No web traffic? No audience? No problem!

In my recent interview with Hernan (co-founder of Simplee), he requested an article on how to increase traffic to a website/landing page.

My friend chose an excellent topic, one which describes a problem that almost every start up is likely to encounter as they get themselves off the ground. It’s definitely something of a concern of mine for Inkbike too.

After spending ages concentrating on designing a website and getting it to the point where you want to make it ‘live’, you might not even have had the opportunity to consider how you’d get people to actually visit the page in the first place. Beyond posting something to your social media page, it’s quite an intimidating area to try and get creative in.

So when I went about doing some research into solutions, I stumbled across a book which I found really useful called ‘Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulatorby Ryan Holiday.

Trust Me, I'm Lying Book Cover Image

Although the tone of the book can be a little too ‘the internet is full of b*stards and fools‘ for me at times, the author does an excellent job of explaining the basics of internet media economics and structure.

I’ve used this information to create four ‘facts’ (affectionally referred to as Section 1) and finish with a suggestion for how you can use this information to get attention and traffic on your website (Section 2, baby).


Section 1: The Facts



Fact 1: Understanding the economics of blogging

To understand how to get attention from independent blogs, it helps to understand how blogs earn people money.

*The author defines blogs as anything from larger websites like Buzzfeed, Huffington Post, Business Insider & Vice to pages/people on social media platforms like YouTube, Instagram or Twitter.

The two main sources of income are;

  • Blogs make their money through traffic – adverts posted on a webpage pay out every time a new visitor views them;
  • Blogs also make money through sponsored content – this is where a company will ask a blogger to create a post about them or their product in return for money or ‘free’ products. These sponsorships are, however, conducted with the explicit understanding the post will reach a certain amount of people (i.e. the bloggers audience).

Therefore, all blogs on the Internet are incentivised to attract as much traffic as they possibly can to their page.

Website views = Money for website owner

Fact 2: There's No 'Superior Ad View'

Since websites are paid as a result of the number of unique page impressions that each advert posted on their website receives, they are financially motivated to post articles/content which attract click-views.

Why? Every time a reader clicks on a link, a new page loads. On the newly loaded page are new ads which you are then forced to view. But here’s the thing, even if you read the article for two seconds before clicking ‘back‘, your visit to the page still counts as a view for each of the ads which were loaded.

The author explains this really well;

“A perusing reader is no better than an accidental reader. An article that provides worthwhile advice is no more valuable than one instantly forgotten.

So long as the page loads and the ads are seen, both sides are fulfilling their purpose. A click is a click.”

– Ryan Holiday

A website is paid the same for your ‘view‘ regardless of whether you were on a page for two seconds or two hours.Fact 3: Individual Views Don't Pay Much At All

The amount of money paid per view is low – as such, most websites don’t make much money per article unless it gets thousands or millions of views.

As a result of facts 1,2 and three, blogs are financially incentivised to produce content in quantity rather than with focus on quality. There are no direct financial rewards to creating a brilliant, well-written article (not to say that there isn’t merit to producing such content which in fact is likely to create more money in the future by attracting an audience).

There are financial rewards however, for producing lots of articles, each with their own pages and adverts since they will generate profit from browsing readers.

Fact 4: Blogs Don't Want You To Feel Quantity Is Valued Over Quality

If you, as a reader, immediately get the sense that the articles on a blog are all headline with no filler, then you’re not going to be inclined to stick around too long.
Therefore, it pays for blogs to give the impression of quality and that some sort of balanced journalism has taken place during the writing of the article.

An example of how many writers apparently solve this issue is by using the platform Help A Reporter Out (HARO).

HARO is the kind of tool which writers that have already started an article will use to request either a statement from an ‘expert’ that supports their point, or a response from an ‘expert’ in that disagrees with their point to include as an article footnote to suggest that the writer has carried out balanced research to arrive at their conclusion.

While this could be considered lazy journalism (the author of the book certainly feels so), the reader is none-the-wiser to the fact that it’s taken place.

What have we learned so far?

  • Writers get money through views;
  • the amount they’re paid per view is low so they need a lot of them;
  • but a view makes money regardless of the time the reader spends looking at it or the quality of the article.

Section 2: The point of all this



But Inkbike, while this is all so interesting and well-written (why thank you!) – what do I do with all these golden goose eggs of information?!


WELL, the idea is simple. What good is launching a product if you have no audience to launch it to? If you’re a new business, you need people to find you in order to get things off the ground.

If you don’t have the audience to begin with or the time to build one organically, one method for growing an audience is to find someone with a blog that could be interested in you and reach their audience instead.

When you’re trying to obtain attention from blog owners on behalf of a brand, you should understand what financially motivates them. Remember that they are financially motivated by stories that will generate page-views. This understanding is essential when it comes to framing your approach to contact.

Obviously when you’re doing this, you’re looking to get as much reach as possible. However, you can’t just email a website like the BBC asking them to post a story about your business and expect them to do anything about it. First you need to build up a bit of online buzz about yourself.

The tactic that Holiday describes to do this effectively he calls ‘Trading up the Chain‘.

Header image: Trading up the chain

To understand how to do this, you need to first understand the lay of the digital land. Holiday describes there being three levels of blogs on the Internet. The value which seperates blogs between tiers being the size and reach of their audience.

Bar graph depicting increasing audience sizes on higher tiers

Tier 1 Blogs

At Tier 1, you have thousands of smaller (i.e. things like single writer operations and hobbyist bloggers) bloggers that search places like Twitter, Facebook, comment sections, press releases, other blogs and more for materials to write about.

The bloggers at this level, Holiday describes as being people that own websites which cover say, local area news or hobbies/personal issues ‘pertaining to a contained readership’.

For such bloggers, the trust between themselves and their smaller audience is typically high but if they’re operating for profit, they’re likely to be financially lean, small and looking to get more traffic.

Tier 2 Blogs

The second tier blogs are typically the sister websites of larger, more established sources. These are the blog sections of newspapers or local tv stations. A prime example of a UK blog in this group would be Vice.

“Places like the Wall Street JournalI, Newsweek, and CBS (in case it wasn’t obvious, the author is American) have sister sites like SmartMoney.com, Mainstreet.com, BNet.com and others which feature the companies’ logos but have their own editorial standards which aren’t always as rigorous as their old media counterparts.”

– Ryan Holiday

Again, these guys feel the crunch of low payment per ad-view and have the added pressure of needed to generate enough money to profitably run their slightly larger teams. As such, they’re more inclined to put out content faster to meet demand, but since they’ve got more of a reputation at stake, they can’t post just anything.

How do they filter out the noise? By using first tier blogs as a screening process. They will be monitoring relevant blogs in the first tier to see what seems more credible and what’s getting people talking.

Holiday states that getting content picked up by a second tier blog, is about dressing the content that you post to a first-tier blog so that it’s inviting to a second tier one. To do this, you need to get familiar with the second tier blogs you’re targeting to see what type of stories they post in your area.

From there, it’s about shaping up your story and pitch to a first tier blog to be something that looks like it would fit a the second tier’s website.

Tier 3 Blogs

Third tier blogs are national channels like BBC, The Guardian and The Times. They use second tier blogs as a filter in exactly the same way as second tier blogs do with the first tier. Links and mentions from these bad boys are game-changing for a brand.



For this point however, we’re going to focus our attention on the tier 1 bloggers which still represent audiences that number in the hundreds or thousands.

Looking at the ones which contain adverts or sponsored posts, they’re more likely to take on a story opportunity when it’s provided to them, as long as it somewhat connects to their core message. This is because, as we discussed in Section 1, a story is a new page which is money.

All you need to do is find them and get in touch with a polite, friendly email that presents your message as an opportunity.

I‘ll start off by talking through how you find these blogs and round up with an example email template which you can use to give you an idea about how to initiate contact.

A header which reads 'Finding your blogs' in a typographic font.

Google. Google is your friend here. Think about every place that you went to perform market research for your company, that includes every article you read and website you visited.Start mapping blogs that write about topics in your field/sector.

To build your map, you want to look at what websites that the articles you read are linking back to. Kind of like you would if you go into a Wikipedia rabbit hole. Just keep following the thread until you have 10-15 different blogs on your map.

The goal is that you create a visual ecosystem of blog owners so you can see who the big and small players are.

Then start categorising the blogs you’ve visited into tiers; it doesn’t have to be super accurate and you can just take a rough stab at audience sizes if you aren’t sure.

Image of someone creating a Mind Map on a whiteboard

This exercise will help you to determine who your tier 1 blogs are and in turn, who you should be contacting. By looking at blogs you’ve categorised as being tier 2, you can get a sense of what stories they pick up on and use that information to frame the story you provide to tier 1 blogs.

Once you’ve researched enough, you’re feeling informed and you know who you need to contact, you’re ready to craft the email.

Header image which contains the text 'Example Email' in a typographic font

The example email template below has been created mostly using parts of emails I’ve sent out to business owners to request an interview.

The feedback has always been the email has gone down well. I’ve largely attributed this to the fact that I’ve spent time researching the company/person before sending anything out to them. I do this to make sure that the email sounds as un-generic as possible since I figure that their time is stretched thing and their inbox is likely to be inundated.

My goal is to make them smile when they read it, and that’s worked fairly well for me so far. I think the people that I’m speaking to aren’t too dissimilar from the types of people that run tier 1 blogs so see how it works for you!



Good Afternoon [Name]!

I actually first got to learn about [website/company name] from [be honest, did you search Google and a specific article came up? Did you follow a link from another website? Did you find them through social media? Tell them, because they’ll probably be interested to hear!] I remember reading about [specific example] and thinking how brilliant it was!

I’ve since read a little more about you from your blog (which I’m seriously enjoying) and the story of how you started out is excellent!

The more I read, the more I couldn’t help but be inspired by your epic start and reading about all of the [reference topics] you’ve covered since. It just makes your website incredibly useful for anyone like myself [reference how your interests relate].



Now at this stage, I would encourage you to approach things collaboratively. If you are a business that’s looking to promote itself, what I’ve found is that people who’ve recently started something are often really happy to help out others starting their thing.

If you’re looking to get a story published on a new FinTech app and you’re contacting a writer with a website that looks specifically into similar apps, why not start by asking them if they can recommend a few similar products that you can look into?

Remember, to give specific examples and don’t sound generic. People love receiving genuine feedback (especially if they’re website is on the smaller side) and also, people are more willing to volunteer help rather then provide favours when asked.

See below;



I’m currently building an app called [Name]; it’s something of a passion project of mine which I intend to [what is your reason for making it outside of money? Who’s it for? What problem will it help people to solve? What are the unique selling points of the product?].

You’re actually one of the first people I’ve told about it, and while I’d love it if you were able to write about it, I’d honestly love it if you could point me towards some other FinTech apps that I might not know about which I could look into for market research?

It’d be a huge help and I’d really appreciate it. No pressure if you don’t have the time, if nothing else I’m just happy to have had an opportunity to tell you I’m a fan.

Many thanks,

[NAME]


Now if you’ve written the last section correctly, as well as creating an opportunity to help a fellow entrepreneur, you’ll also be providing an attractive prospect for an exclusive story for the writer to post.

If you’ve structured your pitch to a tier 1 blog owner based on your research, you’ll be in a great position to get picked up by a larger blog as long as the smaller blogs are on their radar.

That said, pitching your article to as many smaller blogs as you can is a great way to increase your chances of larger coverage. But even if your story doesn’t get picked up by a bigger blog, being picked up in the first place would be amazing exposure for a new business!

Conclusion

This article was written using concepts discussed in the book ‘Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions Of A Media Manipulator‘ by Ryan Holiday. If you’re interested in picking up a copy (which I recommend), I’ll leave a link to the book on Amazon here.

What did you think? Does this sound like something that could work for your business? My hope is at the very least, this article provides an insight into a basic concept for SEO link-building strategy which could give you some ideas for other ways to grow your traffic outside of social media. If you give it a go or have any questions, I’d love to hear from you;

Email: kaeyo@inkbike.com
Twitter: @Inkbike
Facebook: @lnkbike
LinkedIn: Inkbike

Fin.

The journalist’s trick to writing quality content

What's a persona?
Personas are a literary device which is used to help writers and marketers effectively plan what to write next, as well as how to create a content/marketing strategy that will have the biggest impact on their intended audience.

The philosophy that underpins ‘personas’ as a tool is straightforward – you can’t expect to write content that’s impactful for an audience if you don’t know who they are.

So a persona is a character profile that represents a slice of your audience. To cover all bases, it makes sense to create somewhere in the region of 3-5 personas to cover your bases.


Header - Who should use a persona?

I touched on it earlier but I’d say using personas makes sense to the following (but not limited to);

Content creators (including bloggers, podcasters and YouTubers):
Trying to figure out what content will land best with your current or future/intended audience? Boom. Personas.

Here’s why: By understanding what motivates your audience, you can create content which caters to that. In doing so you’ll provide value. If you can continually provide value to your audience, then they will reward you with loyalty as they perceive you as a trusted source of knowledge/news/entertainment.


Budding entrepreneurs:
Starting a new business and want to figure out where your new company will sit on the market? Or alternatively, you’re in the process of designing a product and need help designing some USPs? Boom. Personas.

Here’s why: With well-developed personas, you can create products and services that are tailored to what your customers want, which puts you in a better position to cater to their needs. Catering more specifically to your customer’s needs is what will make your customer choose you rather than your competitor.


Marketers:
Want to create a targeted marketing campaign that speaks volumes to your audience? Then get a better idea of who that audience is. How?
Boom. You guessed it. Personas.

Here’s why: As with content creators, knowing who your audience is helps shape the language/style you use to speak to them. With marketing, you can take it a step further. Understanding who your audience is means knowing where they spend their time, how they typically find material they trust and, importantly, the personal circumstances which influence their purchasing decisions as consumers.

Just think, the customers you want to reach are more likely to react with content that interests them if it’s found in the channels they already populate.

What should I include in my persona profile?

In order to be useful, you need your persona to contain enough information to create a believable character. The more real the persona feels, the more you’ll be able to empathise with them and use that empathy to plan out content which will provide the most value/have the most significant impact.

Here’s how not to do it;

Persona #1: Jack Howard
Jack is a lad in his twenties that likes the idea of starting his own business but isn’t sure how.”

Notice how Jack seems as real and relatable as one of those characters written in your school maths book where you end up having to work out how many green, red and blue sweets they can split with their mate.

Sack Jack off – we can do better.

I’ve broken down some areas to include and grouped them together into the below four sections.

Header - Demographic overview

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Nationality
  • Education
  • Family
  • Household income
  • Location? (Urban, rural or suburban)

Career Overview

Job role
Consider their current position and what role that will have on their motivations and aspirations. Here you’ll want to consider things like; what does their day-to-day look like? Do they have much free time? What’s their office environment like? Are they surrounded by people from similar, different or mixed ages/backgrounds? Is the job fulfilling?

Company/employer
Outside of their role, it’s worth considering your persona’s working environment and what impact this might have on their outlook. Consider things like; what sector do they work in? Large employer? Progression opportunities?

Salary/income
Specifically in the context of Inkbike, I know that someone’s salary would play a large role in the way they might approach a new venture or enterprise and so should be factored into the content I write. This might be the same for you too, depending on the type of content you’re putting out.

Obviously if you were using personas as part of market research, understanding someone’s available resources would play a huge role in knowing how to market to them effectively.

Hobbies
In equal balance to what your personas do for a living, equal emphasis can be placed on what they do in their spare time. How they spend their time outside of work can inform the type of content they might enjoy or actively seek out.


Interests and aspirations header

Short term goals
An easier way to frame this question might be, what do they want to achieve by the end of this year?

Long term goals
Like the above, break it down to a more objective question; what do they want to achieve over the course of the next 3, 5 or 10 years?

What challenges do they face for achieving these goals?
This is one of the most important sections, the degree to which you have an understanding of this question will directly determine the amount of value you’ll be able to provide your reader/customer.

How can I help them to achieve these goals/How can I provide a solution for these challenges?
If you’re a content creator, the answer to this question will help shape the things you make. If you’re a business, understanding the answers to these questions will help you define your unique selling points (USPs) that give you a competitive edge in your market.


Header - Approach to reading

How do they find things to read?
Is your target audience more attracted to particular social media platforms than others? Do they typically frequent only particular websites? If so, why?

What type of articles do they look for?
Are they interested in general news? Opinion pieces? Humour? Political or social commentary?

What times of the day do they read?
Are they a lunch-time browser? A commuter looking to pass the time on their morning ride to work? Someone that reads in bed? Do they sit and read in the office while procrastinating?

How much time do they spend reading?
5 minutes a day? 10 minutes? An hour? 3 hours?

What are they looking for in the content they read?
Do they read to stay informed? To relax? To pass the time while commuting? To learn or to participate (through comments etc.)?


Where should I look for information?

How you go about this depends on where you are with your thing. No matter where you’re at however, your research can look like some combination of the following;

Social media stats
If you already have a following then absolutely make use of it. Facebook and Instagram give brilliant demographic breakdowns for people in your audience. These nuggets of information can be a fantastic basis for building a persona.

Interrogate the audiences of your enemie-*cough* competition…I meant competition.
Don’t have a social media audience? Look at the social media pages of others who might be in the same field as you – scroll through the comments for their posts and see what people engage with. It might take more digging but get a feel for who those people are (i.e. click on people leaving comments) and see what you can find out/if you can spot any trends.

Interviews
I know, it’s no major surprise that the guy from Inkbike is a fan of Interviews. They’re pretty great though! Try and think of who, out of everyone you know, would be most likely to get on board with your content or be potential customers. Sit down with those people and ask them about their habits.

What was the catalyst for you starting your thing? What problem were you looking to solve and who does it affect?
You might be your own best source of insight. What got you motivated enough to start doing your thing? What wasn’t out there in such a way that you felt compelled to put it out there yourself? Figure that out and then think about who else, like you, might benefit from it? This is an opportunity to consider the audience you want to have rather than just the audience you might already/do have.

Putting it all together

Finally, after getting all the information together we can start to build up our profiles.

To finish this bit, I decided to make CVs for each of my personas using Canva since it’s free and awesome (if you want to learn more about creating graphics from Canva and other tools, you should read my earlier article).

Alternatively, if you’d like to download any of the below to use as inspiration, I’ll link them here;

(Also don’t judge me for naming each of the personas after Marvel Avengers characters, Avengers Infinity War did JUST come out after all…)

An image of a persona profile that's formatted to look like a CV

An idea is to add a one-line summary of the persona’s core personality trait under the name; I found it useful to remind me which persona is which at a glance.

Natasha Romanov Persona Profile

idn’t include every single one of the above headers religiously, the point is the capture enough that you can get a sense of the persona and use that to create impactful content.

T'Challa Persona Profile

The idea is to put the emphasis on the goals and how you can help the persona to overcome their challenges. Understanding these two areas is how you’ll be able to provide value and make impactful content.

Sam Wilson Persona Profile

Looking at the goals and challenges, I created a list of themes that would be most valuable and relevant to the Sam persona; my thinking is that this would make it easier to come up with new content ideas later if I ever get stuck.


Putting the personas to good use

You’ve finished the labour intensive bit, great stuff. The next step is to get some use out of your hard work by using your personas to come up with useful content.

Using the characters you’ve created, the idea is to put yourself in their shoes. What are the challenges they’re facing at the moment? What kind of information would they like to know? How could you write headlines that would catch their attention?

Examples of content headlines for Steve Rogers could be:

  • 10 professional skills you can develop for your CV outside your day job.
  • Black box thinking: why trying and failing is the best thing you can do.
  • 3 great entrepreneur communities you can get involved with in Leeds.

Conclusion header

Granted, this is a time-consuming process – especially when factoring in time spent researching. But the benefit of using personas to create content is that your planning becomes informed.

While small details like someone’s income, family, job role and hobbies might seem inconsequential and removed from the work that you do, ultimately it’s factors like these which influence a person’s habits; spending, reading or otherwise.

It’s at this point, you stand to make a meaningful impact with whatever content you’re making.

Besides, even if it doesn’t end up being something that you find as useful, it’s NEVER a bad thing to do your research.


What do you think? Would this be something useful for you? If it is and you end up making a persona template, I’d LOVE to see it, so please send it me on any of the below!

Email: kaeyo@inkbike.com
Twitter: @Inkbike
Facebook: @lnkbike
LinkedIn: Inkbike

Fin.