Article by Gregory Ciotti.
Never half-ass two things, whole-ass one thing.”
Don’t get me wrong, I totally understand the importance of Being Everywhere and I’m not knocking that advice, but I will warn you that spreading yourself too thin (especially during your blog’s early stages) is your one-way ticket to failure.
Take Twitter for example. I use the service and it sends me some decent traffic, but I could really give a damn about my Twitter account. I have no desire to share 20 things a day like most people recommend, because I’ve seen the numbers: it’s not worth my time.
In fact, in all of my time doing content strategy (for startups, for personal projects, even for local clients), I’ve yet to come across any ‘tactic’ that actually works that doesn’t somehow involve creating epic shit or doing some sort of promotion on another big blog/website.
In short, to maximize the ROI of your blogging efforts, spending most of your time researching how to create outstanding, unique content will give you far better results than learning that “one simple YouTube trick” that will end up doing jack squat for your bottom line.
As for that title up there? I’m going to show you how it went down, along with 2 other traffic tactics that are actually worth your time.
Let’s do this!
1.) Pouring Tons of Effort into Collaborations
If there is one sad truth about traffic generation that I hate to acknowledge, it’s that in the beginning, it matters just as much what you do off your site as what you do on it.
The content you publish on-site should be your best stuff, no doubt. It needs to be the kind of epic shit that people can qualify as soon as they hit your blog: “Yeah, this is definitely what I’m looking for!”
The problem is that the hardest part about building an audience is starting from scratch.
You might have heard that it’s good to be drowning in competition, because that means there are plenty of people interested in your topic. Since that really is the case, the best way to jump start your ghost-town of a blog is to get involved with folks who already have your ideal audience.
It took me a while to learn this, but when I did, I never looked back! Recently, I was able to acquire over 7000 newsletter subscribers in a 30-day period with one unique video collaboration.
Pretty cool right?
Check out the first week results, directly from my AWeber account…
It was released late afternoon on the 13th, so the first 36 hours sent nearly 1,000 new leads!
While it was obviously a pretty unique example (and far more successful than any other collaboration I’ve done), I’ve found a few simple rules that apply to every big collaboration project:
- You need to talk about how they benefit: Sure, the collaboration will likely end up being great for you, but you must recognize that nobody BUT you will care. When I first emailed ASAPscience, I mentioned that I would use my contacts to heavily promote the video everywhere it would be a fit. We ended it up landing on places like Gizmodo and Lifehacker, so this turned out well.
- The agreement needs to be crystal clear: If they are bringing the larger audience to the table, you need to be flexible with what you get out of the deal. Since the ASAPscience YouTube channel had 150,000 subscribers, I gladly gave them full rights to the video (and it’s ad profits) in exchange for a mention in the video and a link in the description.
- You better be willing to do the legwork: The newer your blog is, the more you are getting out of a collaboration, so you better be ready to work. Even though Sparring Mind already had a 5-digit newsletter, I was glad to do all of the research for this post and write up the entire script.
The honest truth is that these sorts of collaborations don’t necessarily have a set ‘how-to’ and they will depend on your ability to recognize creative opportunities and your willingness to make first contact and put something amazing together.
The benefits, however, are well worth the effort!
2.) Creating Content that Causes Controversy
If there is one thing that can help your content stand out in a saturated industry, it’s controversy.
Here’s the problem: how can you create controversial content WITHOUT making people hate your guts, or putting your business’ reputation in jeopardy?
This important question has seemingly been answered by a Wharton Business School study titled When, Why, and How Controversy Causes Conversation. The lead researchers examined multiple examples of controversial content and how popular the conversations around these pieces of content became.
They concluded the following…
“[Data] shows that controversy increases likelihood of discussion at low levels, but beyond a moderate level of controversy, additional controversy actually decreases likelihood of discussion.”
What does that mean exactly?
In a nutshell: Topics that are too controversial (politics, religion, national tragedies) can end up being bad things to discuss (outside of the news) because people won’t want to talk about them for fear of offending someone. Also, it can make you look bad if you try to address these topics and end up coming off as uncaring.
So what’s the answer?
I love pointing towards this image as a perfect example of the “low-level” of controversy mentioned in the research:
Basically, any topic that people love to argue about, but that won’t actually hurt anyone’s feelings. A topic that stirs up debate, but not hate, spite, and bad vibes.
I recently acted on this research in a post entitled Why Steve Jobs Never Listened to His Customers.
It examined “customer feedback vs. internal innovation” and played off of Steve Job’s famous quote that it is “really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”
This is a topic that is really controversial in the startup community, because tech startups sometimes feel like their engineers should be the only people stirring innovation.
Not surprisingly, the post hit the front page of HackerNews and had about 9,000 people visit within the first 12 hours:
But don’t take it from me, I’m not the only person who has used this strategy effectively…
- Copyblogger: The Threat of Digital Sharecropping (self-hosted publishing vs. 3rd party publishing)
- SocialTriggers: The Content is King Myth Debunked (content vs. design)
- OKCupid: Gay Sex vs. Straight Sex (’nuff said!)
Have you stirred up some controversy on your blog?
3.) Publish Less Articles & More Resources
If you’ve ever heard blogging ninja Derek Halpern speak on traffic generation, you know he recommends a harsh shift in the “content creation balance” recommending that you spend nearly 80% of your time promoting your content and only 20% creating it.
I agree, and I’ve taken it a step further: I’ve started spending more of my allotted content creation time creating resources that are far easier to promote than regular blog posts.
- Resources count for over 2/3 of newsletter sign-ups: Seems crazy right? This is likely because it’s a software business and not just a blog, but a huge majority of our active (and very engaged) newsletter subscribers join the list through one of our free resources, and I’ve seen incredible returns by spending the extra time to write these over more blog posts.
- A “toolbox” works better than a single freebie: I’m sure Corbett and Caleb can back me up here given the Traffic Toolbox’s success, but creating a treasure chest of resources that people can get their hands on (as opposed to yet another measly PDF) has been incredibly effective for conversions from where I’m standing.
- Resources can pick up some incredible features: Since we’ve created a variety of guides, they’ve been featured in round-ups on places like Unbounce (#1 of the year), and have been entered (by our audience, not us!) into e-Book competitions and the like. Great articles will obviously get links too, but it is so much easier to reach out and promote free guides on your own.
When I first released my guide on 10 Ways to Convert More Customers (with Psychology), it was downloaded nearly 1,000+ times, and that was only during the first few weeks and without off-site promotion.
For those of you keeping score at home, that added a boatload of new subscribers to my email list, and since it was a resource and not just some crummy blog post, I was able to successfully promote it with a number of successful off-site appearances, including this post on Copyblogger that got over 3,000+ tweets.
You’ll notice I’m not the only content marketer doing this, check out Copyblogger’s page for the Scribe Content Library, chock full of resources made to help promote the software.
When’s the last time you created something worth promoting?
What Say You?
(Any Lord of the Rings fans?)
I’d love to hear your thoughts, so fire away below!
Tell me: What’s the single thing that you’ve done that has helped your blog grow the most?
Thanks for reading!