Time and time again, marketers trot out the same tired phrase:
Content is king.
“If you create amazing content, you’ll win in the long run.”
Absolute nonsense. The best content in the world will rule over kingdom of nothing and no one if it’s not promoted correctly.
In a world with too much content, the biggest wins will go to those who understand how to get their content seen.
This piece will give you 50+ ways to promote content, but more importantly it will give you the framework to evaluate which of these strategies will work best for your business and each piece of content.
Too many articles out there simply collect tactics — few give you the higher-level framework that enable you to make the right decision for yourself.
Sound good? Let’s get started.
What Is Going To Move The Needle?
This is the question you must ask yourself when deciding what type of content promotion you’re going to take part in. It comes from the wonderful book on startup growth, Traction. Don’t be dissuaded by the title, though — it’s a invaluable book for content promotion as well.
If you have a fledgling site, some of the time-intensive and manual approaches can get you from 0-100 visits/day. But as your site grows, you’ll want to focus on promotion activities that can take you from 100-1,000 visits/day.
Think of yourself as a heat-seeking missile, except for instead of heat, you’re seeking the strategies that will help you move the needle for your site in the quickest amount of time, with the least amount of resources.
Blog Post Optimization
Some of the best promotion work you’ll ever do is setting your content up to be shared and seen organically. By optimizing your posts the right way from the start, you’re giving yourself a better chance of getting a share from every new eyeball that hits your site.
FOCUS ON PRACTICAL TOPICS
Studies show time and time again that a reliable way to get shares is to make sure your content helps people do something that they want to do.
This means your content should give helpful, practical advice that is backed up by either examples or research to prove that what you’re suggesting works. If you can use statistics, numbers, or case studies...all the better.
FIND OUT THE BEST TIMES TO PUBLISH
There are all sorts of articles, white papers, and case studies out there that tell you the best time to publish your blog posts. All of them are nonsense, because you have a better source of data: your own analytics suite.
Look at your Google Analytics reports to see when you have the most users on your site. On top of that, check your social media engagement to see when your audience is most active online and schedule your articles to be published at peak hours.
If you absolutely must know the best practices, see this resource from CoSchedule.
MAKE YOUR ARTICLES COMPREHENSIVE
One of the best ways to get shares is to make your work so comprehensive that it’s better than everything else out there. Think of content as a market, with each topic having competitors. You want to create content that will never go out of style — evergreen, in-depth, and useful.
Note: this doesn’t mean it’s OK to publish content that is simply longerthan the rest of the competition. Not at all. Think about how to approach your chosen topic with a fresh outlook, one that covers it a new, but comprehensive way.
CHOOSE THE RIGHT HEADLINE
We all know that headlines are vital to a blog post’s success. But just how vital are they? It’s hard to say for sure, but they’re important enough that Upworthy writes 25 headlines for every single post, then tests them all against each other.
You may not have the resources to do a test this large, and that’s OK — but make sure you’re following headline best practices. Some of the most popular headline “formulas” include:
- How-to Topics
At minimum, you should be writing 10-15 headlines per article and running them through a tool like the CoSchedule Headline Analyzer.
Do not neglect the power of headlines. It’s not surprising for a simple headline change to make a drastic difference in the success of an article.
CRAFT AN ENGAGING ARTICLE INTRODUCTION
In our attention-starved digital economy, most people who see your headline won’t even click on it. Of those that do, many won’t make it past the first paragraph. That’s why your headline and your introduction are so crucial. If you can win the game of attention early on, you’ll hook readers and get them invested in your content.
The art of writing captivating introductions is one that could be covered in its own dedicated post, but here are a few ideas to test:
- Get to the meat: This is an old journalism phrase. Cut out the fat, the fluff, and the unnecessary bits and get right into the heart of your article. Make good on the promise that you made in the headline.
- Empathize with the reader: If you’re writing about a common problem in your industry, chances are you’ve suffered from it yourself. Put yourself in their shores and replay a moment where you lived out the problem.
- Begin with a fact: Is there an interesting or new piece of information you can share about the topic? Something a reader likely hasn’t read before? Add it in and hook them to read the rest of the article.
ASK READERS TO SHARE YOUR ARTICLE
This is a tactic that seems like it wouldn’t work on its face — after all, you’re practically begging people to promote your work for you. However, the data doesn’t lie: asking readers to share your article with a friend who would benefit from your content is proven to increase share rate by almost double.
It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Something as simple as:
“If you enjoyed this article, do me a solid and share it with a friend of yours. There’s a good chance it will help them with [topic your article is about].”
ADD IMAGE SHARING BUTTONS
On top of a direct call to action at the end of your article, make your images as shareable as possible. After all, you’ve spent time sourcing, resizing, and uploading high-quality images that complement your content...why wouldn’t you want to encourage the most shares possible?
There are plenty of plugins that take care of this for you, Social Warfareand Sumo being two of the best out there right now.
Here are several promotion strategies that use email to get the word out.
BUILD A LIST
This is an elementary strategy, no doubt about that. But you’d be shocked how many people don’t focus on their email lists, especially when first starting a site. Your email list is the only traffic source you have complete control over.
There are plenty of free or nearly-free ways to get your list started. You can start out with MailChimp until you have 2,000 subscribers and make use of Sumo or another list-building plugin to start capturing your first email leads.
EMAIL YOUR LIST EVERY TIME YOU PUBLISH
There’s a big debate between sending out a weekly newsletter vs. sending out a newsletter for every single post you publish. Which is better? The answer, as it always is, is that it depends.
If you publish infrequently, it’s a good idea to email your list every time you release a new article. This lets your audience know you’ve got something fresh for them on your site, because they probably don’t check it regularly.
If, on the other hand, you publish on a fixed schedule, you might want to try the weekly newsletter update instead of emailing out every single post. But as with everything in content promotion, the only way you’ll know what your specific audience responds to the best is to rigorously test.
PLAIN TEXT OR HTML EMAILS?
In almost all industries, plain text emails perform better than HTML-enhanced emails. Here is what CoSchedule found:
It turns out that adding a visual into our new post emails decreases open rates by as much as 3.5% while clickthroughs increase by about 2.12%. Given the massive amount of people who open our emails, I’ll take my 3.5% more opens with slightly fewer clickthroughs.
SEND AGAIN TO PEOPLE WHO DIDN’T OPEN ORIGINAL
Even if you have an insanely high open rate (upwards of 50%), that still means that half of the people on your list are not opening your emails.
After you send out an email, think about your list as being split in two:
- People who opened the 1st email
- People who didn’t
Focus on #2. With almost any email marketing software, you can isolate the people who didn’t open a particular email and send them another email. If you A/B tested your original subject line, choose the one that performed better and test it against another subject line when you email the people who didn’t open the first email.
The fact is, some people aren’t going to read your emails. That’s unavoidable. But some people who didn’t open the original email may have simply not resonated with the original title, and sending out the same email with a different subject might hook them.
The email marketing providers with the most functionality (like ActiveCampaign) make heavy use of automation these days...and so should you. For example, you can install a tracker on your site to keep tabs on the most popular content on your site, then use email automation to send specific readers the content that they’re most likely to engage with.
By adding this layer of intelligent automation, your open rates, shares, and engagement go way up on old content.
INCLUDE LINKS TO YOUR BLOG AND YOUR POSTS IN EMAIL SIGNATURE
When it comes to content promotion, the little things really add up. Something as simple as updating your email signature with the latest content you’ve written can go a long way, especially if an influencer clicks, reads, and shares. Try something like WiseStamp to keep your email signature up to date.
Here's a few promotion strategies based around community engagement.
JOIN COMMUNITIES RELATED TO YOUR INDUSTRY
One of the fastest ways to get traction on new content is to share it in communities related to your industry:
- Niche forums
- Upvote communities like Growth Hackers, Inbound, etc.
The problem with this strategy is that it requires you put in the legwork before you share the first piece of content. Almost all of these communities are highly sensitive to spammers and opportunistic sharers and can sniff them out like a bloodhound.
You should be an actual member of these communities long before you decide to share your content with them. This will help build your reputation within that community, but also plug you into the specific type of content that they enjoy consuming.
If you don’t have the patience for the community strategy, you can hop into niche-specific forums or general sites like Quora and answer questions. The trick is to answer questions that are related to the new piece of content you just released.
Be careful here — DO NOT answer a question in 1-2 lines and then sloppily drop a link to your article. No, instead do the opposite. Attempt to answer questions as completely as possible, and then mention that you have an article that covers the question in the most depth possible.
MAKE POWERFUL FRIENDS
In any industry, there are a handful of major players that can make or break a piece of content simply by sharing it. You might think these people are unreachable, but you’d be wrong.
Cultivate a relationship with the power players in your industry over time by engaging with them on social media, re-sharing their articles, and responding to their email newsletters with in-depth, value-packed emails.
Over time, they’ll recognize your name, then value your ideas, then share your content. In fact, sharing content is just the beginning — you could collaborate on a guest piece for them, cross-promote, or more.
Social media is the perfect venue for promoting content.
CREATE A SPIDER WEB OF INTERCONNECTED PROPERTIES
Too many social profiles, not enough optimization. Oftentimes, marketers will create social profiles and begin to share content to them, without giving followers on that platform access to other platforms.
Think of your social media properties as the intersections of a spider web. Each one should give exposure to the other places you can be found:
- Your podcast should mention your YouTube channel every so often
- Your YouTube channel should encourage engagement on Twitter, Facebook, or wherever you’re most active
- The “About” sections of your social media profiles should link to other profiles
CONNECT WITH AT LEAST 20 NEW PEOPLE IN YOUR INDUSTRY DAILY
These people can be influencers, customers, readers, or fans — just make sure you’re doing this manual work to plant seeds in your industry. By connecting deeper with your readers, you’ll uncover invaluable feedback on:
- What type of content they resonate with
- What problems they’re struggling with
- What products they like and hate
And so much more. By doing this every day, your efforts begin to compound as you gain “true fans” that start to do your marketing for you.
SHARE YOUR ARTICLES MORE THAN ONCE
Let’s face it — even your most engaged readers will miss an article you share simply because they weren’t active when you shared it. CoSchedule found that you can increase traffic to an article by 3,150% simply by following a schedule like this:
- Publication: Share to every social media platform once
- Day of Publication: Share a few more times on specific platforms, testing different headlines and quotes from the article
- Next Day, Next Week, Next Month: Depending on the seasonality of the article, it should be shared at least 3 more times (if not more)
By doing this, you give your audience both more chances to see your content, but different ways of promoting it (A/B testing headlines, quotes, factoids, etc.).
SHARE MORE THAN YOUR HEADLINE
Most people share their headline on various social media platforms and are done with social media promotion for that article. While this is an OK strategy, you’re leaving a lot on the table if you only do this. Try sharing these sections of your articles and seeing how your audience responds:
- Takeaways - what are the most important lessons from your article?
- Quotes - share notable statistics, facts, or curiosity-inducing quotes
- Subsections - specific subsections may resonate with different segments of your audience
CONSTANTLY RE-SHARE YOU BEST CONTENT
Don’t relegate your best-performing content to the dustbin. If you have a piece of content that performs well at a particular time of year or with a specific audience, schedule it to be reshared.
There are always new people entering an industry, so an “old” article from a year ago may perform even better when shared a year later, or with a similar audience.
USE EMOTIONAL HEADLINES TO CONNECT WITH PEOPLE
It’s one thing to craft a headline that gets clicks and an entirely different thing to craft one that gets shares. Most people share for emotional reasons, including:
- Supporting Causes
- Maintaining Relationships
- Feel Part Of Something Greater
- Define Their Identity and Beliefs
- Inform Other People
- Sway Opinion Of Their Family And Friends
If you can create headlines that tap into one or more of these emotional drivers, you’ll find your content being shared by your audience more often.
THANK YOUR PROMOTERS
Anyone who re-shares your articles should get a personalized thank you. This ties in with the “Connect with 25 people every day” tip and is a fantastic way to build true fans in your audience. Not only will they be flattered that you reached out to thank them, but they’ll be much more likely to share your content in the future.
Twitter is a content promotion powerhouse.
TEST AND MEASURE TWEETS AT DIFFERENT TIMES OF DAY
Twitter engagement will fluctuate throughout the day, so you need to test and track what works. It’s likely to be between 10am and 7pm for the most popular timezones of your core audience -- but you won’t know for sure unless you test and track. Use Twitter Analytics to see what your most engaging tweets and times are.
GIVE YOUR AUDIENCE ACTIONABLE ADVICE
If you’re putting out a steady stream of useful advice, people are much more likely to like or retweet your tweets, which means they’ll be shared in others’ streams, and your reach will spread.
DON’T GO OVERBOARD ON HASHTAGS
One or two hashtags per post can help highlight your content to people searching for it on twitter, or help you join the conversation on a topic that’s trending. But adding in too many hashtags makes your tweets difficult to read. And when you’ve only got 140 characters to play with, it uses up valuable space that could be better used.
TRY DIFFERENT ARTICLE TITLES
Twitter gives you pretty useful data on the number of people that have interacted with each of your tweets — you can make use of this by using it as a quick and easy way to try out different article titles. Try posting the same link in two different tweets 24 hours apart, but using a different title on each tweet, and see how many clicks each one gets. Then you can start to hone in on the sort of titles that your audience engages with.
MAKE SURE YOUR BEST TWEETS ARE FRONT AND CENTER
If you have 1-2 tweets that get a lot of engagement -- particularly a lot of clicks through to your site -- then you should pin them to the top of your feed. Anyone who looks at you on twitter will see that tweet right at the top, and it will ensure a steady flow of click-through traffic back to your site.
PAY TWITTER FOR MORE EXPOSURE
One surefire way to boost the visibility of your tweets is to use Twitter’s promoted tweet feature. For a small fee you can make sure that your posts appear at or near the top of a targeted group of users. It doesn’t guarantee engagement, but it does guarantee that people will see what you’re putting out. Again, you should measure and track engagement on these tweets to make sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck.
As one of the largest communities in the world, you'd be foolish not to promote your content here!
TEST AND MEASURE POSTS AT DIFFERENT TIMES OF DAY
As with Twitter, it’s crucial to try out posts at varying hours to see what sort of reaction and engagement you get. You need to systematically mix it up, and see what happens. Pretty soon you should be able to hone in on when to post for maximal results.
PLAY TO THE CROWD
Your audience isn’t necessarily on Facebook to read your long form content or take any decisive action -- they’re there to be entertained and distracted. Make sure you’re giving that to them, either through good discussions, funny posts, or by providing links to interesting content (that isn’t necessarily your own).
CREATE A FACEBOOK GROUP
Facebook Groups are a fantastic way to connect with a loyal, engaged subsection of your readers. These are the people that are most interested in your content, as well as connecting with you.
If you don’t already have a group, create one. If you do have one, make sure to share your new content with your group, but take a high-touch approach. Write more about what inspired you to write the piece, mention a few people you think it would help and why, and ask your group members if they have any feedback, suggestions, or questions.
BOOST YOUR MOST SUCCESSFUL POSTS
No matter how much of a whiz you are at creating engaging Facebook posts, there’s always an element of randomness to this game. Take advantage of the posts that do unexpectedly well by boosting them to a larger audience.
If you’ve set up a Website Custom Audience, you can boost posts to people who have visited your website in the last X days. This is a fantastic way to re-engage old readers and hopefully capture their emails, encourage them to share, and create life-long fans.
Pinterest is a unique platform with unique benefits.
USE AN AUTOMATED PIN SCHEDULER
Pinterest plays by different rules than most other social media platforms. Not only is it OK to pin upwards of 20 times a day — it’s encouraged! And with Pinterest becoming more and more popular with marketers, taking advantage of this growing platform can lead to massive jumps in traffic that stay consistent over time.
Automated schedulers like Tailwind make your job much easier. They allow you to take 1 pin and schedule it to multiple boards, group boards, and even submit it to other influential Pinners for pinning to their boards as well. One pin can suddently turn into 25 pins on large, popular boards...which means a flood of traffic for you.
FLESH OUT YOUR PIN DESCRIPTIONS AND USE RICH PINS
Pinterest users play a lot of attention to the description of a Pin, which can be much longer than most people expect. Flesh it out and be persuasive. Pretend you’re writing a meta description for your Pin, but sprinkle in a bit of copy writing to entice people to click on it.
On top of that, activate Rich Pins to get additional meta-data attached to your Pins, making them even more enticing to potential readers.
GET ON PINTEREST GROUP BOARDS
Group boards are the secret sauce of Pinterest. They allow you to access an audience of Pinterest users that do not follow you, meaning you can expand your reach significantly with access to a few of these boards.
It can be a bit annoying to get on Pinterest group boards, but if you put in the time you should be able to get access to at least a few of them. Adding these to your automated scheduler will drastically increase the reach of your Pins and thus your overall traffic.
MAKE YOUR BLOG IMAGES PINNABLE
Most bloggers do not optimize their images for Pinterest. While not everyindustry does well on Pinterest, if you’re in one that does (highly visual), then you’re leaving a lot of free traffic on the table by not customizing your images for Pinterest.
At the very least, create a Pinterest-specific image that is automatically selected when a reader clicks the “Pin” button on your site. Use a plugin like Social Warfare to hide the image on the page, because it serves little value to blog readers, but incredible value on Pinterest.
Outreach and Partnerships
And now we get into the really powerful stuff.
IDENTIFY AND REACH OUT TO TOP SHARERS IN YOUR INDUSTRY
In any industry, there are the “super-sharers.” These are the people who will share anything and everything they find valuable in an industry. It’s your job to identify and build relationships with these people as soon as possible. But how? Here are a few ideas:
- Buzzsumo - Go to Buzzsumo and pop in a popular piece of content in your industry. Look for the top sharers by platform and make a list of the top 20 per platform. Add them to a spreadsheet and slowly begin to build relationships with them by reaching out and being helpful whenever possible.
- Hashtags - On almost all social platforms, you can search a few popular hashtags and look for the same names popping up over and over again. Make these people a priority when it comes to building relationships.
INTERVIEW TOP PLAYERS IN YOUR INDUSTRY
Let’s face it — even the most humble of us appreciate being appreciated. Reaching out to influencers in your industry and offering an in-depth interview piece that you’ll heavily promote is an offer that most people can’t refuse.
What makes this strategy work so well is the fact that their identity is tied to the piece of content, so they’re much more likely to share it in deeper ways than a few tweets. You’ll often see these types of interviews show up on their personal FB page, in their email newsletters, and via word of mouth — all promotion channels that are difficult to access.
MENTION BIG PLAYERS IN YOUR CONTENT
One of the best ways to hack influence in your space is to constantly mention, link to, and call out the bigger players. By doing this, you’re not only adding value to your readers by linking them to seminal works in your industry, but you’re showing respect to those who came before you.
That respect will be paid back in the form of shares, links, and collaborations down the line. This is a long-term strategy that rewards diligence over fast results.
BUILD A SOLID GUEST POSTING SYSTEM
The tactic is as old as time, but guest posting has stuck around because it works. Part of the reason why it works is because it’s still difficult and time-consuming to:
- Vet guest post opportunities
- Reach out multiple times to lock down a guest post
- Write a guest post
- Get the post approved, edited, and published on the site
These steps will always remain difficult, but you can systemize the process so it’s less time consuming and more streamlined. As soon as you put a system like this in place you can land 2-10 guest posts a month in almost any industry, which means more links, traffic, email opt-ins, etc. for your website.
If it's in your budget, paid promotion can payoff in big ways.
USE RETARGETING LIBERALLY
Retargeting is one of the biggest revolutions in reader and customer acquisition in a long time. By tagging website visitors with a tracking pixel, you can advertise your content to them on multiple large platforms for extremely low prices.
If you know the value of an email signup on your site, you can optimize your retargeting ads to be below that signup value and you have an evergreen paid advertising funnel tacked on to your content promotion and marketing strategy.
USE RECOMMENDED CONTENT ADVERTISING
Outbrain, Taboola, and Zemanta are all interesting paid ad services that allow you to pay to have your content placed on relevant blogs. Your articles will show up below other articles in your industry as suggested content, which is a fantastic way to cheaply advertise on related blogs. Experiment with recommended content advertising on a small budget to see if it drives ROI for your website.
TRY REDDIT ADS
Most marketers look to use Reddit as a free source of viral traffic, but there’s a paid advertising product as well. You have to approach Reddit ads in a different manner than you would other types of paid ad platforms, because the ads still need to seem like organic posts in order to perform well.
Unless you’re a native Redditor, you may want to read up on how to follow “Reddiquette,” or the informal set of rules that all Redditors adhere to.
Repurposing and Reworking Content
Making the old new again is a powerful tactic that can be used repeatedly.
SPEND TIME SYNDICATING YOUR CONTENT
When you first start a blog, the least likely place you’ll receive traffic is...on your blog. Instead, take some of your best content and republish it on blogs with larger platforms. If you can work up an ongoing content syndication deal with a site like Thought Catalog, Elite Daily, or other content-heavy publications in your industry, you’re going to get:
- More reach on your existing content
- Flow-through traffic, links, and email subscribers
- A massive head start on getting a new blog off the ground
TURN VIDEOS INTO OTHER FORMS OF CONTENT
Videos are the “highest” form of media, in that they contain audio, text, and imagery. From one video, you can create:
- Multiple articles from the transcripts
- Podcast episodes, by isolating audio
- Social media imagery from screenshots
When you make a video, make sure you wrack your brain to come up with every possible way you can use that video. You can even cut it up in different ways for different audiences or platforms. Gary Vaynerchuk is the king of this (go follow him on Instagram to see why).
Here are a few more unique strategies.
Giveaways can go very wrong, so follow best practices to make sure you get the most bang for your buck.
- Give something away that is valuable enough to your audience to get them to share
- Build in multiple entry methods to incentivize sharing on multiple platforms
- Consider partnering with a larger brand to take advantage of their promotion engine
CREATE INCREDIBLE INFOGRAPHICS
I know, I know — aren’t infographics dead? Well, yes and no. Bad infographics are dead. Truly unique and useful infographics are not. Infographics is a strategy that got beaten to death by bad marketers, but there’s a huge opportunity for incredible graphics.
If you’re prepared to invest in a good designer, perhaps a data scientist, and smart infographic promotion, you can snatch a lot of links to your content.
GET ON THE PODCAST CIRCUIT
Podcasts aren’t just a great audio-based medium to use for your business, they’re a great way to get additional exposure for your business itself. Pitch other podcasters in your industry to have you on their podcast and watch your exposure skyrocket.
Make sure you identify podcasts that you can add a ton of value to, then reach out with a quick, targeted email explaining:
- Who you are
- What you can offer their guests
- Your schedule and how you can be reached
The key thing to remember here is that other podcasters are busy, and the most popular ones get requests like this all of the time. Do your homework and come to them with an offer they cannot refuse.
HELP A REPORTER OUT
HARO (Help a Reporter Out) is an often-overlooked strategy by many marketers, mostly because it can be hard to land a link from the service. The biggest reason people struggle with HARO is that they don’t look at the site from the eyes of a reporter.
A reporter wants useful, insightful quotes from true experts in an industry. They also don’t want their time wasted with tire-kickers and ill-informed people. Come to them hat in hand with a direct pitch as to your experience in the industry and what you can add to their story.
Not every pitch will be a hit, but as is the case with many things, you often don’t need many successes to get a massive boost in traffic and social shares.
TREAT YOUR WEBSITE LIKE A WIKI
One of the best strategies that people don’t often talk about is how you do not need to be publishing new content 24/7. Oftentimes it’s better to update old content to be current to the times and then re-promote it. Brian Dean of Backlinko is the premiere example of this in the SEO space, with less than 50 blog posts on his website. You might think that’s far too little, but he’s created a 7-figure business off of the back of those posts.
Even evergreen content can get a bit stale, so treating your website as a list of articles that need constant updating and improvement can go a long way in getting you the traffic and reach you want.
Mix, Match, and Combine
This is far from a comprehensive list of ways to promote your content. The methods you choose will depend on your:
And many more factors. Whichever methods you decide to pursue, always ask yourself the question: “Will this move the needle for me right now?”
Don’t pick tactics that will deliver you another 50 visitors a month when you’re a 50,000 / hits a month blog. Conversely, don’t pick 100,000 / mo strategies when you’re just starting out. You must know where you’re at and what’s reasonable and attainable for you, then relentlessly focus on those tactics until they no longer make a dent in the metrics you want to grow.