Authority Site Overhaul Case Study #8: Why Content Marketing is Tough
After last week’s rather thorough social media walk through/update, we’re going to keep it relatively light this week.
We’re going to talk about content marketing – and why using content marketing as your sole strategy for driving traffic and attracting links can be an unreliable, and oftentimes frustrating.
If you haven’t been following along with the case study, here are all posts in order:
(Password for all posts is NoHatDigital)
A Tale of Two Posts
One post was intended to be a cornerstone piece of content – we put it together to specifically try and get people to link back to us, in order to drive both referral traffic and help with SEO.
The other post was just a regular old piece of content that was written by one of our writers, targeting a relatively uncompetitive KW.
Post 1 managed to net a .edu link, got shared 1.8k times and increased our daily traffic by about 10x.
Post 2 netted a couple of links, but definitely none as powerful as the .edu link. It’s doing alright, but didn’t perform nearly as well as Post 1, either in terms of attracting links or in terms of driving traffic.
Guess which post is which?
The post that we were hoping to use as a piece of cornerstone content is a comprehensive list of full-ride scholarships in the USA. It’s not that pretty to look at, but this kind of thing should be immensely useful for prospective college students and their parents. You can see that post here. We also did some outreach to relevant blogs (although we did this over thanksgiving weekend, which probably wasn’t ideal in terms of timing). This is Post 2 – the worse performing of the two.
The post that got shared more than a thousand times and helped us get a .edu link was a post about the Best Musical Theatre Colleges. As it turns out, musical theatre students are extremely proud of their schools, and also avid social media users. We literally didn’t do anything to promote this post, and it went mini-viral on Facebook, and got this link from Florida State University.
This underscores one of the flaws of focusing purely on content marketing – putting effort into creating and marketing a piece of content does not guarantee results. It’s one of those things where you can do everything right and still get mediocre results. On the flip side, you can put out a piece of unremarkable content and gain a ton of traction.
Yet, despite the frustration that comes with it, content marketing is pretty much the only game in town (or close to it) when it comes to white hat SEO. So what to do?
Taking a Two Pronged Approach
Basically, we try and minimize the disadvantages of using content marketing in two ways. We never rely solely on it, and when we do it, we try to do it in an efficient way that we know will generate results.
You don’t want to use content marketing as a singular strategy – any site that you own should be focusing on driving traffic via multiple sources. This makes sense from a diversification standpoint (don’t put all your eggs in one basket), but diversification is even more important if your goal is driving organic and referral traffic by marketing your content to influencers.
Our preferred method of diversifying away from this strategy is to build an email list – this works well in tandem with white hat outreach because getting mentioned by influencers often leads to one-off traffic spikes that die down after a few days. By building a good lead magnet and opt-in process, you can turn these one-time visitors into sustained traffic.
Other methods include driving social media traffic, or using paid traffic (if it makes sense in the context of your business).
The second prong of our two-pronged approach is to try and systemize your outreach. When we were putting together the scholarship post and marketing it, we weren’t as systematic as we should have been – and that’s probably one of the reasons why our outreach didn’t work as well as we had hoped.
Greg over at NoHatDigital has written extensively about how to get the most bang for your buck using white hat outreach techniques. He uses a bunch of pretty straightforward, well known techniques, but has built a solid process around these techniques that allows him to get better results in less time. Some techniques that you might want to read about include: Expert Round Ups, Content Round Ups, and Give and Go Guest Posting. Also, here’s an awesome post from Greg about what he thinks are the most efficient ways to generate white hat links with content marketing.
In the case of the of the full ride scholarship post, we simply didn’t follow our own advice (or Greg’s advice I guess) – the outreach that we did was as simple as emailing people and asking if they would link to us. In retrospect, it makes sense that the “Best Musical Theatre Colleges” post did better, since it was arguably a form of egobait (although we didn’t really intend it to be that).
Going forward, we’re going to try to market the full-ride scholarship post a bit more, and potentially also consider doing an ERA or a CRA just to see how effective they are in the education/careers niche. If we do end up doing more outreach, you’ll hear about it in a future update.
That’s it for this week – we’ll be working on Kindle over the next two weeks to try and recover earnings by relaunching all the books and updated the content of the books a bit as well. We won’t have an update next week as the launch process itself typically takes two weeks, and also because we’re nearing the holiday season.