Find Your Readers: 6 Marketing Channels (and which ones to pick)

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Creating great content is pointless…

…unless you’re getting it in front of your target audience.

You do this by using any one of a number of promotional tactics to reach your target audience on a variety of platforms.

Most of these platforms can be grouped together, and that’s where we get marketing channels. A promotional tactic can then be applied to most of the platforms in the channel.

For example, social media is a marketing channel, consisting of platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.

Depending on whom you ask, you’ll get different answers to the question of how many marketing channels there really are.

The number gets even more complicated if you consider that there are many offline marketing channels as well.

However, for most of us, the number of channels doesn’t matter.

What does matter is that there is a handful of core channels that are by far the most effective digital marketing channels.

Download a cheat sheet of 4 tools you can use to find the exact readers of your website.

That’s what this post is all about.

We’ll go over the six main digital marketing channels you should at least be familiar with. On top of that, I’m going to show you how to evaluate each channel to determine whether it’s worth your time.

The real power of studying channels: If you want to learn this stuff because you love marketing, that’s great. But there’s also a great practical reason for you to want to learn it.

Once you learn how to identify the best marketing channels for your business, you can study them and create content for those specific channels (and sites in them).

By targeting content towards a specific audience, you’re much more likely to create something they’ll love and want to read. 

Channel #1: Search engines (SEO) is the best place to start

There are very few websites that wouldn’t benefit from search engine traffic.

No matter what industry you’re in, some of your target customers are using search engines to search for something.

That doesn’t mean you should necessarily spend all your time on SEO. It’s not always the best channel, but it’s one that you must research.

What you should be looking to do at this point is just some basic keyword research. Afterwards, you can do some more advanced keyword research with these resources:

Here, we just want to see the general number of searches your target audience does every month.

For that, the Google Keyword Planner will work just fine.

Start by entering some broad niche keywords. For example, “content marketing” or “social media marketing” if you were starting a blog like Quick Sprout.

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Look through the list that comes up, and see how many keywords have a significant search volume (at least a few hundred per month).

While you’re missing out on a lot of keywords using this simplistic method, you want to see at least 50 keywords worth targeting.

If you don’t know where to start when it comes to searching for keywords, find a close competitor in your niche.

Then, enter their URL in the website field of the keyword planner instead of typing in keywords.

If they have a WordPress blog, you can typically add “/feed” to the end of their blog URL to get a more complete set of keywords.

For example, instead of entering:

https://www.quicksprout.com/blog/

enter:

https://www.quicksprout.com/blog/feed

That will give you a set of really broad keywords, and you can enter any of those into the tool to get a list to analyze.

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Channel #2: If you want readers fast, PPC (pay-per-click advertising) is the way

When you identify a marketing channel, you first want to make sure you can actually reach your readers through it.

After, you need to decide if it’s ideal for your business. All channels have their strengths and weaknesses.

SEO, for example, can provide you with steady, high-quality free traffic. The downside is that it is hard to earn that traffic, can take a long time to get, and requires an upfront investment.

PPC, on the other hand, allows you to drive the same type of traffic (if you’re using AdWords) from day one of publishing content. There are also many more platforms you can use other than search such as Facebook advertising, LinkedIn advertising, or even a small network like 7search.

The downside is that it’s expensive, and if you don’t have a solid conversion funnel in place, you’ll end up wasting that traffic and losing money.

When can you use paid advertising? Another benefit of PPC is that you can use it for virtually any niche.

If there’s search traffic, you can advertise on Google or Bing.

If it’s most popular on social media, you can advertise there.

If you have a significant content promotion budget (on an ongoing basis), PPC is an option at your disposal.

However, if you don’t already have a solid sales funnel, be prepared to lose money.

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Your time should mostly be spent optimizing ads and conversion rates of your content (readers into email subscribers). From there, you’ll need to determine the best way to sell to those subscribers.

Channel #3: You don’t always have to compete with other blogs

If you’re starting a blog, I sure hope there are at least a few other, remotely similar to yours, popular blogs that already exist.

If not, there probably aren’t many potential customers reading blogs in that niche, and you’re wasting your time. The one exception is if you’re writing about a very new topic that has just started growing.

These blogs are usually seen as competition, but they don’t have to be.

A reader is not an all-or-nothing asset. A reader can follow multiple blogs.

If you give blog owners an incentive, you may be able to get them to allow you to get your message in front of their readers.

How?

The main ways are:

  • Guest-posting – I guest-post on a regular basis and have written multiple guides to using it effectively. Here, the incentive is free content for the site owner. Of course, you need to make sure that your content is good enough to be worth it. Not all blogs allow guest posts, but many do.
  • Joint content – For all my advanced guides (in the sidebar), I’ve gotten help from respected bloggers in each niche. They get publicity, and I get help with my content.

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  • Sponsored posts – You can contact a blogger and offer to sponsor a post. These typically involve a few mentions naturally throughout a post.
  • Joint ventures – You can even get involved with a product a blogger sells and help improve it. Their customers will see you in a very good light, and many will follow you because of it.

For now, you want to find as many of those blogs as you can.

It’s pretty easy these days. Start by Googling a phrase like “top (niche) blogs.”

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You’ll probably find at least a few results, featuring long lists of blogs in your niche.

Write these down somewhere.

You can also head to Alltop, find your niche in the menu bar, and then write down the blogs that come up:

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Traffic is king: There’s no point in doing a guest post on a site with very little traffic. Even if your post is great, you’ll only get a few readers from it.

Your next step is to estimate the traffic levels of each site you wrote down.

Visit each site, and look for:

  • Average number of comments on each post
  • Average number of social shares
  • How well designed the site is
  • Whether the number of subscribers is listed anywhere

It’s hard to know if a site has a lot of traffic, but if it’s getting 5+ comments or 100+ social shares on each post, it has enough to consider partnering with.

Filter out all the low traffic sites. If you still have 20+ sites left to potentially work with, then these blogs are another channel you can target.

Channel #4: Can you be social?

Social media sites are usually hit or miss.

Some niches, like fitness, food, fashion, and even marketing to a degree, are highly shareable.

In order to use social media effectively, you need those extra followers and readers you get from “likes” and “shares.”

That’s why you don’t see a lot of asphalt companies or paper companies killing it on social media. It’s really hard to create shareable content in those niches.

To see whether it’s viable for your niche, you can use Buzzsumo, a tool I’ve mentioned many times before. Not only will it show you if your niche is popular on social media, but it will also tell you which social media sites to focus on.

Type your niche into the top content tool. If the results seem irrelevant, add quotation marks around your keyword:

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In addition to the core keywords, I recommend typing in a few related keywords for more data.

You’re looking for two things here:

  1. Is content in my niche shareable? – If there are several pieces of content with over 1,000 shares, it’s safe to say that your niche is viable on social media.
  2. Which network(s) is most popular? – You’ll likely see that one or two networks make up 90% of the shares. In the case above, Twitter is the dominant source, followed way behind by Facebook and LinkedIn in most cases.

While there may be a few fluctuations, you’ll see that there is a pattern when it comes to the most popular social networks. You’ll want to focus on the most popular ones if you choose to use social media.

Channel #5: Forums are the backbone of the Internet

Forums have been around since the start of the Internet and continue to play a big part in most users’ online lives.

While getting readers from forums doesn’t scale very well, it can be very effective when your blog is new and you need that initial audience to write for.

On top of that, it’s free—other than your time investment.

Here, you need to find out whether there are any popular forums. To do so, Google for “(niche) + forum.”

You need a minimum of one highly active forum. You want to see 100+ users a day making new posts.

Check out the first few results, and see if any meet that criterion.

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You can usually scroll to the bottom of a forum to see how big it is.

Turns out, there actually aren’t any good content marketing forums – bummer.

If you run into a case like this, you do have the option of expanding your scope (“marketing forums”), but it’s usually better just to move on.

Channel #6: Q&A sites

Some might group question and answer (Q&A) sites with social media sites, but I think they’re distinctive enough to warrant their own section.

The biggest Q&A sites are Quora and Yahoo Answers.

Just like forums, these don’t scale well, but they can drive a good amount of traffic to your blog (if you include links in answers).

One bonus is that your answers will rank well in Google for long tail search terms (which are usually questions), which will send you consistent traffic in the future as well.

Head to Quora, and start typing your niche into the search bar. You’re looking for a topic that is exactly the same as yours or close to it (click it):

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Quora provides follower statistics on each topic page on the right. If a topic has a good number of followers (say 20,000+), it’s active enough that you could focus on it as a marketing channel:

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As a side note, here’s my post on using Quora for marketing.

Conclusion

Now that you have a good grasp of the ways to determine whether you could use a channel for marketing, it’s decision time.

Take a look at each channel, and first decide if your audience uses it (as I’ve shown you).

Then, consider the relative popularity of each channel, your budget, and your goals, and determine the top 1-3 channels.

You don’t want to try to target too many channels at once. Instead, focus on one or two, and put all your resources into using them effectively.

If you need help doing this, I’m happy to try to point you in the right direction. Leave me a comment below with as much detail as possible, and I’ll try to help out.

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Comments

  1. Thank you Neil.
    I know you’re busy so you probably haven’t had time to notice but Hilary Clinton has somehow been really tuned into the internet.
    Unlike Bernie, she has jumped on Quora.com and got 20 million views on her answers with just a few questions, 10 million of which was in the last week.
    It was clearly an arranged thing between Quora’s team as the whole thing was announced and scheduled like a Reddit AMA.
    https://www.quora.com/profile/Hillary-Clinton

    • Leonardo LaVito @ LargerList.com :

      That’s pretty cool. 😮

      I’m frequently seeing celebrities of all kinds, in a variety of niches, replying to cool questions on Quora and getting tons of views and upvotes.

      You can get a lot of traffic and exposure if you get in early and comment on their answers too. 🙂

  2. Interesting article. The only part that bums me out is that sites like Quora aren’t really that popular in Europe. The rest of the channels make sense, however I’ve noticed that it’s hard to keep up with all given channels when running a business alone.

    That aside, thanks for your insights. They’re very helpfull.

    • Maybe you can ride the wave when it gets more traction there… Something to think about for a future strategy

      • Leonardo LaVito @ LargerList.com :

        Indeed. 😀

      • Anil Agarwal :

        I think both SEO and social media sites are great marketing channels.

        But NEVER focus on every marketing channel under the sun all at once. You will get doomed.

        Focus on ONE thing at a time. Spend more time on that channel. Connect with the audience.

        Then, you will get the rewarding results.

        Great insights. I personally recommend every blogger to segment their traffic sources for best results.

        Not only split testing helps you boost your search traffic and find better sources to dominate Google search results but it also helps you find better audience.

        Thanks for the great points.

  3. Hi Neil,

    I started a work from home blog almost 4 months ago on a shoestring budget. I have done my fair share of SEO/keyword research for each article, writing minimum of 1000 words, using compelling imagery. I am sharing through the top social media channels, such as Twitter and Facebook. I’m not getting the kind of traffic I had hoped for. I haven’t found a blog to guest post for yet and am giving Quora a go. Could you point me in the right direction?

    • What kind of bloggers are you looking out for? What kind of content are you posting?

      • I am posting work from home/Internet Marketing content.

        • To be completely upfront, you’re in a tough market Joshua and 4 months just isn’t enough to see results in your niche.

          What do you have that’s unique and different compared to all the other work from home/IM businesses?

  4. Walden points out an interesting twist to this. How does this compare outside North America? Forums and Q&A sites are great but how do they stack up in EU or Asia? Do the channels stack rank differently based on location?

    Maybe that’s an additional topic?

    • I know they may not be as popular there, but it’s still worth getting started with.

    • Leonardo LaVito @ LargerList.com :

      I guess it shouldn’t be too much of a problem if you’re not confined to just a local audience? 🙂

      But to my memory, China has quite a lot of forums and Q & A sites. They’re quite popular there.

      Overall, I think perhaps it shouldn’t be just a problem of country-specific, but rather language-specific.

      Even if Q & A sites and forums are popular in Asian countries like China, or European countries, it won’t benefit you if they don’t speak English, and that’s the main language you cater to.

  5. One thing that gets me success, but unfortunately is very tedious and time consuming, is posting on other peoples’ FaceBook pages, after checking “use FB as my page” (instead of my person). My FB page is the Pain and Injury Doctor, so I search pages where I think my market will be. Most are health oriented pages like Dr. Mercola, but I sometimes post on FB pages with many followers, such as Tony Robbins. I comment as The Pain and Injury Doctor, and if it catches the eye of some fans, they click my profile and Like my page as well, and then can be guided towards my blog and opt in page. I make sure to make a thoughtful comment that stands out. Wish a robot could do this for me!

  6. Hello Neil, i have one question for you, i have some uk based websites , sometimes my websites ranking are stuck on the google.co.uk 2nd page, do you know what is the reason behind this ?

  7. Mudit Saxena :

    Hi Neil,

    Thanks to god and you :-), my business is generating more than 200K in profits per month , where do I look for angel investments of about 3-5 million dollars to grow the business ?

    Regards,
    Mudit Saxena

    • You shouldn’t raise money. If you have that much profit, just dump the money back into it and grow faster. 🙂 That’s what I would do.

      • Mudit Saxena :

        Sure Neil :-), I really want to learn more Advanced tactics , principles etc of marketing, I have began learning Fb ads as advised by you(Google is my friend ) Where do I go now ?

        • What is your site?

          • Mudit Saxena :

            Since the site is in beta phase I can’t announce it in here 🙂

            We provide coaching through a unique saas product we developed , publish books (under my Pen name)together they make us about 100k per month.

            The other business which is under the same company is to find and reskin/market apps and websites.Which makes us about 100 k per month.

            One of the core philosophies that we have is that we don’t look to make money but literary DIE for providing value and that is what inspires us to keep going 😉

            Also I would like to thank you for creating this awesome resource 😉

            God Bless,
            Mudit Saxena

  8. Sandeep Dahiya :

    I still get shocked when people don’t pay attention to SEO at all but are ready to spend as much as 80% of their marketing budget on PPC. #TrueStory

    • lol I know what you mean. Most people want that instant result, while SEO takes a bit longer and requires patience

  9. Dinesh Dhiman :

    Hey Neil

    Thanks for the useful info on these marketing channels. I have started making use of most of your advise and thanks to it, my blog http://www.xosam.com is getting a little bit of traction.

    I am using PPC, SEO, Social Media marketing and word of mouth marketing.

    I hope to build up on my efforts and investment in it. Hopefully profits can follow soon 🙂

    Regards
    Dinesh Dhiman
    http://www.xosam.com

    • That’s awesome Dinesh! Now that you are getting a little bit of traction, take it up a notch. Keep me posted on how things work out!

  10. Bhuboy Villanueva :

    With the list you have given, I am using more today the social medias, and it is right that not all social media is the same, not all niche will work on Facebook. And your suggestion to use Buzzsumo is really effective to see which social media your niche get more share, and I would focus more on that social media.

    After Social media, I am also learning how to do SEO. and your blog is really helpful in this. Thanks for this great post

    • Buzzsumo will make a considerable difference with your marketing efforts Bhuboy.

      Happy I could help, let me know if there’s anything else I can help with

  11. Leonardo LaVito @ LargerList.com :

    Great write-up Neil on those big 6 channels! 🙂

    I thoroughly enjoyed it!

  12. Hi Neil, I have been a paId marketing strategist for many years. Mostly ppc and solos. I really just started to make it a point to get organic traffic. So I did a search for internet marketing and your site was number one. I have to say after reading this article and others on your site I know why. I just learned a ton. Thanks. What a great way to start the day!

    • Thanks for letting me know how you found this and glad to have you here 🙂

      Let me know if you have any questions

  13. Superior It Services :

    I picked up all the marketing channel for website promotion Because if we Lose one single step in my web promotion and my business promotion we can’t beat my competitor. that all The activity brings user to the sites.

  14. Randy Downs :

    Awesome advice. I had not considered competitive sites to be a good thing but it does prove the market.

    I had not considered forums a marketing channel since they have a specific audience but that is a benefit when their interest complements yours.

  15. Hey Neil, great article. I just have one question. I have emailed more than 25 bloggers for Guest post and most of them ask for money; others don’t even reply. Should I just pay?

  16. Some of this stuff is overwhelming. Thanks though

  17. Boomy Tokan :

    Thanks, Neil – another great post. Even though I have only discovered your blog a few days ago, I have learnt so much.
    Now it’s just about writing out a plan of action and working on it for the next 3 months and updating it as I go along/
    Is that a good idea?
    Boomy

    • I’m glad this was helpful Boomy. Yep, create your plan and visualize yourself achieving your desired result

  18. Hey Neil,

    Thanks for the great post (as usual)! It’s definitely of critical importance to choose the right marketing channel to find your best readers.

    Regards,
    – Jeff

  19. Thanks Neil for the great post as usual. I think one should pick a particular one and concentrate on it as the main source of getting readers to his / her blog, while having the other channels as sub

  20. Very informative! Happy that I am connected to a platform where we can learn such things from experienced professionals

  21. Social media works quite well

  22. Louis Kennedy :

    I’ve never been interested in SEO, Neil. I use just paid traffic and my ROI is pretty decent. Now I want to scale things up big time, do you think SEO will get me good ROI considering the face that I don’t publish lots of content.

    Thanks,
    Louis

  23. Devendra Meena :

    Sorry to ask here: For last few month I am not able to use the QuickSprout Tool? What’s going on?

  24. Adithya Shetty :

    Hi Neil,

    Great post, I always prefer Search engine traffic, most of the time they bring me instant affiliate sales!

    Thanks for sharing!

  25. I believe guest post is the best for new bloggers they do get tons of links.

  26. Greg Carrico :

    Hi Neil, I own a wealth mangement firm and am just getting started in marketing my website http://www.legacy-wealth.com which of these would you recommend starting with? My adWords market is pretty competitive with all of the big players out there, so I am thinking Facebook may be the most cost effective way to go?

    Thanks,
    Greg Carrico
    Legacy Wealth Advisors

    • Yes, I think facebook is one of the most effective ways for you to start. It’s more of a creative playing field at this point, so anyone has a chance.

  27. Hi Neil,
    It was great post, i am new to blogging and whom ever i ask how to get started with blogging, 8 out of 10 recommend me quick sprout and neil patel, after reading this article, i think they were not wrong, it was very informative sir, it really helps out the newbies with this tips and tactics, i think i’ll be a loyal reader of your blog from the day, thank tou for posting.

  28. Farukh Khan :

    You are amazing Neil.
    Each and every thing is crystal and clear.
    Kindly guide me about anchor text diversity.
    Thanks

  29. Interesting article. The only part that bums me out is that sites like Quora aren’t really that popular in Europe. The rest of the channels make sense, however I’ve noticed that it’s hard to keep up with all given channels when running a business alone.

  30. How does this compare outside North America? Forums and Q&A sites are great but how do they stack up in EU or Asia? Do the channels stack rank differently based on location?

  31. Christopher Coronas :

    Everything you have written in your articles were all full of value, precised topic and very simple to understand. Your such a great writer and mentor. Thanks for sharing.

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