Newsletter #3

Programmatic SEO, growth cycles and the paradox of big budgets

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

Links

🔥 Programmatic SEO: How to Dominate SEO Like TripAdvisor, Yelp and Zillow [Clearscope]

This Slideshare from Clearscope founder Bernard Huang is insanely detailed, covering every imaginable nuance of the scaled-up search strategy used by behemoths like Yelp and TripAdvisor (and if you've always wondered what "programmatic SEO" actually is... Bernard provides the answer).

"Creating SEO landing pages that target search queries using metadata on a large scale."

🔥 The Content Growth Cycle [Animalz]

Content marketing starts slow, but every new visitor, ranking and backlink improves future performance. In this article, we take a deep-dive into the mechanism behind this "virtuous cycle" of growth (we also recorded a podcast episode on the topic).

"It’s something we see often—a virtuous cycle of compounding growth where every new article improves the performance of the next, generating better and better results over time. Stick with it and content marketing becomes a sustainable growth engine."

🔥 3 Ways to Fast Track Your Career from Zillow’s VP of Product and Growth [Reforge]

Reforge analyze the success of "CEO Sprinters" - people like Sheryl Sandberg and Marissa Mayer - and discover half-a-dozen "principles of career acceleration." My big takeaway? Seek out high impact opportunities, even if you feel unqualified.

"Sprinters don’t accelerate to the top by acquiring the perfect pedigree. They do it by making bold career moves over the course of their career that catapult them to the top."

🔥 The Old Content Marketing Playbook Doesn’t Work Anymore [NextView Ventures]

A lot of companies still follow the same content playbook popularized by HubSpot half a decade ago - so who better to explain its failings than Ginny Mineo, a former HubSpot marketing manager?

"Content marketing certainly isn’t dead, but it’s matured and changed pretty drastically compared to five years ago."

Tools

🔨 CloudApp

I found CloudApp in an otherwise unremarkable AppSumo bundle last year. Since then, I've used it every freaking day, quickly sharing annotated, perfectly-cropped GIFs and screenshots in articles, tutorials, emails, Slack messages, you name it.

Opinions

The paradox of big budget content marketing.

In episode 5 of the Animalz podcast, I chatted with Jimmy Daly about Slack's approach to content marketing. Even with all the resources afforded a $7 billion company, it still took three years for their content marketing to see serious growth.

In fact, when it comes to content marketing, big budgets don't always translate into better results. In some cases, it's a serious hindrance:

  • Greater investment means greater expectations. Funded startups often move into content when the acquisition cost of other channels starts to climb. But content doesn't work like paid marketing. It can take years to generate a meaningful flow of customers, and increasing investment doesn't create a proportional increase in customer generation, at least in the short-term. As a result, time-pressured executives end-up scrapping the strategy before it's had a chance to deliver results.

  • Finding your voice is harder. The bigger a company, the harder it is for founders to channel their passion and knowledge into content marketing. It's a misallocation of their time, so the task is handed off to marketing managers and copywriters, chopped-up into projects and KPIs. Instead of a strong, unified voice filtering down from the CEO, it's built piecemeal, article by article, without a clear sense of identity behind it.

  • Ramping-up production creates more noise than signal. Big companies - and big marketing teams - introduce a ton of stakeholders, each with competing definitions of "great content." With a big budget, there's no incentive to push back on these ideas - appeasement is the path of least resistance, leading to a dozen different work streams of content: SEO, thought-leadership, sales enablement, conversion content... This "more must be better" mentality makes it hard to gauge which content is working, and which isn't. The company's focus and voice become confusing and fragmented. If content is slow to gain traction, it's easier to start a new project than it is to analyze the problems and refine your approach.

There's a lesson here for companies of all sizes: when you've found an approach that works, fuel the fire - but in the early days of content marketing, less is often more.

A small, scrappy team with a clear vision will create focused, purposeful content. Most importantly, they'll see it through - even if it takes a couple of years to see serious results.

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