Hello reader, I’m not here to bore you with recycled proclamations that ‘it’s all about content’. The point of this piece is to give you some honest advice to help you avoid making some of the mistakes I made during my own ‘transition’ from traditional SEO methods to content marketing promotion.
A little background (not much I swear). I’ve worked with digital marketing agency Kurve for the past 4 years, during this time there’s been a significant shift in focus regarding what services we offer our clients, specifically towards the almighty ‘content creation’.
It took us a lot of time to get develop our creative design process. When we finally started making really cool stuff I was deflated at how little traction the pieces gained. Finding the right tactics for promoting our work was a whole different battle. Here’s the 5 big (and now seemingly obvious) mistakes I made during my learning kurve, which I hope you can avoid in your own campaigns.
Assuming everyone wants it
When I first started prospecting for potential websites that might like our stuff the search was broad. I was so hyped about the content we’d slaved over that I assumed websites with any trace of remote relevance to our content niche that we were in with a fighting chance of them sharing our work.
I was wrong. Just because a domain is in some way connected doesn’t mean the audience (and editor) is going to bite, the reply rates to our outreach in the early days was around 3 % max.
Is not a satisfying quick-fix. Our entire process changed, review of potential outreach targets became much deeper and manual. We trawled old blog archives and sniffed out evidence that what we were pitching was something their readers would actually engage with.
This meant the total number of sites analysed reduced considerably (which is bad) but it also allowed our reply rates to improve to 12-15% (which is pretty good). This trade off was worth it, as we didn’t want to be the type of agency that spams people aren’t interested, it’s a quick way to get a terrible rep within blogging communities.
Early drafts of my outreach emails were mini essays pushing the 300+ words mark. We’d done the hard work on our side, painstakingly researching, designing and prospecting. I was so sure we’d done everything ‘right’ that our outreach emails grew in depth and complexity too. I wanted to explain to a prospect how much work and care we’d taken. Surely once they saw how thoughtful and meticulous our approach was they’d soften right up.
I was wrong. I was engaging in the most basic outreach faux pas – too much information. Instead of conveying enthusiasm and thoroughness the emails read like they were selling too hard. Anyone in 2015 with an email account has an innate filter for this ‘selling’ type of message – it’s called the bin.
It broke my heart a little, but I sheared those emails with the ferocity of an angry army barber. Our most successful outreach email are in the 40-60 word region. Grabbing someone’s attention (especially from a cold email) is a precious thing – don’t try to hold it for too long.
That’s not to say our preparation and enthusiasm doesn’t pay off. The majority of our positive responses request more information about what we’re doing. Once you get the green light for more info, feel free to share more detail (I still recommend keeping the TMI law in your mind so you don’t go overboard though).
Sticking to email
I love email, it lets the user decide when and where they want to engage with their messages – they have control. Unfortunately this applies to your prospects too. If I send a short, hand-crafted email and I don’t hear back from them I assume they don’t want the content.
I was wrong (sometimes). While it’s true most people who aren’t interested will simply ignore your message there’s also people that simply haven’t seen your message at all. There’s 3 main reasons why they haven’t seen the message.
- You were caught in their spam filters
- The account is inactive / never reviewed
- Their unread mail inbox resembles Mount Kilimanjaro
The correct way forwards, regardless of reason, is a follow up message from a different communication platform. This can be a Linkedin message, tweet, phone call or even outreaching to a different email account.
The objective is to engage via another route. While building upon your initial outreach. Your message appears less ‘cold’ this way and going the extra mile to tweet at someone has (in my experience) opened doors for me that would have remained shut forever if I’d stuck to hammering their email inbox.
That’s all folks!