Create Excitement and Engagement!
I'm going to come clean: As I was writing this headline, my son walked by and said "Wow, that sounds like click bait." I replied, "Well, I do want people to click through to this. It's good stuff." He replied, "I never click anymore. Ever. I've been burned too many times."
So I feel quite a bit of responsibility to you poor suckers who did manage to click through. I do hope the following is worth the click and the five minutes it takes to read through.
I've been tasked with trying to help a niche site in what can be considered a fairly boring industry recover traffic.
Recover traffic after a series of unfortunate decisions spanning over two years and including just about every poorly conceived strategy from using proxy accounts on Reddit and Pinterest to thinking that outsourcing non-English speaking content writer/aggregators (in a field where language is crucial) is a good idea.
Create Awe (?)
Following is what has worked for me, in the most applied, non-theoretical manner possible. I'm sick to death of posts admonishing us to "create awe" in order to go viral. How in hell are we supposed to "create awe"?
"What did you do at work today?"
"Created awe. What about you?"
"Filed Mrs. Smith's tax return."
So, without further ado, and without hyperbole or overly exaggerated claims, here is how I have managed a solid (not awe-inspiring) amount of traffic + a solid (not incredible) amount of engagement in an otherwise boring market.
Virality Without Engagement: Get This Out of the Way
I will mention one method that could work, with some effort: StumbleUpon. I have experienced moderate success with StumbleUpon, but the success in virality has come with the dreaded high bounce rate and complete lack of engagement that is so prevalent with StumbleUpon.
I will say this: Due to several factors, one of which was the spike in traffic, I became more engaged on StumbleUpon. It's an old but up-and-coming social network and has some potential. The new iOS app upgrade has increased its social chatting features, and it currently leads the way (with Facebook and Pinterest) in terms of site referrals.
I'm bullish about StumbleUpon's potential. It's incredibly easy to use and does a great job of driving traffic. The community is engaged and intelligent (for the most part) and I have found myself getting sucked into the addictive nature of being led to great sites that I would not have ordinarily found.
Working With StumbleUpon
What does best with StumbleUpon? Lists. Anything easily shareable. It's similar to Pinterest but not as visually oriented. When you stumble upon a page, you are actually on that page. The up-side to this is that you are then on that website and can continue to browse. The downside (which many people mention) is that it can contribute to incredibly high bounce rates, since the whole purpose of StumbleUpon is, well, stumbling. Make your page incredibly engaging and stumblers will discover your stuff and stay.
LinkedIn Groups: Engaged and Alive
I have had incredible success with engagement through LinkedIn groups. Obviously, this strategy requires real, authentic engagement and that requires a time investment. I noticed a huge difference in the authenticity, and, therefore, in the results from different groups. The groups related to this one project, in an otherwise "boring" niche, are highly engaged, focused and intensely interested in the content provided. People in these groups actively spend time clicking through, commenting, discussing at length the topics brought forth. It works.
I tried to engage in a few marketing and social media related groups, but, unfortunately, none of these seemed authentically engaged. Everyone was just sharing content, without actually discussing or caring what anyone else was saying.
I think that is telling, too, about the state of many social media professionals. In any case, I have consistent traffic and engagement from the involvement in LinkedIn groups. I spend time connecting and commenting on other discussions in these groups, engage (authentically) with other members, and generally, try to add value to the discussions. This is then reciprocated when I post things. The traffic from LinkedIn can be anywhere from 100 visits to several hundred visits per post.
List Posts Work - They Just Do.
I hate to admit it; I almost wish it weren't true. But lists, especially with odd numbers in them, still work. I bet they always will. One of the most engaged and viral posts used the classic number 5 and a descriptive adjective in the title. And, yep, even though one person involved in the discussion called me out on the "click bait" title, he clicked...as did many hundreds of others.
Once you've got your "list" though, make sure what you are asking them to click through to is solid content. In this case, the article itself was well researched, full of surprises, and generated over 100 comments on the LinkedIn group that I posted the article on. This has led to commenters being more engaged with the site itself and generally looking for the next article to be published.
Of course, that is quite similar to me saying "just create awe." So...
Research and More Research
Solid content. It's easy to tell you to write it, but hard to actually do. How do you create solid content?
If you read what Upworthy writes about creating viral stories and the importance of the headlines, one takeaway is their understanding that very, very little of what they curate "goes viral". There is no doubt that suddenly having a million visitors to your site is a great thing, but one lesson I have learned when formulating a strategy with strict budget and time demands is that what is more important than one post "going viral" is a clear, consistent quality in content that repeat users will come to expect.
And for that, you need solid research. You need to give readers solid actionable facts to use. For as much as I am pro-story, in many cases, "story" needs to take a back seat to the actual research. We're busy. In the case of this article, the "story" is that I am working on a project and have had some success with virality and engagement.
The research, though, is key. I know, from hard work on my part, that it is possible to drive engaged traffic to a boring niche using a few (surprising) methods.
Read This Quora Answer:
Of all the advice I have read about how to get a post to go viral, this answer on Quora from Karen K. Cheng is the best. She takes care to write, step-by-step, how she got upwards of 3 million views for the video "Girl Learns to Dance in One Year".
Take the time to plan your content aggregation. In another project I worked on, which required both virality and engagement, I reached out to friends and family and anyone I thought might be willing to share the content. I was polite but asked for what was needed. If you need your content to be seen, don't hide behind some false sense of pride. You need to market your content. It isn't going to market itself.
Bloggers are Your Friends
Take some time to get to know bloggers in your field. As in all relationships, make a genuine (not fake) effort to get to know them before you "need" them. Bloggers are people who can and want to promote good stuff. If your stuff is good, they're going to want to help you promote it. If they also know and like you, well, they're going to take more time promoting your stuff because it's safer and because they are human. We had success on a certain niche platform because we already had a presence there. I was able to ask for help from some key influencers in one niche because I had recently helped with their startup. I had helped out of genuine, good old-fashioned kindness. But when I needed help, this entrepreneur who happened to be in a similar industry was more than happy to lend his (very influential) hand. And it paid off.
Details, Details, Details
Get the time to post right. This can vary, and quite honestly, it's not always so much the time you post as it is the "time you aggregate" that matters.
Don't forget that you have two jobs to do - posting and aggregating. The aggregation should happen immediately, but it doesn't have to. Getting your post out on the different networks you have chosen for your post needs to happen during times that your audience (target market) will be receptive. This varies by industry, so do your research and find out what works best for you. Then stick to that timetable.
We've found a twice-a-week publishing schedule to work on various projects, but the days and times of days are different depending on the project.
Viral Content Buzz
One final content sharing platform I have had success with is Ann Smarty's latest venture, "Viral Content Buzz". It's a community of committed content providers who promote each other's content on different social networks. You only want to promote content that is worthwhile, and you will quickly notice that your best content gets shared more quickly.
The community is worthwhile and it's helped me up my game on various social networks if only to get better results from other VCB members. I have noticed a steady stream of traffic from different sources as a result of VCB, and I have also noticed that this has increased over time.
Once you have traffic to your site, what comes next? You had better make sure that you have something worthwhile to offer them once they are there. Do you have everything in place to keep visitors on your site once they've clicked through? Is it what they expect? Do you notice that they are staying on your site and doing what you expect them to do or are they leaving quickly?
Make sure you're ready for the traffic once you get it. One of Google's metrics measures whether your traffic sticks around on your site, or if they quickly click back to the Google search results, looking for better answers.
Hopefully, you've found a good answer to what you were searching for. Let me know if I left anything out, or if I could have added anything else to this list. I'm always looking to improve results and get better engagement from my posts. So let me know!