It’s a truth universally acknowledged that content marketing and SEO are only getting more complicated. Thankfully, however, Larry Kim, CTO of online advertising firm WordStream and 2015 US Search Personality of the Year, was on hand at C3 in New York to share 10 of his best paid content promotion hacks in a Mission to Mars-themed presentation.
According to Kim’s figures, 99.9% of brand content goes nowhere – and 50% gets zero social shares. What’s more, less than 0.1% of content gets more than 1000 shares.
And organic social media reach, as Kim put it, stinks.
At the same time, paid search CPCs (costs per click) are at an all-time high in established markets.
On top of that, a typical conversion rate via content marketing is less than 1% and PPC (pay per click) and SEO don’t grow new product demand – they largely just harvest existing market demand, Kim said.
“Content marketing [in 2017] feels like a suicide mission,” Kim added in a nod to his space theme.
That’s in part because marketing demand generation has changed. Per Kim, it used to look something like: Brands rank for keywords, consumers search for brand stuff and consumers buy brand stuff. Now, however, it is much more competitive as brands need to create new search volume.
“Now we need to manufacture ways for people to search for stuff, not just capture search,” Kim added.
So how can brands and marketers get more leads and sales without spending an arm and a leg?
Two words: Social ads.
The budget: $50.
“I’m not suggesting you spend tens of thousands of dollars,” Kim said. “I suggest microbudgets as a catalyst to get the ball rolling or as an accelerant to make existing projects more successful.”
To wit: Paid social ads provide what Kim said is the cheapest, most scalable form of content promotion.
And his formula is pretty straightforward: Marketers simply produce content and share it on social, selectively promote the top content further and build a remarketing audience by tagging site visitors with cookies.
In turn, these social ads turn visitors into leads and customers – particularly when brands apply behavioral and demographic filters so they can remarket to specific audiences with display and social ads and use remarketing lists for search ads to promote offers – and, finally, convert leads.
So, without further ado, here are Kim’s top 10 paid content promotion hacks for 2017:
10. Promote your best content with Facebook and Twitter ads
Here, marketers need to tap into relevancy scores on social networks.
In other words: Higher post engagement yields a higher relevance score on Facebook and Twitter, which, in turn, yields more impression share and lower cost per engagement.
On Twitter, it’s actually called a quality adjusted bid, but the concept is the same: Higher relevance, resonance and recency means a higher quality adjusted bid, which means more ad impressions at a lower cost.
In fact, per Kim’s figures, a 1% increase in post engagement yields a 5% reduction in cost per engagement.
In other words, marketers need high post engagement to get high quality scores and lower cost per engagement, Kim said.
And THAT is why Kim said marketers should focus on promoting their best content – or the top 1 to 2%, which he calls “unicorns.” (Underperforming content is a “donkey.”)
On one of his own unicorns, this Goodbye, Google+ post from the WordStream blog, Kim said he “threw gas on the fire with a $250 budget” and generated an additional 1500 retweets and 100,000 visitors.
In what Kim called an organic/paid social network sharing/posting pyramid scheme, he has another three-part formula: Share lots of content organically to Twitter, post the top content from Twitter to Facebook and LinkedIn and pay to promote these unicorns on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
He said it’s kind of like the Hunger Games - test everything, kill off the weak content and celebrate the best content. That’s because the key to paid social media ads is to be picky – cast a narrow net and maximize engagement rates within, Kim said.
But how do you find these so-called unicorns? It’s all about figuring out what content consumers are engaging with, Kim said.
9. Incorporate demographic, behavioral and interest-based audience targeting
You want to get your content in front of the right people. And for a post on 21 unusual facts about Google’s CEO, Kim said he was able to increase the engagement rate by targeting the post to followers who used #alphabet. And, for $49, he saw nearly 33,000 impressions, 2200 clicks and 350 retweets.
Adding audience targeting turns okay ads into unicorns, Kim said. But he cautioned not to throw good money after bad if an okay ad doesn’t turn into a unicorn.
“If something doesn’t work in the first $50, it won’t work in the next $50,” he added.
8. Remarket on Google Display Network and Facebook
“People who have previously engaged with content are much more likely to engage again,” Kim said. “The weird thing about remarketing is the more times people see [an] offer, the less likely they are to click, but those who do are twice as likely to buy.”
As a result, Kim championed what he called super remarketing in which brands combine remarketing of high engagement content with demographic, interest and behavioral targeting.
“Why remarket to everyone on your site when only a small percentage will meet the criteria,” Kim said. “Instead, overlay remarketing with job titles, interests and purchase behavior to cast a narrow net.”
7. Beat up on competitors with ads
There are five specific ways:
First, Kim said marketers can do pre-roll ads on competitors’ videos with managed placements on YouTube.
Next, with custom affinity audiences on Google Display Network, Kim noted marketers can target audiences, like, say, people who visit your competitors’ sites.
And with Facebook’s interest targeting, Kim said marketers can target consumers who match additional interests as well, while Twitter follower and keyword targeting helps marketers zero in on Twitter users with interests similar to specific accounts.
Finally, in Gmail ads, marketers can tap into email and keyword targeting to offer ads at the top of users’ inboxes.
6. Create custom audiences
New tailored audiences or custom audiences allow Twitter and Facebook users to upload their own audience lists for social ads to promote content, which Kim said is superior to email marketing because marketers don’t have to worry about consumers opting in or unsubscribing and it eliminates tons of unqualified recipients.
This, in turn, opens up many new and exciting use cases, Kim added.
For example, Kim wrote a post on the WordStream blog comparing the performance of Twitter and Facebook ads. After sharing from his own social accounts, Kim said he also promoted the post to his list of influencers – which includes about 1600 Twitter users, including figureheads in news media. As a result, the editor of Business Insider asked to syndicate the post and a producer invited Kim to appear on Fox Business News. It also resulted in what he called 250 high-value press pickups and links, more than 100,000 site visitors and a business relationship with Facebook.
“When you have something that’s resonating, you have to go all in,” Kim said.
But there are many more ecommerce applications of custom audiences. Examples of ecommerce audience email segmentations include non-purchase users, frequent purchasers, recent purchasers and new purchasers -- and Kim said brands can grow their own audiences sizes using similar audiences.
5. Hack Reddit and other sites that drive traffic, like Hacker News, Digg and LinkedIn Pulse
Kim pointed to one of his own posts on Medium about multitasking, which was shared by Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington and syndicated by the New York Observer, Time Magazine and Mental Floss because he created a custom audience of Medium users on Twitter who are more likely to share and heart the post. This increases post visibility and essentially fast tracks it to the front page, et voila. Kim said you can also replicate this on Reddit.
4. Radically change your offer
According to Kim, the worst thing you can do is put lipstick on a donkey. Instead, if you want to dramatically increase conversion rates, you need a completely different idea.
That’s what WordStream did by changing an offer for a free trial to an offer for a free AdWords performance grader that showed users how they compare to other AdWords accounts in comparable spend ranges and what their projected wasted spend is in the next 12 months.
Per Kim, this simple change yielded a huge increase in conversion rate.
3. Hack RankBrain and new machine-language-enabled algorithms for awesome SEO
Google’s ranking signals used to be about links and keywords, but now user engagement metrics like click-through rate and bounce rate are factored in.
“Over the last year, the machine learning algorithm is changing so higher click-through rate listings organically get better and better placement,” Kim said.
In fact, a 3% increase in post engagement can equal roughly an increase of one organic search position.
“The higher the click-through rate of listings, the more likely it is to get promoted to the next spot. It’s the same thing with bounce rate – a decent rate means it shows up in coveted positions, but a ridiculous bounce rate is less likely,” Kim said.
The lesson? Get really high organic click-through rates and conversions because they yield better SEO rankings, which, in turn, yield even more clicks and conversions.
However, if you have below average click-through and conversion rates, social media ads can create a bias rooted in brand familiarity, Kim said. In other words, consumers who aren’t searching for your brand will see it anyway and become familiar with it, which, in turn, will increase click-through and conversion rates.
2. Use video ads
Kim said remarketing is powerful for Facebook and Twitter ads and recommended tapping into Google Analytics User Explorer to gain insights to determine your target market. By targeting consumers with certain interests or in certain demographics, Kim said you can deliver video ads with high engagement that, in turn, will lower your cost per view.
And, as it turns out, unicorn content is perfect for video ads.
“If you have a unicorn and video-ify it, that’ll yield an even better unicorn,” Kim added.
1. Combine paid search and social ads using remarketing lists for search ads
Remarketing lists for search ads (RLSA) allow you to do PPC ads on AdWords or Bing and go after those who visited your site and are searching for keywords you’re interested in.
In other words, consumers visit your site and get added to your remarketing list, so they see customized ads from you when they search on Google (or Bing), Kim said.
And, per his figures, search remarketing yields 3x click-through rates, 1/3 cost per click and 2x conversion rates.
The problem, however, is RLSA targets only people familiar with your brand, so Kim suggested using social ads to make that segment larger and increase brand affinity.
If you’re limited by budget, Kim said to set your search budget 100% to RLSA, so you’ll capture the low-hanging fruit most likely to convert.
And if you have a massive budget, but nothing for content promotion, Kim said to consider shifting to cheaper audience growth campaigns.