Most inbound/content marketers will be acquainted with the flywheel model pioneered by CRM software vendor HubSpot (go check it out if you aren’t). The model represents a holistic view of the inbound methodology for online businesses. But how can we apply that same model specifically to blogging and content marketing?
The flywheel model has three main stages:
For the purpose of this example, we’ll include “Grow” as the fourth and last point. We’ll see why in just a second. Let’s briefly go through these four areas (you can skip this part if you’re already super familiar with the flywheel model):
In the flywheel model, the attract stage represents the moment where brand awareness matters most. After strategizing, you’re trying to attract people who might be interested in your products or services by targeting a specific niche and/or topic. At this stage, most marketers should only be thinking about providing the most value possible.
The engage stage is about retaining the audience’s attention once you’ve been able to attract them. In the flywheel model, it’s not enough to attract your target audience; you need them to effectively consume whatever you’re trying to market, be it a blog post, a webinar, a YouTube video, or anything else you’ve produced.
You’ve effectively attracted and engaged your audience into consuming your marketing piece. Congratulations! Now you’re at the point where they’ve gotten value out of your efforts. Most people will commend this, and they’ll start feeling a personal connection with your brand. Now is the time to exceed their expectations and deliver even more value.
You’ve done it. You’ve successfully attracted, engaged, and delighted your target audience; now they trust you in full. They know that whatever you send their way will certainly contain valuable information, and they take your suggestions by heart. So, why not offer them a little incentive to work with you? Your audience is now ready to buy in.
The Flywheel Model Applied To Blogging
The four steps outlined above are very broad. It’s absolutely true that online businesses and blogs need to follow and repeat this cyclical path in order to “grow better,” but it’s also true that most people won’t know what to do with this advice. It’s just a bunch of nice words put into a circle… That’s why I specifically reframed the flywheel model to blogging.
The Four “Rs” of Consistent Online Growth
These are essentialy the same as the concepts highlighted in the flywheel model, but much more concrete, and applied directly to content marketing/blogging depending on whether you have an online business or you’re looking to grow your blog organically. Let’s go through these four concepts, and learn how to grow any blog fast:
The rise stage is self-explanatory; we’re essentialy doing our best in order to “rise” (i.e. rank) on Google and other search engines. This doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll reach the first spot (or even the first page) yet; it just means that we’re creating and optimizing content as best as we can so that it provides value to our target audience and ranks on pages 1-3.
This stage is all about search intent and content writing. You reference the content marketing strategy to find the best keyword, look it up on Google, understand what users are looking for, how long the content usually is, whether there is a lot of media or not, and how you can bring everything together to provide a better piece.
Then, you proceed with creation and optimization. If the research is done well, this shouldn’t take more than half a day of (hard) work, including media production (screenshots, custom thumbnail, images, etc.) Of course, this doesn’t count in more involved pieces such as PDF books, videos, infographics, and so on. Just a blog post.
We’ve done it. We’ve created and published an amazing blog post with custom media and nailed the search intent. The next day or so, we set up Google Search location to fit the target market (I have to do this because I work with multiple languages), look up the targeted keyword, and sure enough, the blog post is on the second page… Now what?
I strongly believe in the Skyscraper Technique pioneered by Brian Dean at Backlinko. So, we do some outreach! Yes, every piece of content needs as many backlinks and as much social media sharing as it can get. The more the merrier. As Brian clearly states in his article, it’s not enough to just write amazing articles for some niches. They’re just too competitive.
Setting a goal of 2-3 backlinks per piece is usually enough to start with. For each article that you publish, you want to prepare your PR strategy beforehand:
- Figure out which influencers work in that niche and can help you promote the post;
- Enter their name into the blog post and link back to their piece of content;
- Create a shorter version of the blog post in a news, trend-worthy style;
- Add credibility to the post by providing relevant links and references;
- Prepare an outreach email template regarding the mentions;
- Send it out to all relevant influencers at once;
- Wait as conversion magic happens 🙂
You might think that the reach stage is optional. It’s not. I’ve had so many amazing articles get stuck on the second page with few clicks exactly because I skipped the reach stage, and now that I apply the PR strategy to each post, this is the result:
My client’s post is #6 on the first page of Google for a highly relevant keyword that has an average monthly search traffic of 720. The page is likely to go up with time as it was posted two weeks ago. Once we received social media shares from relevant influencers, the post shot up 6-7 positions. Outreach is not optional if you want to achieve real results.
The post is already 5th in terms of pageviews for last week on a website which is active since 2013 with 250+ posts:
It’s one thing to know how to optimize a piece of content, but it’s another to know how to capture the user’s attention. In order to grow, you have to retain the person’s interest and make them consume the entire piece. A higher than usual avg. time on page/site is pure gold for Google’s algorythm; it shows that people actually care about your content.
The retain stage is much more than just knowing how to capture attention though; it’s also about implementing the correct marketing technology (MarTech) stack to ensure that people are converting. With each post, we usually have a call-to-action either at the beginning, in the middle, or at the end. For longer posts we see all three.
We want people to click on those call-to-actions, and we want a way to measure whether those clicks are converting or not. I won’t go into detail about the stack in this post (that’s a topic for another post), but you should be aware of a few things in order to retain people on your blog posts effectively and drive them towards better conversions:
- It might sound obvious, but you need to write well… make the person feel something;
- Separate the text into readable chunks and keep sentences short, to the point;
- A good rule of thumb is to enter a piece of media for each “fold” of the screen;
- Always create custom media, avoid plain stock media at all costs;
- Create a thumbnail that resonates with your target audience;
- Use bright, colored call-to-actions that drive user attention;
- Ensure consistency in the formatting to look professional;
- Talk to the person directly, tell them what to do next;
- Provide a free content upgrade when relevant;
- Don’t be boring! Spice it up 🙂
If you can implement half of the tips shown, you’re already well on your way to success engagement-wise. But remember, to retain means to ultimately drive lead generation and receive a piece of information from the person (name, email, occupation, etc.) This needs to be constantly monitored; there’s no other way to tell how many people are converting.
Finally, you can breathe a sigh of relief. Your content is doing amazing! Not only are you ranking high up on Google for a keyword that brings in a lot of traffic, but that traffic is converting into potential customers on and on again. How awesome is that? The rest stage is all about maintenance. We’ll get more in-depth on this in an upcoming post.
My Thoughts on Content Marketing
If you want to stay relevant in content marketing, you have to fully embrace the philosophy of giving first. The reason why I fell in love with the practice is that it taught me how to effectively build my freelance career in a relatively short amount of time. And on top of that, it allowed me to work on my own business (stay tuned, it’s coming soon).
I came up with the concept explained in this blog post about a month ago, and I think that it shows how powerful your mind can be when you take existing input and turn it into a specialized output. What do you think? Are you ready to apply all four stages of a strong content marketing strategy, or would you rather focus on something else?