November 30, 2015
Have you heard of pumpkin hacking?
I know that Halloween has passed us by and you’re probably thinking, “I already carved my Jack ‘O Lantern!”
Hear us out for a second though, because this post is about more than just your average pumpkin.
As it turns out, pumpkin hacking doesn’t have anything to do with an actual pumpkin, but it does have a whole lot to do with your content.
Read on to learn more.
What is Pumpkin Hacking?
In order to understand pumpkin hacking, it’s useful to understand actual pumpkins! When a farmer sets out to grow a prize-winning pumpkin in his or her garden, there are a few distinct steps that the farmer must take.
First of all, the seeds need to be planted. Once they’ve been planted, they must be watered often and the area must be weeded. As the pumpkins grow, the farmer needs to prune the vines to take away the small, stunted pumpkins and leave more room for large, promising ones. Although it may be hard work, these steps produce pumpkins that win world records and render the locals slack-jawed at the state fair.
Now, I now we promised you that this article wasn’t about pumpkins, so here’s how it carries over into content.
Great content is a lot like the process of growing a great pumpkin
Here’s what I mean: The process of pumpkin hacking as it applies to content is essentially this: marketers plant so-called “seeds” by testing new marketing ideas often. They publish new content, experiment with different content forms, keep re-evaluating their calendar and distribution channels, and engage industry leaders.
Once the seeds have been planted, marketers nurture them by promoting their content, advertising it, spreading it through different distribution channels, and interacting with audiences. Once it becomes clear which content people love (these are the big, promising pumpkins on the vine) marketers re-double their efforts by focusing more on those content forms and nurturing their success.
Once those steps are done, the marketer is free to sit back and watch the content enterprise grow, stepping in to test new pieces and ideas and promote new campaigns. When this pattern of pumpkin hacking is practiced reliably, marketers will soon find themselves with a mix of content that draws organic traffic and has a long lifespan.
There you have it – a lesson in pumpkin farming and creating killer content.
How Pumpkin Hacking Helps Your Content
While it may seem like none of the individual pieces of the pumpkin hacking process are revolutionary (and you’re right about that), it’s important to note that it is the combination of parts rather than the parts themselves that make the difference.
When marketers maintain this pattern of planting, nurturing, sowing, and harvesting, they can quickly find themselves with a formidable content dynasty that exceeds their expectations. If you need an example, consider YourListen.com, which managed to increase its organic site traffic 300 percent over the course of 18 months.
What sets this site apart is that it wasn’t brand new and it already drew in about 230,000 views each month. Additionally, the site didn’t create a single piece of content, as the site relies completely upon user-generated content.
The way that this site produced such a huge jump in traffic was to employ the basics of pumpkin hacking: by paying attention to which pages on the site earned the most traffic, they were able to optimize each of those pages for a number of familiar things, such as on-page SEO (including links with anchor text), and links for “featured content” pages. The site also used exciting one-time events (specifically, music releases on the homepage) to direct a huge amount of short-term traffic to the site. The site also cleaned up its URL architecture and focused on optimizing their crawler budget in order to produce better SEO rankings. Within a few months of making these changes, the site was up to more than one million visits.
4 Takeaways to Make Pumpkin Hacking Your Own
While these results may seem astronomical, they’re really not and it’s easy to produce them by doing these four things:
- Make the most of your website’s internal links. This means that your strongest pages should link back to other pages on your site, spreading traffic around and driving users to different portions of your site.
- Optimize your site for crawlers. This means that you should eliminate your weak or duplicate content (think about the farmer trimming the small pumpkins from the vine) and focus on cornerstone content that can drive traffic for an extended period of time.
- Optimize your sitemap. This makes your site easier to navigate and index and when you submit it through Webmaster Tools it can help you produce killer SEO rankings.
- Make use of one-time events. Every site needs the occasional influx of short-term traffic and what you do to produce yours will depend entirely on who your readers are and what they want. Take a look at your analytics to determine which events produce the most traffic and focus on nurturing those.
Whether you’ve ever had an interest in pumpkin farming, pumpkin hacking is a great way to grow your traffic, make your best content more visible to interested parties, produce a better internal linking system, and help your site succeed. By focusing on your strongest content and pruning everything else, you can produce a strong website that offers unparalleled value and relevance to your users. Plus, you might win a ribbon or two at the state fair.
Julia McCoy is a top 30 content marketer and has been named an industry thought leader by several publications. She enjoys making the gray areas of content marketing clear with practical training, teaching, and systems. Her career in content marketing was completely self-taught. In 2011, she dropped out of college to follow her passion in writing, and since then grew her content agency, Express Writers, to thousands of worldwide clients from scratch. Julia is the author of two bestselling books on content marketing and copywriting, and is the host of The Write Podcast. Julia writes as a columnist on leading publications and certifies content strategists in her training course, The Content Strategy & Marketing Course. Julia lives in Austin, Texas with her daughter, husband, and one fur baby.