Originally published on Sept. 8, 2015. Updated on June 11, 2020.
It’s fun to see your name in lights — or rather, in pixels — when you get published in your favorite online publications. Influence & Co.’s clients are always excited to get the opportunity to write for Entrepreneur, Fast Company, and the like. For some clients, these sites reach their exact target audience, and their published guest posts contribute to achieving their company’s core business goals. But in other cases, an article in Inc. simply doesn’t make sense for a client because his target audience isn’t made up of business owners or entrepreneurs.
To put it simply: You should be publishing content in the publications your audience is already reading.
Our team, for example, normally publishes around two to five articles each month in online publications. For every guest post we publish, we make sure we have a blog post or a piece of gated content on our site that further educates readers on that topic so we can naturally link to those pages from the published guest-contributed article. This way, we can draw readers to our site to learn more about us.
To understand how we measure the success of our guest-contributed articles, here are the key metrics:
The interesting thing about using us as an example is that we actually have a varied target audience. We work with everyone from VC-backed startups to Fortune 500 companies to NGOs in industries ranging from oil and gas to healthcare to technology — and everything in between.
So the assumption might be that an article in a huge publication such as Inc., which reaches a sizable number of business owners and entrepreneurs, would be a gold mine for successful articles. However, our articles published there don’t perform as well as our more targeted articles in niche publications that reach our exact target audience in each of these industries — the marketers (CMOs, VPs of marketing, directors of marketing, etc.).
Let's take a look at an example. We recently published two articles in two very different types of publications: Fast Company and Managing Editor. You have undoubtedly heard of Fast Company. It's certainly a larger, more prominent publication, so one might assume that it would be more valuable for us. But here's the analysis:
The Fast Company article generated 42 clicks from the publication to our website and zero new leads. The reason? The article didn't include a link to Influence & Co. (only in the bio), and the topic wasn't about our core expertise; it was more of a business leadership piece. So this article was valuable from a brand awareness and credibility standpoint, but it wasn't working toward our goal of lead generation.
Now, let's look at the Managing Editor article. This was a more content marketing-focused article speaking to a more niche audience. It brought 48 people to our website and enabled us to generate 15 new contacts. 31% of the people who clicked through to our site became a lead! Why? We were able to link to a highly relevant piece of gated content within the published article.
These new leads are important for our lead generation strategy because we need to fill out our funnel with new contacts that we can then nurture to the point of becoming marketing-qualified leads.
Content that’s published on niche sites tends to perform better for the following reasons:
Publishing in outlets that reach a large audience is definitely valuable for building your brand and boosting your credibility (think the “As Seen” section on dozens of tech startups’ homepages). But it won’t necessarily produce the tangible results in terms of your company’s lead generation efforts from the articles themselves. For those goals, you need to think smaller. Think about where your specific sub-segment target audiences live online, and publish articles that engage and resonate with them.