Content is King. This is a true statement that we keep hearing when it comes to blogging, business and online marketing in general. However, there is a big misconception where we’re led to believe that all we need to do is create great content and wait for the massive amounts of traffic. Creating a viral blog post (or any other piece of content) is much more than the content itself.
Amazing content is one part of the equation. The other part is the promotion of that content. This post is a case study of a recent article that was published right here on the Extra Paycheck Blog. I will be sharing the process of crafting the actual post, the promotional process and some very interesting numbers. I should start with a disclaimer: the blog post in this case study did not go viral as in “getting 1 million visitors” however it was (and still is) the most popular post on this site. It also brought in some income (although it wasn’t the main goal) and a pretty interesting number of social media interactions. Let’s do this!
Part 1: Creating Great Content
The first part of the equation, as I already mentioned, is creating a good blog post. You must be proud of this blog post. you must put yourself in your blog reader’s shoes and ask yourself: “Would I share this article with others?”. If the answer is yes than you’re on the right track. If the answer is no than keep working on that content until the answer becomes YES!
First of all, here is the blog post in question: 30 Books Every Entrepreneur Should Read in 2016
As an avid reader of non-fiction books I am always on the look out for new stuff to read, especially on the subject of business, entrepreneurship, marketing and self-improvement. I’ve also noticed many people in different entrepreneurship groups keep asking others for book recommendations so I’ve decided to write a list of my favorite books. This is how the actual idea for this blog post was born.
Step # 1: Keyword Research
Normally I do not care much about exact keywords. I believe in the power of LSI (meaning synonyms of your main keyword). When I write a blog post I use Jaaxy to give me some ideas.
So I typed in a few keyword ideas that I had: “Best Entrepreneur Books 2015” and “Best Business Books 2015”. As I was writing the post at the very beginning of 2016 I knew that the search data is not yet available however if people search for a phrase with “2015” in it, they will swap that for “2016” this year. Using the keyword tool gave me a good idea of similar keywords, possible rankings, competition and a number of searches. I took this information and moved on to the next step.
Step # 2: Studying Your Competitors
Now armed with a few main keyword phrases I went to Google.com and typed in the keywords “Best Entrepreneur Books 2015” and “Best Business Books 2015” to see who I was going to compete with. When I saw the search results I rolled my chair away from the computer and gave myself a few minutes to digest the information: Inc.com, BusinessInsider.com, Entrepreneur.com, Forbes.com… ouch.
At this point I gave up on the idea of ranking in the top of the search results, however I decided to still go with it. I though, even if I somehow manage to rank well enough, why would people read my post rather than a post from Forbes as they certainly have a lot more authority. This is how I came up with the next step.
Step # 3: Ideas for Better Content
As I looked through the top results I noticed the same pattern in their content: it was short and without much value. Some of the top articles were just 200-300 words long and the only reason they ranked so high was because they were posted on such high-authority domain names. Most of these posts gave a quick list of 5, 7, 9 or 10 books to read, without any images and with a one-liner descriptions.
These are the kind of posts I do not like when I search for information (Google, you still have a lot of work to do, known domain name does not automatically mean quality content). This is when I realized that if I want to have the smallest chance of ranking on the first page of google I would need to come up with much better content than these big guys. Eventually I settled down on a list of 30 business book for my blog post.
Step # 4: Writing Great Content
To be honest at first I was going to do a list of 20 books. When I actually started writing down the books that I would recommend it quickly became over 20 so I changed my mind and turned it into a list of 30.
Some of these books are new, some are old and some are very old. However, all of these books are amazing and I’ve read several of them more than once. I would never be able to put this list in a particular order of priority, so I just started describing the books, one by one.
I didn’t want to give mediocre information about the books (like the above mentioned sites did) and I knew that if I wanted to satisfy my blog visitors I’d have to put in more effort and write more than just a few words in the books’ descriptions. Every books that made my list includes a short description of the book and/or the author, my personal reason for liking it and a description of what kind of book it is. I mention if the book is a biography, a pure business strategy book, a self-improvement book, etc. I know that YOU do not have the time to read every single book out there so I made sure to let you know in advance if this is a strategy book or rather a mindset book. This little trick made a lot of people fall in love with this article.
Step # 5: Choosing The Title
While writing the blog post I must have changed the title 10 times. I kept jumping from more descriptive title to more shocking to more simple to plain stupid. I finally settled on 30 Books Every Entrepreneur Should Read in 2016.
I think it’s simple enough. Descriptive enough. Marketers and entrepreneurs can relate to it. It has the 2016 in the title which promises fresh content. And of course it has the number 30 which means it’s a list.
Lists are way over-used these days and are often associated with click-bait titles. BuzzSumo reports that List Posts are a part of the most clicked and liked content online in 2015. As much as we dislike list posts, most people seem to still love them (and more importantly click on them).
Step # 6: Formatting Your Post
Not everyone reads every single word in a blog post. We all know that most people skim through the text and only stop on things that grab their attention. But how can you possibly grab someone’s attention with a never-ending block of text? Formatting is your answer.
At the very beginning of the post I added a picture of myself with a pile of books. I do that for every post on my blog now (adding an image, not necessarily a photo of myself). When a new visitor comes to my site I do not want to scare them off with lots of text, putting an image at the very beginning of your article (above the fold) helps you present you article as “easy to read”. I think it also shows that you’ve put in a lot of effort into creating that piece of content.
In the “30 Best Books” blog post I went through the trouble of finding every single book cover, saving it on my computer then uploading it to the site. Thankfully Amazon is there to help with this task.
I decided to put the image to the left side. On the right side of the image I wrote the book’s title (in bold) as well as two short paragraphs describing the book. Underneath this description I added a link to Amazon (yes, an affiliate link) to simplify things for those who actually want to read the book.
I also linked the images to their respective listings on Amazon. I used a heatmap plugin on this blog for other posts to study user’s interaction with my content and I noticed that people tend to click on images as much (if not more) as on text links.
Whenever I find information online that makes me want to buy something I get very annoyed if there is no direct link to the service or the product. Since I do not want to open a new tab and search for the product, I am sure my readers wouldn’t want to do that either.
Last but not least, I also put a line between each book review which clearly separates one book from another.
Content Is Ready
After 4,000 words and 2 days of creating the post (I am not sure how many hours total but at least 10-15) I was finally happy to publish it. I proofread it 4 times and I am sure there are still some typos but hey, we’re all human. So far so good, right? Here is where the second part of this equation comes in.
Part 2: Content Promotion
When I talk to people about content promotion, everyone tells me that this is the easy part. Share it on Facebook, share it on Twitter and you are done! This could work for a big brand or a celebrity (in whatever sense of this word) if they have hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of loyal fans and followers.
I don’t have that. Chances are you don’t either.
Step # 1: Sharing Content on Social Media
You must share your content on your social media accounts. This might not bring a lot of traffic but it will get the ball rolling. I knew that some of my friends and acquaintances would enjoy this list of books so it was a no-brainer for me.
Facebook is my favorite social media platform although it’s becoming a very difficult one. You probably already know that when you share content via your fan page (not a personal profile), only a few people who like your page will actually see this content show up in their feed. Many claim that this number is now under 5%. In my case, the Extra Paycheck facebook page (do feel free to Like it) has a little shy of 500 likes. If the reported numbers are accurate, only 25 people will see my post… unless I pay for advertising through Facebook ads of course.
It gets even worse. Facebook recently started hiding your updates from your friends if Facebook thinks you aren’t great friends with that person. This means that if your best friend goes directly to your account they will not see all of your updates, just because Facebook decided that your best friend is not your best friend. I understand that they do not want to show every update on the feed but hiding stuff on your profile is getting a little ridiculous.
I shared it on the Facebook page. Then I clicked the share button and shared it on my personal Facebook page. I also wrote personal messages to 5 good friends and asked them to share it on their profiles which they did. As I am writing this very article Facebook shows that particular post on the Extra Paycheck FB page reached 1,240 people. My usual number is 200. So far so good.
Of course I went on and shared it on my Twitter account, Google+, LinkedIn and even Pinterest. I got mixed results from the other social media platforms but I did get re-shares, +1s, likes and comments on all of them – this was proof that people liked my content.
Step # 2: Sharing The Content With Your Targeted Audience
After sharing the post on my social media account I decided to take it one step further and share it even more, still on social media platforms. However this was a very different kind of sharing.
Since I am an online entrepreneur ( I guess this is the right term), I am also a somewhat active member of different online communities related to my interests. In shorter terms, I joined a few Facebook groups (not pages) that talk about online marketing, business and entrepreneurship in general.
Sure enough I had to share my article with these folks! After all, these people kept asking for book recommendations in the past and in some way they inspired me to make that list of books.
Some of these groups had tens of thousands of members, some had a few hundred. So I went ahead, wrote a little description explaining WHY I think the members of the group will find value in the article. I also asked people for comments suggestions and their own recommendations (because people love it when you ask them for advice, also because I am on the lookout for new books to read). I added the link to my blog post and posted it.
Comments started coming in along with likes and shares. Many shared it on their own Facebook profiles and some even shared it in other Facebook groups. I got a lot of recommendations and a lot of compliments of how detailed and well-put my list was. Those comments surely brought a grin to my face, I was extremely happy to hear that people appreciate all the effort I put into that list article (listicle?).
It is important to note that you cannot simply spam a group with your link. I would highly suggest joining some groups in your niche wa-a-a-a-a-ay before you decide to post something there. Be social, communicate with others (because that’s the main goal of any group). Spend some time figuring out what kind of content they love and what kind of content will get you blocked by the admins. Better yet, contact the group’s administrator by private message and ask if he/she thinks that your content will be appropriate for the group.
Do NOT spam – you have been warned.
Also, do not ask me for the names of groups where I shared my article, find the ones that are highly relevant to your industry.
Step # 3: Reddit
Reddit is the front page of the internet. I will not explain what Reddit is because it’s 2016 and everyone knows about Reddit but I would like to say this: if your link reaches the front page of Reddit your website will (most likely) crash. I mean unless you have very expensive dedicated hosting, your host provider will not be able to handle this much traffic. This is why when you want more exposure you should always consider Reddit.
The problem with Reddit is that it’s very extreme. There is no middle-ground, people on Reddit either hate you or love you. Also if you are posting a link to your own website, chances are it will be seen as self-promotion and your submission will be down-voted to the seventh circle of hell and you might get banned from the specific subreddit.
I decided to take that risk and submit my post. 70% of people liked it, 30% hated it and the submission ended up with 30 upvotes. That’s a few thousand upvotes away from the front page but I never expected to get there anyway. After all, I got about 500 visits from Reddit throughout the week. Also Reddit uses no-follow for links that don’t have a certain number of upvotes. Since I got 30, I got a do-follow link to my blog which is always great.
It feels pretty awesome when I see traffic from Reddit and I realize that it is NOT coming from my submissions but from some other post because someone else posted my link as an answer to someone looking for new business books to read. You know you’ve done a great job when people remember your content as a “reference” and share it with others in order to help them!
I was very careful at how I crafted my Reddit submission. There is a very thin line between posting something of value and spamming (in the eyes of the reddit community). So just like with Facebook groups, join the subreddits appropriate to your niche, start interacting with people, be social, learn what they like and what they hate. Good luck.
Step # 4: Personal Outreach
What I am about to describe in this step is simply genius (and very under-used). Unfortunately I was not the one who came up with this idea, I took it from one of my all time favorite SEO experts Brian Dean at Backlinko.com. I didn’t go to the full extent of his promotional strategies but I tried a few tricks.
Two of the 30 books on my list were written by great authors who I had a privilege to interview on my podcast (what? you haven’t listened to my podcast yet?) So naturally I wrote them an email letting them know they made it to my list of best books and asked them to share it on their social media channels. They were super happy about the post and gladly shared it through their social media channels.
I spent quite a bit of time trying to find contact information for other authors (which proved to be a lot more difficult than I expected). I also learned a hard lesson by emailing the superstar marketer Pat Flynn (after tagging him in a tweet) and letting him know about the post. I cannot tell you how stocked I was when Pat actually replied to me, however the reply didn’t make me very happy:
“Thanks Alex! I saw that and wanted to thank you again for that, and right next to Tim and the four hour work week too! Thanks so much and I was looking for an easy way to share it via mobile but couldn’t see how.”
What the..? I took out my phone, navigated to my site and realized that social sharing was disabled on mobile (for the past year or so!) what a fail… well at least I got that fixed now. I’m sad about the opportunity wasted though, would love a shout-out from that guy.
That’s pretty much all I did to promote the blog post so far.
At this point I am sure you’re curious to see the results I got from all of this. I will be happy to share that with you below.
Results and Conclusion
The Extra Paycheck Blog is not a big blog but you already know that as I am rather transparent with what I do. Normally I get about 300 unique visitors per day to this site. However, when I posted and promoted the article I got a little spike in traffic.
As you can see I posted the article on January 6th which caused a big spike in traffic the same day and for the following few days. The blog post did not go VIRAL by any stretch of imagination but it was pretty viral for this blog. This was probably the first time I got so much traffic from one single blog post.
This post has received close to 4,000 unique visitors in the past 2 months which seems like a success to me. You can see a spike in traffic on January 6th when I initially published the post and another (smaller) spike on January 19th, this is when my blog post was shared on another FB group by someone else but I wasn’t able to find the exact group. Nice surprise 😉
Backlinks are still a very important part of SEO (and always will be) so it’s nice to get those. As I mentioned I got a link from Reddit. The authors that I contacted personally didn’t only share the post on Social Media but they also linked back to me from their websites. Another author that I reached out to never replied to me and they have not shared the post on social media but they did link back to me from their site. I also noticed a few backlinks to that blog post coming from smaller marketing blogs, thank you all!
Social Media Interactions
This post received, without a doubt, the most amount of social media love out of all my post since the beginning of time. Take a look at this screenshot:
I was extremely excited when the number of shares went past 100. I was ecstatic when in reached 900 shares. However, with time I realized that the post did not get 919 shares on social media platforms but rather 919 interactions which means shares and comments in total. Still, almost 1,000 shares and comments combined – not too shabby! I guess this post is officially my most shared post as well.
Search Engine Rankings
As I expected I did not get ranked on the first page of Google for my main keyword phrases, although I got quite a few first page rankings for LSIs. At the moment of writing this post I am ranked # 11 for “Best entrepreneur book 2016” and # 37 for “Best Business Books 2016”. Very slowly but surely the post is crawling up the rankings.
I will surely update this information when I reach the first page 😉
I published that list of books to see how far I can go with it and money was not the main goal. However, since I used Amazon affiliate links within that article, the post has earned $50.59 USD from Amazon.com, $18.20 CAD from Amazon.ca and a whopping £3.50 from Amazon.co.uk for a total of $70 USD or $90 CAD since I am Canadian. This isn’t much but this should serve as proof that it doesn’t take any woodoo magic in order to make money online, all it takes is work. If I can do it, everyone else can do it as well.
Besides the Amazon earning I noticed a much higher number of subscribers to my e-mail list which is great. Also an unusual number of new members, both free and premium to Wealthy Affiliate (through my affiliate link). Unfortunately I did not track the sales but I had a few people inside WA telling me that they found out about me through that very specific post. How awesome is that?
I think it’s safe to assume that this post has earned at least a few hundred dollars so far, even though it was not the goal.
I did not give up on that article just yet. Whenever I stumble upon a place where people are asking for book suggestions, I post my link and a few examples of books from that list. I do that on Reddit, Quora, Forums and sometimes other blog posts.
I am planning a second round of promotion for it. The first step would be trying to get in touch with the authors once again. I will be asking them to share and possibly link to the article. In certain cases I also might ask to send the link to their email list (this is a touchy subject so I would need to figure out a proper approach for it).
The next step? I will find articles and websites who are mentioning just a few books and I will reach out to them, asking to check out my post and possibly link to it as it offers a much bigger list. I would also search for similar lists of books that are outdated (posted in 2010-2014) and ask them to link to this updated 2016 list.
Alright, that wraps up this case study and today’s post. Please DO feel free to link and/or share my list of 30 Books 🙂 Keep in mind that this blog is still small and has a minimal following online yet it managed to generate some buzz online and earn some money (and affiliate commissions on books are incredibly small). Just imagine the potential for a bigger site or/and more promotional effort!
Have you found this case study helpful? Would you like to see more content like this here? Do you have any questions or suggestions? Please use the comment form below 🙂