Have you ever felt stuck trying to grow your blog? Or perhaps wish your blog would grow faster?
If you are like me, you know you should be producing top-notch, “10x content.” The kind of content that gets people to think and value the insight you give to the community. And you may also know you can do more than promote your latest blog just on your social media accounts. But still, you have a desire to do more and grow your blog faster.
So you go to your favorite content marketing site to find new ideas to test. Perhaps you…
- Create a link magnet that builds links for you.
- Learn how to partner with influencers to promote your content.
- Reach out to your customers to create a customer-first content strategy.
But before you decide what promotion channel to pursue, it’s wise to ask yourself some tough questions. Which of these experiments is more likely to give us a higher ROI? Will this project be worth the time and money we put into it? And if the test is successful, how will we scale it?
These are important questions to ask yourself when trying to maximize your blog’s ROI. To answer these questions, we use a system to:
- Rank our growth ideas,
- Create experiments to be deliberate in our learning, and
- Create an automation and outsource system to scale our content promotion.
It sounds complicated, but it’s simple to put into action. This is our process on how we scale content marketing at Growth Ramp, and I’ll share our process in this article.
How to Effectively Pick Your Best Promotion Channels By Ranking Growth Ideas
To start, I like to get a pipeline of new ideas to improve our traffic Growth Ramp. Finding ideas to grow your blog is simple. I find many ideas on newsletters like Growth Hackers, Kevin Indig’s Techbound, Jimmy Daly’s Swipe File, Len Markidan’s Inner Circle, or Reforge’s Brief.
To increase your idea sources, I asked Indig, Daly, Su, and Markidan where they curate great marketing ideas. Here is what they suggested:
- Subscribe to a ton of blogs and newsletters (including Val Geisler’s Newsletter, Jocelyn Glei’s Newsletter, The Ann Friedman Weekly, and The Offscreen Dispatch).
- Watch Twitter, Slack, and other social channels by following interesting people.
- Subscribe to, or add dozens of blogs to Feedly (including the Moz blog, Tim Ferriss’s blog, Andreessen Horowitz’s blog, Animalz’s blog, Greg Kogan’s Blog, Intercom’s Blog, New York Times Well, DealBook, and Smarter Living sections, Hacker News, and Product Hunt).
- Use Pocket to curate more relevant articles.
- Get pitched, or ask for articles from newsletter readers.
- Do research for marketing, and save valuable articles for later in Evernote.
After creating our own list of newsletters and blogs, how do we rank each growth idea? We use the same principles that growth marketers at startups like Facebook, BigCommerce, and Inman News use: the ICE framework. In short, you score each idea on a scale of 1-10 on impact, the confidence of success, and effort to run the test. While this approach is helpful, it can be based on one’s opinion. Which means you are dependent on how accurate those opinions are.
What’s a simple way we can add objectivity to rank our growth ideas?
I start by estimating the time and money costs. Then, I estimate how much traffic we need to get from that project to consider it a success. This goal allows me to decide if the project is worth putting into action now, or saving for later. More importantly, it allows me to know what is the most impactful thing I, or someone else can do, given our skill set.
For example, should I do email outreach to create a link magnet survey? Or should I migrate my old marketing site, and merge the content? To estimate the impact of each idea, I start by estimating the time cost and any money I’ll spend. If you are not on a set salary as a co-founder, I would consider the cost of hiring someone to replace you. I’d expect a great content marketer to cost $40-60/hour to do this work for me. For now, I will use $40/hour.
Now I can estimate the impact of each idea more objectively:
- Link Magnet Survey = (60 hours X $40) + $100 for an email lead list = $2,500.
- Site Migration = (40 hours X $40) = $1,600.
Keep in mind the total cost could be different, depending on who works on the project. For example, I could outsource to a VA for $2-6/hour, or hire a junior marketer at $10-15/hour. You can also ask marketers for quotes on a project too. I emailed Sean Work of Judicious Inc. for a quote to migrate my old marketing site, and his quote was about $900-$1,500. For this article, I will use the original numbers.
To find out what my goal for this campaign will be, I set a goal based on the value of a visitor to my site. There are fancy attribution models and tools you can use to give you an in-depth answer. But to keep things simple, I use RightMessage’s funnel calculator.
For Growth Ramp, I chose the value of a visitor at $1. I got this number when asking other startups and agencies, and choosing a number on the low end because we are a new company. My goal is to keep the cost to get a new customer at a 4:1 ratio. In other words, I want to spend no more than $0.25 per visitor. Assuming a 2% conversion of traffic to email subscribers, I want to spend no more than $12.50 per email ($0.25 / 2% = $12.50).
It does take time for a visitor or email to become a sale. And doubling traffic may not increase revenue at the same rate (it could triple revenue, or it could 5x revenue). This is why we suggest talking to customers to create a content strategy. But the increase in traffic or email subscribers is a better estimate of new revenue than nothing at all.
For the Link Magnet Survey to be successful, I will need to get 10,000 visitors ($2,500 / $0.25). And for the Site Migration project, I will need to get 6,400 visitors ($1,600 / $0.25). With this information, I plug the numbers into my experiment document:
I also consider secondary goals of this experiment because after running a test, they can become the main goal. When Henry did outreach to promote our article on lowering customer acquisition costs, he got a sales lead. So even if the main goal was a flop, the secondary goal made the experiment a success.
Next, you will want to figure out how you will track your success. Tracking is never perfect. So at times, you will need to make an educated guess. Let’s say you do the Link Magnet Survey and it gets you 6,000 visitors and 20 links in two months. 20 links will increase the organic traffic of all articles on your site.
Since the traffic did not meet the main goal, I’d ask, “Will the 20 links increase my organic traffic to get the remaining 4,000 visitors?” Chances are good it will. If you spread 4,000 visitors over 10 months, I’d need only an extra 400 visitors a month. And if you have 40 articles, that’s just 10 visitors per article. Easy-peasy.
Going back to the ICE framework, I can now ask better questions to help me choose what test to do first:
- What is the potential impact to make this test successful?
- How confident am I that I will make this goal?
- How much time and money will I need to complete this goal?
Here’s how I’d answer these questions for the Link Magnet Survey:
- Compared to the other ideas, the impact of the Link Magnet Survey is a “9.”
- I am an “8” that I will get 10,000 visitors.
- Compared to the other ideas, the amount of resources for the Link Magnet Survey is a “5.”
After scoring each test, I choose the promotion strategy with the highest score. Then, I create an experiment to maximize my learning.
Turning Failure (and Success) Into Big Wins Through Deliberate Experimentation
“Do not be embarrassed by your failures, learn from them and start again.” ~Richard Branson
We’re told we should learn from our failures. But that’s easier to say than to do. How do you make the most of a failed test? In a study done by a professor at Vanderbilt and Harvard, there were three activities they found that would maximize learning: deliberate experimentation, identifying failure, and analyzing failure.
Deliberate experimentation is a process used to track what tests will work, and which will fail. Whether I fail or succeed, every experiment is designed to increase my learning. The goal is to know what in your experiment created success and failure.
To do this, I create a minimum viable marketing process (MVMP). This is the minimum work I need for the experiment to be complete. With the Link Magnet Survey, I could:
- Pitch journalists to get press coverage.
- Reach out to bloggers who mentioned similar stats and studies on their blog to build links.
- Partner with other companies that share my audience to get more people to respond.
Those are all great ideas. But an MVMP would not include those steps because they aren’t needed for success. Here’s why I find MVMPs helpful:
- MVMPs help me know when to kill a project. Parkinson’s law states that work expands to fill the time available. An MVMP helps keep your experiment limited by giving you boundaries to know when the project is complete.
- MVMPs help me pinpoint the success and failure of each part of the strategy. If you add two tactics on top of your strategy, it would be hard to know which is worth the extra time or money, unless you did them separately.
- MVMPs keep my costs lower. If an experiment is going to be a failure, there’s no sense spending more time and money on a later idea. By deciding on the MVMP, I can focus my time and energy on what’s most likely to work.
As I’m creating my MVMP, I often have more ideas than I want to test. To keep my ideas from distracting me, I leave a space at the bottom of my experiment document to test new ideas later.
After finishing a test, rather than moving on to the next test, I take the time to analyze every experiment. I like to ask myself questions to reflect on the experiment, such as:
- How much time and money did I invest in this idea?
- Based on the goal I set, was there enough traffic or emails to make this experiment a success?
- What went right in a way that was unexpected?
- What went not according to plan? Is there a way to prevent this from happening in the future?
- Can I optimize this process to make it cost less than the experiment originally predicted? If so, how?
- Record anything else I learned, in case someone revisits this idea and is unable to talk with me.
Answering these questions helps me be intentional in my success and failure. Don’t get me wrong, failures are taxing and draining on your energy. But by learning from failure, you can prevent failure from happening again.
Creating a Repeatable System with Automation to Scale Your Content Promotion Channels
Noah Kagan once stated less than 20% of AppSumo’s marketing tests returned a good enough ROI. That’s less than 1-in-5 experiments. So if you’ve found a winning golden ticket promotion channel, stop! Don’t go trying Facebook ads, creating skyscraper posts, or some other test. Not yet at least. It’s almost always better to keep pulling a successful growth lever than to find a new one.
One of the easiest ways to do this is by doing your test faster by creating a repeatable system. I start by creating a process on how to do every step of the strategy. This includes a written checklist of what needs to be done, and a video doing the task using Screencast-o-matic. I lay out my entire process, and put each step into Pipefy.
Starting here is best because hiring someone else allows you to increase your output with something you already know works.
Choosing Your Content Promotion Channels: Is It Worth The Hassle?
Are you wondering if this process is worth the effort? After all, you may be the only person in the content marketing department. But I’ve yet to find a reason for ignoring what you should focus on, and instead blindly trust your gut.
These principles are put into use outside of content promotion too. In fact, developers and product managers have been using this system for years. To reduce the time spent on this process, I recommend coming up with ideas to test quarterly. Once you score each idea, focus on putting each idea into action.
Deliberate experimentation will give insight into your tests by spending only 30-45 minutes. This step alone will help you organize your thoughts for the second test. I’ve found new ideas also come into my mind during these sessions.
By creating a clear process, you can begin to double down on your successes faster. When you decide to hire someone, you can make the onboarding process faster by showing them your processes. This will help you break through your blog’s traffic barrier to get more leads and sales.Growth Ramp helps startups hire professional contract marketers and agencies to grow their business faster. Learn more and request a free quote here.