We’ve all been there. We’ve hit publish on our latest blog post and expected the comments and shares to start rolling in. But instead we get… nothing. It seems that no one has even seen our beautiful article, let alone read it. A piece of tumbleweed seems to blow across the screen and it feels so lonely out there on the World Wide Web…
I see this phenomenon happening all the time with company blogs, and it’s not hard to see why. In most niches you are competing with hundreds of other blogs for the attention of the same few readers, and to stand out you often need to produce something truly exceptional. Making great content can require a lot of time and money, but as Rand Fishkin shows in this Whiteboard Friday there are many tactics out there that anyone can use to improve their blog readership.
Today I want to follow on from that post by sharing five more of the smartest tactics I’ve read recently around the web. None are hard to implement and all could have a significant effect on your traffic, links and shares. So let’s get started!
1. Share More Than Once
This first tip comes from Garrett Moon, who suggests in a post on KISSmetrics that companies aren’t sharing their blog content nearly as much as they ought to. Many of us have the mentality of “share once and forget”. We publish something on our blog and distribute it across all our social media channels once. But what about all those people who missed that initial communication?
A much better solution is to share each blog post multiple times, depending on the platform, in a timely fashion. For example, you might tweet, Facebook share and Google+ you article as soon as you hit publish. Then a day later you might want to tweet it again. Perhaps the following week it’s time for another Google+ share, and so on.
In his post Garrett shows how you can easily double your traffic from social media in this way. Check out the handy visual they put together:
Image credit: KISSmetrics
Some marketers would call this spamming your audience, but I would say it’s more like giving them the value you’ve promised them. Even Rand in his Whiteboard Friday mentions how he will tweet a post he wrote months if not years ago, just to remind people that “this still matters”. No one notices every little thing you do online, and by sharing more than once you’re just making sure no one misses anything.
However, you should definitely make sure not to publish the same message on social media more than once, as this does comes across as spammy. Instead, deploy a range of different tactics to catch your reader’s attention. For example, if you wanted to tweet this blog post you could try…
Tweeting the title:
Posing a question:
Quoting the author:
Or citing a fact:
2. Get Influencers to Write for You
This is an excellent tactic from Matthew Barby. If you really want to grow your audience, the key is to get influencers to write for you. This means reaching out to the bloggers in your niche with the largest social followings and the ability to write consistently excellent stuff, asking them to become contributors.
By getting these guys and girls involved, you’ll not only be getting exceptional content for your blog (content that will hopefully earn you links and shares); you’ll also be getting access to a powerful distribution channel in the form of the influencer’s social network.
Of course, unless your blog is super prestigious you will have to pay these bloggers to write for you, and you should definitely specify as part of the arrangement that they share the posts on social media. That being said, I think this option makes so much more sense than hiring a “general purpose” content creator.
As well as payment, you could also offer bloggers the following perks:
- Offer to share content on their own site (but only if you have a large social following)
- A link back to their website from every post they write for you
- Give them free use of your products or services
Working with influencers is a fantastic way to improve blog readership. A nice bonus is that often these guys write for other big media sites as well, so they may be able to link to something they have written for your blog from a third party site in the future.
For more information, check out Matt’s comprehensive guide to finding influencers using Social Crawlytics, BuzzSumo and Followerwonk: The Power of Authors and Content for Link Building.
3. Feed the Hummingbird
Out to Razvan Gavrilas of cognitiveSEO for this one. In the Hummingbird era, there are opportunities to optimise your content for synonyms that many bloggers are missing. For years now Google has been ranking synonyms in its search results. So, for example, if I search for “SEO agency” I will also see results for “SEO company” and “SEO services” highlighted in bold:
What is interesting is that since the Hummingbird update, a page optimised for “SEO company” can rank for “SEO agency” even if the keyword “SEO agency” doesn’t appear anywhere on that page (i.e. in the source code) or off the page (i.e. in anchor text, co-citation or co-occurrence). See Razvan’s original post for more detail.
However, the page optimised for “SEO company” would rank a whole lot better for “SEO agency” if it also actually contained the keyword “SEO agency” somewhere. What this means for marketers is that we can get some quick and dirty wins by making sure our content is optimised for important synonyms as well as for the main keyword.
For example, if I were to write about “New York coffee shops”, I might also make sure to include the synonym “NYC cafes” in the text. I’m sure I would rank for “NYC cafes” anyway thanks to Hummingbird, but by explicitly including this keyword I could give myself a cheeky ranking boost.
The simple process is as follows: find the synonyms of your targeted keyword (using Thesaurus.com if necessary); identify the ones with high search volume using Keyword Planner; finally, make sure to include them in your content. This isn’t keyword stuffing. It’s about helping people find our content who are searching using similar but not quite exactly the same keywords.
There will come a time when Hummingbird understands what we have written and there will be no influencing rankings. But it’s not quite there yet and for now we can help the algorithm learn to be more accurate by creating the correct semantic relations in our writing.
4. Get Your Tweet Text Right
Hat tip to Ross Hudgens for this one. It’s really important to make sure you have your default tweet text optimised to encourage users to click on the link and follow you on Twitter. A survey by Siege Media found that a massive 73% of company blogs weren’t taking advantage of this technique.
So what does optimised tweet text look like? A simple best practice solution would be to include the post title, URL and your Twitter handle like this:
Among the common mistakes people were making were including the entire title tag instead of just the post title, which takes up valuable space and dilutes the message:
Using a generic message like “Currently reading on the @VerveSearch blog”, which doesn’t give the reader any information as to what the post is about and doesn’t encourage them to click:
And mentioning a Twitter handle that isn’t relevant to the article, meaning that people probably won’t follow your account:
So optimise your default tweet text so it includes the post title, URL and your Twitter handle, and watch your Twitter referrals roll in!
5. Repurpose Your Content
In the Hummingbird era, I’m a firm believer in writing fewer longer posts rather than frequent shorter ones. I definitely think this is a better use of one’s time (in terms of getting links, traffic and shares) than blogging daily and simply regurgitating in 600 words what’s already out there.
In the SEO industry, for example, stand out content tends to involve case studies, new experiments, research and opinion pieces (take a look at what I’ve been linking to in this article). But how do you generate traffic while you’re researching your next big piece?
The answer is to repurpose your existing content by transforming blog posts into other content formats. Each of these new pieces could then be uploaded to its own separate channel, where it would be seen by a new audience and help to generate more traffic. For example, you could turn a blog post into:
- a podcast: record yourself reading your post aloud and upload to iTunes
- a screencast: record yourself doing something on-screen, add a voiceover and upload to YouTube
- a slide presentation: create a slide show out of your post and upload to SlideShare
- a ebook: turn a series of posts into an ebook, which is available to download as a PDF for a tweet
This is just scratching the surface. There are many other ways to re-skin your content and you will also find a host of niche-specific content formats. For example, in the travel space Jauntful helps users to create their own personalised maps containing their favourite things to do and can be uploaded to its own dedicated platform.
It makes perfect sense to want to repurpose your content after all the effort you’ve put into creating it in the first place. Just remember to always add value by making each piece more digestible and easier to understand than its predecessor.
Obviously there’s no substitute for producing great content (yawn) but I hope this post has shown that there are many other ways to increase blog traffic independent of the content itself.
Most of these tactics are simply about squeezing the most out of what you have already. So in terms of sharing, you can make sure you post more than once and optimise your tweet text. In terms of SEO, you can ensure that you’re Hummingbird-friendly (in a natural and non-spammy way, of course). And in terms of strategy you can make sure that influencers write for you and that you come up with smart ways to repurpose this material.
If you’re currently running a company blog that no one cares about, I hope these tips can help put a smile on your boss’s face. But most of all, I hope you never have to see the tumbleweed or feel that lonely again.
Follow me on Twitter, where I mostly tweet about content marketing, creativity and SEO: @MattELindley