If you’re not already familiar with Mike Allton, there’s no better time to get to know him.
Mike is the CMO for SiteSell and lead “Content Marketing Practitioner” at The Social Media Hat, which only last week was voted one of the top ten social media blogs to follow in 2016 by Social Media Examiner.
For our part, we featured his article on blog promotion in the second of our series about conversions-driving content. In fact, so impressed we were with Mike’s guide – and The Social Media Hat blog – that we asked him if he’d agree to share his expertise with us.
Here, Mike offers his insights into strategies and platforms for promoting your blog, as well as for building your business with blog content.
Before we delve into questions about blog promotion, would you briefly share with us why you refer to yourself as a “Content Marketing Practitioner”?
Sure! While many businesses will use content marketing as an approach to reach and educate their audience, I don’t just use content marketing. I teach it. Experiment with it. Study new tools and techniques. Therefore, I’ve come to refer to myself as a practitioner, someone who is constantly learning and evolving in the study and use of content marketing, and sharing the results with my audience.
That evolution in my thinking has been mirrored in my writing, as I’ve worked to provide more and more detailed articles that reflect my own experiments and findings.
Your relatively recent article on blog promotion describes your most thorough social media sharing process. What would you recommend as an absolute minimum, core promotion strategy?
That’s a great question. At a minimum, every business needs to have at least one social profile and an invitation for site visitors to subscribe to their email list, so that new content can be promoted to at least one social platform and email list. And of course on the content itself, visitors should be able to easily share it to whichever platforms and networks they’re active on, regardless of which network the business selects.
So you begin to drive traffic to your site through a social channel and email marketing, and you allow your readers and prospects to share to other networks, increasing your content’s reach.
Of all the social media platforms you leverage for blog promotion, you clearly favor Google+. Could you share with us why you prefer it to the other main social networks?
First, let me say that my preference is a personal one. While there are reasons why I enjoy Google+ so much, that’s not to say that other businesses can’t find equal or greater success on different platforms. That truly depends on the business and target audience.
For myself, I found Google+ to be a refreshing place to connect with and engage with my peers. That’s not just lip service. It’s been truly amazing to grow relationships with fantastic people who have helped me and my business tremendously.
Based purely on referral traffic, Twitter is currently my top social platform, yet Google+ remains my favorite, and where I spend the most quality time. That further illustrates to me how important it is for businesses to have a presence on multiple networks, and to develop an understanding how each platform fits into their overall marketing and business plan.
Besides Google+, you’re also a strong proponent of Twitter. How effective is Twitter for blog promotion, relative to the other main social media platforms?
Twitter is one of the best platforms for blog promotion overall, at least in my own niche and experience. There are far more tools available to help with sharing and resharing, connecting with your targeted audience, and analyzing the success of your efforts.
That said, it’s all about your audience. If you’re targeting a demographic largely comprised of work-at-home moms, you’ll likely find that Pinterest is your best choice, followed by Facebook. Every blogger and business must do their own research and analysis to determine where their audience is active and approachable, and then develop ways to become organically part of their conversations.
There’s been a lot of discussion around Twitter expanding its character count. What do you think about it? Do you subscribe to the argument that it may “ruin” the platform?
Nope. I generally have a more open view when it comes to platform changes and development. Facebook’s newsfeed changes. Google+ going back into beta. Twitter expanding character counts… other than the occasional brief annoyance at losing a feature I found personally valuable (i.e. Google+ Ripples), I recognize the fact that platforms need to change and develop for a variety of user and business reasons. Those reasons sometimes won’t be immediately understood or universally accepted.
But with rare exception, I find it extremely unlikely that any modification to an existing platform could ruin it. A platform used by hundreds of millions of people around the world every month doesn’t fall out of favor overnight. It takes time and generally a series of poor decisions.
What are your thoughts about syndicating content on LinkedIn to increase its reach?
Personally, I think it’s a great idea, but tend to avoid actual syndication too often. I prefer to push visitors to my original content on my own website, and instead like to use those platforms for original content.
However, as with everything else in digital marketing, opinions can and should easily change with exceptional testing and analysis. This topic, specifically, is one I plan to test this year. However, measurement of success is going to be elusive. As Mark Schaefer has pointed out, it’s next to impossible to measure how much visibility your content gets when it’s published on external properties.
You mention that you use Pinterest (even though your content, as a rule, is primarily text-based). Does it drive significant traffic to your blog?
Pinterest is great for bloggers. And the more niche and specific you can get with your content, the better platforms like Pinterest may prove to be for you.
And while I don’t create a lot of image content, I do make sure that I have at least one branded, feature image for each and every blog post. And for those articles that are more important to me (for any number of reasons), I’ll take the time to create an image specifically for Pinterest (900 x 1100). I’ve added a custom, hidden field to my new blog post form so that I can upload a Pinterest image that the share buttons will see so that anyone can pin it.
What would you say is the more effective blog promotion strategy overall: email or social media?
Social media is outstanding for creating and developing relationships, and it’s a necessary step toward moving interested people into your email marketing.
But let’s do some basic math here:
Let’s say you’re a small business who has been working on their marketing for 6 months. You’ve created a nice lead generation resource to collect email addresses, which you’ve shared to social media and other distribution channels routinely. With all of the other content you’ve created and your marketing efforts, you’ve built up 1,000 Facebook Page fans and 1,000 email list subscribers.
The average open rate for email marketing is about 18%, with an average click rate of 1.8%, which means that out of 1,000 email subscribers, 180 will likely open the email and 18 will click through to your latest blog post.
Share the same blog post to your Facebook Page and your post will see the typical “Organic Reach” on Facebook which is about 2%. Click rates vary from 0.22% to 2% depending on the page and audience. But no matter how you slice it, it’s likely that a mere 20 of your fans will see that post, and probably half of them will click through.
Facebook is brilliant for reaching a targeted audience in a number of ways, not the least of which is paid advertising, which is the most cost effective in the world. But for promoting a blog post, email is clearly more effective.
What are the top strategies you’d recommend for building a business using blog content?
You’ll read dozens and dozens of different ideas on how to use and promote blog posts to build and promote a business. But there are two things in particular that you can do that are far more effective than anything else.
First, you have to create long-form content. That means really long blog posts… at least 1,500 words, and preferably more than 2,500. Sound like a lot? It is, but don’t let that scare you. You don’t have to write that much every week. In fact, most successful businesses will create one of these posts, what I call a “Pillar Post”, per quarter on average.
The pillar post isn’t just long, of course, that’s just a byproduct. It’s long because it extensively and exhaustively covers a topic of particular relevance to the business, and of interest to the target audience. It has to be something that thoroughly answers a question, yet is positioned so that it’s likely readers will want more information or assistance even after they’ve read it all.
These kinds of extensive posts get exponentially more shares than shorter posts, and that helps drive traffic which increases the already high ranking factor, bringing even more organic search traffic. Those visitors are just as compelled to share the post, thus continuing to feed the process.
The post should, of course, have a strong call to action for readers to proceed to the next logical step (call you, read about your services, another article, whatever).
But here’s where the second top strategy kicks in.
With a post like this, let’s assume it’s 5,000 words about how to do something integral to your niche. That’s a long post, and would make for a great PDF download. You can put the entire article on your site, and then let interested readers grab a PDF copy for reference. Better yet, come up with a supplemental resource, like a checklist, that boils the topic down into a one-pager and make that available.
To get the digital download, they just complete an email subscribe form on your article and you set it up to auto respond with a link to download. They’re then part of your email marketing (which is an entire topic for discussion another day… how to leverage email automation to create a series of emails, regular newsletters, and more, to lead prospects down a sales funnel).
There are many other tactics and strategies for building and using blog content, and a lot can stem out of these two. So start there!