Finding new ways to promote your clients and increase web traffic can certainly be a challenge. The necessity of staying current on Google’s algorithm is well known, though developing techniques that don’t rely directly on the whims of Google can be beneficial well into the future, weathering any algorithm changes.
With this piece, I’ll be describing some techniques and tools friends and I have used for what I’ll call “predictive marketing,” strategically seeking out events and occasions with high potential for driving traffic.
When I’m not working at my agency job, I’m still writing. I’m part of a group of writers and artists who run an entertainment and humor website called Robot Butt.
On a day-to-day basis we post pieces ranging from reviews to social and entertainment commentary to satirical articles, all of which generate a healthy amount of traffic. But for the long-term we try to predict future spikes for a given topic and tailor our content in that direction.
This is how we developed our theme weeks. Excepting our first, “Pizza Week,” all of our other themes have been directly tied to an event or occasion we knew would generate traffic if we steered our site in its direction.
Our “Monster Week” of 2014 corresponded with Halloween, “Game Week” was designed to dovetail with D.C.’s popular MAGFest gaming convention, “Dino Week” debuted during the release week of Jurassic World, and “Back to School Week,” as the name implies, corresponded with the start of the school year.
Some months back, being the huge Back to the Future fan that I am, I lobbied for us to create a “Future Week” to link to the October 21st, 2015 “Future Day” of the second film. As press coverage and the geek zeitgeist built, it became clear that “Future Day” was going to be bigger than any of us anticipated.
Ultimately, by tailoring our site to future-related content for that week and steadily posting on social media, we attracted:
- A significant boost in site traffic
- An influx of new Facebook and Twitter followers
- Over 150 Facebook and Twitter likes, shares, favorites, retweets and mentions
Some of these benefits were due to a specific post which I’ll mention later in the piece, but these increases are standard for us during our theme weeks which regularly generate our highest traffic spikes and audience engagement.
Tailoring Your Material
Being an entertainment website, Robot Butt has more leeway than some businesses are likely to have in regards to content. But that shouldn’t deter you from getting creative and finding ways to link your content to potential spikes.
Creating a content calendar for yourself is a good first step, but it shouldn’t be your last one. While popular holidays and other annual events like the Super Bowl, the beginning of summer, and daylight savings have content ideas built-in, you should make an effort to seek out special occasions along with some oddities.
A great resource for this is the site Days of the Year, which lists unofficial holidays and months designated for specific events and concepts. A lot of terrific ideas can be sparked from this site, such as:
- Have a client in the medical industry? Post a piece for World Diabetes Day.
- Working with a food services business? Piggyback off of National Sandwich Day or National Cake Day.
- Trying to appeal to servicemen and women or veterans? Tweet about National Navy Day.
- And of course, get the word out about Small Business Saturday.
While this resource is definitely something you’ll want to have in your toolbox, branching out and finding even more potential spike sources is essential.
The Back to the Future day celebrations were 25 years in the making and building from an established fanbase, which in content creation terms is a goldmine. Seek out other pop culture phenomena like this in film, television, music, or sports and find creative ways to link them to your goals and you’ll be sure to get some attention.
For instance, as the Cubs came close to making the World Series last year many sports and movie fans were quick to point out that a World Series victory was “predicted” in Back to the Future part II.
So not only were future-related posts performing well that week across the web, but anything related to the Cubs was as well, building off of their own dedicated fanbase and franchise history.
Another major pop culture milestone came later in 2015 in the form of the new Star Wars film which we know created enormous buzz. With new installments in the franchise in the works, this property is another content goldmine. Finding creative ways to tie your clients to the property, either earnestly or in a playful way, is sure to produce some excellent results.
In addition to planning ahead, having a good forum for an open dialogue allows you to both organize your goals and make some beneficial rapid-fire decisions.
Our comedy group utilizes the team collaboration website Slack which provides real-time communication within channels designated for specific goals. For instance, we have an “ideas” channel, a “theme week” channel, and a “podcast” channel among others.
The functionality of Slack provides a lot of interactivity and multimedia benefits, but its greatest asset is the real-time, group conversation. We can discuss and refine ideas for posts, make tweaks, and supply relevant links within seconds.
This site has also allowed us to create content ideas for major events as they happen. A good example of this is from October of 2015, when NASA had a planned announcement to deliver important news about Mars.
By watching social media, we knew people were anxiously awaiting the announcement. To capitalize on this, we quickly wrote a satirical piece and also reran older NASA-related content.
Ultimately, we got the clicks and shares we were seeking all because we recognized the opportunity and had the means to quickly collaborate.
With the theme weeks, our goal is to keep our content tied to the central theme, but we also recognize surprising opportunities can prevent themselves so we’re prepared to break form when needed.
A good example of this is our story on Chris Rock hosting the 2016 Oscars, a piece we ran well before major news sites caught up. Variety later wrote a piece giving us credit for the scoop, with Entertainment Weekly, Vulture, IGN, Buzzfeed, Refinery29, and Deadline all following suit and either linking or mentioning us.
When we received the tip from our insider, we knew we had to write an article, even though it didn’t strictly fit our theme week format. But since Rock hosting is a “future event,” we were still able to tenuously tie it back to our goals, keeping people aware of not just the scoop but also that week’s project.
And that’s what’s key. Watching for ways to make meaningful connections and anticipating trends can go a long way in getting your site the traffic and attention you want.
The likes, retweets, mentions, and shares generated from the Rock piece certainly helped boost “Future Week,” but the groundwork had already been laid by us looking ahead.
So start finding those spikes and start grabbing our attention.