Despite their best efforts, most sites generate little more than a trickle of sporadic, unremarkable traffic from organic search & social.
This usually isn’t because their content sucks, or because there’s anything wrong with their site. And unless the site already has substantial traffic, it also has very little to do with the technicals of SEO – things like meta descriptions, loading times, and other related minutia.
No, rather, the primary reasons why most people’s sites never see the spotlight they deserve is because those people don’t actually know what their market wants… or for that matter, how to reach their market.
And even for sites that do have a reasonable volume of organic traffic – getting intentional with some key strategies can drive massive growth. (A 3X increase in organic visibility is conservative for most sites).
So let’s take a quick crash-course on exactly that process.
Here’s how to research your market like a pro, plan your content like a chessmaster, generate publicity like clockwork…
…and at least 3X your organic growth:
Market Research – The Smart Way
Much like the gold rush, your efforts are in vain if you’re not on a creek that actually has gold in it.
No amount of “digging deeper”, trying harder, or panning out more material is going to offset the actual lack of gold in the area. It’s the same with content marketing. Unless your content is tapping into targeted, profitable topics – it’s a wasted effort.
This is why market research is so critical.
As I see it, there’s two different approaches to market research:
- Lazy: Use the same keyword tools as everyone else to find the most popular (and obvious) keywords, and join the chorus of competitors trying to rank for, and talk about, those obvious topics.
- Smart: Determine which core keywords (topics) are working best for your competitors – and then expand those into hundreds of viable on-theme keywords & talking points.
Most marketers just take the lazy route – knowingly or otherwise. While this won’t be entirely ineffective, targeting the same old keywords as everyone else is going to have a fairly muted response – unless you have a lot of patience (and budget), and never-ending vigilance… since you’ll also be defending those rankings once you finally earn them.
So let’s talk about how to take the smart approach – which is ironically a lot easier, as well…
As I mentioned above, the key is to firstly determine what’s actually working best for your competitors – and not just assuming that every keyword they target or article they write is translating into results. (As we all know first-hand, only a certain % of the things we do actually works out.)
For this reason, you want to look at the following indicators:
- Which pages are driving most of their traffic
- Which pages they’ve promoted the most aggressively
- Which keywords & topics they consistently keep focusing on
I call these “pay streaks” – the areas where your competitors have found gold, and so they keep digging in the same area to catpure as much gold as they can.
I explain how to determine pay streaks in detail in this blog post.
In addition, for Zag users, this is exactly what the Golden Prospects app does on autopilot.
Anyway – once you’ve determined the topics that your competitors are persistently focusing on – ideally a list of 10 or 20 core targets – the next step is to expand those into a entire map of related, on-theme keywords that aren’t the obvious, “usual suspect” keywords.
If you can, try to make a list of 50-100 on-theme topics (that aren’t completely obvious).
You can do this with a variety of brainstorming tools like AnswerThePublic, or even the Thesaurus – but the key is to use your own intuition to ensure that the related targets are actually going to attract the same audience as the core “pay streak” targets.
For Zag users, the Compounding Interests app turns this process into a cakewalk – generating thousands of parallel, on-theme concepts & topics using AI… all from a single seed keyword.
Check out how powerful it is:
Bottom line: Mapping out your market the smart way like this makes it so much easier to capture your best prospects… with realistic targeting. Let your competitors fight for the scraps in the saturated niches – while you enjoy easier rankings and consistent traction “off the beaten path”.
Next step – once you’ve mapped out 50-100 realistic, on-theme targets, it’s time to turn them into killer content ideas…
Turn Keyword Targets into Killer Content
Targeting is only half the battle. The content you craft around profitable topics needs to be compelling enough to turn those visitors into interested prospects, customers – and in time, raving fans.
For this reason, “SEO content” is counterproductive. It might get ranked and drive traffic, but if it’s just, well, boring – it’s not going to generate any meaningful responses, shares or links.
Thankfully, you don’t need to be the world’s best copywriter to churn out super compelling content. 90% of the equation is just choosing the right topic. This is why “mediocre” content that solves problems or exposes new opportunities for your readers will generate far more engagement than “epic” content that merely educates them about something mildly interesting.
So basically, the key is to find topics – based on your target keyword – that your audience really cares about.
This is where content discovery becomes critical; discovering relevant content that’s hitting a nerve.
You can do this by:
- Checking all the major news sites & bloggers in your niche, and looking for recent content about your core keyword – and see what’s driving the most response (comments, shares, etc)
- Monitoring all the main forums / communities in your market, taking note of all the busiest threads related to your keyword.
- Adapting your own content around those “proven” hot-topic.
As you can imagine, the research process can be pretty intensive.
This is a lot easier for Zag users, as the Topical Thunder app does all of the above in seconds, letting you plug in your keyword targets and then discover all the best-performing content & most-active discussions across the total web.
Here’s a quick demo that showcases how powerful this process is:
Bottom line: Turning your ‘pay-streak’ keywords into killer content doesn’t have to be trial & error. Let your market show you what they care about, and then serve it up accordingly.
We’ve covered how to find profitable topics, and how to turn those topics into engaging content angles. Now let’s talk about how to actually turn your expertly-targeted, compelling content into traffic…
Drive Visibility & Earn Links Like a Pro
Where most people drop the ball with content marketing is actually, well, marketing their content.
Because until your site is well established (and earning tons of natural links every week) hitting the ‘publish’ button simply isn’t enough. You need to kickstart the process, by:
- Sharing your content (on social channels, groups, forums, etc), and
- Asking other influencers to mention & link to your content. This drives immediate traffic, but the main payoff is that these links increase your visibility in Google’s SERPs.
Now, in time, once your own audience is sizeable, sharing new content with them will generate a lot of natural shares, links & social chatter. But in the early days, most of this is on you.
As you can imagine, this can feel like a mountain of work.
But thankfully, there’s some smarter approaches for getting the ball rolling in the early days. So don’t worry – you won’t need to beg webmasters for links, or go around spamming forums. Instead, try these approaches…
For driving immediate visibility:
The smartest way to consistently promote new content (whenever you want), is to find recent questions posted to sites like Quora, Reddit & FB groups / forums in your market, where your content effectively answers the person’s question.
Ideally, try and post a response in the first 48 hours if possible. Add a complete and valuable answer as a standalone response in the thread itself, and as an aside, mention something like… “I actually just finished an article that deep dives this in more detail, if you’re interested it’s at: [link]”
This will generate traffic immediately. Sometimes it’s just a trickle, but other times it can actually drive thousands of new visitors in a matter of hours. More importantly, in many cases these question threads will end up ranking in Google down the road, and your responses could potentially drive a stream referral visitors for years.
And in some cases the links to your content are “dofollow”, which provides added value for SEO purposes… but this is definitely a gravy effect. Most major platforms apply rel=nofollow to outgoing links posted by users (to limit SEO value & prevent spam).
Obviously, you need to strike a balance, and use a soft touch. There’s a fine line between adding value and outright spamming.
For getting links from major sites/influencers:
Getting real backlinks from the major sites in your market is generally a tough task.
In most cases, you either need to become a contributor for them in some way, or convince them to run some kind of special promotion / giveaway / event for their audience… which is also a lot easier said than done.
Keep in mind that any established publisher is getting inundated with requests to post guest content, run deals, and otherwise link out to other people’s sites. Some webmasters get over 100 emails like that, every day.
(And even back in my affiliate days, when an authority site would take off, I’d get nonstop link requests at least once a day).
For this reason, I find the best way to find publishers most-likely to share your content or mention your site is as follows:
- Monitor all of your direct competitors
- Make a list of who recently mentioned / linked to them, and
- Note the method (guest post? newsworthy event? something else?)
This sounds pretty straightforward – and it is. I like focusing my time on prospects who are actually going to consider working with me.
And if they’ve recently mentioned my competitors, or hosted their guest content – there’s a much greater chance that they’ll work with me as well. (This is the equivalent of “swiping right” in the proverbial world of SEO dating). The next step is reaching out to those sites and seeing where you can be helpful.
Eg. “I noticed you ran a guest column by our competitor (Whoever.com) the other day. If you’re interested, we’d love to put something similar together for your audience – we have [something compelling] that your readers would find really interesting I think. Thoughts?”
Adapt the outreach proposals to your own model / niche accordingly, but hopefully you can see the strategy here in general. As well as how much more effective this approach is, vs. just begging for links from every site you can find…
For driving immediate visibility & getting links from major sites the really smart way:
Obviously, constantly monitoring all the communities (and competitors) in your market for opportunities like this is pretty daunting unless you have help.
Now, you could hire an army of VA’s, and that would be really effective… but also expensive.
In contrast, Zag users have a major advantage….
For immediate traffic, they can use our First Responders app to completely automate the discovery process – it scans virtually every forum & community on the web for all of your keywords, and pulls up the most recent threads (questions).
This lets you quickly respond to relevant questions – no matter where they’re being posted! And you can track multiple search parameters across every forum, simultaneously, all from a single access point.
And for monitoring their competitors, they can use In-Market Intercept, which perpetually monitors all of their main competitors (and their products), on autopilot – pulling up all the most recent news articles, blog mentions, forum threads and videos across the entire web.
So that way, driving immediate traffic & discovering new influencers is as simple as logging into Zag.ai once a day, and opening those apps.
Bottom line: Regardless of the tools you use, by applying these strategies, you’ll encounter far less resistance (and far more traffic)… for a lot less effort.
Small Levers, Big Results
Once the cumulative impact of your research, planning & promotion starts paying off (and it will), turning into myriad rankings & serious traffic, you’ll find that the “little things” really start to matter. A lot.
All of a sudden things like your site’s layout, your calls to action, and even your meta content can have a huge impact on your overall performance.
Here are three seemingly small levers that can drive huge growth for you, once the momentum is rolling…
Small Lever #1: SEO Nudges
People often talk about how rankings take time, and “you gotta give it a few months”… etc. In the beginning, yes this is very true. It takes time for your domain to become established, for the links to start “counting”, and for Google to get a good sense of your performance in the SERPs.
But once things get rolling, that’s no longer the case. Google will be constantly spidering your site. New content & new links will take effect in a matter of days – or hours, sometimes. This provides some awesome opportunities for you.
Specifically, optimizing your click through rate (CTR) for your existing organic rankings, and focusing on ranking pages that are almost already on page #1 for worthy keywords.
You can improve your CTR’s just by making the title tags for those pages more compelling / relevant to the query. This routinely multiplies your traffic from that specific ranking… and you can start seeing the impact of simply changing your title in as little as 24-48 hours!
Similarly with rankings where you’re almost on page 1… it’s usually just a matter of adding more internal links to that page, or tightening up the relevance of your title, headlines & content theme (to the keyword), for that page.
Once your site gets traction in the SERPs, these will be your highest-yielding SEO strategies, pound for pound.
Note: Zag users can immediately narrow their best CTR & 2nd-page SEO opportunities, in seconds, by using SEO Prospector
Here’s a video that showcases how powerful this is:
Small Lever #2: Write For Profit
The best thing about having some decent traffic flowing in is that your marketing data will have enough sample size to discover cool insights, and make smarter decisions.
And when it comes to organic traffic – the art of turning content into traffic – it’s pretty important to focus on topics that actually attract the one thing you’re ultimately looking for anyway: customers.
This is why digging into your analytics and isolating which pages are the best at turning new visitors into leads & customers is critical… because it shows you which topics, angles & messaging actually works.
So that you can do more of it… as well as divert more of your existing traffic flow to those high-performing pages.
Note: Zag users can immediately determine their best-performing content by using First Impressions
Small Lever #3: Inbound Influencers
In time, you’ll be earning a number of natural links from various places. With and without your knowledge.
While this is wonderful in general, it’s also a great data set for prospecting to new channel partners/influencers who are already very warm to your brand.
And best of all – you already know exactly how valuable (or otherwise) their audience truly is. For this reasons, by periodically digging into your referral traffic, and specifically isolating the average conversion rates by each referral source, you’ll have a very good idea of which publishers you should reach out to, and see about running consistent promotions, ads or regular content with.
This is the ultimate scale-up strategy since you’re limiting the unknown, and scaling proven winners.
Note: Zag users can immediately find their best referral sources by various metrics, by using Raving Referrals
Bottom line: Once the traffic starts to flow… DO sweat the small stuff. It’s where most of your growth will come from 🙂
The Snowball Effect
As you’ll likely agree at this point, most sites that follow this “3X process” will probably end up driving a lot more than 3X their current organic traffic.
But more than that, traffic is just a metric. At the end of the day, driving growth has a lot more to do with connecting with your reader… (and knowing which readers you should be connecting with!)
Hopefully this guide has been enlightening in both of those respects.
A few final thoughts, in closing:
Organic traffic is like investing. It’s sporadic & “tiny” in the beginning, and you feel every outgoing penny.
It’s often very frustrating, especially when you’re finding your voice (so to speak), and learning what your market really responds to. But in time, as this becomes more intrinsic, you’ll find that the process is actually very predictable. (And profitable!)
In all the projects where I’ve been a part of launching something “big” with SEO & content marketing, the best analogy I can think of is that of pushing a snowball uphill.
In the beginning, it’s this crappy little snowball that barely stays together. You’ll have many false starts, and it takes a while to figure out how to keep the damn thing from fizzling out.
Once you finally get it rolling, and it starts accumulating in size a bit, the incline of the hill starts to get tougher and tougher. It’s the most frustrating part of the process, and it takes a ton of resolve and perseverance to stay the course, and keep pushing.
As you near the “summit”, you’ll be exhausted, and the snowball will be much larger & heavier. But as you crest the top of the hill, things change. All of a sudden, it takes very little effort to move things forward. And then things really get rolling – and eventually, the snowball picks up so much speed and momentum (down the other side), that you couldn’t even catch up to it or make a dent on its speed if you tried.
This is the content marketing experience.
The early stages SUCK. The later stages are EPIC.
And this is all the more reason why it’s important to secure some early wins, and keep the wind in your sails as you build that initial momentum.
There are no shortcuts, but the strategies we covered today will focus your energy on stuff that actually matters… and help you get that snowball “up the hill” much, much faster.