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5 Traffic Strategies That Build Your Curation Audience
27th January 2015 • The Digital Entrepreneur • Rainmaker Digital LLC

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This is the third of three core lessons related to content curation based on a case study of my new email newsletter Further.

You can listen to the initial two episodes here:

Now we tackle the eternal question: how do you get traffic to your curation site so you can build an email list? Should we start building a war chest for advertising?

Not yet. First we’re going to apply some creativity and sweat into driving traffic. Some of these methods are tried and true, but need to be executed a certain way for a curation project. Others are seemingly a little “outside the box,” and yet they complement a curated email newsletter perfectly.

In this 22-minute episode Robert Bruce and I discuss:

  • What makes curated content shareable and linkable
  • The best audience building strategy on the planet
  • How to borrow (and delight) a massive audience
  • How to get others to share your curated content
  • Why infographics are pure media curation
  • How to take advantage of visual microcontent
  • The true value of iTunes for audience building
  • The podcast interview as valuable curation content
  • The viral catalyst that exploded Copyblogger in the early days

Listen to The Digital Entrepreneur below ...

The Show Notes

The Transcript

5 Traffic Strategies That Build Your Curation Audience

Robert Bruce: So, I’m in the middle of the Oregon winter here, which means rain all the time, and you’ve set up this company meeting in Dallas. So I’m thinking, “Great, I’ll get some sun. Go to Dallas. Get some sunshine and get out of the rain for a little bit.” I get there and it’s raining, and 25F. I thought you had connections down there?

Brian Clark: It wasn’t me who chose Dallas. I would have stayed right here at home, and that’s what we are going to do next time.

Robert Bruce: Oh yeah. But it’s snowing there, right? How much snow is on the ground right now?

Brian Clark: It’s all gone.

Robert Bruce: All right. Brian, this episode is titled “5 Traffic Strategies That Build Your Curation Audience.” Of course, that means paid advertising, right?

Brian Clark: Not yet but we are going to get into that topic, which is a new one for us. And you can bet I’m going to be having some smarter than me guests on those shows because I literally want free consulting. Isn’t that a great gig about having a podcast? I’m going to ring up some really smart people and say, “Hey, want to come on the show?”

Robert Bruce: I’m starting to think that might be the only reason to have a podcast.

Brian Clark: It may be.

What Makes Curated Content Shareable and Linkable

Robert Bruce: All right. Now, you’ve got a great list of five things here, a couple of which people will be familiar with. But, there is a reason we keep beating these drums because this is what you have got to do. Right? Starting with something that everybody listening to this and anyone familiar with what we do, is going to be familiar with, which is content.

Brian Clark: Number one is content. We are going to talk about it again but very specifically in the context of curation. Because the general rule of thumb that you would think, is that the original content providers that you are curating get more benefit from sharing and linking than you do. Right?

And that’s why I have been trying to lead by example and also steer people away from the link post, like we used to do in the old days of blogging. Just a collection of links. Maybe just the meta description from the publisher themselves. No original content.

The problem with that is it’s not sharable and it’s not linkable. And here’s what I mean by that. Number one of course, shareable. Last week we talked about the good old fashion early days of the social share button, which was the email forward. And I even made a joke about that in this week’s issue of Further because that was truly awful, when some people forwarded every stupid email joke they got 5 times a day.

So that’s not going to happen. But, it is conceivable that when you put out a good publication by email, you are going to get the benefit of forwards. You know, when you subscribe to something cool and it’s perfect for someone else, it’s just easy to hit ‘Forward’ and send it along.

You and I do that, right? That’s about it. You aren’t going to get the tweets. You aren’t going to get the Facebook shares. You’ve got to create curation that is content.

So on one end, Jason Hirschhorn, who does Media Refined is just links, and I share that content all the time. Not his. I share the articles themselves and Jason is not getting the benefit of that. Then on the other end of the spectrum, Brain Pickings. Maria. What’s her last name?

Robert Bruce: Popova.

Brian Clark: Yeah. She’s a genius. But that’s all curation. She quotes liberally. I think she pushes the bounds of fair use but in a good way.

She constructs new and original content, even though she still is, either reviewing a book and quoting from it, or some other piece of work. So she is the curator’s curator and that site gets linked to and shared across the board.

So somewhere in the middle of that is Further and that’s why I took the format that I did with a feature, which often at times might be, as in this week, it’s really talking about one chapter in a book. So it’s not freely available on the web but it’s still curation. And that kind of stands alone as something that is getting shared, as we speak.

The other thing I want to talk about with your content is even more so, no one is going to link to a list of links. But if you do have that content standalone feel, then you might attract links, which is a good thing. But more importantly, as we talk about in the next section, you can link to yourself.

Robert Bruce: Okay. So if anybody has any confusion about this, you can go over to and see what Brian is talking about in terms of how he is doing it, because it is a different kind of curation play than what you are probably normally familiar with, in creating a piece of content that is shareable. Yes.

How to Borrow (and Delight) a Massive Audience

Robert Bruce: Okay. Let’s move onto number two. And that is good old fashioned guest posting.

Brian Clark: Absolutely. Now everything from Zen Habits by Leo, to some of our marketing friends, entire businesses have been built with their own content and then going on a mad blitz of creating content in other channels and pointing people back to your home base.

Now, that actually works really well with a curation project because you are not going to contribute content to someone, if they don’t allow you to have a bio with a link back to your site, and a compelling description.

Last week we talked about creating a really high value ethical bribe. This is where it comes in handy. That’s a call to action and you want it to be as compelling as possible. So at a bare minimum, if you are going to be out guest posting, that’s what you are looking for in return.

I say link to yourself. Now the bio is great, the link is great and the call to action is great. But if you can link to yourself editorially and have it be valid, because think about it, you are writing articles on the same topic that you curate. Right? In fact, some of the features that I’ve done for Further, with just a tiny bit of elaboration, could be stand alone articles on someone else’s site.

And what I am talking about when you can link to yourself in the body of the content. If you have a relevant feature, even if it’s curated, say it is a book review to a certain degree, but if you look at what I did in this week’s issue of Further, it’s not necessarily a book review, it’s actually sharing a small part of what I learned from the book.

So it kind of is a stand alone educational piece of content. So if I am off writing say, Mind Body Green, or some other website where I am trying to attract that target audience, I can link back to myself and if they are cool with it editorially, because it is a stand alone piece of content, that’s a very valuable way to guest post.

So not everyone is going to agree and you need to make sure you only do that with your best stuff but it is a benefit, going back to why content is a traffic strategy. Because you need people linking to you but you also need to be able to point back to that content on your guest posting spree because you will build traffic a lot faster that way.

Robert Bruce: Yeah. A couple of quick finer points on guest posting. I’m going to link a few articles we’ve written into the show notes for this episode because we’ve gone on and on and on about this. Obviously you want to target sites and media properties that are related to your topical market. Things that are going to make sense.

Brian Clark: Yeah, who’s audience do you want to borrow?

Robert Bruce: Yeah.

Brian Clark: Because that’s what guest posting is.

Robert Bruce: Yep. Also, patience is a thing here. I’ve just had a conversation with Stephanie Flaxman, our Editor in Chief over at and she told me something that I had completely forgotten about. And that is, she told me that her editing business is still going and that several years ago, I don’t remember the timeline, but she sent in a guest post submission to Copyblogger that was not accepted. Then probably two and a half years later, here she is employed by Copyblogger.

In your example here you are not talking necessarily about employment, but, the idea being patience. The idea being, “Keep doing your best work. Keep submitting.” And over time you build that relationship, which you’ve talked about a lot. How in the early days of Copyblogger nobody knew you, you were a nobody in this field and you built relationships over time, slowly through writing for other sites. Bigger and bigger sites. And I think that’s one of the main benefits of guest posting is, the relationships you build with those other publishers.

Brian Clark: Absolutely. Those relationships feed every other strategy. When people know you, they are more likely to share, are more likely to link and they are more likely to agree to come on your show as a guest. You get access to people and that’s immeasurably valuable.

Why Infographics are Pure Media Curation

Robert Bruce: Let’s move onto number three. And this is something that we have done quite a bit of but we haven’t really talked about it a lot, and that is image marketing. What do you mean by this?

Brian Clark: In past shows we talked about how because of you complaining about my stock photos, I stumbled onto a combination of image and a quote, along with a certain black and white feel. It’s amazing. I mean the same piece of content gets shared four or five times more with the different image.

Robert Bruce: Is that still happening? Are you still seeing those results?

Brian Clark: Yeah, that’s still happening. And it really just depends on the topic. You know, my John Lydon image of this week has not been shared as much as the Albert Einstein from last week but I don’t care. I wanted to do the Lydon image and I’m having a great time with it. It’s still doing better than with no image or kind of a lame stock photo.

This opens up a whole bunch of possibilities where the images that you are creating for your post are getting pinned on Pinterest, you can share them on Instagram and all sorts of stuff that I have never really done before. So in future episodes, I will be sharing with the audience how this is going. But one thing I have been thinking about all along is, that infographics are curation. They are a collection of reference sources. If you ever look at the bottom of an infographic, you’ll see all the links to the sources of the material.

Now as you are curating over time, you are going to start coming up with thematic bundles of content that will lend themselves to piecing them together in a visual form. So, you’ll definitely see me experimenting with putting infographics together. I’ve got a few ideas but if you hit the right infographic, it spreads like crazy. You get links back every time it’s put on another site. If you embed the code, like you do at the bottom, it’s amazing. It’s an amazing traffic strategy. It’s more cost intensive. I don’t expect anyone, including me, to just jump in and create an infographic, but like I said, doing the job provides you the material. You know what stuff is resonating with people and then you put something together that takes off.

I’m going to experiment on my dime, for you guys, to see what happens. So we’ll talk about it more in the future.

Robert Bruce: Rainmaker.FM is brought to you by the RainmakerPlatform. If you are looking to easily build a powerful sales and marketing website that drives your online business, head over to right now and sign up for a free 14-day trial, to see if it might be a fit for you.

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A quick note here Brian, we saw some cool stuff that’s coming out in Rainmaker at the company meeting in Dallas. Any thoughts in particular on what you saw? Little previews or in conversation.

Brian Clark: What I saw was amazing and of course, I would expect nothing else. But some of the ideas that go beyond what’s coming in the next two months, holy cow. Yeah, that’s what’s really got me excited but we’ll talk about that in the future.

The True Value of iTunes for Audience Building

Robert Bruce: Yeah. A couple of those things that we saw related to item number four here, in your list of five traffic strategies to build your curation audience, and that is iTunes.

We’ve been talking some weird stuff about iTunes. Not weird generally, but weird maybe in the context of Copyblogger. Things that we have never talked about before.

Brian Clark: Yeah, iTunes is amazing. Podcasting has more than arrived. 2014 was the big breakthrough year where it all kind of came together. Great content, ease of subscription, familiarity with the medium.

With Bluetooth being braindead easy in your car and all that kind of stuff, people are listening to podcasts like crazy because it is mobile entertainment. Its on demand education. It’s a lot of cool stuff. So to ignore it as a curator, I think is a mistake.

The Podcast Interview as Valuable Curation Content

Brian Clark: Now, we talked about this in the past, that the podcast interview is another example of curation. You are asking questions of someone else’s expertise in order to inform and educate your audience. So there’s that. And of course, you can use three, five, seven of those type interviews to create that ethical bribe.

Of course, put it in Rainmaker, drip it out into an access strategy, so when you are going out with guest posting and you are pulling back to your site and are trying to maximise opt-ins, you’ve got a very compelling free offer, in addition to the regular curation that you are going to be doing week to week. But get this, this later occurred to me, and it’s funny because I didn’t think about it from the beginning, but the way that I am doing these features, how long do you think that would be for me to recite that in audio format? Maybe two or...