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10 Extremely Effective, Totally Free Content Promotion Strategies

By Nichole Elizabeth DeMeré

Jul 28
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Good content isn’t cheap, and it’s not easy – even if you’re doing it yourself, or trying to save a buck and tasking your non-writerly employees with the job. Time or cash, either way, you’re going to invest to do it right*. But to make that content work for you, you have to promote it. This is why content promotion is a vital step in your content marketing process.

* What’s the point in doing it wrong? Nobody pays attention to bad content, including Google’s web crawler algorithms.

Producing content alone it isn’t enough to get you noticed, read and shared.

Yet, many companies drop the ball with their content. They put it up on the company blog and sit and wait for people to come – but nobody knows it’s there.

Or, almost as bad, they’ll quit after posting the link on social media for all of their 27 followers to ignore.

Because those followers have no reason to pay attention in the first place.

Content marketing does work. When you do it right, it can establish your company as a thought leader, increase trust and brand awareness, while nurturing leads through your sales funnel.

Content can provide customer success support for existing customers, helping answer questions and learn to derive value from your product.

In addition to all of these benefits, good content is a sustainable way to climb Google’s rankings and ensure your website’s place among the firmament (i.e. the top slots of the search engine results page).

Good content doesn’t get dinged or demoted. It builds a following. And the longer you have it up, the better it works as additional people see it, read it, love it and share it. For many businesses, quality content marketing is the long but steady path up the mountain to Search Engine Supremacy.

For all of this to work though, you have to get your content out there. And if you’re a startup or relatively new business, your funds are likely allocated elsewhere.

We’ve got you covered – because you don’t need a marketing budget for any of these content promotion strategies. Fair warning: If you’re not investing money, you will need to invest some time. Nothing happens by magic — at least not yet.

1) Leverage inside allies

Competitive Marketing Director at Twilio, Clair Byrd, suggests starting your content promotion at home — which may require building alliances with teams you wouldn’t normally work closely with.

“In a world that seems increasingly pay to play, it may seem hard to still make an impact when you have no money to spend. However, this isn’t true! The best way to get eyeballs on your content is to build alliances within your own company; namely with product, sales, and customer support.

Your sales and customer success team talk to and follow up with prospects all day, every day, and are also always hungry for content. Give it to them! The best way to continue a conversation with a prospect is to simply have something interesting to talk about. Share your blogs, infographics, reports, and anything else you make with them. Help them create outreach sequences with logical progressions of content that’s already built. And, as this becomes more and more successful, they will start looking for ways to help you. Plus, you can show that your content helps directly create dollars—never something to sniff at.

Beyond that, build content into the onboarding and lead nurturing tracks that your company or products might have. Same concept as above, just different end result!”

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2) Make it easier for people to share your content themselves

The goal of content marketing is to create “remarkable” and sharable content, which makes this tip a no-brainer. Make it as easy as possible for people to share content they like. Try these:

  • “Share this” social media buttons on the tops and bottoms of posts.
  • Click-to-tweet highlighted phrases in the body of your content.
  • Modals that appear on screen (like a pop-up) with messages like “Share this with your friends.”
  • Sticky headers, or footers, that offer ways to share on pages with the most traffic.

3) Syndicate

Syndication isn’t just for popular advice columnists and radio personalities — anyone can do it, if they know where to look and ask. Content Strategist Cara Hogan explains how it’s done:

“One of the best ways to promote your content for free is through syndication. There are probably a few publications in your industry who are understaffed and always looking for new (free) content. Re-write a few of your best-performing blog posts and offer them to the publications free of charge.

Make sure the posts aren’t overly promotional, but rather focus more on thought leadership in your industry. If this works, ideally, you can set up a recurring syndication agreement with a few publications, getting free promotion for your content and reaching a highly targeted audience in your industry.”

Don’t have time to re-write your own posts? You can easily hire this out to a good content writer (just make sure it’s a good writer).

4) Make your images work for you

Images are often the unsung heroes of content. They draw attention, they’re easily shared, and when they contain valuable information, like infographics, or are uncommonly well designed, people will share them on Pinterest (potentially garnering you more views and more leads).

Pinterest marketing can works for some companies, depending on the type of product you offer and your target audience.

Julia Jornsay-Silverberg, Social Media Director for Telesco Creative Group, places equal emphasis on visuals and value.

“When trying to promote content without a budget, it’s important to emphasize the visual aspects of the work. Create gorgeous graphics that stand out and showcase your brand. Use your presence across your multiple social accounts to drive people to your website and always focus on the value first — let people know what’s in it for when and what they can walk away with as a result of consuming your content.”

Still not sure great images are worth the investment? Consider this post by Samuel Hulick of UserOnboard — less than 120 words, but it’s been shared well over 60,000 times.

5) Leverage outside allies

Finding “sharing buddies” is my favorite way of promoting great content because you are gaining access to the audiences who’ve already been cultivated. There are a few ways to form these partnerships.

One way is to join a co-marketing Slack group for sharing and promoting each other’s content across social media. When you do this, choose your group carefully so that your target audience and their target audiences overlap. You want to make sure you’re getting access to potential leads, not just anyone.

Brandon Pindulic, Founder of OpGen Media and Marketing Hub Today has another, more subtle technique:

“Whenever I want to promote content without a budget, I always look to leverage other people’s audiences. Where relevant, I’ll recommend a tool or influencer in my post, then share the content once published with that company or influencer. In doing so, we can seed the promotion of the content while still ensuring it’s relevant and high quality.

More often than not, they share it on their own without me ever asking them to do so. Plus, this often leads to other partnerships and opportunities.”

Never assume that someone you cite in your article will automatically know you’ve linked to them. It’ll go a long way towards building a fruitful relationship if you take the time to email or message them, tell them how much you appreciate their expertise, and let them know you’ve mentioned their name and linked to their site.

6) Forget marketing – consider philanthropy

People share what they like. You know what people don’t like? Being sold to.

Yes, content can work in a lead nurturing capacity, but not by talking about how great your product or service is (that is an ad, and people don’t share ads unless they contain coupons).

I love the philosophy embraced by Kristin Hillery, Contributions Editor of the InVision Blog:

“There are countless people who call themselves content strategists or content evangelists, but I’d like to see more content philanthropists: people who create content to delight, inspire, and help those who read it. With the InVision Blog, I don’t think of it as our company blog. I think of it as a design publication that acts as a free knowledge share for the community.

When you create valuable content without wanting anything in return, more than likely you’ll find that people want to do something in return to thank you for it—sharing a blog post via their social channels is one example.

And don’t be afraid to give things away for free. Years ago, I co-founded a publication in Austin with zero budget, and one of our biggest sources traffic was from the hundreds of high-res, beautiful photos we uploaded to Flickr and licensed as Creative Commons Attribution for anyone to use, even commercially.”

7) Use a newsletter (but not just any newsletter)

Weekly or monthly newsletters can be a great way to keep up with your following and stay top-of-mind with prospects and current customers. The reason more companies don’t do newsletters (or don’t do them often) is that they take time and thought to write each time. And they can be boring, and have terrible open rates (mostly because they’re boring).

Madhav Bhandari, Marketing Consultant, has a hack for all of these problems: Get your content in someone else’s curated newsletter.

“In my personal experience, curated newsletters are a huge content promotion medium. There are so many curated newsletters out there that share the best links in a niche every day or weekly. Some of these newsletters have huge audiences from a particular niche (like SaaS marketers, web designers, remote workers etc.).

Whenever you create some content around a particular niche, look for curated newsletters and pitch to them. I pitch to 4-5 curated newsletters for every article I promote and this strategy has been a big driver of traffic to both my blog and my client’s blogs.”

8) Find questions to answer

Once you publish a blog post, try this: Look for questions about your topic on Quora, Slideshare and LinkedIn, and answer them, using some (but not all) of the material from your post.

Let people know they can read more about it if they click on the link to your post — but be sure to first actually answer the question and be as helpful as you can. Then direct readers to your post to see examples and multiple strategies.

The types of posts that work best for this promotion technique are those that offer actionable strategies and specific examples. And, for the most views, look for relatively new questions that don’t have a lot of answers yet — or questions with more than 1,000 views per week.

Don’t limit yourself to Quora, Slideshare and LinkedIn. Look for the most relevant forums and online communities for your niche.

9) Snippet-it

For startups that can’t publish a new post every single day, I recommend that they focus on writing two or three strong, info-packed posts per week, and promote, promote, PROMOTE!

That means promoting the same post multiple times, which, if the content you are using is exactly the same, comes off as spam. Not a good move.

The solution is to select several “snippets” from each post that are short enough for Twitter, and intriguing enough to grab attention, and use a tool like Hootsuite to schedule them throughout the week. You’ll also want to mix and match different images to get the best results.

10) Bring it all together

Once your content promotion engine is up and running, it will practically propel itself. Social Media Manager at SociallyIn, Audra Gines, explains what that looks like:

“It used to be that likes or follows was all a business needed to create a valuable reach or following on Facebook. Now, because of Facebook’s new algorithms, businesses can no longer count on organic content to attract enough views, likes, and follows.

As a result, creating exciting ‘thumb stopping’ content is critical. Images have to pop, videos have to lure, and Boomerang’s have to encourage.

The magic comes when you begin putting all the pieces of the puzzle together. You create eye-stopping, catchy content; publish it on a blog, re-target ads/content accordingly; create intriguing calls-to-action through e-books or other relevant content; post consistently and regularly to your preferred platforms; and, step-by-step you’ll begin creating the kind of following you’ve always dreamed of.”

One final word about Google’s ever-changing algorithms

Google’s algorithms for which content it rewards, and which content it demotes (or, frankly, punishes) are evolving — and are getting smarter. The biggest change…and one that we’ll see continue, is that the quality of content is largely determined by how many people share it.

With each share, readers are essentially rating what you’ve told them, and you rise or fall by their opinions.

Keywords are still useful for attracting the right searchers to your content, but they have less of an effect on how high your content rises on the search engine results page.

Conclusions

Content marketing can be an extremely effective tool for your business. But you cannot just create the content. You also need to also promote the content.

You can’t phone it in. And you can’t make it happen for nothing — you’ll always spend time or money or both. So take that cost as a given for getting prospects onto your site, and promote the hell out of it.

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SaaS Consultant & Customer Success Evangelist. Founder at Authentic Curation. Moderator at Product Hunt & GrowthHackers.

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