Update 1: The PDF eBook version of this post is now available! You can download it here for free.
The next entry in the content marketing series is here, and it’s all about promoting your content after it’s been published. Read on to learn the secrets of maximizing your content’s visibility online.
+ The Importance of Following Up
+ Setting the Stage
+ Social Media Syndication and Engagement
+ Email Marketing
+ Influencer Marketing
+ Inbound links and Internal Links
+ Content Communities and Social Bookmarking
+ Paid Advertising
+ Sequels, Reboots, and Revisits
+ Final Takeaways
There are many components to a successful content marketing strategy, and a number of them apply to the events leading up to content creation—including research, strategy planning, drafting, and publishing. I’ve written a guide on how to plan and launch your content strategy, which could be helpful if you’re still in this phase.
But this guide is all about the other side of the equation—the side that gets neglected by most content marketers. Everyone knows the importance of publication in content marketing (otherwise, you’d have no “content”), but for many marketers, that’s the end of the line. Once a piece is created, your job is pretty much done, right?
Wrong. In fact, the tactics you use to promote and nurture your published content have just as big of an impact on your overall results as the quality of your content in the first place. Without a proper follow-up strategy, even your best content might fail to live up to its true potential.
In this guide, I’ll explain the concept of promotion and nurturing, why it’s important for any content marketing strategy, and of course, the specific tactics you’ll need to leverage in order to maximize your content’s visibility. As usual, this guide is broken up into clear sections, so feel free to jump around to the sections that matter most to you and your brand.
Let’s start by taking a look at why a content promotion and nurturing strategy is important in the first place. Theoretically, your content should speak for itself; the whole idea behind inbound marketing in general is that if you offer enough value to people, they’ll naturally come to you. But as you’ll see, this isn’t exactly the case – especially in today’s crowded content market.
When you publish your first post on a blog with no existing readership, no social media following, and no external ties, links, or support, you’re essentially publishing content in a vacuum. The vast majority of online users don’t go out of their way to track down new content; instead, they rely on connections that are already established, such as news sources, friends, and social media sites. Without any meaningful connections, there’s no way for users to discover your content, and even if that content is a masterpiece, it’s not going to bear any significant effects for your brand. You can think of this as a variation of the “if a tree falls in the forest and there’s nobody around to hear it, does it make a sound?” argument, and that analogy has been made in the past. But personally, I think the more accurate analogy is the tagline to the movie Alien: “in space, no one can hear you scream.”
(Image Source: Imamuseum)
In effect, you can scream as loud as you want—produce the best content you want—but it’s not going to matter unless you can get that content in front of the right people.
Getting your content seen by more people is a big part of your promotion and nurturing strategy, but that isn’t the only goal. There are many benefits to promoting and nurturing your material, which manifest differently depending on what you’re promoting and how you’re promoting it:
Throughout this guide, I’m going to be walking you through the many types of content promotion that you can engage in. These vary from free to expensive, from easy to hard, from temporary to long-term, and offer many different advantages and disadvantages between them. I encourage you to familiarize yourself with each approach, and decide on an individual basis whether or not each one is right for your brand. Some brands may wish to use all these strategies in conjunction with each other, complementing all their strengths and weaknesses at once, while others may wish to focus on the one or two most likely to bring them results.
In any case, here’s a briefer on where this guide is going from here:
(Image Source: Twitter)
Next up, I’m going to examine what you need to do to get ready for your promotion and nurturing strategy, as you’ll need certain elements in place before you can begin making the most of your new content. From there, I’ll dig deeper into the details of each of the promotional methods I briefly described above.
Before you get too excited about promoting your content, there are a few structures and elements you’ll need to put in place. Why? First, you need to make sure that your content can be promoted effectively—for example, if your links aren’t working or if your content isn’t loading properly, you could have a major issue. Second, you’ll need to make it easy for your content to spread. Think of promotion as igniting a spark; you need plenty of kindling to turn it into a fire. Finally, you’ll need to do some research to make sure you’re targeting your content correctly in the first place.
Let’s start with the easy one: making sure your content is visible.
You might also have seasonal content, which is only relevant during a certain part of the year; for example, you might have a number of topics about the holiday shopping season. If this is the case, you’ll only want to circulate these posts during those relevant times of the year, so keep them separate. Beyond that, try to capitalize on new trends, technology, news, and information as it rolls out when you plan to syndicate and distribute your material.
(Image Source: Browserstack)
I’m always amazed at how many people miss this basic function. It’s ridiculously easy to include social media share icons on your website, so there’s no excuse not to do it. Every post you create should have clear, prominent share buttons that your users can click to share your material with their followers. This isn’t a direct promotional strategy, since you won’t be the one doing the work, but you should make it easy for users who don’t mind doing some of the work for you. Including these buttons can significantly increase the number of people who end up sharing your post, which exponentially increases your piece’s long-term potential. We use a plugin for WordPress called Social Warfare.
(Image Source: SEO.co)
As another easy add, make sure that you have plenty of opportunities for your users to engage with your material directly. At SEO.co, we allow comments on all our blog posts to facilitate and encourage discussion, and your site should too. The more discussion your post generates, the more visibility it’s going to get, and the greater impact it’s going to have on all incoming users who are seeing it for the first time.
Any other forms of interaction you can include, such as interactive quizzes or calculators, can also be beneficial in securing more engagement and shares.
Finally, before I turn my attention to the individual strategies and platforms you’ll be using to promote your content, I want to stress the importance of knowing your audience. Before you go any further with your content promotion strategy, you need to know exactly who your target demographics are, what kinds of platforms they use, how they find their content, and how you can best reach them. Only with this information will you be able to choose the most effective platforms to support your strategy. If you aren’t sure where to get started here, the SBA has some great resources on how to conduct market research.
With that knowledge in mind and your site set up for long-term content promotional success, let’s start dissecting the strategies that can maximize the potential of your content strategy.
First up, we have the strategy that almost everyone thinks of first when it comes to content promotion: social media syndication.
Why is social media syndication so popular? Because it’s free, relatively easy to use, and it offers the potential of exponential growth. Ideal for both one-time and long-term content runs, I highly encourage social media distribution at a bare minimum for every brand. Let’s explore the reasons why, and how to use social media effectively.
First, understand that social media isn’t a magical gateway to more visibility and a bigger audience. Some platforms are going to matter to your brand far more than others, and it’s up to you to decide which ones those are. It’s not an easy decision, nor is it necessarily straightforward, but narrowing your scope of syndication to only the platforms that are most effective for your brand can help you maximize your return while cutting back on wasted time.
(Image Source: Pew)
Once you’ve got a loose strategy set in place, and a good understanding of what types of content promotion you’ll be pursuing, you can begin. Ultimately, there are two ways to promote your content in the social sphere, and the first is with initial promotion. With this strategy, you’ll be circulating a new piece of content to your audience for the first time.
(Image Source: NextScripts)
Facebook allows you to boost your posts (for a price) so they reach more of your fans, and this can be a great way to get an initial boost of syndication with your audience.
LinkedIn groups offer another great channel for getting initial visibility. Start by joining as many LinkedIn groups as you can that are relevant to your industry or business (as of time of writing, the limit is 50 groups per account). Once you’re accepted into the groups, participate in them and add your content to them as discussions. For an in-depth overview, see The Definitive Guide to LinkedIn Groups for Marketing.
(It’s a marathon, not a sprint!)
The other route for social media distribution is ongoing syndication. Here, you’ll be reposting your older pieces of content on a recurring basis. Obviously, newer content is better, but syndicating your old material will help it be seen by people who missed it the first time around, and may re-spark interest in your older concepts. Plus, you need to be posting almost constantly if you want to stay relevant in social media—and your archive of content can help you do it.
(Image source: Kissmetrics)
Second, you’ll need to make sure your streams of content posts are timed appropriately for each platform. For example, your Twitter users probably wouldn’t mind seeing you posting five times per day or more, but your Facebook users wouldn’t be nearly as happy about that. Find a rhythm that works for your audience and platform of choice.
(Image source: Kissmetrics)
Depending on your goals and your audience, you may also be able to target specific people, events, or opportunities in your content promotion strategy. These can be applied to either your initial or ongoing promotional efforts.
On social media, you’ll also want to take the time to spark discussions. Having more users talking about your post will bring more attention to it, as it will likely rank higher in subscribers’ newsfeeds and become visible to extended followers of people engaged in the discussion. Here are three ways to do this:
There you have it—social media promotion and nurturing in a nutshell. There’s a lot to learn about your social media efforts, and every business will be unique, so keep a close eye on the pulse of your strategy, and don’t be afraid to make adjustments.
Your next method is a similarly inexpensive one, with a similar path to potential growth. Start collecting subscribers for your email newsletter on the sides and footer of your website. The more subscribers you have, the more powerful this distribution channel is going to be.
Essentially, you have two potential angles for email marketing; regular newsletters or exclusive offers. Feel free to include both angles in the same email blast, cover them separately, or cover just one or the other.
The idea behind a regular newsletter is to take pieces of content, presumably from your on-site blog, and promote them via an occasional email blast. This will increase the visibility of your content and give your subscribers – who are already familiar with your brand and content – a chance to read, share, and engage with them. For example, consider this email blast which promoted one of our recent blog posts:
The other route with email marketing is to offer exclusive content through it, which users can only get (or get early access to) by being subscribers. The advantage here is that it makes subscribing to your email list more appealing, which will give you access to a greater number of users. However, it also means producing content with a slightly lower potential since you’ll be limiting its visibility, at least initially, to a small range of people.
Email marketing functions well as a standalone for some businesses, but it’s most effective when it’s used to promote and complement your content and social media strategies.
Influencer marketing has some of the greatest overall potential of any of the strategies on this list. The idea is relatively simple, though it’s going to manifest in a number of different individual tactics; you’ll find an “influencer” in your industry, a person of significant influence who has a huge social media following and a reputation to match, and you’ll leverage their influence to get more visibility for your content. Because these influencers sometimes have followers in the realm of 6 or 7 digits, you could instantly become connected to an enormous new audience segment—and it might cost you nothing but a bit of time and back-scratching.
One of the best options you have to appeal to an influencer is to cite them in the body of a piece of content you’ve written; this shows that you’re sincerely interested in their material, gives them a benefit, and gives you an excuse to contact them, all in one. The goal is to have them see this citation, and then share the piece of content with their followers.
(Image Source: Kissmetrics)
The above set of strategies is ideal if you’ve already created a piece of content and you want to use an influencer to help promote it. But you can also work with an influencer during the content development process to make your piece of content more powerful and influential from the beginning. Here, you’ll reach out to an influencer in advance for some kind of contribution, usually a quote on a given topic or a testimonial to validate your approach.
After including their quote in the body of your work, be sure to notify them when it’s formally published—they’ll want to see your finished work, and they’ll probably either share it or link to it.
Another angle to leveraging influencers is to seek out authorities who you know have a vested interest in your topics. You can either do this in a top-down, or bottom-up approach. The top-down approach is to find an influencer with a vested interest in a particular topic or niche, then write a post you know he/she would be particularly interested in. The bottom-up approach is to write a topic you like, then hunt for an influencer to match it.
There are merits to both approaches, but either way, you’ll have to find an influencer eventually.
(Image Source: BuzzSumo)
Finding known interested parties can be valuable, but it’s also somewhat limiting; by its nature, you’ll be more restricted in who you can contact, and you may have to reach out to influencers one at a time, stifling your potential at least slightly.
A final option you have in working with influencers is forming a kind of partnership. In some cases, this will manifest as a co-authorship, and in others it will merely be an exchange of favors, but either way you’ll be working directly with an influencer on material that promotes both of your content (or gives you both content that you can then produce).
There are two huge upsides to this method of influencer marketing for content support. First, it automatically gives you new content with a promotion system already in place. Who doesn’t want that? Second, this method of work naturally lends itself to ongoing partnerships and relationships. With it in place, you’ll be able to get at least one influencer in your corner and work with them on a number of projects in the future.
Another way to maximize the performance of your content is by building links—both external links pointing back to your domain and internal links in your own blogs cross-referencing your other posts. The former is designed to increase your content’s organic search rankings, sending more traffic their way. The latter is designed to keep your visitors on your site longer, while directing them to your best-performing content (not to mention further improving your on-site SEO).
Modern link building can be described as consisting of two main strategies: attracting links naturally with great content, and building links manually. Since attracting links naturally is a combination of producing great content (which we covered in The All-in-One Guide to Planning and Launching a Content Marketing Strategy) and then promoting it (which is the focus of this guide), you’ll need to plan a manual link building strategy. Link building requires a guide of its own, so head on over to SEO Link Building: The Ultimate-Step-by-Step Guide when you’re ready to tackle link building for your content.
Fortunately, internal links are a much simpler affair than manual link building. Because these links don’t pass PageRank from one domain to another, they’re treated with less scrutiny than off-site links. For the most part, these are intended to serve as navigational tools, giving users the chance to easily find your other posts and also to help Google understand how your internal pages relate to each other.
Internal links are a great way to encourage users on your website to your newest content to get eyeballs on it, along with the comments, shares, and engagements that will help it blossom.
With internal linking, there aren’t many rules to follow. Just link, as appropriate, to other posts you’ve written when you feel they’ll add value. As an example, take a look at the last few paragraphs and you’ll notice how I included internal links to other content on SEO.co.
If your site is on WordPress, you can use a plugin like SEO Smart Links to automatically link certain words or phrases to your content dynamically, throughout your website. It’s also a good idea to add links to your new content from other posts in the same category.
You can use HelloBar or OptinMonster (both of which are amazing tools) to create static bars, pop-ups, pop-ins, and modal boxes that display to visitors based on pretty much any criteria you choose (time on site, page currently being viewed, referral source, etc.). This can be a fantastic way to create specific, targeted, or even site-wide messages, banners, calls to action, or announcements to your visitors to drive visitors to whatever content you want to promote.
Next up, let’s take a look at how content communities and social bookmarking sites can help you promote your content. These are two different concepts, but I’m tying them together because they serve a similar purpose; content communities exist to help content creators submit and promote their material (while also serving as a content discovery portal to non-creators), while social bookmarking sites are all about collecting and managing “bookmarked” links to interesting sites. Both involve users submitting content to a central location, which can be browsed and accessed by a content-hungry public. This setup lends itself perfectly to brands trying to generate more attention for specific pieces of content on their sites.
Before you get involved with either type of submission site, there are a handful of considerations and best practices you’ll need to keep in mind:
To illustrate some of these best practices and provide direction for your prospective campaign, let’s take a look at a handful of examples in each area:
First up, we have the social bookmarking site StumbleUpon. Rather than being hosted on a single site, StumbleUpon allows its users to browse the web as they normally would, and bookmark sites and pages that appeal to them. You can categorize these bookmarks according to interest, and then browse specific interests for random pages that other users have submitted. A system of up-voting and down-voting helps increase the circulation of pages that are collectively agreed to be valuable, and weed out ones that aren’t. This is a good way to index some of your content—but only if it appeals to a specific niche.
(Image Source: StumbleUpon)
Reddit is a massively popular content discovery and social bookmarking site. Similar to StumbleUpon, users can submit pages they think are interesting, then browse and up-vote or down-vote content they encounter. If you can make it all the way to Reddit’s first page, you can expect a volume of traffic that could crash your site entirely; however, this is extremely hard to pull off. Instead, you’re better off submitting your content and engaging with users in one of Reddit’s many “sub-Reddits,” dedicated to niche interests.
(Image Source: Reddit)
Medium is a content community but with a long history and a large user base. If you’re just starting to dabble in the world of content marketing or content communities, it’s a good place to start. Again, the more specific an audience you target, the better.
(Image Source: Medium)
These aren’t the only social bookmarking or content community sites out there—not by a long shot—but they are good examples that can help you get brainstorming and possibly get started in this wing of content promotion.
Generally, I avoid recommending paid advertising for online marketing, and it’s not just because I run an inbound marketing firm; it’s because in all the testing I’ve done, I’ve never been able to generate a positive ROI from paid ads. I’m not expert, but even after hiring paid advertising experts, it has simply never worked for my business.
For some, pay-per-click advertising can generate a positive ROI, but that ROI is capped and tied directly to the amount of money you’re putting in. In effect, paid advertising is inherently temporary; as long as you keep paying for it, you’ll be able to see a linear return of traffic. Inbound marketing, on the other hand, relies on the creation of permanent assets and compounding growth, which means your ROI could increase indefinitely, and even if you taper your spending, you’ll still continue reaping the benefits.
That being said, paid advertising can be used as a way to promote your content—especially if all you’re looking for is a short-term boost or to “seed” your new content with eyeballs. If you choose to use paid advertising for your content promotion, I highly encourage you to hedge your bets with a number of other, more long-term investments in your brand visibility.
You have a few main options when it comes to using paid advertising to support your content marketing strategy:
There are hundreds of options for paid advertising on the web, and even more if you count affiliate marketing and general banner ads. But for the sake of conciseness, I’m going to recommend only two heavy-hitting platforms for your campaign, and you can probably guess what they are—Google and Facebook.
Google AdWords has been the name to beat in advertising for many years, and it’s little wonder why. It has some major advantages as an advertising platform:
(Image Source: Google)
On the other hand, Facebook has developed its own advertising platform in a way that challenges Google with a number of unique advantages of its own:
(Image Source: Facebook)
Aside from paid ads, another feature which I mentioned earlier, but which is deserving of another mention, is Facebook post boosting. Facebook has shown a pattern of changing its algorithm to reduce the visibility of content posted on brand pages, in an effort to get brands to pay for visibility in newsfeeds. It’s working. With that said, brands can pay to boost their content to their fans, and it’s relatively inexpensive, as far as paid ads go.
Google and Facebook each have their own advantages and disadvantages, so it’s up to you and the nature of your content to decide which is best for your campaign. You might even choose to use both!
In this section, I want to talk about all the different ways you can transform your content to further nurture its growth and visibility. Almost all the strategies I’ve mentioned thus far have been about taking your content, unchanged, and generating more attention for it. Now, I want you to think about changing your content itself to support furthering its growth; think of it as the difference between placing real estate ads to sell your house and making improvements to your house to increase its curb appeal. Both strategies will result in a higher likelihood of a bigger sale, but they take a different approach, and in many ways, complement each other.
Your first option is to turn your piece of content into a series; in other words, you’ll take the idea or format of that first post and expand it into a series of different posts. This is most effective when you have a topic you know has performed well—new parts of the series can capitalize on this popularity, simultaneously earning more immediate visibility and supporting both the past and future of the content series. There are a few ways you can do this.
(Image Source: Moz)
Rather than keeping up with an ongoing series, you could support one of your older posts by simply updating it with new information. For example, if you ran a survey in your industry in 2015 around this time, why not run a similar survey in 2016 to see what’s changed and what hasn’t?
In some contexts, this can serve as a long-term series, updated annually instead of monthly. But in other contexts, this could serve as a form of journalistic correction, or even the inclusion of new anecdotes and arguments. Making a new edit to an older piece gives you an excuse to market and distribute that piece all over again.
This tactic is great for any kind of post that looks to the future. I write a lot about the “future of content marketing” and the “future of SEO,” and I’ll be the first to admit that while some of my predictions are spot-on, some of them don’t come close to hitting the mark. Revisiting an older piece with a new analysis, such as checking to see which of your predictions came true, is a way of hearkening back to your older material, but also shows off your transparency to your audience, which generates trust.
As another method of transformation, you can take a piece of content that exists as one medium and transform it into another medium. In some cases, like video transcription, this will mean simply re-doing the material in another form, but in other cases, like generating an infographic from research data, this will require far more investment and creativity.
Creating your content within a new medium allows you to target new audiences, as some portions of the population have different content preferences than others. It’s particularly useful in targeting new platforms and syndication channels, such as generating an infographic so you can take advantage of Instagram.
(Image Source: TED)
The last two methods of transformation I’ll explore are related opposites. The first is anthologizing, the process of bringing multiple posts together to form a single unit. There are two main options for this:
The reverse process is less common, because it requires you to start with a bigger, more comprehensive piece of content like an eBook. If you have a piece of content like this, you can break it down into individual sections and chapters, separating out the individual, specific topics that comprise it. From there, all you’ll have to do is write up some revised introductions and conclusions (with some editing and formatting, of course), and you can transform your long-form content into more digestible blog posts and social media bites.
The goals of content marketing are visibility, reputation improvement, traffic, conversion, and alternative marketing support, and you can’t achieve any of those if your content exists in a vacuum. Content promotion and nurturing is your way to break out from that level of captivity.
There are so many options for content promotion and support, from maximizing initial reach to transforming and breathing new life into old pieces, that it’s virtually impossible to use all of them to support your strategy. Instead, try to specialize in a handful that seem to have the greatest impact for your brand. As always, you’ll need to experiment, measure your results, and refine your approach, but as long as you keep supporting your content with more visibility and more potential for growth, you’ll continue increasing your effectiveness and maximizing your returns.
Below I’ve included a content promotion checklist for you to use any time you publish a new piece of content. Here are the exact steps to take, in order, any time you publish a new piece of content!
If you want more in-depth resources on content marketing, be sure to check out these guides from Jayson DeMers: