Growth hacking is a marketing technique that “uses creativity, analytical thinking, and social metrics to sell products and gain exposure”, according to Wikipedia.
When your product is your content, applying growth hacks to it makes perfect sense. If there’s anything you want for your content, it’s exposure.
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Why Do I Need Growth Hacks For My Content Marketing?
One of the things that we have been talking about quite a bit on this blog is a concept that we've come up with called content hacking. It's about learning to get more from your content than just another blog post with the occasional tweet. It's about using your content to drive maximum traffic and lots of attention.
It's about getting results, in other words. After all, why else would you be creating content?
With that in mind, here are 25 killer ways that you can hack your content marketing, in no particular order.
1. Write Awesome Headlines
Headlines matter. A lot.
You already know this, yet you still write mushy headlines that don't always drive results. Why do you do this?
If you needed further proof at just how important a headline is, consider Inbound.org, a site that is about "voting" up content based on the headline. Maybe that isn't how it is supposed to work ideally, but a simple scroll through the homepage and it's easy to see that headlines are a factor.
Recently, I took some advice from Upworthy.com and started writing a minimum of 25 headlines for every blog post (we'll talk more about this in a bit) that I write. It hasn't always been easy, but it has paid off well. My headlines are better than before, though I am sure that I still have a long way to go.
Write headlines that get people to want your full content even if all they have to go on is that headline.
Write Better Headlines With A Free Headline Analyzer
The headline analyzer will help you:
- Use headline types that get the most traction for social shares, traffic, and search engine ranking.
- Make sure you have the right word balance to write readable headlines that command attention.
- See the best word and character length for search engines like Google and email subject lines, while also seeing how your readers will scan your headlines.
2. Make Content More Sharable
How easy is it for your readers to share your content? It's not that readers are lazy, but they aren't going to work too hard to share a post; you need to make it easy for them.
I'm sure you have a few share buttons, but are you placing sharing options within your post itself? Simple WordPress plugins like Click To Tweet and Markerly allow you to make the content in your post shareable with a simple click. These are important triggers that you can use to get your readers sharing content for you.
3. Test Share Button Positions
Where are the share buttons on your page? Are they above or below the fold? Believe it or not, but it can make a difference. AddThis (one of the leading social sharing tools) suggests that social share buttons placed "above the fold" performed the best for most sites.
Keep your button near the top of the page: Avoid making your readers scroll to find your sharing button. It is okay to have the button at the top and bottom of the page, but users will find it easier at the top.
Of course, this may not be the case for each site, so it is important to try out a few different arrangements. In some situations, you can even keep them fixed to the side of your blog post.
4. SEO Keywords For Targeting
It feels like SEO is becoming a bit less important in the new order of content marketing, but I am not convinced that it shouldn't matter at all. One of the big benefits of choosing keywords is that it keeps you in touch with your audience. You will know what they are searching for, and what is on their mind.
I recommend learning how to use Google Adwords to find keywords that work for your audience. Generate a list, and write a post to go with each group of keywords. There are several plugins out there that will keep you honest.
- WordPress SEO Plugin: Yoast's plugin is certainly the most popular SEO plugin out there, and it's pretty powerful for being free. It will analyze the content in your post to make sure that it is staying true to your keywords. It is a must-have for every blogger.
- Scribe: While it requires a monthly fee, Scribe makes it even easier to analyze your content and make sure that you are staying true to your keywords. I have found it to be the best plugin available for content analysis, and well worth the price of admission.
5. Let Your Content Lead To A Call To Action
Every time someone reads your content, you should be leading them to an inevitable call to action.
On the CoSchedule blog, we provide a sticky header that offers our readers all of the helpful guides we've ever written in exchange for a simple email address. This simple header leads to hundreds of new "leads" each month. It's simple, helpful, and worth including on every post.
Neil Patel does a great job of asking for action from his readers at the bottom of every post. There is nothing wrong with asking as long as you are providing value to your readers.
6. Add A Pop-Up. Yes, A Pop-Up.
Ok, now let's take it one step further. Maybe you need to make your call to action a little more actionable like this pop-up ad from GrooveHQ.
I know that pop-ups aren't always well-loved, but they do work. It's hard to argue with results.
Give the OptinMonster plugin a try, and grab the 'exit intent' add-on while you do. This plugin will only "pop-up" on readers that are already leaving your site. What do you have to lose?
You also need to pay close attention to the text on your pop-up. For example, take a look at Groove's language above. Who doesn't want to grow their business? This is a compelling call to action. Make your call to action something that no one can refuse.
7. Gamify Your Blog
Gamification is subject unto itself, but it takes advantage of a key component of growth hacking–the desire to make what we do and what we think, as readers, public. There is a unique human desire for connectivity and personal sharing that makes sites like Facebook and Twitter work. Why not use this for your own site?
One of the ways that we can do this is with a WordPress plugin call Love It Pro. This simple plugin allows visitors to 'vote' on your posts with a simple button. You can track your most loved posts in a sidebar widget, or use them as a way to prioritize them on your homepage. This simple gamification will make your content all the more sticky.
8. Use Your Network For More Than Self-Promotion
So often, we think about our blog and social networks as outbound channels–channels for sharing our content with others, but not necessarily connecting with them. Chris Lema is a blogger who knows better.
Lema blogs regularly about the products he loves and people that he respects. He is a well-know force in the WordPress community simply because of his willingness to reach out and give generously. Jump on Chris's email list, and you will know what I mean.
It may not sound like a content marketing growth hack at first, but using your blog to make friends with key players in your industry is a great idea, a great way to make friends, and a method of building referrals and shares.
9. Guest Blogging
Yeah yeah yeah, Matt Cutts said that guest blogging is dead. He didn't mean it. At least not really.
Guest blogging as a link-building tool is dead, but as a way to build trust and awareness for your personal brand, it is very much alive. Guest blogging is still a powerful method for promotion and professional networking if you're doing it right.
At CoSchedule, we've had an aggressive guest blogging campaign since launch, and there isn't a day that it doesn't pay off. As you can see, many of our top referrals come from guests posts day in and day out. This doesn't even take into account the 'street credit' that we build by writing on these blogs.
Guest blogging is still a classic way to hack your content marketing.
10. Think Beyond The Borders
As a blogger, it can be pretty easy to think only in terms of our own blog, but if we were honest with ourselves, we'd see that there is a whole big world out there. Modern content marketers need to think beyond the borders of their blog and take their content elsewhere.
Here are a few ideas:
- Videos on YouTube
- Podcasts and audio content
- Udemy course, or Skillshare
- Quora, or other answer sites
- Forum contributions
The thing that we have to keep in mind is that our content is still connected to us and to our own authority, no matter where it's hosted. Building traffic isn't always about the traffic. Sometimes it's about the authority and relationships that we build. That's what makes it a perfect growth hack.
11. Write Longer Copy
Blogger Neil Patel recently published a great post regarding search rankings and post length on his blog. In his research, he discovered an "average content length for a web page that ranks in the top 10 results for any keyword on Google has at least 2,000 words." I did my own research and found very similar results. So, what does that mean for you?
Well, clearly you need to write more!
No matter how we spin the results, longer copy is rewarded by Google. As pointed out in my own research, content length isn't the only key to success–quality still matters–but you have to know that the length of your post matters a lot.
12. Write More Headlines, At Least 25
It may sounds like old news, but your headline is one of the most important aspects of your post. If you mess it up, you lose your chance at ever achieving a real content hack.
Upworthy.com knows a thing or two about headlines. In their slide deck The Sweet Science Of Virality, they emphasize the importance of the headline again and again. More importantly, they emphasize the value in writing a minimum of 25 headlines for each post.
The full Upworthy presentation is excellent, and definitely worth a look, a bookmark, and possibly even a print out. It's that good. We also break down the results a bit further here, and provide some details on WHY writing more headlines works so well.
13. Shoot For Virality
Speaking of Upworthy.com, there is a lot more that we can learn from them.
Their entire model is built on the simple idea that they can manufacture virality with the right formula. You may think that it can't be done, but they've come as close to it as anyone, and they've even given us a few of their keys for success. It seems that the key is to be a true connoisseur of human nature. You need to understand how people think.
As a blogger, trying to understand what motivates people to share content is an important step in the process. Upworthy has invested the time in understanding this, and it has allowed them to virtually manufacture viral growth. As content hackers, we should certainly try to do the same.
14. Link To Your Posts From Your Posts
We all know that links are a good thing when it comes to the search rankings and the web, and we all want others to link to our content. But what about linking to our own content for a change? Google rewards this behavior as well, and it is an important step in the blogging process.
The trick is to choose key phrases in your new blog post that can be cross-linked to other posts on your blog. For example, if you have written a blog post for the keyword 'write better headlines,' it would make sense to link to that post using a variety of phrases such as 'here's how we write great headlines,' or 'writing better headlines is easy.'
As Google indexes your page, it will take into account both the link, and the text that you are using to connect the two posts. The result is better ranking for you.
One of the lessons that many content marketers have been learning lately is that the more time you spend on your content, the more likely you will have a pay-off.
Hard work and effort matter, and this applies to your content. This is something that Moz engineer Dr. Peter J. Meyers calls big content.
Infographics, particularly well-researched ones, can certainly fall into this category.
Our recent infographic on content hacking resulted in 10x more shares than our more conventional posts, and it is still bringing in new traffic each day. If the key is better content, infographics are a fun way to go about it and a relatively easy way to growth hack your content marketing.
16. Offer A Free Course
Creating content that you can reuse in multiple different ways is a huge content hack. A great example of this is a blog series that you turn into an ebook or an email autoresponder course. Serious content hackers learn to stretch their content as far as it will go.
Online learning is a currently undergoing huge growth, and it's a great place to showcase your reusable content. Sites like Udemy, Google Helpouts, or Skillshare allow you to create step-by-step courses for your audience. You can choose to give them away for free, or to sell them for a profit. Either way, it's a great way to get more life out of the content that you created, and find new fans who discover you through your course.
17. Tell A Great Story
In 2013, Groove did a really brave thing. They shut down their content marketing blog, a blog that was already bringing them 10,000 unique visitors each month. It was both a bold move and, as it turns out, a great idea.
Groove decided to shift their story from "generic evergreen content" to the story of their own success. Now Groove is sharing intimate details about their journey to making 500k in revenue each month. It's a bold move, and requires an unprecedented level of transparency. Fortunately though, it has paid off in spades. In the first 5 weeks of the new blog, Groove gained 5,000 new email subscribers! It's hard to argue with results like that.
This comes back to some of the things I mentioned about virality: We love connecting to others on an emotional/personal level. Stories and transparency help bridge that gap. A great way to hack your content marketing is to use this natural instinct of people wanting to know and connect in this way to your advantage.
18. A/B Test Your 'About Us' Page
Your 'About Us' page is one of the most visited areas of your website. Unfortunately, it’s often one of the most ignored, especially when it comes to a good call to action.
Use some of the advice from this article to create a second version of your About Page and test out your changes with Optimizely, a service that helps you with A/B testing.
For some inspiration, take a look at how Copyblogger places an effective call to action right in the middle of their About Us page. You're telling people who you are. Why wouldn't you give them the opportunity to connect now that they've gotten to know you?
19. Get Good At Email Marketing
It's 2015, but email is not extinct.
Freelance writer Barry Feldman wrote an email marketing mega-post on the entire subject that covers it from top to bottom, but the easy summation of it is this: Email marketing is a tactic that you must get right. Over and over again, it's been proven that email marketing will consistently result in more conversions and more paying customers than social media. It is just that good.
At CoSchedule, email marketing is a major part of what we do. We offer several opportunities for readers to join our Content Marketing Update each week. It's an email newsletter that is filled with the most recent content marketing articles from around the web. It is a simple product, but it still brings in hundreds of new signups each week.
The bottom line is that email works, and if you aren't using it to the fullest potential, you need to be. It's the classic way to growth hack your content marketing.
20. Share Visuals
Buffer looked into their tweets a while back and found they got 150% more clickthroughs when they shared images with their tweets instead of just text alone.
But what if you could get even more engagement with your social messages than Buffer?
— CoSchedule (@CoSchedule) October 27, 2015
When we started researching the best ways to get the most clickthroughs from social media, we started sharing a few GIFs in our tweets. Those tweets got 22.3% more engagement than our tweets with graphics alone—and 166.6% more clickthroughs.
Motion in social media feeds can stop scrollers dead in their tracks. If you're using plain text social messages, think of hacking your networks with images, GIFs, and videos.
21. Grow Your Google+ Audience
Search is now social, and one of the best ways to get noticed on search is to get noticed on Google+, Google's own social network. Many brands have a presence on Google+, but place little priority on the network because they've focused on Facebook or Twitter. Now is the time to change that.
The more people that have you in your Google+ circles, the more likely you are to show up in social search, the default setting for Google searches. Weight is put on those in your circles when it comes to the search results on this setting. You want to show up in other's searches? Get in their circles.
These days, SEO is all about social connections and great content, so getting as embedded as you can in the Google+ network only makes sense.
This is a simple content marketing hack–get more followers on Google+. Get found in Google search.
22. Promote Your Content On Social Media More Than Once
In case you haven't heard, it's ok to promote your content on social media more than once. Networks like Twitter actually require it for true success. One of the easiest ways to grow the number of readers for each post you write is to simply share it more often. If each share results in a few new clicks, the math should take care of itself pretty quickly.
At CoSchedule, we not only make this process easy by connecting social media scheduling right to your blogging workflow, we also provide a detailed guide on how to promote your content on social media (more than once).
23. Autoresponder The Universe
Email-based autoresponder courses are an epic content marketing growth hack that you should be using to grow your blog.
They're not the same as your regular email newsletter. Instead, they are simple courses that drip content to your readers as soon as they sign up for your email marketing mailing list. They are a great way to drive deeper engagement with your readers, and keep them connected to your brand.
Our "6 Free Marketing Tips" autoresponder course is consistently one of our best methods for driving new email addresses to our list. It is a major source of new leads for our product, and (shhh...don't tell) was put together using content that we originally created ages ago. That's right, autoresponder courses are a great way to recycle older content for a new audience.
24. Make Your Blog Faster
Faster? Yes, faster. Back in 2010, Google engineer Matt Cutts announced that Google is now factoring site speed into search rankings. So, it only makes sense that you would make your blog as fast as possible.
One of the things that happens with blogs, especially WordPress-driven ones, is that we fill it up with a bunch of crummy plugins and themes that degrade our site's performance slowly over time. It's important that you spend some time reclaiming that speed and improving how you rate on Google.
While it can be a bit technical, WPMU DEV has a great guide for speeding up your WordPress blog. Follow it, speed things up, live long and prosper.
25. Promote Your Content Mercilessly
One of the biggest mistakes that content marketers make is that they focus more on the content than its promotion. While it is true that great content can "rise to the top," the biggest winners are still the ones that promote themselves the best.
There are a ton of ways to growth hack your content marketing, but none of them compare to promoting your content mercilessly, and fighting for each new visit. Don't make the big mistake of assuming that if you write it, they will come. You have to go out and tell people about what you've written.
What Content Marketing Growth Hacks Will You Rock?
Content hacking is, at its core, all about making your content easy to find, consume, and share. Anything that helps break down barriers to these three foundational concepts is a content hack worth trying.