There’s a lot of talk about earned media in content marketing. Along with owned media and paid media, earned should be a key piece of your overall traffic puzzle, and everyone wants more of it. Organic traffic is the holy grail, and creating good content is step one. But what’s step two? How do we leverage our good content to continue growing our earned media share?

Take a look at the chart below. These represent paid social traffic (in this case, it’s 100% Facebook) as compared to organic traffic (in this case, 100% Google) during a five-month time frame. I’ve removed the actual pageview totals, as they’re not relevant; instead, just look at the trajectory of the line chart.

Paid vs. Organic Google Traffic
    Screenshot from Google Analytics.
Paid vs. Organic Google Traffic Screenshot from Google Analytics.

What you’ll notice here is that, while the paid traffic has dips and spikes -- and the occasional mega-spike when a piece of content goes viral -- the organic traffic builds slowly and steadily in the background. See the huge spike around January 1 in the paid traffic? Now take a look at the organic. This is the exact point it begins to trend upward, and it continues to trend upward for the duration of this time period. The effect isn’t always immediate (see the next chart), but it’s there.

This is legitimate, healthy growth, the stuff you probably spend massive amounts of time and money on SEO optimization in order to achieve. These charts don’t exist in a vacuum; there is a definite causative effect here, with the paid social traffic creating the opportunity for organic success.

Think of it this way: you could create and publish the best article ever written on a given topic, but how would anyone find it? Your new article and its zero pageviews aren’t going to magically appear on the first page of results for a given Google search query, no matter how good it is. That trickle of visitors who were willing to click a link on page 4 or 5 may eventually turn into a steadier flow on its own, but there’s a way to kickstart this often-glacial process.

The key is to seed that traffic by driving visitors to your content. The most effective way to do this is to allocate some budget to promote it socially; with any luck, your viral reach will outpace your paid traffic anyway. Remember, all those social shares validate your content for the search engines, providing proof that users like it enough to re-post.

With that in mind, let’s look at this effect for a specific article on our site. This one has been a top SEO performer for quite some time. How did it begin?

Paid vs. organic search traffic for a top article on
    Screenshot from Google Analytics.
Paid vs. organic search traffic for a top article on Screenshot from Google Analytics.

This one is more dramatic. We promoted it on Facebook, pretty strongly, once. Quite some time ago, in fact. Yet, shortly after the “kickstart” here, the organic traffic started to simmer, and then build... and now the organic Google traffic for the 18-month time period shown here is over 13x that of the original paid social push.

In addition to the paid social push, there are a few details that you won't want to forget:

Here’s how to get from zero to ranking in 4 easy steps:

  1. Submit your content manually to Google search console (especially if you're looking to rank quickly)
  2. Share via your owned media channels: Facebook, twitter, email, etc.
  3. Share with real people! Send the article to anyone quoted in it, nonprofits or other partners who may be involved or have a vested interest in what you’re discussing. This is often our most successful source of initial traffic.
  4. Boost your post on Facebook.

A surprisingly small budget goes a long way with the right targeting. The more targeted your advertising, the more it should engage with your audience. We’re regularly being rewarded with as much organic/viral traffic as paid. For posts that really resonate, the organic traffic on Facebook will dwarf your initial paid investment.

By boosting quality content, you’ll demonstrate to search engines that visitors are spending time reading your content, sharing it, perhaps visiting a second or third page on your site. This demonstrated success proves the value of your content to Google and the other search engines, and the resultant bump in page ranking will yield long-term dividends in the form of organic search traffic.

Quality content is still the key, though. Promoting articles that readers don’t find compelling can have the opposite effect, as you demonstrate low engagement and a lack of shares to the search engines.

Need help creating quality content? You’re in the right place. Schedule a demo with our sales team to see how RootsRated Media can help your brand generate authentic outdoor and travel content worth promoting.

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