It’s the question I get asked more often than any other when I’m talking with business owners about content marketing strategy.
And it’s the question we see most often from new members in our Authority Q&A sessions.
There’s more — a lot more — to content marketing than traffic.
But if you can’t attract a critical minimum viable audience, you’re finished before you get started.
Here’s how to use content to get the attention of those all-important prospects — the men and women who are in the market to buy what you have to sell.
Before we start talking about traffic, we need to talk about your overall content marketing strategy.
Smart marketing is “salesmanship in print” (or, these days, pixels), to use the classic copywriting definition. And as any good salesperson will tell you, a sale progresses through predictable, natural stages.
First, you have to attract the attention of that prospect. That’s the piece we’re going to talk about today. No matter how brilliant your sales sequence, if no one knows you exist, you’re going to fail.
Then you have to engage that person’s interest. This is a particularly risky moment in today’s web environment, with millions of distractions competing for our attention.
As you keep delivering strategic content over time, engagement starts to turn into desire for what you have to sell. Whether it’s a product, a service, a charitable cause, a political candidate, or even an idea... we all have to spark this desire in our customers.
When it’s time to make a sale, you put on your copywriter’s hat and provide the opportunity for your prospect to take action, turning a fan into a customer.
Finally, smart content marketers won’t stop there — they’ll create ongoing customer-focused content so that buyers make repeat purchases and refer you to their friends.
All of that sounds very inviting, but if you’re still struggling to build an audience for your content, it’s still in the realm of theory.
So, let’s get you some audience members.
Guest posting helps content marketers find a larger audience and build authority within their areas of expertise.
Smart guest posters create the best content they know how to create and look for publications that have thousands (or even hundreds of thousands) of readers.
Intelligently send those new readers back to your site, where you’ll have additional terrific content to share with them.
What do your customers want to know how to do?
Dye their hair pink? Take better portrait photos? Make dinner their kids will eat?
Successful businesses are based around solving customer problems. Figure out some problems that lend themselves to how-to videos.
Launch a series on YouTube on how to solve a problem that interests your customers, and make sure it’s extremely easy for viewers (and potential customers) to find by labeling your videos with specific descriptions.
The more competitive your topic, the better your videos have to be. In crowded topics, differentiate yourself with an interesting personality, a more effective technique, better production values, or all three.
Use YouTube videos for entry-level tips and strategies. For more advanced advice, send them to your site where your content discusses your products and services.
Q&A sessions are inherently interesting, and they’re a great vehicle to show off what you know. You can use webinars, teleseminars, or whatever tool is most comfortable for you.
Q&As don’t just encourage engagement; they’re also a strong traffic builder because they’re easy for your fans and network to promote.
They’ll give you the opportunity to collect topics for future content.
When you write about your audience’s questions, you’ll be writing the type of content that gets shared — the type of content that attracts traffic.
Once you have a content-driven website on your own domain, you’re ready to start a little professional networking.
You earn the trust of other content marketers in your niche the same way you earn the trust of readers: be nice, be relevant, be interesting.
Get to know the people who are creating innovative content at all levels — small, medium, and large sites.
Don’t start or participate in artificial schemes to promote posts. Instead, share the content you truly think is cool, and explain why. Be friendly and pay attention. It’s called social media for a reason.
If you struggle financially, upgrade your social skills. Money flows through people. – Steve Pavlina
Explore the possibilities of finding traffic in the offline world. (You know, the part of your life that isn’t Facebook or Twitter. I realize this is a weird idea.)
Attend an in-person conference where you can meet new people in your industry, as well as potential clients or customers.
If you’re selling business-to-business, pitch articles to trade journals and business newspapers.
However you find them, entice those offline readers to your website and offer a tantalizing incentive to join your email list or a heroically effective email autoresponder sequence.
Remember, content marketing only works if you create content that’s both entertaining and useful for your audience.
Make it user-friendly. Make it clear.
Write about the problems your potential customers care about.
Editor’s note: The original version of this post was published on March 20, 2012.