Need more traffic? Try this hybrid approach


How to balance organic and paid content promotion strategies

Does this sound familiar? During the last two years, you’ve poured your heart and soul into developing an amazing library of content on your website. You’ve addressed all your prospects’ key concerns and the problems they’re trying to solve. Your content addresses their deepest needs. You’re proud of what you’ve created.

But it’s not attracting as much traffic as you expected. It’s only generating a minuscule number of new sales leads. Your company’s senior management team is starting to question your content-centric approach. They’re dropping strong hints that they may cut your team’s funding unless you and your team generate additional qualified sales leads.

It’s time to amp up your content. Content amplification is defined by HubSpot as “a method for using online platforms or channels to promote content. It is used to boost ROI and brand awareness.”

The solution: a hybrid earned/paid strategy

Earned media still has a place in your lead generation strategy. However, in most cases, organic traffic doesn’t generate enough visitors that can be converted into prospects and customers. Content today is more of a long-term play. Still, it remains a valuable educational tool for prospects who have problems and are searching for solutions.

Adding a strategically-focused paid media campaign to your marketing mix can help you to fill that gap, delivering a larger and more consistent stream of interested buyers to engage with your excellent content.

Strategic paid media approaches

In many companies, content production/SEO and pay-per-click advertising are handled by separate teams. They can achieve better results if they work together, with data from one helping the other become more targeted and persuasive. Here’s what one expert suggested in a recent Search Engine Watch article:

Armed with all the data that you have at your fingertips from your PPC campaigns, use this new data and insights to help with creating better SEO strategies (better content), that will give you a competitive advantage and help you with reaching your customers at every step of their journey.

It’s easy to grab for the low-hanging fruit. “Let’s run some Google ads,” your team insists. “Not so fast,” you reply. “We need to take a more strategic approach to reach our prospects in new and distinctive ways.”

Here are some non-traditional strategies we recommend:

Native advertising/sponsored content

This is the practice of publishing a sponsored article on the pages of a magazine or its website. It’s designed to match the look and feel of the host website or publication, with only a small icon designating it as sponsored content.

Native advertising is an excellent tactic to reach prospects who may be interested in your product or solution but aren’t actively looking for a solution. Because it looks like part of the magazine’s or website’s editorial content, it’s more likely to be trusted by readers. Also, it’s less likely to be ignored than traditional ads.

Paid search

Wait, you may be saying to yourself. Aren’t all my competitors running Google ads? Yes, but we recommend a different approach. Instead of running ads that focus on branding, we recommend crafting ads that focus on your ideal customer’s pain points and your proposed solutions.

Why does this approach work? Because it intercepts prospects at the moment they’re searching for a solution. The ideal situation is when you have a paid ad running at the top of the page, followed by a high-ranking article in Google’s organic search results. This enables you to deliver two brand impressions close to each other.

The biggest challenge of PPC ads is that it takes some investment to experiment with different approaches and iterate your way to a set of messages that deliver the best results.

Influencer marketing

If you’re not familiar with this promotion strategy, it is the practice of enlisting thought leaders or popular voices in your industry or profession to promote your product or solution. Usually, this is done on a paid basis.

Influencer marketing can be as simple as sending influencers your product and asking them to review it. Another effective strategy is to look for opportunities to jointly publish research or a report with an influencer. If this expert serves the same audience that you’re trying to attract, this can be a win-win for both of you.

The advantage of influencer marketing is that it can help your content to get found and consumed by the right audience. Also, like earned media, it leverages the trust that the influencer has built up with his or her audience.

The challenge may be finding an influencer in your market or industry who is willing to help promote your product or service.

Paid social promotion

This tactic involves utilizing the rich targeting capabilities of LinkedIn, Twitter and other social media channels to laser-target your ideal audience based on characteristics like company size, location, job titles and more.

The advantage of using a combination of paid and organic social media promotion is greatly expanded reach. Unless you’re exceptionally good at writing viral social posts, most of your target audience is NOT seeing the majority of your social posts.

Shocking, but true.

In recent years, most social media channels have seriously throttled the visibility of organic posts. To ensure that your messages reach your target audience you need to “pay to play.” Paid promotion can help you to bypass the limiting algorithms of these mega-channels to reach your best prospects – with very little waste!

The downside of paid promotion is that it takes a fair amount of A/B testing and experimenting with different messages, images and calls to action to learn what resonates with your target audience. Iterating your way to what works takes time and money and is best left to a specialist who knows what he or she is doing!

Tips to make this hybrid approach work

  • Paid content marketing only works if your content is good to begin with. It won’t make crappy content good – it’s not a “get out of jail free card,” as one blogger put it. It needs to be focused on real customer challenges and offer solutions to them. It also needs to position your company as an empathic thought leader.
  • Don’t give up on creating new organic content. Just reduce your cadence and redirect those resources to building, deploying and improving paid campaigns.
  • Select content that’s already getting the best organic engagement for paid promotion. It’s likely to do well when you amplify its reach to a larger audience using paid promotion.
  • Segment your audience and deliver unique, targeted messages that are relevant to each. Each sub-audience has specific problems and needs. Targeting your messaging accordingly can dramatically increase your engagement compared to a “one-size-fits-all” approach.
  • Customize your messaging to each channel – both in terms of tone and the creative. On LinkedIn, prospects expect a more professional approach. By comparison, users of Twitter and Facebook don’t mind a more casual approach and tend to be more open to unconventional creative approaches.
  • Answer the question on your prospects’ minds, “Why should I care?” What value will your audience get by consuming your content? Make that abundantly clear – immediately. Otherwise, you’ll lose their attention.
  • Continually experiment with and optimize your paid messaging and creative: You never know what will resonate with your target audience. Your best bet is to run a series of A/B tests, varying one element at a time. In this way, you can iterate your way to higher engagement and response rates. You’ll also learn which channels work best to reach your target audience. Analyze the data, figure out what’s working and do more of that!
  • Make sure your CTA is clear and compelling: What do you want your target audience to DO next? If you’re investing money to promote a piece of content, you don’t just want them to read it and forget about it – you want them to engage with you. Consider driving them to register for a webinar, e-book or worksheet. Provide them with something of value related to the content you’re promoting.

Need help developing this type of content strategy?

Contact Cultivate today to learn how we can help you generate more value from your existing collection of content.