Running a small business has never been easier, and it's never been harder.
There are a lot of boxes you have to check when you're running a business - employees, inventory, processes, finances, the list goes on and on.
Oh yeah, and you need to market your business too. Because, you know, customers.
And of course you want to get the best bang for your buck when spending your hard-earned cash to get in front of them, so what's the secret?
Well, all the smart marketing folks (including us) are pointing to one thing - creating and promoting content.
Unfortunately, unless you're an experienced marketing professional, trying to promote content can feel like a fruitless endeavor. Small businesses, especially small businesses that are new to digital marketing, typically don't have large followings, making it harder for content to get attention and exposure.
Large sites, on the other hand, already have massive followings, so as soon as a piece of content is created, it's almost instantaneously picked up and shared by hundreds of followers.
So how is a small business supposed to promote content without the luxury of a large following?
It seems like a chicken and egg scenario, but there are some simple actions and techniques that can be taken to boost your content marketing performance. Believe it or not, there's a lot more you can do to drive traffic to new content that surpasses simply sharing it on Facebook (which isn't a bad idea, just don't just do that).
Before we dig into some of the lesser used techniques, let's start by listing the most basic forms of content marketing promotion that small businesses most often employ:
Posting New Content on a Website's Blog
As common as sand on a beach, most businesses are posting content that they've created on to their site. With the prevalence of WordPress and other easy to use CMS systems, it has become very easy to create and publish the written word.
Unfortunately, simply doing it because you were told you should be doing it will just add you to the ever-increasing noise level that's already out there. You've got to make your content special, different, engaging, valuable, and probably longer in order to stand out from the crowd.
Linking and Sharing Blog Content Through Facebook
Step two for most business owners is to then share their new blog post on Facebook. Terrific idea - if that's where your audience hangs out.
Again, this is not a bad thing, it's just what everyone does. Unless you've built a cult following, its likely that five or ten or maybe just two people will see your post. Organic reach through Facebook is pretty much non-existent now, so unless you then boost your post, you'll not see much traction from it.
Tweeting Links to New Content
Most businesses don't even get this far.
And in most cases, I'd agree - it's probably not a good strategy. No one is hanging out on Twitter waiting for your next blog article.
Using Keywords Within Content with the Hopes of Obtaining Relevant Google Rankings
In the military we called it 'spray and pray'. Point that machine gun in the general direction of the enemy and pull the trigger.
Trying to jam keywords into articles where they don't fit isn't much different. In fact, I'd almost consider it a crime.
Here at RCM we have a staff of writers but have never once spoken to them about writing content around keywords. In fact, we don't give them keywords to write about at all. Instead, we give them topics. This leads to a much more natural-sounding article, and the search engines love it.
By giving them a topic they'll inherently use keywords and keyphrases that are important to the overall theme. And that's fine - due to the advent of Google's Knowledge Graph. Google understands the relationships of words, and uses that information to determine article quality, keywords, etc.
So if you're writing an article about spaghetti, they expect to see words like sauce, fork, and meatball. If you're writing for a keyword, you'll instead interject that word multiple times where it probably doesn't need to be.
Forget the Bare Minimum - It's Time to Expand Your Content's Reach
These content promotion techniques are the bare minimum of what needs to be done to achieve content marketing efficacy. Too many small business owners stop at these four strategies (or never even do these four!).
Instead of satisfying the bare minimum, why not try some of the following techniques to further promote content for increased marketing influence.
1. Create Multiple Snippets from the Same Content
Social media headlines and Twitter often restrict the number of characters that a title or snippet can consist of. However, chances are that there are many variations of snippets and taglines can be produced from the same piece of content, and each variation might appeal to different segments of your market. For that reason, it's beneficial to create multiple snippets for each individual piece of content, depending upon it's length.
For instance, if you produced short-form content that's only around 500 words in length, you probably won't be able to get more than five unique and high quality snippets. But longer content can easily produce higher numbers of variations. These variations will allow you to share the same content, though perhaps not at the same time, with different taglines to avoid sounding like a broken record.
Andrew McCauley was voted by Forbes as one of the top 100 influencers on Twitter, and in his recently-released Social Media Automation program he talks about building snippets, and how to use them for really blowing up your content's reach.
Bonus tip: Take those snippets and turn them into shareable images with a free tool like Pablo. In fact, here's one I made in 45 seconds:
2. Transform the Content Into Different Mediums
Web pages are only one way to convey a message to your audience, though they aren't necessarily the most effective way. These days, there are a million and one different mediums through which to send a message.
For instance, in addition to text and photographic content, such as what we commonly find on web pages and WordPress posts, you can also create video content that contains the same message. The video content can reach a whole new audience via YouTube and Facebook, but why stop there?
If you're going to create video, you might as well have someone transcribe that video for a blog post. (I use this lady and she's terrific!)
And you might as well have someone pull out the audio and make that same content downloadable to iPods and such.
Oh, and while I'm not overly fond of infographics, they are still a relative and useful way to spruce up content and differentiate a post from competitors.
In addition, you may want to consider taking advantage of SlideShare. Some posts may be appropriate for a slideshow type of format. Plus, SlideShare often ranks well in search engines, so there are some benefits to putting good information there.
Lastly, consider that some content might lend itself well to becoming a .downloadable PDF document. Building a 'lead magnet' from the same content can be used to capture visitors' email addresses.
3. Inform Sources of New Content
It's fairly common to see blogs that interview others or use a direct quote to bolster credibility. If this applies to your blog, niche, or industry, then remember to send an email to contacts that you directly quoted or interviewed within the article. Your email should aim to inform the source that your content is now published.
Heck, I'd even purposely include quotes from others in similar industries.
Why? It also opens communication for further dialogue (and potentially other interviews) and it opens the door for your source to promote your content. Your source might set up an organic back-link to your content, spread news of the content by word of mouth, or cause them to engage with the content on social media via shares and likes. In fact, as long as you deem it appropriate, I would even go as far as to encourage asking your source for social media comments, shares, and likes.
4. Add Links to New Content on Popular Old Pages
A lot of folks seek evergreen content and high organic rankings to keep a continual (and free!) stream of traffic pouring into old pages. If you have an older piece of content that has decent rankings or back-links that send it some significant quantity of regular monthly visitors, capitalize on it!
Where appropriate, you can inject on-site links to your new content to encourage new users to visit your latest post. We do this at RCM from time to time - and the 'freshness' of the new article often boosts it's overall value even higher than it already was.
Plus, it's sending traffic to your new content as well. Win-win!
Oh - by the way, you will need analytics tools for this, if you don't use them already. That way it will be apparent which content is performing the best. (If you're a Red Canoe Elite member, here's how to find your best-performing content)
Lastly, make sure your internal links are as natural and organic as possible; otherwise, you'll come off a little pushy or confusing.
5. Automate and Recycle Your Content Over Time
I'm a big fan of automation. The more I can get done automatically means time for me to do other tasks - like growing my business.
One of the things we love to do is to constantly recycle our older, good quality posts. We do this by automating a lot of the posting to many social media outlets at once including Facebook, Google Plus, Twitter, Instagram and even LinkedIn.
By using a service like Buffer, we're able to pre-load our content into a system that doles it out at different times to different channels. Heck, Buffer will even help you choose which times are best to post on which networks.
Think about this - maybe the new piece of content that you created is perfect for a new customer, but that customer is on vacation this week. They'll never scroll back and see your post, right? But if you're recycling it along with many other pieces of your good content, they'll probably end up seeing it again down the road.
Never post your content once and forget about it!
(Psst - want to know how we do this? Download our free Social Media Quick Start Guide and find out!)
Your Content Has High Value - Don't Squander It
I'm sure your content is great. But it's probably not going to "go viral".
As such, you really need to do everything in your power to promote your content...without being intrusive and annoying, of course.
If you're just throwing posts up on social media and hoping something sticks, the survival and long term value of your marketing campaign may be in peril - and quite honestly you're just wasting your time and money.