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How to Engage and Build an Audience for Your Content Marketing

A detailed overview of how to build an audience for your content marketing, with examples drawn from the most successful brands on Earth, as well as from our own experience growing our audience tenfold to over 250,000 monthly readers in the past year. Along the way, we’ll cover four major tactics:

1. Email newsletters
2. Organic social media
3. Paid content distribution
4. SEO

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How to Engage and Build an Audience for Your Content Marketing

  1. 1. The Ultimate Content Strategist Playbook No. 4: 
 Engaging and Building an Audience
  2. 2. 2 How to Engage and Build 
 an Audience z —Joe Lazauskas, Contently Editor-in-Chief
  3. 3. 3 Agenda z 1. How to create a killer email strategy 2. How to use social media the right way 3. How to use paid content distribution to grow your audience 4. How to build an awesome SEO strategy 5. Conclusion
  4. 4. 4 How to create
 a killer email strategy STEP ONE It's given birth to many a new media empire, and it remains the most effective audience- building tool that you have as a content marketer, allowing you to drive loyal readers back to your site day after day.
  5. 5. 5 “We love email. It may sound old-school, but email subscription is really a hardwired link to your audience. For us, email subscribers are an extremely valuable audience that we want. Every day, thousands of people get the blast from GE Reports that a new story is out.” —TOMAS KELLNER, 
  6. 6. 6 1. Make lots of great content frequently. 2. Get a good email capture tool. (SumoMe!) 3. Get a good email-sending tool: A/B test, manage lists, and optimize. 4. Find someone to continuously optimize your email efforts. 4 steps to starting a 
 great email program z
  7. 7. 7
  8. 8. 8 “Email is huge. In terms of distribution, 
 it’s the biggest thing you can do.” —NEIL PATEL, 
  9. 9. 9 How to use social media 
 the right way STEP TWO The simple truth is that brands often invest a ton of time and money into social media with unrealistic expectations of what results those efforts will deliver. They'll assemble giant social media teams and pump big money into buying Facebook fans and Twitter followers. They're assuming that if if you have 100,000 Facebook fans and another 100,000 Twitter followers, getting 100,000 readers to your blog should be a piece of cake, right? Wrong.
  10. 10. 10 Based on industry averages, a Facebook update sent to 
 100,000 followers will only generate about 70 readers. Meanwhile, a newsletter of the same size will generate 2,000 to 10,000 readers. The social media paradox z
  11. 11. 11 YET
  12. 12. 12 Social media → more web traffic! z
  13. 13. 13 1. Focus on making content that people can't help but share. 2. Make it easy for them to share with well-designed, clickable buttons. 3. Be active in engaging and responding to people who share your content on LinkedIn, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and more to build community. 4. Embrace social media's magical paid distribution properties... The solution to the 
 social media paradox z
  14. 14. 14 How to use paid content distribution to grow your audience STEP THREE What do you do when you've invested money in creating great content, but you don't 
 have a big audience—visitors, followers, 
 and emails—to share it with?
  15. 15. 15 The Logic Behind 
 Paid Distribution If you're spending $400 on an article, spending an extra $50 to make sure twice as many people see it just makes sense.
  16. 16. 16 “If everybody's spending time on Facebook, you have to reach them there. The key is, whatever you're doing on Facebook, use that to get them over to your own world, to get them to subscribe to your email or something else that's a little bit more reliable in terms of your messaging." —JAY BAER
  17. 17. 17 1. Test out different stories with dark social posts. 2. Target lookalike audiences similar to your own. 3. Optimize until you get your CPC below $0.20. 4. Invest more money in posts that get the lowest CPC. Our Favorite Tactic: 
 Paid Facebook Distribution z
  18. 18. 18 The Paid Facebook Effect z
  19. 19. 19 Paid distribution → clicks z • Shares • Organic traffic • Email subscribers • Leads • Nurture opportunities
  20. 20. 20 Facebook sponsored posts z PROS • Facebook has amassed the a truly massive data set on its users, making it possible to target a very specific audience. • Brands and publishers alike can rest assured the right eyeballs will be on their content on Facebook • Since Facebook sponsored posts can be re- shared like any other post, this investment can spur on exponential results if an article goes viral. • It's by far the best combination of targeting and spending efficiency. CONS • Facebook sponsored posts can leave a bitter taste in the mouths of some marketers after brands' average organic reach was reduced to roughly 2 percent last year— essentially forcing brands to pay to play. • The cost per click will be slightly more expensive than with services like Outbrain and Taboola for most brands. • For B2B marketers, reaching the right people can still be a bit of a crapshoot since, unlike on LinkedIn, you can't target for factors such as job title and company. CPC: $0.50
  21. 21. 21 Outbrain z PROS • Premium publishing partners: Time, CNN, ESPN, Mashable, and Slate, to name a few. • Outbrain has always tried to control the quality of the content it recommends, banning those who use deceptive practices. • If you're looking to push magical diet pills, Outbrain is not for you. CONS • Difficulty tracking who exactly is engaging with the content that gets distributed. • Limited options to examine and analyze data from your campaigns once they're live. (For example, you can target content to millennial women, but you can't see what percentage of your traffic comes from that demographic.) • Outbrain is working on making its product more sophisticated, which would help smooth out some of the reporting constraints. CPC: $0.30
  22. 22. 22 Twitter promoted tweets z PROS • Best for marketers who deal with the media industry. • Promoted tweets have always blended well people’s timelines. Recently, Twitter removed the little yellow tag that accompanied sponsored content. • Promoted tweets are still clearly labeled, but the in-feed design fits better with surrounding content. • A smart multi-channel feature that helps brands serve promoted tweets to viewers who are talking about a certain TV show or saw a relevant commercial. CONS • Facebook has five times as many users as Twitter. • Twitter is great for some verticals, like marketing, media, and entertainment, but less ideal for others. • The way the network defines and calculates clicks is a bit deceptive—Twitter Analytics counts any click on a post, such as an image click—not just link clicks. You have to track that separately through Bitly to see your true CPC. CPC: $1.00
  23. 23. 23 Nativo z PROS • Scale: Instead of being a service that lets you promote your content and drive readers back to your site, Nativo helps you push your brand's articles onto publishers' sites as sponsored posts. • The programmatic platform helps clients distribute work through a strong group of publishers that includes sites like Newsweek and Entrepreneur. • Nativo closely examines the legitimacy of traffic to ensure that clients aren't billed for bot activity. CONS • Trust: Multiple studies, including one we published last year, suggest that a large portion of readers don't trust native content. • As owned media continues to gain momentum, native may not be as appealing to brand publishers. After all, if you can get people to spend time on your own site and build relationships with them directly, why would you pay another site? (Full disclosure: Nativo is a Contently client.) Rather than a CPC, Nativo charges a viewable CPM (vCPM): $12–$20
  24. 24. 24 Taboola z PROS • Overall, the services seem to be a tad cheaper than similar products. • When you use Taboola, you know you're going to get eyeballs on your work—the company reportedly drives 550 million uniques every month for it's clients. CONS • See Outbrain. • While Taboola offers a long list of publishers, compared to Outbrain, it deals a bit more with clickbait sites like Elite Daily and TMZ, so you might not reach the ideal audience in some cases. CPC: $0.25
  25. 25. 25 How to build an awesome 
 SEO strategy STEP FOUR
  26. 26. 26 • Still drives ⅓ of all traffic to publisher's sites • Crucial way to reach readers who need your content Search Isn't Dead z
  27. 27. 27 “I think there's still a lot of [misguided] belief around quantity over quality. The vast, vast majority of links and shares and amplification signals of all kinds are going to only the top 5 or 10 percent of content that gets put out. There's not a whole lot of value in writing a decent blog post anymore. [There's not a lot of value] unless you can be pretty extraordinary." —RAND FISHKIN, CO-FOUNDER OF MOZ SEO in 2015 z
  28. 28. 28 “Instead of focusing on keywords, focus on content. Really try to map out content to your target audience. You want to think about your audience and what's important to them instead of creating pages built for keywords." —AMBAR SHRIVASTAVA, 
 AND THE PRINCETON REVIEW Content Over Keywords z
  29. 29. 29 Contently's Top SEO Tips z 1. Write to engage your audience: Robots don't buy products—people buy products. 2. Build a solid keyword list: Spend time researching which terms will be important for your brand to incorporate. 3. Track your success: Monitor your progress to understand the health of your SEO efforts. 4. SEO is not a short game: Implementing SEO practices won't generate success overnight. It takes time and patience. 5. Keep it in perspective: SEO is just one (important) element of a larger strategy.
  30. 30. 30 Checklist for Building and Engaging an Audience z 1. Create a must-read email newsletter, and optimize your website to collect email addresses for more newsletter subscribers. 2. Prioritize your social media efforts: It's about sharing good content you made, not jumping from trendy platform to trendy platform! 3. Leverage paid distribution for your best-performing content, and optimize your efforts as your content volumes grow. 4. Optimize SEO for 2015, focusing first on quality and the user experience—not on keywords. 5. Investing in social won't do much if you don't have shareable content. What you can accomplish on social is less important than what your readers will share for you.
  31. 31. Want more insights into the state of content marketing? For daily tips and trends, subscribe to our online magazine,
 The Content Strategist. And if you’d like to talk to someone abut Contently’s services,
 please reach out to us at or visit

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A detailed overview of how to build an audience for your content marketing, with examples drawn from the most successful brands on Earth, as well as from our own experience growing our audience tenfold to over 250,000 monthly readers in the past year. Along the way, we’ll cover four major tactics: 1. Email newsletters 2. Organic social media 3. Paid content distribution 4. SEO


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