Welcome to Digital Marketing on a Shoestring!My name is Nick Leech.I’m going to be talking about the online marketing that you can do that costs next to, or absolutely, nothing – except for your time.These are proven marketing techniques that work. They raise awareness of your websiteThey drive traffic to your website. And ultimately, they drive sales.
A little bit about me.
I’ve been in digital marketing since these guys were around, starting at Future Publishing working on Internet magazines
I like starting businesses, and started a digital advertising agency back in 2000 when there was just £1m spent on advertising online… globallyJust for contrast, Google alone took £3bn in the UK in 2012.And its important that I should add that not all my businesses have been a success. I’m sure I could think up something about how failure is motivational but it doesn’t always feel like that!
I now work at Host Europe Group, a company you’ve probably never heard of but is behind some well known Internet enabling brands, most notably 123-reg.co.uk but we’re also some others too. We’re at the show with Domainmonster.Whether you’re looking to get your own domain name, set up a professional email service, build your own website or launch a cloud hosted application, we’ve got lots of tools to help you get your business online for next to nothing.
We’re here on the VeriSign stand, the registry behind the world’s most popular domain name, the .com.We are the largest UK partner of Verisign. So a business you can trust.
Start ups – or at least my experience of start ups – have plenty of effort resources. But not much cash resources. I’ll be showing how you can use the resource you’ve got to drive traffic and sales for your business
It’s about driving traffic to your website with online media.Google AdWordsBanner AdvertisingEmailSocial MediaBut the problem is that Google Adwords cost moneyAnd that’s the same issue with Banner advertisingEmail is good, but you have to have people to send it to.The type of marketing I am going to talk to you about today will help with both your SEO and your social media. And all it costs you is some effort.
I’m talking about content marketing. It’s about creating interesting content – words, images, video – to make people talk about you and link to you.
Sometimes that content should be published on your own website.
Like a picture of cat.No, its not really about pictures of cats.But if it’s contenton your own site, it might take the form of an amazing, interesting or funny image that people want to share with others.I’m obviously going to show you some better ideas than a cat meme, but believe me cat pictures get shared on email and social media like no-ones businesses.
Sometimes that content should be published on other people’s websites
If it’s on other’s sites, it might be an interesting article written by you which positions you (and your website) as a referred to authority
It’s worth pointing out that whatever anyone says, content marketing isn’t new. It used to be called PR. The key difference here is that it’s happening online rather than in the real world.And the tools and techniques are new.
It’s all about putting you at the centre of a network of websites and people who know and talk about you.
So what lies behind the best content marketing? Ultimately it comes down to knowing what your audience will be interested in.What will get them to read the stuff you’ve written?What will get them to tell their friends about it? Recommend it? Email it around, share it on Facebook?What problems are they facing that you can help solve? What day to day challenges are they looking for answers to?Of course you should sort of know this anyway. You’ve started your business to solve a problem that people have. How else can you help your potential customers out, and get them to think of you as knowledgeable? You need to work this out before you start any content marketing.
So what’s the content marketing process?
OK, let’s get some ideas.
First of all: We all have ideas. But they don’t tend to come to you when you’re sitting at your desk, answering emails, filling out spreadsheets. They come when you’re shopping, when you’re in bed, when you’re on the train. The single best piece of advice I’ve ever received? Note your ideas down when you have them. I used to use a notebook.I now use Evernote. its really useful to save any ideas you have, images you see, articles you read, and then get them on any device. And search through them all
Second: Make sure you have a list of websites who are in your niche.Read their content and find out what they write about. The chances are they’re racking their brains for ideas too, so piggy back that.Make sure you keep up to date with the latest posts. A good way to do this is with an RSS Reader. My favourite for this is feedly.com, where I gather the latest posts and read them whenever I get a spare 5 minutes.For me, I want to know what kind of advice start up businesses are interested in, so I’ll read the latest posts on sites like startups, growingbusiness, marketingdonut, seomoz. These sites all have editorial teams, they’re thinking about what startups are interested in all the time. Be inspired by the topics they pick.
Third: Find out what questions your audience are asking.If you know what they’re asking, you’ll know what your content should be answering.Quora is a great place to find out what questions people are asking.On Quora users ask questions and have them answered by experts. Just search for the topic that you’re interested in and find out what people want to know. Be inspired.
Here’s an example. Let’s say I have a running shoe shop, and I want to produce content that runners will be interested in. If I type ‘running’ into Quora I get a list of questions that have been voted the most popular.Lo and behold, here are some great ideas. I’ve got What are the top running technique suggestions?Should I run if sore?What is the best run meal?
Each of these are not just ideas in isolation, each of them spark a lot more topics. For example, for the question ‘what are the top running techniques’ here’s half a dozen related ideas.All of these could be turned into interesting content interesting to my audience.
Fourth. Another great place to come up with ideas is Facebook. If you’ve already set up your business on facebook, or even if you are active in your community on Facebook, you can get lots of ideas from the people you interact with.How?Ask a question.
One of our brands is Heart Internet, and we wanted to produce some interesting content about how businesses can make their facebook page look great.We’re lucky enough to have built up an community of web designers and people who have their own website, so it’s a topic they’re really interested in.We asked the question ‘How can you make your Facebook page look great and represent your brand effectively?’ Now we only got 8 answers, but the level of thought and detail of those answers meant that we immediately had lots of content to produce some articles about how to make a facebook page look great.And by the way, its not ripping off ideas. Asking questions and getting answers from a community is crowdsourcing.Of course if you are concerned about ripping off ideas, then you can always attribute the idea to whomever you got it from. The chances are they will love to see their name appear in your content and will be more likely to share it themselves.
Fifth. Another great source of ideas for content is Google Consumer Surveys. I encourage anyone to try out this fantastic tool.Here you can ask survey questions at a cost of just $0.10 per response. So with $100 you get a statistically valid survey.Google asks these questions of a random sample of UK (or US) internet users. Users answer the questions in exchange for premium content.Its really easy to set up, the survey takes just a few days to run….
…and at the end of it you get loads of interesting information, presented in compelling, interactive graphs, which you can turn into press releases, articles, infographics and blog posts.Here’s an example survey that we ran to try and produce some content about ‘the cloud’ – a topic that technology companies seem to go on about all the time. We wanted to find out if people actually knew what ‘the cloud’ was. And it turns out they don’t!Not only do they not know what it is, they also don’t realise that most of us use it every day, with services like iTunes, Dropbox and so on.You can manipulate the data to focus on specific respondents on your survey. For example: Gender, Age, Geography.And you get lots of options about how to display the data too, with these toggles on the top right.
There’s no point in having all these ideas for the sake of it. They need to be turned into great content. And the easiest way to do that?
There’s writing, and there’s writing. You need to be able to write in a style that is interesting, engaging and easy to digest. People on the web don’t read in the same way they as they do for books and newspapers. Their attention span is short. Your text has to compete on the internet with some pretty interesting stuff!There’s Youtube, Facebook, cat pictures.
To start with, know that blocks of text are boring and don’t get read.
At best someone will read the first paragraph, and then the first line of some others. But many won’t get beyond the first sentence.
To start with, break up your text with some headlines. It looks less daunting to readers, they know they don’t have to commit as much, and at worse they can get a meaning just from the headlines.
Then add a sprinkling of bullet points or a list. These help users quickly navigate to the important stuff, and helps them retain it in their visual memory.
Trying breaking up your content with images. Cliché I know but they speak a thousand words, and give people a different way to digest your content.
Use the active voice.What I mean by this is: don’t let your readers only understand the meaning of your sentence by reading all the way to the end of the sentence.
Look at the difference between the
With this version I only find out the key thing – that it’s the cat that’s sitting on the mat, until I’ve got right to the end of the longer sentence
Above all, the web is a visual medium. So always think how you can turn the content the you’ve created into something that’s visually compelling. Fortunately, there are some useful tools to help you visualise your content.
With infogr.am you can create amazing, clear infographics that turn your dry data into something that’s really interesting to look at and readYou can also illustrate your data, and use anything from…
…To tree maps
Piktochart is another fantastic, and free tool to turn your content into compelling visuals, infographics and charts.
Who would have thought that management culture could be interesting!
… or that customer service in Latin America might be capture a readers attention.Its through great visuals that dry facts, stats and narrative can come to life.
Now we need some places to put our content.We want it to be consumed to an audience of people who we think are most likely to buy our products; or who will influence people to buy our products.In other words, lets find the websites that our potential customers are readingFortunately, there’s lots of tools out there to make the job a bit easier.
First of all there’s Google. Google can tell us which websites are important for people who might be interested in our products.Just searching on Google will throw up a load of websites where we might want to place our content.Going back to my original ‘running’ shop example, a search of ‘running’ brings up quite a few prospects that might be right.Looking a bit deeper though, these are pretty high profile sites. Do I really stand a chance of getting in the Guardian or on Runner’s World?
Now I’ve tried being a bit more specific. I’ve lengthened the query to ‘running shoes’, since I know that runners love talking about their trainers.And I’ve told Google that I only want results from ‘blogs’. Any site with a blog is going to want to get my great content.
It’s also worth searching under ‘discussions’. See what this reveals - Lots of prospectsWhat’s interesting here is that Google knows that my running shop is in tunbridge wells, so not only has it brought me back some prospects who publish content all about running; many of them are local too. I’ve got a much better chance of selling my running shoes to local people, so these are a great bunch of sites.
In actual fact, there are lots more ways you can search on Google to get really specific results. You can use ‘search operators’ in the search bar to get more relevant results and more precise information.But I’m not expecting you to learn these! There are some tools that do this for you.
TheBuzzstream Link Building Query Generator can help you by giving you a list of lots of potential searches on Google that might bring some good prospects.Fill out a few fields in order to generate a list of potential search queries/
Here we go with my example of using the product category of ‘shoes’ along with a target market of ‘runners’ and a keyword ‘training’. I haven’t captured it here but there’s a huge list of search queries. Click on any one to do a search on Google.
As you can see I’ve chosen the query ‘“write for us” shoes’, and I’ve got 5 prospects here. These are all websites asking people to get in touch if they want to write about running shoes.With hundreds potential searches, all of which bring back relevant results, we now run into a bit of a problem. It’s almost like we’ve got TOO MANY places to publish our content.We need to decide which are worth pursuing and which aren’t. We need a bit of help.
The seomoz.org toolbar, which you can download for free from semomoz.org, will ‘score’ every website on Google with a metric called ‘authority’. The toolbar scores both the whole domain, and each individual page. The score is out of 100.So to keep it really simple, install this toolbar and use the scores it gives you for the domain.
So to go back to our previous example, all of a sudden you can see which of your prospects you should contact first.Anything over 60 is great. 40 is OK. 20 – 40 – don’t spend so much time on these. And its below 20 don’t bother.
If you’re really getting the hang of this you can download the top 100 results from Google into a CSV, and then sort them by domain authority and page authority to find your prospect list.
Once you’ve found your prospects, you need to work out what sort of content their visitors actually like.Now they’re hardly likely to give you a peak at their Google Analytics so you can see which are their highest traffic articles.But what you can do is take a look at which of the articles got shared a lot on social media. It’s a good indication that something was popular with users.
It’s obviously quite long winded to look though all their content to see which has been shared the most; fortunately there’s a free tool for that.Social Crawlytics can give you an almost instant view on any websites’ most shared pages. Here I’ve got a website I found using buzzstream, and I can see that one of the most shared articles was about 5 unique marathons to run.So I know that I can pitch them an article about amazing races or epic runs to do before you die; not to be missed races you might not have heard of.
Another way to go about finding places for your content is to seek out those writers who contribute or run sites.Followerwonk can help you find influencers on twitter, and with some manipulation of the data you can see which of those have a relevant website.
Here I’ve switch my example. I’ve got a local restaurant and I want to reach out to food bloggers to see if I can get them to take my content.So I’ve searched for ‘food bloggers’ who mention in their bio words ‘www’. That tells me they will be promoting their website in their bio.And there’s lots of potential sites here, all very influential. If I get my content onto foodista.com that’s probably going to get to be seen by 300,000 people.
OK hang in there, we’re almost finished.Last of all, I should say that this process isn’t really a 1, 2, 3. Its cyclical
You can’t come up with ideas, and then create content, without finding publishers, if you then find those publishers don’t want the content you’ve produced. It might well be that by looking at those publishers you get the ideas for the content. You need to think about the process happening in parallel.
Many thanks to Verisign for hosting us here. And I now leave you to go and create some
Pictures of cats.
Digital Marketing on a ShoestringNick LeechBusiness Startup Show 2013