Content Promotion: Every Single Tactic You Can Use to Boost Traffic

Content marketing works. It works better if you’re good at content promotion.

I’ve got a lot of experience promoting content, from running ego bait blog posts at LawnStarter to pick up thousands of social shares and dozens of backlinks, to creating the content promotion process at CXL that helped double traffic, to building links and promoting pillar pages at HubSpot to rank competitive product pages for products that were yet to exist.

Here’s what I’ve learned: some content promotion tactics work better than others, and some work in certain circumstances and not in others.

Regardless, if you’re tired of blog posts that just tell you to “email people mentioned in the article and share to LinkedIn,” then you’ll like this article. I’ll put some lesser known tips in here and walk through tactically how to do them.

Not only does this come from my own experience, but from dozens of coffee shop and Skype conversations with friends who run big content programs like Shopify, BigCommerce, Klient Boost, etc., as well as SEO geniuses like Ryan Farley, Benjamin Beck, and Luiz Centenaro. This is network knowledge at this point and I’ve just taken advantage of having a lot of smart friends.

Content Promotion Tactics: A Giant List of Ways You Can Get Eyes on Your Content

Long article (5k words or so) so I’ll break this up into rough broad sections, because there are different goals of different tactics, ranging from social shares to link building. The sections will be:

Note: by including tactics here I’m not advocating for them. Unless I note otherwise, I’ve tried them and will try to gauge their effectiveness. If I haven’t used them, I’ll note that.

Pre-Promotion: Baking the Marketing Right Into the Post

1. Pre-Promotion: Include Influencers in Your Article

One way to guarantee distribution is to bake in content promotion to the actual article itself. How? Include influencers in the content creation process.

We see roundup posts all the time, some absurd in their list size…

Clearly this is overkill, but you can take the same thought process and include quotes and links from influencers in your content. This 1) helps you create the actual content and make it valuable and 2) ensures distribution channels upon publishing.

In fact, if you’re not a subject matter expert, you shouldn’t be writing content that doesn’t include quotes and insights from practitioners. In this case, treat your job like a journalist and include the opinions of those who know this stuff best.

It doesn’t have to be a pure “33 experts say” style roundup post. You can sprinkle in quotes where they matter and help the general article flow…

How to Find Influencers

First point: if you’ve been in your industry and role long enough, you should know the landscape like the back of your hand.

Second point: there are tons of tools to find out who the influencers are if you don’t know the industry well. These include:

Keep a list of people you meet and who you see speak at conferences, bloggers you like, etc. Your list of influencers should constantly be growing and updating.

How to Manage Influencers and Contributors at Scale

Two options here:

  • Reach out to influencers on an ad hoc basis one-to-one (not a bad strategy)
  • Processize things to reduce time and increase efficiency (a better strategy).

Here’s how you do it the second way…

Make sure you have your list of influencers, hopefully tagged by what their specialty is. Let’s say you want to write a piece on customer satisfaction and therefore you want customer experience experts. You then send all influencers tagged “customer experience” an email like this.

Hey {{name}},

I’m working on a big piece of content on customer satisfaction. I know this is an area where you have a lot of insight so I wanted to reach out to see if you can lend some expertise for the piece.

Here’s what I want to know…

{Question}

If you don’t have time to contribute, no worries, but I’d love to get your thoughts!

Thanks,
{Your Name}

Even better, instead of asking the question within the email itself (messy tracking there), you can create a Google form with one or multiple questions.

Then you can set up a Zap to transport the responses from Google Forms to your Google Sheet. This makes it easier when you have to follow up post-publish to thank influencers and ask them to share.

Instructions on how to set up Forms -> Sheets Zap here.

After you publish your content, use Mail Merge with Attachments to send an email to everyone who contributed. Doesn’t have to be super detailed…

Hey {{name}},

Thanks for contributing to our customer satisfaction post. We just pushed it live: linktopost.com.

Can you share it?

Cheers,
{{your name}}

2. Pre-promotion: Craft Content That is Controversial or Hits Emotional Points of Pride

Even if you’re a shrewd consumer of content, you’re pretty likely to share content that has to do with where you live, where you’re from, where you went to school, what your job is, etc.

Including quotes from influencers is a form of ego-baiting, but so is including a reference to the top 10 Midwest college lawns. It’s silly how many shares you can rack up if you create content like that.

For a while at LawnStarter, we were ranking first page for “Midwest Colleges.”

I’m going to be honest: I’ve definitely shared blog posts that ranked UW-Madison highly. I bet you’ve shared similar content with your respective school, town, etc. Very few of us are immune to this kind of “Granfallooning”

This is, by the way, the entire strategy of content sites like Thrillist. It’s almost obnoxious when you know how the sausage is made – and you know the marketing psychology and pandering behind it. But it works because people feel pride in their school, town, sports team, whatever…

This may not work for every site and niche, but I’ve seen it work for a wide variety of sites already (including eco-friendly wedding rings):

Similarly, ranking and listing top software products is a common tactic in the B2B space. How many posts have you seen like:

  • “Top Marketing Influencers You Need to Follow on Twitter”
  • “Top 54 SEO Tools in 2017”
  • “Top 18 Customer Success Blogs”

It’s the same mechanism. If you’re on that list, you’re going to share it.

3. Run a Survey

Keeping with the theme of “include people in content creation,” you can create a survey (which, depending on the interestingness of the results, can also act as a nice backlink hook).

Here’s a good example from Orbit Media:

They probably had some noble intentions regarding research and learning about the blogging space. But it doesn’t hurt that they can turn around and use those 1000+ bloggers they surveyed as a distribution network (and to get some backlinks – they’re all bloggers after all!)

Social and Community

4. Tweet or Email Influencers Mentioned

Super simple tip: for people you mention in the article, tweet or email them and let them know.

Short and sweet:

Hey {{Name}},

Mentioned you in our latest article, {{article}}, and wanted to give you a heads up.

Hope you enjoy it!

{{Your Name}}

Don’t treat this is transactional, though, treat it as a long term relationship building mechanism.

A Tweet literally means nothing unless it comes from, like, Miley Cyrus.

However, being connected with and respected by experts in your industry has long lasting effects for not only content distribution, but for introductions, partnerships, and other long plays in the future.

Don’t be a goof and treat internet connects differently than you would in person connect. Here’s a bad cold email with too little context and too much of an ask with no warm up:

5. Spend All Your Free Time in Communities Related to Your Business

There’s a nice framework for marketing that Scott Tousley taught me by way of Ramit Sethi: you go where the fish are.

You define what type of fish you want to catch, figure out where those fish are swimming, and then cast your net.

There are Facebook communities and Slack channels for the marketing space, local homeowners, customer success professionals, those planning on getting married soon, candle aficionados, etc.

Every company I’ve worked for or worked with has been able to leverage communities for their benefit (both through knowledge and customer research as well as reach and distribution.

There’s a pond for every type of fish

There’s not a lot I can say that hasn’t been said already on the topic of communities and marketing, except to reiterate this point: don’t be a dick.

If you just join groups and spam your content, you ruin it for every other marketer, and you’re also ineffective. There’s nothing beneficial about your lazy strategy to anyone, including you.

Especially avoid shady and lazy marketing on communities like Reddit and Hacker News. The reason these places are valuable is because they largely lack the self-promotional hucksters that make it to the top of other communities effortlessly. If you’re going to promote in these places, do it the right way (good case study on how to do that here).

Best bet: put the time in, be a valuable contributor to the community, and only share your stuff if it’s relevant and valuable.

6. Email or Tweet People and Ask Them to Share

This tactic sucks.

I guess sometimes the end justifies the means, though, and maybe you can squeeze some more juice out of a launch with this tactic.

Basically, you should get a list of influencers, cold email them, and ask them to share your content or upvote it on whatever social network.

How do you find them? Again:

  • Buzzsumo
  • Onalytica
  • Scraping relevant communities (ugh.)
  • Your own knowledge of the industry

It will be an evolving and growing list, not a static one. The important thing is to tag influencers according to their category of interest. Something like this…

Important: make sure you don’t double email people. So if you’ve work with an influencer to put together the article (previous section), don’t send another email to them if they’re on this influencer list.

How to know there are duplicates? Lots of VLookup, or use a centralized system like HubSpot CRM or an automated email system like Mailshake.

For this idea, probably don’t use it every time. Only for special and epic content pieces.

For the record, I think this one is super, super annoying when it’s used on me. Lots of people are annoyed by it, usually because marketers copy and templatize other marketers, and think only in the short term. And they send stupid pitches with no value offer.

Depending on the person or brand emailing me, I may tweet their content, but I’m not happy about it. It’s super short term thinking. The following is one of the worse examples I’ve seen (I was scraped from a list of GrowthHackers users I think)

7. Share on Social Channels

You know how to share stuff on social, so I don’t need to go into detail on this.

I’ve never worked for a company that this brought in a large amount of traffic, but if you’re targeted about your social sharing it can give a solid boost to your content promotion efforts, especially upon launch. If you’ve built up a big social following, absolutely use this as a channel. If you write viral, vapid content like Buzzfeed or whatever, you probably rack up 90% of your traffic from social.

But it can work for any brand and should be utilized to a certain extent in most cases.

If you have a famous or important figure to share your content, that can bring some traction.

Amplify your reach on social, especially with influencers & important people

Whatever social channels you have work: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.

There are different rules of engagement and best practices for each channel. Usually, they vary by network, industry, company, and seasonality or even randomness.

Be careful when reading articles that tell you how many times you should tweet or the best time of the day to do so. There’s also likely not a best way to use images, video, or the actual structure of the post. It requires some good old marketing ingenuity so don’t copy and don’t be lazy; Instead, experiment.

8. Repurpose Content for Social Networks

This takes a bit of effort but can pay off well. You’ve probably noticed this (in my opinion, annoying) trend of these LinkedIn posts:

I don’t actually have cowboy boots, despite living in Texas. Nor do I post statuses like this.

That’s one method. You can also publish on LinkedIn, Facebook, Inbound.org (they do originals), Medium, Slideshare, etc.

In my experience, republishing on social has been a lot of work and little return, but I know a lot of people who have made it work. Worth a try if you have the type of content that is opinionated and suitable for virality on social channels.

Channels come and go. Tactics within channels change. If I wrote a series of tips on how to repurpose content on LinkedIn here, I guarantee it would change in a year.

So, as I said with social, and as I’ll say with most of these avenues, you need to do your own experimentation and innovation. Looking for tactical cookie cutter formulas is a great way to operate several steps behind the competition.

9. Automate Your Social Sharing

Also, if you can automate your social sharing, you can bring some incremental value with zero effort (beyond setup).

We set up an automated Twitter sharing tool using Zapier at CXL and it brings in a good amount of traffic with zero effort (email me if you want more info on how to set this up). Twitter is such an echo chamber that no one cares (or notices) if a brand auto tweets their articles 15 times a day. I probably wouldn’t use this method on other channels.

If you use WordPress, you can also set up Revive Old Post, which sets your old blog posts on an auto-rotating posting schedule on Twitter.

Try automating your brand tweets. It saves a ton of time and achieves basically the same results.

You can also pack a bunch of tweets into Buffer or whatever social tool you use. Similarly, you can engage with automated content promotion networks like Quuu or Viral Content Bee.

I’ve found very little impact with these, but it’s also low effort, so take that as you will.

Anything you can automate without seeming spammy is probably worth doing if it’s low effort, especially if operating at a scale where those incremental increases can add up.

You might think it’s a good idea to automate your Twitter DMs, but you’re probably wrong.

If you bring me data telling me it works, I’ll change my mind, but doing this stands against my principles of authenticity. It’s quite clear that the CXL posts are automated, but when you’re automating “personal” DMs, it feels scummy. Again, feel free to prove me wrong and show me some results.

Don’t do this

We’re aiming not just for a flash in the pan viral article, but for long term organic traffic. As such, doing some link building, for most sites anyway, is a necessity, especially for more competitive keywords.

Here are some of the link building tactics I’ve tried.

10. Link Trading

This is straightforward but is limited in scale. Basically, do what Google doesn’t want you to: find some people to trade links with.

The people you trade with should have access to high DA and relevant sites (e.g. if you’re a digital marketing agency, trading links with Unbounce or Shopify would probably be great). Only work with a limited amount of people, and only trade links with your best content. This tactic, at scale, can trigger red flags for Google and result in penalties.

This strategy is by nature limited (it can look spammy if you do it at scale), but it can help get the ball rolling and get you some solid exact match anchor text links.

Use Slack groups, Facebook groups, or just strong personal connections for this.

11. Traditional Outreach-based Link Building

This is the style that most people are familiar with.

You need to 1) find relevant target blogs that could link to your content 2) reach out to them. These target blogs could have related broken links, link to competitors, or simply be a relevant site that would benefit from your new amazing content.

If you’re doing broken link building, it’s a lot easier to get the person to update the link. If you’re simply asking them to replace a link from a competitors with yours, it’s a bit harder of an ask. In that case, you need to add more value (can they guest post for you? Can you offer some sort of comarketing? In any case, the value or relationship needs to be stronger.

In any case, here are some ways I’ve found link outreach targets

A) Broad Target Sites for Links

To start, simply use search engines and search phrases like:

  • “Keyword”
  • “Keyword” blog
  • Random word “Keyword”
  • “Keyword” guest post

Search broadly for blogs in your niche

B) Top Shared Content

Use a tool like Buzzsumo to see who is crushing it in terms of your niche or topic. Use those as link targets.

Buzzsumo is a great tool for finding influencers

C) Competitor/Skyscraper Link Building

Search the term you’re trying to rank in Google:

Take a URL of someone ranking and put it in Ahrefs. Look at the backlink profile (who is linking to them?):

Reach out to all these sites and ask if they can add your link instead.

This is hard work. It’s not as easy as the case studies make it out to be, but at scale you can pick up a few links (especially if you have a strong brand or a strong value add in return).

D) Web Scraping for Link Opportunities

Summary: You can scrape software review sites to find lesser known but high domain authority software company blogs. I’ve used Capterra. It’s quite effective in finding sites you may not have known about (and there are so many software companies out there, and most are blogging!).

For obvious reasons, I’m not going to walk step-by-step through this (if the reasons aren’t obvious, scraping is usually frowned upon, and anyway, it’s quite technical and in the weeds. Send me an email if you want to know more).

E) Growth Bot for Link Opportunities

This one is similar to the web scraping. You’re basically trying to find lesser known sites and link opportunities, but for this one we’ll use GrowthBot (and also, we’ll save a ton of time).

Run several queries with companies in your niche:

Don’t be afraid to run down the rabbit hole. Run maybe 10-12 queries and copy and paste them into a spreadsheet.

Now let’s clean things up. In cell B1, write =LEFT(A1,FIND(” (“,A1)-1). In cell C1, write =RIGHT(A1,LEN(A1)-FIND(” “,A1))

Your first row should look like this:

If all looks okay, copy the formula down all cells (hover on the bottom right corner and double click when you get the black cross) for both Column B and Column C, as such:

Copy the values from Column C and throw them into a domain authority checker (whichever you prefer, Moz, Majestic, Ahrefs, whatever). Export the file one it has processed:

Add the domain ratings to the list, use conditional formatting to target those within your ideal range, and find contact information for those link opportunities. Next step: email outreach.

F) Twitter + Zapier Hack

This one involves setting up a Zap to see who shares your content, and using this as a preliminary outreach list.

The idea: if they’re already sharing your content, or similar content, they’re going to be warm targets for link building.

Setting up the Zap is super easy. Use the Twitter -> Google Sheets Zap. Just make sure you’re collecting all the fields you need. In our case, they were: Username, Name, Tweet, URL, Associated (Bio) URL. The Bio URL is of particular importance, because that’s how you’ll find out whether they have a website that can link to your content.

There’s no solid way to automate domain authority checking in Google Sheets (that I know of), so you need to port your list of URLs over to a tool like ahrefs to get their domain ratings.

Add them all to your Google Sheet and look only to those domain ratings you think are worth trying to get links from. Gather contact info and do your outreach.

This strategy has been mildly effective for me. I’ve found that it gets links, but they’re generally lower domain authority simply due to more agencies and personal bloggers sharing content on Twitter. It could differ with your audience though.

The benefit, though, is that if you set up your Zapier right, you just automatically collect link opportunities, so this can certainly work at scale (and I’m sure there are many uses for a Zap like this outside of SEO, such as for influencer marketing and affiliate targeting).

Again, email me if you want more details on setting this up, it’s somewhat technical.

Now, Send Outreach Emails

Outreach emails should be straightforward but polite.

They should clearly state what you want from them (share, upvote, backlink, coffee date, whatever), but they should also provide value for the recipient (otherwise this is just a short term burn the bridges strategy).

When possible, I like to kill two birds with one stone. If I’m doing content promotion for HubSpot or CXL, I have a powerful asset in the form of my blog, so I ask if the person would like to contribute a blog post or just a quote to an article. Why not check both off in one email?

Another thing is that most of the time, people don’t take action on the first email. It may help to automate a 2 or 3 email sequence, though be careful not to annoy the shit out of influencers just for the sake of a backlink or tweet (don’t miss the forest for the trees).

No one is completely sure how to do proper influencer marketing, except for the few best practice variables of “be relevant” and “give value.”

I’m firmly in agreement with how Ryan Holiday put it in an AMA. Treating influencer marketing as transactional and quantitative, and treating friendships like a cumulative series of touchpoints is both sad and ineffective:

Another note: I usually send remarkably similar emails, though I hesitate to use the word “template,” as they’re largely personalized and the contacts are well researched.

If you’re wishing I’d share a template, don’t, because a large reason this type of outreach is ineffective is because of the armies of copycat marketers using the exact same words. I got probably a hundred emails using Brian Dean’s exact template. No quicker way to trigger a “delete.”

12. Internal Link Building

This is easy. Search site:yoursite.com “keyword” and add links anywhere applicable.

Track on a content promo spreadsheet so you know what you’ve accomplished and where you still need to add links.

13. Seed Content to Freelance Writers

This idea has a little bit more personal touch involved. Here’s the premise:

  • There are a lot of freelance writers
  • These freelance writers have access to some pretty top tier sites.
  • They link to lots of resources and data.
  • You should be one of the resources they link to.

Usually, a freelance writer will link to 1) those they know and 2) those they find with a quick Google search. If you can be someone the writer has a personal connection with, you can rack up exact match anchor text links in a variety of publications.

The trouble? This isn’t a super scalable strategy.

You have to build relationships and some sort of value exchange. Can you offer guest post opportunities or links on your site? Can you get coffee with freelance writers a few times per week? How you make this work is variable; the point is that you should have a network of freelancers and guest writers that can place links on external publications.

One of the best ways is simply to build relationships with writers and influencers and have some good research to supply them. Everyone wants new research and data, and it’s really not that difficult to conduct some research and be the supplier.

Related: go to conferences to hang out with influencers. It has long term payoffs that are hard to quantify in the short term.

Obviously this is an expensive strategy, so I think it should just be a complementary activity everyone does at conferences, meetups, and organized events.

It doesn’t have to only be at large conferences, though. This could be as simple as meeting people at Meetup.com groups or Slack channels. The point is the same: build relationships.

14. Cut a Deal with Freelance Writers to Drop in Links to Your Articles

If you don’t want to put in the time and effort to build relationships, you can probably pay for them.

  • Step 1: create an ad on Problogger.
  • Step 2: hire a few good writers.
  • Step 3: after working with them for a few articles, bring up that you’d be willing to pay them [X} amount of money to drop links to your content in the other sites they write for.
  • Step 4: Acquire links.

Never done this, but it sounds like a good setup, yeah? Try it and lemme know if it works for you.

15. Work with Partners

If you’re a B2B company (or sometimes if you’re a B2C company), you likely have partner companies. At HubSpot, there’s whole network of partner agencies (same goes for companies like Unbounce, Amplitude, etc). Think, how can you team up with them for comarketing and content promotion?

In my mind, you have to give value to get value. So you can approach getting your link in two ways:

  • Simply ask them for a link.
  • Ask to write a post for their blog.

Most people struggle to find and create good content. You can easily bite a piece off of your 10X content and repurpose it for another blog post for an agency or technology partner.

The benefit here is that you and your technology/agency/comarketing partner have a previous relationship. There’s no built in skepticism at the start of the outreach.

Also, there’s obviously a whole slew of things you can do outside of link building with your partner network. But this is a content promo article, and darn it, I’m going to keep the focus.

16. Buy Links

Buying links still works.

You’d be surprised if you knew the level of link buying and selling that is still going on among top internet marketing influencers. I won’t sell anyone out, but I can vouch that people are still doing it and getting results.

Risky, lazy? Sure. Effective? Probably.

General Traffic/Other

17. Focus on List Building and Email Marketing

Generally speaking, the biggest leverage point you can build is a solid email list.

It’s a property you own, regardless of Google’s algorithm changes or the decreasing organic reach of a social network. It’s an asset where people have opted in to receiving your communications in their inbox, a special privilege indeed.

That’s why the internet has been taken over by popups, overlays, exit intent splashes, whatever euphemism you use for them. It should be easy and seamless if someone wants to sign up for your list.

Oh, and push notifications. I consider those popups too. Same deal, they get permission to send you information in the same way an email popup does.

I won’t pass a judgement call on how you collect emails, just to say that email list building is huge and if you can leverage it you have a strong content distribution channel.

18. Comment Content Promotion

Leave a bunch of relevant and valuable blog comments. This strategy is boring and tedious to me, but if you have the time and can prove out the ROI, be my guest.

19. Sponsor Other People’s Email Lists

Whether you do email list trades, affiliate deals, or simply sponsor a newsletter, other people’s email lists can be awesome ponds in which you can catch fish. At CXL, we used to do quite a few email list trades with other similar software companies like Amplitude and Formisimo.

There are also businesses that exist solely to sell you advertising space in email newsletters, which can be much more effective (if you target it well) than buying display space or more traditional forms of online advertising. This is particularly effective if what you’re advertising is content related, like email courses, ebooks, and otherwise.

20. Paid Acquisition

If you have a particularly effective and epic piece of content, and you have some money, you always have the option of giving it a paid boost. Lots of companies do this.

21, 22, 23, and Beyond.

There are a bunch of smaller tactics, too, that I’m not going to mention.

It’s not because I’m lazy (well…), but rather because almost every other tactic I could include is basically a subset of the other tips or marginalia. I could split “communities” into a dozen different tips, as well as “repurpose content” into every single channel you could use. But that would be boring and unhelpful (as well as ephemeral).

In addition, the tactics that make up most of these content promotion tactics lists are so obvious and micro that they’re unhelpful. Things like pinning important Tweets to your profile and scheduling 12 tweets in advance and tweeting at certain times of the day. Marginalia.

I’m not going to tell you to email your mom about your new blog post, because while it may be more than 0 new sessions, it’s not helpful for your actual content promotion efforts.

In an ironic twist, I’m not baking content promo into this blog post so I don’t need to have a list of 100 items just to make it bigger than the other ones ranking (the Skyscraper technique, while inherently a great idea, has, through misunderstanding of its application, ruined content in a lot of ways, yeah?).

Worry about the big stuff, test meaningful tactics, learn, and systematize it.

Conclusion

Getting content promotion right is hard.

Well, it’s easy to go through the motions, or even get wins on one or two content launches.

It’s really hard to do it over and over again, setting up a content promotion process.

The way I’d do it is to try a few of these, prioritize them by your confidence in them and the ease of implementation, and review your results. Tweak and optimize the process, and continue to improve it with time.

In addition, look for the big wins and where you have a competitive advantage. Unless it’s of massive upside to you, don’t spend too much time tweaking the minutia of a tweet when you could be building a long term SEO and link building strategy (or whatever your specific high leverage area is).

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