E-Marketing Strategy: The Power of the Blogosphere
This installment of E-Marketing Strategy picks up right where the column in the March/April issue of Book Business left off: blog marketing. This next step in building a solid Web-marketing foundation marks an important turning point. In this step, you will transition out of the research phase and into the—way more exciting—outreach phase. If you have done your site redesign, content development and audience research well, now is when you will begin to see new customers flow through your (digital) door.
Marketing your books to the blogosphere is one of the most fun and effective ways to find new customers. Unless your chosen topic is something outrageously obscure—underwater basket weaving?!—it is likely that every day thousands to millions of people flow through the blogs you have identified on your list of the top 10 to 15 blogs in your niche. (Remember that list?) Start with outreach to the blogosphere because establishing a strong presence with these heavy-hitters will make it much easier for you to build up your Twitter, Facebook and e-mail newsletter numbers.
Fill the Content Vacuum
It isn't easy to create and sustain a constant flow of quality content through your blog. The publishing schedule that top blogs have to maintain in order to keep the attention of their audiences is—to put it mildly—insane. There is no way a team of professional bloggers—let alone an ambitious individual—could create enough quality content every day to satisfy the demand. Bloggers must look elsewhere for content. Demand outstrips supply and creates the "content vacuum."
Book publishers are content creators; therefore, they are perfectly suited to fill this void on blogs. By pouring their quality, expert and edited content into this vacuum, book publishers are doing blog editors a favor by providing the content they need, and the blogs, in turn, are providing book publishers with exposure to the audiences that they need to sell books. It's a win-win situation.
Optimizing Content for the Blogosphere
Many book publishers (rightly) shudder when they think about giving away their book content for free. Money must be made and, therefore, only the most daring publishers are willing to give away everything for free. A far more cautious approach is to give away the ancillary book content that many book publishers do already: excerpts, introductions, forewords and sample chapters. Instead of approaching only the traditional media outlets with these, try reaching out to the blogs on your list as well. They may not have the readership of some of the more traditional outlets, but there are other advantages to pushing this content out via the blogs, including:
• clickable content directing people back to your site;
• direct links to your bookstore (or Amazon, etc.);
• exposure and improved ranking on search engines;
• the exponential potential of social media sharing;
• exposure to new audiences;
• viral RSS syndication (a major blog's posts tend to be reposted via RSS en masse by other outlets).
You are not limited to book content, of course. Quick Q&As with authors, video interviews, 60-second tutorials, author editorials and other promotional content can work as well. It is important that all of the content you create and distribute has each of the following components:
• a link back to your website in the body of the text;
• a link to where the reader can find more information;
• a link to where the reader can buy the book;
• a header or footer that highlights the source of the content (the book), or the related book.
If your content is compelling and people find it valuable, readers will repost it to other blogs, Facebook, Twitter and so on. It is vitally important that your content has each of these four links somewhere in the main body, so that when the content is shared, the links travel with it. This appropriate placement of content (onto your niche's blogs), and the natural distribution across social media (via inspired readers), will help your content travel—on its own—to your ideal online audiences.
Building Relationships With Bloggers
Now, how does all this happen? The first step is to load up your own blog with several months of original content. A healthy archive of quality content will prove to blog editors that—even though you are new on the scene—you are capable of pumping out great content on a reliable schedule. This archive also will serve as a showcase for the type of content you will be creating and will help you in recruiting your authors to contribute content.
Now that your own blog is full, begin to reach out to the editors of the blogs you have added to your list. Sometimes blog editors make it very easy to find them, either through published e-mail addresses or contact forms, but often, it is much more difficult to find a direct line to an editor. Twitter is a great place to track people down. Find and follow the blog's Twitter account, and feel free to drop them a line there.
Your first communication with a blog editor should be informal and without a heavy agenda. It's best to introduce yourself, briefly describe your new blogging effort, the type of content you (and your authors) will be pumping out, and ask them if they are interested in working together. It may take some time to build up a relationship, but once they trust you as a reliable source for quality content, they will come to depend on you.
One important thing to keep in mind is that lead times for blogs are usually nonexistent. If a blogger has your content, it will run the next day—if not sooner. If you are planning a wider, coordinated media blitz that involves blogs, be sure that you deliver the content to the blog editor near the time it should be made public.
Once you have forged a relationship with several blog editors and your blog content is gaining distribution, watch your site traffic closely. Pay special attention to your traffic sources. You will find that some blogs you are working with are delivering you no traffic, while others may be unexpectedly sending hordes of people your way. Refine your list of target blogs as you gain new data.
The next column will cover the best ways to incorporate Facebook into your Web-marketing plan. BB
J.S. McDougall is co-owner of Catalyst Webworks, a Web design and marketing firm specializing in the book industry. He is the author of six books about conducting business online, including "Start Your Own Blogging –Business." Follow him on Twitter at @catalystwebwks.