I remember starting to write for a brand new blog, only live for a few weeks at the time of writing. For the first few weeks I was writing content and creating videos, but did zero promotion whatsoever. Take a look at this traffic graph and see if you can guess where I switched my focus to promotion:
On February 25 the blog had only 13 sessions. On February 27 it had 881, then another 229 on February 28. So what happened? How was I able to create such a rapid spike in targeted traffic to a very young blog, one that has only just been indexed in Google and has virtually no organic traffic yet?
The majority of that traffic came from Facebook, Reddit and Twitter. The coolest part? I even started to see an uptick in organic traffic – from people actually searching for the brand name of the blog. All from one post, shared in one place. Not spammed all over the Internet – ONE share.
Bear in mind that despite the fact I know plenty of people interested in digital nomadism, I did NOT use that network in any way to promote the post. I never promote content on my personal Facebook page. I wanted to develop strategies that literally anyone can apply regardless of previous experience or existing network.
So here's how I did it.
1 – Create Content with Sociality Built-In
Getting the content piece right is 90% of the battle. People simply will not read and share content unless it ticks certain boxes. Yes, it needs to be “high-quality content,” but on its own, that is not enough anymore.
I promise you there is plenty of high-quality content sitting around on the web that nobody ever sees.
In addition to being high quality, it must play to the inherent human desire to be social. People want to socialize, and they want to do it around objects (credit to Hugh MacLeod's book Evil Plans for this idea). Create objects that give people an excuse to socialize, and they will share those objects with each other.
The content you create needs to make the sharer feel like they are providing value to other people by sharing. It needs to be cool, or funny, or interesting, or unique in some way, or all of the above. The easiest way to work this out, as usual, is to look at your own behaviour.
What do you share? Think about the mental process you go through before you put a link on your Facebook page. What are the reasons you decide to share something? Why do you think about sharing something but then NOT share it? What do people in your target audience share? Are you creating the type of content they share? If not, why not?
How can you change what you're doing so that when your target viewers see it they will feel like they're providing value to their friends and their network by spreading the word? Obviously, lists are great. (The post I shared was similar to the one I created for Nomad Girl 58 Remote Work Skills List).
Creating a go-to resource for your audience is great. Image-based posts for visual audiences (eg travel) are great. Cute puppies are great. Simplicity is great – it should be something people can get the gist of at a glance.
2 – Go the Extra Mile
If you are going to spend 20 minutes banging out another run-of-the-mill “Top 10 Whatever” list, don't expect anyone to want to share it. Don't expect people to look at it and think you're an expert on your topic. People will not remark on work that is not remarkable.
- Be remarkable.
- Do your research. Put the work in. Learn about weird stuff that even the current ‘thought leaders' in your market don't know.
- Dedicate yourself to being useful to your readers.
- Dedicate yourself to knowing everything you need to know to solve their problems and change their lives. Then share it.
Why shouldn't you? If you have the best stuff, the stuff that can REALLY solve problems for your audience, and you're giving it all away for free – why wouldn't they want you to get it in front of them?
3 – Create Great Headlines
No matter how awesome your content is, you still need to capture attention. You need to stand out amongst all the online noise we each have to battle our way through every day. Don't let your headline be boring. Don't make it spammy or over-sell what you have. Describe your post in an honest but exciting way.
Describe it the way you'd describe it to a good friend. Think of yourself sending a friend a link. “Hey, I just found this. It's an article on _____________. It explains how to ___________.” What would you fill in the blanks with here? This is the kind of language you want to be using in your headline.
4 – Targeted Promotion Strategy
Now, the key: where do you share your content to make sure the right people see it, the people who are going to love it and immediately see the value and want to show it to everyone they know?
Let me be thoroughly clear: DO NOT SPAM YOUR POST. Don't post it to twenty Facebook pages at the same time. Don't throw it up on every forum under the sun.
You are looking for one or two, highly targeted places where you can share value with your target audience, and then respond to their thoughts, questions, criticisms, suggestions and so on. Speaking of which…
5 – Be Social
Don't just throw up your post somewhere and then kick back and wait for the traffic to roll. You are starting a conversation, and you need to participate in that conversation.
You should actually be excited to participate in that conversation – you will learn a lot about other types of content your target audience wants to see from you, which will help you optimize your future content creation and promotion strategy.
Get to know the people your content resonates with.
6 – Make Sharing Easy
The placement of your sharing buttons can make a big difference in how well your post spreads.
Nomad Girl is using the Monarch WordPress plugin (the buttons you see along the left-hand side, or bottom of the screen if you're on a mobile device). When you look at your post, is sharing an obvious thing that will occur to readers? Do they have to hunt for the share buttons? Is there a lot of clutter that distracts people from sharing?
If you want your content to be shared, give the readers who like your work the simplest possible path to share it with others.
7 – Keep Experimenting
Not every post you create and put out to the world will be a hit. In fact, it can be very difficult to predict in advance which posts will “go viral” and which will fall flat. Even if you know your audience really well, there is always a bit of slippage between what you think they want to see and what they really want to see.
So treat it as an experiment. First one didn't work? Okay. What went wrong? What variable can you change? Try again. Keep putting things out there. Notice the subtle distinctions. The degree of difference between an amateur and an expert grows from thousands of these subtle distinctions, which develop from gathering real-world results.
Just do it and get feedback – even if that feedback is “no one read the post.” Re-examine, re-adjust, try again. Go back up and look at that traffic graph again. See what happened after the spike?
Even after that initial traffic surge finished, there's still a stream of ongoing traffic flowing in now that the post is out in the world, being shared between friends, popping up on forums and so on.
Remember, this is one post, one share. What happens when you create 10 posts like this? 100? The snowball rolls. So although this tactic is a great way to get fast traffic at the beginning of a new blog, think long term.