I love lists. It's pretty obvious, this post is even a list.
Lists organize your thoughts, priorities, and objectives. Lists give you a clear understanding of what to do, and if you can't do it, you can easily hand it off to someone else to do. No matter what, lists create a process. You want your processes to be as efficient as possible, and then be able to live beyond you.
"Action expresses priorities" – Ghandi
I'm not sure how much he knew about link-building, but this is some damn good sage advice to keep in mind.
There are many different types of lists; people, customers, tasks, or even target goals. Businesses make lists of all sorts of things, for all sorts of reasons. Seldom, however, do I see businesses making effective lists for their content marketing efforts. They don't need to be complicated, they can be very simple, but they should be extremely functional and serve a very targeted purpose.
Here are 3 lists that every business should make to scale their content marketing efforts that much faster:
1. An Influencer List
The term "influencer" gets thrown around a lot, and a lot of people hate it.
I won't lie, I have my qualms with it, and I've even been thrown on multiple "influencer" lists.
If it helps, don't think of them as "influencers" think of them as people with either a large audience, big connections, or simply high-leverage targets.
You want these kind of people on your side, you want to connect with them, you want to engage with them, you want to seek feedback from them, you want them to replicate what you say, you want their audience. It's as simple as that.
"Influencers" are basically like the modern-day gatekeepers, people who have built an audience and can simply open a door for you to a world of opportunities.
Specifically, they should have an audience that is in your niche or has a crowd that is highly-targeted at your business goals. What I mean by this is that a person who has 10,000 followers that are highly interested in what you do is far more important to you than someone with 20,000 followers that couldn't be bothered with what you do.
Find the people whose audience would really connect to your message, it shouldn't be hard for you, and make a list.
The reasons you want an influencer list are pretty straight-forward:
Exposure - they can promote what you do to more people with a targeted audience
Feedback - they can give you very good, time-tested advice about what you're building
Connections - they can unlock doors for you to publications, people, and potential partners
Patronage - if you have people who are well regarded sharing your content you will yourself look like the authority, and that's the golden ticket
Here's an 8 step process to setting up an influencer list:
Create a Google Spreadsheet
Open up BuzzSumo, FollowerWonk, Twitter, and Google.
Search BuzzSumo for content regarding your topic, find who is sharing it and where they are sharing it to, also take note of all publications that have content featuring what you're talking about, add them to a separate list – add them to the Google Spreadsheet with their contact information.
Search Twitter for as many #topicbasedkeywordhashtags as you can and find everyone who is talking about them – add everyone to a Twitter list that is talking about it, then add the biggest ones to your Google Spreadsheet
Search FollowerWonk with the profiles you saw from BuzzSumo & Twitter for all of these people finding who they follow and who follows them – find the people with the most targeted audience, the largest audience, and the people who are most ripe to re-share and add them all to the Google Spreadsheet.
Search Google for as many keyword phrases you can think of, find as many blog posts, communities, and websites about your niche as possible. Add all of the leaders of the communities, the authors and owners of the blogs that you find, and the owners and founders of the websites and businesses you find to your Google Spreadsheet.
Find all of their email addresses, either by using a tool like BuzzStream or by reaching out to them on Twitter asking for it. Be very real about your intentions, honesty is the best policy here because you're looking to create a real relationship, not game them into sharing your stuff.
Reach out with a very succinct email, or DM and let them know what you want to do. Focus on creating reciprocal value, but also leveling with the fact that right now they can bring you more value than you can bring them, be understanding about that.
You can follow my 8 steps above or read Alex's more in-depth post from the link above – either way, set up an influencer list and use it to make your content go the extra mile and get the lift that it so needs.
2. A Backlink Hit-list
You can call this list a dream-list, a PR list, or whatever you want.
I call it a "hit-list" because I think it's more accurate, and though it might seem to have a bad, mobbish vibe, let's be real about it – you're trying to make some serious moves with this list.
Let's call it what it is, this is your hit list of targets.
As you build out your influencer list the two may overlap, that's a good thing.
If while you're building out your influencer list you come across sites that you'd love to have links from, your effort forming a relationship with those people will serve two purposes at once.
As you reach out to influencers that overlap with site you want backlinks from, be sure to be as forthright as possible in giving as much value as possible so that those influencers feel compelled to either mention you on their site, let you contribute to their blog, or feel more inclined to set up a strategic partnership (mutual client perks, integrations, things of that nature) that could turn into links to your site and further your business goals.
Basically because these are the sites that you want links from.
They are high-authority, or at least highly-targeted to your site. Links from these sites will not only refer multiple customers your way, they will make you seem more authoritative, they will help you rank higher in Google for all queries that might relate to that link, and they serve as a bridge to more opportunities.
Here's a 5 step process to create your backlink hit-list:
Create a new tab in your Influencer's Google Spreadsheet
Look up competitor's backlinks with OpenSiteExplorer by typing in their URL and exporting the CSV, then add all of those to the Google Spreadsheet
Find publication contribution opportunities by entering your keywords into BuzzSumo and finding the most shared content about those topics. Export the sites and add all of their information to the Google Spreadsheet
Research popular industry sites by looking through your influencer list, searching keyword terms in Google within "quotations" to find sites that mention those types of terms, search through social communities like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook to find the most authoritative presence within those industries, ask around to friends or colleagues in the space – find all of these sites that you can and add them to the Google Spreadsheet
There you have it, your hit-list, now go through them with the same steps from the "influencer list" section and you're good to go!
Remember the goal is to create a relationship with open ended opportunities. Don't just reach out to them asking for a link, see what you can do for them, create the relationship, nurture it, then see what it can turn into over time.
3. An Amplification Checklist
This one is wildly under-utilized, and it really shows for a lot of startups where their content just doesn't get off the ground.
You need a checklist to amplify every piece of content you have.
The amplification should come before your post is even published, which makes it that much more important to have the checklist.
Once you've hit publish and then you say "okay, now to promote it" it's too late.
An amplification checklist is mainly efficient as serving as a reminder and framework.
You're about to hit publish but you stop because you've made the mistake of not hitting a couple things on the checklist before, and remember that it hurt you not to.
You check the checklist and start rattling down through it. By the time you're done your article has the best chance to get a bunch of shares and views, and you can call it a day.
If it's well laid out enough, it's easy to hand off to someone and that person could make each post get a large % more shares, more traffic, and give you more opportunities for subscribers, customers, social followers, the works.
It's really easy to set up, just make it a spreadsheet or Google Doc, or some other task list, but include all of these things:
Write a pre-post lede and publish it on all social channels – I love how Copyblogger does this for almost every post, mentioning the writer on social media with a nice persuasive blurb of copy that provokes people to check out the site before it's even published.
Get an image together that specifically aligns both visually and text-wise with your post that you can share on social media with the link. Social posts with images get over 50% more engagement than those without – use Buffer's tool, "Pablo" to easily get this rolling.
Reach out to anyone who had anything to do with the post, either by Twitter or email. Anyone who was quoted, linked to, mentioned, or contributed in some way will probably re-share the post when it's live. Let them know when it's going to be live and where they can find it.
Reach out to your "inner circle" if you have one mentioning the article and that it's about to go live if anyone has any feedback for it. If they give you feedback on the article there is a far better chance they will share it once you make their revisions.
Publish it and promote it socially on Facebook Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Google+ etc.
Promote it on other community sites like Reddit, StumbleUpon, Google+ Communities, Facebook Groups, LinkedIn Groups, HackerNews, GrowthHackers, Inbound.org, and communities of that nature that apply to your niche.
Have everyone at your company share it, which is easy to do using a tool like Buffer where you have everyone's accounts attached and ready to share.
Share it with your whole email list.
Then for the really successful posts you should have another list for future amplification:
Re-purpose the content into different forms, whitepapers or ebooks people can download, slideshares people can embed, short video explanations that people can embed listen to, podcast episodes, Instagram photos, infographics, things of that nature.
Use paid promotion on Facebook posts, Sponsored Tweets, Sponsored Pins, and even use services like Outbrain to re-spark the traffic from an even larger audience.
Syndicate the post on other publications like TheNextWeb, Medium, HuffingtonPost, and other publications that allow syndicated content so long as it can be "rel=canonical"ed back to your site's original post.
Here's an example of what JotForm's looks like specifically if someone posts an article about JotForm (a bit different than if they post the article themselves):
Simple, straight-forward, and effective.
If you want to go even more in depth however, do as Crew does with their amplification methods (broken down into types of content, and where it's posted) that feature a 3 pronged attack, whereby if a content piece reaches a certain point of success it has earned a "second push" then at another level it reaches a "third push" this way they aren't wasting time on posts that aren't connecting, and they are giving more life to posts that have connected very well.
Here's how they break it down for a blog post:
Here's the process for a tool like Unsplash:
Building out these three lists (and being thorough) will help your content marketing be far more successful and easier than it otherwise would be.