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The bar has been raised.
Creating great content isn’t enough anymore if you want your content marketing to be successful.
Today, you need to not only create that content but also promote it.
Many marketers have started to wake up to this fact, which is a good thing.
However, just because they recognize that promotion is important doesn’t mean they know how to do it effectively.
In my experience, only a small percentage of marketers possess the skills that make them effective promoters as well.
The big problem is that if you don’t have these skills, you’ll struggle to learn how to promote effectively.
The reason for this is that there isn’t much help out there.
When it comes to creating great content, you can study the content your favorite blogs publish and attempt to replicate it.
But it’s next to impossible to understand all the work that goes on behind the scenes to promote that content unless the creators are generous enough to share it with you.
It takes a special kind of marketer—the cream of the crop—to learn both from resources (like blog posts) and experience.
These are the complete content marketers that get the results everyone else wants.
Honestly, I don’t know if you’re one of them—maybe not yet.
The good news is that you can become one of them if you’re willing to learn new skills.
In this post, I’ll explain in detail the eight most important skills needed for effective content promotion.
If you recognize all these skills in your own work, you’re probably doing pretty well.
If you see you’re lacking a few of these skills, I’m going to show you exactly how to acquire and develop them.
Are you ready to put your skills to the test?
If so, let’s dive in.
1. The best content marketers all have this skill…
This first skill might be the most important.
As a marketer who is still finding your way, you’ll be spending a lot of time learning about different tactics you can use to promote your content.
These might be email outreach tactics, link building tactics, or social media tactics…you get the picture.
But not all marketers who try a specific tactic will succeed with it. You probably know that already from firsthand experience.
It’s not because of luck or skill. Although these factors may play a role, the main factor that determines how successful you are with a tactic is fit.
Some tactics work in some niches and situations better than in others.
If you blindly try different tactics, you’ll have some success but not as much as you’d like.
The really good marketers, or the ones who seem to “get it” really quickly, are the ones who can critically think about a tactic.
They don’t just read a blog post and think, “This is pretty cool; I’d better try it!”
Instead, they think about questions like these:
Why does this tactic work?
What niches would it work best in? why?
Will this work for my content?
Can I can tweak it in any way to make it even more effective?
How can I test this?
Understanding a tactic before using it is different from just applying it blindly. I hope the reason behind those questions is clear.
Once you truly understand the tactics you learn, all of a sudden you are able to see where they fit together in an overall strategy.
The good news is that no one is born with critical thinking skills—these skills are developed.
And even better news is that you probably already have some, but maybe just need to consciously use them more often.
Regardless of where you are, let’s go through a complete example of how you would approach a tactic in real life.
Examining infographics with critical thinking: Here’s the situation: you come across an article I wrote about creating and promoting infographics.
Of course, your first reaction is excitement when I explain how infographics can be used to get thousands of visits.
And they can, for sure. But not in all situations.
After you read the post, you want to ask yourself the same questions I listed above.
Q: Why does this tactic work?
Infographics work because they are attractive, easy to consume, and can convey complex information quickly.
On top of that, really good ones stand out and get extra attention.
Because infographics are so shareable, you’ll get a ton of traffic if you can get the initial views to them. Providing an embed code underneath the infographic makes it easy to share (and gets you extra links).
Q: What niches would it work best in? Why?
Infographics are an image-based type of content. Therefore, they probably work best in image dominated niches. Think clothing, design, food, and even marketing to a degree.
The most important factor mentioned was that the topic needs to be interesting, which means that viewers need to care about it.
In “boring” niches like heating or bug removal, which are not that interesting to people (in general), it’s going to be tough to get the infographic to spread.
Q: Can I tweak it in any way to make it even more effective?
The reason why the effectiveness of infographics seems to be declining is that they’re becoming more commonplace.
So, if I can come up with a way to make mine more unique, I should be able to get better results. Perhaps, I can make a gifographic instead.
Q: How can I test this?
To test this tactic fairly, I would need to produce at least 5-10 professionally designed infographics.
This means I’ll likely need a budget of around $2,000-4,000.
I will then determine its effectiveness by looking at a few key metrics:
cost per subscriber
cost per link
cost per visit
Then, I will compare those metrics to the metrics of other tactics I’ve used to determine if I should produce more infographics.
End questions. In reality, you’d probably want to ask yourself even more questions.
How many readers of this blog or any other marketing blog honestly do this after reading about a tactic?
While I have some of the most active readers I’ve ever seen, which is great, I would guess far fewer than half of the readers who read a post do this.
If you want to develop critical thinking skills, you simply need to practice thinking. Ask yourself hard questions and try to get the best answers you can.
It’s okay if they’re not perfect; you’ll get better over time.
2. How far can you dig?
One question that I get all the time is: “How long does it take you to write your posts?”
Truthfully, it doesn’t take that long. Typically, I can do the actual writing in about 3 hours plus some time for editing.
But creating a post takes longer than that. It also takes a lot of research. Some posts, of course, will require more research than others.
Research is one of the most undervalued skills in a content marketer. Research is definitely important when it comes to creating content, but it is probably even more important when it comes to content promotion.
A lot of modern day promotion is based on email outreach, and it’s important you understand some basic numbers.
Most effective tactics will have a conversion rate of 5-10%. That means that for every 100 emails you send, 5 to 10 will end up in links. The actual percentage will depend on a lot of factors, e.g., your niche, copywriting skills, and quality of content.
Keep in mind that the conversion rate I quoted above is for the best tactics. Most tactics will have a lower conversion rate.
What does this mean in terms of research?
It means that you’ll have to send a ton of emails as part of your promotional campaigns. You’ll want to get at least 20-30 links to the content you’ve spent a few hundred dollars on creating.
In most cases, that means you’re sending 400+ emails, sometimes thousands.
Over time, that number won’t seem that big, but at first, I understand why that would seem like a ton.
In reality, there are two big components to this:
sending the actual emails and
researching hundreds or thousands of good prospects
The research usually takes more time than sending the emails, at least until you establish key relationships in your niche.
Since you’re dealing with hundreds or thousands of data points, it’s crucial that you work efficiently.
This usually means working with tools and knowing how to use them effectively.
For example, you could manually search for resource pages to target for a link. You could probably create a list of 100 in an hour or so.
Or you could simply find a similar type of content, plug it in a tool such as Ahrefs or Majestic, and have a list of hundreds or thousands of targets in seconds.
Work smarter, not harder (when possible).
3. Are you able to determine what is and isn’t important?
By now, you understand pretty well what promoting consists of.
And to be honest, it’s an insane amount of work.
You could easily hire someone (or multiple marketers) just to do promotion for your content.
In most cases, you can’t do that.
Instead, you need to find a way to balance content creation with content promotion while running other parts of your business as well.
Introducing the 80/20 rule: The skill I’m focusing on in this section is your ability to identify which of your actions produce the most results.
There’s a fairly established rule called the 80/20 rule (or Pareto principle).
It states that 80% of your results come from 20% of your effort. And it applies to just about everything.
One of the things it applies to is content promotion:
80% of your traffic will come from 20% of the links
80% of your links and traffic will come from 20% of your promotion tactics
In almost all cases, if a sample size is large enough, these numbers will be fairly accurate. They may differ by 5-10% in each direction, but the effect remains the same.
Using the 80/20 rule to eliminate fluff: The reason why I showed you this rule is because it’s possibly the most effective way to save a lot of time without losing much in the way of results.
In fact, you can often get better results in less time once you understand how the rule works in your case.
By breaking down your efforts and results, you can determine which of your efforts are contributing the most to your results.
Then, you can cut out all the rest. Why spend 80% of your efforts on only 20% of the returns you want?
Instead, use that extra time you freed up to double or triple down on that 20% of activity that actually produces results.
Here’s what it might look like in practice…
Track all your efforts and results, then eliminate waste: You never want to guess what is and isn’t effective.
Instead, start by tracking what you do to promote content, how much time you spend on it, and what you get in return for that effort.
Tracking time is pretty straightforward, but you’ll have to track your other metrics using tools such as Google Analytics (for traffic) and Ahrefs (for links).
Here are some hypothetical results:
The traffic per hour value is calculated by dividing the traffic from that activity by the time spent on the activity.
I used traffic as the main goal for this promotional campaign, but yours could be links, social shares, or whatever else you’re looking for.
Finally, you can calculate the percentage of results value by dividing the traffic per hour value by the total “traffic per hour” amount (e.g., 300/1466 for email outreach). This is a fair comparison since they are all based on a “per hour” basis.
What we see is that almost all of the results come from email outreach and emailing subscribers (about 88%). Those two activities take up 5.5 out of 11.5 hours of effort, or a little under 50% of the total effort.
This also illustrates that it doesn’t matter if there’s a perfect 80/20 ratio. You just want to see which activities are producing the least from your efforts.
In this case, you could cut out over half of your effort and lose only about 12% of the results, a great trade off.
Even if this time was spent just on more email outreach, you could take your total traffic from 2,500 to about 3,500 (a 40% increase).
If you wanted to spend more time emailing your subscribers, you could do it indirectly by spending the extra time trying to get more subscribers. This could be done by creating lead magnets or by employing other tactics to try to improve your conversion rate.
The bottom line is that you need to be efficient.
Find any effort that isn’t producing results (like screwing around on social media), and cut it out. You don’t have time to waste if you want to be a good content promoter.
4. Social skills on the Internet?
Marketers come from all sorts of backgrounds.
A large portion of the new generation of Internet marketers was attracted to the profession because it offered a chance to make money without truly interacting with people.
Or at least that’s what they thought.
If you want to be a legitimate and successful marketer, you need to have at least basic social skills.
You need to know how to communicate with co-workers, influencers, and your readers in a way that doesn’t seem awkward or manipulative.
This comes down to basic human interaction, especially in emails.
A lot of promotional success comes down to building relationships with people, and if you can’t hold a conversation, in any medium, it’s going to be tough to succeed.
Most people have these basic social skills, but if you think yours can be improved, read Ramit Sethi’s The Ultimate Guide to Social Skills, which is by far the most useful guide on the subject I’ve come across.
5. The ability to care about others will take you far
It’s a harsh truth.
No other website owner truly cares about your content.
So, when you email them asking them to take a look at it and give you a link of some sort, it’s tough to get a positive response.
That’s why good marketers never just ask for things.
Instead, they provide value upfront.
They do something nice for an influencer, and most people return the favor. It’s called the rule of reciprocity.
That’s a very simple concept that every marketer should know.
What really sets good marketers apart, however, is empathy.
Empathy just means that you’re good at viewing things from the perspective of others and understanding how they feel.
It’s an important skill in all parts of marketing, but especially promotion.
It’s another one of those skills that help you understand when certain tactics should be used.
For example, consider broken link building.
The idea is that you find broken links on someone’s website and then you let them know about the broken links and suggest yours as a replacement.
It’s a completely valid tactic in some cases…
Empathy allows you to understand what people care about.
The guy managing a resource page in your niche? He probably cares about keeping the page as up-to-date and useful as possible.
Why? Because the whole page is dedicated to links that help the visitor. If those links are dead, it has a big impact on the usefulness of the page.
Here’s an example of what one might look like.
What about the guy running a small blog? He also probably cares about broken links.
What about me? If someone emailed me telling me that I have broken links on Quick Sprout, how much would I care?
To be honest, not very much. I have hundreds of articles on Quick Sprout, so it’s inevitable that I’ll have a few dead links here and there.
I realize that dead links aren’t good for readers, but it’s honestly a small concern compared to all the other work I currently have to do for the site (and my other sites).
So, when people email me about dead links (they do quite often), they are not going to get my attention.
They’ve failed to understand the value I place on the broken links.
The reciprocity principle can work on just about anyone, but first, you need to give the other person something they value.
Can you develop empathy? I’m of the opinion that you can develop empathy just like any other skill.
However, it’s probably the most difficult skill to teach because I can’t just give you a guide or offer a course on it.
Instead, the only way to get better at it is to consciously put yourself in someone else’s shoes as often as you can.
Try to guess what they care about, and if possible, confirm it by having a conversation with them.
My best advice would be to pick five people you know every day, and answer questions like these for all of them:
“What are the things I value most in my life?”
“How much do I care about my professional life?”
“How often do I try to do something nice just to try to be a good person?”
“How loyal am I to my friends?”
You’ll probably have to do a little bit of Internet snooping for each person to answer these questions. Hopefully, you’ll begin to notice that you start thinking from another person’s perspective automatically when you’re trying to contact someone to promote your content.
6. A sloppy marketer is an unproductive one
Even though this article isn’t directly about promotion strategies and tactics, you’ve still gotten a good glimpse at what effective promotion looks like.
One of those things was the scale that you need to achieve.
A single piece of content may often have an entire campaign created around it, consisting of hundreds or thousands of emails.
Mix in a few different tactics, and there is a ton of data you need to keep track of.
This skill is a basic one: organization.
If someone asks you why they should hire you, they won’t be impressed if you tell them you have amazing organization skills. That’s because it’s expected.
If you can’t keep track of what you’ve done and what you have to do, there’s no way you’ll be able to run an efficient promotional campaign.
I’ve gone into it in great detail in the past, but for now, understand that there are three main components to organization as a marketer:
Attitude – You need to want to be as productive as possible for yourself, your boss (if you have one), and your readers. This means you understand the importance of organization and put in the effort required.
Technology – I write a lot about different tools you can use to be a more effective marketer. There’s a reason for this. Tools are a key part of working efficiently and staying organized. Even basic tools such as Google Docs and Trello go a long way when it comes to keeping track of things.
3. Adapting – Staying organized is a commitment. You need to commit to staying up-to-date with relevant tools. You have to commit to keeping track of all your work, even on days when you feel a bit lazy. When something new is added to the promotional campaign, you need to find a way to fit it into your organizational structure.
When you have thousands of emails to send and keep track of, you need to have an organizational system in place.
I realize it’s not fun, but it ensures that you reach all your targets and that you don’t do anything stupid like email the same person twice asking for links.
7. Will your content promotion be effective in the future?
A sign of a good content marketer isn’t how much they know.
That’s because in a field such as marketing, knowledge goes stale quickly.
What worked even a few years ago doesn’t work now.
What’s more important is that you are continuously learning.
One part of that is reading other marketers’ blogs. Since you’re here, I’m guessing you have that covered.
Even just reading one post a day adds up quickly.
I suggest using a tool such as Feedly so that you don’t waste time monitoring when posts come out (or just become an email subscriber of your favorite blogs).
A good portion of marketers do that first part.
What they don’t do is experiment.
Marketing may not be a field of science, but you constantly need to test different tactics and strategies.
You need to be able to quantify what does and what does not work effectively.
For the most part, this involves split-testing.
For example, you might want to determine the effectiveness of sending an initial email to someone without asking for a link in that first email.
To do this, you would send some emails that did ask for a link right away and some that didn’t.
Then, once you had a valid sample size, you could compare the results.
From there, you could continue to test different approaches.
It’s crucial to test on a regular basis because all tactics will become less effective over time. It’s up to you to try to find more effective tactics before they become “ruined” by all the other marketers out there.
If you’re new to testing, it can seem intimidating, but it gets simple once you know what to do. Here are some guides to testing that will walk you through the entire process:
How To Run Your First A/B Test To Find A Winning Variation
A/B Testing For Beginners: 70 Resources to Get You Started
50 Split Testing Ideas (You Can Run Today!)
8. Can you lead AND follow?
Content promotion campaigns can take many different forms.
One component that often changes is the role you have to take.
Sometimes, you’ll do all the work yourself. That’s pretty straightforward—you just do things the way you like.
But you might be part of a marketing team and will likely need to follow instructions.
Even more common, you might find yourself having to lead. I say it’s more common because even if you do all your marketing yourself, you can start hiring freelancers to help you with certain parts of promotion.
Or you might want to hire content creators so that you can spend more time on promotion.
Here are a few good guides on managing help effectively:
How to Manage Your Freelancers into 2016 and Beyond
10 Simple Tips for Managing Freelancers
How to Manage Your Freelance Content Providers
Don’t get me wrong, content creation is incredibly important.
However, as far as the overall content marketing effectiveness goes, content promotion is often more important.
Furthermore, there’s a smaller percentage of marketers who know how to effectively promote content, so it really separates them from the rest.
If you want to be the best content promoter you can be, you need to develop all of the skills I went over in this article.
Take a minute to honestly assess your skill level in each area. Then, come up with a plan to improve it, but focus on your biggest weaknesses first.
If you’d like to share your results or you have any questions about the skills, I’d love to hear from you in a comment below.