This post is the second in our series about getting the most for your money when spending online.
We’ve heard the phrase one too many times lately. In fact, if you work in the digital space you might even want to avert your eyes because this phrase probably hurts to hear by now, but here it is: Content is King.
Sure, content is important, but what people seem to leave out is that in order to become the king, you need to pay the peasants. To take the metaphor even further: get all of the townsfolk in your corner with some nice paid propaganda and you’ll have everyone else jump on board.
Whether you’re new or well-versed in the content Game of Thrones, there are definitely some clever means of promoting your content and getting it to reign. Spending money online can be extremely easy—and wasting your money can be even easier. You have to be strategic with your content and even more strategic with your budget. With that in mind, here are a few of our suggestions on how to create a successfully promoted piece of content:
Address Your Audience
We always recommend you do your research prior to creating any piece of content, whether it’s a whitepaper, blog post, or video. This should be your first order of business when writing a piece of content. Even 140 characters can prove too long for some consumers, so if you know that’s your audience, you have to be creative and develop content that is both short and to the point and beautifully eye-catching. If your audience prefers to read long-form content and you know they’ll breeze through a 12 page whitepaper without issue, then go for it.
Don’t just create a piece of content to create it. Find a need or a question your audience continuously asks and fulfill that need or answer that question. Identify your audience, find out how you can help them, create content, and voila.
Promote to your Audience
You’ve identified your audience for this piece, and now it’s time to find the right channel to promote your content to. There are some seriously great tools out there to help you with paid discovery, content promotion, related content, and more . . . but a tool is worthless unless you use it the right way. It’s like trying to use a hammer to affix a screw; it just won’t work. Here’s an inside look into a few of the tools that have proven effective for brands.
Paid Discovery – StumbleUpon
Will this be the right platform for your content? Possibly yes, but here are a few quick tips to consider when using StumbleUpon:
- Don’t expect initial engagement; StumbleUpon is a discovery tool.
The best way to use this tool is to create really great content, promote it here, and then use some really great re-marketing to get people (potential customers) back to your page.
- Create eye-catching content.
Users are clicking through StumbleUpon, interacting, and reading for a few short seconds before they move on. Create something of substance to capture their attention.
- Target properly.
If you only work in the U.S., that’s who you should target. Choose relevant interests for your audience, so you’re not wasting your money on targeting people who like knitting if you’re a diesel truck company.
- Have a budget.
$10 a day will suffice if you can run the campaign for an extended time frame, but $10 total budget probably won’t get you the level of engagement that you need or want. When thinking about your content promotion strategy, put a little budget behind it (and by little, we mean as much as you possibly can).
Pro Tip: Do some A/B testing starting with a limited budget. Once your test is complete, put more dollars behind your project.
A client of ours that specializes in diet and workout supplements created a unique SlideShare to help motivate their customers to work out and stay fit. We shared inspirational quotes for a month via SlideShare and then created a blog post to help drive traffic to their site. We posted the blog to StumbleUpon with a limited budget of $50 and set the campaign for 5 days with a $10 day budget. It’s important to note that there is such a thing as “earned visits” and these continue even without a budget. So, ultimately this client received over 130 earned visits (for no cost) and continues to still receive visits to the piece. For an 8 day time frame, here are the results:
Now, here’s the challenge: what is the ROI? That’s yet to be fully determined—we’re creating brand awareness, capturing a new audience, and remarketing to them to keep our client top of mind. Brand awareness and sentiment isn’t quite as easy to assign a direct ROI to, but that doesn’t make it any less important.
Amplified Content – Outbrain
Outbrain is a content amplification platform that distributes your content as ‘related content’ on a variety of publishers. In other words, your audience is already engaged with a piece of similar content when they are served your content as a recommendation. The goal of partnering with Outbrain is to grow your audience and engage them the first time around. Here are a few suggestions to keep in mind when working with Outbrain:
- Above the Fold: Make sure your content is above the fold. Images are great, but words are even better. Outbrain has pretty strict content guidelines (for good reasons), so be sure to have some of your content above the fold so the reader knows what they are actually reading.
- Don’t be Overly Promotional: Sure, your content is branded with your logo and you have a call-to-action at the end of your content piece and that’s generally allowed. But if your piece is strictly a promotional piece or a landing-page, then don’t even try it. Outbrain is trying to offer quality content that provides their readers and your potential customers with a good user experience, so don’t jeopardize that with promotions.
- No Bait and Switch: When crafting a headline for the content you intend to serve your new potential audience, make sure you’re not misleading them. You are paying for each click whether they like the content or not, so your best bet would be to represent your content as honestly as you can. You may also be denied approval without an appropriate title, since promoted content is checked by real live humans.
- Track It: You can track your URLs with Outbrain with ease, so don’t forget to attach a tracking URL so you can see how successful your campaign does.
With publishers like CNN, New York Post, The Street, and Slate, the opportunity to reach a more engaged audience is readily available, since long-form content generally does really well. That’s why when we were tasked with promoting a whitepaper for a client that manages software licenses and negotiation, we decided to run an Outbrain amplified campaign. For this project, we created a very specific target audience that included business, finance, and IT sectors in the U.S. . . . and we were able to see an average CTR of 0.06%. The total budget for this client was set at $250 a month, and after a successful A/B test, we were able to use a significant amount of the budget to promote this whitepaper with substantial results:
There are other tools you can test out for both paid discovery and amplification, like Disqus and Taboola. If you can understand and identify your audience, it’ll be easier to choose the right platform to reach them, which creates the opportunity to become a successful case study. Remember, it’s important to outline your goals and the return you’re hoping for prior to investing your money. If you want a high click through rate, then look for platforms that will help you achieve that. If brand awareness is your goal and you have a stellar re-marketing campaign, then maybe you work with a discovery platform. Either way, the choice is yours and we’re here to help.
TL;DR: It’s all about your audience. Identify who they are, create content to fill their needs, and promote where they are.