A Blog Content + Pay-Per-Click Traffic System That Works

by Brian Casel

Pay-per-click advertising is too expensive.

Too competitive.

Too complicated.

Too much work to “make it work”.

I tried again and again to get Facebook Ads and other PPC ads to be a viable marketing channel for my business.

Every time, I gave up, frustrated. I felt stuck with the same old “referral rollercoaster”. Traffic and leads come and go, ebb and flow, without any rhyme or reason. If only I had a lever I can push, a gas pedal I can step on, to drive more traffic and leads on demand.

Why PPC is Frustrating…

Pay-per-click advertising, such as Facebook Ads, have become increasingly competitive in recent years. That means it costs more to compete for eyeballs and clicks.

But what makes that so frustrating is that throwing more money at PPC actually doesn’t solve the cost problem!

You see, while costs for ads have soared, audiences have evolved too—especially business audiences. When you, I, and most other people scroll through our newsfeeds, we’re conditioned to ignore any posts that have the little “sponsored” tag on them.

sponsored PPC ad

Add ontop of this the fact that investing in PPC doesn’t feel sustainable over the longterm. Most ad campaigns work in short spending spurts. As soon as you turn off your spend, all traffic and traction comes to a screeching halt.

So the two most common reasons why we abandon PPC in our marketing are:

  • Costs per click are too high
  • We want our investment to pay off over the longterm, not one-and-done spurts.

Blog Content + PPC Ad Campaigns

…Equals a match made in marketing heaven 🙂

We’ve all known the benefits of content marketing with high quality blog articles. Steady, sustainable growth in organic traffic. Consistent rise in email list subscribers. A platform to educate your customers. But these only makeup the baseline.

When your blog is coupled with a simple, yet effective pay-per-click strategy, you can gain more traction, faster, and at a surprisingly manageable cost, with sustained longterm results.

In other words, you can actually (finally!) put PPC to work for your business by leveraging your blog content.

Many of our clients at Audience Ops have been doing exactly this using the blog content we produce for them. But for some reason, it only occurred to me recently that I should try this strategy out myself, using our own Audience Ops Blog content!

And what do ya know! Its working! So far, my campaigns that I built by leveraging our blog content have seen the lowest cost-per-clicks and lowest cost-per-email subscriber of any PPC experiment I’ve run before. Plus a few client signups came through that were nurtured through this funnel. In other words, this has been quite profitable in just its first month.

Finally. I found a system that I can continue to run and ramp up every month, to see a predictable and steady increase in traffic and leads. That makes a founder like me happy 🙂

Now, to be clear: You certainly don’t need to use PPC in order to be successful with content marketing. Like I said earlier, content alone, when done right, can result in amazing organic benefits for your business over the longterm. But if you’re looking for a more systematic way to ramp up and gain traction at a faster pace, this is the system we’ve seen work.

In this article, I’ll share all the details with you. Plus, I put together a bonus “Processes Pack” you can take with you:

Free Download:Swipe The Processes to Run This
Blog + PPC System
Download

Our Blog Content + PPC Ads System

Here it is in a nutshell:

  1. Produce & publish A+ blog content
  2. Promote those articles using PPC ads
  3. Capture readers’ email addresses using Content Upgrades
  4. Retarget recent visitors with more PPC ads
  5. Follow-up using email marketing automation to stay in their inbox and drive long-tail conversions.

Now let’s unpack all of this, shall we?

Why This Works

Before I get into the details, let me first share why this strategy of integrating blog content with PPC works better than running PPC ads on their own.

Like I said, the costs and competitiveness of pay-per-click have gone through the roof in recent years. Audiences—especially business audiences—know when they’re being sold to. They tend to avoid clicking or giving any attention whatsoever to sponsored posts in their newsfeeds, especially when they’re from a brand who they’ve never seen or heard of before.

The only way to break through is to make your very first touch with your audience (and 2nd and 3rd touch for that matter) a free blog article. If you’re driving your cold ads to an email opt-in for a “free” lead magnet, that’s not truly free. You’re still asking for an email address up-front. The days of this working are behind us.

Today, you have to compete with that “sponsored” word, plastered on your ads. The only way to get your ideal customers to click your ad despite seeing the word “sponsored” at the top of it, is to offer a truly insightful, unique, and helpful article. And this free blog article should only be a click away.

This is why this works.

The barrier to entry is lowered because there is minimal risk (if the blog article doesn’t deliver on it’s promise, they can always click their browser’s back button). This means more people click your ads (lower cost-per-click) and you have more opportunities to win their trust, then win their email address, and eventually win their business.

Now let’s talk details…

Step 1: Publish A+ Blog Content

Before you can fire up your Facebook Ad campaigns (or any other PPC ads you plan to run), you need the raw material to promote in those ads—A+ blog content.

“A+” blog content has to deliver on all of the following:

  • The topic has to be aimed at the problem that your business solves for customers.
  • It has to advance a key idea or perspective of yours (a.k.a. the reason why your product exists).
  • The writing has to meet a high-bar in terms of professional writing quality, optimized for web consumption, and compelling enough to read from start to finish. Think, bookmark-worthy content.

Since your business probably solves several different specific problems for customers, each with a variety of aspects to educate customers about, there is probably a treasure trove of article ideas that your writing team can run with. These can fill up your weekly blog content calendar for months, keeping a steady flow of highly relevant and highly targeted content coming, ready to be promoted through a variety of channels (PPC, email, social, etc.).

When you’re ready to start leveraging your blog content to power your PPC campaigns, I suggest starting with two or three of your best performing blog articles. Keep in mind, they must be targeted at the specific problems your business solves. This is key, because you want to resonate with people who’ve experienced those problems, making them prime candidates to eventually buy your product or service. So choose your “best” articles wisely.

You’ll run Facebook Ads to expose those articles to a wider audience (more on setting up these ads below).

As an example, lately we’ve selected two articles from our Audience Ops Blog to promote using Facebook Ads:  The first is this very article that you’re reading now. The second is my article about how to outsource content effectively.

Both articles have performed relatively well in terms of email open-rates, social shares, and pageviews. Plus, they also happen to be directly related to the very problems that Audience Ops solves for our clients (we help clients outsource quality blog content to use to promote their business).

In other words, when we promote these particular articles with PPC ads, we’re spending money to attract people who resonate with the very problems that we’re here to solve. This is what I mean when I say quality, targeted, content.

For more about the recurring process that goes into producing promote-able content, grab the bonus resource for this article.

Step 1 action items:

  • Work with your writing team to produce high-quality, targeted, “A+” blog articles for your business
  • Select at least two of your best performing articles to run ads to.
  • Over time, rotate in newer articles to see if you can “beat” the ones you’re currently promoting with ads.

Step 2: Create Your Facebook Pay-Per-Click Ad

I’ll focus on Facebook Ads here, since that’s my go-to platform when running this strategy. That’s because people on Facebook are in a “consumption” mindset, often casually browsing newsfeed posts for things that might interest them. That’s where the right article headline can grab their attention.

This first set of ads will be our “cold” pay-per-click ads. By “cold” I mean they will be shown to completely new audiences who’ve never seen or heard of your company before. The goal here is to gain exposure to new people.

Here’s a look at one of the Facebook Ads I created to promote my article, The Pitfalls When Outsourcing Content (And How to Avoid Them):

Facebook Ad

Creating The Ad

Nothing fancy here. The goal is to get people to click the ad to read this blog article. So when Facebook asked what is my objective for this ad, I chose “Traffic” (a.k.a. “Clicks to website”).

Facebook ad objective - Traffic

Then came crafting the content of the ad.

In the text shown at the top of the ad, I called out the type of person who would be interested in this topic (founders who are thinking about outsourcing content). Assuming this sentence resonates, it should grab their attention, get them to stop scrolling, and read the rest of the ad.

Facebook Ad Top Description

Moving down, we get to the image. This too is very important for grabbing the attention of people who are scrolling through their newsfeeds. I went with a photo of a person. I’ve heard photos of people tend to resonate better than graphics and text in Facebook Ads. And since the purpose of this ad is to promote a blog article, I went with a simple photo that seems to fit.

At some point down the road, maybe I’ll A/B test different photos to further optimize for clicks, but I want to keep things simple for now, and I suggest you should too in the early months.

Another tip—Make sure the photo used in the ad matches the featured image shown at the top of the blog article. The reader needs to feel that sense of continuity from Facebook to the ad to your blog.  Seeing the same image helps confirm that they’re in the right place and reduce the chance they’ll bounce and click their back button.

Facebook Ad Image

Finally, we get to the bottom section of the ad, which contains 4 components:  The headline, the description, the URL, and the button.

The headline should match the headline on the blog article. Again, that continuity factor comes into play here. It’s important that your writing team has a strong process for coming up with highly engaging headlines when planning your blog topics—especially those topics that will be promoted using PPC ads.

The description should be short and make a promise for how the reader will benefit from taking a few minutes to click and read this article.

Facebook allows you to customize the URL shown in the ad. Meaning, you can show a different URL than the actual URL the ad points to. My recommendation here is to use your domain name. The domain they see should match the domain they arrive at from the ad.  Again, continuity. But you can append a key term to the end of the URL, matching the topic of the article, as I did.

Finally, the button text. You can’t customize this to your heart’s content, unfortunately. Facebook only provides a handful of options to choose from. For this type of ad, I typically go with “Learn More” since that most closely matches what will happen after this button is clicked (if I had a choice, I would go with something even more accurate, like “Read Now”, but that’s not an option).

Facebook Ad Headline

Targeting The Ad

As I said, this ad should be shown to a “cold” audience. People who’ve never seen or heard of your company before. Our goal, of course, is to show the ad to people who A) have a high likelihood of clicking the ad and B) are likely to become customers for our business. So how should we set up our targeting?

The options and combinations are endless when it comes to Facebook’s targeting and micro-targeting capabilities. Plus, they’re constantly rolling out new and interesting ways to custom tailor who sees your ads. The problem we’re faced with is not a lack of options, but too many options!

I suggest you keep it simple. Start with a “Lookalike” audience based off a list of emails.

Without going into the technical aspects of setting this up (here’s Facebook’s documentation on Lookalike Audiences), basically, Facebook allows you to upload a list of emails to create a “Custom Audience”. You can either target those people on Facebook, or you can target other people who “Look like” those people. Since we want to reach new people, not people who are already on our email list, we’re going with the latter—a “Lookalike” audience.

Now, many people simply upload their entire email subscriber list and use that as the basis for generating your Lookalike audience. This is OK. But I suggest going a step further: Before uploading your list to Facebook, pare it down to include only the emails of your current and past customers, and perhaps your most engaged leads.

In my case, I used the list of our clients, plus the list of people who’ve requested a sales consultation, plus the list of people who’ve requested to see our sample articles. This list represents only the people who’ve had some level of interest in actually becoming clients. I want to find more people who look like these people.

Step 2 Action Items:

  • Create a Facebook Ad with the objective set to “Traffic”
  • Spend time writing short but compelling content for the ad
  • Match up the image and headline from the ad to the blog article
  • Create a “lookalike” audience based on your customers list
  • Create additional ads for a 2nd, 3rd, promote-able article
  • Set your daily budget, then activate once the rest of these steps are ready to go…

Step 3: Win The Right to Email Them

You’ve published A+ blog content.  You’re running paid traffic to your key blog articles. But your system isn’t complete. Don’t press Go until you’ve got all of these pieces in place… This next one is key:

If your readers don’t give you their email address, then they won’t return to your site. Even if they liked what they read! Even if they might be interested in your product! If they’re not in your orbit, chances are they’ll get too busy, forget your site, and never return.

You’re spending good money to develop high-quality blog articles and spending more to drive paid traffic to them. Don’t let those first-time visitors fly by without inviting them into your email list.

Content Upgrades

This is where Content Upgrades come into play. Every blog article should have one, especially your key articles that you’re promoting with ads. A Content Upgrade is an extra piece of bonus content offered in exchange for the reader’s email address.

There are two things you have to nail in order to make your Content Upgrades convert like crazy:

  1. It has to be genuinely useful and actionable.
    They don’t necessarily need to be long. They shouldn’t just be more written content. But your reader should be able to put it to use that day. I like to think of it this way: Your article teaches the concept. The Content Upgrade provides the tool to put that concept into action.
  2. It has to be relevant to the topic of the article.
    Every Content Upgrade is unique to the article it came with. The readers who clicked a link to arrive at this article did so because they experience the problem that this article promises to solve. If your Content Upgrade further helps them achieve that goal, (and your article kept their attention and won their trust) then they’re highly likely to enter their email address to grab the bonus content too.

For example, this article (of course) has a Content Upgrade attached to it. It’s a collection of repeatable processes you and your team can use to put this system into action.  You can grab it right here 🙂

By the way, since Audience Ops creates unique Content Upgrades for every article we produce for our clients, we’ve developed and released our own WordPress plugin to streamline the process of embedding the Content Upgrade, setting up the email opt-in form, delivering the bonus content, and passing the reader’s email address over to your email tool (like Drip or Mailchimp).  As you can imagine, it’s a tedious process without a tool like this.

Lead Magnets

In addition to Content Upgrades, which are unique to every blog article, I recommend you also establish a global lead magnet.

This can come in the form of a multi-day drip email course, an ebook, a white paper, a recorded or live webinar, or any combination of these. The idea is to offer yet another entry-point where visitors can join your email list and get more value from you.

The key is to ensure that the topic of your global lead magnet is squarely focused on the problem that your business solves for customers. It should lead directly into a pitch to try or buy your product. In other words, first educate about the problem, why it exists, how it can be overcome. Then offer your product, positioned as the best possible (and more efficient) way to solve that problem.

For example, here at Audience Ops, at the time of this writing, we have two global lead magnets:

One is our recorded video workshop called Sell t0 Strangers. The other is our 5-day email crash course called Content Marketing on Autopilot. Both are aimed at educating about why the lack of a systematic content marketing system makes it an uphill battle to attract and win over customers (and how establishing such a system solves that problem).

Many people will opt-in directly for your global lead magnet, perhaps through a popup or slide-up form on your website. But others may enter your email list some other way, such as by opting in for a Content Upgrade. So you should have smart email automation in place to ensure those who enter your list but haven’t yet received your lead magnet are offered a chance to get it. Check out my article showing how to set up such an email automation flow using Drip.

Still, others may visit your site and for whatever reason choose not to enter their email address on their first visit. So the next step is to plug that hole…

Step 3 Action Items:

  • Make sure your articles contain high-value Content Upgrades
  • Develop and launch a global lead magnet

Step 4: Use Retargeting Ads to Bring People Back

The combination of cold PPC ads and traffic from organic sources such as search, social, and referrals are what will drive new people to your site. And assuming you’re publishing new quality content and continuing to distribute it using systems like the ones we teach and use at Audience Ops, then your new visitor traffic should steadily increase over time.

The final two steps here are aimed at retaining and re-engaging those visitors. The goal, of course, is to turn them into repeat visitors, subscribers, leads, and eventually customers.

As I said, there will always be a significant group of visitors who don’t opt-into your email list or become a lead on there very first visit. That doesn’t necessarily mean they weren’t interested or turned off (afterall, something brought them there in the first place, right?). Maybe they didn’t have much time, maybe they got distracted, maybe they weren’t ready… It doesn’t matter.

What matters is that you at least re-invite them back to your site to take a second look or check out another piece of content that they may have missed on their first visit.

The way to do this is with retargeting ads. The basic concept is to show ads specifically to people who visited your website recently.

Public service announcement:  The only way you’ll be able to run Facebook retargeting ads is if you have the Facebook pixel installed on your website. This enables you to build the list of visitors to show ads to later. Even if you’re not ready to start running paid ads today, this week or even this month, you should still get your Facebook pixel installed now! It’s free and it can take time to build up those retargeting lists, so don’t delay.

The cool thing about retargeting ads is that you can set them up in an evergreen sequence. Think of it just like an email autoresponder, except you’re showing the person a sequence of ads instead of sending them a sequence of emails.

Facebook enables you to set a “window” of up to 180 days.  Meaning, you can retarget people who visited your website anytime in up to the last 6 months! However, in our experiments, we found that the more recently someone visited our site, the more likely they are to click a retargeting ad. Cost per click is dramatically better within the 14-day window. This makes sense, because the more recently they visited, the more likely they are to remember who we are, and the more likely they are to click our ad.

Here’s an example retargeting “sequence” that I set up for us:

  1. 0 – 7 days since their visit:
    Show an ad promoting our primary lead magnet, a recorded video workshop
  2. 8 – 14 days since their visit:
    Show an ad promoting a key article
  3. 15 – 21 days since their visit:
    Show an ad promoting our secondary lead magnet, our drip email course
  4. 22 – 28 days since their visit:
    Show an ad promoting another key article
  5. 29 – 35 days since their visit:
    Show an ad promoting another key article

There certainly aren’t any hard and fast rules here. I encourage you to experiment and tweak. Try a lower or higher number of days in each step. Test different articles and lead magnets. Your combination of retargeting ads will surely perform differently than mine and the next business’.

Targeting

You’ll need to set up separate Facebook Custom Audiences and a separate ad for each step in your retargeting sequence.  Obviously, these will be built based on recent visitors to your website.

It’s important that you “exclude” certain people from these custom audiences. You probably don’t want to show your ads to current customers. You might want to exclude anyone who’s already in your sales leads pipeline. And you may want to exclude all of your email subscribers too, since you can follow up with them over email (more on this in the next step).

Keeping your Facebook Custom Audiences in sync with your current lists of customers, leads and subscribers can be a pain. There are a few software tools intended to handle this, which are worth trying. However, I’ve simply had my virtual assistant update my custom audiences on a weekly basis with the exact criteria that I want. This is one of the processes that I included in the processes pack for you to download here.

Step 4 Action Items:

  • Install your Facebook Pixel on your website (yesterday!) if you haven’t already!
  • Create your Facebook Custom Audiences for various lengths of time since visiting your website
  • Exclude your customers, leads, and/or subscribers from your custom audiences.
  • Create your sequence of retargeting ads
  • Tweak and experiment over time

Step 5: Consistent Email Follow Up

This last step might be the most critical.

You’ve spent time and resources on producing key blog content, setting up carefully crafted PPC ads and retargeting sequences. These serve as your engine for driving new traffic to your site and engaging them during those initial weeks of discovery.

But here’s the reality: That’s not good enough.

Even the best, most popular and most-loved products are lucky to convert just 10% of their new visitors to paying customers. The vast majority of customers end up buying several weeks or months after their initial discovery of your site and product.

If you don’t have consistent, long-term followup in place, then you’re potentially letting 90%+ of your people drift away. Not to mention the waste of time, money, and resources you spent on attracting them in the first place!

The key is to come back to their email inbox several times per month over the long-term. This keeps your name top of mind and provides ongoing opportunities to re-engage your people.

Should you send them the same sales pitch over and over? Of course not. You need a better reason to plop something in their email inbox every week. More educational content related to the problems you solve for customers. This is what resonates with your people, causes them to actually open your emails, read your stuff, and actually receive value from you.

That builds a sense of trust, loyalty, and familiarity, that grows over time. And assuming these people truly experience the problem that your business exists to solve, chances are they’ll become a customer of yours sooner or later.

Email Newsletters

Since you’re already producing high-quality, relevant blog content on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, you should be sending an email newsletter to announce every new blog article when it comes out.

Just a short message focused on the question or problem the article solves, why it’s important, and a link to read it on your blog. Here’s a look at one of our recent newsletters we sent to our list:

Email Newsletter

New Lead Nurture Pieces

I talked about having lead magnets on your site to attract new email subscribers. But these serve a second, perhaps even more important purpose: To nurture your email subscribers.

Not all of your email subscribers will have received all of your various lead nurturing pieces. Perhaps they came into your list via a Content Upgrade but haven’t yet received your drip email course or attended your webinar yet.

Using email marketing automation workflows, you can insert strategically timed “pitches” for these lead magnets throughout the course of their lifetime on your list. These provide additional opportunities for your email subscribers to escalate from being a casual reader into an engaged lead moving toward making a buying decision.

Of course, using smart tagging in your email marketing tool, you can set it up to check whether or not a subscriber has already received a lead nurturing piece or if they’re already a customer. Obviously, you want to ensure subscribers are only receiving content they haven’t seen before.

Direct Sales Pitches

Now don’t get me wrong. While the majority of your content marketing efforts and emails you’re sending should be educational, value-added content, you shouldn’t eliminate your direct sales pitches entirely.

After all, you’re in business to sell product.

The best places to insert sales pitches are immediately after delivery of a lead nurturing piece. Since you’ve just taught the best practices, your product pitch is positioned as the logical “next step” to solving this problem for good.

But you can (and should) insert occasional mentions of your product or service within your content or as a “P.S.” appended to the end of some of your emails. The more relevant the placement of these mentions, the better.

Step 5 Action Items

  • Incorporate regularly scheduled email newsletters into your blog content calendar
  • Setup email automation workflows to pitch your lead nurturing pieces throughout a subscriber’s lifetime.
  • Insert strategically placed mentions and pitches for your product in your emails and content.

Running The System

As you can see, there are multiple moving parts involved when you’re running your blog content calendar combined with pay-per-click campaigns.

The key is to establish the recurring systems and processes to ensure everything gets done and you remain consistent. This is how you’ll see results over the longterm and improve over time.

With this in mind, I put together a package of recurring processes to help you put this stuff into action in your business. Grab it here:

Free Download:Swipe The Processes to Run This
Blog + PPC System
Download

I hope this guide serves as a foundation for you to build on! As with anything in marketing, the key is to continuously adapt and improve.

Need help producing your key blog content and lead nurturing assets to power up your PPC funnels? My team and I would love to chat about it. Learn more about Audience Ops done-for-you content service here.

  • John Teel

    Awesome post Brian! Definitely bookmark worthy. I’ll have to give PPC another try.

    Thanks
    John Teel

  • Christopher Williams

    Awesome post Brian!

  • Nice article, Brian.

    May I ask what kind of ROI you’re getting on your ad spend?

    Also, how are you tracking everything? Google Analytics?

    • Thanks Vic,

      Tracking ROI is never perfect and being a higher priced service, that adds some ambiguity (some clients sign up with me over a call / use a different email and or computer when signing up etc.).
      Although it’s still early (just a couple months in) I do know that the ROI has been several thousand dollars. 1 client is worth several $K, we’ve had several signups that I can link back to Ads, and I’ve only been spending a few hundred $ per month so far.
      To track, I look at a combination of:

      – Facebook Ads stats
      – Mixpanel Funnel metrics
      – Ops Calendar conversion metrics on individual articles
      – Google Analytics Goal conversions and traffic sources
      – Answers to the “how did you hear about us?” question on our lead form – Clients verbally mentioning our ads during a sales call.

      When you add in multi-touch conversions it becomes even muddier.

      At the end of the day but I do know is that numbers of looked up since having this system running.

  • yogizoli

    Great post Brian! It’s really convincing that I should use blog again 🙂
    There are few keys which I’d like to add, it’ll boost your results.

    1. Think of your email system as your blog: systematically. Nurture then pitch with campaing. Then again. Then again. In this mindset I see that you think of pitching them 1-2 times. Try this: you pitch them once when they signup with and email drip campaign. Then with a webinar. Then with a launch. Then with a short deadline only email campaign. The first “no” only means “not yet” or “not now”.

    2. The summa ROI should be counted not for just conversion – but conversion from all the campaigns coming from this point. Assuming numbers:
    $1000 ads buget, let’s say 1000 clicks and $1 CPC. Let’s say 500 opt-ins. Let’s say 50 clicks to your offer in the first week, Campaing one. 5 purchase from that, with $400 means $2000 revenue. If you minus the tools and people, let’s say $500, pure profit is $500, right?
    Nope.
    Because week 2-3 is Campaing 2. Another +3 conversions.
    Week 4-5-6 is Camaign 3. Another +2 conversions.
    Means: you just double conversions by simply addid more campaigns and deepening your funnels.

    Make sense? 🙂

    The best part is: you only paid for these leads once. You paid when they opt-in and you can pitch them anytime, from a different angle, different product or different approach, ie. different bonuses, or different way, ie webinars.

    3. If you sell for businesses, and I assume your do, because your entire blog is about that 🙂 – you can do direct approach for those who didn’t opt-in. Best decision-makers will never opt-in – but they reply to direct approaches. Get their contact (I use Leadberry, but I’m heavily biased :)), and reach out to them directly. You get better response then retargeting will do.

    I hope this helps 🙂