Build it, and hope that they come. This is what most “content marketing” plans consist of. Creating and publishing. A small majority of the Internet can get away with this. The ESPNs or Buzzfeeds of the world. But for the vast majority of sites, that isn’t enough. Unless your brand is highly recognized and respected enough to drive traffic based on the name alone, you have to go beyond content publishing. This is where a promotional marketing plan becomes so valuable.
Successfully marketing content has short-term and long-term benefits. Short term, you ensure your content is seen. Long term, however, you give an individual post and your entire website the chance to become more visible and influential.
Below is a case study outlining the process we used to build and promote a recent post for the Storage.com brand that went beyond the “create and publish” method to see fantastic results.
Storage.com is a national self storage directory that makes finding and renting storage units simple. Self storage is a unique industry, and the uses for it vary widely, so the content we produce has to appeal to broad demographics yet still target specific consumers based on geographic locations and relation to self storage in terms of the sales funnel.
Moving is one of the more common reasons for self storage rentals, so a lot of the content we’ve been creating has been focused on moving and what those moving to new cities need to know about their new homes. “14 Reasons to Love Fort Worth That Aren’t Related to Dallas” is a piece built for anyone thinking about moving to Fort Worth, those who are in the process of moving to the city, and even new residents in Fort Worth who are still trying to get a feel for their home.
It All Starts with Research
Creating valuable content starts with doing research to set yourself down the right track. Especially in an instance like this when we’re discussing a particular city, we have to get it right, or it will be dismissed by our audience immediately.
We started by identifying places in the city that Fort Worth residents love. This was relatively simple. Sites like TripAdvisor allowed us to find the biggest attractions, and reviews by users provided more depth. Similarly, we used Yelp and Google business reviews to determine which restaurants to mention. This research gives us a good starting point.
Typically, some of the more helpful insights are found within the comments of posts we planned on competing against. Especially when researching what people love about their city, we constantly see comments in other posts about what wasn’t included. These personal bits of information helped us play into the things the audience wanted to see. (Note: We often see these comments on our own posts after publishing. You can’t cover everything!)
The most important insight we found for this particular post was that we needed to differentiate Fort Worth from Dallas. Every other post about Fort Worth we’d seen did mention this, but no one included it in their headline or title. So we did: “14 Things to Love About Fort Worth That Have Nothing to Do With Dallas.”
Build, But Wait to Publish
This part doesn’t need a whole lot of explaining. The research is done. You have what you need to create a strong blog post. But after you’re writing, give yourself some time to iron out how you take what you’ve created and get it seen.
Begin Influencer Outreach
Let’s be clear that you can’t expect influencers to help you reach a highly targeted audience. You have to provide value. Your content has to be at a high enough quality that it stands out, and you have to work to establish a relationship.
With our Fort Worth post, we had two different influencer groups. The first was the group of organizations, businesses, and other content publishers mentioned within the piece itself. The value for them was easy to see. They were mentioned in a post that provided them with free publicity. The second group, however, was other influencers in the Fort Worth area that weren’t mentioned in what we wrote, but invested in their city nonetheless. This was a bit tougher, as the connection was only to the city and not to us, which meant we had to convey the value of the post to them.
At this point, the post hadn’t been published yet. We usually prefer to create connections before we publish. We even ask the influencers we contact if they’d like to see the finished product once it goes live. We know they get bombarded on a daily basis with requests, so if we had just blasted them with another link, we wouldn’t have stood a chance. Instead, we explained the reasons behind the post and its value and then let them choose whether or not to be involved.
Again, not a whole lot to mention here. Building and publishing posts are fairly standard. If you want more insight on some of the SEO techniques we recommend when publishing content, you can check out our post on properly using the “focus keyword” feature on WordPress SEO by Yoast.
Reconnect With Influencers
Once the post went live, we sent another message out to the influencers who told us they’d like to see the post. We never demand a share, but we do encourage sharing if they feel like their fans would enjoy the post.
As shown in the embedded posts below, influencer sharing is incredibly powerful. Recognized entities within Fort Worth have much more influence in the Fort Worth area than Storage.com does, and a post coming from these respected accounts carries a lot more weight with locals than it ever would from us.
Instant Results (First Five Days)
Sessions on that post: 15,891
Social Actions: Over 8.4k on Facebook.
Comments: 16 quality comments that add value to the post that drove over 1,100 sessions through Disqus to date.
The traffic generated by this post definitely qualifies as a traffic spike. As discussed by Moz‘s Rand Fishkin in a recent Whiteboard Friday, these spikes typically result in lasting traffic increases. Contained within that video are great insights on the reasons why this happens, including an increase in social followers, more branded searches, more searches based by personalization, and increased organic performance due to usage signals, links, and so on.
Over the last couple months, we’ve had a few major traffic spikes as a result of highly successful blog posts. Following each one, we have seen an increase in total average daily sessions on the blog:
- July 5 – July 20 (Period prior to second spike): 40% increase in sessions per day in comparison to time before first spike.
- July 26 – August 2 (Period between second & third spikes) 4.7% increase in sessions per day in comparison to time before second spike.
- August 8 – August 20 (Period after latest spike): 32% increase in sessions per day in comparison to time after second spike.
Similar to what Fishkin explained, we are consistently seeing lasting traffic increase following a post that achieves a “viral content bump.” The stretch following our latest spike was a significant jump. This was partially due to the Fort Worth article being shared by one more significant influencer. Regardless, we would’ve still been above our previous standard, and getting shared more frequently is one of the factors into these extended results following a success post.
Social Media Booms & Organic Ranking
Social media is a powerful tool in the process of building a better organic footprint. Though there’s currently not a direct casual relationship between social signals and organic rankings, there is certainly a strong positive correlation between them. And inbound links and increased traffic/usage signals are two very beneficial outcomes.
As discussed by AJ Kohn in his article about social signals and SEO, social media can be a driving force in acquiring inbound links. The basis for the article is that, through social media sharing, brands are exposed to “creators” who have the power to create new content that includes the post they were exposed to, therefore earning you links. Those are natural links at their finest. One of the most important things from this post is that not all shares are equal. The stronger the influencer and the more “creators” they expose you to, the better.
We’ve also seen this happen, both in the Fort Worth blog post and other posts that have created recent traffic spikes. A post we created for Atlanta following the same format was shared by several authoritative social media accounts, including Discover Atlanta. This kind of share is what gets a post in front of the publishers that can result in links. Whether through that account or found somewhere else, Curbed.com, a site with 78 DA (domain authority on a scale from 1-100), linked to the post on their Atlanta subdomain. That’s a powerful share that cumulatively helps to build organic visibility over time.
Kohn ultimately goes on to say that links are the correlation between social and SEO. He also says that good things happen when you drive more traffic. That takes us to our next point.
I strongly believe that the benefit of social media for SEO goes beyond links. High traffic volume seems to have the ability to help grow rankings, even if that traffic doesn’t result in any new links. Heavy site usage indicates that you’re relevant, and that there’s interest in what you’re doing. In a case study by Razvan Gavrilas on Cognitive SEO, there does seem to be a strong correlation between a referral traffic spike from Reddit and an organic traffic spike.
What We’ve Seen
After two of three traffic spikes, we experienced our highest historical single day organic traffic totals on the following Monday, which is consistently the best day for search in the industry.
The last traffic spike didn’t have the same result, but there are a few things that could have influenced this. The first is that self storage searches traditionally begin dropping in August. The other factor might be that the article’s success was happening during back-to-school madness, which could easily drop researching and renting self storage down the priority list of many.
One More Awesome Lasting Result
This isn’t something quite as tangible, but once these successes begin happening, repeating them seems to become much easier. This is likely caused by a variety of things. Obviously, some form of roadmap has been created that can be followed in the future, confidence rises, and your site gains influence.
- Doing quality research is essential. In this particular instance, research helped us to create a piece of content that gave our audience what they wanted (a piece only about Fort Worth), and sparked the headline that created initial interest and made this post more sharable.
- Influencers are a major driving force behind posts that blow up, but the process of forming these relationships and connecting with them in a meaningful way that doesn’t position you as spammy takes time. Don’t ever expect anything. Be respectful and provide value, and you give yourself a chance.
- One great piece of content can have lasting results. We consistently see increased traffic following these successful posts, and by gaining natural inbound links, these posts help to strengthen the domain overall.
- You can’t expect to knock every post out of the park. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth investing time and effort in. If you really invest in content marketing and promotion on a piece by piece basis, success will eventually come.