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How to: Get Traffic & Build an Audience When No One Knows You Exist

The ‘Field of Dreams’ build it and they will come is the biggest myth ever – just ask China. This myth is even more pertinent to the Internet.

*Kevin Costner in your Field of Dreams, you bloody liar!

content-marketing-saturation
Consider that each door handle in the above city a blog post, but each handle is devoid of any distinguishable markings – now go find your blog post.

There is a lot, and I mean masses of great content on the internet. “Content is king” gets banded around as if it were best practise or some kind of Holy Grail in marketing.

What a load of bollocks.

Too many kings and not enough kingdoms to reign, I say.

It’s true, great content rises to the top – but there’s a lot of great content out there!

Quick Reference (aka: What To Expect)

Instead of skipping ahead – you could of course just read on from here:

Content Saturation: Myth or Reality?

Content saturation is not a new thing (or fear).

The Economist talked about it in 2013 as did the Content Marketing Institute in 2014 in what they term the ‘content shock’, and then there’s Facebook who also pretty much concede the content fatigue syndrome exists.

how-content-fatigue-happens
Image source: moz.com

With businesses competing for limited consumer attention it means more choice and better content. Therefore more content equates to good news for the consumer.

The downside? Content creation has far outpaced consumption and so much of the good and even great content is hardly read.

Good for the consumers but a reality check for the content producers.

You probably already know that publishing your website or blog is not enough to attract the traffic and build the audience you need. And yet without traffic, your online business will stutter, stall and fall out of the [electronic] sky.

Most online gurus will preach that you need to “find places where you can reach your audience that aren’t already overrun by your competitors”… but these places are usually barren for a reason.

Sorry it’s not that simple, you need to up your game.

  • You need an effective strategy to get your audience’s attention and build engagement.
  • You need to be aware of your competitors’ efforts.
  • You need to be responsive to traffic sources and growth.
  • You need to be critical of your efforts and analyse what works and what doesn’t.
  • You need an end goal, or at least a scale on which to measure your successes.

And so you need a reason for doing any of this:

The Purpose: Business, Business or Merely Business?

If we’re not generating content for business gains, then why are we creating content in the first place?

If you’re an individual blogger that doesn’t monetise any part of your online presence and you’re doing this for kicks, then you can skip this section.

Let’s be honest here:

I want to help, educate and inspire people as much as the next person. I also want to know that my efforts weren’t in vain.

Traffic and social signals to one side – typically that means one of a few things:

  • Building a captive and loyal audience that you can nurture.
  • Amplifying your efforts via micro conversions (likes, links, shares etc).
  • Shaping brand authority, value and trust.
  • Where appropriate, converting your audience via macro transactions.

100% conversion is not a thing.

Most of your audience won’t convert, most won’t require converting either. In fact one of the many joys of building an audience is the community it develops and the amplification the audience brings – for all to benefit.

But of course within that audience will be some genuine prospects who, at some point, may require your product or service. That’s a good thing and it’s not ugly to talk about either.

See that wasn’t too hard was it – a bit of honesty never hurt, this is business after all.

Published it, Shared it, F***ed Off!

We get the above business gains and producing content to align to those is relatively straightforward. Measuring your content marketing is often less obvious and clear.

“Content is no longer the finish line. It’s the starting line.” – @markwschaefer

KPIs (we all need them) and measurement is one critical factor of success. If measuring ‘stuff’ wasn’t tricky enough already, with the advent of content marketing, measuring results now comes in two disparate but parallel forms.

Firstly, the headline numerical metrics:

  • Raw traffic numbers
  • Traffic channel/source
  • Social shares
  • Backlinks and citations, other site owners digesting and citing your content
  • Comments and interactions, usually a positive sign
  • Subscriptions, such as a newsletter
  • Lead generation, such as completing a form
  • Customer acquired, such as a sale

The problem with that list is it can be very noisy.

Beyond the metrics? A bevy of experts share “How to Measure the Success“of Content Marketing with the CMI.

Expanding on this further – you need an additional, definable system. You need to understand your audiences’ attention.

Attention is not a subject heavily discussed but attention is just as important as the numbers and can be defined by understanding these concepts:

  • What drives attention in your market?
  • What do you solve by capturing that attention?
  • How many people’s attention do you need to achieve your goal?

If you’re thinking this is starting to get confusing, then you’d be right.

Attention: Not Just Another Buzzword

Look and listen for the signals. Consider the attention in your market as the consumption rate and type; what is established, what are people responding to, what are your competitor’s pursuing and how can you differentiate?

The attention of your market is typically defined by your audiences’ actions, and therefore to a certain degree out of your control. You may have an alternative solution, you may be disruptive – but ultimately the consumer dictates the demand.

The “how many people” aspect is simpler in that you define the type of audience or subset thereof, how ‘many’ you need and the action you require them to take to ‘do’ business.

A simplistic approach – answer the below question with a resounding YES!

“Would I put budget behind and pay to advertise this piece of content even though I know there’s no immediate monetary value/return in doing so?”

With a yes you can be confident that your content marketing resonates with your audience for the right reasons.

There will be people that disagree with me on the above, of course.

Caveat: If you have a particularly short buying cycle which is often the case with simple, cheap or instant-gratification products, then I’d understand.

For most B2B markets however, the buying decision process is much more drawn out.

With that in mind how do we go about discovering and building our audience? Here’s a few documented strategies to find your audience, relate to and assimilate them:

The other exception to the rule is big companies with large budgets.

BIG Business + BIG Budget = Slow to Manoeuvre?

Often because of their scale and structure i.e. demand for action comes from the top down and from people who are less in tune with the granular operations, larger organisations can side step relevance (audience engagement) and just demand volume (traffic).

… or worse still the fluffy non-metric we should all love to distrust ‘brand awareness’.

If that sounds familiar, perhaps go back to why attention is important and consider a pitch back up the chain?

Return on investment will be greater, easier to measure and more rewarding to you and your audience, with the longer term aspirations of the business still intact.

If you’re not confident with throwing money behind your content then you’re either turning out crud or you’re not aligning business goals and expectations with your content.

If not, why not?

Anyway that’s enough theory, let’s address the impending-content-overload-doom™ with a variety of solutions to put in to practise today:

The Slog Option: Your Daily Blogging Crusade

Blog daily, or as often as humanly possible.

When I say blog, I don’t mean 400-500 word thin-as-piss articles that anyone could regurge’ out.

Wait, blog daily? There’s study after study that supports the case of regular and rapid blog execution. Perhaps you could even try the 30 day blog challenge.

You can take ‘daily’ as being the yardstick here, every other day is still a lot of content – and work – unless that is you crap out sub-standard rehashed prose, which defeats the object.

Delivering 1,000 word plus original, high calibre pieces is not easy. It’s time consuming and if outsourced, a costly exercise.

Can it work? Sure, saturation on top of saturation of a topic will eventually get you traction. It’ll take time, but as your library of content grows, so will organic discovery and your ability to schedule and share a lot of your own content via Social Media instead of merely curating.

Depending on your niche, traction can come within a few months but in more competitive sectors expect to be ploughing those furrows for the best part of a year.

The other issue with the hard slog mode of content marketing is setting a precedent. Your audience might be used to the pace, trying to ween them off your daily blogging could alienate or dilute said audience.

Helpful links to get your blog-on:

An alternative option is going large:

The Go Large Option: Build Big, Bigger and Biggest

Ignore-the-noise. Witness those hundred or so pieces streaming past on your Twitter feed? There’s another 10,000 where they came from, and that’s just today.

People talk about it.

They yearn for it.

Everyone wants it.

There are studies that support it.

In fact I’m doing it write now.

What is it?

Length.

When it comes to the internet, size matters – and I’m not talking about some kind of flesh parade here.

the-perfect-blog-article-length

Of course ‘length’ is relative, and no, I’m still not talking about a gentleman’s sausage.

Writing style has a lot to do with the length and readability of content. Waffle for the sake of bulking out a piece is key-slaps wasted.

We’re all different when it comes to the consumption of content, but one thing’s for sure – if an article is great, no matter the length, we’ll read it end-to-end. And if we don’t have time right now, we’ll bookmark it for later.

Don’t be fooled however, a hulking great piece of text can be a turn-off. It’s one reason you’ll find images and a splash of creativity mixed in with longer articles of merit. How am I doing?

The big, bigger, biggest content theory in action:

Is it all good news for tall building related metaphors?

There’s quite a bit of effort required for this tactic (that’s the first time I’ve used that word), and so I feel this needs to be a rounded opinion.

I certainly don’t want people to consider the skyscraper routine (better than tactic?) yet another holy-grail pursuit.

So here’s a failed attempt, because you’re not always going to be successful!

Dale Cudmore notes that “very few case strategies are published with a new (or relatively new) site in mind. Because they aren’t impressive.”

Food for thought – don’t always expect perfect results.

The Alternative Option: Beyond Written Prose

Hold on a minute, isn’t this commentary all about the issue of content saturation? In which case why am I advocating yet more of the same!

Well technically the right audience > attention > high calibre content will cut through the noise to a certain degree, but there are alternatives.

Outside of your comfort zone:

Writing a blog is easier than say, creating a microsite of content. It’s also easier than writing and recording a video. Furthermore, a podcast or webinar is even more time consuming.

Does additional time invested equate to bigger returns? If you’re looking for an edge or at least a diminished level of competition, the facts speak for themselves:

Thanks to smartphones, mobile internet technology such as 3 and 4G, and the always connected generation, podcasts are on the rise.

“Awareness of podcasting among Americans 12 years of age and older has more than doubled since 2006”, and “Libsyn recorded that, of their 2.6 billion podcast downloads in 2014, 63% were requested from mobile devices”. Source – PewResearch Fact Sheet

In fact podcasts are the new in thing; just look at marketers on Twitter – they’re spreading tips and guides on the medium like it’s the never been seen before. It’s 2005 all over again, but this time (thanks to mobile tech) it’s gonna’ stick!

Back in 2013 YouTube eclipsed even Facebook by becoming the second largest search engine. That makes it all the more prevalent for the modern content creator to find their audience on the ‘Tube.

And what of webinars? As Georgiana Laudi of Unbounce wrote, “I think it’s time to start taking webinars seriously.” Much like a podcast, webinars are a captive audience. Done right and you’ll find people tuning in to see and hear you and your message. That’s powerful.

Some excellent resources on each medium:

And relax…

Just Kidding, There’s More

All that magic and yet no sparkle?

Creating content is just the start, 90% of your efforts should be spent promoting your content.

Seriously – don’t just Tweet it out on a whim – there’s a lot of noise out there. I’ve said that already.

You’ve made the effort to create it and I know how long that can be (nearly a day for this here post). So take content promotion seriously, in fact I’d recommend putting a little budget behind your piece to get your content seen and found.

Failing that, there are free (notwithstanding your time) methods for promoting and amplifying your way to content success.

Make your content sparkle (hey – its end of the article, I’m throwing in some cheese):

That in a nutshell dear reader is the issue of content saturation and how to get traffic and build an audience when no one knows you exist – yet.

As ever I’d love to hear your feedback, did I miss anything? Please chime in and of course your sharing is always and very much appreciated.

Happy blogging/skyscraping/vlogging/webinaring/podcasting… and of course, promoting!

kevin-costner-and-content-marketing

*oh and just for the record I quite like Kevin Costner, I wouldn’t mind meeting him some day.

Ed Leake

Author: Ed Leake

Ed is the director of Midas Media and has served in the technology industry for just shy of twenty years. Ed believes in the constant development, improvement and the maturing of ideas. Outside of work Ed enjoys motorsport, yet more fresh coffee and doughnuts.

  • Ed just discovered your blog. Love your sense oh humor. What a great post! Lots of golden nuggets in here. I have to agree about the mantra of building it and they will come. This is complete fiction. Which leads me to the slog option mentioned.

    I am dead set against daily blogging. It just burns you out and you set yourself this target every single day and if you miss a post that day due to fatigue you really beat yourself up about it. Not to mention the quality really starts to suffer and with all your time consumed writing you never actually promote.

    To me 20% of your time should be in creating content. The other 80% should be spent promoting. I set myself a target of one blog post or video etc per week and spend the rest of my time promoting and engaging on other blog posts.

    That’s just my 2 cents. I love Kevin Costner too! 🙂

    • Ed Leake

      Thanks Andrew – glad my humour is appreciate by someone! 🙂

      The daily blog option as you say is hard work, to be honest I’ve not tried it. I quite like the idea of attempting it – but every time it comes to mind I find an excuse not to!

      I’ve seen people write studies on their own successes with daily blogging, but there will always be the counter argument of less quantity, more quality.

      80/20 rule works for quite a lot of things doesn’t it? My 90% promotion comment was really aimed at making a point of how much bias getting your content out there really matters. I think so long as people put at least as much effort in to promotion as they do writing, they’ll start to see results.

      Once again thanks for stopping by, appreciate your comments.

      • Your absolutely right Ed. I think the promotion part is where a lot of people fall down. The mindset probably being that all you have to do is keep publishing content. Really enjoyed the article. Will keep my eyes out for future posts. 🙂

        • D. Kruegel

          Speaking from a “German” point of view, it should be in fact 90% quality, 10% quantity. German communication culture seems to be more like: Only open your mouth when you have something valuable to say, but don’t repeat it! Which is probably pretty annoying. Either Google ignores your content because of too little repetition of keywords across your content, or your audience starts to ignore you because you repeat too much of the same.

          And when you compare the audience of the German business social network Xing with its much larger US competitor LinkedIn, you also see a huge difference: The definition of what is considered spam is much much stricter on Xing than on LinkedIn and you can easily get your personal account banned. Also unsolicited contact requests without any plausible reason (like having common interests, haves&search for, knowing each other from offline events or public online conversations) are not allowed and any receiver of such a contact request can report you to the admins which can give you an infraction up to banning your account.

          German audience doesn’t just ignore you when they don’t like your content. They punish you in addition to that. On the other hand when they like your content, they still don’t necessarily share your content with others.

          • Ed Leake

            In many ways, I quite like the sound of Germany! LinkedIn has turned in to a ‘wannabe’ Facebook, which is as shame.

            Just to counter that – if Germans are less like to share and amplify even the content they like, how do you tackle the process of Content and Social selling?

            Is Inbound marketing an untapped process in Germany?

          • D. Kruegel

            No, inbound marketing is not untapped in Germany. There are quite a few specialized agencies for that and big brands are applying it professionally. It just involves the social media part in a different way than elsewhere, I guess.
            I don’t know much about social selling in Germany. I as a consumer have never bought anything in which I got aware of the product via social media (unless you count price comparison sites as part of social media). And I don’t like to be approached by sales representatives (not even in brick&mortar shops). People in Germany don’t even like that an employee is packing their groceries at the checkout (look up Walmart’s huge failure in getting a foothold in the German food retail market). When I need help, I will approach them. Probably you can transfer the offline shopping behaviour in Germany to the online world. So I think it is much more about listening and being present without appearing being pushy.
            Also about comments on price comparison sites and online shops: Many people are aware that these can be fake. Most trust is still given to quality seals and test results of independent product testing organizations (look up Stiftung Warentest).
            As for B2B, it is all about cold, hard facts, statistics, loooots of detail and real-life case studies (the latter is not that easy to get, because a customer agreeing to become a case study usually wants to get paid for it. The opportunity for the customer of getting more attention for the own company is usually not convincing enough).
            I sometimes jokingly say: In order to make content attractive in the
            German B2B space, make it dry and boring. Only then it is considered a
            credible source.
            (Look up the most popular German news broadcast
            “Tagesschau”. It really has the image of being stiff and boring, but
            this just adds only to its credibility as a news source).
            Lets look at the behaviour of sales people in Germany in the B2B space: in order to gain credibility in the eye of the potential customer, they need to have an immensively critical stance on their own products, up to even recommending competitor products for certain use cases. And they need to prove that they are very knowledgeable about the type of products they want to sell (that is why there are so many specialist engineers on sales positions in Germany. Certifications,diplomas and fitting specializations matter a lot).
            A Canadian friend of mine tried to convince a German potential client to buy the services of the Polish-French company he worked for. He did all the tricks which would grant him success in Canada, but the German counterpart only repeatedly said that they don’t need this service. Only in the moment he capitulated and agreed with the German guy that they really don’t need their service, the German guy suddenly decided that they might need it. My Canadian friend was puzzled how this sale happened.

          • D. Kruegel

            I think in Germany it is much more about search than social. Example from myself: For my own 1-person company I was looking for an invoicing service or program so that I can create VAT invoices in German and Polish language which will be accepted in audits from German and Polish tax authorities and of course accepted by my clients as a correct invoice. I didn’t ask my freelancer friends or other business people. Instead, I looked through the search results in Google (up to the 10th results page or so), examined the various vendors, then took a free trial of one of the vendors before I booked their service. I am not completely satisfied with them, so I won’t enthusiastically recommend them (I might recommend them in case somebody with a very similar need like I had asks me), but I still think they are still the best for my needs.

          • Ed Leake

            “I sometimes jokingly say: In order to make content attractive in the German B2B space, make it dry and boring.” – or as we Brits would more fondly refer to Germans, ‘efficient’!

            It does certainly sound like marketing to a Germanic culture is ‘tricky’ and quite different to English culture. That said even American is quite different to British in that respect, I often find the American ways and style too brash for my tastes.

            I still think, even within the stiff German market that is opposed to being sold, thought leadership and nurturing has it’s place. After all, helping people is a powerful thing – you just need to be doubly sure you’ve adapted your style (and substance) to the target audience, and in this case the culture too.

          • D. Kruegel

            Yes, if you give the impression to the prospect that you genuinely care about their needs & problems, then you will be successful.
            And yes, the brash American style probably doesn’t work anywhere in Europe, at least not in B2B.

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  • Kieth

    Really an impressive article about increasing the popularity of a website Creating an effective is a crucial task but it is still achievable if we focus towards some of the important elements. These elements are creation of an appealing landing page, proper attention towards social marketing methods, content optimization, customer engagement and other such approaches. All these factors can help in delivering an excellent website.

  • Great round up about how to create and promote content. Most people still think that Content Marketing is all about creating content. They hit publish, nothing happen and they get disappointed…

    Unfortunately, I must agree on this notion of “Content Saturation”. Creating high-quality content will become harder and harder… To the point where only a handful of people will be able to really lead an entire industry…

    • Ed Leake

      Thanks for the comment Pierre.

      It begs the question, are online marketeers their own worst enemy – what happens after we hit content saturation in all the key niches?

      Innovation isn’t easy but I can see in the near future that content has to evolve way beyond what we already do, or as you say where only a handful of people (with the resources) can really stand out and command a market or industry.

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  • trew poiu

    Impressive and Informative Article, the detail description and relative links has made by journey easier in this aspect. Thanks for info.

  • D. Kruegel

    TLDR…
    I started reading thoroughly but later I skimmed over it. I also didn’t take the time to click on all the great resources and check them out. Sure, I could bookmark it, but maybe forget to return to it. Also from my experience most of the studies about digital marketing topics written in English language are in fact only about the English speaking part of the internet. I am in the B2B IT-industry space in German language. Now that is a challenge: An audience which wants to have every bit of info in every little detail, but doesn’t have the patience to read through all of it (I am a perfect example right now), is not on Twitter (only on Facebook, and there also only to keep in touch with friends and not with brands) and in B2B environment only consumes, rarely engages with content (which makes your unique page views the most important metric, forget putting importance on engagement). At the same time this audience might tend to lose interest when the text is written with too much fluff (or with any little fluff at all). If I would translate this article into German without adapting its style, I would expect the following reactions (which they don’t necessarily express as a comment):
    – TLDR.
    – Too much fluff, get straight to the point and don’t waste my time.
    – Don’t sell to me.
    – Too long.
    – And possibly the only engagement being negative comments.

    Anyway, thanks for your effort of writing this comprehensive article. I only wonder how much of it can be applied to non-English language environments with different communication habits.

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  • I loved this one, mainly that right now the majority of the effort should be to promote the content, I made the mistake to only write without promote trusting just on the “SEO” techniques I added to my site, but it’s not enough, I can see it very clear. Thank you Ed.

    • We’re all guilty of it, it’s too easy to forget and neglect!

      I am still to this day working on the promotion process, tweaking and refining as I go… it never end! 🙂

  • Lesley

    This is a great article, you’re so right about content saturation, we are constantly bombarded! Anyway, I thought this site might interest you http://www.elevationagency.com, if you’re looking for similar interest articles or would like to reach out and we can maybe do a blog article for each other, let me know!

  • Skimble

    When your efforts are “in vein” it’s usually a bloody mess. 😉 Thanks for the great article!

    • Haha! I have no idea what you’re talking about…

      *whistles*

      😉

      • Skimble

        “I want to help, educate and inspire people as much as the next person. I also want to know that my efforts weren’t in vein.”

        • Ah, you thwarted my sneaky editing skills!

          Thanks for the comment and spotting the typo. 1 typo in 2,500 words is acceptable though, surely? 🙂

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