Finding Your Way To SEO & Content Success by Ross Simmonds of Foundation Marketing
Webinar recorded on March 9, 2023
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Ross Simmonds of Foundation Marketing as he shares his framework for finding SEO and content success.
Here are our biggest takeaways from Ross’s talk:
Think like a media company. Modern media companies combine their powers to win...
Research. It’s the first step in great marketing.
Create once. Distribute and optimize forever.
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Check out Ross’s slide deck.
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About Ross Simmonds:
Ross is the founder of Foundation Marketing. He’s an entrepreneur and marketing strategist who helps B2B & SaaS brands use content marketing, SEO, content distribution, and technology to unlock new levels of organic growth.
Ross has been named one of the most influential marketers in the world by multiple marketing publications and firms like BuzzSumo, SEMRush, and more.
Follow Ross on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/rosssimmonds/
Foundation Marketing is a B2B content marketing agency that combines data and creativity to support successful and ambitious software brands in the world.
They work and have worked with brands like Canva, Procore, Unbounce, Jobber, Snowflake, Enboarder, and more.
Read the transcript
Awesome. Thank you so much for having me. Hello, folks. Super excited to be here. Really looking forward to diving in. To get the chat fired up a little bit, I'd love to do a quick quiz really quickly. Those who are in attendance, just a quick show of hands, like thinking about your content marketing engine, thinking about how much time you, your team spend on creation versus distribution, what would you say is the split? Like what percentage is spent creating versus what percentage would you say is spent distributing the content? I think a lot of us have fallen into the world of create, create, create, and I'd love to know how many of you are spending a lot of time creating versus distributing. I see Kelly's 40% creating. Very cool. That's a great distribution spread. Eric, 80% creating. Very cool. Jay 40, 60, Kayla 70. Nice.
I think across the board, a lot of organizations would say like the vast majority of their time is spent creating. Ashley's coming through with 90%, creating 10% distributing, and this is common across the board. A lot of organizations are in this spot where the vast majority of the time is spent creating. And for this, I have to apologize. I really do. I have to start by saying, sorry. Not sorry because I'm a Canadian and I probably over apologize for everything. And not, sorry, because I didn't wear my typical uniform, which includes suspenders. I'm sorry because over the years, I can think back to probably 2014 where myself and a lot of marketers have gone around on stages, on podcasts telling organizations that all they need to do to be successful is create content. Just write blog posts, create blog posts and you will be successful.
Write more blog posts, create more blog posts. I was guilty as charged as being one of those people who were going around telling folks, if you don't write blog posts, you're going to fail in business. And as a result of that, a lot of teams, a lot of companies, a lot of marketing executives are going into the boardrooms of CMOs, of CFOs, of COOs and all of the CCCs. They're going into all of these rooms and they're telling them that this is their strategy. Their strategy is essentially a content calendar where they're just writing a bunch of blog posts. Or they're just creating blog posts hoping that this is going to drive results. We're going to write some how to content, we're going to create some SEO content. And if they're thinking a little bit strategically, they might even say, we're going to create some content that has the intent of generating backlinks.
This is the current landscape today. With the rise of AI tools, more and more companies are saying, "I'm going to use AI to just write a bunch of blog posts and the world will be mine." And when you hear me say this and you hear me say, this is wrong, this is broken, I don't want you to say and go out and say, "Oh, Ross is telling everyone that they shouldn't blog." I'm not saying that at all. I'm not saying go start tweeting, don't blog. Ross is not telling the world that they shouldn't blog. Blogging is still an amazing opportunity. Blogging still works extremely well. But when you're thinking about SEO, it is very limiting to fall into the trap of believing that blog posts are the only way. To fall into the trap of thinking that creating blog content is all you have to do. That if you write some blogs in the world will be yours. Because at the core of it, you have to understand that a true solid SEO strategy, content marketing strategy is rooted in more than just creating content.
The industry at large content marketing is two words. It's not just content, it's content marketing. And today, my hope is simple. My hope is to ensure that every SEO, every creator, every marketer starts to shift the way in which they think about content marketing and SEO to start realizing that it's time for us to put marketing back into this industry. Because that is at the core of what we do. We are marketing, we are producing content that is intended to be marketed, to drive a marketing result. And the way that you do that is understanding things like research, distribution, optimization and yes, creation. You can look at companies like Masterclass and say, "Ross, what are you talking about? How are you going to say that blogging doesn't work?" It does work. I am saying that blogging does work, but it cannot be rooted in just this idea of I'm going to ask ChatGPT to give me some blog post ideas and then write every single idea that they give you.
That is not a strategy. Because at the end of the day, those ideas won't be rooted in actually understanding your audience. When you look at Masterclass, 99% of all of their traffic go to articles. That's an amazing win. This is a success story that every brand would aspire for and love. But when you see that they're going after something like what is Demerara sugar? And you might be wondering, what in the world is Demerara sugar? Me too. I don't know what it is. Sounds delicious, but I don't know what Demerara sugar is, but if you happen to go to Google and you're typing in Demerara Sugar, it's only for one reason. Either one, there's two reasons. Either one, you are an amazing chef who uses Demerara sugar all the time, and you know what that is. Or you're going to Google and you're typing in der rare sugar because you're cooking something that's a little bit advanced and you're trying to understand what in the world is Demerara sugar?
And guess what? Masterclass knows that the only person who would go to Google to type that in, is probably somebody who's interested in expanding their way of cooking, and they happen to have a course that is being held by Chef Ramsey where he can teach you how to bake an amazing donut using Demerara sugar, but it doesn't end with them. These are the same types of techniques that brands like Casper have used. These are the same types of techniques that many brands have used to unlock amazing ROI on the back of blogging. And as a result of this, the industry has said, you need to think like a media company. You need to have a writer. You need to have an SEO and editor and throw them in the room and tell them to create content. And they think that this is the equation. They think that this is the solution, not realizing that those media companies that they're actually emulating, those newspapers are shutting down.
That model doesn't work folks. We need to think differently. We need to start thinking more like a modern media company instead of the traditional way of thinking. Everybody gets upset and says, "You said the content marketing works," but folks often forget to market the content. You have to think holistically. When you are running a content marketing engine, those pieces of content that you develop need to weave a web. A blog post becomes a video. A video becomes an Instagram post, and an Instagram post becomes something that lives on social media and all of the various channels. This is the playbook that has been run time and time again. Back when Glassdoor first launched, they had a social media strategy that was rooted in a full content engine. An engine that was not rooted in exclusively writing blog posts, but one that understood the power of social, academia, syndication, events, webinars, and so much more. And this is the way that we as marketers need to think.
Your content doesn't live and die with SEO driven blog posts. Are they important? Yes, but it is not the only type of content to create. For example, when you look at this presentation that they shared, it showcases all of the different types of content that Glassdoor was creating. Blog posts were just one type in their entire mix. They were taking economic research and they were weaving it in through blog posts, through PRO lets, through eBooks, through webinars, through social, by even tapping into government affairs, they recognized that they needed to think holistically. They've recognized that they needed to create content that just wasn't how-to pieces, so they started to go beyond the blog post. They started to create pieces of content like this, where they actually didn't analyze using their own data to say, "These are the most difficult companies to interview at." And because of that, they started to get tons of links.
That's how we should be thinking as SEOs. We know that links matter. No matter what a Google rep might tell you, links still matter, so we should be creating content that might not just be a blog post. It might be research driven, it might be an infographic, it might be a proprietary study. We need to create content that drives links. This is how we should be thinking. It's not just blog posts. Sure, it might live and exist on our site in the blog section, but it is not blog posts. When Glassdoor publishes a survey around one in 10 making love in the office that lives in their blog section, yes, but it is not a blog. It is research that they've done and that they've published and that they've shared to drive back links and gain authority.
Industry awards, same exact situation. Like this content lives in their blog. They read a blog post about it, but it's rooted in understanding their audience. It's rooted in understanding that every CEO has an ego, and if you tell a CEO that they're a top CEO, they're going to tell the world about it. That's the game. So every year, since forever for this company, they roll out this announcement that these people are the top CEOs. They give them brownies like it's just left and right. Everyone's a top, CEO, you're top CEO in this region, you're top CEO in this engine, in this region, in this neighborhood, blah, blah, blah, and what happens? The PR teams within these companies go wild. They start to write blog posts linking to the press releases, linking to the blog posts that Glassdoor's already developed, linking to their Glassdoor profile. Allowing these Glassdoor profiles to rise up in the ranks.
This is how it's done. You think holistically. And the way that I want you to all think about this is a simple framework. A framework rooted in four key steps, research, creation, distribution, and optimization. If you can embrace this framework instead of just thinking about creation, you will unlock some amazing returns. It is time for us to put marketing back into content marketing. It's time for us as SEOs to think holistically around the entire life cycle of our content. And some of you already do this and that is great. So take a screenshot of this and share with your teammates who are not, because so many people in the industry have fallen victim to this idea of just thinking of creating or just fallen into the victim of creating and optimizing at the worst case. But we also need to think about things like distribution. And distribution doesn't just end and living with social media is social amazing opportunity.
No, no, no about it. At foundation, we work with our partners and we run distribution campaigns consistently where we're taking their blog posts, we're turning them into Twitter threads, taking their webinars and we're turning them into social video clips. We take their blog posts, we turn them into LinkedIn, carousels and posts, et cetera, and we see significantly time and time again in increasing the amount of visits and traffic to those pieces. Then those that are not distributed. This happens every single day. And when you're thinking about it, one of your benchmarks on excellence is an organization like Disney where that is the modern media company that we should be aspiring to think like. Because when Disney launches a movie, it doesn't live and die with the creation of that movie and then it's done. They're doing pre-content, they're sharing teasers and sharing things on social media.
They're going around and hiring the actors and actresses to actually do media tours and talk about it. They're releasing the music through licensing to different groups and organizations. They're partnering with influencers, they're partnering with children's influencers to have them run a series with Dora the Explorer on a certain movie that they've rolled out. All of these things are happening on a regular basis. They're rolling out comic books, they're licensing merchandise. They're thinking holistically. They're creating a universe around their brand, and this is why there's a shift.
The old way is just saying you need to write, edit, and throw some SEO on it. Today, we need to think holistically. We need to actually take all of the powers of all the different people within your marketing function and combine them to really create that modern media engine. We need to combine our powers to unlock all of the opportunities. To unlock the opportunities that exist when we bring optimization efforts, creation efforts, research efforts and distribution, and of course, budget to truly create that modern media company that is thinking holistically around content.
Now, if you're still with me, then you have a clear understanding of where I believe the brands need to go. Now, you might be thinking, okay, Ross, how do I get there? How do we actually move the needle to make all of this come to fruition and come to life? How do we get to this standpoint where we are embracing the idea of research, creation, distribution, and optimization? I'm so glad that we have the opportunity to dive into this because we're going to give very tactical, we're going to get into the weeds and the presentation will be shared, so you can dive into this again a little bit later, but let's jump into exactly how you do it. It starts with research. And I think all of you will probably know this, but researching the actual intent behind why people are doing the things that they do online is something that should probably be taught in universities and colleges around the globe.
It's actually that important, but we don't think about it that way. But search intent added score is one of, in my opinion, the most important psychological concepts that humans and marketers should actually understand. Because if you understand the search intent behind people, you can understand how to satisfy that search intent through your content. Not only that, as a human, it makes it easier to navigate the internet and nobody will ever ask you if you Googled something because you know how to Google everything and you know how to get to where you want to be. But, the things that you can look for are essentially falling into these four buckets. Informational content, commercial investigation, navigational or transactional. And when you are ultimately diving in to better understand your customers, you should be asking yourself, what are the things that they are typing across the board with all of these different keywords when they're trying to get a guide in our space, in our niche, what are they typing into Google?
What are they asking in Google when they're trying to make a decision around your product versus the next? Are they typing in the best variations of your industry, best variations of your space and your offering, your service, your product? These are the things that they're typing in. If they want to reach your website in particular, they might just type in your name. They might type in an offering that you have, or if they're further down the funnel, they might start looking for pricing or discounts and things like that. These are the things that you need to understand. These are the things that you want to consider as you are starting to build out the research around your strategy, but it doesn't end there. A lot of people would say it does, but it doesn't. You also want to do things like Reddit research. I love doing Reddit research because it gives you the ability to better understand what I would call content market fit.
What is the content market fit? Content market fit is when you have an audience that you want to influence, an audience that you really want to create, content that they will love, they will adore, and that they will appreciate that you have developed it. That's the market that you want to connect with. If you can create content that this audience loves every single time, you have content market fit. And Reddit is one of the best places to go to get there, that Reddit is also a great place to get told where to go and how to get there, so you have to tread lightly, but Reddit is an amazing channel. It's an amazing channel for research.
If you go to Reddit today right now and you type in site colon your URL or a competitor's URL or any website that you like and you sort that content by top posts, the results that you are going to see are the most influential and interesting pieces that Redditors found on that website. And that's amazing because red editors are harsh critics, but if your content is showing up in the top post, then you have struck lightning. You have identified a piece of content that is content market fit. For example, this piece, HubSpot. You type in their site, you type in their URL. This piece on Ben and Jerry is the top post that they have ever published on Reddit. It was created six years ago. Do you know how long ago that is? I had zero gray hair six years ago. Lots of changes happened in my life. I might have read that post back then, but I don't even remember it.
You fast forward to today, HubSpot can take this exact same piece, this exact same blog post, share it as a Twitter thread, re-upload it with a new spin, a new take, uploaded to the exact same subReddit, share it, and guess what? It's going to go right back to the top. Why? Because humans are still the same chemical makeup that we were six years ago than we are today. And we still get invoked and inspired by the same types of stories over and over again.
This is the reason why Disney can continue to roll out multiple movies about the Lion King decade after decade and continue to smash records hits is because we as people just want a good story and a good story is a piece of content that has content market fit. This is what we should be doing. We should be thinking about this type of content and then creating content and stories that ultimately are going to move the needle for our brand. You go into these subReddits, you smash that all time setting, and it's going to give you all of the best content within a specific subReddit of all time. So let's say I want to create content that resonates with SEOs. I go to Big SEO, one of the top SEO subReddits. I saw content top of all time, and it's going to show me that news about Google is ranking number one in subReddits on big SEO for content.
So what does that tell me? It tells me maybe I should be considering creating breaking news around algorithms, around changes, around double eat, all of those things. That's the type of content that our brand should be creating if we want to be present, elevate our brand and have an opportunity to connect with the people in this subReddit regularly. That is the model. You have to embrace research. But again, it doesn't end their folks either. Go into Facebook groups, go into communities where people are spending time. I love Facebook groups. I love Facebook groups because when you go into them, you can see within subsections, let's say a community in a group that is tailored around SEO or tailored around a certain topic like B2B marketing, you go into that group and you can see a post like this where this person's saying, "Let's talk about TikTok."
I get to an analyze 4,000 accounts every day, and I want to give you all the breakdown. It had 177 up boats, 56 comments. Great. You know what that means? It means it has content market fit. The industry wants this. The sample size might have been small. Sure, 2000 people in this group. That means it is capped at being able to reach 2000 people. I see this, I then say, all right, I'm going to create an ultimate guide to TikTok marketing. I'm going to analyze 5,000 accounts and I'm going to create a report on that. I publish that. What's going to happen? It's going to resonate, it's going to break the internet, people are going to love it. You start your process with research. You have to be obsessive of understanding your audience and the people you're connecting with, and then you start creating content that's going to drive results.
When you start to make that transition from embracing research across keywords, social, audience, SERP, backlinks, et cetera, it makes it easier to create high value content. It makes it easier to start put together the web that you want to weave. NerdWallet has done this extremely well. They know that they want to own all of the things related to money. If you're looking for credit cards, personal finance, loans, mortgages, et cetera, they have top of funnel, middle funnel, bottom of funnel content for all of these different topics. And they have done this extremely well because they know that these are the things that their audience wants, so they've structured their site appropriately. They've ensured that the internal linking is done correctly. All of the basics get taken care of. Then they understand and they research what stories are relevant, what do people care about? What do people want? And then they press publish on these pieces of content.
But we have to keep in mind folks, not all brands are the same. Not all content is created equal. Not all audiences are created equal. Some brands, this type of content is going to work extremely well. For NerdWallets it's allowed them to become NerdWallet amazing business. For you, it might not work as well. You might have to ask yourself, is your business a little bit different? Because when you look at companies like Stripe, their blog doesn't do nearly as well as their documentation guides. Because their audience is different, they're targeting engineers. They're not trying to reach the marketers of the world who want to read blog posts all the time, who are trying to consume this content so their blog doesn't generate a lot of traffic. You would have to spend 5K to capture as much traffic as Stripe does through their block. Not much for most SaaS businesses, B2B businesses. But if you wanted to capture as much traffic as they get to their documentation, their engineering documentation, you would've to spend $700,000 every single month.
That's a big difference. Because they understand that their audience wants great documentation. So they're not writing blog posts for engineers, they might have a few, but they're not generating traffic for them, because their engineers want documentation. So they're creating documentation to reach their audience and it's giving them a ton of traffic. How do you come up with that? By researching your audience, by understanding your audience and understanding that not all content needs to be blog posts. And this is happening across a lot of different industries. You look at MailChimp, you look at GitLab, Shopify, Spotify, et cetera. All of these companies are starting to realize that API documentation can actually be a very valuable source of traffic. But Ross, these are blog posts, my mind is blown. What are they doing? They're creating API documentation and they're getting traffic.
This is going against all of the things that we represent. Arguably, all of this content is just that, content. Yes, once in a while you'll see a few interactive experiences within it, but at the end of the day, they have done their research to understand the type of content their audience wants and they give it to them. You have to embrace the idea of giving the content that your audience wants. Figuring out content market fit is one step. The next step is figuring out the types of content that they want something that I would consider like channel, market fit. You want to understand the types of content that your audience wants, the channels in which they want it as well. Because some brands are tapping into YouTube. If you look at Shopify, they have an entire YouTube channel where they're going after the SERP.
Yes, Google owns YouTube, and thus they are taking a bunch of YouTube content and placing it directly in SERP. They are recognizing that there are keywords that they would have a very difficult time taking. So what do they do? They create a bunch of YouTube videos, and these YouTube videos essentially are in engagement where they hire Liz, Liz comes in, records a bunch of these videos in one afternoon. They're a minute and 25 seconds each. This does not take a lot of time. They throw in some beautiful graphics and visuals in the ranking of the SERP, generating 1.8 million views. That is the approach. That is the process. This is what you can do as well. And of course you need to have the right tools at your disposal. You should be thinking about tools like Telescope. You should be thinking about how you can create a content marketing engine, create a content team and develop standards where you can ensure across the board, you're always creating content that is hitting your bar for excellence.
Once you have that, once you have those processes in place, then the world is your oyster. But you have to understand the different types of content come with different types of risk. Certain types of pieces of content are going to drive amazing results. Memes, depending on your brand, could unlock amazing return. But at the same time, for some brands, it's going to be risky and it's not a risk that you want to take. Similarly, you might want to do some culture content where you're celebrating your team. Sales enablement content, digital PR. The opportunities are endless, but we need to think holistically around the content. Again, don't get me wrong, I still think blogging is important. A few months back, Foundation did an analysis of over 1500 B2B cloud SaaS companies, and what we found is that the brands that are publishing over 100 blog posts a year are with question owning the SERP.
They are completely owning the SERP with the content that they're producing. It's a lot of content and some of you are like, "All right, I quit. I'm not going to play this game." You should quit. Some of you should quit. You don't need to keep playing the game that you can't win. If you can't win that game, then try something else. There are ton of arbitrage opportunities in things like TikTok. There are tons of arbitrage, unless it gets banned and might abandoned some places, that's a different discussion, but you can also go on YouTube. You can also look at Twitter. You can look at different ways to unlock opportunities. More content does drive results, but you have to also ensure that that content is being distributed. This is how you put marketing back into content marketing folks this is the way that things have traditionally been done.
We get all prepped and excited. We open up our dashboards, we're writing the content, we're pressing publish on a blog post. We share it, we clap our hands, the slack channels go crazy. We did it. We wrote a blog post. That's how we typically do it. Onto the next one, let's do another one. All right, we're writing a blog post. We did some keyboard research. We press publish. Ah, crowd goes wild. That is a mistake. The way in which you should be thinking about it, is that you press publish on this blog post, you press publish on this piece of content, and then it starts to be distributed not only on your primary channels, which are the channels in which you own, but also secondary channels. The places in which your audience are spending time. Are they in communities? Are they subscribing to newsletters? Are they inside of a Facebook group?
And then you're starting to maintain momentum. You're maintaining momentum by repurposing, repackaging that content. You're uploading that article that you wrote to medium.com. You're uploading that post on medium.com directly into LinkedIn as a LinkedIn article. You're taking that LinkedIn article and you're turning it into a carousel four weeks later, and then you're sharing it in subReddits and communities where you think your audience might find value. This is the new way of doing things. You think like Disney, you stopped thinking like newspapers because newspapers had distribution built into their business model originally when they had the ability to have newspapers dropped off at your door and that was eradicated thanks to our mobile phones and now we have access to information freely every single day. That's what you're competing with, so you have to embrace the idea of distribution. You have to spread your stories through new channels, embrace things like backlink outreach, Facebook communities, email outreach, leverage your sales team, leverage your email signature to distribute your stories. But if you must blog, then turn them into different assets.
Don't let your content live and die in a single format. When Foundation writes a blog post on Airtable and how they attract organic traffic, we don't let that piece live and die as a blog post. We repurpose it as an article on LinkedIn. When we write a blog post, we don't let it just live and die on the channel in which it was published. We turn that all the way through to a YouTube video back in the day when I had no hair on my face. That is the play. You take content and you turn it into other types of content that can be used to create other types of content, and then you embed that content in the other types of content. This is how you should be thinking about content. Your content assets should not live and die the day in which they're published, and I say that word content assets intentionally. Because every single piece of content that you create is an asset, it's an investment.
We have made the mistake in this industry at large of being pigeonholed into this world of content is an expense. No, it's an asset. Every asset that you create gives you an opportunity to get return, and it's on us as marketers to ensure that that return can happen. You want to advance your organization and the content that you're creating by thinking in advance, can you create a blog post that turns into a Twitter thread, into a LinkedIn deck, into a social media video, into an email newsletter? Can you distribute this content? Every asset that you developed? You could create it once and distribute it forever. But you also want to think about business partnerships. Content marketing is a business function, so let's lean into business. You want to think about business partnerships as well.
I'm a big believer in links and I think that getting links from your partners, from people that you work with is an amazing opportunity that is oftentimes slept with, but view it not just as this black box scary thing to do, view it as a business opportunity, a business partnership. Where, for example, if you're Slack and you have a million apps that have integrations with your product, you should be looking at organizations like DocuSign or WebEx, Evergreen, [inaudible 00:29:02], Kona, whoever saying, "Hey, we're so excited to have you as a part of our platform. I noticed that in a blog post that you wrote, you're talking about instant messaging tools like Slack. Instant messaging just happens to be a keyword that we're targeting right now. Can you update that blog post to have a link to our instant messaging tool landing page?" That's how we should be thinking about marketing.
You send that email that essentially says, "We're looking to elevate our partnership with you as a brand. It's so great that we're working together and this is something that we'd love to do with you. This is literally a playbook that we execute with our clients every single day and the back links have gone through the roof because we know that there is already established connection between our clients and the brands that are integrating with them. They want to have strong business partnerships, so by connecting with them learning about their wins and what they want, we're able to identify business partnerships so everyone can win." Business is at the core of this methodology. When you think about SEO, don't think about exclusively writing blog posts and running a few audits, think higher level. Think about going big like organizations like Semrush do when they acquire Backlinko for who knows how much, probably millions, but they acquire it and are able to generate 500,000 in monthly additional visits to their site.
Those are the types of things you should be thinking about as well. And you can go to websites like acquihire and other sites. You can go to these different sites and you can actually start to acquire, acquire, sorry, I said Acquihires Micro acquire. You can go to this site and I think they just bought the domain a acquire.com, so it might have shifted. But you can go to these sites and you can start to buy sites that wouldn't make sense for your business. There was a great quote from Andy Crestodina who said, "Google favors directories over service providers because they feel non-biased." So you can actually go to this site and you can find directories like directories of high-paying startup affiliate programs, buy it for three grand and unlock all of their traffic and bring it to your site and then start to find ways to get back links to your site.
To build a directory may cost you 10 to 50K, but you're going to acquire one that is already in existence already as links already as traffic for three grand today. These are the types of things that you can do when you start to think bigger than just let's write a blog post, let's root it in keyword research and do the same thing over and over and over again. Start making business cases around why this type of stuff matter, and that is where you're able to elevate not only yourself but the entire industry. If you're looking for more ways to distribute your content, I have a free checklist that is breaks down all kinds of different techniques that you can use to distribute your stories, whether it's Facebook, Reddit, Slack, Twitter, LinkedIn, Quora, you name it, completely free rosssimmonds.com/distropack. Check it out if you want more on this topic.
All right, thought I was done because I know this has been a lot, but I've got more. Optimization. Optimization is something that we also need to embrace. We need to embrace the idea of creating once and optimizing forever just as much as we need to think about distributing content forever. Salesforce has done this extremely well. In 2016, you go into way back time machine and you'll see what their website looked like back then. And you can see that what is CRM was a page that they created. They own the keyword CRM today because they were early in terms of creating a piece of content that just said, what is CRM? They wrote this in 2016 and they ranked for it. But you'll see over time this piece of content has changed. They've continued to update it, they've continued to improve it. You do not just let a piece collect dust, you optimize it, you update it, you add new information, you improve it. You recognize that Google's favoring video, so you incorporate video into your content, all of those different things. That is how you approach it.
They throw in CRM 101 versus just what is CRM because now they're realizing, okay, people want a beginner level, let's make sure that we are aligned with intent. And then they hold onto that for dear life. That is the strategy folks. Imagine, just imagine not being long on SEO, a lot of people are going off about, oh, ChatGPTs going to change everything. Everyone's going to go to Google and type in or go into these ChatGPT experiences to figure things out. It's not going to happen for every query. Not every query is going to be satisfied in that chat experience. Is it going to play a role in the way the humans search and navigate the internet? No doubt about it. But there is no question that Google and search is still going to play a key factor in the way that humans operate and navigate the internet.
You want to play the long tail. You want to play the long goal. You look at companies like Hootsuite who've been around for years and they've played the long game to win at search. They have one blog post that was written again many, many years ago. They've wrote this original post, I believe back in 2016. And then since 2016, this piece has been able to capture for them more than 22 million visits. That's 22 million potential people who visited their site, learned about Hootsuite, consume their content, learned about this information, linked to it, or some variation, all because they continue to optimize it. They optimize it by including new takeaways, by adding third party quotes, by injecting new research, by uploading videos, by incorporating templates, adding new sections, updating the date, updating old data, and refreshing the imagery to fit the current needs of their audience and the people that they wanted to connect with.
This is how it's done. So when you're thinking about optimizing your content, create a checklist. Like you look at the rise of double E, there's a lot of things that you should be looking at as it relates to ways to elevate your content and set this bar for what content excellence looks like and have a bit of a ongoing program in an initiative happening within your company where the content is constantly being updated. Take those pieces of content that were published back in 2019, that got a ton of links, got a ton of traffic back then update them and improve them so they no longer collect dust, but instead collect leads and ROI for your business and for your engine. That is what you should do. That is how you need to be thinking about content and running an engine that actually thrives and does the results for you.
You might be thinking, all right, Ross, that's a lot. "Where in the world do I start?" It all starts with research. It all starts with research. You have to spend the time upfront understanding your audience, take the time to do keyword research, take the time to do social research. And some of you might say, that's not in my job description, but I'm just an SEO. That's not in my world. I don't care about what groups they're in or what subReddits that is a part of your job. Because at the end of the day, the search behaviors are actually changing. More and more people are going to channels like Instagram to do search, going to TikTok to do search. I do a lot of search on Reddit. These are all search engines. We might think that Google is the only search engine in town, but that's only because you're playing the game that was played many, many years ago.
You have to update with the current times in the shifts in the industry and in the space. And that means shifting to a model where you actually start thinking like a new age media company. You throw out this idea of thinking like a traditional media company and start embracing an idea of embracing a strategy that is rooted in research creation, distribution and optimization. And of course you're going to need the budget. And if you have that, if you have the budget, if you're embracing these four steps along your framework of ensuring that you're constantly thinking this way, you will be able to unlock some amazing resources and some amazing results. But you can't do it alone. You might be the only person from your team that just heard this presentation. You might be the only person on your team that actually hears this and thinks it's time for us to put marketing back into content marketing.
You might be alone. Don't try to go alone. You have to embrace the idea of sharing this entire presentation with your team. Spread it around the company, spread it around the org, give this exact same presentation with your own voice, your own tone. Do whatever it takes to make more people realize that the only way for marketing to be done extremely well is to think about those four factors, research, creation and distribution. And if you do that and you combine all of the powers within your organization, you will truly have a content marketing engine that thrives. Thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate you taking the time out of your busy day to hear me speak and talk about marketing. If you have any questions, by all means drop them in the chat. I'd be happy to share and answer some of your questions over the next little bit, so thank you all so much. Really appreciate it.
Yeah, awesome job, Ross. How was that? That's fantastic. We do have a couple questions that we can kind of jump into.
Awesome. Let's do it.
Yeah. The first one's from Kelly. She says, "Do you recommend smaller content teams in B2B outsource some of them or some of these columns for research, create, distribute, optimize, or divvy it up, the focus among the team?"
Yeah, I think there was, way back in the day, my dad always used to tell me it's better to have one good kid than two bad. And what I would advise every organization to do is to think about what can you be really, really good at in terms of those four buckets and be okay owning that? Because the worst thing that you could do is try to divvy it all up and then be mediocre at everything. So what you want to do is first establish excellence in one of those buckets. If you're great at research, then great, own that and then outsource the rest. But if you can be excellent across all four, then amazing, let's do it. Let's go. But you have to take some time to reflect internally and think, what can we actually be great at? Can we be great at creation? Can we be great at distribution?
And you also have to be okay telling yourself that maybe you're not that good at a certain thing. You have to be comfortable having that dialogue. But a lot of organizations outsource the research and get an outside perspective on strategy. An other brand, another company, an agency, an organization like Foundation will come in, develop the full strategy, and then the team takes it and goes and executes. Or they embrace a company and they get that company to exclusively be producing all of their content on a regular basis, managing all of the workflows associated with creation or running all of the backlink outreach efforts or all the repurposing efforts or taking a more quiet but consistent effort under optimization where their team's writing new content, publishing content, it's great, but in the background, there's an agency or a freelancer who's optimizing their pieces every single quarter to ensure that internal links are strong, that the dates are strong, that double leap, best practices are being embraced, all of that stuff. So it's a really individual answer. It comes down to your own situation, but don't try to do it all if you cannot.
Nice. Yeah, I think it's helpful. And then Olivia asks, "What's the basis for the value of content assigned to documentation content? Is it based on revenue that drove from conversions to purchases?"
Great question. So it's based off of the total CPC savings. So all of the keywords that in that slide in particular, their blog was ranking for had a total value of, I think I said 7K or something like that. That's how much you would've added to spend on Google ads to acquire that much traffic for those keywords that they were ranking for. For The documentation side. They had created so much documentation that if you were to spend in Google ad dollars CPC times the average keyword that they were ranking for you would've to spend that much money, 700 grand I think I put to capture that traffic on a monthly basis. So because they had invested in creating that content, they didn't have to spend that on PPC.
Nice. It's pretty clear. And then another question is, we know optimization matters, but what's going to happen when AI is integrated in the search? Being in Google. We are sure the chatbot is pulling the info within the article, they take answers from, what will this mean for how you create top ranking content?
Means the exact same thing it meant back when featured snippets came out and the entire industry lost their mind. It's the exact same situation. Everybody always loses their mind when the SERP changes. It's going to essentially just require one simple thing, and it's the same thing it meant back then create better content. If you want to win in the game, you have to create better content. Tricks don't work. You have to just strive to create content excellence. If you set the bar high for your content quality, it's not going to impact you negatively. You're going to ultimately win because you have content that is worth sharing or worth sharing or finding or reading or bookmarking, you're good. A lot of the fear is rooted in the idea that if we keep creating mediocre content, we're going to lose our traffic. You should, you should, you literally should.
There's a old joke where it's like, everybody has gone through the world thinking, oh, that you should get applause as a content marketer for just creating content. That's literally your job. You're supposed to create content like creating content is what you're supposed to do. You don't get brownie points for that. It's the same way as bragging that you have. You're in your kid's life. You don't get brownie points for being in your kid's life. You created them. You're supposed to do that. That's what you're supposed to do. Same thing exists with content. You're supposed to create good content, and if the content isn't better than the competitors, it means you need to level up. It means you need to improve. Create content that is, as Thanos would say, "Be undeniable." That's what you want to be inevitable with your content. Make it that good.
That's so clear. Perfect. And another question from anonymous. What are your thoughts about constant AI tools versus manual content creation?
I love them. I think content AI tools are going to accelerate the rate in which humans can create better content. Now here's the reality though. If you're a bad writer and you use an AI tool, you're going to get bad content. If you're a mediocre writer and you use an AI tool, you're going to get mediocre content. If you're a great writer and you use AI tool, you could probably get close to creating a masterpiece faster than you would've if you didn't have one. And I think that's the thing that a lot of people are misunderstanding. Bad writers are still going to use AI to create bad content because they don't understand the psychology of humans, they don't understand the storytelling, the power of a good lead. They might not even know the copywriting fundamentals of things like AIDA. They don't understand those things.
And if they don't, that's okay. That means those who are great, those who practice their craft are going to be able to identify prompts and identify stories and use the tools to just create a further gap and create more content at a more faster rate. So I view these AI tools as being every single one of us is like Ironman suit. Where when we log into these tools, if you are already have a mind power of a Tony Stark or another genius out there, in case you're not familiar with the Marvel movies, let's say you're a genius. You go into these tools, you're essentially getting superpowers. And when you have those superpowers, it allows you to create content faster, better, more quickly, et cetera. It just elevates everything.
Is it going to fundamentally change the way that our work is done? No question about it. The same way that AI tractors have fundamentally changed the way the that farming is done, this is going to influence us the same way that AI security guards are starting to pop up at stadiums across the US, this is the reality of how shifts happen. You're going to ignore it. A lot of people are saying on LinkedIn they're going to do, but they'll be left behind. And I think that is ultimately the reality of this space. You want to embrace AI tools because they can ultimately give you the advantage that you need to win.
Yeah, I completely agree with that. And then I think of two more questions right now. The next one is, so he works at a early stage startup and they're picking up content marketing, but have asked not to pay too much attention to SEO. How does he convince them that both SEO and organic needs to be done at the same time?
The best to have those conversations is to really understand how your competitors are doing and whether or not it's playing a key role for them. So the proof is always in the pudding in the sense that go look at your competitors, take their URL, plug them into one of the various SEO tools, identify how much traffic they're generating based off of keywords, and then make a business case. So if I'm an early stage startup, let's say I'm in the wonderful world of, I don't know, CRM software, and you're launching a new CRM that uses AI to manage the relationship. I'm going to go to Google, I'm going to pull up Salesforce, I'm going to pull up close, I'm going to pull up all of the top CRM tools, and I'm going to do an analysis of how much of their traffic is coming from organic.
Then I'm going to take 0.05% of that organic traffic and assume that they are converting that to actual customers at probably their lowest tier pricing. And I'm going to model this out for the leadership team to see. And I'm going to say, let's multiply this and assume that this is happening. That means that they're generating this amount of revenue on an annual basis based off of organic traffic. We are currently generating not even this, a portion of this. So, how do we get there? We need to create content on these different topics. This is how many, again, you do the research, it's worked folks like. You do the research to say, these are the keywords that actually present an opportunity for us to go after, this is the volume, this is how is soon, I believe we'll be able to get there in terms of organic traffic.
So you start to create a model. You start to say, all right, if we start to rank for this keyword, let's say it's AI CRM, let's say nobody's rankings for that today. But it's shown growth in Google trends where it's like 50% growth month after month, month after month. You can start to project 50% to 120% growth month over month. If you create a piece today, what's the value of the traffic going to be three months from now? You model all of that out and let's say 0.05% of all that traffic turns into customers, show it to the team and say, "Would that be enough for us to raise our series A?" And if they say yes, then you probably will have their permission to say, all right, let's do it.
But you're now setting the stage and setting the stakes on what you believe you can do. So now you have to buckle down and actually be able to execute on that vision to make it happen and come to life. But essentially you have to bring data to the conversation and then use that data to validate your assumptions on why you should do this certain thing.
Awesome. I like that. That's get back to the napkin math. And then going back to taking a piece of content and repurposing across multiple different channels and mediums, how do you approach attribution? And how important is attribution? And [inaudible 00:48:24].
I think attribution is very important as you scale. As you start to grow, you need to have data and insight. If you're early, early stage, then just create things and try to get some customers like you just need to get some money in the bank, so it's not as important. But as you grow and you're starting to see leads come in from multiple sources, attribution becomes key. You want to embrace an attribution tool. You want to embrace analytics that's showing you where the leads are coming from, and then you want to be able to source and identify the connection between these sources to revenue. Some of it will not be identifiable. That is okay. You don't need perfection in all of this. At the end of the day, you just need some signals, some indicators. You can always ask surveys. You can always have an experience after people buy where it says, how did you hear about us? You might get low convergence rates, but at the end of the day, you still convert it.
So continue down that path and use attribution again to validate some of the techniques in the channels you're using, but don't hold it as this state of requirement for every single thing to be able to be nicely fit into a certain box.
Yeah. Yep. And then this might be the last question. Do you think the new E in EEAT will elevate the importance of an author of the content and influence rankings?
Hugely. I think one of the low hanging fruits that everyone should be looking at right now is how they can improve the author pages on their website. Every single organization should be thinking about their site structure, their site map, and ensuring that their author pages are showing interests. LinkedIn accounts show a real picture. It's referencing journals that somebody might have published in other publications that they've written for. You need to create and propose to your team that there be a place on your website where authors are showcased and that the credibility, the stories, the background, the universities, the degrees, the PhDs, and all of the other acronyms that come after their name are showing so they can be seen as a trusted expert. There is no question that double eight has shifted the way that we should be thinking about our content and that you need to be thinking about how you can have authors that are high value because maybe they haven't caught you yet, but they will catch you in the next few months.
And it's not going to work to just go to this person doesn't exist.com, upload a photo. If you haven't heard of it, it's like a site that uses AI to create a random person that's not going to work. Because you can do a quick Google image search for that face. This is how good AI is going to be, and if that face only shows up on your website, it's not a real person, they're going to know this person would show up somewhere. That is the blueprint that a lot of people are realizing is actually going to be able to be seen through AI. Visual AI is a thing, and they can just cross reference your face with all the other faces.
Oh, fantastic point. Yep. Well, awesome. Thank you so much for your time today, Ross and everybody. I'm going to drop in Ross' LinkedIn profile. I'll give him a shout on LinkedIn. Thank you for his time today. We'll send out the recording and Ross's slides tomorrow. But Ross, any parting words before we give people the time back?
No parting words beyond the power of yours, folks. Take the opportunity, create great content. You can shape culture with every asset that you create. Don't take it lightly. But thank you so much for listening. I appreciate the time, and I hope everybody has a great rest of the week.
Director of Marketing, Clearscope
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