You’ve created your first piece of content, and it’s pretty awesome.
You’ve built yourself an outreach list with sites and sent the contacts a friendly email.
Then you sit back.
If it does, rest assured you’re not alone. We’ve all been there. That’s because this content marketing game is seriously hard work.
CMI’s most recent survey of content marketing usage and trends found that 76% of B2C organizations and 88% of B2B organizations are using content to market their company. That makes for a highly competitive landscape and means marketers have to cut through a lot of noise in order to stand out.76% of B2C & 88% of B2B organizations are using #content to market their company via @cmicontent #research Click To Tweet
That’s not easy, but it’s not impossible.
The fact is that it doesn’t matter how good your content promotion is if the content itself isn’t up to scratch — if it isn’t something people want, it will fail. That’s lesson No. 1: Create the absolute best content you possibly can (and then create something even better). With great content, you then can focus on improving your content promotion.
Content Distribution Strategies and Tools to Drive Traffic
Quality over quantity
When you built your outreach list, did you cram as many marginally relevant email addresses and sites into it as possible? Or were you a little pickier?
If you went for the second answer, congratulations. While there’s nothing wrong with building a big outreach list, there are only so many hours in the day.
If you have endless resources for promoting content, you can ignore this tip on quality over quantity. If, like most of us, you have to limit the time spent on content promotion, read on.
Building a small list of highly qualified sites should reap better results than a large list of maybes. As Stella Karami from Beyond the Wire writes:
Assembling the perfect target audience is easier said than done. Multiple factors come into play when trying to launch a campaign, and creating a quality list requires more than a compilation of generic email addresses. Doing your homework is essential and the more you know about a contact the better.
What goes into building a highly qualified outreach list?
Ultimate Guide: 11 Sign-Up Strategies for Building Your Email List
Step 1: Find sites
Let’s take a brief look at some of the more common methods. Your first port of call is likely to be a simple Google search. Search for your industry + blog/site (or the industry your content is targeted to).
For example, if I were promoting this piece of content about the fastest growing and declining occupations in the United States (I picked it at random), an obvious place to start would be with a search for “careers blog.”
I then expand on this search by using advanced search operators. I search for careers sites that have a resources page:
Or a links page:
The results from each of the searches gives me a more specific list of sites where the article on fastest growing and declining jobs could be promoted.
Now, to identify blogs that might be interested in the article, a search for industry+blog almost always turns up a few results like this:
It’s generally worth checking out these sorts of resources, but bear in mind that lists like this often contain the most popular within a niche. A lot of other people are likely to be contacting these sites too, and that means it can be tough to get noticed.
Scraping Google is one way to rapidly increase the speed at which you can gather potential sites for your outreach list. “Scraping” enables you to quickly extract sites from the SERPs and save them to a spreadsheet.
While this process does save time initially, you still have to go through the resulting list with a fine-toothed comb to identify the most relevant sites for outreach. You can read more about how to scrape Google’s search results here.
If your competitors are regular participants in the content game, their back-link profile can be an excellent way to find sites to contact yourself. A number of tools are available to view a site’s (or specific URL’s) back-links. You might already have a favorite, but not all tools uncover every link, so it’s worth using two or three in unison. Popular back-link finder tools include Moz’s Open Site Explorer, Ahrefs, and Majestic SEO.
How to Find the Best Pieces of Content in Your Industry
Step 2: Qualify sites
When you find a site or sites you think might be a good fit for your content, the next step is to decide for certain if it’s worth your time. You can do this one site at a time or build a “potentials” list to narrow them down.
To qualify a site, look for:
- Domain authority – MozBar calculates it to predict how well the site will rank on search engines
- Social reach – How big is the site’s following on social platforms? Even if a site doesn’t directly link to your content, a social share can prove valuable if the following is large enough.
- Sharing of other’s content – If the site only posts its original content, your content is unlikely to make it change its ways.
Don’t forget to follow your instincts — does this feel like a quality site that you want connected to your brand’s content?
10 Ways to Make Your Website Content More Relevant (and Rank Higher)
Step 3: Identify contacts
You’ve found a great site with a decent social reach that regularly posts content similar to your own.
That’s a great start. Unfortunately, your efforts could go to waste if you don’t also identify the best person at that site to contact.
Generic “contact @” email addresses and contact forms should be avoided as much as possible. You don’t know who’s going to be reading your email and that puts you at a huge disadvantage.
Ideally, you want your email request to reach the person who is best placed to make a decision about your content. If you’re contacting a big site with lots of departments, your best bet generally is the person in charge of the category that fits your content.
For instance, to promote the careers infographic to Mashable, we would want to find out who’s in charge of their Work and Play section. Smaller sites might not have a separate editor for each section. Instead, contact the editor or sub-editor.
Send a great email
We know that the most important factor in the success of your content is the content itself. However, you can’t just send a link to great content in an email and expect results.
You won’t get very far if the people you email don’t (1) open your email and (2) view your content.
The content of your subject line and body of the email are critical. How to write a great outreach email is another topic that justifies a post of its own. For now, I’ll provide you with a few good resources and highlight some of the key takeaways.
- How to Email Busy People
- What Separates a “Good” Outreach Email from a “Great” One
- Good Outreach vs. Bad Outreach
What key factors make a great outreach email?
It’s short – You’ll generally be contacting busy people. Even those who aren’t busy are not going to want to read lengthy emails about something that may not even interest them. Get to the point quickly.
It’s personalized – Why are you contacting this person? What is it about their work that makes you believe they will be interested in your content? Communicating why the content is relevant to that individual is key to getting your content viewed. Just remain genuine (false flattery tends to stand out like a sore thumb).
It tells them what you want them to do – You can’t assume the recipients will know what you want them to do. The best outreach emails plainly yet politely detail what the recipient is being asked to do.
It has a short and honest subject line (that sparks curiosity) – You want to entice your recipient to open your email, but you don’t want to trick them into it. Something as simple as “content suggestion” can suffice. You could add in a little more detail. For example, “content suggestion for work and play” might work better with the careers content in our theoretical outreach email to Mashable.
Ideally, you should test a few subject lines and use email tracking reports to see which subject lines attract the most opens.
HANDPICKED RELATED CONTENT:
Often, recipients won’t respond to your first email. They might not open it, it might go into their spam, or they might mean to reply but forget.
That’s why you should always, always follow up.
Keep these follow-up emails even shorter than the original. It can help to reply to your initial email, as the original email’s content is easily accessible.
There are no hard-and-fast rules for how many times you should follow up, however I generally hear marketers say that any more than two follow-ups (three emails in total) is overkill.
So that’s it — a general overview of how to perfect your content-promotion process. With great content in hand, you can craft a great promotion outreach plan. Create a quality list by finding relevant sites, qualifying the most relevant and helpful, and identifying individual contacts. Then, use your content prowess to craft a succinct and relevant email that your recipients will want to read, and subsequently help promote your content.
Can you think of anything else to add? I’d love to hear your suggestions – just share them in the comments.
Stay updated on the latest content marketing trends, tips, and insight to cut through the clutter. Sign up for CMI’s free daily or weekly email.
Cover image by Viktor Hanacek, picjumbo, via pixabay.com