Dimensions of differentiation in SEO content
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How We Grew Our Content Marketing Agency Without Content Marketing [Devin Bramhall, Animalz]
Just before I joined Animalz, I was utterly burned out on agency life. This article from Devin perfectly explains the traits that sold me (and continue to sell me) on Animalz as an incredible place to work:
1/ I had my ego curb-stomped in the first few weeks at Animalz, in the best possible way. I thought I was a great writer when I joined, with relatively little left to learn - and then I had my work torn down and built back up by incredible writers and editors.
2/ In my first year, I worked with companies like Appcues, Clearbit, Amplitude and Google. I went from an agency that struggled to close deals and maintain customer relationships, to one that had a queue of world-class companies looking to partner with it. Point #1 was why.
3/ I spend a whole bunch of time in my role reading, reflecting, writing and teaching. It's not only encouraged - it's expected of me (of everyone). No idea is above criticism. No process is immune to change. As a result, Animalz is a different - better - company week on week.
I was initially reluctant to join the weird marketing agency with a weird name and a nondescript website. But today, thanks to Devin and a whole bunch of people, Animalz finally has a brand (and website) that matches the company we are underneath. We're even on Twitter now.
If you have a second, it would mean the world to me if you could check out the new site (and maybe our latest articles and podcast episodes).
I'd love to know what you think!
5 dimensions of differentiation
A lot of modern SEO content is designed to rip off the existing search results.
When SERPs are dominated by long-form, canonical "skyscraper" articles, it's easy to enter into a game of one-upmanship: emulating the same structure, but bolstering your article with additional information, creating something longer, and in the best case scenario, more comprehensive.
This sucks for the reader. SERPs become crowded with copycat "ultimate guides," all showcasing the same tired information, and the small nuance of the topic the reader wants to explore is buried beneath a mountain of dross.
Instead, you can compete with "comprehensive" content by choosing a particular dimension of differentiation, a framing for the topic that offers a unique way into the same information. In doing so, you can stand out from competing search results without entering into the ever-quickening race to the bottom.
Every company and every writer has their own set of differentiating factors. Choose one and create something truly unique:
Data. What unique data do you, and only you, have access to? Product usage stats, surveying your audience, you name it. If your company lacks proprietary data, is there a unique meta analysis of existing data you can create?
Opinion. If you have a good grounding in a topic (say, content marketing), you're uniquely positioned to offer a contrarian perspective. Which "best practices" are bullshit? What mistakes do you commonly encounter? What will change in the next year?
Experience. What lived experience can you share on a topic? Your experiences can't be emulated by other people - anchoring your article in a real-world story provides a novel dimension for even the most tired of topics.
Network. What lived experience can people within your network share? If you're networked with well-known brands and people, all the better - you have additional non-search distribution built-in.
Expertise. What are you uniquely good at? What "expert" insight can you offer that other content marketers can't? Draw upon your personal interests, qualifications and education.
Here a few examples of this in practice, for the topic "time-to-hire" (a recruiting metric):
"The complete guide to time-to-hire"
“What is time-to-hire?”
“10 ways to improve time to hire”
“Time-to-hire benchmarks for 20 industries” (data)
“Your obsession with time-to-hire is costing you candidates” (opinion)
“How I reduced time-to-hire by 20% in 3-weeks” (experience)
“The strategy that enabled Stripe to halve their time-to-hire” (network)
"5 mathematical errors that derail time-to-hire calculations" (expertise)
I'm working on a long-form guide to writing SEO content without ripping other people off, so if you find this framework useful, stay tuned for more.