When it comes to digital content promotion, e-books are clearly the dark horse.

With over 5 million e-books available on Kindle alone, it’s safe to pronounce e-books the new alternative to print. Consumer e-books will generate almost $20 billion in revenue by the end of 2018.

Which is why every marketer worth their salt is advising businesses and industry experts to create content assets in the form of e-books, in an effort to capture thought leadership with a subtle but effective way of bypassing the hard sell.

The e-book offers a critical benefit over the blog post or printed paper: it tells the creator something about the reader, either immediately or in the near future, via an action as simple as collecting an email address. This forms the basis of the most elemental part of sales: lead generation.

There was a time when putting out an e-book got you qualified leads and set you apart enough to start picking up subscribers by the dozens. Those days are gone now. You’ll need to promote that e-book, like it was a product in and of itself. If you really want the leads coming in, that is.

And while creating an e-book has never been easier, marketing it has never been more challenging. It takes mastery of the domain as well as digital channels to successfully promote and distribute it. Let’s explore a few of the more effective methods.

1. Prior Relationships And Linkers

One of the most overlooked strategies for drawing attention to an e-book really should be one of the most obvious. Those who have helped in promoting you in the past are your strongest asset in any promotional effort.

The more outreach you do, the more you will realize that context is everything. In cold outreach, the most important step is to establish a context for the communication, so that it doesn’t come across as a mass email.

If you have a prior relationship with the influencer you are contacting, that step becomes far easier.

While contacting some of the people you have worked with in the past may be an obvious step, a less obvious effort is to reach out to others who you may never have spoken with directly. This includes people who have shared your blog posts and other material on social media, as well as people who have linked to you in the past.

You can use a tool like MuckRack’s Who Shared My Link? to find who has shared your material in the past and get in touch with them. You can also use SEO tools like Ahrefs and SEMrush to identify the websites that have linked to your content.

How you choose to follow up with these people will be context dependent, but it will give you a starting place.

2. Exit Intent Pop-Ups

Pop-up forms may be a nuisance, but study after study finds that they are the best at getting attention and swaying people to join an email list in order to get a copy of your list-building asset.

Since timed pop-ups interrupt the reader while they are still in the process of consuming your content, I advise against using them. That’s why I recommend using exit-intent pop-ups. These pop-up forms only show up either when the user moves their mouse toward the “back” button or when they start scrolling up to leave.

Look at case studies people have shared on Quora, for an idea of how well these tend to work. Exit-intent pop-ups can increase signups by over a 100 percent in some cases, and typically don’t have a negative impact on bounce rates or other measureable metrics. As with anything, you will need to experiment and split test in order to determine how well they work for you.

Do not confuse exit-intent pop-ups with dialogue boxes that pop up and prevent the user from leaving when they press the back button. These are incredibly frustrating and are likely to make unrepairable damage to your brand.

A popular and fairly priced option that I’m aware of is Sumo List Builder.

3. Influencer Involvement

One of the smartest and most effective ways to promote an e-book is to build some of the promotion into the e-book itself by involving influencers in the process.

There are a number of ways to go about doing this:

  • Send an e-mail to influencers for their opinion or advice on something and publish their responses in the e-book.
  • Ask for influencers’ advice and feedback during the writing process. Those who are willing to help will feel it to be an investment in the finished product, especially if you thank them by naming them publicly for the help.
  • Make the e-book a co-authored asset and use it as a shared list-building asset.

Anything you can do to get the influencers involved in the process early is going to pay off for you, provided that you aren’t treating them like an intern who can be ordered around for no pay.

Once you’ve worked together with an influencer on your e-book, following up with them after it has been published in order to encourage them to share it is a very natural next step.

4. Smart Guest Posting

Everybody understands the value of guest posting by now, but writing guest posts specifically to promote an e-book and to earn actual referral traffic is a less-commonly used tactic. If you’re going into this with the old-school notion that the links are strictly for SEO, you’re not going to earn the kind of traffic you actually need, to build that list.

A smart guest posting strategy for list building relies on your ability to earn placements:

  • On high traffic publications where a significant number of people will actually see it.
  • Publications where your target audience resides.
  • In a way that will actually get the reader to click on your link and see the landing page for your list-building asset.

In order to accomplish this, you will need to change a few things up:

  • Focus on finding the message that works and then stick to it. You can use a scattershot approach at first, but once you figure out what is landing you on high traffic platforms and getting people to click through actually, you should start taking that message to as many places as will be willing to accept it.
  • On that note, you need to make sure you are getting published in a wide variety of industries, where your target audience resides, instead of being caught up in your own industry bubble. When you get caught in your bubble, you will end up speaking to your competitors instead of your target audience, and you will also find yourself limited in your ability to repeat your message, which is exactly what you will need to do in order to be effective.
  • The message that is likely to work needs to relate directly to the problem that your e-book solves. If it doesn’t build an interest in that problem and a desire to have it solved, it isn’t going to lead anybody to click on your link, which in most cases will be buried in the bio if you are on a respected platform. Platforms that will let you place the link right in the blog post itself are rare.
  • The message also needs to be interesting and useful enough on its own to be accepted and to attract huge attention, while at the same time not solving precisely the same problem as your e-book (which would, of course, make reading the e-book redundant). You can accomplish this by tackling a problem that can’t be adequately solved in the length of a typical blog post, by tackling one small sub-problem, or by tackling a related problem that leads naturally into the next one.
  • You need to treat your bio as a call to action. It should follow naturally from the content of the blog post and address the need that the post itself did not address. The blog post link should then let them know where they can find the solution from you, in natural language.

5. Crowdsourcing

While crowdsourcing has largely become synonymous with crowdfunding, that’s not actually what I’m talking about here.

Instead, I’m talking about taking an approach similar to “influencer involvement” above, only this time I’m suggesting that instead of focusing on a few influential people, you should involve a much larger number of people who may not necessarily be all that influential.

I won’t go too in depth here because I feel it’s better to let you brainstorm a solution that fits your brand, but I will elaborate a bit on the core concept. The idea here is to involve as many people as you can in the process of creating the e-book, so that they will go out and share with others to let them know about their involvement.

This could extend to a contest of some sort that is related more to the promotion of the e-book than its creation.

Either way, the end game is to get a large number of people sharing the e-book and pick up a bit of viral traffic, as a result.

6. Widely Read Content Submission Sites

Hands down, the sites that send by far the most referral traffic are content submission sites. I’m talking about sites like Reddit, Inbound.org, Hacker News, and the Growth Hacker community. These are sites that are designed specifically for posting content, which is then voted on by the community. The links take users directly to the content, and those links are the reason that most users are on the site in the first place.

Don’t rush into this without being careful, however. Content submission sites usually have a “downvote” button, and they’re not afraid to use it. These sites tend to be very anti-spam, and their tolerance for something that feels even a little bit like spam is very, very low.

You definitely should not post an e-book landing page to one of these sites.

However, you can have much better luck if you submit a link to other content, which leads naturally into your e-book.

If you want to be successful with these types of sites, I highly recommend getting involved with the site and contributing regularly for about a month before submitting any of your own content. This will give you a feel for how the community works, and building up a profile that isn’t focused on self-promotion is an absolute necessity if you don’t want to be blocked from submitting in the future.

7. Keyword Choice

Keyword choice may not sound a whole lot like a “promotional” tactic, but your choice of keywords is likely to make a bigger impact on the amount of traffic you receive for your e-book, as just about anything else.

The biggest mistake people make when choosing keywords for an e-book is that the fail to choose keywords that lend themselves naturally to list building. If your goal is to build a list, you should be using related keywords like:

  • Download
  • E-book
  • Whitepaper

And so on.

Your title should also stand out from the other things people may come across in the search results. It should be promising a solution that a typical blog post can’t.

8. Contextual Internal Linking

While exit-intent pop-ups are often the most successful way to drive signups, a site that is truly designed to build an e-mail list should be able to do so even without them, even if they are blocked.

People have been dealing with the internet for long enough that; they have developed a natural ad blindness. Nothing that looks remotely like an advertisement is even seen by most of your visitors, especially if they are tech savvy. While exit-intent pop-ups tend to perform better because they appear directly in the user line of sight, the user’s first instinct is still to close the pop-up and move on.

The best performing list-building calls to action are always the contextual links. These links occur very naturally in a blog post or other piece of content, either at a natural stopping point or at the end of the post, when the reader’s next natural step is either to read something else or hit the back button.

By “very naturally,” I mean that the link offers a solution to a problem that is cultivated in the blog post and flows very naturally from it. If you haven’t guessed it, this means that you should be selecting your topics so that they do precisely this.

9. Contextual Forms

Of course, you can take things a step further than the contextual link and just include the signup form right in the post itself.

By this, I don’t mean you should present the signup form without any introduction or context. However, let the language of the post lead naturally into the signup form, with no change in the font or anything that would cause the reader’s ad blindness to take effect.

10. “Best Of”

This approach is related to the idea of “influencer involvement” mentioned above.

The idea is to produce an e-book that is a list of the “best of” some particular product line, industry, media space, expertise, or anything else that people or products could be ranked the “best of.”

It should go without saying that if somebody is listed in a “best of” list, they will be happy to know this and might like to share this information with their audience.

This approach is of course built into the e-book topic itself, but if it lends itself well to your brand, it’s a smart approach to take. Just make sure to follow up with the influencers after the e-book is published and let them know about their inclusion.

11. Profile Links

This is an easy step, and it would also be easy to overstate how much traffic it sends, but the ease of doing it is also a reason this step can be forgotten. I’ve certainly seen people sign up for an e-book after clicking a profile link, and if your profile links point to your e-book landing page instead of your homepage, your email list is likely to grow faster than it otherwise would.

12. Q&A Sites

Out of all of the various types of sites that send referral traffic, Q&A sites like Quora are certainly a contender for sending the evergreen traffic. The links on Q&A sites tend to have staying power because people use them much like they would a search engine, allowing them to send traffic for a much longer period of time than most social media, which inevitably focusses on current events or recent social media posts.

Stay active on Q&A sites and you can expect to see some cumulative growth in your referral traffic. Make sure that your profile links to your e-book landing page and that your answers are topically related, and you can expect to pick up some loyal e-mail contacts with this method.

13. Visual Social Media Posting

Social media deals in bite-size, visual pieces of information. The most common mistake that people make when they try and promote an e-book on social media (or any long form content, for that matter), is that they try to promote the e-book itself.

The problem with this approach is that the e-book itself will not be shared. Only a portion of the people who see the post are going to read the e-book, no matter how good your marketing is. If they haven’t read it, why would they share the post?

In order for your post to get in front of eyeballs, you need to get the post re-shared, and that means the focus shouldn’t be on the e-book itself. Instead, it should be on one bite-size piece of information from the e-book, styled to be visually interesting. This is what will actually get shared.

The social media post should then contextually link or direct users to the e-book for those who are interested in devouring more.

14. Your Existing E-mail List

Don’t neglect the importance of your existing e-mail list.

Many marketers think of their e-mail list strictly as a group of people that they are trying to convert into sales. However, these subscribers aren’t just leads, they are people who love your content enough to give you their email address, which is no small decision to make.

It’s not a stretch to think that these people may know others who are interested in solving similar problems, and that they might be willing to share your information with them.

Share your e-book with your existing e-mail list, with the goal of building loyalty and encouraging sharing behavior.

15. Resource Lists

The resource list is one of the most underrated places to be. We are talking about a link that has the long-term potential of a Q&A link, as well as the intent to click behind a content submission site. Resource lists are lists of links that are designed to be clicked on, and they have staying power. Get yourself listed in a resource list and you can expect to see a great deal of traffic for an extended period of time.

The best way to get included in resource lists is to design your e-book from the start with them in mind. I would even recommend going as far as locating several of the resource lists you want to target for outreach before you even start writing the e-book.

If you do this work up-front, you will have a solid idea of what these resource lists are looking for, as well as what they are not currently including in their lists.

Needless to say, you should provide the curators of these lists with your completed e-book so that they can look it over and decide if it is worth adding to the list.

The biggest obstacle here is that most of these curated lists point to resources that the reader can access for free and without signing up for anything. If you can locate lists without this restriction in your industry, good for you. If you can’t, the best way forward is to create an open resource that leads naturally into your e-book.

16. Press Releases

Google may have decided that press releases shouldn’t be relied on, to provide meaningful links for SEO, but press releases can be a very powerful way to earn attention and promote your e-book, provided you know how to approach them properly.

The important thing to recognize about press releases is who the target audience is: the news industry.

If you are submitting your press release to a legitimate distribution service, it will end up in the feeds of major news companies, who are always starving for content.

Nevertheless, an e-book isn’t exactly newsworthy content fodder.

Moreover, that’s why your e-book should come paired with a publicity stunt of some kind that transforms it into a newsworthy discussion.

17. Interviews

One alternative to guest posts that many marketers don’t consider is the possibility of interview with a reporter, either for an article or for a podcast.

There isn’t much here that is a great deal different from the process of reaching out for a guest post, it’s simply an approach that many don’t think about.

Help A Reporter Out is a good place to start, since this is a place where you can find reporters who are already looking for experts to talk to.

You can also:

  • Search for interviews conducted with other specific characters in your industry or others, related to your target audience.
  • Search for podcasters who cover topics that relate directly to your e-book.

Search for bloggers who regularly publish interviews in topics related to your e-book.

The key is to focus on the value you can provide to the interviewer. What can you do for their audience and how well will your expertise lend itself to the kind of content the interviewer is interested in publishing.

18. Blog Commenting

By now, blog commenting as a marketing strategy is seen by most as a spam tactic from a bygone era, a way to cheat the search engines and build unearned “dofollow” links.

If that’s how you picture blog commenting as a promotional strategy, I’m here to tell you that there is absolutely a way to make it work.

Neil Patel earned himself 4,000 visits, six qualified leads, and $25,000 in revenue with about 250 comments.

Blog commenting is a way to get your face and personality out there where your audience is. Highly trafficked blogs with highly engaged audiences are the place to be if you want people to come to know who you are, and if you want people to read your e-books, getting people to know who you are is all but crucial.

For blog commenting to work, you need to make sure you are doing it in the right places. The blog should be heavily trafficked, and the easiest way to tell is, if they regularly receive many comments. Of course, the blog should also be on topic, so that your comments will be relevant.

Do not comment on blogs that have a spam problem. These comment sections aren’t being read.

Focus on blogs where people are responding to each other. If each comment sits in isolation, there isn’t much of a community, and people aren’t going to be as likely to click.

You should be active enough to comment early, so that your comments are seen close to the top of the discussion. In general, you should comment in response to others, with something helpful to contribute.

If you do all of this, then if your user name leads people to your e-book, they will be more likely to sign up.

19. Forums

In much the same way, internet forums can be a great place to build referral traffic to your site. While they might sound very old school, internet forums are still heavily trafficked, and most of the on-topic discussions happening on the internet are still happening on forums. Social media discussions, in contrast, tend to be less focused, topically. There are a few specific-topic focused social media groups, but these should be treated in essentially the same way as forums.

The ideal forum, which is widely read, is topic focused and allows you to post a link in your forum signature that will guide the users to your e-book. Make sure that the forum is in regular use. Don’t bother posting to forums if the typical thread gets few responses and new posts aren’t published regularly. Always read the posting guidelines before contributing.

As with blog commenting, make an effort to regularly post replies to others in need. With forums, however, you do have more leeway to create your own posts. You can treat these much like blog posts, or even republish your blog posts in forums, and use them as a lead into your e-book.

20. Writing Columns

Since guest posting has so much of its origins wrapped up in SEO, and since for a long time SEOs valued link diversity more than link authority, many digital marketers neglect the value of obtaining a regular posting position with a media outlet.

Don’t make this mistake.

Many trusted publications are looking for regular contributors, and those who regularly contribute to a publication will receive a regular boost to their referral traffic.

Keep your e-book in your bio and watch the signups start to pile on.

21. Infographics and Pinterest

Pinterest is still one of the most powerful sources of referral traffic out there. For many bloggers, it is the number one source of referral traffic. While the demographics do tend to lean more towards women and homemakers, male users have grown by 120% in the past year, and the topical diversity of the site has grown dramatically since it first launched.

To drive Pinterest users to your e-book, build an infographic or “instructographic” built off of something from your e-book, and post it to Pinterest. The idea of Pinterest visual for driving referral traffic is sized perfectly so that you can tell what it is, from looking at it, but will need to click the link to view the image and get the full effect.

Don’t bait and switch the user. The full image should be available on your site, but it should lead naturally into a call to action to pick up the e-book, ideally with the promise of similar visuals behind the signup.

22. Objection-Smashing Landing Pages

The tightest bottleneck in the success of your e-book promotion is, of course, right at the landing page or signup form.

It is here that the lead is presented with an opportunity and will usually end up dismissing it, because the risk of getting more spam in their inbox simply isn’t worth it for them.

You can do a lot to boost that conversion rate, however, if you understand exactly what your leads objections are and how to overcome them.

A lead needs two primary things from the landing page:

  • Assurance that they aren’t going to start getting more spam in their inbox.
  • Assurance that what is in the e-book is worth any lingering doubt that spam is still on the way.

To start with, you should assure the users that you do not sell their personal information or give their email address to anybody else. This is typically enough to overcome that objection, as long as the promise of the e-book itself offers enough value.

The best way to overcome doubt about the value of the e-book is to be clear about what they will find in the e-book, and crucially, to address what they can find in it that is hard to find elsewhere.

In the process of researching your e-book, I highly recommend making the effort to see what else is available out in the public, as well as what is available in other e-books. This will give you some idea of what the customer journey has to offer, and sources of frustration that may still linger as far as the inadequacy of other information sources.

Over to You

The digital marketing strategies that last are the ones focused on building an audience for the long haul. Only few things accomplish that anywhere nearly as well as building an e-mail list. Use the above e-book promotional strategies and you will expand your reach in ways only a few other strategies are capable of.

(Image Sources: 1, 2, 5, 6)