Blog promotion was never easy for me. The fear of getting “too salesy” might have played a role, but more often it was a lack of understanding of my audience and, most of all, a lack of planning.
The truth is, the “how to get visitors to my blog?” question doesn't have a unique answer. Blog promotion is really a game of analysis, opportunity, and action – and yes, it's also a game of soft selling, because if you push it too hard, you might lose readers along the way.
The content promotion pitfalls in this post (some from my own experience, others from bloggers I interviewed) are those you should be aware of and avoid like the plague, because they could hinder your reputation and, as a consequence, the growth of your blog.
The 9 must-avoid mistakes to avoid are:
- Failing on promises
- Spammy promotion
- Putting features before benefits
- Poor outreach techniques
- Poor content quality
- Thinking prospects read your blog
- Lack of empathy and curiosity
- Your content doesn't fill a gap
- Using clickbait
(Click links to navigate to each point.)
1. Failing On Promises
In marketing theory, a promise made to the consumer during a marketing communication campaign is called a “claim”.
As a blogger, your consumer is your reader, and every time you make a claim (promise) to the reader, they expect you to maintain it – or at least to be notified if you can't, and you better have a good reason for that.
Do you stick to the promise made during a blog promotion campaign?
I'm guilty of making this mistake – and I've done that quite a few times. Until very recently, I've struggled with creating products and blog posts I promised to deliver (after announcing on Facebook and DeviantART) or even simply to give the promised feedback to loyal readers because I overestimated my energy and I didn't take my health problems into account when I made a plan.
In other words, I set unrealistic goals and regularly failed to meet them.
What to Do
If you promised to give subscribers a free 20-page guide packed full of tips, you have to ensure you are giving them that, or at least let them know you'll be delaying the product release because of any issues you're facing.
They'll feel deceived if you don't, and they might stop seeing you as a reliable content provider. (A decrease in return visitors could be a sign.)
If you really can't deliver what you promised for some reason, put a notice up on your website and let visitors know why that the goodie is delayed.
For example, in 2014, CALI announced their website redesign launch would be delayed due to the new platform not being ready yet, and it would have lessened its users' trust (and their usage of the service) not to do so.
Also, I loved the guide Udacity's Product Manager, Colin Lernell, shares at UserVoice on how to communicate product changes to your users, and I feel it well applies to bloggers, especially if you offer infoproducts and services in addition to blog posts.
Besides, changes are equally as important as promised material, launches, interviews and new posts – handle with care.
2. Spammy Promotion
Joanne writes right at SEOPressor: “Too much promotion isn’t promotion anymore – it’s spamming.”
It happened to me when I first started blogging in 2004-2005: every other comment I submitted to blogs had some mention of my own blogs without really commenting on the post first, so much that one blogger once replied and said: “Wow, first spam comment I get here!”
It was so embarrassing but eye-opening – that was definitely the wrong approach.
We see it every day – emails from content marketers offering services in suspicious ways, aggressive commenting tactics, forum spam and excessive self-promotion in Facebook groups for bloggers. You name it.
But that's not all – when you frustrate your list subscribers with endless promo emails instead of the free content they signed up for, or your blog readers are not coming back (fewer return visits) because every other blog post is a sales pitch, you are also committing the same mistake.
Swapnil Bhagwat, Senior Manager at Orchestrate.com, also warns about writing content with the sole purpose of promoting your blog or products on search engines, “[with] the info provided [being] irrelevant to the users. [This] is an unethical blogging practice by all means and should be avoided.”
What to Do
Stop spamming! Sounds easy, doesn't it?
It's certainly easy to do with any new blogs and communities you frequent, but if your past spammy posts and emails have hindered your relationships with blog owners and communities you really care about, the best way to get back in their good graces is to apologize – privately, or even publicly if you feel it is appropriate.
Then, don't repeat the same mistake the next time!
For content, Bhagwat suggests that you “produce moderately promotional content that is meant for people and not machines” to avoid frustrating users in the future.
Lauren Alworth from SendGrid gives very helpful advice on how to send out an apology email (keep it short and sweet!).
3. Putting Features Before Benefits
Do you highlight features when you promote your blog content or product?
You know, features are nice for a checklist, but it's benefits that really sell your content to your audience.
Attila O'dree writes about internet marketing at iAmAttila, Inc., where he shares actionable, proven tips to increase profits, and he knows just sharing product features with readers is not enough to make a sale.
“The problem with my audience is that they are aware that every single software,” O'dree says, “every service online offers an affiliate program where if you refer them to someone, they are going to pay you a commission of the sale. So being aware, they automatically assume when I review a product or service it's not good, I only am doing it because I will be paid a commission if they buy it. So the mistake at least in my industry is not spinning the story so it doesn't talk about the service or product much.”
What to Do
Show 'em the benefits!
Or in other words – how will that product or service really change your readers' lives for good? And why should visitors pick your blog as the go-to place to get the item?
“Write a case study,” O'dree suggests, “and show them how the benefit is realized.”
Especially if you try to sell affiliate products through your blog, like O'dree, bringing cases to readers is all the more vital for your content to bring in conversions. This is something you should leverage also in all social and newsletter promotion you do for these posts.
Long story short, storytelling is the way to go.
4. Poor Outreach Techniques
It's easy to fall into the trap of sending out dozens of guest post pitches and outreach emails to bloggers you've never talked to before, not even on social media.
But if spam is a big blog promotion sin, poor outreach is second.
“I'm constantly getting requests to share infographics or allow guest posts, from people who clearly haven't even looked at our blog,” shares Susan Petracco, Co-Founder and Ecommerce Consultant at NetBlazon, “much less tried to establish any kind of relationship first. I'm much happier working with people who've taken the time to get to know the blog itself, and to reach out on social media or via email to talk first, rather than just pitching me a 350-word piece of generic junk.”
Petracco's reaction is exactly what you want to avoid!
Take a look at Dana Forman's post at SeerInteractive, where she analyzes 9 good and bad outreach examples from brands, and what glaring outreach mistakes she found in the emails. Carol Tice of MakeALivingWriting.com also brings examples of pretty bad guest post pitches she received for her blog.
What to Do
The next time you find a blog to guest post on or suggest a resource, take some time to study the blog, its audience and its unique vision, and try to build a relationship first with the blogger.
Only then send out your message or pitch.
Check out these 5 good outreach examples I got from great bloggers I reached out to (no pun!).
5. Poor Content Quality
After poor outreach, the next promotion mistake can only be poor content quality – what good it do to promote content you didn't really devote time to, or that doesn't add value for readers?
That's even more crucial if poor quality doesn't only affect your on-site content, but even your promotional content – be that a sponsored post, a press release or a guest post.
“As a digital marketing expert that works with guest posts from bloggers every day, at least 70% of the bloggers that contact me [send in] terrible content,” says Ed Brancheau, CEO of Goozleology. “It's gotten so bad out in the blogosphere that I've heard dozens of other powerful blogs have instituted the same filter I have: I run all submissions through Grammarly to make sure there are no typos, grammar mistakes or copied content. If there's more than one error, I don't read it. I just trash it.”
Nobody wants to publish junk, especially these days with content being put in such high consideration by both search engines and users.
What to Do
Review your content for quality, value and consistency before sending it out or promoting it.
“Make sure that you submit only high quality, error-free content that has been edited at least three times,” says Brancheau, “because, as they say, writing is re-writing.”
You may also want to read Lori Soard's post on shallow content and the impact on your blog.
6. Thinking Your Blog Does All the Converting for You
Just because you sell services on your website, and you use your blog to promote them, doesn't mean prospects will order after reading your blog. Sure, it might happen, but there's no guarantee your blog will be the place that will convert them into customers 90% of the time.
So, while promoting your blog posts is the way to go, neglecting your sales pages and products (ebooks, guides, newsletter, etc.) is shooting your chances in the foot.
What to Do
“Prospects must go through their normal buying journey of awareness, consideration, and decision”, says Perryn Olson, Marketing Director at My IT. “With blogging, you need to funnel content and give them lead magnets to move them from awareness to consideration – and to capture their contact information. Lead magnets can be ebooks, guides, webinars, or whitepapers. Then, you need to ask for a meeting with an offer, such as a 15-minute complimentary review, for them to bite. This step gets people out just reading your blog for years and allows them to choose to work with you.”
Also, maybe it's time to take another look at your blog and see how well it connects with your products or services. You may want to read Jerry Low's guide on how to improve conversion rates with quick tips and case studies.
7. Lack of Curiosity and Empathy
How can you connect with your audience on multiple platforms if you focus only on what you want to promote?
That never worked, though: without curiosity to make me wonder what the platform's audience was interested in, and without empathizing with their specific needs, my promotions failed to get the conversions I was looking for.
- Curiosity is an asset, a guarantee that you really care for the platform's readers and you are genuinely interested in them, their problems and about experimenting with ways to make things work for them.
- Empathy is also a much needed soft skill for you to understand the issues your on-platform audience is facing, and give them the answers they so desperately need. That is much more than using data and standard personas.
What to Do
Shavi Levitin writes at Jill Konrath's blog: “ ”
When you promote your blog, you want to do smart branding, and smart branding requires curiosity and empathy.
Get curious: explore the platforms, read threads (especially questions and support boards), study the platform's analytics and trends to truly understand what people are doing and looking for there.
Use empathy: make people's feelings and emotions yours for a moment, think “I am my target user – what do I need? What is making my life difficult?”
8. Your Content Doesn't Fill a Gap
Naturally, a lack of empathy and curiosity for your target audience will lead to having a poor grasp of it, and to failing to answer their (asked or unasked) questions in your content.
That is the “gap” you need to fill if you want your promotional content to have an impact and lead users back to your blog.
“No one cares about content that doesn’t answer a question, solve a problem, or meet a need,” writes Neil Patel in a post for KISSmetrics about reasons for not getting traffic.
And he's damn right!
What to Do
“For both content strategy and content marketing to effectively support each other, the content being created needs to fill a gap that their target audience currently has in their lives — even if they’re not aware of it yet,” says Josh Brown, SEO Manager at Soldsie. “When deciding what brands to interact with and what content to consume, the market first considers its own needs and resources (in this case time and attention).”
And this is not just about the piece of information you want to promote – it's also about the format of it. Brown says you “also need to understand what medium the audience prefers to digest the material” – that can be a series of images “a la Instagram stories”, video, audio, interviews, Q&A-based posts and so on.
Might sound trite to say, but if your content isn't answering your readers' questions, then you might not have a clear picture of your audience yet. That's what you're going to have to work on.
9. Using Clickbait
Clickbait is one way to make empty promises (see #1) that involves using clever promotional messages that don't match the content being delivered.
Does this look familiar?
Clickbait is a dangerous kind of mistake, one that users despise and could severely impact your credibility, and reputation as a blogger.
Marcus Miller, Head of SEO & Digital Marketing Strategist at BowlerHat and digital marketing industry expert since 1999, shares:
“There is a concept in digital marketing known as moments of truth. This is the connection between the advertising and the experience. It's not difficult to write a clickbait title that excites (the first moment of truth) but if your article then fails to deliver (second moment of truth) then you are likely doing yourself more harm than good.”
Research by Return Path shows that clickbait headlines don't work anyway, and titles such as “Secret of…” led to an 8.69% decrease in reading rates, not the expected boost.
What to Do
Test your headlines and focus on the core of the post you're writing for your readers – what do you want them to know about this piece that they absolutely can't miss?
Writing good headlines is the art of delivering value, which is always your goal. “You are not trying to trick people into reading one article,” says Miller. “You are trying to build an audience and consistently deliver value for them. This value has to be aligned with your overall marketing and business goals, but the best bloggers are the biggest givers. Of course, this is another common mistake in that creating popular content is often one of the marketing goals, but if that content does not connect with your business or marketing objectives, it will not progress you towards your overall goals.”
The Pillars of Blog Content Promotion
As I mentioned in the intro to this post, effective blog promotion is a game of:
- Soft selling
Here I get into the details about those 4 pillars and I tell you why they're important.
Analyze Your Data
The data from analytics, conversion tracking, sales and subscriptions are a goldmine. Your social data is also as vital as your search engine traffic and any data from your platforms you can collect and get insight from.
In the data, lies the information you need to find out which blog promotion techniques to implement to get better results, because the data tells you exactly what reaction your content and engagement is creating in users, what they're interested in and what makes sense to promote.
Of course, you'll want to complement data with your human skills – curiosity and empathy – as mentioned in this post.
Read my Social Media and Blog Metrics for Business – Analyzing User Interaction to Boost Engagement post here at WHSR, where I go into detail about what data matters and how to analyze it.
Catch Good Opportunities
Promotion is indeed also a game of opportunity – is there any current event, community discussion, or popular meme you can piggy back on for promotion? Of course, it has to make sense for your niche!
Also read my 5 Relationship-Based Ways to Find Blogging Opportunities post here at WHSR, and Christopher Jan Benitez's Effective Blogger Outreach Strategy – yes, if you're wondering, creating and nurturing relationships with bloggers is where opportunities happen!
Blog promotion (and any promotion in general) is never a passive thing – you have to be active and engage with the audience, continually look for opportunities, and build a community around your blog.
Taking action means you need a plan: include at least one hour a week to promote your content, products and/or services, and make sure you're going to spend quality time for that task – engage, bring value, don't spam.
Use Soft Selling Techniques
Present your content as helpful, and be authentic about your eagerness to help others. Doesn't matter if your “prize” is money or subscribers or new fans on your social channel – go soft and be memorable for your humanity.
Says Josh Brown: “The content you create should help your audience as the first priority with selling taking a second priority. The trick, therefore, is to create content that balances the goals of the organization with content that fills the void of the target market. Doing this successfully will help ensure that not only will content be distributed by people reading it, but it'll also help with promoting the brand's message, and over time that will help build a relationship that moves them along the sales funnel.”
And these are all the basics you need to implement legit ways to promote a blog!
To Sum it Up…
Mistakes happen to every human being and bloggers are no different. However, some mistakes could get you undesired consequences that are hard to fix later.
What to do from day one to avoid problems?
- Make promises only when you know you can maintain them (and if you can't, let your readers know!).
- Forget spam – focus on building and nurturing relationships instead.
- Don't focus on features – let readers know why what you're writing about is vital to their jobs, businesses, blogs or hobbies.
- Respect people when you get in touch to create relationships.
- Make sure your promotional content – and the content you're trying to promote – is valuable and of great quality.
- Have a sales or conversion funnel that doesn't force visitors or prospects to read all your posts first (landing pages a great option).
- Stay curious about your audience and use empathy to truly understand them at a human level.
- Make sure your (promotional and blog) content addresses users' pain points.
- For the love of goodness… forget clickbait headlines!
And of course, mind the pillars of blog content promotion.
What mistake(s) have you committed in the early days of your blogging activity? How did you resolve any problems they caused? Let us know on our social channels!
The cartoony illustrations in this post were all drawn by me, Luana Spinetti, specifically for WHSR. Please, do not reuse! See more of my drawings here.