If you’re feeling overwhelmed and confused, I don’t blame you.
When using content marketing to build your business, you can work on: email marketing; cornerstone content; landing pages; paid traffic; building an email list; promoting your content on social media; creating opt-in incentives; writing and setting up an autoresponder (or five); offering webinars; using Blab or Periscope; running Facebook ads; offering content bonuses; hosting a podcast; creating content inside membership sites; publishing a book; writing guest posts … the tactics go on and on.
Faced with all these options for building your online presence with content marketing, where will you start?
What will you focus on first, second, and third?
Of course you’d like to have all of the above in place. And maybe someday you will.
But right now? All those tactics look like a mountain you need to climb. You don’t know which path to take to the summit. You don’t even know where to start!
At least, you didn’t know where to start. After reading this article, you will.
I’m going to share my favorite technique for making what seems overwhelming seem doable. I’ll show you how to prioritize those tasks so you can begin checking them off, one by one.
The fog of confusion will lift and you’ll have a crystal-clear view of the target you’re aiming for. Ready?
The answer is … it depends
One of the most-loved offerings inside our Authority advanced content marketing training program are the live Q&A sessions we host every month.
Those sessions are an opportunity to ask questions directly related to your business and your current circumstances where you can get advice and guidance from members of the Rainmaker Digital team.
And in those Q&A sessions, there’s one phrase we say often, always accompanied by an apology.
In business, the right path always depends on your current goal, the people power and tools you can count on, and the time you have available.
Know your goal and the resources you’re starting with. Taking these into account will help you as you prioritize your to-do list.
How to pinpoint your most-urgent goal
If you’re in the business world, chances are good that your ultimate goal is profit. And you know in a vague way that just about all the tactics mentioned above have the potential to reap profit.
If you work for a charitable organization, your ultimate goal may be donations. Or votes. Or community action.
Some of the tactics listed have a measurable impact on your goal right away. Most, though, are investments: you set them up today knowing that you may not see the payoff for a while.
For many of the tactics listed, you must have certain elements in place before you can use the tactic.
In the project management world, these are called dependencies.
Let’s look at a few:
You shouldn’t send paid traffic to a site that has no content in place for visitors to consume. Using paid traffic is dependent on you crafting content on your site.
It’s not a good idea to build a complex paid membership site until you’ve built an audience of people to offer it to. Creating and selling memberships is dependent on you building an audience.
Writing guest posts is a waste of time unless you have a way to capture email addresses from the people who visit your site because of your posts. Building your audience with guest posting is dependent on you getting your email marketing set up and an opt-in form on your website.
The first thing to do when you see a brand-new content marketing tactic is to think about everything that needs to be in place upstream and downstream for the tactic to work.
This is easy to do if you think about your site visitors’ customer journey. As they walk down the path of getting to know, like, and trust you, what are the touch points along the way?
It might look something like this:
A prospect searches for a keyword associated with your topic and lands on acornerstone content page.
On the page, they see a call to action to register for your website to get free information and tutorials related to your topic.
Once they register, you send them a series of autoresponder emails about your topic. One of the early emails includes a coupon for 40 percent off the price of one of your most popular products.
Those people who buy the product and become customers receive a series of autoresponder emails with tips for making the most of their purchase.
There are some fancy, high-tech, involved ways we could make the journey above happen. But let’s start out with a minimum viable approach so we can get it done! You can always tweak and improve later.
Let’s call this the “Phase 1 version” of the customer journey.
Phase 1: Necessary for launch
Pinpointing your goal is important. And identifying dependencies — tasks that must be accomplished before other tasks can happen — is important, too.
But approaching your tasks by asking, “What’s the shortest route between thinkingthis idea and making this idea come to life?” might be the biggest confusion-buster of them all.
Because in the end, the faster you go from idea to implementation, the faster you’ll begin to see results.
And the faster you’ll get feedback, too! Feedback is how you’ll discover if your product or service is working for the prospects you’re offering it to. And you can’t get feedback until your idea is launched and out in the wild.
As you look at all the things you could do to get your product launched, I urge you to ask yourself, “What’s a minimum viable approach to making this product live?”
For the example above, a minimum viable approach might be:
A prospect searches for a keyword associated with your topic and lands on a cornerstone content page. Publish two or three cornerstone content pages that use the keyword you’re targeting.
On the page, they see a call to action to register for your website to get free information and tutorials related to your topic. Create a tutorial you can use as an incentive for registration.
Once they register, you send them a series of autoresponder emails about your topic. One of the early emails includes a coupon for 40 percent off the price of one of your most popular products. Write three autoresponder messages. Create a coupon for your product and include it in one of the messages.
Those people who buy the product and become customers receive a series of autoresponder emails with tips for making the most of their purchase. Write three autoresponder messages for new customers.
That’s the minimum viable version of this plan. That’s a version that will get you from “idea in your head” to “idea in the wild” in the shortest possible amount of time.
Phase 2: Nice-to-have for launch (but only if there’s time)
Want to dream a little?
You can make your bare-bones launch more polished … but only if you have time to spare. Remember, our goal here is to bring that idea of yours to life as quickly as possible.
If you do have time to add some polish to your launch, try ideas like these:
A prospect searches for a keyword associated with your topic and lands on a cornerstone content page. Add images throughout your cornerstone page. Write four to five pages total all related to your topic and all with the aim of enticing people to register for your site. Begin a social media campaign to promote the pages and reach out to site owners with similar audiences to let them know the pages exist.
On the page, they see a call to action to register for your website to get free information and tutorials related to your topic. Add value by creating a worksheet to help people apply what they learn from the tutorial.
Once they register, you send them a series of autoresponder emails about your topic. One of the early emails includes a coupon for 40 percent off the price of one of your most popular products. Write a few additional autoresponder messages and repeat the offer more than once.
Those people who buy the product and become customers receive a series of autoresponder emails with tips for making the most of their purchase. Use marketing automation and branching logic to create if/then scenarios for prospects based on their behavior inside your autoresponder.
Phase 3: Can wait to be implemented later
Just for fun, let’s look at the fancy, high-tech, involved version of this same plan.
You don’t need any of the tactics below to launch, but once you’ve tested your idea and want to improve the performance of your offer, you can add bells and whistles like this:
A prospect searches for a keyword associated with your topic and lands on a cornerstone content page. You use paid advertising to drive search traffic to the cornerstone pages you created.
On the page, they see a call to action to register for your website to get free information and tutorials related to your topic. You use sophisticated landing page software to make the offer and you create and deliver a highly polished tutorial video with a worksheet and audio downloads.
Once they register, you send them a series of autoresponder emails about your topic. One of the early emails includes a coupon for 40 percent off the price of one of your most popular products. You write an extensive autoresponder series — possibly 15 to 20 messages. You sprinkle offers throughout. You create elaborate, highly detailed content on pages on your website.
Those people who buy the product and become customers receive a series of autoresponder emails with tips for making the most of their purchase. You use marketing automation to offer upsells to related products that are featured depending on behavior.
Pick your approach (but start with Phase 1)
Any of the approaches above will take your idea from in your head to in the wild.
Phase 1 is where you want to start, though. A minimum viable approach is faster, easier, and less overwhelming.
All those more-advanced tactics will be there waiting for you when you’re ready for them. Until you are ready …
Avert your eyes from that shiny object
Information about effective content marketing is shared using — guess what? Content marketing.
That means that as content marketers in training, we’re constantly exposed to new techniques, new ideas, and new approaches to creating effective content. This can lead to confusion and a feeling of overwhelm. And it can also afflict us with severe Shiny Object Syndrome.
Shiny Object Syndrome, as you probably know, is that state of mind that has us lurching toward one new idea after another, grasping for a cutting-edge solution without allowing our current approaches to play out.
When you set up your to-do list, don’t go after whatever new idea you’ve been exposed to recently.
Instead, think strategically about all the dependencies that need to be in place to get you to your goal. Use a minimum viable approach to getting your idea into its most basic form. Get it out into the wild so you can begin gathering feedback.
Where does constant learning fit into this?
So, how does ongoing education figure into this approach?
I’m not suggesting you close your eyes, plug your ears, and ignore all the new content marketing tactics you learn about. What I’m recommending is that you continue learning but divide your education into two categories:
Deep dive education. If you need to set up your email marketing program, for example, you’ll focus on learning about opt-in incentives, effective calls to action, autoresponders, etc. Whatever tactic you need to employ that you don’t have a good grasp of, spend some of your education time doing deep dive learning so you can implement it successfully.
Continuing education. You’ll also want to have an understanding of how all the pieces of content marketing work together, so don’t stop learning about other elements of content marketing. Just try to avoid seeing them as shiny objects you must implement immediately. Instead, treat it like continuing education that will help you do your job as a trained content marketer.
How do you prioritize your to-do list and your learning?
This feeling of overwhelm is common: I know because I’ve felt it myself and have spoken to many others who have too.
How do you sort through all the information out there and keep yourself informed? Let me know in the comments.
Ever heard of the seven deadly sins? They were originally a roadmap for avoiding moral pitfalls that included sloth, envy, and greed.
Today, these seven pitfalls frequently appear in popular culture, including the thriller film Se7en and the Morgan Spurlock documentary television series 7 Deadly Sins.
If you perform a quick online search, you’ll also find playful examples, such as the YouTube video that features examples of each deadly sin taken from various episodes of Spongebob Squarepants. No, I’m not kidding.
With the seven deadly sins all over television, film screens, and social media, I started mulling over the major moral pitfalls of email marketing. Wouldn’t it be great to have a roadmap for email marketing, too?
As content marketers, we need a list of major dangers to steer clear of, so we’re not spinning our wheels and sending ineffective messages that don’t get opened, read, and clicked on.
In this post, you’ll discover the seven email marketing sins we should avoid and the seven desirable email marketing virtues we should work hard to cultivate when creating an email marketing strategy.
Sin #1: Disappearing after you send out your “welcome” message
Many content marketers set up an automated “welcome” message to send to new subscribers, but after that, they completely disappear and don’t email their list members again for a long time.
Some marketers are afraid they will be pests. Others just aren’t sure what to say or how to say it.
Whatever the reason for your email silence, you mustn’t be an email Houdini. You’re missing a huge opportunity to bond with your subscribers if you don’t touch base with your list on a regular basis.
Virtue #1: Regularly sending your audience great content
Emailing valuable content builds relationships with your audience members and helps them get to know you.
Send emails to your list with blog post or podcast notifications, quick tips, or other useful content. Then supplement those emails with regular, relevant offers.
And always remember: Your email subscribers wouldn’t have signed up for your list if they weren’t interested in you, your content, and what you have to say. If you provide value, you’re not being a pest.
Sin #2: Panicking when people unsubscribe from your list
Do unsubscribe notifications strike fear in your heart? If so, you’re not alone. This one is a common (and avoidable) sin.
There are a lot of reasons why people unsubscribe from your list, and you don’t need to worry about most of them. Panicking holds you back and may eventually make you hesitant to send emails to your list.
Virtue #2: Remembering that your ideal community members will stay subscribed
People who discover they aren’t a fit for your list might opt out, and when they do, they save you time, money, and energy.
To combat this fear, you can easily turn off unsubscribe notifications and stop regularly looking in your email service provider to see how many people have left your list.
Sin #3: Over-promoting or under-promoting
If you send too many promotions to your list, your subscribers may become annoyed and less likely to buy from you. On the other hand, if you never send relevant offers, you run the risk of being taken for granted as the “free” person.
Over-promotion and under-promotion are both deadly sins of the email marketing world and should be avoided.
Virtue #3: Striking the perfect balance of publishing valuable content and presenting relevant offers
The best thing you can do for your list is send a balanced mix of high-quality content and regular offers.
Take a look at your email editorial calendar, and make sure promotions and content are both part of your emails over the next few months.
Sin #4: Trying to do too much in one email
Nothing’s worse than an email that includes tons of links that direct subscribers to many different pieces of content, landing pages, and sales offers.
Especially in our increasingly mobile world, we simply can’t overload our readers with too much information (and too many links) in one email.
If you try to do too much in one email, your reader will be more likely to think, “Eh, I’ll read this later” and file your message away in email folder purgatory. There’s a good chance it will never be rescued and read.
Virtue #4: Writing focused emails that include a single, strong call to action
Try to stick with a single call to action in each email, if you can. Want someone to read your latest blog post? Great! Stay focused on that, and include clear and easily clickable links.
If you’re sending out a newsletter and multiple links are unavoidable, make sure each article is clearly labeled so your content is manageable.
Sin #5: Being boring
Dull emails are the ultimate sin. Most of your subscribers get tons of emails every day, so carefully consider what you can do to stand out.
Boring emails get lost in the fray and will be deleted.
Virtue #5: Injecting personality into your emails by using your unique voice
Your subscribers want to get to know you — they want to know what you like, what you hate, and what you stand for.
Don’t be afraid to introduce some individuality into your emails by telling stories, sharing your opinions, or showing a bit of your personal side.
Your subscribers will love it, and they’ll be a lot more likely to read your emails.
Sin #6: Sending out emails that aren’t mobile-friendly
More than 65 percent of emails are now opened on smartphones and tablets.
If you’re still sending three-column emails (or other messages that aren’t mobile-friendly), a large portion of your subscribers are having trouble reading your messages.
There’s no excuse for this massive sin in 2016. You simply must be kind to your mobile subscribers.
Virtue #6: Sending single-column emails with large, clickable links
Use a single-column layout, and test your emails on mobile devices to ensure they are easy to navigate and click on.
Sin #7: Neglecting to create a smart, workable email marketing strategy
Many content marketers approach email messages like the task of achieving perfectly cooked pasta — they just throw stuff at the wall and see what sticks.
This sin can be deadly for your business. Confusing, overwhelming, or flat-out poorly crafted emails can hurt your website traffic, your next promotion, and your overall reputation — so you should always think before you hit “send.”
Virtue #7: Mapping out your email plan before you hit “send”
I can’t overstate the importance of having an email marketing strategy before you start getting subscribers to opt in to your list.
You need to determine approximately when you’ll be emailing your list, what you’ll be sending, what your goals are, and what your emails will look like.
A smart email marketing strategy that yields high open rates is sin-free and attractive to your subscribers.
Achieve email marketing success
These seven deadly sins are avoidable in the digital marketing world, and when you steer clear of them, you’ll get that much closer to accomplishing your content marketing goals.
You’ll also be able to build stronger relationships with your subscribers and feel confident every time you send an email to your list. Your conscience (and your subscribers) will be there to encourage you on your journey to ethical, principled content marketing success.
There are many types of sites with which you can generate traffic.
But there’s one in particular that is great for small, and even some medium, sized sites:
question and answer sites (Q&A).
These sites consist solely of users asking questions and other users answering those questions.
Because they are “natural” questions, they contain long tail keywords in most cases.
Because of that, these sites quickly amass search engine traffic in addition to their regular user base traffic.
There are hundreds of Q&A sites out there, but for this post, I’m going to focus on two of the biggest: Quora and Stack Exchange.
Yahoo Answers is also large, but it’s not friendly to marketers (links often get deleted), and I find that the quality of the questions and answers is low.
You’ve probably at least heard of or seen Quora by now. It’s about the 140th biggest site in the world:
It covers just about every topic imaginable.
Stack Exchange, on the other hand, has separate mini-Q&A sites for many different topics (mainly related to technology and education).
Like with every traffic generation method, you need a strategy when using these sites.
That’s what I’ll be giving you here: a step-by-step plan to capitalizing on these question and answer sites.
While I’m going to focus on those two here, this strategy will work for just about any Q&A site. So, if you can find a niche-specific Q&A site, you’re set.
Which businesses should drive traffic from Q&A sites? Before we get started, you need to figure out whether these types of sites can work for you.
While you can drive a significant amount of traffic to your website (thousands a month), you’ll be hard-pressed to ever generate truly huge amounts of traffic.
That means that this strategy is best for sites that only get a few thousand visitors a month. To them, this new traffic source will make a big difference.
If that sounds like you, let’s get started.
Step 1: Identify topics, categories, and search phrases
First, know that you won’t be answering the first questions you see—that would be a waste of your time.
Everything you do on these Q&A sites should be to maximize your visitors/time spent ratio.
If you’re answering questions no one cares about, you won’t get many visitors, and that ratio is going to suck.
The ideal questions to answer have a few common factors:
They’re not very old – on Quora, the best questions aren’t more than a few hours old. The older the question is, the more other answers you will be competing against.
They have a relatively high number of views - if they get more views than other questions, many people must be interested.
They have a low number of other answers - the more answers there are, the more likely your answer will get buried at the bottom.
There’s one attribute that ties the 2nd and 3rd factors together.
If many people are interested in a question, why aren’t there many answers?
Because the question is difficult to answer.
It’s important to understand this because you will be tempted to dodge these questions, thinking it’s easier to do a quick answer to a simple question.
But simple questions get tons of answers.
Expect to put some serious work into your answers to these difficult questions. It might take you 15-30 minutes sometimes to answer them, but if you get a few hundred visitors (or thousand), it can be worth it.
I’ll walk you through the steps of finding these questions on both sites.
Finding great questions on Quora: To start, go to your profile. There will be a section called “knows about,” where you can describe your areas of expertise.
In the text area, start typing major keywords (e.g., “marketing”, “SEO”, “jewelry”, etc.) that reflect your niche.
Quora will suggest relevant and popular topics. Choose them, and press “add.”
The more topics you add, the more potential questions there will be to answer, but keep the topics relevant.
Once you’ve done that, click the “Answer” link on the top toolbar.
That generates a list of questions that fit the topics you just chose.
The annoying part about Quora is that you can’t sort the questions.
By default (the only option), the questions are sorted based on an algorithm that considers the posting date and the number of other comments and views.
Your only real option is to scroll through them.
Take a look at the above picture to see what information is available for each question.
As you can see, it’s not perfect, but it’s a good start. For each question, we can determine:
the number of answers
when the question was asked
the number of people following
You can find more useful data inside each question. If you click on any of those titles to go to the question page (with all the answers), you’ll see a “Question Stats” box in the right sidebar.
That box will show you the most important stat we’re looking for: views.
Typically, the views will correspond to the number of followers, but not always, so you should check both.
Now that you know what we’re looking for and where to find it, you just need an efficient process to identify which questions are good.
Here’s a good start:
screen out questions that were asked over a day ago
screen out questions that have zero followers or fewer than 100 views (this does not apply to very recent questions, of course)
screen out questions that already have over 10 answers (you could go lower)
This will leave you with a few good questions to answer. These questions will:
have a good amount of interest
have little competition (more on this later)
Most Q&A sites are similar: Some Q&A sites, like Stack Exchange, are easier to use for this purpose.
Like I said before, Stack Exchange consists of a ton of mini-Q&A sites divided by topic.
You can find one that’s relevant to your niche using the dropdown menu at the top:
All sites on Stack Exchange can be sorted by tags.
If you click on a tag, you’ll get a list of questions that have been marked with that tag.
That’s not very different from the process we used above. However, you now have the ability to sort these questions by a few different filters:
You can see the filters on the top menu above.
Additionally, Stack Exchange sites show you the number of views right on this page.
You should mainly use the “votes,” “newest,” and “unanswered” filters.
The “votes” filter will sort all posts with your tags according to the number of votes those posts received (indicating interest).
If you see a post with thousands of views but very few answers, you may want to add one. Even if a post is old, it’s likely still getting views from search traffic if it’s this popular.
You’ll want to spend most of your time sorting by “newest.”
You can either jump on questions with no answers yet that you think might get more popular or stick to questions that are a few hours old that already have a good number of views.
It depends on how much time you have available to answer questions.
Step 2: Here’s how to structure answers for maximum effectiveness
Now that you know how to find good questions to answer, the hard work begins.
On most Q&A sites, including Quora and Stack Exchange, answers are ordered by the number of “upvotes” you get.
In theory, the best answer should rise to the top.
This means that your answers have to be the best.
However, you also want to be able to drive traffic to your website.
There are three main methods to do this, but they all hinge on one key criterion of question selection:
Only answer questions related to content you’ve already written about.
Otherwise, there won’t be a natural way to drive traffic back to your site.
Method 1 – A brief answer with a link to a post: Once in awhile, you’ll get lucky and come across a question that you’ve addressed almost perfectly in a past post.
For example, when someone on Quora asked whether content marketing was effective and whether it was worth spending time on over SEO, I had to answer it.
I already had a post that answered this question exactly.
That made my answer simple but credible.
I did provide a brief answer, but I was able to point the person asking the question to a more detailed answer.
In cases like these, your link will fit the situation perfectly, and it won’t seem like you’re trying to jam it in there.
Method 2 – Reference posts in your answer: Most of the time, questions will be on related to your past content issues.
In this case, you’ll have to provide a detailed answer on Quora itself.
It takes a lot more work, but if it gets you a few thousand views, it’s worth it.
As far as the linking goes, just put in 1-3 links to your closely related content whenever it makes sense. You won’t get an amazing click-through rate, but you’ll still drive a good amount of traffic.
Here’s an example of an answer by Eli Rubel, where he cleverly slipped in a link to a blog post about measuring results:
Method 3 – Recommend your product directly: You need to be careful not to spam these sites with promotional links and answers, but if you sell a product, you’ll occasionally get the chance to recommend it directly.
The key is to do it in a transparent and authentic way.
Start with a disclaimer saying who you are. Here’s an example answer:
The key thing to keep in mind is that your answer still has to be valuable if you want it to get upvoted.
So, if someone asks for a product that lets them do “x, y, z,” make sure you explain in great detail all the ways your product helps them accomplish those tasks.
Point out honestly where your product is strong as well as where it’s weak because readers will appreciate it.
While these questions don’t typically get as many views as others, they can lead directly to sales, which makes them much more valuable.
Step 3: Track and modify your approach
The final thing you need to do is track your results to determine whether answering questions is worth your time.
Overall, this is a simple 2-step process.
Fair warning: your first 5-10 answers probably won’t do very well. You’ll quickly learn what does and doesn’t work on the Q&A site you chose to start with.
Track (1) the time you spend on each answer and (2) the number of visitors you get from that time (even better—conversions).
You can track views directly on the Q&A site, but views to your actual website are more important.
In Google Analytics, go to “Acquisition > Overview > All Traffic > Referrals” in the left side bar:
You’ll get a list of all the different sites that referred visitors to your site, hopefully including your Q&A site:
Next, you can click on that site in particular, and you’ll see a list of the pages that it sent traffic to:
Give each post at least a week to see what kind of traffic it is driving (both immediately and on a consistent basis).
Once you have a sample size of at least 20-30 questions, you have enough information to determine whether using Q&A sites is an effective traffic generation strategy for your business.
It usually will be if you’re good at picking questions and getting top answers, but in some industries it will be harder than others. That’s why you need to measure and evaluate your results.
Q&A sites present a huge opportunity for marketers looking to grow smaller sites—even if using them isn’t scalable.
I’ve shown you a simple but effective 3-step process that works on almost any Q&A site.
If you’re still with me at this point, chances are that one (or more) Q&A site might be a great traffic driver for your business.
Start by using this process to answer at least 20 questions, and adjust the process from there if needed.
If you still have questions about how to drive traffic using Q&A sites, now is the time to ask. Leave your questions below in a comment, and I’ll try to answer them.