Newsletter #19

SEO cheatsheet, Slack for content marketers, and a big ol' SaaS benchmarks study

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  • 🔥 The State of SaaS Content Marketing 2019 [Emily Byford]
    I was lucky enough to work on an earlier iteration of this study, way back in 2017. Over the last few months, Emily, now leading content marketing at Akkroo, has updated and expanded the study into something bigger, better and bursting with benchmarks.

    "I analysed 500 SaaS companies’ content marketing efforts, to understand exactly how content marketing works (or doesn’t) in SaaS."

  • 🔥 Episode 18: The Secret to Content Promotion [Animalz]
    I chatted with Animalz podcast hosts Jan and Jimmy about the problem of content promotion. We wax lyrical about SEO distribution, thought leadership strategy and the ubiquity of skyscraper content.

    "The more content we see in the world, the more of this skyscraper stuff we see implemented. And it’s a bit of a race to the bottom..."

  • 🔥 Content Marketing Career Growth Community [Jimmy Daly]
    My co-worker Jimmy just set-up a Slack group for content marketers of all stripes. It's free to join, and designed for anyone looking to network, exchange career tips, or just say "hey!"

    "Content is an industry with tons of potential, but career trajectory is not always clear. Will you be forced to become a manager? Can you advance yourself as an individual contributor? What kind of jobs can you do as a skilled content marketer? How much money can you make as a content marketer?"

  • 🔥 Semantic Search: Beyond Keyword Strings and How to Adapt [V3B]
    Ann Smarty offers a great summary of semantic search - "targeting things instead of strings" - and shares useful heuristics for tuning content to the needs of increasingly discerning searchers and search engines.

    "Content should no longer be created with keyword-matching in mind. Repeating your keywords around your copy is not going to work."

  • 🔥 One-page SEO Cheatsheet [Britney Muller]
    Moz's Britney Muller has put together a beautifully concise one-page cheatsheet for SEO. Use it to intro new teammates to the wonders of SEO, onboard new customers, or just brush up on the core tenets of search optimization.

    "These first two things (🕷+ 🔗) are essential to understand. If your site isn’t accessible to Google (ie. if Google can’t crawl/read your site & important pages), everything you do to optimize will be pointless because no one will be able to discover it in Google. Soz."

Opinions

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The spectrum of content structure
Modern content marketing is characterized by two primary challenges:

  1. Usability, structuring content in an accessible way.

  2. Distribution, structuring content in a visible way.

There are myriad strategies for achieving these goals. Hubs and spokes. Pillars and clusters. Long-form articles. Category pages and content tagging. Wikis and glossaries.

Crucially, usability and distribution are often competing objectives.

Many of the favoured search distribution strategies - like long-form "pillar" posts, clocking in at thousands and thousands of words - necessitate a usability trade-off:

  • Long-form articles are optimized for search performance, often ranking for thousands of long-tail keyword variants. In the process, the information contained within the article is harder to access; salient data is buried in a wall of text.

Favoured usability strategies - like category pages, consisting entirely of links to other content - create a search distribution trade-off:

  • Category pages facilitate movement between on-site content, but with no content of their own, have little-to-no search footprint. Visibility is entirely passive, and reliant on traffic from other articles being channelled towards the category page.

These are extreme examples, but they illustrate an important point: every type of content structure necessitates some form of trade-off.

Hub-and-spoke probably sits closest to the middle of the spectrum, but this can itself be problematic: the "correct" content structure is entirely situational. If your users would be best served by a pure navigation hub, or would benefit from the increased visibility of a pure distribution strategy, this "middle ground" is effectively the wrong choice.

There is no such thing as a universal, or neutral, content structure. Every strategy necessitates a trade-off to either usability or distribution. The "ideal" structure, be it pillar posts, wikis or hub and spoke, is entirely situational.

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