Posted by DI_Dave
We launched our brand new blog on Tuesday, July 7, 2015. The next day, we received about 200 unique visitors. By the weekend, we were receiving between 1,800 and 2,400 visitors per day.
It felt fantastic to see the blue line going up in Google Analytics. All those people flocking to a brand new website, signing up for our newsletter, and engaging in the comments. When I wasn’t trying to keep up with all the interactions, I was skipping around the office with a stupid grin on my face.
So how did we do it? How did we turn a barren blog into a hotbed of traffic and activity?
In this case study, I’ll show you exactly what we did and explain how it drove large volumes of traffic to our site. It you replicate what we did, there’s no reason why you can’t achieve similar success.
Step 1: Identify a problem to solve
We decided early on that we wanted to gear our blog to provide practical advice. You have a problem; we have the answer. To explain how we arrived at this decision, I need to tell you a little story.
A while ago, we took on new business as an SEO client. Let’s call them Blueridge Cupcakes.
Blueridge had previously worked on their SEO with a different agency, which produced solid results. This SEO agency was content-forward, focused on creating long-term traffic sources through a highly targeted content strategy.
Blueridge, however, decided they wanted a change and opted not to renew their partnership. We pitched our services and won the contract.
Fast forward two weeks. We receive an email from our client. It’s from Getty Images. Anyone who’s worked in content marketing knows what an email from Getty means: Someone’s used an image they weren’t supposed to. Sure enough, a blog posted nine months ago had used an image from Getty’s Rights Managed section. Yep, the expensive bit.
Just one image. Not even a particularly good image — a fairly unspectacular sunset someone had presumably found on Google Images and thought would fit perfectly in the blog.
Since we were now in charge of Blueridge’s SEO campaign, we opted to pony up the cash.
While the payment was sufficient enough to elicit a high degree of pain, it gave us an opportunity to identify a problem.
People don’t use copyrighted material because they’re heartless, hateful creators. They use copyrighted images because they are easily accessible and they don’t know where else to go.
Step 2: Research possible solutions
We had our problem. Now all we needed was the solution, which would come from hours of grueling research.
First, I persuaded our digital marketing manager to allow me to spent two full days looking for the best free stock photography sites out there.
Each site I found was measured against three criteria: quality, breadth, and freeness.
- Quality—Is the photography sharp? Are the images large enough to use in designs? Are the scenes composed well? Any site that couldn’t answer these questions went in the bin.
- Breadth—This referred to the size and variety of each website’s collection, although I was quite flexible with this condition.
- Cost—First, I checked the license the site owner used to release images. Since the majority of our readers would be professionals, I filtered out all the licenses that prohibited commercial use. If images were released with an attribution licenses, that was fine.
Finally, before I added any sites to the list, I ran a reverse image search through Google on a random selection of images from the website. If I found them for sale elsewhere, I struck the website off the list.
Step 3: Write your blog post
With the list compiled, it was just a matter of getting everything written and designed. I included an image from each site to give readers an idea of each site’s particular style.
Additionally, I tried to inject some personality into each website’s snippet to reflect the personality of the site. This kept the style fresh throughout, and also helped convey what sort of feel the images would have.
Step 4: Begin the community outreach
Once the blog post (i.e., article) was complete, it was time to begin the community outreach.
We had a huge list of outreach opportunities, covering everything from niche forums to Facebook groups. I worked through the list and selected the most appropriate opportunities for our article. We shared the blog with graphic designs, web designers, web developers, artists, freelancers, content marketers, and copywriters. We also shared it with our own social communities. We generated quite a nice buzz around the blog and got quite a bit of free promotion from readers re-sharing our content.
Two communities were by far the most receptive: Reddit’s /r/web_design and LinkedIn’s group for Graphic Designers and Art Directors. Here’s a snapshot of our the social acquisition from a couple of the busier days.
Reddit and LinkedIn provided the lion’s share of traffic during the earlier days of our promotion, but were replaced by a more varied spread of sources as time rolled on. I really like starting with these platforms because they always reward genuinely valuable content. If you post something useful, the community will promote it to the top.
Step 5: Influencer outreach
With our list of communities exhausted, it was time to call in the favors. I fired up our CRM and cherry-picked influencers with a foot in design or content.
I sent them all a personalized email. My reply rate was roughly 30 percent, with the majority of respondents promoting the article through social media or their own blogs.
I also emailed all the stock photography websites we included on the list, asking them to help promote the article. Nearly all of them did.
Step 6: Keep promoting
If there’s one secret to content marketing I can share with you, it’s that promotion of your content never ends. While your biggest push should come in the days immediately after you’ve published, you should keep promoting your content to attract new readers.
Some additional techniques we use for ongoing promotion include:
- Email marketing
- Posting to news aggregators
- Monitoring social media for outreach opportunities
- Posting your link in the comments of related articles
- Updating your article and re-releasing it
Why you can do it, too
When we published our stock photography article, our blog was only one day old. We had no social following, and no connections tied to our new brand. However, what we did have was a good idea and determination. That’s all you need.
If you work smart and follow our framework, there’s no reason you can’t replicate our success with your own blog.
Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!