No one can be sure where oil prices are headed. McKinsey’s Scott Nyquist answers the questions business leaders are asking about the state of the market.
Black swans and barrels: How to think about the future of oil prices
The biggest problem most businesses have is getting more customers.
Business owners believe that if they could just find that one magic growth tactic, their business would be set.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of them will never find that tactic.
And while they’re searching for that magic bullet, they’re passing up on smaller, unscalable tactics that could be getting them a consistent stream of new traffic.
The confusion mainly comes from misinterpretation of the concept of growth hacking:
The only real condition to growth hacking is prioritizing customer/user growth above all else.
However, too many marketers seem to believe that growth hacking must involve rapid, viral growth that makes or breaks the company.
Sometimes, maximizing your growth potential means focusing on unscalable tactics. They cost more per acquisition but deliver customers when other tactics are failing.
These are best applied early on in a business, when scalable tactics (advertising, really high quality viral video campaigns, etc.) are not realistic.
I’m going to share 6 unscalable tactics that are often very effective for young businesses looking to grow. Probably, not all of them will apply to your business, but you should be able to identify at least a few you can try.
1. Trialists rarely leave for no reason
It makes me want to bang my head against my desk.
Some marketers are so focused on getting new customers that they don’t realize that what happens after a signup or purchase is the most important factor behind growth.
Growth comes from creating a product that is as close to the needs and wants of your customers as possible.
You can’t create that kind of a product going on intuition, without any actual customer feedback.
No feedback is feedback: If someone signs up for a demo or a trial or purchases something from you, that tells you something.
It tells you that:
- They need a solution to a problem you’re trying to solve.
- They like the sound and/or look of your product.
But if a customer stops using your product right after they start using it (particularly for software products), that’s your feedback.
Their problem didn’t just disappear. What happened is they concluded that your product couldn’t help them sufficiently.
What’s the point of getting new customers if you barely retain any of them?
On top of that, you need to absolutely thrill customers if you want them to recommend you to others.
The solution? Get feedback: As long as you collect email addressed when people sign up, you can contact them.
If a large portion of your new signups are disappearing on you, personally send them an email and find out how your product fell short.
The customer is still in “pain” because they haven’t solved their problem, which makes them pretty receptive to outreach.
It’s not scalable to email every single new customer you get, but this type of feedback is how you’ll make your customers love your product. You could even survey a fraction of your customers and still get really valuable feedback.
You can also preemptively get feedback by sending your customers a welcome email, asking them how they found you and what they’re hoping your product can do for them.
Here’s how Groove did it with great success:
Try something similar, and you’ll get a high response rate with great feedback.
2. Don’t be afraid to sell one-on-one at first
I’ve started many companies at this point, and believe me, they weren’t all successes at first.
It’s a huge job to start a business from scratch. Getting customers is just one area, but it is indeed very difficult since you don’t have your perfect product yet or any word of mouth in most cases.
Sometimes, you can throw money at advertising and get your growth off the ground.
Sometimes you can’t. Whether it’s because of your budget or because of your product, advertising isn’t always a great option.
An option that I recommend is to have one-on-one conversations with your potential customers.
Where do you find them?
- Sites like Reddit
- LinkedIn, Facebook, and other social media sites
- Friends in real life
Let me give you an example. Say you’re selling a website builder. You could spend time on the startups and entrepreneur subreddits, forums such as Warrior Forum, and many groups on LinkedIn and Facebook.
It will take time, but you’ll come across questions and conversations like this one I pulled from Reddit:
Someone was looking for a website builder with search functionality.
Then, you can send the user a message. Something like this:
Hey, I saw that you were trying to create a search based website. I actually have a lot of experience with that sort of thing and even built a website builder for that specific reason.
I’d be happy to answer any questions you have about it. Just send me your email address, and we can hop on Skype or Slack or have a quick email chat.
Note that everything in this message is about how you can help them, and not the other way around.
It’s much easier to sell to someone when you have their full attention during a chat, and especially when you’re actually providing them with additional help and guidance.
3. Make customers come back with a little extra effort
Like I said above, the customer experience after they try or purchase something is what leads them to become return customers and to start talking about your product to others.
One way you could make sure they end their experience on a high note, which will encourage them to talk about your business and come back, is with a handwritten thank-you note.
Unless your customers are very young, handwritten letters are typically perceived as a caring, personal gesture.
For example, this is a simple card that a Jawbone customer received:
When the recipient of the note posted the above photo on Twitter, this one tweet resulted in over 100 shares (at the time of writing).
While a card will take you a few minutes to write and send (if you batch them), it will return much more to you if do it well.
Could this be scaled? If you have thousands of customers, it’ll be hard to write a real letter to each of them.
Ideally, you don’t want to be writing the same thing to each customer. So, while this is an option, it’s not quite as good as writing your own letters.
4. Trade your product for something more valuable
I mentioned it earlier: it’s tough to get customers for a new product with no customer base.
People want to see that others have had a good experience with something before buying it themselves.
Translated to marketing, this is social proof, primarily seen in the form of testimonials and case studies.
Both can provide assurance to potential customers considering buying from you and often have a large impact on conversion rates.
You have to give to get: Great testimonials or case studies are worth several times the cost of your product.
One option, early on, is to give away your product or service in return for a testimonial or case study.
The hard part is finding a way to actually get this offer in front of people.
It will depend on your product.
For some, you can simply make a forum post or Reddit thread and offer a few samples of your product (say 5-10) to any users willing to give you feedback. You can get their emails and go into more details later.
If that’s not an option, you need to be more creative:
- Offer it to anyone who contacts you with questions about the product.
- Install live chat on your website, and offer products to anyone who engages.
- Actively reach out to customers if possible (say you sell a product for bloggers)
Most people are pretty receptive to trying something for free.
Once you’ve invested in these testimonials or case studies, you need to make sure they’re effective. Luckily, I’ve written about it in the past:
- A Step-by-Step Guide to Generating Clients by Writing Case Studies
- How to Receive Great Testimonials
- How to Effectively Use Testimonials
5. Have a broad market? Consider stickers…
I’ve mentioned Reddit a few times in this post as well as many of my other posts. Reddit is now one of the largest sites in the world.
Do you want to know how Reddit got off the ground?
In 2005, the two co-founders got $12,000 from Y Combinator.
That’s $12,000 for the whole business, so not a ton to go around. They were left with $500 for a marketing budget.
They promptly spent that $500 on stickers of their alien mascot:
They plastered them in public everywhere they could and handed out the rest at events or to random people on the street.
Soon after, stickers started showing up on social media and other websites, and people learned about Reddit. The picture above is of Wil Wheaton in the background of a sticker.
I love this idea because you’ll always stand out. Just make sure that your site or product is identified on the sticker and that it ends up in view of the people you’re trying to target.
The Reddit stickers worked out well because they were placed on bus stations and buildings on college campuses. Reddit had a pretty broad audience, even at the start, but primarily focused on young, tech-savvy users (college students).
You don’t necessarily have to use stickers. You could try:
- Backpack or luggage tags
- T-shirts or hats
- Glow sticks
6. Get out and speak
Speaking at events comes with a lot of benefits.
For one, it may lead to direct payment, which alone is highly rewarding.
But when you’re first starting out, the biggest benefit is having an audience in front of you.
Most crowds consist of customers and peers (other businesses in your industry).
As a speaker, you position yourself as an expert—an expert with whom many people in the audience will want to do business.
If you have something to sell to those businesses, you’ll almost always make some sales. More importantly, you can find ways to work together.
For example, a real estate agent could partner up with a home decorator. The home decorator could touch up houses for sale and leave business cards or pamphlets for people the agent shows the houses to.
The agent gets a better looking house to sell, and the decorator gets more customers. Win-win.
Where do you start if you want to speak at conferences? Unfortunately, you can’t just jump in and speak at the biggest ones in your industry.
You’re starting from the bottom, and you need to start with whatever experience you can get.
Focus on getting experience first so you can leverage it later to get speaking opportunities at bigger events. If you can get customers from these first few speaking gigs as well, that’s just a great bonus.
To find a list of conferences actively looking for speakers, Google “(industry) conferences speaker proposal”:
Put in some decent effort into your proposals, and you’ll get at least a few chances to speak.
Here are some quick tips on how to increase your chances of being invited to speak:
- Stick to the requirements – Different conferences want to know different things about their speakers. Always read all the details they provide, and try to describe yourself according to them.
- Don’t be a generalist – Never submit a proposal and call yourself something like a “marketing expert.” Instead, pick a specific area, e.g., “influencer marketing expert.”
- Your bio leaves a mark – You’ll get a chance to submit a bio most of the time. Put emphasis on your most impressive professional accomplishments.
- Talk specifics – Part of a proposal is a topic you could speak about and a short description. Try to think of something unique that the audience would love. That way, no other speaker could fill your spot.
Apply to several conferences at the same time because they can take a little while to get back to you.
Scalable growth is sexy, but it’s not always possible.
If your business is still struggling for customers, don’t be afraid to use unscalable marketing tactics.
I’ve shown you 6 in this post, so you should be able to get working on at least one right away.
If you have any experience with unscalable growth tactics, I’d love it if you shared your creative ideas in a comment below.
6 Unscalable Tactics That Will Get You More Customers
Budget constraints and the rapid pace of technological change mean governments must not only deliver services more effectively and efficiently but also prioritize citizens’ needs.
Making government for the people
Wednesday I’ll be making the rounds with James Spencer and co. recording content for Basic Brewing. I first appeared on his podcast way back in September 2006… damn! We’ll start our morning at Gordon Biersch Rockville (where I’ll get my first samples of the four red wine barrels of collaborative sour red that head brewer Christian Layke and I brewed a few months ago). Then onto BlueJacket/The Arsenal (the gorgeous brewery/restaurant from the group behind ChurchKey and a dozen other great DC beer spots) for a tour from head brewer Josh Chapman. Then onto Right Proper’s production facility in Brookland so James and Nathan can finally meet! Finally, back to my house to recover… and drink a couple bottles of homebrew from the cellar!
Thursday night at HomebrewCon Baltimore, my club (DC Homebrewers) will be pouring beer alongside craft breweries from the region at the Craft Beer Kickoff. I’ll be serving a keg of Simcoe/Mosaic/Citra New England IPA fermented with a blend of GigaYeast Vermont IPA GY054 and Wyeast London III WY1318. The second keg is already on tap and tasting like hoppy guava juice (final pH of 4.46)! My friend Scott Janish is pouring one of his NEIPAs too, stiff competition to be sure (he took first of 35 with another batch in the first round of National Homebrew Competition this year).
Friday I’ll just be hanging around, grabbing lunch with BYO folks, hitting the Milk the Funk meetup, going to seminars, and of course club night (with Audrey)!
Saturday I’ll be signing copies of American Sour Beers (or whatever people bring) from 12:30-1:30 PM in the Homebrew Expo (next to Mary Izett and Steve Piatz!). Then I’ll be presenting on Hoppy Sour Beers from 2:00-3:00 PM in room 314-317. I asked to only speak once because I couldn’t brew enough sour beer to satisfy two crowds, so they put me in a room that seats 900… I’d suggest getting there early and sitting towards the front! The talk covers the science and techniques to overcome (and capitalize on) the three inherent contradictions of brewing a beer that is both hoppy and sour:
1a. Hop aromatics are best fresh…
1b. Sour beers often require aging
2a. Hops have anti-bacterial properties…
2b. Some beer-souring microbes are sensitive
3a. Hops provide bitterness…
3b. Assertive bitterness and acidity clash
I’m sure that five gallons of each of the three example beers will go quickly, so here are preview process and tasting notes for those who can’t make it (or who sit in the back). The first two were from a split batch brewed a month ago, the third has a bit more age on it!
Beer #1 – Mixed-Fermentation Saison
85% Rahr 2-row Brewer’s Malt
15% Flaked Wheat
180F whirlpool with 1 oz each Simcoe, Mosaic, and Citra
Fermented with my House Brett Saison culture and Omega Lacto Blend
Keg-hopped (.5 oz each Simcoe, Mosaic, and Citra) during two weeks of natural conditioning
Final pH = 3.87
Tasting Notes: Big/fresh hop nose (truer than the NEIPA, but still more fruit than green). Bright, lively Brett character, tropical, but not juice. Finish brings in some funk, impressive for such a young beer. Acidity is tangy at best, more saison than sour.
Beer #2 – 100% Lacto then 100% Brett
85% Rahr 2-row Brewer’s Malt
15% Flaked Wheat
No kettle hops
Soured with Omega Lacto Blend for 24 hours
180F pasteurization with 1 oz each Simcoe, Mosaic, and Citra
Fermented with a big starter of WLP648 Brettanomyces bruxellensis Trois Vrai
Keg-hopped (.5 oz each Simcoe, Mosaic, and Citra) during two weeks of natural conditioning
Final pH = 3.52
Tasting Notes: Big tropical fruit (pineapple and passion fruit), floral, with some classic-Brett-funk riding the coattails. Flavor is lively and tart, acidic but more quenching than sour. Amazing how little the fruit aroma resembles the raw hops!
Beer #3 – Dry Hopped Solera Pull #3
Malt… who knows at this point (originally batch was brewed in 2010)
Blend of sours aged in a red wine barrel with East Coast Yeast BugFarm #3 topped up with Malt Extract Lambic.
Dry hopped cold with 1 oz each Simcoe, Mosaic, and Citra during force carbonation
Final pH = 3.27
Tasting Notes: Big sour-orange rind nose, sharp lactic acid (with a hint of acetic), finish is a bit juicy (softer than the nose suggests). Hops are the mildest, despite the highest dry-hopping rate!
Source: The Mad Fermentationist
HomebrewCon (NHC) 2016 Baltimore (and me)!
Three experts explain synthetic biology and discuss its potential to affect fields as varied as medicine, oil, agriculture, and even fragrances.
Exploring the disruptive potential of synthetic biology
London Business School professor Lynda Gratton believes living longer requires individuals and corporations to change their approach to careers, life transitions, and retirement.
Are you ready to live to 100?
Amid fundamental shifts in the retail and consumer landscape, consumer-goods manufacturers must rethink the way they manage key accounts.
Playing catch-up: How to partner with the retailer of the future
Marketing is a chance for education.
Sometimes, marketing takes the form of entertainment, but often, you get to assume the role of a teacher.
This is really powerful. You can become one of the few educational influences in most people’s lives after they leave school.
Beyond helping your business grow, inbound marketing allows you to make a real impact.
Partly, that’s why I’m still so passionate about it even after all these years.
Once you start thinking of yourself as an educator, you can become an even better marketer by learning from traditional teachers.
I’m going to show you 6 different teaching techniques you can use to make your marketing content even more useful to your readers.
1. Use the “desire” method
You might already be using this method even if it’s not intentional.
The “desire” method is all about getting students’ attention.
Think of an average class, even at the university or college level. Most students don’t want to be there.
They feel like they’re learning something that probably won’t be very useful and just want to know what’s on the exam so that they can pass it.
One of the main reasons for this is because lectures are set up to teach about a topic, not to satisfy a desire.
For example, in a computer science course, you might have a lecture about sorting algorithms or asymptotic complexity.
Even if you have an interest in computer science, those titles alone won’t get you excited about learning.
What happens in the first few minutes of those lectures?
More or less the same thing every time. It’s usually a slide about “what you will learn,” which again just lists the specific things included in that topic.
The solution is to build desire: What if you started off with the benefits of learning the topic?
Back to our example about asymptotic complexity, which basically just classifies how fast an algorithm can run (how complex it is).
What if, as a teacher, instead of saying that your students will hear a lecture on “asymptotic complexity,” you say that they will learn how to “find inefficiencies in code and speed up their applications.”
That’s already more attractive and speaks to what students really want to learn.
The intro slides could focus on how coders at Google use the concept of asymptotic complexity in their daily work. Or how a long-time coding problem was solved because someone found a way to reduce the complexity of the coding solution.
Using the desire method in your content: This concept is all about focusing on benefits to readers and customers. More so, it’s about conveying those benefits in the headline and at the beginning of any content.
While many marketers don’t know why they do it, this is the reason why having a benefit-driven headline is so important. If you’re teaching something that will help your reader accomplish something, make it clear!
In addition, your introduction is your chance to show your reader what could be possible if they learned what you are about to teach. Cite statistics, case studies, personal experiences, and anything else that shows how great the results can be.
2. Games are more fun than work
Ask anyone whether they’d rather read a textbook or played a video game, and you’ll get the same answer 99% of the time.
Educators have realized that students learn better if they are fully engrossed in a lesson, which happens if they are having fun.
That’s where the concept of “gamification” came from.
No, you don’t have to create a video game for your content, but there are ways to make your content more game-like and fun for readers.
Let’s look at a few ways you could do this.
Example #1 – Quizzes can be fun: A quiz can be either fun or boring, depending on the topic.
Online quizzes draw engagement and grow in popularity when done right—that’s a fact. A study of 100 million articles in 2013-2014 found that 80% of the most popular pieces of content were quizzes.
For example, the top one was: “What Career Should You Actually Have?”:
By framing it around fun careers (Oprah on the intro image), the creators drew people to the quiz.
When you create a piece of content, consider designing a quiz to go with it.
There are many free tools, such as Qzzr, that you can use to create a quiz. You just copy and paste the HTML code that it gives you into your content:
If you use WordPress, you could try the SlickQuiz plugin, which allows you to create quizzes from inside your admin panel:
Another benefit of using quizzes is that most people who take them will consider sharing their results with friends, bringing you additional traffic.
Most quiz tools include social sharing buttons on the results screen to encourage sharing.
Example #2 – The M&M’s pretzel scavenger hunt: This was a fun but simple game that M&M’s made in 2013.
The whole came consisted of one simple picture in a Facebook post.
The objective was to find the hidden pretzel man in the image. Even without getting any prize, Facebook users loved the simple game and shared it with their friends.
This game resulted in 25,000 new likes on the product’s Facebook page plus over 10,000 comments and 6,000 shares.
Example #3 – How Heineken successfully used an Instagram game: During one of the biggest events in tennis, the 2013 US Open, Heineken created an Instagram account.
A new account was loaded with 225 pictures of people in tennis audiences.
To win the game, you had to follow clues in the pictures that led you to the final picture.
It was essentially a complicated scavenger hunt.
This game lasted only 3 days, but Heineken increased its follower count by 20%.
3. Start with pain
This tactic goes well with the desire method (from #1 above).
People are motivated in two main ways:
- To get benefits
- To avoid pain
It’s natural to want to get good things and avoid bad ones.
Focusing on inducing desire was about the benefits. It’s achieved through showing what learning about your topic will do for your reader.
Here, though, you want to drill home what will happen if they don’t learn from your content.
For example, if you write a guide to correct posture, you could point out that if the readers don’t learn from your guide, they may develop poor posture, accompanied by back and neck pain and chronic discomfort.
Desire and pain can be used together, or they can be used separately.
Here are a few headlines that focus on benefits:
- 4 Ways to Boost the Conversion Rates of Your Link Building
- 5 Ways to Make Your Content Mobile-Friendly for Increased Traffic and Engagement
Here are a few that focus on pain:
- 7 Warning Signs Your Free WordPress Theme Is Sabotaging Your Blog
- Don’t Get Left Behind: The 8 Most Effective Link Building Tactics For 2015
The same goes with your introduction. Pain, especially if the reader is already aware of it, is a great way to get their full attention.
If you illustrate the pain well, readers will pay close attention to your work, which will result in better learning.
4. Chunking works wonders
There’s more to teaching than just getting the attention of your students.
You also want to teach your material in a way that maximizes how well a student learns as well as remembers what you taught.
That’s where chunking comes in:
Chunking involves breaking up a complex topic into smaller “chunks.” Studies have shown that this improves short-term memory retention.
The classic example is phone numbers.
Most phone numbers consist of 10 individual numbers, for example: 2338223948.
If someone just read out those numbers, they’d be hard to remember. However, if you separate them into three chunks, it gets a lot easier: 233-822-3948.
Applying chunking to content: The main principle behind chunking is breaking down something tough to learn into smaller bits.
When it comes to content, you can use that in two ways.
First, divide up your content into smaller subsections by using subheadlines.
If you look through any of my posts, you’ll notice that I have subheadlines every 200-300 words.
While there’s no specific length you need to aim for, make sure the subsections don’t get too long. If they do get long, break them up again into further subsections (usually h3 or h4 tags).
Next, you can apply chunking to paragraphs. It’s hard to focus and learn reading long paragraphs.
You should have 2-3 sentences per paragraph maximum in almost all situations. You can see that I have short paragraphs like this one in all the content I create.
This is a simple change that makes a big difference.
5. Understand and use VAK
Something that educators need to understand is that not everyone learns the same way.
One popular viewpoint is “VAK,” which stands for visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. Or in regular terms: seeing, hearing, and touching.
Different people learn best in different ways. Some need to touch things to learn, while others prefer seeing.
However, the vast majority of people learn best when more than one (or all three) ways of receiving information are involved.
To illustrate this concept, let’s go through an example.
Pretend you were teaching how to pump up a basketball. Here are examples of different ways to teach it:
- Visual: Write a blog post on how to pump up a ball; you could include pictures. Or create an infographic, detailing the process.
- Auditory: Create an mp3 recording explaining the steps.
- Kinesthetic: Give a student a deflated ball and pump, and explain how to pump it up (would also include a visual or auditory explanation).
- Visual+Auditory: Create a video that shows you pumping up a ball and explaining how to do it.
As you can see, there are multiple ways you can teach a topic for each learning type.
In addition, you could create multiple forms of content for a single topic. For example, you could create a podcast narration of a blog post so that your audience could both read (visual) and hear it (auditory).
The takeaway here is to try to involve multiple ways of learning for all your content. If you can get your audience to take action (i.e., go find a ball to work on), you can involve kinesthetic learning as well.
6. Engagement leads to knowledge
Many studies have shown that the more engaged students are, the better they learn.
The term engagement covers a bunch of different concepts, but it usually refers to any time when a student is actively doing something while learning. Examples would be things like asking questions, talking productively with peers, thinking, and answering quizzes.
While some of the other techniques we’ve looked at are difficult to apply online, improving engagement is very possible—not only in your content but in other areas of marketing like social media and email.
For example, we’ve already looked at including quizzes in content, which is an opportunity for students to engage.
Additionally, you can change how you write content and the type of content you write in order to get more engagement.
Here are some other guides that dig into this topic in more detail:
- 7 Psychological Principles to Get More Engagement on Social Media
- How to Cut Your Bounce Rate in Half with Interactive Content
- 5 Engagement Metrics That’ll Help Improve Your Search Rankings
Being a teacher is a big responsibility, especially online, where you could be teaching thousands with your content.
By using the proven teaching techniques described in this post, you can help your readers learn better and take more action.
Ultimately, you’ll make a bigger impact, which will also benefit your own business.
Many of these techniques can be combined, so use any or all of them—whatever applies to your content.
If you have any questions about how to be a better teacher, just leave them in a comment below.
Be a Better Teacher and Writer: 6 Teaching Techniques You Should Know
Starting to build links for a new site is a lot like climbing a mountain.
You’re starting from ground zero with a lot of enthusiasm, but when you realize you have to climb for days to get anywhere, that enthusiasm often turns to the feeling of being overwhelmed.
But when it comes to your site, the weather conditions, metaphorically speaking, are terrible as well.
No one can see you from above, so they can’t help you out—you are on your own.
That already rules out certain link building (climbing) strategies.
This fact is nothing new.
But the advice for new site owners is outdated and just plain bad in some cases.
I recently saw multiple guides that advised building (and paying for) directory links and social media bookmarks.
That kind of stuff was useful over five years ago, but today, it is a waste of your time and money—resources that could be spent building links that will help you get immediate traffic and long-term search rankings.
Seeing those guides was the inspiration for this post because no one beginning a site should start off on the wrong foot.
I’m going to show you four ways to build links specifically tailored towards new sites.
These are the links that actually matter. If you get a few dozen of them, you will see an immediate impact on your traffic levels.
1. Invest in a gift for the community
Almost every new business has the same problem: no one knows you. Even if you have a lot to offer, again, no one knows you.
One of the main objectives of the link building tactics we’ll look at in this post is to get attention.
And there are many ways to get the attention of people you don’t know.
The best way, in most cases, is to offer something of value—as big of a value as you can provide.
Here are a few options.
Option #1 – create a photo gallery: Any good blogger knows the importance of having great images in posts.
While some bloggers hire a designer for the most important pictures, it’s inconvenient and not always affordable for less important pictures.
However, most bloggers would gladly exchange a link to a site for a free picture.
That’s why I propose hiring a designer (or taking pictures yourself) and creating a free image gallery. Then, send out the link to the gallery to medium-top bloggers in your niche, explaining that they are free to use them in exchange for a link back.
For example, in the fitness niche, you could take pictures like these:
Spending a few hundred dollars upfront here will not only open doors to other bloggers but get you several dozen really good links.
A final important note is that you should create images around common points in your niche.
For example, if you were in the content marketing niche, you could create custom images for things that are often mentioned such as:
- SEO tools
- SEO rankings
- Reader personas
- Inbound marketing
- The different marketing channels
And so on…
Option #2 – create a free tool: If you’re interested in getting a ton of traffic yourself, on top of links, you can create something for your community of users rather than just bloggers. And that something is a tool.
Tools can be a great way to grow your site and earn backlinks at the same time.
For example, the keyword research tool Keywordtool.io has been linked to by over 3,880 unique domains. Honestly, that’s a relatively simple tool to build or get built.
After a bit of time, you can get links (good ones) that work out to under $1 per link, which is amazing. Add all the traffic that you can also get on top of that, and you can see why tools can be a great thing to make.
The big drawback is that it will take some time to build the tool in the first place, especially if you can’t code it yourself.
Additionally, you’re going to have to promote the tool. Write posts about it in niche forums, subreddits, and on social media.
Option #3 – do original data analysis (or research): One option that I really love, yet almost no one does, is to do original analysis or research.
Look at any good data-driven post—for example, my post about how to win on Facebook.
What you’ll see is that most posts link to someone else’s research.
It takes a lot of time and effort to do original research, which is why it’s much easier to link to someone else’s research than to do your own.
You can take advantage of this by providing the research that bloggers in your niche link to.
In that above post, the research was done by Buzzsumo, and I simply analyzed the data that they sent me. Of course, I’m going to give them a few links for that, and it also opens the door for a great relationship.
Find an interesting question always asked in your niche, dig in, and do the research. When you’re done, email the results to the top bloggers in your niche, and give them first dibs.
2. Study competitors, and learn from them
The toughest thing you can do is reinvent the wheel.
Your competitors have likely spent years building up their reputations and earning backlinks to their sites.
Many of these backlinks are from sites that you could also get a backlink from.
That’s why competitor analysis is a great place to start for any new site.
Here’s a simple 3-step process to follow.
Step #1 – Find your close competitors: The closer a competitor is to you, the more likely that their backlink sources would be appropriate for you.
If you know your niche well, you can likely do this off the top of your head. Otherwise, search for “best (specific niche) blogs.”
It’s best to make a big list somewhere for later.
Next, find the “inbound links” or equivalent option to see a list of all their links:
If you want to see them all, you’ll need a premium account. Both sites offer a trial period that you can take advantage of.
The links should be sorted by default in order of strength. Obviously, you want to go only after the best links (usually the top 20-30% of links).
From there, you’ll have to visit each page and find the link:
Step #3 – Can you replicate the link? Here is where your marketing skills come into play.
Some links, like links from private blog networks, can’t be replicated.
However, links from guest posts, forums, social networks, blog comments, etc. can be replicated. You can often get very similar links to those of your competitors’.
From there, you need to go after that link.
For example, if you see that your competitor wrote a guest post on a site, I strongly suggest you read some of my posts on guest-posting effectively and then apply that information to try to secure a post of your own.
Unfortunately, I can’t walk you through this step in great detail because it differs for every type of link. However, you will get better at it as you gain experience.
As a final note, you should stay on top of your competitors. Check which links they are getting on a regular basis, say once a week or once a month. It’s usually easier to replicate links that are more recent (rather than years old).
3. Forum links can have value
Let me start off by being very clear: most forum links are garbage.
Signature links and profile links rarely have any real value.
If you have a link on a page that no one visits or links to, your link isn’t going to count for much.
But what about the most popular threads on a big forum?
These threads rank well in Google. They have a lot of high-quality, relevant content, and people even link to them on other sites.
Links, especially near the top of the page (like in the opening post), can carry a good amount of weight.
For example, Brian Dean used to post on the Warrior Forum when Backlinko was newer.
He would include a link to his content on the first line and then paste the rest of his post. Here’s an example:
That thread got over 14,000 views and almost 100 replies. A decent portion of those viewers likely visited his website.
Also, because it was so popular on the forum, it has a lot of internal links pointing to it on high authority pages on the forum.
It also has 12 external domains pointing to it to give it even more authority.
Every forum has its own rules for posting content, but as long as you’re not just dropping a link and saying “go visit my site,” you should be okay.
However, you need to genuinely put the time and effort into understanding what the users of your forum want and then give it to them. You need your thread to get popular if you want a good link.
No, these links aren’t the absolute best and most powerful (from an SEO perspective) that you can get. But for a new site, a few relatively strong links from forums can help build a strong foundation.
4. If you want to burst onto the scene, guest-posting is a must
Most link building strategies for new sites are fairly slow.
They take consistent effort and deliver consistent results.
But you rarely get thousands of readers and hundreds of links within months unless you do them exceptionally well.
I consider guest-posting an exception to the rule. Even though you have to do it really well to get results, most bloggers have the ability to succeed with it.
And guest-blogging works for you even if you’re brand new. If you have a good pitch, it doesn’t matter what your name is.
When I think of guest-blogging to build up a new site, I think of Danny Iny, who is often referred to as the “Freddy Krueger of guest-posting.”
He got this nickname because he seemed to be everywhere when Firepole Marketing (now Mirasee) first launched.
His main strategy for getting traffic and links was guest-posting. He wrote dozens of guest posts and quickly took Firepole Marketing to the top tier of marketing blogs.
I won’t go into guest-posting in detail here because I’ve done it multiple times before:
- Guest-Posting on Steroids: A 4-Step Blueprint That the Top Guest Posters Use
- Advanced Guest Posting – The Advanced Guide to Link Building
- Why Guest Blogging is The Best Inbound Marketing Strategy (A Data Driven Answer)
- Make Your Mark: 9 Easy Steps to Become a Successful Guest Blogger
The one adaptation that you will have to make, since you’re brand new, is not to start at the top.
Don’t start by pitching to a site like Copyblogger or Forbes. Instead, find a few smaller sites that are more receptive to pitches.
Then, you need to wow them with your post and promote that post as well.
Once you can prove that your writing is great, then you can start pitching to bigger sites, citing your other successes as proof that you’re a serious blogger.
Here’s the reality: You’re in a tough spot.
Building links for a new site is not easy, but if you’re willing to put in consistent effort, it can be done.
I’ve shown you four of the most effective ways I know to build links for a new site. I encourage you to focus on just one or two of them until you’ve exhausted their potential.
If you’ve been in this situation before and have any creative link building ideas to share with others, I’d love to hear about them in the comments below.
4 Effective Ways to Build Backlinks for a Brand New Site