As Google continues to shift towards personalised and local search, businesses are in need of finding alternative ways to drive relevant traffic to their websites. It was not so long ago that a business could focus on optimising their sites with a bunch of industry relevant keywords which would warrant a high level of traffic entering the site at any one time.
The change in buyer behaviour has revolutionised the way we market our businesses online. The buyer now wants to educate themselves on which product is best for them and is extremely inquisitive when it comes to searching for that perfect product or service. Step forward Content Marketing.
Why I’m Writing This Post
In the summer of 2013 we took on board our biggest client to date – the worlds largest outdoor clothing brand. The brief for the site was to drive highly relevant traffic to a brand new range of clothing on the website. Immediately we realised how difficult it would be to rank the specific product pages high in the SERPs. This was because the brand name already dominated the top ranking pages and the top product searches were dominated by the brand’s current most popular range of outdoor jackets. These jackets had received a huge amount of coverage in both national newspapers and international publications giving all pages a high level of authority.
With Google constantly reducing the number of results showing on the SERPs and the competition so high, using a strategy that ignores your rankings to gain a high level of traffic really is sound proofing you against any Google updates. No longer will you have to worry about the continued flux in rankings and the direct loss of traffic as a result of this.
No content marketing campaign should ever start without a carefully laid out plan of action. I am a firm believer that if you fail to plan then you should plan to fail.
Again there are so many posts on the art of planning a marketing campaign that are of such a high standard, it makes little sense for me to go into any detail. Once you have finished reading this post, you will be able to use a marketing plan of your choice and implement this strategy directly.
Remember that for the most effective results from this type of campaign you must integrate all of the following tactics into one rounded marketing strategy. Ensuring that your tactics are synchronised into one strategy will not only drive a lot of traffic to your site, that traffic will be highly relevant to your business.Although some of the tactics are relevant to link building, this campaign was developed to solely drive highly relevant referral traffic to the preferred pages of the brand’s website and not increase the website’s ranking. Simply, we are not focusing on how the pages rank in the SERPs, any ranking benefits are seen as an added bonus.
Social Media | Blogging | Influencer Relationships | Content Promotion | Product Reviews | Guest Blogging
Step 1 – Campaign Kickoff
Firstly you need to create buyer personas for the customers that you want to target. Are the customers for your product or service, male, female, under 25 over 25? This is important to your campaign but you do not have to go into much detail.
On the outdoor brand campaign, the buyer persona was;Male or Female, ski-ing/winter sports enthusiast between the ages 20 and 45 that takes at least one winter ski-ing vacation per year.
This is so important to your campaign because you cannot rely on receiving random search engine traffic and hope that some of it converts. Here, we have to target the people we know are likely to convert, otherwise you will be wasting so much of your time and ultimately marketing budget trying to target a group that is too broad and full of irrelevant traffic.
Blogging, Social Media & Building Influencer Relationships
It goes without saying that content marketing cannot happen without blog content. So start creating content that will appeal to the tastes of the personas that you are targeting. Think about what interests them, or what information they require that will lead to them becoming a future customer of your business.
By using your content to cater to the needs of your target market, you are already providing them with value or a solution to their problems. This creates trust between the brand and the customer which is the turning point in a prospect becoming a long term customer of your brand.
How We Did It
We created a piece of content centred around a major event that was being sponsored by the outdoor brand. We wrote about key figures that were taking part in the event, that either had a huge online following (social media/blog) or had a large reputation in the industry. Then, we placed links from the content to the blog sites or blog articles of the influential people.
This was killing two birds with one stone, because if you use the tactic you will be providing the reader with information that they require about the event, your brand and a product. You will be promoting influential people in a positive manner which will in turn build a relationship between you and them and most importantly the influential people will highly likely promote your content on their social media and blog.
The reason this is such an effective tactic is because you are almost immediately promoting your content in front of an audience that doesn’t belong to you but is highly relevant. You will find that their audience soon becomes yours and you start growing an audience quickly. Great success, and no its not stealing.
Step 2 – Guest Blogging & Influencer Relationships
Before I go into any detail on how to perform step 2, you have to remember that this campaign is not about building links to increase rankings. Every site that you target should be extremely relevant to the industry, brand and product and must also have a high level of engaging followers that it can pass on to you through links in your guest post. This is not merely a numbers game, it is proper online marketing.Start off with the mindset that a nofollow link is just as valuable as a followed link. I cannot stress enough that the links should be built solely on the level of potential traffic that it could send your way.
How We Did It
Firstly, we gathered a list of blogs that the company already had great relationships with. Make sure you list a main point of contact i.e. Editor or Managing Director/key person, their email and social media accounts.
Then we used Followerwonk to extract all of the brands Twitter followers into a spreadsheet. Filter out all of the followers that you want to contact through keywords such as “blogger” or “outdoor writer”. Again list them by contact, email and any other social profiles that you can find.
Start off by communicating with the contacts that you already have an excellent relationship with and ask them if you can feature on their blog with a piece of content. I definitely think its best to provide at least a number of title ideas for the piece. In an ideal world you’d send them the finished article but that can only work on smaller campaigns where you are writing much less content.
Familiarise yourself with outreach techniques in this fantastic article by Justin Briggs.
Its vitally important that you begin by contacting the people that you already have a strong relationship with because you can get a post out to a large audience very quickly. Use this time to start building strong relationships with the followers that you found on Followerwonk because they will be very important to you in the coming months. You will find that there is little resistance in communication between you and the people that are following your business because you already have something in common with each other.
Link Destination in Guest Posts
The most difficult aspect of this whole campaign was trying to secure guest posts that would allow us to link to product pages. Guest posts by their very nature should be non product promotional which goes against the object of this strategy. The way we got around this was by writing articles about brand sponsored athletes. We would then write about the clothing that they preferred to use and the reasons why then we linked to a chosen retailer of the brand and not the brands ecommerce site. This way we were not promoting the company directly and just made it clear that we were using the retailer to show an interactive working example of the products.
This is unlikely to be relevant to the vast majority of you, but I wanted to include it anyway to show that there is always an alternative solution to the problems that you face, day to day as an online marketer.
Step 3 – Campaign Synchronisation
Step 3 really is all about bringing steps 1 and 2 together to form the core of the marketing strategy. Once all of the cogs are turning and the campaign is in full flow you will start to see fantastic results without worrying that your search ranking may have dropped a few places.
Every time a piece of content is produced and published you need to promote it across your social media accounts. Whether thats a post on your site, a guest post or even just a post that includes information on your company.
By now the relationships with your influencers should be strong enough for you to encourage them to promote your content on their behalf. They will see this as an advantage because you will promote their content for them in return.
Continuing The Process
I will not go into detail on how we did it for step 3 because we basically carried on doing the same actions as step 1 and 2. We brought it all together to form a correlation of tactics, that create the overall content marketing strategy to drive traffic to the website without counting on search traffic from Google.
In content marketing the aim of your process should be to sell your service or product by thrilling and most importantly educating your audience with your content. This post by the master of content marketing Joe Pulizzi explains why education is so powerful in content marketing.
This is the easiest part of the whole campaign because we had such a fantastic product to market. Anyone who is anyone in the outdoor community would be begging to review the products produced by this company. Good product review sites tend to get a large amount of traffic and anyone that wants to buy outdoor gear will most likely want to read as much information about as many jackets as possible. The main objective is to find the highest authority review sites and send them your product.
In most cases this is usually the easiest part of the campaign because if you have a product that is truly great which I hope most of you do have then you are bound to gain plenty of attention from your target market. Just make sure that your company has the budget to give away products for review.
The only problem to overcome, is that you will not have control over where the link is directed because it is in the reviewers control, but with a little friendly persuasion you will get the link pointed at the product pages. After all, that is the point of a link from a product review site.
Following this plan will drive traffic to your site without the use of Google. The key is to plan ahead, and to bring all of the tactics together to build momentum as the campaign moves forward. In some cases you will receive more traffic from concentrating on search rankings. The point is, all of the traffic that you will receive if this method is executed properly will be highly relevant to your business. A ton of traffic from Google that doesn’t convert is useless and merely a vanity figure to boast about. What is important, is driving sales and increasing revenue.
Of course Google is becoming so much more intelligent at finding and rewarding companies that are operating a proper online marketing campaign. Chances are, Google will reward you by placing your newest blog posts high up in the rankings so without even thinking about it Google will end up sending you traffic.
Im not telling you to ignore Google, but isn’t it exciting that marketers are having great success by just bypassing the search engines?
So what do you think about driving traffic without Google? Do you have any other tactics that have proven to work for you?
I strongly advise you read this fantastic new post, Make Social a Primary Traffic Source by Simon Penson of Zazzle Media. He has written some fantastic articles on the subject and this one in particular that explains how to use social media to drive targeted traffic is superb.Image source - Vanity Group