Do you get all the traffic you’d like for your site? Do visitors just keep pouring in, letting you meet all of your business goals with ease?
Yeah, don’t worry, no one actually says Yes to that question.
Getting new people to your site can be tricky, and ever-changing algorithms don’t make it any simpler.
As it happens, there’s one traffic strategy that virtually all “big blogs” use.
It works, no matter what’s going on with the big search engines or social platforms. It doesn’t cost anything. It gets more effective in cluttered, noisy environments with “too much” content.
And you definitely do not need to be “big” to implement it effectively.
This miracle strategy is optimizing your content for social sharing — making it irresistible for readers and influencers to get the word out about the work you’re doing.
Unlike search engine optimization, most techniques for social-sharing optimization are evergreen. Because they rely on human engagement, not some other company’s algorithm.
One warning before you start
There’s one important thing to know before you start optimizing for shares — what do you want your content to do?
What action or change are you hoping to inspire? Who are you striving to reach? How do you want people to feel? What should they do next?
If you don’t understand your content goals, you can end up making changes that work against those goals, for the sake of “more eyeballs.” And that’s usually a terrible idea.
So, once you’ve got your content goals firmly in mind, here are some things to keep in mind when you’re looking for more folks to share your content.
Influencers gonna influence
Of course, we expect that a web publisher with a significant audience — a “big blog” — is going to be influential. It just makes sense.
But big publishers also understand why influencers share content … because they’re looking for high-quality material to share themselves.
That means that bigger sites get very smart about how to make the content they publish appealing to share. Study the big sites you like and watch what they’re doing to craft content that gets the Share buttons clicking.
Influencers are looking for great experiences to share with their audiences. If you can deliver that, you have the potential for that nice stream of new visitors you’re looking for.
Keep in mind that it’s not always the biggest sites who have the most passionate fans. Don’t neglect the amazing opportunities that can come from getting shares from a mid-sized publisher whose audience trusts and adores them.
And then there’s that army of people who love your work, find it wonderfully useful, and want to show off by sharing it with their friends. When you optimize for sharing, you help them, too.
Speaking of which …
Why people share
There are a lot of individual, specific reasons that people share content, but most of them boil down to one:
People share content because it makes them look and feel smart.
Now, if you’ve ever read anything I write, I bet you can predict what I’ll say next:
Your stuff has to be good.
It doesn’t have to be miraculous. But it has to be good enough that an influential person will speak for it.
What does “good” mean?
You can sometimes get by without Useful (although you shouldn’t), but the other two are mandatory.
Boring content doesn’t get shares. Neither do the jumble of cookie-cutter posts that pile up around any interesting topic.
Be useful. Be interesting. Be different.
What’s the experience?
Big blogs are obsessive about user experience. What’s it like to land on the site? Is the design pleasing? Does the site instantly communicate its relevance and reliability?
What kind of content do new visitors find? Does it speak to their problems? (Remember … one of your most important content goals is attracting a specific who.)
Do the headlines promise a lot of useful, interesting things to browse? It’s not uncommon for readers to share content on the strength of the headline alone. Make sure yours are worthy.
Does the site load quickly? Can the visitor get to “the good stuff” (the best posts, the email opt-in, etc.) easily? Is the content formatted to be reader-friendly?
How about after the opt-in? Do readers have a great reason to sign up for your offer? Is the site sending valuable material, or just a bunch of pitches and thinly disguised spam?
You may not have an editorial department or a design team, but you can ask yourself the same questions. People who care a lot tend to create great experiences.
Does it feel good to land on your page?
No one with an ounce of influence will share your content if they’re sending their audience into a crummy experience. Provide a great experience.
And finally …
Don’t forget to ask! If you ask your audience to spread the word about what you’re doing, they often will.
And when you have that perfect piece of content for a specific influencer, go ahead and let them know about it.
Don’t overuse this, but there’s nothing wrong with a polite nudge to content that’s going to make that person look brilliant for sharing it.