MAJOR UPDATE: This topic has been completely revised and expanded in a new article here:
After I have finished writing, editing, deep linking and have published a new blog post, my work has just gotten started. Simply creating content isn’t sufficient to gain readership. You need to actively promote that new post so that people can see it and have a chance to read it. It can take a long time to build up email and RSS subscribers, so in the meantime, you will need to be more proactive.
Here are all the things I do after I publish a post to get readers to it. (Updated 12/27/13!)
1. Update XML Sitemap. My Drupal site has an automatic XML Sitemap module installed. XML is a programming language, similar to HTML, that search engines like Google and Bing can read. The XML Sitemap is used to provide the search engine your website’s complete content and directory structure, and to communicate changes any time there’s a new piece of content. My module will update itself regularly, but as soon as I’ve published a new post I go ahead and run the “cron” job that will update that sitemap, ensuring that Google gets a notification of my new content to be spidered right away. There are several similar plugins for WordPress.
2. Like the post. Somewhere on every blog post, you should have buttons to help readers share your content to social networks. If possible, include widgets for the more popular platforms so that it’s easy to provide social signals, and you present visual evidence of popularity. First up is Facebook with a button to Like the post. This doesn’t post an update to your feed, but it will place the post in your Likes box on Facebook for your personal profile.
UPDATE: I recently switched social sharing buttons to use Shareaholic’s, which are really gorgeous, but lack a true “Like” button. The Facebook widget is a Share widget only, so this step is currently skipped. However, my social sharing buttons are an ongoing saga (that I’m documenting for a blog post) so this may change again.
3. +1 the post. Similarly, we need to provide Google+ with a social signal. When my readers come to my blog, I want them to see that there’s activity. It’s like a party where you show up and there’s already people there having a good time. No one wants to be the first person there!
UPDATE: My current set of social sharing buttons doesn’t reflect +1 counts, so I am considering adding a native Google+ widget as well. Some readers see the numbers for Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and assume incorrectly that no one is sharing these posts to Google+.
4. Share to Google+. Using the same +1 button, if I leave my mouse hovered over it, a dialogue box comes up that will let me post an update to Google+ and share my new blog. The update will automatically include the title, image and description, so all I need to do is add some commentary. This is where you need to be creative and devote some more time. First, it’s important that you introduce your article. Explain a little what it is about or why someone would be interested, and then try to start a discussion by asking related questions. Second, take advantage of Google’s formatting options and hashtags to make your post look good and be more easily found.
UPDATE: As mentioned previously, my current set of social sharing buttons works a little differently. Instead of a +1 button, it’s a straight share to Google+ button. So instead of hovering over the button, I simple click it and that opens a new tab with a share to Google+ dialogue box. Additionally, it should be noted that more and more, I am sharing my posts to Google+ as images rather than link previews. That means that I go to Google+ first, start a new status update, and before inserting a link to my new blog post, I upload the full image from the post. I then compose my update and insert a link to the article within the description of the post. There are Pros and Cons to both methods, but for a full discussion on the How and Why of formatting your Google+ posts, read 6 Ways a Formatted Google+ Post Will Increase Interest and Engagement.
4a. Share to a Google+ Notification Circle. While technically this is part of step 4, I wanted to add it as a new step to stress its importance. Using the technique outlined here, I have cultivated a notification circle on Google+ of hundreds of people. These people have asked to be notified any time I share brand new blog posts. So, as I am creating that first Google+ post, I also edit the audience to include this circle and mark the notification option, so as soon as it’s shared, all of these people instantly get a notification.
5. Share to LinkedIn and LinkedIn Groups. Most LinkedIn Share widgets will give you a dialogue box that lets you simultaneously post a status update as well as Group posts. Just as with Google+, the blog will be posted as a title, image and description, but you still want to add that introduction. It can be the same or similar to what you used on Google+. A lot depends on the kinds of conversations you have on one network or the other. Make sure that you’re only sharing quality content with appropriate groups, and if you need to adjust the commentary for specific groups so that it creates a better discussion starter, share to those groups separately.
UPDATE: With LinkedIn’s policy shifts on Groups, I’m using them less and less. In case you weren’t aware, if just one moderator in one group decides to flag one of your posts as spam – even if it isn’t – all of your future posts to every group will be automatically moderated. That means that in order for the post to appear, a moderator must manually approve it for Discussions, and most of the time it will be put in Promotions. Since I am sharing these posts and commentary specifically to start discussions, having them hidden or in promotions is a waste. As a result of this change, traffic and visibility from LinkedIn has fallen dramatically and I have decided to focus more on personal updates. I still share some posts to specific groups, but less frequently.
6. Share to Twitter. This is the first of several times that I will typically share a new blog post to Twitter. I will typically post the Title verbatim the first time, and then use variations for future tweets, spread out throughout the day. I will also include appropriate hashtags within the tweet and/or at the end.
7. Share to Facebook Groups, and sometimes personal. I belong to a number of Facebook Groups for business, blogging, and the St. Louis area. Whenever appropriate, I will share a new article to one or more of these groups, just like LinkedIn. Again, you can use the same commentary to spark discussion, or adjust as needed to fit a specific group. Because I use my personal Facebook account primarily for family and friends, I do not share every new article there.
UPDATE: Over the past six months, I have been told by a number of friends and acquaintances that they read my blog posts. Interestingly, they read them because I post them to my personal Facebook profile, but they’ve never so much as Liked the post, let alone made a comment or left any other indication that they’re reading. On the other hand, most of the Facebook Groups that I was associated with are nothing more than #LinkToilets so I now tend to share most posts to my personal account, and very few to Groups.
8. Share to Delicious, Digg, Google Bookmarks, StumbleUpon, MySpace, Bebo, Orkut, Diigo and Viadeo. These, and many more, are what I often refer to as “Third Tier” social networks. I have profiles on all of these networks and frequently share new content to them, but have no other activity and get very little traffic. It takes just seconds to post to each one so it is part of my routine. Your own list of third tier networks will vary.
UPDATE: The New MySpace no longer allows link sharing. And I have dropped Bebo and Diigo and Viadeo. Orkut is the only remaining “social network” within this list. The rest of social bookmarking sites. And while I do not get significant traffic from Digg or StumbleUpon, there are occasional spikes of interest in specific articles so it’s worth the few seconds it takes to submit each new link.
UPDATE: I no longer share any content to these blogs.
10. Pin to Pinterest. Of course, every new blog post and article is pinned to Pinterest. I have a number of Boards set up for different topics like Social Media, SEO and Marketing, and I am also a member of several shared boards.
UPDATE: I have continued to refine and improve my Pinterest strategy, and will go into more detail in another article. Basically, I now make sure that nearly every blog image also has text overlay (and I’ve replaced this blog’s original image with a new one to reflect this) so that the image on Pinterest has text for added interest and understanding. I also revamped my boards and created more boards that are far more specific than just “Social Media” like creating one just for “Google+ Resources.” This, coupled with being more active pinning and repinning other people’s pins and content, as led to a dramatic increase in activity and traffic via Pinterest.
11. Share to Reddit, SlashDot and Newsvine. If I am writing about a trending news story (newsjacking), I always share that post with a few news-related services. These are challenging to use appropriately as they generally prefer that you share mostly other people’s work, so if you’re going to try to use them, invest some time into learning the rules and sharing a lot of other content before you promote yourself.
UPDATE: I no longer share to SlashDot or Newsvine. I do, however, share more regularly to Reddit.
12. Post to my Scoop.it online magazine for curating B2B Content Marketing articles, and include shares to WordPress, Tumblr and Buffer. I use Scoop.it daily to find and share great content on B2B marketing, but I also want to make sure my own articles are listed and available for visitors. Over time, this will result in a steady flow of traffic. When I scoop a story, it is added to my online magazine immediately, and I can also choose to share the story further, with options to post to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Tumblr, WordPress and your Buffer accounts. If I’m scooping someone else’s content, I share it immediately. If it’s my own story, I will typically add it to my Buffer to be re-shared later on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
UPDATE: Scoop.it is working very well for me so I continue to use it to curate my own posts as well as those from other people. I have also noticed that if I copy my Google+ post and paste that in as my curator insight, all links within the Google+ remain intact, including linked hashtags and mentions of other users, so that’s very cool. I have refined the list of sources that I use within Scoop.it to find other people’s content to a specific set of blogs that provide really valuable information, and I check it regularly. However, I have stopped using Scoop.it to add to my Buffer. The posts are not formatted correctly when shared.
12a. Add to Buffer. As mentioned above, I no longer use Scoop.it to share to Buffer. Instead, I use the Buffer extension for Chrome. If the article is a news story or time-sensitive, I will skip this step as my Buffer queue can be as much as a month out. But for all my other blogs and articles, they’re added to my Buffer to be reshared at a later date. You can read more about Buffer here.
13. Post to BizSugar. BizSugar is a service that I will cover in more detail in another post, but it is a great place to share and find content on marketing and technology and business topics.
UPDATE: I no longer post to InBound.org. The bookmarklet broke, and the site moderators prefer content to be submitted by people other than the author.
14a. Post to DoSplash. Similar to BizSugar, DoSplash is a content curation site that you can submit new blog posts for free.
15. Post to Quora. Quora is primarily a site for posting questions and answers. However, users are encouraged to maintain blogs and discussions. I typically post my commentary here with a link to read more, and tag appropriate topics like “Social Media” or “Blogging.”
UPDATE: I no longer post to Quora.
15a. Post to The Writers Social. Similar to BizSugar, The Writers Social is a content curation site that you can submit new blog posts for free.
16. Share via HootSuite. I use HootSuite to post to company profiles on Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and Facebook. Since I use my personal profiles on Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ for most engagement, I’m OK with simply sharing links to my company pages.
UPDATE: Similar to Google+, since I have started to spend more time on images, I am starting to share more posts as images with links to Facebook and my Facebook Page.
17. Create a mission on Empire Avenue to ask people to share the post on Google+ or Twitter. I’ve mentioned before how you can use Empire Avenue to really create some buzz around your latest post, particularly on Google+. Facebook and LinkedIn missions have had poorer results for me, but that might be different for you and your brand.
18. Create a tweet on JustRetweet.com. JustRetweet is another service that I will review in more detail later, but the basic idea is that you can submit a tweet for other people to retweet, and each tweet costs points that you earn by reciprocating.
19. Check Triberr. By this time, Triberr usually has checked my RSS feed and imported the new post. If not, you can do a manual import to make sure it gets there, or just wait and check it again later. I also hop on Triberr once or twice a day to review my tribemate’s blog posts and and select which ones I want to share.
20. Ping. Once a day, I use an app called BlogPingy to ping (notify) 30+ sites that my blog has new content. Sites include Yahoo, FeedBurner and Technorati.
21. Share to Google+ Communities. While you cannot instantly or automatically share your post to every Google+ Community that you’re a member of, you should certainly feel free to go to your original public Google+ post for this article and share that post to specific communities, one at a time, throughout the day. I typically do no more than 2 – 3, depending on the post topic, and whether or not any of my own followers have already shared it to key communities. Do pay attention to Community guidelines and do not be afraid to ask a moderator what is acceptable for that community. Some communities forbid link sharing altogether, while others may insist that you post only new, original posts to that community. Most of the communities that I’m a member of are fine with you sharing a post to that community as long as you’re not spamming, you share great content, and you are active within the community in other ways.
22. Create a Pin on PinWoot. For posts that I think would do really well on Pinterest, I hop into my PinWoot account and submit the pin link. Again, the details will require an entire article, but the idea is that PinWoot is run on seeds. You get seeds for following people and repinning their pins, and give away seeds to people who follow you and repin your pins. Which pins you want repinned is up to you. You simply go to your Pinterest account, find the pin you want to promote, and paste the URL into PinWoot. Like JustRetweet, it’s a way to use reciprocal sharing to get more reach for your content.
23. Google+ Timezone Reshare. For posts where I feel it’s appropriate, I will reshare the Google+ post after 8-12 hours to catch a different audience. Typically, I will simply grab the original Google+ post and share it to Public, starting “Timezone reshare” or “Resharing for the evening crowd” or something like that. This keeps my original commentary intact, and generally reaches hundreds of additional readers.
24. Share image to Instagram. This is a technique that I have only tried a few times and plan to do more frequently in 2014. Since you cannot include a working link within an image description on Instragram, and you have to use your phone, it’s less effective and less intuitive than many of these other methods. But if done regularly, others have demonstrated remarkable effectiveness. Essentially, once you’ve published your post, call it up on your smartphone and download the blog post image to your device. Open Instragram and share it, including a description and a call to action. The CTA should be to go to your profile and tap the link to go to your blog site – where your post should be the most recent article. It demands a couple of additional clicks beyond the traditional social media share, but if your images are compelling and you begin to culvate a good following, you may experience positive results.
25. Repurpose Post into a Slideshare presentation or YouTube video or podcast. This is another technique that I will explore even more in 2014, but I have had some success creating simple presentations of the main blog post points and uploading to SlideShare. It’s something that I need to refine and be more consistent in order to more accurately judge effectiveness.
If that sounds like a lot of steps, it is! However, once you have all of these accounts and systems in place, running through the entire process typically takes just 20 – 30 minutes. And, much like how I advise clients that they don’t have to learn and use every social network at once, the same is true for all of these promotional tools. I’d recommend that you get started on Triberr first, and then gradually add some of the other tools and services as time permits.
Promotional Activity Analysis
So what does all this activity do for me? Let’s break down the benefits and then see which tasks are proving to be the most beneficial.
Certainly, website traffic is a goal for blog post promotional activity, and the majority of these tasks are designed to accomplish just that. Here are my top referral sources for 2013:
Note that several referral sources due to content syndication, like SocialMediaToday.com, have been omitted for relevance.
While Triberr is generating a significant number of direct referral links to my site, the real benefit is in the Twitter shares that are made possible thanks to Triberr.
And this analysis is also what’s led to skipping some of the steps that I used to spend time on. Quora led to just 167 visits this year, and no real interest or engagement. Just 30 from SlashDot. DoSplash and The Writers Social are new so I’m giving them a chance. We’ll see how they rank next year.
Brand Recognition and Revenue
Perhaps more important that website traffic is brand recognition and sales, and this is where Google+ and Twitter truly stand out. No other network or platform has provided the level of brand recognition, leads and sales that these two have.
Yet, I think it’s also important to continue to promote new posts in a variety of places. Each different platform introduces your writing to a new audience, even if it’s a small one, and creates potential SEO benefits depending on the nature of the platform and link structure. I recommend that every blogger try each of these networks and platforms, and always be on the lookout for new opportunities and methods to share your posts.
Let me know what questions you have about these tools, and if you’re using a tool or service that I missed, please share it in the comments below!