This was an excellent article from The Moz Blog that discusses a trend shift away from organic search engine traffic. This trend is expected to continue into the future as online activity through social networking sites continues to grow. If you’re relying heavily on your website’s search engine ranking it may be time to consider investing more time in growing organically on social media.
When you first start out with content marketing, you often have a very basic challenge: you have to build an audience for your content. Even if you’re a large brand with lots of people who are passionate about you, they’re not yet conditioned to see you as a publisher of valuable content. In other words, either way, you’ve got work to do.
In today’s post, I’m going to outline why you should focus on reach and influence, and how to do it so that your content marketing efforts can deliver the maximum ROI.
Map your marketplace
The first thing to realize is that number of potential customers in a marketplace is finite, and so are the number of major media sites and blogs that have any real audience. A typical audience reach for the bloggers and media in a marketplace might look something like this:
Traditionally, SEOs have focused on trying to publish content on as many different domains as possible. In the early days of SEO, the theory was that getting links from as many different domains as you could was how you maximize overall rankings impact.
This still has an element of truth to it today if you view the Google algorithm from a narrow perspective, but I believe it’s best to take a more holistic view of the market. Frankly, I don’t want the hard task of fighting for every link I get; I want people to give them to me because I’ve shown I deserve them.
I don’t want to fight for every link I get; I want to earn them because I’ve shown I deserve them.
For that reason, we urge our clients to focus on building authority, reach, and influence. If you do this well, you establish a solid base for earning links organically. Consider the value of publishing content and having it get links with minimal effort on your part.
While you all shudder at the concept of “build it and they will link to you,” if you implement a fully integrated campaign with an audience that is anxious to see what you have to say, the task of attracting links becomes significantly easier.
To make that work for you, you’ll need relationships with key influencers, bloggers, and media people, and you’ll need to prioritize who are the people who can help you most.
The catch is, the most influential players in a marketplace have assets to protect (their relationship with their audience), and they’re not going to help you unless you find ways to help them bring even more value to their audience.
That means you’ll need to establish your business as a top source of content and ideas. You’ll also need to be seen by them as a partner, and that you support their goals, not just your own. So now, let’s get to work!
Identify your real audience
First, let’s look at another map, this time looking at the makeup of the people in a given market:
Who in this chart do you think might reshare your content or link to it? It’s certainly not the laggards, or even the early or late majority. Generally speaking, these are not the people with large social media followings, or highly popular blogs or columns on your market. The people who do have these things are highlighted here:
Innovators and Early Adopters are the ones that might share or link your content in a way that has a large impact. If your content is not good enough to interest them, then you’ve failed. Not only can they get more eyeballs on your content, but when they reshare it, it acts as an endorsement of its value.
Cater to this audience. Even for a large brand, it’s essential that you get good engagement here, as it helps give your content credibility.
Go to where your target audience resides on the Interwebs
Your target customer spends a lot of time in various places across the Internet. Consider engaging with them where they are.
The reason for doing this is to accelerate the growth of your audience and their engagement with your content. I often refer to this as getting in front of OPA (“Other People’s Audiences”). It’s one of the most powerful ways to increase your own audience and loyalty. It also creates opportunities to build your own direct audience.
That said, you need to do this with great care. If you dive willy-nilly into public forums with commercial messages you’ll be seen as self-serving and overly aggressive. Better approaches include:
Establish columns on high-authority media sites
Share valuable info via your social media presences
Interact with influencers online
Participate in online and offline events (webinars, conferences)
These are just a few ideas. Remember, you’re there to add value, and adding value doesn’t mean showing people all the great things they can do with your products. Create useful, non-commercial, content, or address questions without your products or services being the explicit answer.
Adding value doesn’t mean showing people all the great things they can do with your products.
The role of columns
As we’ve established, the top media sites have the most influence in a marketplace. Here’s another way of looking at it:
If you’re looking for OPA, the top media sites that cover your market have plenty of it, and if you’re allowed to publish on their sites without having to pay for it, they also provide an implied endorsement. Old-school SEO would tell us that columns are not that valuable because Google used to value visibility on a larger number of domains more than they valued repeat presence on the higher-authority sites, but digital marketing life is no longer that simple.
You can argue about how far that pendulum at Google has swung, but you can’t deny that it makes sense that an ongoing relationship with an authoritative site is a stronger indication of your authority than ten meaningless one-time relationships with sites no one, or almost no one, ever visits. If you don’t think that Google gets this, you’re definitely stuck far in the past.
Other publishing efforts
It’s great to get high-value columns, but not every major media site will grant you that opportunity. Let’s say you manage to get a column on three of the top sites. This may expose you to this type of reach:
There will also be major media sites where getting a column or publishing content is not an option. But, can you build relationships with their editors and writers? Will they reach out to you for fact checking or quotes when they write a related story? Are they interested in interviewing you?
A deliberate program to build these relationships is a must in any reach and influence building strategy. Some of the key steps are:
Build a list of the top relationships you should target
Try to obtain info on their social accounts and email addresses
Study what they’re about, and what’s most important to them
Actively reshare their relevant stories via your social media
Engage with them in ways that will add value, and that shows them why a relationship with you would be valuable for them
Consider implementing targeted paid social campaigns that will expose them to your best content
See if you can structure opportunities to meet them face-to-face.
Use all of these tactics to map out your strategy and show yourself as a leader in your market, and to show your willingness help them with their needs.
The role of influencers
Media people are influencers in their own right, but there are types of influencers as well. Their presence may be in other places, such as social media or streaming media, and there are usually many of these out there in any given market. With these types of influencers you can potentially leverage a few additional tactics, such as: