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.

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Ed Leake

Author: Ed Leake

PPC nerd, founder and Managing Director of Midas Media, Ed started in 'tech' when he was 12 years old, building websites and selling computers from his parent's garage. Outside of work Ed enjoys yet more work, motorsport, attempting to cycle with clip-on shoes and refuelling on fresh doughnuts.

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