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“If you really want to know about business, you should refer to Scott Steinberg.” -Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Group

Inbound Marketing: How to Successfully Promote Content Online

Marketing experts often remind us: As just one among thousands of professionals and billions of Internet users trying to market a product, service or brand online, efforts to launch an effective online marketing campaign may seem like a Herculean task. But rest assured—while it isn’t always easy to gain market visibility (let alone overnight), by using the right tactics and tools, it remains eminently possible to set yourself and your brand apart from the park.

The good news is that – as marketing experts also remind us as well – properly-designed and executed online content marketing strategies can be powerful vehicles for distinguishing yourself and your organization, and gaining deeper traction with your audience. Happily, the ongoing use of these techniques can also help create and sustain interest in your company while driving additional viewers to your website. Looking to market your content more effectively online? The following ideas can help you launch, or breathe new life into, any content or inbound marketing initiative.

  1. Regularly publish fresh content specifically designed to establish or reinforce your subject matter expertise and use the advice or insight provided as the starting point of an ongoing dialogue designed to build trust and awareness with your audience. The goal is essentially to offer a “give” (e.g. provide material of value for end-users that helps demonstrate your insight, capabilities, and general operating approach) before asking for the ‘get’ (i.e. giving viewers a hard sales or marketing pitch). Not only does providing singular material of high quality on a recurring basis (be it in the form of blogs, podcasts, videos, newsletters, tip sheets or otherwise) provide a helpful platform to underscore your brand’s unique savvy and signature tactical bent, but it also provides a platform through which to showcase your talent. Likewise, by saving readers, listeners and viewers time, money, and/or effort as a result of the process (for example by providing round-ups of top service providers and expert advice on how to select one, thereby sparing recipients from having to do laborious research), you also create goodwill. With competitors just a click or call away today, establishing and maintaining customer relationships is crucial. Taking the first steps to initiate exchange is vital as it makes sure you don’t come across as too heavy handed.
  1. To drive added public attention and social sharing, also try to tailor your content to trending topics of interest. Take into consideration factors such as the current economy, current events, or news stories, and look for ways of piggybacking on areas of rising public awareness. Being topical and timely can save you the trouble of having to invent dialogue from scratch—it’s far easier to spark conversation or drive ongoing debate if people are already actively discussing the subject. Habitually publishing articles on emerging areas of interest that serve up original opinions and promote your authority in a given field is a must these days. In a world where shoppers increasingly turn online to do their research, topical content publishing in response to rising subjects of interest serves as a vital conduit through which to bolster your brand’s presence, value proposition, and visibility.
  1. Look for ways to remix, repurpose, and update or rework older content you may have already published by including it as a part of newsletters, round-ups, or eBooks; you can cross-reference or pull from initial material to create newer, more relevant posts. As part of these initiatives, utilize analytics and traffic-monitoring software to keep a close eye on content performance as well: it will provide insight into which posts and distribution channels are most popular. When you discover which subject matter topics have been viewed the most and where others are viewing them, you can focus on publishing more related information on these or similar subjects of interest to your target audience, or you can enhance these preexisting pieces of content. Keeping your ear to the ground and considering what’s currently resonating with your readership or viewership will help ensure higher traffic levels. Promoting interest in on-trend topics will drive further awareness of any additional supporting content created around these subjects.
  1. Post links to your published content on your business’ range of social media channels such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google Plus—but think about how to tailor content for each audience. (A case in point: Pinterest users consume content far differently than Twitter followers.) Think of ways to drive added interaction around promotional materials first. For example, rather than simply advertising splashy last-minute travel deals on Facebook, why not provide photos or videos that highlight some of the classical appeal of these destinations and ask fans to share their fondest vacation memories in the form of stories, photos, or video clips? This way, fans and followers not only have reason to click on links to view or read valuable content on your profile, fan page, or website, but they also have a solid incentive to respond to and share the material. Note: every piece of content should be designed to create value for the reader, even if strictly entertainment-related, and should be created with sharing in mind. Promoting heightened pass-alongs can increase your exposure, potentially driving added traffic to key destinations and/or improve search engine visibility.
  1. Steer away from sales pitches. Online content and blog articles should promote useful and relevant material while only mentioning services or products in passing. Although direct links to purchase options may be provided, the intent isn’t to bludgeon viewers with them. Most modern customers are constantly receiving sales pitches whether in the form of pop-up ads, billboards, emails, video pre-rolls, or commercials; and they are subconsciously predisposed to tune them out. What is the real secret to content marketing that many advertising professionals seem to miss? The aim is to create material compelling enough to capture consumers’ attention and provide an incentive to interact with it or pass it along, thereby driving user engagement (far more vital than simple tallies of likes, re-tweets or shares). The more customers consume your content and engage with your brand, the more you create conversations and build trust and empathy—and the likelier they are to come to the conclusion that buying your service or product will help them in the long run. Note that in some cases—e.g. amazing time-sensitive deals, free giveaways, invites to exclusive customer appreciation events, etc.—it may be more appropriate to put specific promotions front and center. But even when doing so, the question to ask is as: What’s in it for them? not “What’s in it for us?”
  1. Design content around search engine optimization (SEO) principles by building it to dovetail with popular keywords, phrases, and terms which customers commonly input into online services such as Google, Yahoo! or Bing. Which isn’t to say that you should be deceptive about any material contained within… merely that the terms you would think to use to describe your material may not be those most others would utilize. Google Adwords’ keyword research tool can be an invaluable solution here, helping you gauge what’s trending—you may call it “cloud computing,” but if 15 times as many users define it as “big data,” perhaps it’s time to rethink your positioning strategy. Once you know which phrases can help you rank high in online search results, be sure to incorporate them – but don’t overdo it. If you add too many keywords in your content and its metadata or description, you risk losing readability, triggering search engine security measures, and ultimately doing more harm than good. Content should be written and posted for human eyes and not just for SEO purposes – luckily, following this rule should help keep you from triggering spam filters as well.
  1. Submit your content to industry trade websites and publications—many are happy to receive and publish or redistribute bylined articles with bios, photos and/or links back to your product or service, all of which helps to build awareness and boost traffic. Consider that business people in every field – education, healthcare, finance (even your local account or attorney)—are likewise served by professional associations that publish newsletters, online learning libraries, and white papers for members, all of which you may be able to contribute to. Many national and regional organizations similarly have membership directories you can join as well that offer added opportunity to drive exposure.
  1. Similarly, you can also create and share articles, videos, tip sheets, presentations, white papers, research reports, and videos for other businesses, marketing experts, and strategic partners to use on their websites, which can boost visibility, traffic, and interest. Ask that a link to your webpage with a short description of your business be included with the article as it can help generate leads and promote your brand to large audiences. Also consider submitting your material to content distribution directories, which allow others to license your content and republish it so long as attribution and promotional support is provided. Ex: EzineArticles.com offers informative instructions on how to do this after you create a free membership account so that other businesses can repurpose and redistribute the material you’ve created for their own customer networks.
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