Content Promotion Shouting

Content promotion strategies to earn traffic and links

10 min read
Stacey MacNaught

Why are we going to talk about content promotion? Well, 91 percent of businesses engage in some form of content marketing — and investment in content is on the rise. We’re seeing increasingly creative content, richer assets and projects involving a team far more diverse than copywriters. Many businesses are pulling out all the stops and getting the design team, developers and copywriters together to create content with all the bells and whistles.

It’s a daunting prospect to compete with that, especially as a smaller business. But even with investment, success is far from guaranteed. So what happens when you push the publish button and nobody cares?

I can speak from experience in saying that there’s little as difficult to swallow as failure to win the links you wanted to win or the traffic you expected to achieve after launching quality content that has taken months to produce.

So let’s not get that to that point.

Put down your tools for a moment and let me share some proven content promotion tactics to help secure links and traffic with your content projects.

Before we talk content promotion...

Let’s first talk about the content we’re promoting.

Great content often tells a compelling story.

Journalists at national publications aren’t writing about data. They’re not publishing stories about your competitor’s recent survey because they like surveys. They’re doing it because it tells a story.

Formatting comes last

The second you say, “let’s create an infographic,” you’re setting yourself up for failure. Format-first approaches to content lead us down a difficult route. Format should be one of the last things you decide in your content promotion planning process if your objective is winning traffic.

Back in 2014, I was involved in a simple piece of content about smartphone usage. It had no bells and no whistles. In fact, in the end, that piece of content was a blog post of a few hundred words, a downloadable spreadsheet and a stock photo. See for yourself.

That blog post earned links from more than 300 different websites.

Those certainly weren’t links earned on the back of how the post looked or how fancy the graphics were.

It’s because it was a piece of content that shared a shocking story — users were carrying out 221 tasks a day on their smartphones. Those of us often engrossed in our phones could easily relate to the figure. And those who, at the time, perhaps didn’t care for the face-in-phones mentality of society were flabbergasted by the fact people would be so engaged with a device.

The blog post was based on a survey of 2,000 smartphone owners in the UK. So we also included the raw data for journalists to find their own stories.

Almost four years on from publishing that piece of content and it STILL earns links today (with no content promotion having taken place since December 2014). I’ll talk about how that happens shortly.

Where bells and whistles work

I’m not saying there is never a place for more creative pieces, of course. Look at this one by

Content Promotion Supremo

Facebook privacy concerns are by no means a new story. But in order to bring home to users just how much it affects them personally, this company created a piece of content that creepily taunts users with the secrets they’re handing over simply by logging in with Facebook.

Content Promotion Secrets

This is the best format to get that message across. Simply telling people in a text blog post that anyone could potentially find out the names of their family members or where they go wouldn’t have the same impact.

So what I’m saying is that we don’t promote content formats. We promote stories.

This piece has collected links from more than 80 different websites.

Content promotion tactics

So let’s talk content promotion. You’ve got a great idea. It tells a compelling story. The format supports the story. What now?

  1. Build a media list.

  2. Tier your contacts.

  3. Timing is key.

  4. Create helpful assets and media-friendly visuals.

  5. Consider paid search.

  6. Rely on on-page SEO.

Build it and they will come just doesn’t cut it.

1. Build a media list

Long before you’re hitting the publish button, you should have a good-sized list of target contacts (journalists, writers, influencers who could amplify and/or link to your content). There are multiple different tools (free and paid) to help you find websites and publications writing about relevant topics and named writers, too, including:

The specific number of publications you’ll want to target depends very much on the campaign and its objectives, of course. But ensure your content promotion list covers all the relevant ones.

2. Tier your contacts

It’s not an opinion everyone agrees with, but if you’re working on multiple campaigns then certain elements of your media content promotion plan simply have to be scalable. If your media list is getting into the hundreds, then manually writing a personal email to all of these people with a paragraph of small talk simply isn’t feasible in most cases.

So tier your contacts based on the value of achieving their buy-in to your content.

For example, going back to the smartphone survey in 2014, we knew that coverage in one or two national publications (without or without a link) would result in a lot more coverage simply because of the number of people who find their news on those sites. So we picked a handful of 15 or so contacts for our tier-one contacts. With those contacts, we:

  • Put feelers out about what we were thinking of doing before we sent the survey for responses. We got feedback on our angles and offered some contacts a question of their own on us!
  • We let the contacts see the data the day before it was going to be published (and we wrote a press release for them that included the link to where the post was going to be so we could still claim links).
  • Personalised all contact and employed no automation at all.

We then created a second tier contact list of smaller but still incredibly relevant publications. In this case, we were looking at regional press. So for each region, we identified the headlines most relevant for them and created a press release. For all publications in a given region, they received the same release without any further personalisation.

And finally, four days after launch, we sent a final blanket email with a further release to another 200 writers and journalists.

This allowed us to bring scale into the content promotion campaign without automating it start to finish.

3. Timing is key

You wouldn’t hit journalists or writers with a story about Easter in July, would you? And for other seasonal or timeliness related reasons, some content simply has to land at certain times.

Even if you don’t think your content is seasonal or needs to be published at a certain time, the editorial calendars of the types of publications you want to feature your content might well disagree!

Well in advance of coming up with your content concepts, it’s worth getting your hands on the forward features calendars of as many of these publications as possible.

Some publish them:

Content Promotion Calendar

And you can use various Google queries to find them:

Content Promotion Google Query

But in most cases, you’ll probably have to email and ask. Look at this as an opportunity to make yourself known.

Asking for a forward features calendar (aka editorial calendar) is an easier “in” than jumping straight to content promotion. If you get the calendar, great! But even if all you get is a pointer to the right contact, then that’s no bad result.

Once you have an idea as to what topics are in the editorial calendar for the year, you have a clearer idea of when to pitch your content. You can even use this information to come up with relevant content ideas.

4. Create helpful assets and media friendly visuals

Digital PR specialist, Hana Bednarova, believes a suitable asset bank can make or break your content promotion. She tells me:

A5 size supporting visuals are great for the press. And if you want to get your story or content covered in the press, then get a bank of images and quotes from key stakeholders or clients ready to go. This lets you respond fast to requests for more information from journalists.”

And this approach has proven incredibly effective in increasing take-up of content on projects I’ve worked on. I’m usually asked for supporting images at least twice by writers on each content promotion campaign I work on.

5. Consider paid search for content promotion

If you’ve created the ultimate guide to nightlife in Ibiza, then you want the people searching for it to find your site. Google Paid Search can be cost effective on non-commercial queries. Look at these examples:

Ibiza clubs: 14,000 searches per month globally. Nobody bids in AdWords (it’s a non-commercial query, after all). I’ve been able to secure clicks on content using that keyword for less than 20 cents each.

Smartphone statistics: Several hundred queries per month globally and nobody is bidding in AdWords. I was able to secure clicks here again for less than 20 cents each.

If your content is more informative than commercial, explore with AdWords and find out if you can drive relevant traffic looking for exactly what your content does incredibly cost effectively.

In the case of statistics related queries, this is particularly good for link acquisition. Those looking for “statistics,” are often researching for their own content. And, as we know, all good journalists credit their sources!

Other paid channels

Don’t overlook channels like Outbrain, Facebook Advertising and Twitter Advertising for traffic generation either, depending on your content promotion budget.

6. Rely on good old on-page SEO

In the same way that paid search can drive relevant traffic and potential links, appearing in search results for the same queries organically can do so as well (though it’ll take some time to get there).

Your headline might be “We’re Carrying Out 221 Tasks a Day on Our Phones,” but you’ll probably want to carry out keyword research around “smartphone statistics,” “smartphone usage” and similar terms.

Then pop those relevant keywords into the usual places: page titles, meta descriptions and in the content itself.

In terms of identifying keywords and volumes, try tools like

Use multiple tactics and angles

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. With any piece of content, make sure you’ve got several angles, compelling stories and multiple tactics to hand. Then if one thing goes wrong, there are always back up content promotion plans!