Reddit (we found a Pescetarian-specific subreddit) TheKitchn.com Tastespotting.com As well as using SimilarWeb, I took a lot at the keywords that were bringing through the most traffic from the search engines to my competitors’ websites. I did this with SEMrush. Here’s a snapshot of some of the terms specifically related to pescetarianism:
Again, all of this data is used so that we could map out some content to start competing for similar terms.
Phase 2: Where the hard work begins
Getting the branding right across the site was something that took a lot of time. I wanted to make sure that it was well thought out, related to our target audience and used all of the research that we’d carried out to make informed decisions.
At the same time, I didn’t want it to cost a fortune. This was the same case for all of the assets we needed to go along with it. For example:
The website design and development The blog logo Social media profile artwork Banners for advertising These are just a few things we needed to consider, with more to follow over the coming months. Ideally, the website that we’ve created has been built to last at least 1-1.5 years so we needed to get it right.
I know it can be tough to know where to start with these kinds of things, especially if you’re on a tight budget and have had little experience in running anything similar before. With that in mind, I’m going to share a number of different tools and services that I used (or have used before) to get various brand assets in place…
Adobe Kuler – before you start diving into your web design and development, you need to get an idea of the colour palette of your brand. Adobe Kuler is always my first port of call, plus it’s free.
Mural.ly – this is a pretty smart platform that allows you to map out your ideas in a manageable workflow. It’s a paid tool but the entry level package is only $10. I’ve used Mural.ly to map out all the different things I want my brand to encompass, who my target market is, the channels I’ll be using, etc. and it works really well.
Dribbble – if you’re looking for some creative inspiration then Dribbble is the perfect starting point to look at some cool designs, brands and campaigns. Always good to get the creative juices flowing!
Google Consumer Barometer – this is a seriously awesome resource for getting deeper insights into the online behaviour of your target audience. Using some of the data within Consumer Barometer, you can start shaping the perception and story of your brand.
99designs – an amazing marketplace where you can get all kinds of creative work done for as little as $99. This can include logos, banners, print work, etc.
WiseStamp – create custom email signatures that can also pull in links from your social profiles, the recent posts from your blog, your latest tweets and much more.
48hourslogo.com – here’s another amazing design marketplace. We actually got the Pescetarian Kitchen logo designed here for $120 and the results were amazing. You can check out the design page here: http://www.48hourslogo.com/project.php?id=29142
crowdSPRING – logo design and graphic design marketplace.
Swiftly – small design jobs from just $19. This is great to get little bits of your brand artwork created or tweaked.
Impossibility! – a fantastic domain name generator that will help you to decide on the perfect fit for your domain name. We started using this tool for our blog as we needed to have the term pescetarian within it. We finally decided on going with one of the new .kitchen TLDs that were made available.
Balsamiq – a great wire-framing tool that you can use to map out how you want your new site to look.
Theme Forest – if you’re not very code savvy, you may want to look at using a premade website template. You can customise these themes with your own imagery and Theme Forest is a huge marketplace to find the right one.
IM Creator – if you’d prefer to use a much simpler interface without having to know anything about development or code, you can use IM Creator to create a website within their easy-to-use interface.
oDesk – if you haven’t heard of oDesk before then you should check it out. It’s a great place to hire freelancers to get bits of development work, design work or any other kind of work done. I use oDesk all the time but you just need to make sure that you’re taking the time to interview the freelancers you work with.
Build Fire – this can follow on from your website development project as you can create your own mobile apps with Build Fire’s platform. The beauty of it is that you can have a HTML5 app for free (no strings attached) and you can also get iOS and Android apps for just $50 a month. They could be a nice extension to your website (it’s something that me and Laura are looking at right now).
Once we’d got the website developed along with the logos and imagery, it was time to start focusing on the traffic generation side of things. I’ll break this down into some of the different channels that we focused on and then go into detail on the specific activities that we carried out to get results.
As far as long-term traffic generation strategies go, SEO is top of the list for us. As I mentioned in the analysis in phase 1, we carried out extensive research into which terms our competitors were ranking well for, as well as some potential keyword opportunities that we could target. After this it was time to align this to our content strategy.
Before we started planning out specific content ideas, we set a few things up within the blog to ensure that our site was optimised as well as it could be. The first was to implement Schema.org markup.
Schema.org markup is particularly useful for food blogs as it enables you to mark up specific webpages that contain recipes in order to display them differently within the search engines.
In the image above it shows the search engine snippet for one of our recipes. It has an image of the dish, the total cooking time, the number of calories within it and then the usual title/description.
When compared to a lot of the other competing results, it’s clear that our SERP snippet is much more clickable:
The best part of this was that we didn’t have to do any coding at all (or even know how to code this up). Instead, we used a simple free WordPress plugin called ZipList that allows us to enter in a few extra details to our WordPress posts and it will add all the necessary Schema.org markup that can enable Google to display a custom SERP snippet.
Aside from Schema.org markup, we also set up Yoast’s WordPress SEO plugin. The main reason for this is that it’s completely awesome! It allows you to manage your URLs, sitemaps, meta data and tons more. It’s worth having a read of this post on different on-page SEO factors and then working your way through them with the help of Yoast’s plugin.
The majority of our link acquisition strategy is geared around a more organic, earned approach. We’re focusing on developing great content (in the form of recipes, primarily) that others will share and link to. This obviously has some level of manufacturing to it in order to gain traction, but our ethos is to focus on content first, links second.
With this in mind, our content has to be right.
To begin with, we gathered a huge list of potential keywords that were food/recipe orientated. From there we mapped them out into a huge spreadsheet and identified the keyword competitiveness score for each ( Moz metric), along with the total monthly search volume. From here we could start creating a list of topics to write about (i.e. different recipes we would cook up) and then marry them up perfectly to our target keyword.
It takes time to start ranking for a wide spread of keywords like this but getting content together for each of your target terms is the right starting place. Over five months, we’ve published 72 recipes that all focus on different search terms from which we can start bringing through search traffic. It’s worth noting that keyword search volume isn’t the only factor that’s considered when creating new content, but it plays a big role in it.
As I mentioned within the first part of this post, BuzzFeed is a key traffic driver to the majority of our competitors. Having a look at some of the links they have acquired from BuzzFeed show that they are generally from having their recipe(s) featured within list-based posts.
Not only that, but they’re cashing in on some seriously powerful links (DA 92).
I made it our goal to get a feature within a BuzzFeed article. Not only was I interested in getting a seriously powerful link, but the traffic potential off the back of one of these posts is huge, especially if it goes to the front page.
I didn’t just achieve this once – I managed to get two of our recipes featured in two separate posts that hit the front page of BuzzFeed.
Here’s how I did it…
I began by getting in touch with a ton of food bloggers to start building relationships with them. My hope was that they would see some of our recipes and potentially feature them within some articles on BuzzFeed – it soon dawned on me that they weren’t the ones that were publishing the posts. I carried on the relationship building work because it resulted in some natural links from their own blogs, but knew I needed to go and do some deeper research into BuzzFeed itself.
BuzzFeed has a community platform where anyone can make an account, log-in and publish a post. Now, you may already be seeing dollar signs right now, but you need to roll that tongue back in. Unless your post gets promoted for a community feature by the moderator team (who are notoriously strict with their submissions), your post is going nowhere. Oh, and you’re not going to get any dofollow links of value because they’re just coming from an orphan page (they’re often nofollow if it isn’t promoted for a feature anyway).
Having said all this, if you do manage to get a community feature, and from there it gains enough traction to be pushed into a category feature, and then from there it has so much traction that they push it to the front page… well, you could be looking at some serious exposure.
Here are the analytics for one of the posts that I had hit the front page with (BuzzFeed has its own analytics platform):
So here’s what I did to get a deeper understanding of what content performswell on BuzzFeed:
I crawled BuzzFeed.com over a weekend using Screaming Frog SEO Spider to get a huge list of URLs that I could use to start running some analysis on. I went through and filtered out any irrelevant URLs so that I only had the URLs of actual posts on BuzzFeed. This was in excess of 65,000 URLs and came from a whole host of different authors and categories. I ran the URLs through URL Profiler to gather backlink data, social share information, word counts, post titles, etc. Essentially, I gathered a ton of information around the content on the pages so that I could analyse it further. After this, I ran all of the URLs through a tool that I’ve had developed for myself to do some extra data scraping (if you’re not sure what this is, don’t worry, but you can check out a post I wrote on it here). Using my tool (which I’ll be releasing to the public for free soon), I extracted the author’s name, the article category, the date/time it was published, the total views the article had, plus a load of other things (you get the idea). Once I had all of this data (it was a LOT of data), I started to dive into it and find trends. Essentially, I did everything that I outline in my content analysis case study, but for BuzzFeed. From all this analysis, I was able to find out some of the following things about BuzzFeed’s posts:
The optimum number of list items to have in a list-based post to gain interest. The perfect headline length. The ideal length of the article to get social shares. The most popular authors and categories on BuzzFeed. These are just a few of the findings I took. Once I get round to putting it all together in a publically coherent format, I’ll publish my full analysis results for you all (you can expect that in a month or so).
Here are a few tips that I’ll give you now that could help you to get a post published on BuzzFeed:
Do not try to promote anything within your article. The editors will see straight through it – trust me (I’ve had some unsuccessful posts because of this). Only link out to anything that will directly improve the BuzzFeed reader’s experience. The mod team doesn’t like links, but if, for example, you’re mentioning a recipe, it could be a good idea to leave a link for the reader to see it in full. BuzzFeed’s moderation team will take at least 24 hours to get back to you. If they don’t get back to you then your post hasn’t been approved. Make sure you stick to the format of BuzzFeed. List posts are a winner, but you need to study the types of related content on there already to find a fun angle. Anything remotely salesy will fail. Once you’ve hit publish, run some social advertising to seed through some initial views and gain some traction before the mod team looks at it. If all goes well, you’ll get an email like this…
From this post alone we had over 6,500 unique visits to the blog. That also resulted in around 200 email sign-ups, tons of social shares and a flurry of organic links.
Another area that we identified as a huge traffic driver was the vast array of food-orientated communities. We spent quite a lot of time in our analysis stage to see which communities our competitors were most active within and decided to focus on the following:
Reddit (/r/pescetarian/ and /r/foodporn/). Food Gawker Tastespotting There are a few others that we engage within, but these are the big three. Food Gawker alone has brought through just under 2,000 referral visits.
The beauty of these sites is that you just need to submit your post URL to them and (if approved by the mods) they can start bringing through traffic to your blog directly. They’re no different to inbound marketing communities like inbound.org.
Without going into too much detail here, the big thing to remember is that you should analyse what is working within the community before you start sharing. It took me quite a while to get any of our recipes past the Food Gawker moderator team because they have very strict guidelines. Instead of just crossing my fingers and hoping for the best, I did a similar exercise to what I did with BuzzFeed and analysed the components of a top-performing post on the site, then attempted to replicate that with my content.
After this small piece of research, we now know exactly what the Food Gawker team are looking for. This applies to most online communities (key takeaway: spend time researching the communities before engaging).
In terms of our current priorities, our email subscribers are top of the list, even above SEO. So far we’re at 574 double opt-in subscribers (I want to emphasise the fact that these subscribers actually want to read our emails).
If we have a load of people give us our email addresses to enter a competition then they do not go into our mailing list. The only way they do is if they double-opt in (i.e. give us our email to enter a comp and then get in touch with us via email to confirm they want to receive the newsletter).
At the end of the day, there’s no value in having someone subscribed to your mailing list that doesn’t want to be there. It just gives you an unrealistic idea of how large your following is.
That aside, email is one of the most powerful ways for us to get our content shared, bring through consistent traffic to the blog, and also (in the longer term) generate revenue.
You’ll see once you get onto the blog that it has a number of different call-to-action areas (we use Optin Monster for these). We try our best to keep them non-intrusive and have been doing loads of testing to see what gets the best results. At the moment we’re getting around 4-6 new subscribers every day, which has doubled from last month.
As it stands, the top three converting channels for new email subscribers are as follows:
Google Organic (21.10%) BuzzFeed (14.77%) Facebook (14.76%) We measure all of our email signups through Google Analytics via event and goal tracking (check out this tutorial I wrote on setting it all up). I’d strongly recommend you track this because it gives you a clearer idea of where to focus your efforts.
When it comes to actually managing our email marketing campaigns, we use GetResponse. There are tons of different email platforms that you can use, but I find GetResponse to be one of the best out there. You can set up autoresponders, create custom landing pages, integrate directly with WordPress and Google Analytics, plus it’s very cost-effective.
Social media was always going to play a huge role in bringing traffic through to our blog. If I’m honest, we were never expecting the kind of response that we’ve had. We currently have a social media following of around 6,000 people – all of which we’ve acquired in just 5 months.
The traffic we bring from Facebook alone contributes to a large percentage of our overall web traffic.
I could spend all day talking about everything we’ve been doing within our social media campaign, but instead I’m going to give a summary of the things that have really worked for us to get some seriously quick growth. If you’re interested in the full details, I’ve recently published our full social media strategy for building a following from nothing (likely to be of interest!).
Here are the top-level points that have made our social campaign a success:
Managing a fluid content posting process across each of our social channels. Running periodical competitions to give away prizes that are relevant to our niche and that our readers will love. Remarketing to website visitors via Facebook ads. Marketing to the followers of my competitors. Working on as much in-content call to action as possible. Social media posting process
Where I’ve talked about managing a fluid content posting process, I’m referring to the way in which content is scheduled to be shared across each social network. Our strategy for this actually came from a fantastic Whiteboard Friday from Rand Fishkin.
Rand talked about the optimum amount of times you should post the same content across each social channel, offering a visual originally created by KissMetrics:
This has worked wonders for me, but you can adapt it slightly for each different channel you use. All I do is resize each of my post images to the optimal size for the individual social channel, then schedule all the shares of that post in Buffer.
Competitions/giveaways work really well for driving social engagement and we’ve seen a huge uptake in our social media off the back of running some competitions.
One thing to be careful of here is to make sure you’re giving away something that is relevant. It’s all fair and well giving away an iPad in a social competition, but you need to decide whether the people engaging with you care about your brand at all or if they’re just in it for an iPad (it’s usually the latter).
Just as an example, we recently gave away a three-month supply of popcorn. From this we had 956 entrants in just 3 days. Not bad at all!
Remarketing via Facebook Ads
Facebook has some incredible advertising options that enable you to grow your social media following full of engaged and relevant users. This looks like it’s going to get even better with the recent introduction of Atlas’s people-based advertising platform.
One of the ways that we’ve been able to really grow our Facebook following so quickly is through remarketing to all the visitors of our website. Considering the number of people that we’ve been bringing through from the likes of BuzzFeed, Reddit and Food Gawker, it would be crazy if we didn’t attempt to capture them into our social following.
The results have been amazing and we have spent less than £80/$130 a month doing so.
I’m not going to go into all the details of how to set this up because I’ve already done this at great length here.
One thing that I always mention to people when they ask me about growing their social media following is that most of your social engagement will come from outside the social network itself.
If you have enough social call-to-action within your content, your readers will begin sharing your content across social media and start being the ones who are helping to promote your brand organically.
Here are a few simple things that I’ve used to do this:
Social share buttons (here’s a great free WordPress plugin) Social-gated locked content (here’s a plugin you can use) Pop-ups to prompt social shares Final thoughts
Just before I sign off, I want to emphasise the importance of analysis and measurement. You can see within the first phase of this case study that I dedicated a large amount of time to getting a full and detailed understanding of the niche. This included the content, my competitors and the social and search landscape.
Alongside this, measurement has been a key driver of growth within our campaign. If you don’t understand what you’re doing right and what you’re doing wrong then you’ll never be able to adapt.
I use tons of different tools to measure the success of varying aspects of the campaign. One that you may have heard of before is Cyfe. If you haven’t heard of it, go check it out (you can get a free account). Essentially, Cyfe allows you to integrate loads of different tools into one central dashboard (for example, Google Analytics, Bit.ly, Facebook, Pinterest, SlideShare, Moz, GetResponse and tons more) – it’s awesome.
Just set some KPIs and make sure that you’re analysing the results regularly. If you find that one channel in particular is working really well, shift more of your resources into it. If one isn’t, find out why and work on a solution.
Invest time into analysing your competitors, the content in your niche, the search landscape and social media before doing anything else. Get an armoury of tools and services that you can use to get results from your campaigns, whatever your budget is. Content first, links second. If you’re in the food niche, BuzzFeed is a huge traffic driver! About MatthewBarby — Global Head of Growth and SEO at HubSpot, award winning blogger and lecturer. Find me on my digital marketing blog or drop me a tweet.
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