Newsletter #13

151 content resources, marketing movements, and a grisly editing metaphor

The weekly newsletter for content marketers seeking exponential growth in their work and personal lives.


🔥 151 Content Marketing Tips, Tools and Resources [Ryan Law]

My understanding and execution of content marketing has been shaped by all-manner of articles, blogs, books, newsletters, people, podcasts and tools. This is my attempt to provide a permanent home for the very best of those resources.

"These resources have been the backbone of my professional development over eight years of content marketing as a copywriter, strategist, manager and agency co-founder."

🔥 Brand-Owned Terms: The Power—and Process—of Naming a Movement [ConversionXL]

Derek Gleason explores the marketing strategies that triggered, perpetuated or piggy-backed seemingly inevitable industry shifts. This article feels like the pragmatic big brother to Animalz' own take on movement-first content.

"Inbound marketing. Conversational marketing. The subscription economy. Growth hacking. Each term, now ubiquitous, had humble origins but a profound—and profitable—impact."

🔥 What Happens When SEO and CRO Conflict? [Moz]

No website change exists in isolation. Will Critchlow explores the enduring trade-off between search engine optimization and conversion rate optimization - and shares a rigorous framework for uncovering the real impact of seemingly simple website tweaks.

"The trend towards Google using more and more real and implied user satisfaction and task completion metrics means that conversion-centric tests and hypotheses are going to have an increasing impact on search performance..."

🔥 Thirty Percent Feedback [42Floors]

Feedback - whether for an article, product or idea - has the biggest impact when a project is in its infancy, when it's most malleable and receptive to structural change. The framework shared here - of 30% and 90% feedback - has helped me internalise that mantra.

"If I was ninety percent done, he would try to correct me on every little detail possible because otherwise a typo might make it into production. But if I had told him I was only thirty percent done... [h]e would engage in broader conversations about what the product should be."

🔥 The Content Strategy Framework of the Top 1% of B2B Companies [Orbit Media]

Andy Crestodina shares a critical nuance of content marketing strategy: the traditional, linear progression from blog visitor to customer is a myth. Instead, blogging bolsters the performance of the whole website - making it easier to attract qualified leads in the process.

"That idea, blog and grow rich, fails because it misses the key connection between content and traffic. Here’s the myth: visitors click from blog posts to service pages and then become leads."


🔨 Soapbox

Want to share a quick video snippet to Twitter? Need to explain a laborious process to a coworker that just went offline for the night? Check out Soapbox - a free browser extension that makes it easy to record, edit and share videos.


The editing skeleton

The more I learn about writing, the more I realize that success is determined at a very early stage.

Great articles are borne of great ideas and efficient communication. As writers, our focus on polished prose is misdirected: we should spend the vast majority of our time obsessing over ideas and outlines. In 42Floors parlance, we should focus on the 30% stage of our work, and not the 90%.

As I've started editing more regularly, I've been reflecting on the nature of a great outline, something we often refer to as the "skeleton" of an article.

That analogy is more than skin-deep. A great outline should be:

  • Structurally complete. Cover a skeleton in muscle and skin, add a few million volts of life-giving energy, and you've created a fully-formed person. There should be no bones missing; every joint should connect to the next in a logical way. An outline should be the same: a complete, self-contained narrative. Every element should connect to the next in a logical way. Anything missing at the outline stage will have a disproportionate impact on the finished product - like a missing shoulder blade, it would require a momentous - and messy - effort to add at a later stage.

  • As simple as possible. A skeleton should be bones, and little else. Adding random patches of skin and clumps of muscle isn't helpful - they belong to a later stage of the process, where they can be added in a controlled, thoughtful way. In the same vein, an outline should communicate its narrative in the simplest possible way, through bullet points and concise sentences. I often see writers add quotes, images and meandering prose to their outlines. To the writer, it feels like progress: they're getting a jump start on future work. To an editor, it feels like obfuscation. It hides the underlying structure. It disguises otherwise glaring omissions. It encourages copy edits at the expense of structural edits.

  • Immediately recognisable. We all have an innate sense of what a skeleton should look like. We're accustomed to a degree of variance, but we expect the basics - two arms, two legs, a torso in between - to be pretty consistent. Deviate too wildly from this core structure, and your chances of creating a lumbering, misshapen monster increase dramatically. An outline is the same. Readers and editors alike expect a degree of familiarity from your writing - scene-setting, conflict, resolution, symmetry of structure. Slight variations on these familiar themes can add intrigue and curiosity. Deviating further increases the cognitive load of your work, requiring readers and editors to work harder to understand your point. Push it too far, and your work collapses into a confusing jumble of ideas.

Creating and editing outlines is an extremely high leverage activity - instead of testing and refining copy, you're testing and refining ideas.

Think of the best article you've ever read, and this reversal of effort makes sense. Great ideas can cover for weak prose. Great prose can never cover for weak ideas.


Newsletter #14


Newsletter #12