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 Manipulator’ by Ryan Holiday.
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).
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
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
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‘.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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;