers.

You might start by paying attention to what readers are saying in the comments of your, or your competitor’s, website.

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Answer questions like:

  • what do they like about the content?
  • what don’t they like?
  • what other subjects are they interested in?
  • what kind of job/life do they have (readers will often tell you)?

Or you can hunt down small niche forums and spend time digging into threads:

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This is a great way to find out about their problems, which make great content ideas.

Or you can research demographic data using sites like Alexa.

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Demographics are a key part of building a reader profile.

These are three of many options.

Great content marketers keep digging until they have as clear of a picture of their reader as possible.

They do this before they ever start writing.

An hour of research here might save several hours of work in the future.

Research #2 – To understand your product: Selling products isn’t an accident. You need to have a plan to effectively sell anything with content marketing.

Many inexperienced content marketers will say, “I’ll worry about the product later,” and focus on just producing content.

BIG mistake. Why?

Because when you do that, you don’t ensure that your product matches your audience’s needs.

This is called product-market fit.

Instead, you need to figure out how your content should relate to and add to the promotion of any products you sell.

This is where research comes in.

There are two main scenarios that you’ll need to be comfortable in.

The first is when you’re hired by a company that already sells a product. You need to research the product and understand what it does (and sometimes how it does it).

Pretend I hired you to manage the Crazy Egg blog. How could you do it without understanding the product?

You wouldn’t be able to create product tutorials or content that features the software until you get familiar with it:

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While that’s far from the only content produced on the blog, it’s a type of content that plays an important role in the sales process.

The other scenario is when you don’t have a product yet.

Research is even more important in this case.

You’ll need to find out which products your audience will pay for and potentially how to create those products as well.

Finally, and most importantly, a great content marketer knows how to research content topics.

You need to know what you’re talking about in order to write a high quality article.

This involves knowing how to look up high quality journal articles as well as other resources:

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It also involves spending the time understanding those resources.

If you’re writing about advanced topics, this takes considerable persistence, and many weak content marketers will simply find a lower quality resource instead.

Great content marketers aren’t lazy.

Reason #3 – To solve problems independently: The final main reason why research is an important skill for content marketers to have is because without it, you’ll often get stuck.

Content marketers will always be faced with questions and problems:

  • What should I write about?
  • What’s the best format for this content?
  • How do I create this form of content?
  • I don’t understand this topic, so what do I do?

Let me give you a realistic scenario…

Let’s say you’re keeping up with the latest SEO posts, and you see this filter before a list of tools on Backlinko:

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And you think: “A filter like that would really improve a piece of content I’m working on.”

Here’s the problem: there’s no simple plugin to do it for you.

So, what then? Most will give up. A great content marketer, however, will dig in and figure it out.

They will learn that the filter uses a simple Javascript script.

Now, most content marketers don’t know how to create one of their own. However, the best will find someone who can make one.

They’ll head over to Odesk or Upwork and create a job posting for a developer.

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(That’s not a relevant posting to this problem, by the way.)

The big difference between a good and bad content marketer is persistence.

Great marketers will keep researching until they find the answer to their problem. That’s what makes them stand out from everyone else.

Reason #4 – To improve your email outreach results: A lot of modern day promotion is based on email outreach, and it’s important you understand some basic numbers.

Most effective tactics will have a conversion rate of 5-10%. That means that for every 100 emails you send, 5 to 10 will end up in links. The actual percentage will depend on a lot of factors, e.g., your niche, copywriting skills, and quality of content.

Keep in mind that the conversion rate I quoted above is for the best tactics. Most tactics will have a lower conversion rate.

What does this mean in terms of research?

It means that you’ll have to send a ton of emails as part of your promotional campaigns. You’ll want to get at least 20-30 links to the content you’ve spent a few hundred dollars on creating.

In most cases, that means you’re sending 400+ emails, sometimes thousands.

Over time, that number won’t seem that big, but at first, I understand why that would seem like a ton.

In reality, there are two big components to this:

  • sending the actual emails and
  • researching hundreds or thousands of good prospects

The research usually takes more time than sending the emails, at least until you establish key relationships in your niche.

Since you’re dealing with hundreds or thousands of data points, it’s crucial that you work efficiently.

This usually means working with tools and knowing how to use them effectively.

For example, you could manually search for resource pages to target for a link. You could probably create a list of 100 in an hour or so.

Or you could simply find a similar type of content, plug it in a tool such as Ahrefs or Majestic, and have a list of hundreds or thousands of targets in seconds.

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Work smarter, not harder (when possible).

4. Are you able to determine what is and isn’t important?

By now, you understand pretty well what promoting consists of.

And to be honest, it’s an insane amount of work.

You could easily hire someone (or multiple marketers) just to do promotion for your content.

In most cases, you can’t do that.

Instead, you need to find a way to balance content creation with content promotion while running other parts of your business as well.

Introducing the 80/20 rule: The skill I’m focusing on in this section is your ability to identify which of your actions produce the most results.

There’s a fairly established rule called the 80/20 rule (or Pareto principle).

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It states that 80% of your results come from 20% of your effort. And it applies to just about everything.

One of the things it applies to is content promotion:

  • 80% of your traffic will come from 20% of the links
  • 80% of your links and traffic will come from 20% of your promotion tactics

In almost all cases, if a sample size is large enough, these numbers will be fairly accurate. They may differ by 5-10% in each direction, but the effect remains the same.

Using the 80/20 rule to eliminate fluff: The reason why I showed you this rule is because it’s possibly the most effective way to save a lot of time without losing much in the way of results.

In fact, you can often get better results in less time once you understand how the rule works in your case.

By breaking down your efforts and results, you can determine which of your efforts are contributing the most to your results.

Then, you can cut out all the rest. Why spend 80% of your efforts on only 20% of the returns you want?

Instead, use that extra time you freed up to double or triple down on that 20% of activity that actually produces results.

Here’s what it might look like in practice…

Track all your efforts and results, then eliminate waste: You never want to guess what is and isn’t effective.

Instead, start by tracking what you do to promote content, how much time you spend on it, and what you get in return for that effort.

Tracking time is pretty straightforward, but you’ll have to track your other metrics using tools such as Google Analytics (for traffic) and Ahrefs (for links).

Here are some hypothetical results:

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The traffic per hour value is calculated by dividing the traffic from that activity by the time spent on the activity.

I used traffic as the main goal for this promotional campaign, but yours could be links, social shares, or whatever else you’re looking for.

Finally, you can calculate the percentage of results value by dividing the traffic per hour value by the total “traffic per hour” amount (e.g., 300/1466 for email outreach). This is a fair comparison since they are all based on a “per hour” basis.

What we see is that almost all of the results come from email outreach and emailing subscribers (about 88%). Those two activities take up 5.5 out of 11.5 hours of effort, or a little under 50% of the total effort.

This also illustrates that it doesn’t matter if there’s a perfect 80/20 ratio. You just want to see which activities are producing the least from your efforts.

In this case, you could cut out over half of your effort and lose only about 12% of the results, a great trade off.

Even if this time was spent just on more email outreach, you could take your total traffic from 2,500 to about 3,500 (a 40% increase).

If you wanted to spend more time emailing your subscribers, you could do it indirectly by spending the extra time trying to get more subscribers. This could be done by creating lead magnets or by employing other tactics to try to improve your conversion rate.

The bottom line is that you need to be efficient.

Find any effort that isn’t producing results (like screwing around on social media), and cut it out. You don’t have time to waste if you want to be a good content promoter.

5. Content takes many forms; being able to create it starts with writing

Although content marketing is a niche of marketing, it’s still fairly broad.

Content can take many different forms:

  • text posts
  • infographics
  • videos
  • slide shows
  • tools
  • charts
  • e-books

While it’s good to know how to create all types of content, they all, to some degree, involve writing.

Even making videos requires you to produce a script.

As you also know, most content marketing is done in the form of blog posts—typically text- and image-based content.

There are a few skills that go into being a good writer (and content marketer).

Skill #1 – Basic writing ability: There’s a common misconception about what it takes to be a “great writer” (at least when it comes to web content).

No, you don’t need to be able to write an essay like you were taught in school.

No, you don’t need to have an extensive vocabulary with tons of fancy words in it.

In reality, great writing for most situations is very simple. As long as you can write while following basic grammar and have enough of a vocabulary to express your ideas, you’re fine.

Basic writing ability also includes a few more things.

Research, as we talked about before, is one.

In addition, do you know how to use the writing tools at your disposal? Can you work in MS Word or Google Docs and know how to format your content?

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Can you then take that post and format it in a major content management system such as WordPress and Drupal?

No, it’s not difficult, but you still need to know how to do these things.

If you don’t, spend a bit of time Googling and learning how to make the most of modern writing tools.

Skill #2 – Being able to write persuasively: When everyone has the same basic writing tools (that we just went over), how do great writers stand out?

Using the same words doesn’t mean you’ll have the same message. The words you choose will have a large effect on how interesting your content is to read.

You want to be able to write persuasively and conversationally:

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Writing persuasively begins and ends with how well you understand your reader.

If you know exactly how they think, you can guide them from one thought to another until they reach a conclusion that provokes action.

This takes practice, and the more you write, the better you’ll get.

Additionally, you want to write conversationally.

It’s not complicated. There are only two main aspects:

  • Use first and second person pronouns – e.g., “you”, “us”, “your”, “we.”
  • Use the reader’s language – use the same words they do to describe their problems.

You can see that writing persuasively and writing conversationally overlap because to be good at both, you need to understand your readers’ language.

Skill #3 – Being able to come up with the right kind of ideas: There are some fantastic writers out there who make poor content marketers.

While they can write well when given a topic (or guidance on which topics are best), they struggle to see how it all fits together.

It’s not enough to come up with ideas to write about. You have to come up with content ideas that address readers at each step of the buying process.

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In addition, you need to take interesting angles on each topic so that people actually would want to read them.

Let’s look at an example.

If you follow multiple marketing blogs, you’ve seen several posts on video marketing in the last few months.

These are typically along the lines of “X tips on using video marketing effectively.”

A post like that doesn’t have an angle to it. There’s no hook.

Instead, I wrote a post titled “4 Clever Ways Videos Can Help You Attract Customers”.

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My readers are smart. They don’t want to do video marketing for the sake of it; they want to do it to achieve a result.

So, I took an angle on this topic. I showed how videos can be used to get more customers.

That’s something readers are actually interested in.

Skill #4 – Being able to write efficiently: Finally, it’s worth noting that the best content marketers are able to crank out high quality posts on a regular basis without burning out.

They can only do this by writing fast.

They’ve all developed a process that works for them, and it’s something that you’ll have to do as well.

If you’re a slow writer, read how you can double your writing speed.

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One final note about this is that it will take time.

Everyone is a slow writer when they start. At that point, focusing on quality is most important.

Once you have a handle on that, then start focusing on producing content at a faster and more consistent rate.

6. Social skills on the Internet?

Marketers come from all sorts of backgrounds.

A large portion of the new generation of Internet marketers was attracted to the profession because it offered a chance to make money without truly interacting with people.

Or at least that’s what they thought.

If you want to be a legitimate and successful marketer, you need to have at least basic social skills.

You need to know how to communicate with co-workers, influencers, and your readers in a way that doesn’t seem awkward or manipulative.

This comes down to basic human interaction, especially in emails.

A lot of promotional success comes down to building relationships with people, and if you can’t hold a conversation, in any medium, it’s going to be tough to succeed.

Most people have these basic social skills, but if you think yours can be improved, read Ramit Sethi’s The Ultimate Guide to Social Skills, which is by far the most useful guide on the subject I’ve come across.

7. The ability to care about others will take you far

It’s a harsh truth.

No other website owner truly cares about your content.

So, when you email them asking them to take a look at it and give you a link of some sort, it’s tough to get a positive response.

That’s why good marketers never just ask for things.

Instead, they provide value upfront.

They do something nice for an influencer, and most people return the favor. It’s called the rule of reciprocity.

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That’s a very simple concept that every marketer should know.

What really sets good marketers apart, however, is empathy.

Empathy just means that you’re good at viewing things from the perspective of others and understanding how they feel.

It’s an important skill in all parts of marketing, but especially promotion.

It’s another one of those skills that help you understand when certain tactics should be used.

For example, consider broken link building.

The idea is that you find broken links on someone’s website and then you let them know about the broken links and suggest yours as a replacement.

It’s a completely valid tactic in some cases…

Empathy allows you to understand what people care about.

The guy managing a resource page in your niche? He probably cares about keeping the page as up-to-date and useful as possible.

Why? Because the whole page is dedicated to links that help the visitor. If those links are dead, it has a big impact on the usefulness of the page.

Here’s an example of what one might look like.

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What about the guy running a small blog? He also probably cares about broken links.

What about me? If someone emailed me telling me that I have broken links on Quick Sprout, how much would I care?

To be honest, not very much. I have hundreds of articles on Quick Sprout, so it’s inevitable that I’ll have a few dead links here and there.

I realize that dead links aren’t good for readers, but it’s honestly a small concern compared to all the other work I currently have to do for the site (and my other sites).

So, when people email me about dead links (they do quite often), they are not going to get my attention.

They’ve failed to understand the value I place on the broken links.

The reciprocity principle can work on just about anyone, but first, you need to give the other person something they value.

Can you develop empathy? I’m of the opinion that you can develop empathy just like any other skill.

However, it’s probably the most difficult skill to teach because I can’t just give you a guide or offer a course on it.

Instead, the only way to get better at it is to consciously put yourself in someone else’s shoes as often as you can.

Try to guess what they care about, and if possible, confirm it by having a conversation with them.

My best advice would be to pick five people you know every day, and answer questions like these for all of them:

  • “What are the things I value most in my life?”
  • “How much do I care about my professional life?”
  • “How often do I try to do something nice just to try to be a good person?”
  • “How loyal am I to my friends?”

You’ll probably have to do a little bit of Internet snooping for each person to answer these questions. Hopefully, you’ll begin to notice that you start thinking from another person’s perspective automatically when you’re trying to contact someone to promote your content.

8. A sloppy marketer is an unproductive one

A single piece of content may often have an entire campaign created around it, consisting of hundreds or thousands of emails.

Mix in a few different tactics, and there is a ton of data you need to keep track of.

This skill is a basic one: organization.

If someone asks you why they should hire you, they won’t be impressed if you tell them you have amazing organization skills. That’s because it’s expected.

If you can’t keep track of what you’ve done and what you have to do, there’s no way you’ll be able to run an efficient promotional campaign.

I’ve gone into it in great detail in the past, but for now, understand that there are three main components to organization as a marketer:

  1. Attitude – You need to want to be as productive as possible for yourself, your boss (if you have one), and your readers. This means you understand the importance of organization and put in the effort required.
  2. Technology – I write a lot about different tools you can use to be a more effective marketer. There’s a reason for this. Tools are a key part of working efficiently and staying organized. Even basic tools such as Google Docs and Trello go a long way when it comes to keeping track of things.

image03quicksprout-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/image032-300×169.jpg 300w” sizes=”(max-width: 905px) 100vw, 905px” />3. Adapting – Staying organized is a commitment. You need to commit to staying up-to-date with relevant tools. You have to commit to keeping track of all your work, even on days when you feel a bit lazy. When something new is added to the promotional campaign, you need to find a way to fit it into your organizational structure.

When you have thousands of emails to send and keep track of, you need to have an organizational system in place.

9. Will your content promotion be effective in the future?

A sign of a good content marketer isn’t how much they know.

That’s because in a field such as marketing, knowledge goes stale quickly.

What worked even a few years ago doesn’t work now.

What’s more important is that you are continuously learning.

One part of that is reading other marketers’ blogs. Since you’re here, I’m guessing you have that covered.

Even just reading one post a day adds up quickly.

I suggest using a tool such as Feedly so that you don’t waste time monitoring when posts come out (or just become an email subscriber of your favorite blogs).

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A good portion of marketers do that first part.

What they don’t do is experiment.

Marketing may not be a field of science, but you constantly need to test different tactics and strategies.

You need to be able to quantify what does and what does not work effectively.

For the most part, this involves split-testing.

For example, you might want to determine the effectiveness of sending an initial email to someone without asking for a link in that first email.

To do this, you would send some emails that did ask for a link right away and some that didn’t.

Then, once you had a valid sample size, you could compare the results.

From there, you could continue to test different approaches.

It’s crucial to test on a regular basis because all tactics will become less effective over time. It’s up to you to try to find more effective tactics before they become “ruined” by all the other marketers out there.

If you’re new to testing, it can seem intimidating, but it gets simple once you know what to do. Here are some guides to testing that will walk you through the entire process:

10. Can you lead AND follow?

Content promotion campaigns can take many different forms.

One component that often changes is the role you have to take.

Sometimes, you’ll do all the work yourself. That’s pretty straightforward—you just do things the way you like.

But you might be part of a marketing team and will likely need to follow instructions.

Even more common, you might find yourself having to lead. I say it’s more common because even if you do all your marketing yourself, you can start hiring freelancers to help you with certain parts of promotion.

Or you might want to hire content creators so that you can spend more time on promotion.

Here are a few good guides on managing help effectively:

11. No time should be wasted waiting, which is why you need to be a jack-of-all-trades

There’s another area that I think will continue to become more important.

And it doesn’t contain just one skill, but a few different ones.

I’m talking about two in particular:

  • coding
  • design

These are “accessory skills.” You don’t need them to be a great content marketer.

However, they will help.

There are two main benefits of having some skill in either of these (you don’t need to be an expert).

First, it will save you time.

Instead of having to hire a developer to create a simple script (like that filtering example we looked at earlier), you could do it yourself.

Typically, being able to do something like that can save you days when producing a piece of content.

Add that up over many instances, and a content marketer who can code or design becomes even more valuable.

The second main benefit is that it will help you come up with better content ideas.

When you understand the role of design and coding in content, you start to see opportunities where they could be used to improve content.

Instead of just making a list post, you might think of creating a sortable list post where each item has its own custom icon.

But if you have no knowledge in these two areas, it’s never going to cross your mind unless something tells you to do it.

Helpful skill #1 – Coding: For the non-programmer, coding is very intimidating. It’s actually simpler than it looks (for most basic things).

In particular, for content marketing, you’ll want to learn three different languages:

  • HTML5
  • CSS
  • Javascript

Yes, technically HTML and CSS aren’t programming languages, but to a non-coder, they all appear similar.

The first two are the simplest and affect how your content shows up on a page.

Javascript is an actual programming language that allows the visitor to interact with a web page (and run a script).

You don’t need to become an expert, but you should be able to sort out simple problems.

For example, if a picture isn’t showing up correctly on a page, what do you do?

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That’s a simple issue. You really want to avoid having to find someone who can help you fix it because that results in wasted hours.

Instead, you can go into the page source, find the error, and then fix it (in this case, the image width was wrong):

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That fix should take less than a minute.

So, how do you learn these?

Take them one by one, and start with the Codecademy track for each of them:

  • HTML and CSS
  • Javascript

If you complete each of those, you’ll be ahead of the majority of marketers.

Helpful skill #2 – Design: Design skills can be used for just about every piece of content.

Think of the number of times a custom image could improve your content. Probably at least a few times a post.

One option is to hire a freelance designer to create them, which isn’t a bad option.

However, it’s silly to be waiting for a freelancer when all you need is one simple picture.

You don’t need to be an expert, but you should have basic design skills.

I can show you 90% of what you need to know in a single post. And that post is my guide to creating custom images for your blog post without hiring a designer (like the one below).

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12. The world of marketing will always change: those who adapt will survive

If you look at the great content marketers of today, you’ll notice something.

They were great marketers a few years ago although they might have had a different title.

All industries evolve over time and shift to new areas.

When a shift occurs, usually over a few years, everyone has a decision to make:

Should I adapt?

Some never make it and fall into obscurity.

There are still SEOs who are preaching tactics from the early 2000s that are no longer effective.

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They never adapted to the changes in the SEO industry because they were afraid of losing what they had gained.

But the people you see who stay consistently at the top of their fields are always looking to learn about the “next thing.”

They adapt no matter what the circumstances are.

What this means to you as a content marketer: Content marketing, as we define it today, is still relatively young.

It’s only going to grow in the foreseeable future.

However, that doesn’t mean it won’t change.

Content marketing itself will continue to evolve. It’s up to you to always keep learning and improving your skill set.

Many poor content marketers know how to implement only one tactic or strategy successfully.

However, that’s not enough. A single tactic or strategy will never work in all situations. Also, it may not work in the future.

The best content marketers right now know how to use a wide variety of tactics and strategies depending on the situation (client, niche, resources, etc.).

They are also continually testing new ones to stay ahead of everyone else.

For you, this means that you need to keep learning.

When you find something that works, by all means use it. However, don’t think that you “figured it all out.”

Conclusion

Don’t get me wrong, content creation is incredibly important.

However, as far as the overall content marketing effectiveness goes, content promotion is often more important.

Furthermore, there’s a smaller percentage of marketers who know how to effectively promote content, so it really separates them from the rest.

If you want to be the best content promoter you can be, you need to develop all of the skills and techniques that I went over in this article.

Take a minute to honestly assess your skill level in each area. Then, come up with a plan to improve it, but focus on your biggest weaknesses first.

If you do, you will see your value as a content marketer rising, and you will get to the top of the field in time.

93 Content Marketing Tools You Need to Check Out in 2019

Posted: 08 Apr 2019 09:52 AM PDT

Content marketing is different these days.

You used to be able to publish blog posts on just about anything, and you’d get at least some traffic.

But now, you won’t get any.

Quality content marketing takes a lot of time and effort—there’s just no way around it.

But there are, of course, some marketers who accomplish more than others and in less time.

I’d like to see you become one of those efficient content marketers, if you’re not one already.

There are a few ways to become faster, and one of the best is to use tools.

There are a ton of tools out there—some good, some bad. Some save you time, but some may actually cost you time.

Even if you are among the 42% of B2B marketers who say they’re effective at content marketing, there is always room for improvement. If you want to make the most of content marketing, you need to know which strategies to implement and which tools to use.

In this post, we’ll examine 93 different content marketing tools proven to increase reach, generate sales, boost traffic, and much more.

Here we go!

Content Discovery

#1. Quora – Quora was built on the premise of providing “the best answer to any question.”

Content marketers can use the popular social network to identify trends, communicate with others, and, most importantly, provide high quality answers to establish themselves as an authority on almost any subject.

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#2. Reddit – What was once considered nothing more than an entertainment site, Reddit is now a “go to” service for content marketers.

With the right subject matter, a targeted strategy, and a bit of luck, your post has the potential to go viral. With more than 36 million user accounts and billions of comments, Reddit is the stuff content marketers dream about.

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#3. Alltop – Are you seeking the most popular stories on a variety of topics? From business to technology to breaking news, you will find it all on Alltop. This can serve as ammunition for blog posts and give you an overall idea of what is hot.

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#4. Feedly: One of the most popular techniques to come up with content ideas is to look at content being published on other popular blogs and then improve upon it or extend it.

What you might do is compile a list of blogs you really like and then visit them when you need to come up with a few ideas.

A huge waste of time.

Instead, use an RSS reader (Feedly is arguably the best), which allows you to collect all the posts published from multiple sources all in one place.

You can quickly scan the titles to see if any pique your interest and click through if you need to.

Once you add a bunch of sites to your new Feedly account, you’ll log in to a page like this:

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If you visited those 7 blogs individually to find those posts, it would take at least a few minutes. Instead, it takes a few seconds.

That doesn’t sound like much, but it adds up over time.

To add a site to your account, type in a site name in the search bar:

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That should bring up the site you’re looking for. Just click the little plus icon next to the blog name, and you’ll automatically have all its posts added to your feed as they’re published.

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#5. TrendSpottr: If you’re able to create content on a trending topic before competitors do, it’s good not only for your reputation but also for getting a lot of extra traffic.

Spotting trends isn’t easy even if you’re an expert in the field.

This tool focuses on spotting trending content, hashtags, phrases, and even influencers before everyone else catches on.

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You might not be the first, but you’ll be way ahead of most of your competition.

It’s a simple tool to use. You pick a search term, e.g., “content marketing,” and then a label inside the tool, e.g., “trending influencers.” The tool then finds the most trending users who post about that subject.

Use the tool to build relationships with up and comers and to create content around trending phrases and hashtags.

#6. Google Keyword Planner – Which keywords get the most traffic? Which keywords are best for a PPC campaign? Answering these questions is simple with the help of the Google Keyword Planner.

Use this tool to view keyword ideas, cost per click data, and more.

Before you create a blog post, for instance, you need to know which keywords to target. Google Keyword Planner can help you identify keywords that will drive more traffic to your website.

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Content Distribution

#7. Buffer – The Buffer tagline says it all: “A better way to share on social media.”

Content marketing in 2016 means being active on social media. When time is tight, use Buffer to schedule posts across a variety of networks, including Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. With this tool on your side, distributing social media posts is fast, efficient, and effective.

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#8. Hootsuite – Much the same as Buffer, Hootsuite is a social media management dashboard. With 10+ million professionals using the service, it has to be doing something right.

Hootsuite connects with more than 35 social media platforms, allowing you to distribute social media content more efficiently. The days of visiting each social site to create updates is gone.

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#9. SlideShare – Even if you consider PowerPoint presentations a thing of the past, SlideShare will change the way you feel about slide presentations.

Use the service to promote a product, service, new release, or anything else you want to share with the world. It gives you the opportunity to share high quality content in a visually appealing manner, all on a website that is extremely popular.

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#10. PRWeb – When it comes to online press release services, PRWeb is king of the hill. With the right package, you can get your release in front of 25,000+ journalists and more than 250,000 email subscribers. Press release distribution is not dead. With PRWeb, it is alive and well.

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#11. BuzzStream – This tool could fit under a few categories, as it’s one of the most powerful and advanced you will find. It can be used for everything, including conducting outreach, contacting influencers, and managing relationships.

Its main goal is to save you time by helping you find contact information and send emails in bulk.

To start with, you can add domains or people to the tool that you’d like to connect with.

Then, the tool will find as much contact information as possible so that you can choose from the different options.

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Then, you can select as many of those contacts as you’d like and pick a template (that you create) to send them. The tool will automatically fill in details like name and site name if you include it in the template.

Finally, it’s created mainly for marketers, so it has a few nice features like being able to set the stage of your relationships.

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This helps you keep track of the people you shouldn’t contact again, those you need to contact, and those you might want to follow up with.

Finally, there’s another really cool aspect of the tool.

It integrates right into your browser. That means you can automatically pull all the information on any page you come across. Next, you can import these pages into your BuzzStream account, and it will begin pulling additional contact information.

There are many sites that this is useful for; one of them is BuzzSumo (which we’ll look at later in this post).

You can do a search on BuzzSumo to find popular content and then import all those popular websites into an outreach campaign.

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If you’ve ever done an outreach campaign from scratch, you can understand how this tool will save you several hours per week.

Analytics

#12. Google Analytics – It’s hard to go wrong with Google Analytics since it’s one of the top free analytics tools. You don’t need much knowledge to understand how this tool can improve your business.

Content marketing success is based largely on data. And data is what you get when you rely on Google Analytics.

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#13. Dasheroo – A newcomer to the business dashboard space, Dasheroo is a free tool that allows users to track KPIs spanning a variety of platforms and apps.

Dasheroo integrates with many of the tools you use as a content marketer such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Shopify, MailChimp, and many more.

In simple terms, Dasheroo imports all your data into a super-attractive dashboard. You can forget about opening multiple tabs and dealing with a crazy number of logins. Everything is in one place.

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#14. SimpleReach – With a focus on content measurement and distribution, SimpleReach is a must for content marketers.

After you create killer content, use this tool to get your content in front of your target audience. By “bridging the gap between measurement and distribution,” you can better measure performance and optimize content reach.

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#15. Zuum – You aren’t the only person in your space focused on content marketing. Regardless of your niche, you will have plenty of competition. Zuum is a tool to help you outdo the competition at every turn.

Here is what it can do for you: compare your social media efforts to that of your competition’s, pinpoint your competitor’s top campaigns, and identify on whom (influencers) they are relying to amplify their message.

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Influencer Marketing Tools

#16. Traackr – “Influence marketing” is a buzz phrase you don’t want to ignore. The same holds true for this content marketing tool.

Traackr does more than just help you identify influencers in your niche. As an “Influencer Management Platform,” it also allows you to manage relationships and track their impact on your business.

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#17. Kred – Kred was designed with the idea of connecting people with social media influencers. To go along with identifying influencers, Kred helps you boost your social media standing.

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Social Media

#18. Quuu – Time is money, right? If you believe this to be true, Quuu is the tool for you. By putting your social media marketing on autopilot, you have more time for other areas of your business. All the while, you can rest easy knowing that your social media strategy is in good hands.

You start by selecting categories relevant to your business. From there, hand-curated content is sent to your Buffer account (see #5 above). Finally, you can manually edit the posts, if you desire, before they are scheduled or published.

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#19. Tweepi – Content marketing and Twitter go hand in hand. The problem with this is that Twitter management can eat up many hours of your day. Tweepi protects against this by helping you “make sense of your Twitter account.”

You can find users, interact with influencers, and use a variety of tools to get noticed.

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#20. Tweriod – Is there anything worse than finding out that nobody is paying attention to your tweets as you tweet away? Tweriod protects against this by determining the best time for your business to tweet.

After you run a report, you will know which days and times to tweet. This ensures that more people see your content, thus increasing the chance of engagement.

Tweriod is a simple tool that churns out serious data.

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#21. Narrow.io This is a new tool, but it seems to have a lot going for it, which is why it’s on this list.

I haven’t used it extensively myself, but others have reported being able to use it to grow their Twitter followings up to 2,160% faster.

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The tool has one goal: get you more Twitter followers.

What sets it apart from all the other tools that have the same goal is a slightly more sophisticated algorithm.

You can find users who might be interested in your business by searching for relevant keywords and hashtags.

With this information, the tool will create an audience you can target.

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Then, Narrow will follow those users and even favorite relevant tweets.

If those people don’t follow you back, Narrow will unfollow them automatically.

There is a risk: Using tools to automatically follow and unfollow people could get your account suspended. However, you can lower your risk by not being very aggressive.

Additionally, the creators of the tool claim that they have actual people manually doing the following and unfollowing, which may circumvent the rules. Just remember that there is still probably some risk.

Also keep in mind that there are no free accounts. You can get a 7-day free trial, but then you’ll have to shift to a paid account.

#22. Tweetdeck This final Twitter tool is actually offered by Twitter itself.

It’s a great tool to monitor your Twitter activity all at once, similarly to HootSuite.

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You can have as many columns as you’d like, but you’ll probably only want 4-5 so that they all fit on your screen at once.

You can remove any of them at any time and add new ones by clicking the “add column” button on the left sidebar:

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There are a ton to choose from, so you can really customize it to stay updated on the parts of Twitter you care about.

In addition, you can send tweets right from the tool and even schedule them beforehand (although other tools are easier if you need this function often):

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How does this factor into your promotion?

First, you’ll want to tweet out your content to your followers, and not just once, but multiple times over the following few weeks and even a few times sporadically after that.

It’s nice to be able to schedule all of these activities at once, which you can do with TweetDeck.

The other side is monitoring. There are a few ways you can use this tool to your advantage.

The first is by monitoring tweets of your content. If someone is nice enough to share it, you’ll want to favorite it, retweet it, or reply to it. In addition, you can connect with any of that user’s followers who liked it as well.

Another great way to use it is to set up a search column for a main term in your content.

For example, I would set one up for “content promotion tools” if I was promoting this article. Then, when someone tweeted asking or saying something about some good promotion tools, I could reply with a link to this post.

#23. Image Sharer plugin – The last tool in this section is a plugin by SumoMe.

Including images in your social media posts automatically makes them more successful. People are attracted to images and are likely to share them.

This plugin makes it easy for your blog readers to share your pictures on their favorite image-based social networks.

Once you install and activate the SumoMe image sharer plugin, all of your images will have sharing buttons added to them (you get to pick which networks you want displayed):

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When a visitor clicks one of the buttons, a pop-up for that network will open, which will let them make a post that includes the link to the page and the image selected.

Not only does this make it easier for your own readers to share your content but it also guarantees that you will get more traffic from those shares (since the images get more attention).

Image and Video Creation

#24. Meme Generator – You don’t have to be serious all the time. There is a time and place for fun, and when you are ready to have it, you can use this free tool to create a killer meme.

Search popular memes, or create your own. This tool is fun to use, and if done right, your meme can yield some serious results on social media.

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#25. Visual.ly – By now, you probably understand why infographics are so effective. What you may not understand is how to create one.

Visual.ly takes all the work out of the process. You can hand off the creation to a third party, allowing you to focus on content marketing techniques that better suit your skill set.

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#26. PowToon – An animated video or presentation could be the type of content that puts your business on the map. Share it on social media as a standalone clip, or add it to a blog post. Whatever you choose, you know that an animated video will provide a unique experience.

With drag and drop templates, you can create a captivating and engaging message in 20 minutes or less.

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#27. Magisto – There used to be a time when making a movie to promote your company, product, or service was an expensive endeavor. Not anymore. Magisto allows you to turn your photos and videos into professional videos you will be proud to share with the world.

Choose from a variety of themes, select your music, and customize it as you go. The final result is a video that will give your content marketing strategy a shot in the arm.

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#28. Animoto – If you need a high quality, professional video to “share what matters most,” Animoto could be the answer.

More than 13 million customers have fallen in love with the Animoto’s three-step process:

  • Choose a style and song.
  • Customize your video using text, photos, and videos.
  • Produce, and share with your audience.

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#29. Easel.ly Creating images is one of the most time-consuming and expensive parts of creating great content.

Great images can turn good content into amazing content.

Easel.ly is a tool that allows even the design-challenged like me to create some fairly attractive infographics.

Of course, they don’t compare to the ones I get designed for hundreds of dollars, but if you need a decent infographic on a budget, give this tool a try.

To use it, create an account and then select a free template:

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Next, you can click on any main element and change the text and alignment and even add shapes and backgrounds to it:

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It’s designed to be as simple as possible, and you’ll have it figured out after using it for a few minutes.

#30. Canva This is another tool that can help you create great images without needing a great designer.

Most of the time, you don’t need a full infographic, just small images for your content to make it more attractive. That’s where Canva comes in.

The tool has several different templates to choose from for social media posts, blog posts, and more:

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You can also create an image with custom dimensions.

Depending on which template you choose, there will be different templates available in the “layouts” tab:

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The canvas on the right is fully editable. You just click and drag, or click and type.

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You can create great-looking images under 5 minutes—once you get good with Canva.

Automation

#31. Nutshell – Some may not consider Nutshell a content marketing tool, but once you dig deeper, you will see what it can do.

Nutshell is more than your basic CRM software. It brings a lot to the table, including tools for collecting data in one place, automation features for reporting and lead distribution, and features to nurture and develop relationships at all stages of the sales cycle.

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#32. Pardot – A lead management tool that never disappoints, Pardot (by Salesforce) focuses its efforts on B2B marketing automation.

If you need to automate some of your marketing to free up time, this tool has a lot to offer. It gives you everything you need to excel, including:

  • Tools for generating leads.
  • Option to create custom and targeted emails.
  • Ability to calculate return on investment.

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#33. Marketo – Marketo is all about one word: integration.

It brings together your content, email, social media efforts, and more, allowing you to target the best leads, create content specifically for your target audience, and measure performance.

It may not be the best tool for beginning content marketers, but for those who are more advanced and those who want to combine content marketing with other strategies, it is a reliable solution.

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#34. Right On Interactive – An advanced marketing tool that uses customer lifecycle mapping to help you understand where a prospect fits into the sales funnel.

This automation software can be integrated with many of your content marketing tasks, such as email and social media marketing.

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#35. Silverpop – More than 5,000 brands use this marketing tool to bring together all aspects of their marketing programs.

It offers many solutions to users, including an email marketing platform allowing for the simple creation and distribution of personal, relevant messages.

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#36. Route – You can generate as many leads as you want, but you won’t feel good about yourself until some of them turn into customers.

Route begins to track people as soon as they land on your website. Once the tool identifies them, you can use it to provide valuable content, follow up, and move the sales process forward. Think of this tool as your personal assistant, helping you better understand how visitors interact with your website.

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#37. Salesforce – Quite possibly the biggest brand on this list, Salesforce has long been known as the number one CRM solution in the world.

Although the tool has many sales components, it also has plenty of marketing tools that deserve your attention. For instance, you can provide a better social experience for your audience by using Salesforce to engage with them on a personal level.

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#38. IFTTT – An interesting name for an interesting tool. IFTTT makes it easy for web applications and platforms to work together.

Given that the tool is compatible with nearly 300 “channels,” it won’t be long before you find a way to complement your content marketing efforts with this tool.

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#39. Optimizely – With Optimizely, you can “test, personalize, and optimize” your website. Doing so helps increase conversions, thus improving your content marketing ROI.

With a code-free visual editor, ROI data generated in real time, and best-in-class integrations, this tool will fit in nicely with any and every content marketing strategy.

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#40. Wootric – To understand Wootric, you must first become familiar with its tagline: “Wootric is the Net Promoter Score platform for boosting customer happiness.”

Here’s what it can do from a marketing perspective:

  • Data-driven approach.
  • Tools that allow for easy follow-up with promoters.
  • Targeted campaigns to convert consumers who like your product or service into loyal customers.

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#41. Act-on – This marketing platform is a beginning-to-end solution, providing management for the entire lead-to-revenue lifecycle.

Generating leads through content marketing is a great start, but what matters most is converting these people into paying customers. From attracting prospects to building relationships, Act-on will provide you with the help you need.

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#42. Zapier – With Zapier, you can connect the apps you use the most, automate a variety of tasks, and dig deep into all sorts of data.

For example, you can set up a “Zap” that does the following: shares all new tweets from a Twitter list in Slack.

With 400+ supported apps, there isn’t much that Zapier can’t handle.

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#43. HubSpot – HubSpot has quickly become one of the top brands in the inbound marketing game. Given how much this tool has to offer, it would be impossible to explain all the details associated with HubSpot marketing software.

Visit this page to take a product tour as this will give you a clear understanding of what the software can do for you.

HubSpot has tools for every marketing task imaginable, including:

  • Blogging
  • SEO
  • Social media
  • Lead management
  • Landing pages
  • Email
  • Analytics

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#44. Cision – With 100,000 customers, you know Cision is doing something right. Cision provides a variety of software solutions, covering areas such as content marketing, media monitoring, and press release distribution.

With its content marketing component, for example, you get help with all aspects of content creation, content amplification, and results measurement.

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Content Writing Tools

#45. Contently – Do you have dreams of scaling your content marketing strategy? This is where Contently excels. With this award-winning platform, you will get all the help you need in creating, distributing, and optimizing content.

Best yet, you can create and manage all your content in one place, ensuring that your entire team is on the same page.

Contently also has an advanced analytics tool that tells you what to do next, allowing you to get every last bit of juice from your content.

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#46. NewsCred – NewsCred is a unique platform that helps your brand “grow with efficiency, agility and scale.”

For those who require help with content creation, NewsCred can solve this problem. With a large network of creators, you can leave the content writing to somebody else.

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#47. Textbroker – Textbroker considers itself a leading content writing service, and there are many reasons to give the service a try.

With a self-service platform, you are in charge of the content creation process from beginning to end, despite the fact that you will never write a single word. You can also decide on the level of quality, which corresponds with the price you will pay.

You can’t succeed in content marketing if you don’t have access to quality content. Textbroker helps many marketers attack this issue.

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#48. Hemingway EditorGreat content needs to be well written.

“Well written” can mean a lot of different things:

  • Good grammar
  • Proper spelling
  • Easy to read

This tool can help you with all of them.

To use it, paste your text, and the tool will indicate your mistakes by highlighting them in different colors:

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Here’s an excerpt from my Beginner’s Guide to Online Marketing, and you can see that it’s not perfect.

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While there aren’t any huge mistakes (no red), there are areas for improvement (in yellow and blue).

I re-wrote those sentences until the tool indicated that the problems were fixed, as shown below:

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The reading grade level went from 8 to 7, which is generally a good thing. In addition, it got more concise, going from 189 words to 171 (almost a 10% reduction).

#49. Readability Test Tool – An interesting tool that tests the readability of any web page. You can test by URL or by direct input. Either way, the results are helpful.

This tool takes into consideration a variety of readability indicators, including Flesch Kincaid Reading Ease, Gunning Fog Score, and the Coleman Liau Index.

If your content has a low readability score, it’s time to revamp it.

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Organization

#50. Trello – Trello is a free project management tool. It’s built to be used by teams, but it is also useful for keeping your personal work organized.

It allows you to create “boards,” almost like one of those cork boards that people hang on walls, and then to create “cards” for them.

Create one board for each main thing you want to keep organized. For example, you might have one for your content schedule (with cards for content published, upcoming content, and content ideas) and another one for your promotional work.

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On each board, you can create as many lists as you’d like and add cards to each of those lists. Here’s what a board for content ideas might look like:

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You can edit the cards as well as drag and drop them from list to list.

Finally, it helps keep you organized by sending you reminders before the due date.

One more feature that you might want to use is the “add members” option, which can be found in the menu of any board.

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Members can be assigned to particular cards so that they get notified of changes and due dates.

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#51. Basecamp – It doesn’t matter whether you are managing a project or group, Basecamp gives you the tools you need to succeed.

For instance, content marketers use Basecamp to manage outreach projects. It keeps everyone involved on the same page, ensuring that nobody steps on another person’s toes.

Something else to note: Basecamp 3, complete with an all-new interface, was released in late 2015.

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#52. Google Calendar – Content marketing success, in large part, depends on your ability to stay organized and complete tasks on time.

Google Calendar is a free tool that makes it easy to keep track of important events and tasks related to your content strategy. Share the calendar with anybody who needs access, from coworkers to clients.

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#53. MindNode – Mind mapping can go one of two ways. It can lead you towards a great idea, or it can cause an extreme sense of frustration. If you often find yourself in the latter group, MindNode can help.

The MindNode app provides a visual representation of your ideas, allowing you to better map out your brainstorming process and eventually take action.

How many times have you forgotten a great idea for a blog post? How many times has analysis paralysis slowed you down? This is no longer a concern thanks to MindNode.

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#54. Asana – Make no bones about it, Asana has one goal: to help you keep your projects on track.

It doesn’t matter if you are a team of one or 100, every project needs to move through the pipeline in an efficient manner.

Trusted by Harvard University, Major League Baseball, and Uber, Asana makes this possible by providing tools that track projects from beginning to end.

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#55. Evernote – If you have trouble with your memory, no matter the reason, Evernote can be your sidekick. This nifty tool is one of the top organizational platforms around, used by many who want to remember everything associated with their business.

Use Evernote to list blog post ideas, brainstorm your next steps, keep an editorial calendar, and share your thoughts with others.

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#56. Wunderlist – Planning is a big part of any content marketing strategy. You plan when to write your next blog post; you plan when to publish it;  and you plan your outreach strategy. You get the point.

Wunderlist has many features to simplify your life as a content marketer, including setting reminders to write a blog post and sharing lists with a business partner.

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General Content Tools

#57. BuzzSumo – Reading the BuzzSumo tagline will get you excited:

“Analyze what content performs best for any topic or competitor.”

Enter any topic or domain into the search box, and let BuzzSumo do the rest. Within seconds, you will be presented with the most shared content on any topic, including a breakdown by social platform. You can even view the backlinks generated by each post.

Use it for yourself, and/or use it to track the competition. It’s by far one of the most trusted and relied upon tools by content marketers.

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#58. Help a Reporter Out (HARO) – If you need a quote for an upcoming blog post (or another piece of content), HARO helps you connect with journalists.

You can also use the service to get featured in a variety of publications. Sign up as an expert, and you will soon be presented with opportunities to share your knowledge to enhance your personal brand and authority.

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#59. Google Drive – The more content you produce, the more content you need to store. You don’t want to lose any of it, which is why Google Drive is so popular.

Content marketers use Google Drive to save and share content. As a free cloud storage provider, this tool has a place in your toolbox!

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#60. iSpionage – There are times when content marketing is more about the competition than yourself. With iSpionage, you can unearth your competitors’ PPC strategy.

iSpionage positions itself as the “only competitive intelligence tool that monitors the entire conversion funnel.”

If you want to examine the inner workings of your competition, with a close eye on paid advertising, this tool can help you do just that. You might just uncover a strategy that could boost your business.

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#61. Pocket – There will be times when you come across a story that you want to revisit later only to forget all about it.

Pocket protects against this, providing a way to discover and save any story of interest. Compatible with more than 300 apps, this tool will save any resource for you for your future use.

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Email Marketing

#62. Aweber – Affordable. Easy to use. Full of features. These are just a few of the words and phrases that describe the Aweber email marketing platform.

If you want to do email marketing the right way, Aweber won’t let you down. An industry leader in deliverability and mobile tools, this platform will help you, as a content marketer, to achieve great results.

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#63. MailChimp – Don’t let the name fool you. There is no monkeying around when you use this email marketing solution.

MailChimp has one goal and one goal only: to help customers “send better email.”

The company boasts more than 10 million users who send approximately 600 million emails every day. It’s impossible to list all the benefits and features of this email platform, but its flexibility deserves a special mention.

Regardless of industry, size, or personal style, MailChimp is designed to help marketers send better emails.

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#64. GetResponse – Another email marketing platform, GetResponse attracts customers based on the premise that its solution is the “easiest” in the world.

GetResponse has 350,000 customers spanning 182 countries. Every month, these customers engage with more than 1 billion subscribers via email.

One of the primary benefits of GetResponse is a feature list for both beginners and expert email marketers.

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#65. VerticalResponse – Are you interested in a tool that can combine your email marketing with your social media marketing? VerticalResponse does just that.

It is designed to help users create, send, and track emails and social media updates across every type of device.

With 15 years of experience in the business and more than 1 million customers, VerticalResponse is doing something right. It may be time to find out what.

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#66. iContact – With a focus on small and medium sized businesses, iContact provides a variety of tools for email marketing success.

All forms of content marketing are judged by results. And with iContact’s results-oriented features, you will feel comfortable with the path you are following.

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#67. Constant Contact – You have seen the commercials. You may even know a few people using Constant Contact for their email marketing. But until you try it yourself, you will never truly understand what it offers.

With easy to use features, including customizable templates, the tool can help anybody looking for help with email marketing to get started.

The company has positioned itself as the email marketing solution for anybody and everybody, which has turned it into a billion dollar company with customers all over the world.

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That’s why I’ve hand-picked 22 of the best Gmail plugins that will help you clean up your inbox (and keep it clean), send emails that get opened more, and increase your email productivity.

You won’t and shouldn’t install them all, but I bet you can find at least a few that will make a significant difference in the results of your emailing efforts.

#68. Nimble Nimble solves a big problem of keeping track of everything you know about a contact.

Plus, it can save you a ton of time.

The tool has a few really useful features.

The main one is the “contact record” function. When you add a contact to the tool, it will pull up any easily findable information on that contact (like social media profiles on all the big networks):

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You can go into any individual contact at any time and see all their social profiles as well as the information collected.

On top of that, it functions almost as a typical CRM (customer relationship management) tool by allowing you to add tasks for a person (for you or your team) and to keep track of your past communications with them.

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One of the most useful parts of all this is that the tool actually draws information from all of those social profiles and somehow cuts out a lot of the redundant information. You end up with a really concise and useful profile of each contact:

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#69. FollowUpThenWhen you start sending (and receiving) hundreds of emails in a short time period, things get hectic—fast.

At first, you might be able to keep your inbox fairly clean, but as soon as you don’t respond to a few right away, they start to build up.

This tool is the solution to that and a really simple way to keep your inbox clean so that you don’t miss important messages and are not stressed out.

Here’s how it works:

When you don’t want to deal with an email right away, for whatever reason, you simply forward it to an email address controlled by the tool.

There are tons that you can choose from. But here are some examples:

All you do is send the email to one of those addresses, and it will resend you that original email when you’ve specified.

Keep in mind that you could also BCC one of these addresses when you send out an email if you want to make sure that you follow up with the recipient.

Here’s an example of it in action.

Let’s say you get an email from me about a new post. You’re super excited (right?), but you just don’t have the time to read the post right now.

Instead of letting it wait around in your inbox, possibly forgetting about it, you forward it to “3days@followupthen.com”.

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Now, you can clear the email from your inbox and know that it will be back in three days when you’ll have more time.

Gmail Plugins

#70. Boomerang Use it to schedule emails or remind you to send an email at a specific time.

Boomerang solves all sorts of common problems for content marketers.

Do you ever want to respond to an email, but not right away? For example, maybe you need to send an invoice in a week.

Boomerang lets you schedule when your email needs to go out. Here’s how you do it:

Once you send the email, you don’t have to worry about remembering to do it later, and it doesn’t clutter up your inbox.

One other great reason to use the scheduling feature is for your link outreach campaigns. Emailing someone at 2 AM is a surefire way to get your email buried under the rest of someone’s morning email.

MailChimp found that the highest email open rates occur between 8 AM and 5 PM.

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When sending emails to someone you don’t know well, schedule them to be sent during this window to maximize your chances of them being read.

While the plugin has a few other features, the next most useful one reflects why the plugin named Boomerang in the first place.

Sometimes, you can’t respond to an email right away even if you’d like to. You could be waiting for some results or for responses from other members of your team on a project.

So if someone, say a client, sends you an email asking for an update at the start of the day, you can “boomerang” the email to make it disappear from your inbox—for now—and show up at a later time marked “unread.”

This will prevent emails from being buried and forgotten. Here’s how simple it is:

#71. FollowupCCSometimes we mean to follow up with someone, but forget to. This plugin gives you the choice to set a follow-up date when you are sending/replying to an email.

If you haven’t heard back from your recipient, you’ll get a new email in that thread reminding you to follow up.

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There’s another feature that made it hard to categorize this plugin. When you send emails, you have the option of tracking who’s looking at the email. The results can be seen in a sidebar as shown below:

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When it comes to sales, only 2% of sales actually occur on the first contact. Eighty percent occur after the fifth contact.

Even if you’re not directly involved in the sales process, you likely use email to build relationships and work with people. If you don’t ever follow up, chances are that you’ve lost a lot of business (and profit) because your emails were simply forgotten or buried.

Considering how little it takes to send a follow-up (especially with a plugin), the results are definitely worth your effort.

Give it a try—start following up regularly when you don’t hear back from a contact. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the results over time.

#72. Yet Another Mail Merge – Mail merges may have fallen out of fashion over the years, but in some situations they are still handy.

A mail merge, for those of you not familiar with the term, allows you to input contact information such as name, email address, and anything else you’d like into a spreadsheet. You can then send an email to all these addresses at the same time, complete with personalization.

Here’s how Yet Another Mail Merge works using a Google Sheet (spreadsheet) and your Gmail account:

#73. WiseStamp Create an email signature that stands out. If you’ve ever emailed me, you know that I have a pretty unique signature at the end of all my emails:

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A good email signature is a great personal branding opportunity. It’s a chance to stand out while also communicating important information without any extra effort.

If you have a really high volume of emails, adding a line like mine to your signature will significantly cut down on the number of emails people send you. In addition, it saves you from people thinking that you’re rude because of your short replies due to time constraints.

WiseStamp allows you to create a custom signature for your emails. You can include a picture, links to social profiles or websites, phone numbers, and any message you want—the sky’s the limit.

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#74. Yesware – When you send an email, all you need to do is check the box beside “Track” at the bottom. Yesware will track all future actions your recipient takes with your email.

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You have two types of ways to view the results of tracking. There’s a limited collapsible panel above your inbox that you can use to view the most recent email data, or you can dig into detailed reports on the Yesware website.

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In the detailed reports, you can analyze your results for all the major metrics such as clicks and opens.

If you’re running an email outreach campaign, chances are you’ll be emailing hundreds of people with similar subject lines.

By creating a few variations of your subject line, you can split test which one gets the most opens and positive responses. Take the winner as your new default, and then begin a new test during your next campaign.

Finally, Yesware also lets you create and save email templates. If you find yourself sending a lot of similar emails, just create a template and insert it into your next blank email. This feature can save you a lot of time during email outreach campaigns.

#75. BananaTagThis plugin is very similar to Yesware. Just click the tag option at the bottom of any email, and you will be able to see exactly when and who is opening it later on.

The analytics are also very solid, allowing you to examine your email open rate over time and improve it through experimentation.

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One final note: they’ve also released a beta tool that allows you to schedule sending emails, which may eliminate the need for an extra plugin.

#76. ToutAppThis plugin is a little more robust and meant for a team use. It features similar tracking capabilities as the other plugins in this section, e.g., email opens, interactions (clicks/downloads), and replies.

ToutApp also features easy to save and use templates, which can speed up any repetitive outreach efforts.

I’d say the biggest difference between ToutApp and the other plugins in this category is that ToutApp focuses on tracking by the person rather than the email. This is a major benefit if you communicate with certain people over and over again and really want to learn which emails they respond to best.

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Finally, note that ToutApp is exclusively a paid one. While they offer a 14-day free trial, there is no free level. It’s meant more for teams and professional marketers rather than those that are relatively new to the field.

#77. StreakUnlike most other CRM tools, Streak is specifically designed for Gmail, which gives it an advantage over many of the best-known CRM companies.

It features a lightweight dashboard that’s built right into Gmail. You can color-code prospects as they move through each stage in your funnel.

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The big reason a CRM like this is helpful is that it takes a complex set of data and puts it on an easy to see chart/spreadsheet. Even with several leads at different stages in your funnel, you won’t forget to follow up with anyone.

And while this is typically meant for sales, there’s no reason why you can’t use a similar process for building relationships with influencers.

In addition to having standard CRM features, Streak also gives you other basic business tools that you might be interested in such as:

  • email support (customer service)
  • project development
  • fundraising
  • bug tracking

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#78. WORKetc CRM – This is another highly rated CRM plugin for Gmail. It’s not as pretty as its competitors, but it performs well.

This CRM plugin is designed for teams, and it excels in that area. In addition, it has great built-in features for project management and billing, which is a huge asset for certain businesses.

Instead of being built right into Gmail, it syncs with Gmail. Sometimes this is inconvenient, but it can be beneficial if you’re working with outside docs and calendars that you want to sync up.

Here’s a more in-depth video of its features:

#79. ProsperWorks (formerly Strideapp) – Recognize the handsome guy on the homepage? That’s the startup I was talking about earlier. It’s another Google App designed for Gmail users (rather than a poor adaptation of an app).

It is simpler than some of the alternatives, but that’s also a good thing for anyone looking for a lightweight CRM. It is a CRM tool, and it does CRM well. And while it syncs with your Google calendar, contacts, etc., it doesn’t try to handle billing or project development.

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Obviously, I’m biased, so let me instead copy part of a review from a user:

“[Where] The extension really SHINES are the task management features. There are so many situations where several of us are involved in working on different activities for one prospect that are all tied together. It eliminated ugly spreadsheet pipelines, strings of forwarded emails, and hours spent searching/coordinating things.”

You’ll get a standard sidebar when in Gmail, showing you your contact history and profile:

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#80. Discoverly – One of the first major competitors to Rapportive was Discoverly. It has a lot of features similar to the original Rapportive.

You’ll see the sidebar widget on the right side as usual, and it contains links to the displayed contact’s profiles on popular social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter as well as information about connections (friends) and some recent activity.

It’s fairly simple, but that’s the appeal.

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#81. Full Contact – This is one of the latest rising competitors to the now crowded space of contact profiling widgets.

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It also features a fairly simple but very attractive design. On the main panel, the social activity is downplayed in favor of other information. While there are links to social networks (small logos), there is a lot of space dedicated to allowing you to add tags or notes to a contact.

In addition, it clearly displays your contact’s location and time zone, which can be very handy when scheduling emails. If you want to see recent social activity, you simply click on the social tab at the bottom of the widget.

The most important thing is that it seems to be one of the most reliable plugins currently when it comes to finding contact information, which is the biggest challenge for plugins in this area.

#82. Unroll.meHow many emails from other marketers do you end up deleting 90% of the time after glancing at them for a few seconds?

It’s normal to sign up for email lists. You might do it because you’re actually a fan of someone’s work or you just want to see what they’re up to. But over time, you’re likely to find yourself on a lot of lists that end up overwhelming you and your inbox.

The point of Unroll.me is to consolidate all the messages that you do want to read into one easy-to-read email per day.

You can also easily go down the list of your current subscriptions and unsubscribe from any lists you don’t want to be on with one click. Sure, this will take you a few minutes now, but it’ll save you hours over the long run.

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#83. Assistant.to Ever get sick of trying to find a meeting time that works for both you and the other party? To help you with this task, this plugin is the best free plugin out there for you.

This plugin integrates with your Google Calendar to let you easily select free time in the upcoming days that you could use for meetings.

In the actual email you’re sending, you enter the length of time required for the meeting, then click on the free time in your calendar. The plugin formats the different time options so that your recipient can just click on a time that works for them, and the meeting will be automatically set.

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#84. ActiveInboxWhile some of us are better or worse than others, most people procrastinate until a deadline comes up. This plugin was created to deal with that problem.

You can go through a large batch of emails and assign them both a priority and a due date. They will be arranged in a logical order so that you can deal with them most efficiently.

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One caveat: There’s a free trial, but after that, it’s a paid tool (a few dollars a month). You should know by the end of the trial if the tool is worth paying for.

#85. AwayFindPut your hand up if you’re constantly checking your email throughout the day. Almost everyone does.

It’s obviously a huge waste of time and distracts you from doing actual work that produces value.

This plugin was created so that you could stop checking your inbox without worrying about missing anything important.

You create filters with it so that if a certain person sends you a message within a certain time frame, you will get a phone call or text to your cell phone with the text of the email.

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This way, you’ll still get emails you want to read immediately within the time frame you want, but the less important stuff will wait for you until later.

#86. Taskforce – Taskforce is a really handy to-do list that you can edit on the fly in Gmail.

This saves you from having to record things that you need to do in another spreadsheet or text file. In the case that you don’t write down tasks in the first place, this saves you from continually having to search for and open emails.

Additionally, you can add people to specific tasks. When you finish the task, they’ll get an email update.

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Blogging

#87. WordPress – It’s not possible to have a list of the top content marketing tools without mentioning WordPress.

There are tens of millions of websites running on the WordPress content management system. This includes top brands such as TechCrunch, The New Yorker, and BBC America.

Even if you have no knowledge of blogging, you can set up a free WordPress website within minutes. From there, sharing your content with the world is a cinch.

For many brands, their WordPress-driven blogs are the basis for their entire content marketing strategies.

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#88. Yoast – Content marketing and website optimization go together like peanut butter and jelly. Yoast provides a variety of WordPress plugins that help users optimize their blogs.

Google Analytics by Yoast and the Yoast SEO plugin have been downloaded tens of millions of times.

If you have a WordPress-powered website, Yoast plugins can help you from an optimization point of view.

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Stay focused on your task

The tools here will help you focus like a laser.

#89. StayFocused The name of this tool gives away its use. It’s a free Chrome plugin that allows you to block distracting websites.

Once you install it, go into its settings and choose which sites you’d like to block:

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You can choose the “nuclear option,” which blocks all websites for the time period you specify.

Or you can add a few websites that waste most of your time to your “blocked sites” list.

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#90. Tomato Timer There are many productivity techniques you can use to stay focused. One of the most well-known is called the pomodoro technique.

The basic idea is to break up your work into 25-minute periods with 5-minute breaks in between.

It’s a short enough time that you won’t feel too fatigued, but long enough that you maximize the amount of work you can do.

This is a simple timer built for this technique:

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Get more high quality backlinks (and the SEO traffic they bring)

The final class of tools in this post focuses on helping you get more links to your content.

Links are a hugely important part of any promotional campaign. Often, links bring you immediate traffic, but they also bring you steady, long-term traffic because they help you rank better in search engines (that’s SEO 101).

#91. Citation LabsCitation labs isn’t actually a single tool; they offer many:

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However, there are two in particular that are very useful for what we want here.

The first one is the broken link builder tool.

I’ll break down the main features for you quickly here, or you can just watch this 2-minute video:

The tool is very simple to use. You add in a keyword or multiple keywords that describe the topic of the content you created:

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Then, the tool will bring up a large list of broken URLs. These no longer work the way they’re supposed to.

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But there’s one more column of the results that is crucial: the number of links that point to that broken page.

The idea here is to contact as many of those sites that link to the broken page as possible and tell them that their link no longer works. Then, you can suggest your new content as a replacement.

The closer your page is to the old content, the more successful you will be.

For more in-depth guidance, check out my guide to broken link building.

The link prospector: This is the second Citation Labs tool that can be useful here.

Again, you search for a keyword that matches your content.

This time, the tool brings up a list of pages and websites that you might be able to get links from:

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Some of these will be resource pages. You can just email them and ask them to add your content.

Others might be guest posts. In this case, you will have to pitch your own guest post topic, and then you might be able to link back to your original piece of content.

This tool returns several types of content that are relevant to your content, so if you can get links from any of them, they’ll be useful.

It leaves you quite a bit of work to do yourself, but it will save you some time finding good sites and pages to target for links.

#92. AhrefsYou can’t do scalable link building without access to a good link database. There are a few different options, but Ahrefs has arguably the most complete database of links.

You can test it out with a free account, but it will be pretty limited. Eventually, you’ll need a paid account, which costs a decent bit. If you want a slightly cheaper option, you can opt for the next tool—Majestic.

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There are two main parts of Ahrefs.

The first is the content explorer, which is still relatively new.

When you search for a topic, the tool returns the most popular content in its database that is relevant.

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You can sort by the number of social shares on any of the major networks as well as by the number of sites that link to the content.

The most basic way to use this information for promotion is to sort by linking domains and then to look at who linked to each of those results. Then, do email outreach to each of those linking domains, and see if they’d link to your content as well.

The second main part of Ahrefs is the link database, which is what it was originally known for.

Type in any domain or URL into the tool:

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It will then return you a ton of useful linking information.

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This pairs up nicely with the content explorer because then you can find all the sites that link to each piece of popular content.

You can also order the links by authority so that you only spend time reaching out to pages with a high URL rating that will have a significant effect on your search rankings.

#93. Majestic This is a realistic alternative to Ahrefs when it comes to a link database. It doesn’t have the content explorer, but it has one of the largest and most useful link databases there is.

It works almost in the same way as Ahrefs does. You input a URL or domain, and the tool returns all the link information it has:

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You’ll notice that the tool splits the URL and domain ratings into citation flow and trust flow. It makes it really easy to spot spam links because their trust flow numbers are always much lower than their citation flow numbers.

Again, you can use this in a similar way. Find content that is similar to yours and that has backlinks to it. Then use Majestic to find those backlinks and contact them to try to get one to your content.

Conclusion

Just because you have a content marketing strategy in place doesn’t mean it’s perfect. You should always be on the lookout for tactics and tools that will strengthen your plan.

To fully utilize your skills, you need the right tools to help you out. You wouldn’t ask carpenters to build a house with a spoon; instead, you’d give them hammers and saws.

Hopefully, after reviewing these content marketing tools, you have a better idea of which ones fit best with your current approach and future plans.

Maybe you are seeking a few tools for more efficient content distribution. Or maybe you need one to help with the automation of your processes. Regardless of your situation, there are many options out there.

Good marketers know how to make use of available tools to not only keep their work at a consistently high quality but also save time that could be spent elsewhere.

How to Create Content That Drives Sales

Posted: 07 Apr 2019 09:54 AM PDT

There is a big misconception that content marketing doesn’t drive sales. But if it didn’t work well, none of my companies would exist.

Content marketing is an absolute necessity for brand survival and I’ve grown each of my businesses through content marketing.

If you want to generate hordes of sustainable, long-term traffic without spending too much money, content marketing is the way to go.

At its core, it’s very simple:

Create valuable content for your target audience, and give it to them.

You’re on the right track if you are currently creating and distributing content. But for those of you not seeing results from these marketing campaigns, it can be frustrating.

If you’re putting so much time and effort into this, why aren’t you seeing results? What’s the issue?

I see this problem a lot when I’m consulting businesses. They don’t have a clearly defined content strategy. If this sounds like you, it’s important you read this post carefully.

It’s great that you are continuing to publish new content. But this isn’t effective if your sales aren’t increasing.

Sure, content marketing can be used for many different things. Primarily, businesses use content marketing to:

  • generate leads
  • acquire new customers
  • increase brand awareness
  • establish credibility
  • engage with an audience

All of these are great and critical for success. However, you need to learn how to create content that directly drives sales.

That’s why you got into business in the first place, right? You wanted to make money.

I want to show you what types of content you should be producing in order to generate strong sales from the rest of your content marketing efforts.

Some of these might overlap with the content you’re already producing to generate traffic, but some will be new.

If you’re starting to see a solid level of website traffic but aren’t sure how to turn those visitors into customers, this post should help you a lot. 

Let’s get started.

1. Understand how the conversion funnel works

Before you can create highly relevant content, it’s important for you to make sure you’ve got a firm grasp on the conversion funnel.

You’ll see different variations of this funnel depending on the marketing website or expert. It can also look slightly different depending on the industry and business model.

But for the most part, the conversion funnel can be broken down into three stages:

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The top of the funnel occurs when a prospective customer becomes aware of your company. They’re conducting research or looking for an opinion. Basically, they need an answer to something, and they are seeking insight.

Once a consumer knows your brand exists, they enter the middle stage of the conversion funnel. This is the evaluation phase.

They are still conducting research, but now they are taking it one step further. Consumers are trying to decide whether your product or service fits well their specific needs.

Finally, the consumer reaches the bottom of the funnel when they enter the purchasing or conversion stage.

This is the area of the conversion funnel you need to focus on the most when it comes to creating highly relevant content.

The bottom of the funnel is your chance to explain to your customers why your product and service is the best for them. Show them how you differ from the competition.

Educate the consumer. Explain what it will be like for them if they become a customer.

Marketing campaigns that entice customers can include demonstrations, free consultations, free trials, estimates, quotes, coupons, and pricing. Basically, it’s anything to give them an incentive to buy.

Once you understand the conversion funnel and, more specifically, the bottom of the funnel, it will be much easier for you to adjust your content strategy accordingly to drive sales.

It doesn’t matter whether you are a B2C or B2B company, you’ll still need to evaluate your funnel.

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Yes, you’ll notice some slight differences between the business models.

But ultimately, the funnel can still be broken down into the three stages I just discussed.

2. Create a customer journey map

Journey maps are a great resource because they take you through the buying process even further than the conversion funnel.

Your journey map will focus on events that take place after the purchase, instead of just before. While awareness and consideration will still be part of your journey map, you’ll also focus on your customer retention strategy.

Analyze how the customer behaves after their initial purchase. This is very important when it comes to driving sales.

That’s because you won’t always focus all your efforts on ways to acquire new customers.

In fact, you shouldn’t be. Yes, of course, new customers are great. But it’s less expensive and more effective to target your current customers. A journey map can help you accomplish this.

You’ll put yourself in the minds of your customers. Once you’re able to do this effectively, you can adjust your content strategy accordingly based on their points of view.

3. Track leads and conversions

Where are your leads coming from?

If you don’t know the answer to this question, it’s a big problem. This is one of the reasons why your content isn’t relevant and driving sales.

Knowing how customers discovered you can help you understand why they made a purchase. Based on this information, you can create content that’s more specific to their needs.

Since the majority of the customer journey is done on the Internet, it’s easy for you to track their behavior.

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The best way to track your leads is with UTM parameters.

Not sure what a UTM parameter is? Don’t worry, it’s pretty simple. In fact, I’m sure you’ve seen this before.

If you’ve ever clicked on a link from an advertisement, the URL will be long and somewhat complex looking even if you’re just on a company homepage.

That’s a UTM parameter. It’s a way for websites to determine where a lead came from. For example, did it come from Facebook, Twitter, Google Ads, a social influencer, or email marketing campaign?

You’ll have different tags for each distribution platform to know precisely where the lead came from.

Furthermore, you’ll have tags for each post within a specific platform. For example, knowing it came from Facebook is great. But where on Facebook? Which specific post?

You’ll be able to figure this out with your UTM parameters. It’s easy to set these up with Google Analytics.

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Just navigate to the “Demos & Tools” menu and select “Campaign URL Builder” from the list of options.

Another reason why UTM parameters are important is because they can help you accurately measure your ROI.

You know how much you’re spending on each campaign, so you’ll be able to see direct sales results to measure how successful everything was.

Just make sure you accurately fill out the entire form so you don’t get confused:

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After you fill out the required fields, this tool will automatically generate a custom URL you can use.

I could go on and on about this topic. But I want to stay focused on creating content that drives sales.

4. Promote diverse ads on social media

Now it’s time to take this process one step further. I’ve explained what you need to know about UTM parameters, but now you’ve got to put them to the test.

Social media is a great place to do this because you’ve got lots of options.

You can use paid promotions to target specific audiences. You just need to come up with ads that use different types of content.

Start with a hypothesis. What types of content do you think will have the highest conversions?

This will vary based on your industry, business model, target market, and other factors. But you need to make sure each campaign is different.

Don’t get me wrong. You don’t want to waste money on irrelevant ads. But it’s important that you rule out content that doesn’t work early on. Remember, we’re focusing on relevancy here.

Then you’ll use the UTM parameters that you’ve previously set up to track how effective different ads were.

Now you can appropriately adjust your content strategy based on which ads had the highest success rates and directly drove sales.

5. Develop a customer persona

Now that you know which content speaks to your audience the most, you can develop a customer persona to improve your conversion rates.

This will help you learn more about the people you’re selling to. It’s similar to what we did earlier with the journey map, but a customer persona offers more detail.

Again, based on your findings, you’ll continue to adjust your content strategy.

Look at the factors associated with whom you’re selling to:

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It’s much more specific to your broader target market.

That’s why you won’t just develop one customer persona—you’ll be building several of these.

Each one depends on many different factors. But ultimately, customer personas will help you develop relevant content strategy.

6. Take advantage of different formats of content

Don’t just stick with one type of content. Mix it up.

Some different strategies to consider include:

  • blogging
  • infographics
  • case studies
  • video content

This will vary depending on the platform you’re using and the audience you’re trying to target.

But based on the research you’ve conducted on your conversion funnel, customer journey map, UTM parameter tracking, and customer personas, you’ll have plenty of information for each type of content.

The best type of content is personalized. You can even use tricks such as storytelling to enhance your content. This approach will ultimately lead to more sales.

Research shows that generating traffic and leads are the top marketing obstacles businesses are struggling to overcome:

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By diversifying your content strategy, you’ll increase the chances of your content appealing to a wider audience.

That’s because it will be relevant to their wants and needs.

7. Keep up with the latest news and trends

To stay relevant, you need to keep your finger on the pulse.

Understand what’s happening locally, regionally, nationally, and globally. Keep your eye on important news.

Also, keep track of news and trends within your specific industry. Analyze your competition. Did someone else beat you to the punch?

If a competitor is having success with a strategy, you need to know about it. Find some accurate news sources. Subscribe to industry newsletters and attend events.

Whenever something major is happening that’s trending, you can use it to promote your content.

For example, do you remember the ALS ice bucket challenge craze?

If you were manufacturing buckets or selling ice, you could use that as a marketing ploy for your content strategy. Even if you were selling bathing suits, goggles, and such, you could get creative.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying you should try to take advantage of charities. I’m just trying to show how you can capitalize on trends and other newsworthy headlines.

Just be creative, and apply it to your content strategy.

8. Teach and make sales with webinars

I want to make this clear right away:

Just because a piece of content is geared towards helping you make sales doesn’t mean that it has to be a “salesy” piece of content.

It can still be highly educational.

The key difference, however, is that these types of content are suited better for making a sale than a general “X tips about Y” article.

I started this post with webinars because it is an incredible type of content.

Not only is it better from an education perspective (compared to most content), but when done right, it’s also better for sales—it can yield crazy numbers.

Let’s look at a few examples.

KISSmetrics has used webinars for a long time.

At one point they produced 77 webinars, which had a total of 155,386 signups.

Although only half of those who signed up actually attended the webinars (74,381), we were able to convert 16,394 of them.

That’s a 22% conversion rate (of the people attending).

Those results are pretty typical for high quality webinars.

A few other businesses, such as Adobe and BuzzSumo, have revealed the results of their webinars. Adobe reported a 19% conversion rate, and BuzzSumo gets a conversion rate of about 20%.

You might not get that high of a conversion rate right away, but it’s not improbable either.

There are few types of content that convert as highly as webinars.

I’m going to outline how to create a webinar right now.

What a typical webinar looks like: In case you’re unfamiliar with webinars, let me give you a quick rundown of how they are typically made and run.

A webinar is essentially a video conference.

The video feed comes from your screen, and only your screen. Then, your audience can join the “call” at a set time, and you can do a live presentation.

Typically, the only sound will come from your microphone, but you can have multiple people do the presentation or even unmute certain viewers if they’d like to speak.

The whole point of a webinar is to teach the audience about a specific topic. Usually, it’s how to do something.

In general, webinars range from 40 minutes to 2 hours.

Take a second to realize the power of webinars: you have most of your viewers’ undivided attention for over 40 minutes.

You can’t get that anywhere else.

Finally, most webinars focus on high level topics—strategies, not tactics.

So, while you won’t get a super detailed step-by-step breakdown of how to do one specific thing, you will get a blueprint of how to create a strategy to accomplish something much greater.

The key parts of a webinar: There are five main parts of a webinar slideshow that you’ll need to create for your webinar.

I went into much greater detail in this guide to webinars, but this outline will give you a higher level view of the whole process and clarify things.

First, you have the introduction slide(s). Something I haven’t really mentioned is that webinars can attract viewers who aren’t part of your regular audience.

So, while you’ll have some super fans on the webinar, there will also be some people to whom you should introduce yourself.

This reinforces that you’re someone who they should listen to and that it’s worthwhile to spend the next hour or so of their lives paying attention to you.

This is also the time when you re-introduce the topic.

Then, you move right into the core content, which is the meat of the presentation. It can take upwards of 80% of the total presentation time.

During this part, you walk the viewer through whatever process you’re trying to teach.

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The most effective webinars are highly transparent, which is why I share a lot of personal company information with my viewers.

Transparency is especially needed when you’re addressing a high level strategic topic. With tactics, it’s obvious whether something will or will not work.

But with a strategy, viewers need real numbers and experiment results to prove to them why each part of the strategy is included.

Once you’ve spilled the beans and given everything you have to give, you need to look at some overall results that can be achieved if they put your lessons into action.

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Finally, you can take a minute to make them an offer. It’s typically an exclusive offer that they can’t find on your website.

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The more the offer is tied to the topic, the better your conversion rate will be.

The last component is the question period. You could do this before or after the pitch—it’s up to you. You could even do two question periods, one before and one after.

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9. Get your product reviewed by influencers

One of the main reasons why your typical content won’t bring you any sales is because it doesn’t tie in with what you’re selling in any way.

For example, you might sell coffee.

And you might publish content like “The 5 mistakes you’re making when brewing coffee.”

Your readers might read the article and enjoy it. But what does learning about brewing have to do with buying your coffee? Not a whole lot.

And that’s okay—not all content needs to have a sales angle, but some content should.

The most direct type of content that sells is a product review.

But it’s also something you can’t really create yourself. If you make a new post reviewing your own product, of course your readers will assume it’s biased (because it is!).

Instead, you need to find bloggers, freelance writers, and journalists who are willing to review your product.

How to find content creators who will review your product:

To begin with, you’ll need a list of people who might be interested in reviewing your product and have an audience that contains your target audience.

For the rest of this section, let’s pretend that you’ve just released a new time management tool.

Now, you’re trying to get reviews for it, which will drive sales.

To start with, search in Google for “top (type of product)”:

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Go through the results on the first page, and write down all the alternatives.

Next, we need to build a list of all potential sites and writers who might review your product.

To do this, we want to find sites that have already reviewed time management tools—specifically, those tools that you just wrote down.

One by one, you need to search for “(name of competing product) review”:

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For popular products, this could bring up hundreds of reviews.

You’ll see that the top few reviews for a popular, established product are on big authority sites. In this case, they are on PC Mag and PC World, which are both huge.

It would be awesome to get a review on those sites as well. However, unless you have a well-known brand or a strong existing relationship with writers on those sites, it’s going to be difficult.

Unless you have a product that is very different from all the rest and revolutionary, I wouldn’t suggest trying to land reviews on those sites right away. You can try, but expect a lot of rejection.

Instead, I propose a more methodical and strategic approach…

How to maximize your chances of landing a successful review:

When you’re starting from scratch, it’s difficult to get a lot of attention.

You need to be able to prove that (1) your product is of high quality and (2) that your target audience likes it.

Essentially, you need social proof.

How do you get it?

You start at the bottom and work your way up.

Forget about those top few results when you search for your competitors’ reviews. Instead, dig into the 3rd page, 4th page, 5th page, and deeper results to find reviews on less authoritative sites.

Writers on these sites are sent hundreds of review requests every week, and they are much easier to convince to review your product.

Down on the 5th page for our example search, I found a Rescue Time review on an unknown blog.

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They probably don’t have a ton of readers, so it’s not going to spike your sales. However, a review on a small blog can still yield a few sales, so it’s not like it’s a waste of your time in the short term.

Additionally, smaller bloggers often have a tight-knit group of subscribers. Sometimes, smaller blogs drive more sales than larger ones.

The best part about reaching out to a blogger like this is that there’s a good chance they will be happy to review your product.

I would find their email address and then send them something like this:

Subject: Content idea for (blog name)

Hi (name),

I came across your blog recently and was impressed with your (competitor’s tool) review.

So much so that I’d like to offer you a free copy of my own tool.

It’s called (product name), and it’s a lot like (competitor’s tool), except that (how is it different in a good way?).

If you’re interested in checking out the tool or have any questions, just let me know!

Thanks for your time,

Your name.

There are three things in particular about the outreach email that you need to understand:

  1. The differentiator – It makes sense to relate your product to your competitor’s so that the blogger sees why they might be interested in reviewing yours. But it’s important that you explain how your product is different and in which ways it’s better. Otherwise, why would the blogger try just another copy of a tool they already like?
  2. The free product offer – Let’s face it, the review is primarily for your benefit. You need to provide some sort of incentive. The most common incentive is a free copy or sample of whatever you’re selling.
  3. Not pushing the review too hard – Don’t make it a condition for them to post a review when you offer your free product. They know that’s what you want, and if they genuinely like the product, they will post a review.

Send out as many of these as you can to lower-tier sites.

Not all of them will agree to do a review, but you’ll be able to get at least a handful.

Next, you start to target larger sites.

If you started on the 5th page of results or lower, now you might want to try the sites on the 3rd and 4th pages.

The outreach emails should be similar, but you should also include a line near the end like:

Our product has already been reviewed on sites such as (site #1) and (site #2) and has been well received by their audiences, which is why I think your audience would also be interested in getting an in-depth look at it.

This type of paragraph introduces the social proof that you need so badly at this point.

The bigger the two sites that you include are, the more effective it will be. In addition, you’re providing reassurance that their audience will enjoy it.

Again, this will get you another handful of reviews if you contact 100-200 sites (10-20 sites for 10 competing tools).

Finally, you just repeat this whole process.

As you get reviews on better and better sites, start using their names in your outreach emails.

By the time you get to the top few results on the first page, the biggest sites, you should have some decent sites to include as social proof.

Note that this entire process can take months to complete. However, during this time, you should still drive an increasing number of sales with the initial reviews you land.

10. Design an email sales funnel

People put a lot of value and trust in emails. When they get one from someone they know, they usually give it their full attention and expect to take some sort of action. It could be just replying to the email, but it could be clicking a link and buying something as well.

There’s a bit more to it than that, but it’s one of the reasons why email marketing is by far the most effective selling channel.

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If you are going to leverage content marketing, you need an email solution. Without it, you won’t see a big ROI. I’ll share the numbers below, which will help you understand why you need to sign up for an email service provider…and you don’t have to pick one that is expensive either.

We don’t spend any money to acquire emails… our only cost is for us to send out emails.

We spend a bit under $2,000 a month for our email service and we send out an email blast every time we release a blog post. We also use it to announce webinars and send out email drip sequences to users. But if you are strapped for money, you can use MailChimp, which is free.

On average, we post one to two articles a day, and we try to publish a few infographics each month.

The end result each month gets a lot of traffic from our efforts.

kissmetrics blog traffic

How to get sales through emails:

The best way to sell most products through email isn’t by sending a random email saying “buy our stuff” even if that feels like the easiest thing to do.

Email gives you the opportunity to send a series of connected pieces of content to your subscribers.

You can use these to educate your subscribers, help them understand their problems, and then finally introduce solutions (your products).

A series of emails like this is essentially a mini sales funnel:

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And it’s incredibly effective.

There’s no right or wrong email funnel. You might have three emails in it, or you might have 20. It depends on the complexity of your product, the cost of it, and even how advanced your email marketing provider is.

However, there are three general types of emails that you will want to include in the following order:

  1. Educational (first 1-5 emails) – You want to send lessons to your subscribers so that they fully understand their problem. For example, if you sold high end coffee, you might want to send emails about the health benefits of high quality coffee as well as how to tell the difference between low and high quality coffee.
  2. Product introduction (1-2 emails) – Here, you want to offer a solution to their problem (not being able to find high end coffee). You don’t need to give a hard sell; just make your readers aware of your product.

image06quicksprout-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/image067-300×252.png 300w” sizes=”(max-width: 652px) 100vw, 652px” />3. Product offer (last 1-5 emails) – Finally, you want to offer your limited time discounts or bonuses. This is more important if you’re selling something like a course that is only available during a certain time period.

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While it’s not required, I think it’s also a great idea to add at least one email where you follow up with anyone who purchases something from you. It’s one small thing you can do to gain lifelong customers. By thinking of a sales funnel as a whole, you can combine all these emails to take your audience one step closer to a sale every email you send.

11. Use content to get access to your target audience

Blog posts aren’t the greatest places for selling products.

People reading them aren’t in a buyer’s mindset.

The same goes for many other types of content, like social media posts, YouTube videos, slideshows, and more.

The better plan is to use your content on these other channels to get attention (traffic) and then get that traffic onto an email list. Then, you can sell much more effectively through email.

Option #1 – Start with blogging: I love blogging because I’ve seen the power it can have to help just about any business. I’ve built multiple 7 figure businesses mostly through blogging.

But I rarely sell in blog posts. In fact, I can’t think of the last time I even mentioned my services in a post.

The key is that I have signup forms on my posts—any visitor can sign up for my email list.

If you haven’t already been doing that, I can help you.

I’ve written many posts on how to create blog content that gets attention and that will help you effectively convert that traffic into email subscribers::

Option #2 – Social media has one purpose: There are a few exceptions, but for the most part, selling on social media doesn’t work.

You won’t be able to tweet out a link to a sales page and get people to visit the page expecting them to be in a buyer’s mindset.

However, it is possible to send them to a blog post or a landing page where you offer a lead magnet, which will help you get them onto your email list.

That is the purpose of social media from a sales perspective (it’s good for other things as well).

Some social media sites, such as Facebook, even allow you to integrate your email list with your profile so that your followers can sign up right on the social networking site.

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Otherwise, you can always just link to your content and drive your followers to a page that has some sort of an opt-in form on it:

image13quicksprout-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/image136-300×165.png 300w, quicksprout-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/image136-1024×562.png 1024w” sizes=”(max-width: 1198px) 100vw, 1198px” />

Option #3 – Slideshows and videos: Besides your blog and a select number of social media sites, there are many places where you can find traffic that you can get onto your email list.

In fact, there are thousands.

However, two in particular are more commonly used for business, so I’ll focus on those.

Those two are Slideshare and YouTube, which focus on publishing content in slideshow and video formats respectively.

Getting a popular slideshow on Slideshare isn’t easy, but if you can achieve that, you can expose your slideshow to tens of thousands of people on the site.

Then, you can put a link to a page on your website (hopefully a landing page with a lead magnet offer) either on the last slide of the slideshow or in the description:

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YouTube is similar. If you produce high quality videos consistently, you can get thousands of views on each of them.

If a video goes viral, you could get millions of views.

You drive traffic back to your site by linking to a landing page or blog post in the description of videos:

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12. Focus on the types of blog content that convert

Although many types of blog content do not produce any sales, some types of content actually do.

If you’re looking to increase sales from your blog itself, start producing more of these types of content on a regular basis.

Content type #1 – tutorials: There are two main types of tutorials, both of which are great for selling.

The first type is where you explain in-depth how to use a specific product.

For example, I did this in one chapter of my advanced guide to link building when I covered how to use the tool ScrapeBox.

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The key is to not only include incredible detail but also make it useful. Show readers how to actually accomplish something with the product:

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In this example, I showed my readers how to find free proxies and build links with the tools.

This type of tutorial works best when you have a fairly well-known product already (most SEOs know ScrapeBox even if they haven’t used it). Because of this, this type of tutorial often lends itself to selling products as an affiliate.

The other type of tutorial involves showing your audience how to accomplish something. Then, you include your product in one of the steps of the tutorial.

A great example of this is Ann Smarty and her product MyBlogU.

She routinely writes tutorials on her own site and others and includes MyBlogU as a tool that will help the audience accomplish their goals.

For example, she wrote a post about how to write newsworthy content:

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In the article, she mentions the tool as a way to accomplish a specific step in the process:

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Content type #2 – product reviews: A good product review can convince just about anyone considering it to actually buy it.

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However, you need to understand what a good product review is.

Most reviews suck. They’re incredibly biased, contain no actual detail of the product in use, and are obviously written just to generate sales.

A good product review is authentic and as unbiased as possible, and it’s clear that the writer has used and tested the product.

There are four main steps to creating a great product review:

  1. Pick a type of product in your niche (e.g., link-building tools)
  2. Buy the products you’re comparing (it costs more upfront but will allow you to write a credible review)
  3. Test the products (test the performance of each product in the way they are meant to be used)
  4. Quantify the results, and share them in a detailed review

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Content type #3 – case studies: Finally, case studies are a great way to get new customers.

They consist of a detailed account of how a past customer used your product or service successfully.

They are best used for complex products, where it’s not clear to potential customers if the product is right for them or not.

HubSpot is a company that produces a steady stream of new case studies because they know they work:

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There’s a lot that goes into writing an effective case study, which is why I wrote an entire post dedicated to showing you how to do it.

Conclusion

Content marketing is arguably the most effective type of marketing at your disposal today.

However, you need to make sure that you are using content not to just generate traffic but to convert that traffic into sales.

You need to make sure your content is relevant if you want to generate sales.

Figure out how to leverage different elements at the bottom of the conversion funnel. Then, create a customer journey map to give you a better understanding of the consumer’s wants.

Use UTM parameters to track their behavior and measure the success of different campaigns. Promote those ads on social media.

Once you realize which promotions had the most success, you can build customer personas to dig even deeper into the minds of your customers.

Use the resources, tools, and analytics I mentioned to identify the type of content that speaks to your customers the most. Adjust your content strategy accordingly.

Stay up to date on the most recent news and trends to stay relevant.

If you follow the tips I’ve outlined in this guide, making your content more relevant, you’ll see a significant impact on your sales numbers.

The Ultimate Guide to Content Link Building

Posted: 05 Apr 2019 07:10 AM PDT

One of the biggest myths in SEO is that quality content generates natural links. It doesn’t. Thousands of site owners bang out hundreds of pieces of quality content every single day…without a single backlink to show for it. To earn links in today’s crowded content world, you need to take your stuff to the next level. In this chapter I’m going to walk you through the steps you need to take to be able to produce the type of quality, epic stuff that generates links on autopilot (or with a little push).

Find What Already Works

Before you can write link-magnet content you need to have a handle on what’s already out there in your niche. Here’s how.

The first step is to find keywords in your niche that you can frame your content around. It doesn’t make sense to write a 3000-word article that rocks your industry if it’s going to rank for a keyword with only 100 searches per month.

First, open the Google Keyword tool and enter a few keywords that you’d like to rank for:

Under “Match Types”, choose “Exact”.

Then you’ll see a list of keywords that get decent search volume in your niche.

Sort by local monthly searches.

Export these keywords into a .csv by clicking the download button and choosing “All search results”:

This .csv will be a working list of the keywords you’re going to build your epic content around.

Now, delete any keywords that are irrelevant or have insane competition:

Finding Keywords Using SEMRush

If the keywords Google pulled up for you are too competitive or not particularly relevant to your site, you can use an awesome free tool, SEMRush, to see the keywords that your competition is already ranking for.

Once you create an account, sign in and go to your dashboard. Enter a competitor’s domain into the field at the top of the page:

You’ll get a ton of fancy charts and graphs, but you want to zero-in on the “Organic Keywords” area of the page:

Sometimes you’ll find unique keywords that the Google Keyword Tool didn’t show you. Copy and paste any keywords you’d like to rank for into your spreadsheet:

Once you’ve finalized your list, it’s time to see what’s already ranking for your target keywords.

Take the first keyword with decent search volume and check out Google’s top-10:

Keep in mind, a lot of these pages rank due to domain authority and the site’s overall popularity (more eyeballs = more links).

Your job is to look at each of the top-10 results and write something that’s not only better, but is produced in a way that generates natural links and social shares. Which brings us to our next step…

Make Something Even Better (For People and Search Engines)

Most content — even great content — has the potential for another level. Here’s how to find holes in the reigning content so that you can create something even better.

Using the example keyword above, let’s take the #3 result for a spin (http://www.seobook.com/archives/001792.shtml):

As expected, this is a superb article on an authoritative domain. It’s going to be tough to beat. However, there are a few ways we could trump this article in both quality and on-page SEO.

Open up WordPress and follow along so you can outline your next piece of epic content.

On-Page SEO Analysis

First, take a look at the page’s on-page SEO, including meta tags, and content optimization, using the Search Engine Analysis tool at: http://www.seoworkers.com/tools/analyzer.html

Just head over to the page and enter your competing page’s URL:

And you’ll get a thorough report on the page’s on-page SEO.

In this case, this page doesn’t have the exact match keyword (“link building”) in the title tag:

The page also lacks a description tag:

And the alt image tag doesn’t contain any information (target keyword or LSI keywords) to give clues to Google on what the page is about:

URL

Ideally you want to include your keyword in your page’s URL. In this case the page lacks a keyword-rich URL:

Those are four simple opportunities to get an on-page edge over this page. Start your draft WordPress post with these.

Set the permalink that includes the target keyword.

Add keyword-rich alt text to an image:

And include your keyword in title and description:

However, that’s not going to be nearly enough. If you want to stand toe-to-toe with the big boys you need to beat them with better stuff.

Find Content Weaknesses

Now it’s time to see where you can improve on the content that’s already out there. Here’s the exact checklist that I use.

  • Timeliness

    One of the easiest ways to surpass the content that’s already out there is to create something more up-to-date. While some niches have mostly evergreen content (ie. dating), most are changing all the time. To find the date of your page’s creation, just copy and paste the URL into Google:

    In fact, this post was created as a more up-to-date version of another link building post:

    Although SEOBook’s post is fairly new, in a fast moving industry like SEO, you can never be too up-to-date. However, simply updating this list isn’t going to be nearly enough. But it will help.

  • Wow Factor

    You’d be surprised how many pieces of content get links from their sheer volume or “wow factor.” Although the SEOBook article in this example is high-quality, the fact that it’s a whopping 101 tips and strategies definitely plays a role. In fact, another top-10 result for this keyword is a 100+ list:

    One way you could stand out is to create a list way bigger than these. Could you create a list of 200, 300 or even 500 link building strategies? Imagine how easy it would be to build links to a page with 500 strategies or tips.

    Add that to your draft post:

  • Design

    Design is one aspect of link building that doesn’t get discussed very often. But it’s crucial because people tend to evaluate the trustworthiness of a site’s content based on design.

    In the case of our SEOBook example, the design is professional. But it lacks bells and whistles, like screenshots, images and infographics. If you not only produce a larger list — but create a better design too — you’ll be able to generate links on tap.

    You can either make a custom page in WordPress (you’ll need to hire a professional designer) or simply add lots of screenshots. The best free screenshot software is Jing. Be sure to add arrows and other highlights for your posts to make following along even easier. Add a screenshot from Jing to your WordPress post so you remember to include them:

  • Thoroughness

    Another way to get an edge on your competitor’s content is to make something more thorough than what they’ve put out there. SEOBook’s post gives some instructions… but more detailed steps for some of the tips and strategies would certainly add more value.

    Write “Steps” in your draft post to remind you to flesh out the steps in your article.

Write the Content

Now that you have an outline of your content, the hard work begins: creating a winning piece of content that people naturally want to share with others. But just because the SERPs for your target keyword are littered with massive lists doesn’t mean you have to follow suit. Here are some other content formats that have a track record of attracting links.

Expert Roundups

Gathering the opinion of experts in your field is one of the easiest ways to get fistfuls of links to your content. Because you’re featuring the insights of bloggers in your niche, they (and others) can’t help but link to you.

First, think of a topic in your niche that many people wonder about or has some dissenting opinions. In the SEO field, a roundup on the future of SEO, black hat vs. white hat and the influence of social signals would work well. You can also do a roundup on lessons learned, funny stories, or tips on how to do ___ better.

Second, find bloggers to pitch to using AllTop.com and Technorati.

Alltop is a merit-based directory of top blogs and websites in almost every vertical under the sun.

Head over to http://alltop.com/ and enter a keyword that describes your field:

The site presents you with a list of options. Sometimes there are blogs in related fields that you can hit up, so consider searching through the suggested keyword lists later.

For now let’s just stick with what we were searching for: SEO. Alltop will show you a list of the top blogs in your niche:

Then go to Technorati’s homepage” http://technorati.com/. At the top of the screen hit the “blogs” button so you’re searching for blogs, not posts:

Enter your keyword and hit the magnifying glass button:

The thing that’s great about Technorati is that you can often find sites laterally related to yours that you may not have found at AllTop.

While you can look at metrics like homepage PR, Twitter followers and other signs of quality, it’s not necessary. The sites listed in Alltop and Technorati usually get a ton of traffic and have more than enough PR to throw around. Instead, make a quick spreadsheet of all the sites on this page, along with their contact info.

Now it’s just a matter of reaching out to them one by one to ask if they’d like to contribute to your roundup.

Reach Out

If you’re new in your field, expect a low response rate. To maximize your chances, use this proven email template:

Hey [Blogger Name],

I’d love to hear your opinion on [industry topic] for [your site]. I’m doing a roundup of opinions on my site and I think people would love to hear what you think about [industry topic].

Here’s the question:

[Question]

Of course, I’ll include a link back to your site (with a photo).

Thanks!

[Your Name]

The Definitive Guide

Producing the bar-none ultimate guide to something is a timeless link building strategy. By having the most thorough information on the internet, people will naturally link to it when they mention the subject.

Creating a definitive guide isn’t easy: you need to work your tail off to make something this comprehensive and useful.

First, find a topic that lacks a solid, definitive guide. Go to Topsy.com and enter these search strings:

  • definitive guide + keyword
  • ultimate guide + keyword
  • step by step + keyword

Choose “All Time” from the left hand sidebar:

And choose to sort by links:

Now sift through the list and find a definitive guide topic that you could beat:

I didn’t see anything in the list about anchor text. Considering how important that’s becoming in SEO, it seems like a fantastic opportunity. To make sure, I put the same search strings into Google to see what’s out there. Except this time, I use a more specific keyword:

I don’t see anything out there based on the first 30 results in Google:

Looks good! There’s nothing out there that consolidates everything there is to know about anchor text.

Here’s how to actually write the definitive guide.

First, find the best content that already exists. These will be your references. Head to top blogs in your niche and enter your keyword:


Looks like some amazing stuff! Repeat the process at other leading sites or using Google.

Read each piece of content and use it to make an outline in WordPress. Make sure to fill in any information gaps that other articles seem to have missed:

Now just fill in the blanks, reference the sources you found and you’ve got yourself a link magnet!

Quizzes

Quizzes tend to attract a lot of links because they’re unique and interactive. Keep in mind that the quiz can be something a bit whimsical and fun, like those found at http://theoatmeal.com/quizzes. Or you can make a quiz that tells the person something about who they are. Traditional quizzes that test people’s knowledge can also work.

Let’s say you wanted to make an SEO-related quiz: “Are You a White Hat or Black Hat SEO?”

Head to your WordPress dashboard and click the “plugins” tab.

Click “Add New”:

Enter “Quiz” into the plugin search bar:

Choose Wp-Pro-Quiz from the list of options.

And activate the plugin. Click “WP-Pro-Quiz” from the WordPress Dashboard sidebar:

Then add a quiz title.

And add a description of your quiz.

Click “Save”.

Hover your cursor underneath your quiz’s title and click “Questions”.

Then “Add Question”:

For a quiz like this, you want to record a certain number of points depending on their answer.

Check off “different points for each answer.”

Then, create your first question:

Choose “Multiple Choice”:

And create your answers. Depending on your quiz you may not have “correct” answers. For a quiz like the one in this example, you can consider certain answers “correct” (like white hat answers) and others “incorrect”:

Or you can assign the different choices a different amount of points, and determine the result of the quiz based on the number of points that they have.

Once you’re done with your first question, hit “Save”:

Repeat until you’ve added about 10-20 questions. Then head back to the plugin’s dashboard and click “edit” underneath your quiz:

Now add something to the “Results Text” to let your participants know where they stand:

Finally, copy the shortcode found next to your quiz’s name:

And paste it into a blog post:

When you publish the post, the quiz will appear within the post:

Get Your Links

You’ve spied on your competitors and produced a piece of content that blows their stuff out of the water. Now what? Your goal is simple: get your content exposed to the most amount of people possible. The more people that see your content the more likely you’ll generate backlinks from it. And the three days following your content’s posting is ripe for links and social shares.

Hit Your Twitter Followers

Alerting your social media existing followers is one of the fastest ways to get the word out about your epic content. This isn’t your average post, which means you need to be a tactician with your Twitter outreach strategy.

First, plan your tweets so they go out at a time where they’ll get retweeted by the most people: usually 5pm EST on a weekday.

However, you may also want to check out Tweriod, which gives you free, personalized Tweet optimization information.

Head over to http://www.tweriod.com/. Click on the “Sign Up With Twitter” button:

And allow the app to access your Twitter account.

Then the app will show you the best times to tweet, based on your follower’s activity:

This data is obviously more precise and reliable than the general rule to tweet at 5pm EST.

To make sure you get the timing just right, use Buffer.

First, login using your Twitter account.

Then hit the sharer button at the top of the screen:

Put in your message and hit “Buffer” to time your tweets:

If needed, change your Buffer schedule to match the timing information you received from Tweriod:

Paid Stumbles

StumbleUpon’s Paid Discovery program is a lightning-fast way to get more visitors to your fresh, epic content. With clicks as low as 5 cents, you can usually get a few hundred eyeballs with a small investment. And a fair amount of these will organically stumble, tweet and like your content… meaning more potential backlinks.

First, go to https://www.stumbleupon.com/pd and create an account:

Click “create new campaign.”

Enter your content’s URL.

And set your budget. You probably only want to run your campaign for a few days to add fuel to the buzz.

Name your campaign.

StumbleUpon automatically targets your content to a demographic that they think will respond best to it. But if you want to make sure, you can hit the “edit” button under “audiences” and choose the demographic and interest information that best fits your content.

Hit “Save and Review”:

Then “Create Campaign.”

And you’re done!

Get Exposure With Scoop.it

Scoop.it is content curation on steroids. And it’s a great (free) way to give your content the push it may need to go viral.

First, create an account. Hit the “My Topics” button at the top of your Scoop.it page. Choose “Create Topic.”

Make it something related to what your content is about.

Now, search for other curators that have Scoop.It pages similar to what your content is all about.

Pay special attention to users with lots of views:

And Twitter followers (most Scoop.It addicts tend to tweet the content that they scoop):

Follow them by hitting the “Follow” button on the right side of their page.

Once you have a few followers it’s time to Scoop your own content.
Click “New Scoop.”

And choose “Create Your Own Scoop.”

Then copy and paste your content’s URL.

It will ask you where you want to post the content. Choose one of the other curators that you follow:

And click “Suggest.”

Now your content is sent to that curator. If they think it’s as awesome as you do, they’ll post it on their Scoop. It page!

Site Outreach

When the dust settles and the buzz surrounding your content has died down a bit, it’s time to do some outreach and earn a few more quality links.

Link Roundups

Link roundups might be the most underrated link building technique on the planet. Where else can you find site owners in your niche actually looking to link to your content? If you’re not familiar with link roundups, they’re simply blog posts that link out to the week’s best content.

Find Your Roundups

Here are a few search strings to help you quickly find link roundups in your niche.

  • “link roundup” + your niche
  • “Friday link roundup”
  • “weekly link roundup”

Make sure to set the date for the last year or so to make sure you’re only looking at sites with active roundups:

Here’s one that looks promising:

Sure enough, it looks like this blogger posts a roundup every Friday:

Now it’s a matter of reaching out to this blogger and suggesting your content.


If you don’t find anything — or want to get more even more links — hunt for link roundups in niches closely related to yours.

And repeat the process.

Link Poaching

This is a little bit devious, but it’s darn effective. What you’re doing is looking at who already links to your competitor’s content… and try to get them to replace their link with yours. The reason this works so well is that you already know the person wants to link to a resource about your topic (because they already have). It’s just a matter of convincing them that yours is better (more on that later).

First, take a few of the results from the top 10 results of your target keyword.

And enter them into OSE.

Choose “Only External,” and click the filter button.


Now hit up each of the results and see if you spot an opportunity for the site owner to swap their link for yours (or simply add yours to the page).

Here’s one that has potential:

Sure enough, the post was published three years ago, meaning it’s probably due for an update:

One of the most effective ways to get your link posted is to tell the blogger that you have a more up-to-date resource than the one that they’re linking to. Site owners are petrified of linking to obsolete stuff.

Just contact the site owner and let them know about your fresh, cutting edge resource.

You may only get a 10% response rate. But that 10% of links will comprise aged, heavily linked-to pages that will pass a ton of trust and authority onto your site.

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