Anyone who knows anything about content marketing understands that a successful blog post or other piece of content is not just a case of "build it and they will come."
You can spend hours writing the most interesting and engaging post, or spend thousands on creating interactive/video content or e-book, but if you don't have a strategy from the start for getting it in front of eyeballs... nobody's going to see it. All that time and money—wasted.
Here are my surefire, tried-and-tested suggestions for getting high ranking on search engines and traffic to your content.
1. Choose the right topic
For best results in the long term, your topic should be relevant, interesting, and evergreen.
Relevant to your audience
Relevance is important because it affects how shareable the piece will be within your niche. For example, if you're a bespoke shoemaker, your followers on social may be people interested in fashion, members of the leather industry, or hikers. But it's unlikely that many of them would be interested in a post about video games, for example.
Shares are important because they're one of the most important ranking factors that influence Google's algorithm to feature your post higher up in search rankings. The idea is that if a post is shared more by people, it's more valuable and engaging, and should therefore be served to searchers before other pages are.
Interesting for your audience
Your content should be "interesting" not just in a vague way, but in one that's proven. It may seem hard to prove whether something is interesting—because, after all, that's pretty subjective. However, one thing that you can prove is how many people are searching for a particular term.
When researching your topic, use the Google AdWords keyword planner to find out (a) whether anyone's searching for the topic you have in mind and (b) exactly how (what words they're using when) they're searching for it.
Simply stick in your topic name and the tool will suggest a bunch of similar keywords. For each keyword, you'll see the number of monthly searches, the degree of competition for each term, and a suggested paid search bid. The trick is to find terms with a decent number of searches. You should then optimize your content for targeting those keywords.
Relevant over time: evergreen
If you want a constant stream of traffic, your content should be something that's relevant to your audience for months, or even years, after it's published. News-related content might get you loads of shares and views in the short term; once it's no longer news, however, no one will be searching for it.
Evergreen content will attract searches and will remain shareable for longer, giving you more return for your investment. Page age is also another very strong ranking factor for Google, meaning the longer your page is up, the higher it should rank.
2. Have a strong social strategy
As noted earlier, it's important to get as many social shares as possible for your content, because they are an important ranking factor. Good planning will hopefully ensure you've got an engaging, shareable topic, but here are ways to get share count up.
Influencer marketing is an emerging practice: Google Trends shows that search frequency for the term has tripled since the beginning of 2015.
Simply put, influencer marketing is the practice of targeting well-known and influential brands or people with the aim of reaching their audiences for your own marketing needs. It's useful for gaining exposure for new blogs or authors, and for establishing their own following or audience.
The challenge with this tactic is to choose the right influencers and to target them in the correct way. They need to be relevant to your audience and likely to engage with your brand. Generally, the more influential the target, the more effort you need to put into getting noticed.
Whom do you target?
I have found bloggers to be a great choice, for two reasons:
Bloggers respond quite positively to "egobaiting" posts: If you mention them, they're quite likely to share the post because they were mentioned in it.
Their audiences are often highly engaged and very likely to reshare, which can set off a chain reaction of engagement.
Sometimes, the more influencers you can mention in a post, the better. A great way to do so is a listicle: Consider, for example, post of the top UK fashion bloggers. We featured 10 influencers in one large egobaiting post and got shares from almost all of them, and even a link or two.
The result of that effort, coupled with some careful keyword optimization, is that the post now ranks in the top 5 for the term on Google.
3. Consider paid promotion
Many people will be put off by paid promotion because of the cost, but the market is increasingly more competitive, so you should consider it. Anything that boosts your share count will also help your post climb the natural search rankings.
After all, we're not talking about blindly throwing $100 at a random Facebook post. At this stage you should have a post that's proved to be engaging and shareable, so there's a much higher chance that promotion should result in more engagement.
Choosing a platform will depend a lot on the content, your audience, and what kind of targeting you want. Generally, follow these guidelines:
Facebook: More emotive content
Twitter: More newsworthy content
LinkedIn: More business content
You should also consider paid options such as Outbrain or Taboola. These relatively new platforms work similarly to the Google Display Network, displaying your post in "featured post" sections on other media sites. You'll tend to get more clicks at a better CPC with these platforms, but options for targeting are more limited.
When making a determination, you should also factor in which platform the content has performed well on already.