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15 Audience Development Strategies Most Publishers Avoid and Shouldn’t

Use these audience development strategies to create an engaging portal of free content that converts strangers into subscribers

It’s hard to determine how to spend both your time, and your resources within a business. The way we look at every decision you make is this:

Is whatever you’re thinking about doing, going to help you build an audience, improve capture rates, increase engagement rates, or monetize more visitors?

Your audience development efforts fall into three of those buckets, which means that audience development, in essence, makes up 75% of your overall publishing goals. If it doesn’t, then how will you have enough people to convert into customers and monetize?

Audience development, is of course an expense. It’s an expense of time, money, and resources you have working in your business. However, if you organize your audience development objectives and efforts, it will make them easier to follow through on. So I’ll share fifteen things you can do to wrangle these social, editorial, and email tasks for your team.

Editorial Audience Development Goals

1. Publish content every day.

You can write new content, or recycle older content, but every day your website should be updated with new content that is so intriguing that it makes your website visitors want to subscribe to premium content. On that note, do your best to publish mostly evergreen content, that way your articles have a longer shelf-life in search engines and for users. Read What is Evergreen Content? (And How Are Publishers Are Using It?) for more.

2. Optimize everything you publish.

It’s no secret that content should be optimized for search engines and readers in order to rank highly when someone Google’s a phrase related to your content. If the words don’t exist in your article, Google isn’t likely to rank it. Gone are the days of piffy three and four-word headlines. These days it’s all about understanding user intent when they search for topics online.

I’m going to let you in on a secret. Check out our Mequoda SEO Scorecard. This is the scorecard that we use at Mequoda, and the SEO scorecard we use to train our clients on writing SEO’d website content.

It’s a very simple outline that helps new editors cross all their t’s and dot all their i’s. We developed this SEO scorecard based on composite research about what our clients’ top ranked posts have in common.

3. Recycle your blockbusters.

If you have a few posts sending the majority of your traffic, you might feel a little anxious. What if I lose my rank in Google? What will my sponsors think? How will I recoup all that lost traffic? Some of our clients have ten to twenty thousand visits per month to a blockbuster post, so losing rank is a nice-sized paddle to the rear.

One you’ve discovered your most trafficked posts in your analytics software, and you’ve scheduled an appointment for them to get a makeover in your editorial calendar, here’s how you can give them a facelift, read How to Update a Blockbuster Post and Save it from Google Damnation and Content Recycling: Staying Relevant and Dominating SEO.

Social Media Audience Development Goals

1. Create a social media style guide.

Before anything, pull down your editorial style guide and highlight anything that might apply to social. For example, don’t just look at, say, how you capitalize words, but also look at how you handle competitors. Some brands are happy to ReTweet and comment on the Tweets of their competitors, or share a recipe from an unknown blogger. And some simply are not OK with that one bit.

2. Pick a platform.

We like CoSchedule. It’s a WordPress plugin that allows you to schedule Tweets directly in WordPress, on the same page as the article itself.  Hootsuite is another option which works great for businesses because they offer analytics much cheaper than CoSchedule, but like CoSchedule also allows you to assign different tasks to team members.

3. Assign responsibilities.

As you know, the age of the Internet has turned editors into marketers who are responsible for their content. This applies to social media, too. Unless you are a powerhouse publisher that can afford a room full of social media specialists, like the Chicago Tribune (@ColonelTribune is totally worth it, FYI), then your editors will most likely be running your social media. First of all they know the content best, second of all, they’re already grammar savvy and probably won’t let out any typos.

If you have an online marketing team though, they might have secure jobs in social media. For example, maybe your Managing Editor just writes the Tweets, and your marketing team is responsible for editing the Tweets, scheduling them, sending out promotional Tweets, and brand building beyond just content marketing. Or maybe your Managing Editor does it all. Anyway, use this step to determine who does what, and especially, who hits the “send” and “schedule” buttons.

4. Create social media formulas.

What is SMO without structure, right? By now you know we’re all about the 12x12x12 method. Write twelve unique Tweets for each article. Schedule them for 12 days. Then schedule them for 12 months. For an entire year, your article will be promoted and you only have to do it once. For Facebook, LinkedIn, and G+, write two unique posts. Schedule on the first day, then again in six months.

5. Create a series of non-promotional posts.

What else will you publish as part of your SMO strategy? For example, on “Throwback Thursdays,” People sometimes posts old covers of their magazines. Martha Stewart sources ideas from their Facebook fans for future issues. Be creative and come up with a series of images you can share, that will provoke comments, likes, and more shares. These will be the keys to increasing your Facebook visibility.

6. Decide what to do with premium content.

Does your content sit behind a paywall? That’s cool, you’re already used to forgoing search traffic anyway. But if you decide that you want to drip out tips on social media with links back to some kind of access challenge page, just be clear on that strategy out of the gate. Harvard Business Review (@HarvardBiz) allows social users to read five articles for free, then they get an access-challenge page to their paywall. And it’s OK because they’re not getting it the first time.

7. Integrate social media into your advertising packages.

Another use for social media is advertising. Publishers are beginning to include sets of social media posts, or co-sponsored posts as a part of their ad packages. If you decide to do this, remember that advertorial guidelines still apply and you must add #ad or #sponsored to your post or make it abundantly obvious that the post was paid for.

8. Create a social media calendar.

Once all of the above is figured out, it’s time to create your social media calendar. This will be your structure and it will look a lot like your editorial and email calendars combined.

  • Editorial posts get posted on the same day they’re published (plus scheduled out into the future)
  • Promotional posts get posted on the same day they’re emailed out to your email list
  • Branded posts will get posts on the days you determine
  • Ad posts will also get posted on the days you determine

Set your editorial and marketing teams up for success by creating this calendar. It will give them a checklist of sorts, so that they know exactly what’s going out and when. There are a lot of balls in the air at all times when it comes to social media, so structure will turn it into a more enjoyable process. One where your editors and marketers look forward to creating social posts that get clicked, rather than just trying to get social off their plate while they attend to other duties.

Email Audience Development Goals

1. Increase your website email capture rate.

The act of capturing email permission separates the casual visitor from the passionate enthusiast, and gives your team the opportunity to push email newsletters to your subscribers, which can generate revenue over years and years. In order to build your email list, you need to be following all of our editorial content and social best practices first to get traffic to your website, and from there, read How Does Your Email Capture Rate Compare to Other Publishers? to find out how to convert those visitors into free email subscribers.

2. Increase your viral email capture rate

When building email circulation, by most accounts, email capture rate is a proxy metric. You’d be mistaken to say that it’s an exact metric because when we talk about email capture rate, we’re usually talking about the number of people who came to your site from search and social and hit the email capture conversion architecture. But in reality, that’s only about half of the people who sign up for your email list. Read our article on How to Increase Your Viral Email Capture Rate: 3 Alternate List-Building Strategies.

3. Use social media to build your email list.

Social and email serve very different goals and audiences, but they work well together, especially in building an email list. Social media users, in our experience, convert into email subscribers at a much higher rate than those from search, likely because they’re subscribing to content from a company they already know. Read 6 Tips for Building an Email List with Social Media.

4. Learn how to convert free email subscribers into paying buyers.

I’m sorry to say, there are lots of publishers out there with large lists who aren’t using them effectively. They don’t want to “sell” to their list, but the consequence is that they don’t sell to their list. And other than a number on your advertising sheet, what’s a large list worth if you’re not marketing to it?

The thing is, if someone unsubscribes from your marketing emails, that’s OK. We don’t want anyone on our lists who aren’t intending to become a customer, because maintaining a large email list can get expensive, and contrary to popular belief, publishers don’t produce content for the fun of it, you’ve got to make money, too. To learn about the different email templates we use to convert subscribers into buyers, read Email Marketing for Publishers: How to Convert Email Subscribers into Buyers.

Does all of this sound like a big project? It may be, but it’s worthwhile. To discuss how we can help you grow your audience, revenue and profits, schedule a free introductory conversation with Don Nicholas, our Chairman & CEO.

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