One of the most difficult conversations I have with new or perspective clients is about Linkbait and content marketing and explaining how its real goal isn’t to drive sales but to build links, build awareness, and send social signals to the search engines. To make this post useful and actionable, I’m going to take you through the process/planning stage for a former client I had who has since sold his business.
An important point to understand: we are targeting the “general online population,” not just potential customers …
When I was working for the man and building my own business by moonlighting at night (ok–and a little during the day), one of my first clients was for a salt water fish store. He sold fish and aquarium supplies online. Now, ultimately, his goal was to get his content in front of people who own salt water fish tanks and are interested in his products. However, unless you are a well known brand, competing on price (aka running a sale or promotional offer), or are offering an impulse purchase (no long term commitment and low price), you won’t make sales from social media (stay tuned to the end when I will talk more about this).
IMHO the biggest benefits from social media are link building potential, brand awareness, and social media signals (see what social signals might Google use). Lets take a look at our niche:
- There is a small subset of the population that has a salt water fish tank and has a potential interest in our merchandise.
- There is a slightly larger subset of people who know someone who has a salt water fish tank and might forward/share with them content they come across.
- There is a larger subset of people who are interested in the science/nature/environmental aspects of marine life, marine mammals, and ocean life.
- There is a larger set of people who are interested in travel aspect of marine life, snorkeling, scuba, diving with sharks, swimming with dolphins, and visiting aquatic-related travel destinations.
- There is a larger set of people who would enjoy/share photos of marine/ocean-related content, especially if the photos are beautiful, interesting, engaging, or unusual.
- There is a much larger set of people who will read/share interesting content that is about marine related subject matter, if it is exceptional.
- There is a small group of people who will publish marine related content and will link to it
- There is a medium sized group who will write/link/tweet about marine based content if it is exceptional enough (aka the linkerati)
We are going to target two groups of people because they include most of the other groups. They are “people who will read/share marine based content if it is interesting enough” and “people who will write/link/tweet about marine based content if it is interesting enough.” This is an important point to understand: we are targeting the “general online population,” not just potential customers, because our goals are links, sharing, and social signals.
So how do we get started? Let’s come up with some potential ideas for our Linkbait (see creating exceptional content for boring subjects):
Top 10/15/20 Most Beautiful/Ugly/Bizarre Creatures in the Ocean – This isn’t a typical piece of image based Linkbait. I would do all three. Just choose a different number for each one and space them out at least a month apart.
Best Places to Scuba/Snorkel in the Country/Continent/World – This is a bit of travel Linkbait but, again, it has multiple versions. In fact, you can do them as head & tail continent and refresh the posts every year like seasonal living URL’s.
Most Expensive/Dangerous Seafood Meals – This has a lot of options. You can do an info graphic of seafood prices to other food like beef and chicken. You could map graphics of seafood consumption. You could create cooking linkbait about expensive seafood, or dangerous seafood to eat (like the fugu blowfish). You can do Eco/green based content on sustainability of seafood. You can do “mom” based content like how to eat healthy seafood on a budget. You can do health focused content on seafood. There are lots and lots of variations here.
Largest Marine Mammals/Fish/Invertebrates – People like stories about giant sharks, whales, squid or octopi, and you can revisit this kind of post every 2-3 years as news/science updates (see how often should I update my content and updating evergreen content).
Most Dangerous/Poisonous/Deadly Fish/Sea Snakes/Marine Life – Again, people tie into group-think and share common fears of (and fascination with) sharks, snakes, piranhas, and general ocean life. Just be careful and don’t run a scuba piece right before or after a piece about dangerous sharks. It looks … contradictory.
Most Beautiful Ocean/Beach/Underwater photography/paintings – Again people like looking at “nice pictures.”
Now, this list is by no means all encompassing and the titles are just working concepts at this point. Hopefully they give you some idea about how you can take a niche shopping site and widen the focus to include a larger group of people who would be interested in liking/sharing/linking to your website/blog.
The next step is to start to flesh out the articles. Do a little research and figure out which one will have the best content. For example, use a service like oDesk and hire someone to research the most expensive seafood dishes, both currently and historically. Have them be on the lookout for unusual anecdotes like seafood that was expensive and hunted to extinction or seafood that’s illegal to eat. Have them give you source links so you can verify the data before sending it off to your premium content writer or infograpic artist.
Once you know about your pieces, start scheduling them and sending them out to be produced. You could push out a minor piece every 2-3 weeks and a major piece every 4-5 weeks. You want to spread out similar pieces unless you are doing a content series. Make sure you have the tail pieces in place before you push out the head (see head and tail content). As a I mentioned above, don’t push out a “Top 5 most dangerous sharks of Australia” back to back with “Best places to scuba dive in Australia.” It looks … odd.
So what are the takeaways from this post:
- Think about who your customers are then widen the focus to include as large an audience as possible while still staying “on topic.”
- Brainstorm for ideas on possible topics for articles.
- Do research then prioritize/schedule content creation.
- Create any backup content you may need.
- Create content and schedule for publication.
- Spread campaigns out over time to send new links and social signals to search engines over a prolonged period of time.
- Pay attention to seasonal news/events and tie into them.
- Look to update science/news/informational content on a regular basis as needed. Use living URL’s.
Ok, you made it to the end. This post has some bonus content! What if you do want to actually sell things using social media? Well IMHO you will need to do one or more of these things:
- Be a well known, established, trusted brand – If Amazon puts out a top Father’s Day gift ideas list, people will buy from them because they know/trust Amazon. If you aren’t Amazon, you will have a hard time with this strategy.
- Compete on price – If you offer a sale, discount, or promotional price below your competition, you may make some sales. Keep the item(s) as general interest as possible (aka you can’t sell catfood–no matter how low the price–to someone who doesn’t have cats)
- Be General Interest, Low Commitment – A lot of people like clown fish thanks to “Finding Nemo,” but not everyone wants to commit to having a fish tank, not even at a cheap price for a startup tank with a free clown fish. However, almost everyone can buy a T-shirt with sharks saying funny things on it.
- Be impulsed priced – Lots of people want to go to France for vacation, but not a lot of people will drop a thousand dollars or more on a discount vacation at the drop of hat. However, a lot of people will spend $10/$20/$50 on an impulse item if they like it.
Originally published on Graywolf’s SEO Blog