Digital Ocean, Cloudflare, and others have adopted this strategy with great success. Writing good quality content takes time, good copywriters, subject experts, editors, and designers. It's not easy. It's not a hack. But you can bet it will outrank any cheap hacks for the foreseeable future.
This is a confirmation bias, however. There are a lot of orgs trying the same strategy to absolutely no success, great content that doesn't have the social proof rotting away in obscurity.
Even among the ones who yield success, that tends to come and go. It's a very short path between "wow great content" and content that is cynically (and sometimes accurately) seen as a thin veneer over self-promotion.
There was a period when Netflix, for instance, had tech pieces on here constantly. The crowd lost interest. They're still pumping out the content, presumably at a significant manpower cost, to seemingly little readership.
While you certainly must create content that your audience wants to read, it is even more important that you have a clear plan for distributing it. If your content isn't supported by a strong SEO plan, and if you don't have a clear social media and PR strategy for it, you won't see results, no matter how good the content is.
It is so obvious they are auto-generated, do people still fall for them?
Amplification (getting your content out) is the other part, and unless you've got an audience already, it's even more time consuming than preparing the actual content.
1. Use a subdirectory instead of a subdomain for your blog. That alone helped half of our customers get better ranking.
2. Keep editing older posts so they always stay up to date. Somehow Google picks this up, and people also bounce when they see outdated information. That was a quantum leap for certain blogs where we tested this approach.
3. Picking the right keywords is more important than relying purely on feeling. Lots of our customers fought that and wasted money. SemRush, Moz, etc can help you.
EDIT: And how could I forget...
4. Outsourcing content (and content alone) has great ROI but outsourcing strategy (at least to an agency or another company) is a money pit and a scam, and you'll still end up having to do A LOT of work yourself anyway.
Sounds like a bit of a rat race compared to just writing more timeless articles, or just leaving dated topics for reference.
While newness may be a great metric for Google I'm not so sure it creates the best incentives for building an Internet full of useful, quality content.
Timeless or "evergreen" content doesn't have to be updated. It's alright to keep them as is.
But keeping obsolete content online is a pain in the ass for users, so they will increase your bounce rate. Either update them or show a big notice on the top with a link to a newer article. Google will hopefully pick them up and the internet wins.
That's an elegant way to put it.
I didn't want to manage a bunch of freelance writers so I went out looking for an agency to help execute our content strategy but it seemed almost all agencies were pitching way more on helping with strategy and less on their ability to create content.
Most agencies are just hiring freelancers and putting a 10x markup on it. Since they're probably using multiple freelancers per customer, they can't guarantee consistency, which is why they need internal reviewers (which adds to their overhead).
The strategy part is not a lot of work, and I've seen the people that do it working with up to 50 customers simultaneously, so it's not as if it takes a lot of time. 75% of the secret sauce is just picking words out of SemRush. I'm not even joking.
The best ROI right now, IMO:
1. Have one or two good freelancers you trust. You'll have more consistency in your texts and you won't have to manage much. Most freelancers already know how to do the SEO part, because agencies already hire them to do it. They're cheap, so it is easy to "test" them before committing. Good freelancers are low-maintenance.
2. Outsource the strategy to a freelancer. This way you won't be tied to an expensive contract with heavy fines and they'll be able to spend more time. Sometimes they'll also produce content, other times they'll be able to manage other freelancers for you.
3. In my experience, most agencies use run regular consumer tools behind the scenes: Buffer, Semrush, Moz, Mailchimp, Hubspot, and A LOT of Google Docs. SEO checking is done using Yoast, which is free. Most of those tools are simple to use.
The answer: it really depends on your audience and your goal with the blog post.
- 1. If you just want people to find you on Google with certain keywords, you really don't have to post it anywhere. This is very common for non-technical audiences, and they will mostly find it by themselves. Tell them in the end of the blogpost to follow you on social media and add an option to get their e-mail, if this is the kind of audience that does it.
- 2. If it's something that might interest to your current followers and further engage them (such as long form content), post on your own social media accounts and send to your newsletter subscribers. Avoid posting the things from #1 on social media unless it is interesting to your followers, because people will get fatigued.
- 3. If it's really high-quality content that will bring brand awareness, then post on aggregators. Hackers News and Reddit doesn't work for traditional marketing, keep that in mind. Examples: don't use marketing language ("by the way, did you know we make..."), never push readers to follow you on social media or subscribe to the newsletter (icons and a form at the end are more than enough) and don't even talk about your product unless it's absolutely necessary. People are smart enough to find about it by themselves.
- 4. Technical tutorials and wiki-like content, like Digital Ocean and Cloudflare do, work great for technical audiences. You only have to post the REALLY good ones into HN. People will find out about the others by looking into your blog sidebar, or archives, or by searching Google. There are aggregators and subreddits that allow other kinds of tutorials.
- 5. Try making tutorials and "behind-the-scenes" content for things related to features you release. Example: I just noticed that your company released a Google Cloud DB Migration service. Try to find out what kind of tutorial people need related to Google Cloud and put make a blog post. Then post them on aggregators related to Google Cloud. Make them easy to find via Google. Make specific mailing lists related to Google Cloud. Oh, and since your company is working with multiple cloud providers, comparison posts work wonders too ;)
A tip: take a cue from sociology/psychology and forget about your "target audience" for a moment. Instead, focus on two or three very specific "personas" that make sense for you business. Imagine a person and set a gender, an age, job, location, salary, everything. This will inform you where you need to post, how often, the language you have to use, sometimes even which platform you have to use.
TL;DR: Know your audience.
I'm 100% in on content marketing for my business and after roughly 2 years of dabbling, experimenting and honing my skills I think I sort of get it.
For anyone starting out, all the common advice is true:
1. Create valuable, original content. This can be VERY specific to a VERY specific niche. People LOVE reading about how the sausage is made.
2. Go where your audience is. Took me a while to figure out.
For me that is specific sub reddits and HN. Twitter to a lesser degree.
3. Keep a schedule. Once a week, once a month. Whatever works for you.
4. Get a tool / platform that removes obstacles. Probably why Medium got so popular. It makes writing and adding pictures really easy. No subliminal / subconscious blocks on writing that next post. I use Ghost now. Same experience, just private. The cost is trivial if this is your only marketing outlay.
To get it on the site, it's just add/commit/push in git with Netlify.
You can decide you want to start content marketing, take one guy from marketing team and tell him to start pumping out “relevant” content.
Or, you can acknowledge that content marketing is like a product: it needs target audience, needs to solve problem for this audience, have a distribution and promotion process, PR backing, have a goal for your company and, the most important, it needs to be good stuff by default.
So many people treat content as “build it and they will come”, which is exactly how to achieve nothing remarkable.
Aside from curated sites, the whole thing is becoming low-value carbs.
Often, finding a 'help' article or video, you get tons of low-grade content surrounded the little thing you need to learn, along with a deluge of ads.
This model isn't really working, I don't think it ever has: junk content with junk ads, it's a big value destroying entity.
Google now knows a lot about individuals, it'd be nice to have maybe some kind of user-rated systems so we can just use each others knowledge to avoid the junk.
I've blogged for years. It doesn't make adequate income to support me. I get all kinds of flak from people who tell me to "get a real job" rather than helping me find some means to get traffic, develop a good niche and monetize it.
I also work for a writing service as a way to help pay my bills. I try to write stuff I can feel good about, but the reality is I am sometimes guilty* of adding to the kind of online "spam" that gets routinely decried as having ruined the internet.
I would prefer to be "part of the solution, not part of the problem." But it mostly doesn't pay to try to write high quality information with no pay wall, no product you are shilling, etc.
We have designed an internet where the only way to make money for the information you write is to be selling something else. And then we complain endlessly about the lack of quality information.
Pointing out the obvious connection between these various things mostly gets me grief. People want excellent information available online for free and they just refuse to see how and why that's a broken mental model.
If you want an internet where you can find good writing whose only goal is to provide good information for the reader without selling you something, then find some way to make it profitable and worthwhile for people to do that.
* To be clear, I don't feel guilty. I don't think it's morally wrong. I think what's morally wrong is the vast majority of people expecting excellent content to be completely free. That is a de facto expectation of slave labor from content producers.
In practical terms, we are incentivizing the creation of the kind of content that gets decried as low value "spam" and disincentiving the creation of independent, quality content.
"You get what you pay for." This is what pays. I've gotta eat.
I think again this is a Google problem - there is inherent value in 'good help' it should be profitable at some level, accepting the fact that there is a commodification to that as well.
I wonder if this will be Google’s downfall one day. Some AI enabled competitor will come up with a search engine that delivers exactly what you’re looking for instead of the most engaging content.
A search engine that consistently delivers English language Wikipedia as the first link for any query that has a related term on it is a search engine I'd switch to today. Google used to be like that, with a Wiki link in the top 3 results for pretty much anything I searched for. These days, I'm happy if it'll be on the first page, and this is the first time after dropping "verbatim search" that I felt Google search engine to significantly decline in quality.
No AMP either.
1 That Wikipedia does have the best answer (problematic for YMYL searches)
2 The searchers intent is informational queries - not much point in showing Wikipedia for a "buy" query
I know in theory Wikipedia isn't trustworthy, but in practice, it is good enough, and its form does a lot of work here. Most entries are structured to be information-dense and fluff-free (unlike the content marketing crap), and they cite their sources (unlike both content marketing crap and many official government sources). This overall makes it one of the most useful resources for generic health queries.
RE 2. I wouldn't complain if I was doing "buy" queries. I don't do those often anyway (for similar reasons I don't use shops for product discovery).
 - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19643059
> It is born out of my frustration in having to scroll through a prolix life story before getting to the recipe card that I really want to check out.
> In 2019, what do most of the top-ranked blogs have in common? They skip filler introductions, keep their paragraphs short, and get to the point.
Maybe those approaches of needlessly long text with irrelevatn backstories are simply outdated?
Over the course of about 3 years, I wrote around 500 blog posts about Amazon and specifically its 3rd-party marketplace. I wrote for a small startup making software in that space. This is a heavily covered topic by the mainstream media.
MANY of my posts were shit that never got any traffic after the first couple of days they were posted. But many others still rank very highly for topics also covered by the mainstream media.
Nobody wants to hear it but spray and pray is the approach that really works but you have to put the time in. You can do more research and be more systematic, but that just eats into the time you have to write and you’ll just get frustrated by the time you wasted researching what you thought was going to be a home run of a blog post.
This is exactly what you shouldn't have to do if the search engines were reasonably close to accurately measuring relevance.
In fact, a site with a single article that nails the response should outrank a site with thousands of pages of fluff.
Not just in nutrition - in pretty much everything pertaining things common to all humans - health, cooking, childbirth, etc., the search results are dominated by information-free garbage that wastes a lot of time for people seeking information.
I don’t know if there’s a name for it, but it’s basically “get your CEO and influential investors” to incessantly tweet about your company.
Not sure if it’s considered pure content marketing but a mix of content + influencer marketing.
"influencer" marketing is bullshit. The only real part of it is the same old celebrity/talent-agency business that has existed for a century.
Back in the day, people would create infographics and request other sites to embed it with a backlink. That type of link building strategy is old hat now, and feels skeevy to do if you're a funded startup.
Those "organic backlinks" aren't all so organic. There's a lot of grey between outright buying/begging a link and just hoping some links appear solely because you wrote such great content.
15 Years ago seo/content marketing was the biggest customer recruitment method. The whole online ad industry was probably $5bn-$10bn. Today, the online ad industry is $300bn-$500bn.
Google: "snack subscription," "divorce lawyer" or "cloud database." These are valuable "high intent" ads. Most/all of the screen space is dedicated to ads (I need to scroll on both laptop and phone to see organic results). They get most of the clicks and (you'll need to take my word on this) their conversion rates are much higher. This is because the advertiser can control/optimize the UX: what the ad says, what the landing page says, etc.
Most of the customers have been harvested by the ads. Not much is left for oorganic. Organic is less visible, less clickbait-ey and coverts worse.
For highly valuable queries like the one above, whatever is left after ads have taken a lions share is often scooped up by aggregators (who may also bid for ads) This leaves very little for content/seo.
Getting to the point:
1. Write articles for queries that actually prioritize articles.
With a lot of exceptions, this also means "write articles for "low intent" queries. IE, queries with far lower commercial value. You could also pay to appear on these queries. It'd be much cheaper than "high intent" queries, but either way, these are unlikely to be directly en route to acquiring customers. There is a massive difference between users who arrived looking for "flatshare in London Docklands" and those interested in "average rent per sq ft." Leading into the pitch is great, but the conversion rate will still be 10X lower or worse. Advertisers also like to convert cheap traffic, and it is much harder for content marketers.
My overall point is that the 50X-100X growth of the online ad market over the last 15 years is directly proportional to the number of customers acquired via online advertising. The competing channels have gotten proportonally smaller.
This is not just searh. Social media & "content" advertising have grown even faster, also cannibalizing organic.
Anyway.... Content markerting is now a niche strategy. If you are building the next wikipedia, quora or stack overflow, seo/content would be a great. If you are building a snack subscription, accounting software, or online babysitting service... the deck is stacked against you.
Nobody cares about your product or your company just because you spent hours writing a blog post, or labored over the right keywords, or posted it at 9AM instead of 5PM. Or spent thousands of dollars on content marketers.
Make something people want.
* it's unfortunate that my reaction to seeing myself on hn is less "cool, readers!" and more "oh no, i'm about to get ripped apart in the comments"
I bet Reddit and HN use timing, browsing time, clicks, and mouse movements, among other things to tell if a lot of visitors are just coming to the site to upvote a single story or are genuinely browsing the site before coming across something interesting.
Of course that's what all anti-SEO people would say. Hmm.