Looking for more information on content marketing and SEO for eCommerce websites? Want to discover proven strategies to help your store generate more organic traffic?

In today’s episode my guest is Dave Chaffey, co-founder and Content Director of Smart Insights, a very popular site that provides education and information for digital marketing professionals.

Since founding my software company, I have become increasingly interested in SEO and so far the results that we have been able to produce have been very promising.

In my conversation with Dave about content marketing, we talked specifically about some of the ways that eCommerce websites can use content marketing to generate more organic traffic – traffic that will ultimately lead to increased conversions and revenue.

If content marketing and SEO is on your radar screen, you are going to love today’s interview.

Full Transcript

Trent:                  Hey everybody. Welcome back to another episode of the bright ideas e-commerce podcast. As always, I am your host Trent Dyrsmid and I’m here to help you discover what is working in e-commerce by shining a light on the tools, the tactics, and the strategies in use by today’s most successful entrepreneurs. On the show with me today is Dave Chaffey, co founder and content director of Smart Insights and online publisher and consultancy who provides an educational platform with templates and guides to help both individuals and business improve their digital marketing skills. David it’s a pleasure to have you on the show with me. Welcome.

Dave:                  Thank you Trent. Thanks for the intro and uh, yeah, looking forward to sharing some of our experiences with the guys listening in.

Trent:                  Okay, excellent. And let’s not forget the gals cause they’re listening in.

Dave:                  Uh, we, yeah, we use a, you’ll have gathered, I’m from the a UK, so we say guys, that’s guys and gals.

Trent:                  Oh, fair enough. So let’s begin with this in your own words, Dave, who are you and what do you do?

Dave:                  Well, I’m lucky to have been involved in a few marketing for a long time since the, uh, the mid nineties where I first got involved at working out. Uh, what, what works with digital marketing, what didn’t tend to, I’ve always loved sharing my knowledge on digital marketing. So around 2000, if you remember the, uh, the.com boom and bust, uh, I wrote my first book, then we called it internet marketing strategy development and practice. These days we’ve updated it as, so the latest that type two is digital marketing. Um, and I’m actually on the seventh, uh, edition of that book now. And it’s still used by professional studying marketing or university colleges and colleges around the world. But, uh, with the books only updating every three years or so. Um, I wanted to get more involved with sharing, uh, my passion online. So we created a smart insights really is, uh, an online version of the book to give practical advice, uh, to businesses of all sorts who are looking to grow their businesses with digital marketing. And when did you start smart insights? That was going back around, uh, coming up to 10 years actually. So 2010 we started, I did have a, a personal blog before that. I was fortunate to have built up an audience of uh, several tens of thousands of visitors a month. And since then we scaled that up. Uh, so locally when I get around half a million visits a month to smart insights dot. Coleman mainly in the English speaking world. So although we’re based in the UK, we have a larger audience in the us and Canada. Uh, Australia uh, it’s a, it’s another area where a lot, a lot of people use our resources.

Trent:                  So half a million visits is no small amount of traffic. What did that, what did that number look like? A year ago?

Dave:                  A year ago, it was probably quite, quite similar because uh, we really used our organic search. That’s the, the source of a lot of that traffic is from Google. And over for the first five, six years of the, uh, of the business, we are content strategy and enabled us to grow properly in terms of traffic. We were growing very high double digit. So I remember it was 70 or 80% some years. But now we’re in that sort of high single digit, around 10%. Uh, growth. I think the sector has become a lot more, uh, competitive. And to an extent we’ve maxed sites on the number of people searching for what we offer because we offer guidance on, um, strategy and data river marketing in particular. So for example, someone is looking for a, a, a template to create a plan for their digital marketing and you Google that and related keywords, that’s where we’ll, uh, show up quite, quite highly. So we’ve already saturated the market in terms of search and we’re having to use other techniques these days like, uh, co-marketing and working, working with the other sites, social media, of course as well.

Trent:                  And we’re going to dive more into Dave’s tactics on SEO just a little later in the interview. But before that I have a few other questions. Uh, let’s talk about your target customer for. So when you started the company, obviously you had some target market in mind, I would imagine. What did it look like back then and how has it evolved?

Dave:                  Yes, that has evolved. I think it’s one of the great things about working in digital marketing, digital services. You can test and evolve. What we set out to do when we started was to, uh, to help marketers in small and medium businesses because there are more corporate enterprise, uh, offerings from the likes of forests, Jack, uh, serious, uh, decisions, perhaps the consultancy, uh, as well. So our audience was really your, uh, your marketing manager in a business of, um, where there’s a marketing team. Um, so not so much by number of employees, but where there was there a dedicated marketing person or marketing, uh, team. And we also really wanted to help the digital marketing specialists because as the importance of the internet, digital media, digital tech have grown, you’re now getting these specialist roles developing of course. So, uh, when, when we ask people to subscribe, we will, we will say, what, what’s your role?

Dave:                  Are you a marketing manager, business owner? Um, we, we, we have many business owners who actually run their own eCommerce, uh, face. And then also digital marketing managers. So we’ve got about five key personas in total. There’s some guys who specialize in individual channels, so they might be, say a search or email marketing or a web design specialist. So we have toolkits that we’ve built out to help all of those people in, in, in different roles. So it’s really quite diverse, uh, both in terms of the roles and the company sizes. Because I think what’s quite interesting, we set up the proposition as for smaller and medium businesses, but we find that the, there was a shared need of, in larger organizations, of course they also need strategies and plans. So we found that larger businesses in sectors like pharma, financial services, travel, um, business to business, they e-commerce, stables, they were all looking for, uh, advice. So we’ve really built out our contents to support all of those different needs. So it’s interesting in that you’re off then told you should specialize in one area. But I think we’ve, we’ve been successful by having quite a broad offering, um, and then developing a service for different people in each area. Do you see what I mean?

Trent:                  Absolutely. So when someone comes to your site and they decide they’re going to join your email list or your messenger list or what have you, tell me a little bit about how you are. If you’ve got this broad audience, I don’t imagine you want to be sending them all the same messages to the same pieces of content. You must be doing some segmentation, I’m guessing.

Dave:                  Yes, exactly. It’s all about the, uh, the relevance. And in the early days we did what a lot of eCommerce businesses do. There’s a single welcome email that goes out to everyone. But soon we built that tie into a series of emails where we would talk by our templates and tool kits and how they could help. But one of the, uh, the very simple techniques we used is that we created a different welcome email. I think it was the second in a sequence. So it was wonderful marketing managers, one for digital marketing managers, one for small business owners, and by just a P appealing to those people by name. Hey, this is, this is our content for you. If you’re working as a digital marketing manager or an eCommerce manager.

Dave:                  Yeah, yeah. We, I mean it’s, it’s that we, our response went up by three to five times depending on what the role was and since then we broaden it out further. So for people working in different industries, so if you were working in eCommerce or B to B or we’ve put an agency offering as well, we’ll send night relevant messaging, uh, via email to, to those nice Paco. So quite a lot of work to set up those different sequences, but really, really worth it.

Trent:                  So if we call each sequence for each target customer, say Elaine in your highway and all of these highways are in your marketing funnel, how many lanes are there?

Dave:                  Quite well, quite a few lanes. Yeah. It’s like one of those West coast highways and a LA LA LA. I, I think so, yeah, there’s probably 10 core lanes. But what we’ve done more recently since we’ve moved into servicing a bit larger business audience, we, we also ask a question around are you on the sites to really improve your own marketing skills? If is it more about improving the commercial results from your business or do you actually have a team of people that you, uh, that you want to develop and learn? So for tomorrow, tomorrow example, I’m, uh, talking to a large international pharma company and they’ve actually got 40 people who are using our tools to develop their team, but they’re not actually that interested in the commercial, um, driving the commercial performance directly. It’s just about the team skills and, uh, career development. So yeah, put quite a lot of lanes. Okay.

Trent:                  So you’d, you’d hinted at SEO, which we’re going to get into in much more detail here in just a little bit with what are some of the other pillars that have, uh, but used for you to grow?

Dave:                  Well, I think with, with SEO, of course that’s driven by content marketing. And my view is you hear a lot of people when they’re talking about digital channels, they’ll say, well, we need a, a social media strategy. We need an email strategy or, um, search strategy, Google ads, organic. But for me, it’s all brought together by the, uh, the content strategy. And what we thought done the areas where we did a lot of keyword research where we, we had a scalable approach where rather than just targeting, um, an unstructured list of keywords, we’ve got around 20 different, uh, key areas of the way people search and then we’re targeting in those areas and then we develop content to meet each of those needs. So if for example, you’re a, an eCommerce owner or an agency owner, you’ve come to our site and you’d find free advice on, you know, what, what are the biggest challenges of running an eCommerce, uh, marketing operation that you need to, uh, get get right?

Dave:                  So really starts with that content strategy and then also finding a common need that can work across the board. So I was saying, um, we generate several thousand new contacts a month and that’s because we’ve got this hero content, which is around, um, the, uh, setting up a content or digital strategy or plan. So we offer some free templates and free advice, which of course Pete gets people, if you like, on the, on ramp onto the, on onto the highway. You were, you were talking about, so certainly content. I can talk more about social media and we, we haven’t talked about conversion rate optimization. That’s another pillar. Shall I talk more on that?

Trent:                  Yeah, please go into that one a bit as well.

Dave:                  Yeah. It’s uh, I think we all spend a, when you look at the amount we spend on media both in terms of time and budget, I think we’re often all guilty of not spending enough on their conversion rate optimization. So typically that’s the AB testing. Um, I think the reason may be people don’t spend so much on it. It is quite a specialist scale. So the story I wanted to share about our success is we actually brought in a specialist, a CRO agency to develop a plan to really research the needs of our audience and then to develop landing pages, which would help explain our proposition both for the free membership and the premium membership as well. So we worked with an agency called conversion rate experts who are based over here in the UK, but they’ve actually, I’m fortunate to know some of the owners and they work, they’ve worked with the lights of Facebook and Google in the States as well. So it was quite a large investment at the time, but it was really worthwhile in terms of bringing in, uh, the skills in house.

Dave:                  So we knew in future how to run our own tests. And in the short term it gave us great ROI because we were able to double conversion rates, uh, to, to our free membership.

Trent:                  Tell me, tell me about the test that helped you to do that.

Dave:                  Yeah, sure. Really interesting. A practical one, your listeners, um, I know a lot of them will use e-commerce, uh, light bulb boxes for you see the classic 10% off your first order, perhaps four eCommerce sites. So we had an equivalent of that, which was, uh, would you like your free marketing templates? And that was delivered through a, through popup. Now in the early days, we had a lot of calls to action. We weren’t using a light box because I think any group of people I talk to, they always grow. And when I say you buy light bulbs this, um, but even before the, uh, the CRO company were on board, we had light boxes and when we first switched them on, even though I was against them personally, perhaps, uh, I want you to run a test, but we actually increased the number of contacts and new leads by 40% overnight by using a, a nicely designed Lightbox.

Trent:                  Sorry. Is this an exit pop up light box or is it a time on site or scroll based?

Dave:                  It’s a, initially it was just a, um, it w it was just a time based one. So I think it was 10 seconds. Initially we perhaps reduced it to five these days we’re using and it’s more sophisticated and it will be asset based in some, uh, in, in in some cases. But the, yeah, the specific test I was going to mention was, uh, the, the CRO and agencies say, well it’s, yeah, it’s quite a nicely designed popup. It’s really explaining the proposition quite well. But you haven’t got any customer testimonials. So across the bottom of the pop up that they just said, I have these three quotes from our members that they’d researched and that gave a 10% increase in signups over overnight, just three text box days, which I think is so incredible with the test only took a week. And of course once you’ve done that it just runs and runs Oh yeah. We were very pleased with that advice and other similar ideas they gave us.

Trent:                  Now in our pre-interview you told me that you described your four pillars as content marketing, SEO, CRM, which we just talked about and email, which we’ve talked a little about, a little bit about already with all the lanes on your highway. Is there anything else, cause I don’t want to make this interview all about email, but is there anything else on the email topic that you think is really worthy of discussion?

Dave:                  Yes. I think um, email is often neglected. Perhaps say, you know, social media is often seen as being a sexier perhaps. But I think with, with email, it’s really important to take time out to develop an automated, uh, strategy, fewer email, both for that initial nurture that we were talking about before, but also for follow up messages that, uh, that help with, with loyalty. So, so for us, I think, um, those automations have been really important, but also the newsletter, um, is, is something that really warrants a lot of thoughts. And in our sector where it’s business to business, of course people have got a fair of, um, perhaps getting out of date with their, their knowledge or perhaps not knowing the very latest, uh, advantages, um, the latest platforms on the likes of Facebook and Google, LinkedIn. So we, we actually have a twice weekly a newsletter, a work quite hard to keep our, our blogger up to date.

Dave:                  So we actually, um, post around three or four new articles or updated articles, uh, every day on the blog. And then we’ll create those. And on Wednesday and Friday we’ll send out that, that newsletters, so perhaps won’t be a surprise, uh, amongst retailers that, uh, the email newsletters work. But perhaps the thing that’s the tactic that’s a little difference there is just, um, educating, uh, around, through email because there’s often this, uh, I wrote a book back in the day called total email marketing and I used to talk about the cell in full man entertain balance newsletter. Susan, what would I would often see with, uh, many companies is that their news newsletters that you’re selling and that they’re missing out on the opportunity to inform or entertain by, you know, whether it’s a video news or celebrities or cos it just, whatever resonates with the audience. Uh, I, I think if you think of someone like Dale and their newsletter, it just went back in a day when I was writing that book. It was just featuring products, whereas they had a great opportunity to explain by new developments coming out from Microsoft or, or, or Apple and you know, security issues, how, how they would help with, with that. So I think, um, the inform and entertain is often missed in a newsletter columns. And I think we’ve been able to tie into that.

Trent:                  So why do you send twice a week in? Was is like in my case I send twice a week, but the second sentence to the unopens from the first sentence, is that what you’re doing? Are you doing something else?

Dave:                  No, ours is a little different. I like that, uh, that tactic that, that certainly works well, that multi-step, but we, because as I mentioned, we’ve got a, a large U S audience, but we’re also quite large in UK and Europe quits. We simply send them for two different times zones. It’s probably more sophisticated ways we could do it, but we find that if you get any inbox first thing in the morning, mid morning, it works, works better for those, those, those regions. So that’s, that’s why we do it that way.

Trent:                  And do you, is it the exact same newsletter just to, to different segments or same subject, same content?

Dave:                  Yeah, it is. We have tried segmenting it, but, uh, it’s, uh, we, we were looking in future to, to tailor it more based on people’s interests in terms of their, their toolkits. I think there’s, there’s a lot of talk amongst email marketing vendors by using dynamic content to populate different, uh, offers for different audiences. But I think it’s quite hard to make that happen in, in, in practice. So we do most of our targeting more within the welcome and a nurture sequence.

Trent:                  And how much of the email is highlighting your own content versus curated content from other sites?

Dave:                  A good question. I think a lot of our growth is based on curated content and I think that’s often a, a missed opportunity. Whatever sector you’re in. I think people always fail. They have to start writing their blog posts, uh, from, from scratch, whereas if you curate content that that can really help your audience and help you. So one tactic that’s worked well for us there is just summarizing the, uh, the latest benchmarks. So if you, um, within your audience of eCommerce marketers, there’s a big interest in, uh, conversion rates, for example. So if you Google e-commerce conversion rate benchmarks, we would hopefully be up there. And what we will do is to curate content on different sources from different vendors of um, conversion rates, whether it’s Mo bottle, well desktop and that sort of evergreen content. It gives us a Reiki and a stream of traffic. We’ve done similar things for like social media, email stats as well. And in some cases you could be driving thousands or even tens of thousands of visits per month just from a single post of a curated content. So it’s quite specific to our sector, but it shows what you can achieve if you, if you, if you get the right topic.

Trent:                  So we’re in a world where the inboxes overly crowded for everybody. I know myself, I subscribed to almost nothing because I just can’t stand getting too many emails into my inbox. I only want to be focused on a few things. Are you, what are you doing to, are you using any humor or comedy or any other thing to make your email more engaging than your competitors so that when they get, so when your subscribers are going to click an unsubscribe button, it’s unlikely to be yours.

Dave:                  Yeah. That, uh, yeah, I, I love humor and humor is great. I wish the team actually used it a bit, uh, a bit more often. And uh, it was, I think we do that through social media quite nicely. We’ve got Instagram channel where I will, we’ll do that. The difficulty is that a lot of our audience are in the larger organizations. It’s quite serious stuff and you know that their job is on the line. So we don’t want to push it that far. Um, but so what I would say we do is we just provide value to keep people engaged so they don’t hit delete because that, while we do, one of the things we do, for example, we’ve got a, uh, uh, a curated page called what’s hot. So every month we’ll highlight that with all the platform changes you would need to know about if you’re an eCommerce manager or as actual essential media marketing manager. So it’s a bit of a boring, um, on. So, but the, the, the, the Hema doesn’t have worked so well for us. I think we, we used sort of issues and infographics as well, which not, not quite humor, but it makes it accessible and more easy to, to learn. Um,

Trent:                  so you have a page, you have a page on your site called what’s hot and do you constantly update the content on that page and keep driving traffic?

Dave:                  Yeah, exactly. We have a different month and then we refresh it each month. Eh, initially I think it was [inaudible] it was behind the pay wall wall, but we decided it was best to open it certainly for free members because we’re also shake showcasing the new content that we put up for our paid premium members because we do, we do a rye eight, 10 new or updated piece of content a month. So it actually helps drive convection as well.

Trent:                  Do you know what the URL for that page is on, off the top of your head?

Dave:                  Uh, no I don’t because it’s, it’s what’s halls, but we update, you know, there’ll be a October, 2019 that that will be the new one that’s just coming up. But in our member area, it’s free, clear the, uh, the, the, the waltz hall. So, uh, we don’t tend to surface that so much outside of the, on the public sites. So we’ve got a separate members area and uh, the, uh, the public sites if you like.

Trent:                  Okay. Well if there’s a URL that you can provide me after the fact too, that whatever the current version of what’s hot is that will be created, I’d like to include it in the show notes.

Dave:                  Yeah, I’ll, uh, I’ll, I’ll tell you that.

Trent:                  So you had told me in our pre-interview that S of all of your pillars, SEO was the most effective and I’ve been promising the audience that we would get into more into SEO in our discussion today. So I want to do that now. Um, so let’s start at the top with strategy before you ever do, you know, type out that first PDF piece of content. I imagine you did some research and some keyword research and so forth. Tell me about the strategy part of SEO.

Dave:                  Yeah. Show we, we’ve talked about the, uh, the keyword research side. And I think it’s, people always start with this and it’s like, yeah, yeah, of course we need to do keyword strategy. But what, what helps I think is the, if you’re very structured in your keyword strategy, whenever I’m doing consulting and I’m working with a new business, I’ll always say, well, do you have the keyword list? And very often people will self is really interesting. Sometimes it’s just like 10 different categories of, of the products they sell. Other times it’s like hundreds of keywords, but they’re really not structured. So what we really found, how it happens is to put it back to the consumer behavior and to build up a structure where you’ve got your core, um, that’s degrees that you’re promoting. And then the qualifiers people will add on to those at the moment.

Dave:                  So for example, I’m working just this morning with someone who sells their voice, uh, services, phone services and systems online. And we were looking at their keywords. And what, what you actually find is that people, when they’re really interested, they add providers and they add systems. And solutions to that keywords. But those three words weren’t actually in their targeted keyword list because they just had the two word generic. So what we really look at are those long tail of three, four, five, uh, and more keywords. And in our particular sector, there’s a lot of interest in the very latest in bio as you’d expect. So being ready with say, 2020 trends in digital marketing, w we, we’ve got a, uh, a series of posts that we put live back in September to promote the year ahead, which promotes, uh, 2020. I most people get right into those in December or January, but we’re hopefully already dominating, uh, the SEPs in, in those areas.

Dave:                  So I think the strategy of keywords is just being a bit more detailed in the analysis and, and structured and what one technique that I’d recommend works particularly well in eCommerce is what I call a gap analysis, where once you’ve got that structured list of keywords, you put, um, you integrate the data from Google keyword planner, Google analytics and Google AdWords, and you have separate columns saying, well, this is our total potential audience. This is what we’re driving through organic. This is what we’re driving through Google ads, Google shopping, and then you can at a glance see where, where you’re strongest or weakest for particular product categories or, um, or product areas and uh, yeah, that, that’s one of the templates that’s on our site that, uh, [inaudible] members use. So just, just having an Excel sheet, Google sheet that pulls together all that data that, that, that’s really important for informing our keyword strategy.

Trent:                  What about tools? I’m a big fan of Ahrefs. I use it almost every day. Do you have a preferred tool that you use to assist you with your keyword research?

Dave:                  Uh, we, yeah, we do. I, for me, it is actually the Google Keyword Planner. Um, and I think we know our, um, we know our audience so well now and the actual dynamics of the keywords don’t change that much. There might be some such as, you know, there’s more people interested in artificial intelligence and personalization for e-commerce these days. So we don’t tend to update our keyword strategy that much. And I don’t use a H refs for that reason, but it is my, when I’m consulting, it’s my number one go to, uh, for, for, for clients, uh, SEMrush, I think a lot of people where we’ll, we’ll use those as well. But for me it’s Google, Google keyword planner, analytics, and then also the Google search console. I think when I’m working in businesses, many people don’t tap into the Google search console and the date data on keywords, driving visits. It’s maybe because they think it’s something that the agency should manage. But to me it’s far too important for that. And it’s that, those really useful, um, insights in that as well.

Trent:                  So, so give me an example. So if I’m doing keyword research in a HRS and you’re saying you’re a big fan of the Google search console, how would the use of that tool, what benefit is that going to give me? Is it going to help me to uncover different keywords or I just shed some light on that.

Dave:                  yeah, yeah, sure. I’d say I’m search console is more for when you’re off and running with your, um, your organic search change. You’re looking to tailor and re-publish. Uh, the content is, so keyword planner, I’d mainly use for the research or AA tress. What I use the search console for is to, you can look at a particular product category and at a glance, very quickly see all of the keywords that are, um, attracting visits. So a lot of our audience are interested in models for, um, digital marketing and marketing. Like, you know, for example, the seven PS, we can just filter by models and see which of the keywords are driving visits. And then you can see the ranking and the clicks and impressions, um, for free. So you, if you see, for example, you’re at position five, you can look at tactics to, to move up the, uh, that the listings.

Dave:                  So we mainly use it like that. I think it’s also interesting and you’re gonna lie stakes. You won’t get data on any individual page or group of category pages and the, uh, the keywords they’re actually driving. So what we could do is if, if we say, take one of our big drivers about social media research, you would see for an individual page all of the keywords that that page is driving. So when we’re updating that page, we can then tailor it accordingly, you know, change headings, change images to see what’s, uh, what’s working. So I thought I’d say this is another key element to share of our strategy, um, with your listeners. And that’s the fact that it’s not a once only post a blog and then forget, because most blogs she posts that will spike when you share through, um, through three social, through the newsletter, but then they don’t become an evergreen.

Dave:                  Of course, you want those evergreen content that drive traffic continuously. So what we will actually do is we’ll see which pages are getting traction on that and as they become evergreen we’ll republish them. Um, so this is some times cool. Oh, historical optimization. I found it’s only a jargon, but it’s a nice way of sort of highlighting its important site I think because I saw a post by HubSpot who of course are pretty strong in their organic search and they had a blog post around historical optimization. I can share that link with the uh, the listeners if you want. And they said something like two thirds to three quarters of their traffic and leads every month, uh, from posts that have been published in the past. So they’re doing exactly what we’re doing and just refining the content all the time to drive more visits. So hopefully as I explain it, it sounds like a no brainer to do that. But most marketing teams and bloggers that I talk to who maybe aren’t on top of so much on top of the organic search, they don’t think like that. They think it’s got to be a new blog post every day, week, month, whatever frequency they work at.

Trent:                  So what you’re saying then is, hypothetically speaking, I could have 50 really great blog posts and not worry about publishing new ones, but continually updating and republishing one of those posts say every week, just as an example and make sure that all 50 of those are always current as well. Obviously they’re only going to update them once per week. If I’ve got 50 and 50 weeks, you get the idea instead of continually pumping out new posts that are maybe 800,000 words or whatever, making sure that I have 50 of the very best posts on each of those topics across the entire internet.

Dave:                  Yeah, that, that that’s exactly, uh, it’s, it’s, it’s a lot of work, but Hey, I think our team, they’re much more motivated to improve the quality of existing content rather than starting a and every time we new content, which you don’t know whether it’s going to get that traction. I think it is important to actually put the time into, improve the content though and not just republish it because Google will be looking at a, you know, what, what value you’re writing and they’re looking at the user metrics as well. So we see, for example, I was looking at a post I had on email benchmark statistics and it would gradually fallen away from being in the top position, just as fewer people were dwelling on the page. And probably the pains trays have increased as well. So Google, you imagine Google’s looking at the time between someone does a search, hit your site and does another search. If that reduces, then um, you know, your contents fading away. It’s a bit like banner burner Tony on a site really. Um, so hopefully that will have sparks and an idea with, uh, some of the guys listening in.

Trent:                  Okay. So you’ve done some work identifying your keywords, you’ve created content, you figured out which content is getting traction, you’ve worked on updating that content and republishing that content. And by the way, I’m assumed by the term republished, you’re basically just saying give it a new publish date and hit the publish button again to push it to the front page of the blog.

Dave:                  Yeah, that’s right. As I say, we, yeah, as I say, we do rewrite the content. Say we’ll remove any, uh, out of date content or add new examples. Okay. I think you see some people just doing it re cynically re-publishing and it doesn’t work that way. In my experience. Google’s smart enough.

Trent:                  So let’s talk about link building and then I want to talk about content promotion and maybe maybe those are related in a certain to a certain degree. So tell me about that. How do you do it?

Dave:                  Uh, link-building is important, but it doesn’t have to be proactive link building. If you’ve got the right types of content, they will organically attract links. So for us at least, uh, we’re in the fortunate position because of the types of evergreen content we’ve, people will tend to naturally link to it anyway. So if I’m a blogger and I’m writing about, say, CRO, I might do a search for e-commerce conversion rates so that I’ve got the latest stats on what a, uh, a, a small phone convection rate is. So they will, you’ve got this sort of virtual virtuous circle. If you’re near the top of the listings, people naturally use you as a reference source. So we naturally get lots of organic shares around natural links, rather Aranda that content. Um, in terms of more proactive link-building, what we tend to do is to work with specialists, uh, influencers and people are really passionate about the different areas, whether it’s CRM or eCommerce or, um, uh, email marketing. And then we’ll get them involved with sharing and we’ll use those classic approaches of, uh, like our trends posts. For example, recently on email marketing, we will get several, uh, email marketing experts to talk about the latest trends. Uh, in that area and, and share. So as a fairly standard, uh, approach.

Trent:                  So hold on, let me, I want to dive in. I’m sorry to interrupt. You want to make sure I understand that. So you’re going to write a post about a trend about something in that post, you’re going to cite the work of several other influencers who’ve produced content on that topic. So a kind of a list post maybe, but not really. And then once the post is published, you’re obviously going to reach out to everyone that was mentioned in the post to say, Hey, we mentioned you made you look good in this post just in case you want to share this with your audience.

Dave:                  Uh, yeah, you can use that approach. Ours is more to involve them in actually getting the quotes beforehand. Um, so they’re contributing to the quite soon as share too that they share to social. I think often that the act of sharing to social though Google have said, well, we don’t take social shares into account. Our experiences, the, the, the articles which get the most social shares do tend to perform best. And I don’t really expect influences these days to link directly from there that their blogs. So, um, the social sharing is really important for me with those.

Trent:                  Okay.

Dave:                  Does that, does that make sense?

Trent:                  It does. Indeed. It does. Indeed. So with the second part of my question about content promotion, have you in the answer you’ve just given me, have you covered all of the ways? I mean, yes, you’re putting it out on social. I get that part. Um, but is there anything else particular that you’re doing for promoting the content aside from what you’ve already described?

Dave:                  Well, we’re uh, yeah, we’re fortunate with a social following as as well. So, uh, it’s, it’s, it’s pretty obvious I guess, but we’re very keen on re-purposing. So we might splice a long post up into five posts. We’ll create an infographic, we’ll perhaps use a video and we’ll share all of those. I think the fast, the classic mistake in business to business marketing is you do one research report. Um, I was talking to someone last week. We spent, they spent $25,000 on it, but all they have is a single PDF. They don’t promote where as course that can be split up and split up by segments as well. So really a, in terms of the promotion, those are the main techniques we, uh, we use. We were fortunate not to have to do too much, um, paid advertising. But in the case of those trends posts, we do feature those in Google ads as well, which helps, helps get additional, uh, traction.

Trent:                  How about guest posting? Has that ever played a part in your strategy?

Dave:                  Good question. I can’t believe I haven’t, um, mentioned guest posting because we, we actually use that not as, I mean, so much of link-building, although it does help with that, but as a way of generating content. So if, if we have good quality, uh, specialists, we do encourage them to write for us. So we have a series of what we will call guest experts who are, you know, on top of, say, social media and we’ll encourage them to write, uh, regularly and to sort of build up a following because our readers know that, that, that they’re going to get valuable advice from those specialists. There’s a guy called Gavin Llewellyn for example. He’s written for us for the last three or four years and his posts, um, are, you know, they’re really engaging. So we’re happy to, um, pay him to do a, a small amount for F for those over there. The air to wreck, recognize he’s contribution, but we would do one off guest posts as well, which we wouldn’t pay for just to see, um, you know, make sure the quality is right. We’ve got very stringent guest posting guidelines because we find the majority of guest posting is probably going to be, you know, going to do, you know, harms and good.

Dave:                  I now I think what we haven’t done enough and I always feel I failed somewhat with my blogging and I reached him as though I don’t think we do enough guest posting on other sites because I believe as long as you don’t do it in a spammy way and you don’t over repeat the use of Lincoln Cutex um, then that will be effective. We, we, we do some, but I, it’s that one area, it’s always at the back of my mind where, Hey, why aren’t we doing more, more guest posting, more, more outreach into other sites. It’s quite hard to make happen in a scalable way.

Trent:                  [inaudible] yeah, it’s a lot of work. All right. So now that we’ve talked about all of your marketing strategies, obviously some in a lot more detail than others, do you know what that has resulted in at first in terms of a customer acquisition cost or CAC as people like to call it the industry? Do you know what that is?

Dave:                  I think for us, because we’re so dependent on organic traffic, uh, we, we don’t have that, that issue of spending a large remains on, um, on, on Google ads or social ads. So we will spend, yeah,

Trent:                  You’ve got to create, you’ve got to create the content and it didn’t create itself for free.

Dave:                  Well, this is, yeah, this is true. I mean, what I’d say is, as a business, we’ve been profitable since we launched in 2011. Um, so it’s, it’s profitable in that sense. But with the large investment in content, you can really have a, I think it’s one of the challenges of content marketing that you can’t have a, an allowable customer acquisition cost in the way you might for digital media. I would say with Google ads, you know, we’ve got to, you know, we’ll look at the cost speculate quite carefully and the attack or a free member is around $2 for us. So that’s the way we think about in that channel. But the bigger picture, um, as long as we’re driving growth through through the blog editor in the people we’re paying to develop the columns and we’re, uh, we’re happy. Okay.

Trent:                  So now I’d like to talk a little bit about people and process because obviously they’re both very important in getting all of this content produced. So for the portion of my audience who is maybe running an eCommerce store, um, they might be the sole employee with maybe a handful of other people doing order fulfillment or what have you, but they’re, they’re really the marketing department and maybe got VA or so forth, but they’re realizing they’re at a point in their business where they want to scale up. They want to do so in a measured way so that they can continue to be profitable. Um, what would be, you know, like when you, when you were at that phase, what did you do?

Dave:                  Yeah, well, we’ve actually, um, we were bootstrapping the business for many years. So myself and the, uh, the three co founders, we worked together until around two 2015 and we were initially using outsource, uh, re resource. So, uh, we, we had a blog editor for example. Uh, but we were paying her, um, on, on the, the amount of content, uh, that was created. Uh, so, so we could, you know, we may be at one or two blog posts a day at that, uh, at that point. But to take it to the next level, we saw we needed to create more content for a wider range of audiences. So our first recruit was actually in the business as a whole, apart from the cofounders was a, was a blog editor because we knew that that would give us the, uh, the foundation. They could help, uh, with the organic search. And then we, we brought in other roles related to other digital channels. So social media, paid search chatter, a later time I’d say actually after the blog editor, probably the second hire on the channel side, which is probably would feel right for many, um, econ businesses as they grow as an email marketing, a marketing automation person. Uh, perhaps if you’re more dependent on Google ads, then you might start with a Google ads or social ads specialist rather than the, the blog editor or kinds of dynamics.

Trent:                  Let’s go back to the blog editor for a few minutes. What, so when you hired this person, did you task them with determining what type of content needed to be created? Where are they responsible for recruiting writers to create this content? I mean, were they kind of a project manager in addition to a content editor or were they simply editing content that you and the two other co-founders for writing?

Dave:                  uh, yeah. Interesting. I’d say we had the strategy nailed because as I explained earlier, we had a target keyword strategy and we, we have all thought with them. Uh, we, we did the gap analysis when the blog editor started, but they were really making sure, I think a project manager is a good way of putting it. And I remember at that stage we were using Trello to have the boards of different key words, so we would make sure we were covering the right range of keywords, um, every week. So they were writing some, uh, I’d say about half of their time, uh, one or two thirds of their time went into originating new content. And then a third of culture of that time would go into managing the guests blog editors. So making sure we had the content quality there. So it really editing. So when you say

Trent:                  two thirds of their time was in content creation, does that mean that they were also functioning as a writer?

Dave:                  Oh yeah. Yeah. They weren’t, no, they were a hired a writer. So you know that that was the number one thing we were looking for when we recruited them. We gave them some writing tests and some creativity tests to, to make sure that they were going to produce real quality content, which was going to get us the, uh, the, the credibility.

Trent:                  Okay. So you hired them to write content as well as handle all of the project management stuff that is related to producing, publishing and promoting content. Um, did you ever make use of contract writers early on or now?

Dave:                  Not really. I say not really, but it’s a, here in the UK we had one. Um, it was more of a partner I became aware of and that they had a paper post type arrangement so you could charge in a cat and you know, you could put 500 or a thousand dollars there per month or call and then to a brief, they would write to content. Um, we didn’t actually pay them money. I did a Contra deal, but I did test that concept and I’d say if you can find an option like that where it’s a professional paid content service where you’ve got writers writing to a brief that you give them a, you know, a good story outline what you’re trying to achieve. I’d say that is the valid model. Yeah. The way is to hire someone through Upwork who is a specialist in an area and is offering writing services. But as I say for us, it was mainly bringing in that doc located as you said, the, the other part of their time was sharing to social, um, as well. Okay.

Trent:                  Producing content on an ongoing basis is a very logistically heavy process. Can you tell me a little bit about any project management tools or workflows or whatever that is that you use to make sure the wheels fall off the bus?

Dave:                  Yes. Uh, I’m not sure they did stay on the bus all the time, but uh, yeah, I, it’s that there are lots of content curation tools out there, but to be honest, we found that using good old Google sheets and having a calendar there is um, we actually have a three month look ahead of new and re-publish content that will be, uh, that we’ll be using. Um, so having know really well categorized content we use, there is a, there are plugins for w were word press, um, platform. We do use one of the plugins which allows you to see a sort of calendar view across all the posts over the next month or two was as well. But I’m afraid we don’t use anything that exciting. Uh, we, we did look at using BuzzStream for uh, contacting third party influence this. But Hey, we find we can do that through um, so through three Google sheets as well.

Dave:                  And I must talk about one tactic as well that I think is really lame. It’s like a tick box approach. You see a lot of, I get something like, and I’m sure many people listening, I get some thing like, uh, five to 10 different requests every week saying, Hey, you’ve got this post and uh, we’ve got an article on there so we want you to change your post. So you link to our article. And very often it’s a, we’re going to relevant or poor quality article and they’re only coming to us because we rank highly already. But why would I bother telling him to some crappy, uh, posts? And you know, it’s all an automated process. Their emails are sent out, they’re just not thinking about the, the Irish reach and doing it in a more, uh, if they were being more professional about it, they contact me personally in linked in and they build up a relationship and then, Hey, yeah, we can work together on, on, on, on this. So I think some of those tools that are out there can be quite dangerous. And it is actually, as you said to yourself, it’s about putting in the time to the relationship development.

Trent:                  Yeah, I get, I get those all the time as well. Delete, delete. All right. So my last question before we wrap up, is there anything that I have not asked you about which if you were eavesdropping on our conversation and thinking, Oh gosh, I wish Trent would have asked Dave about

Dave:                  X, Y, Zed. Yeah, yeah, sure. Um, this will mainly help, those of you are involved with, uh, the business to business side. And I was going to mention it when we were talking about email marketing. I think email has held up pretty well. I was looking at the latest benchmark CIO Kern and click, right? So I go off three or four years there. They’re holding up pretty well, but of course younger audiences, they tend to use social rather than email. And there’s also this issue as you said, of the over a flowing inbox is, so one tactic and one tool that we found really useful is uh, where you’re really having the conversation, I think Gartner call this conversation marketing where you’re having a conversation on site about the individual’s needs. So it’s quite B2B CFA, but we use a tool called Intercom and we’re able to just ask, can we help in some way or we can promote more targeted contents.

Dave:                  So we see that someone for example, is interested in e-commerce. We can say check out our free guide to the mistakes to avoid with eCommerce marketing and where we find that the open and click rates you get through that platform because it’s in the moment because it’s real time. They can be at the level of um, you know, 50% plus open and double dip a digit click rates, which I think most people wouldn’t get on email unless it’s the very first a welcome email that you send out. So it’s, it’s really, yeah, really worth taking a look at that tool. And I think in the eCommerce space, there’s a category of engagement tools where rather than people just popping up a, um, a light box with 10% off your first order, you can have other ways of perhaps engage aging second or third time audiences. So in equal my scenes, people get surprisingly good traction. Just three running priced rules. For example, um, different spinning the wheel type games that you might not expect to successful. A lot of platforms like shop Shopify for instance, they do have these plugins which are all about in the moment, uh, in engagement. So we’re worth checking those out if anyone isn’t using those.

Trent:                  All right. Is the Intercom something where you’re able to semi automate these one-to-one conversations through creating flows that are using decision tree logic or are you actually having agents deal with this manually?

Dave:                  It’s a, it’s a combination. Yeah. It’s uh, one of the good features is that you can have those, those flows and um, drift is another tool that, uh, the available witness in the, in this area. But um, it also integrates customer support. So all of the messages that are popped up, well, they, they’re automated, they feature real members of staff, so they’re quite personal. And then as someone responds, they do go into the workflow of real people in our teams. So it really blends the online and offline worlds quite, quite well, I think, which is why it’s so effective.

Trent:                  All right. Well, Dave, thank you so much for making some time to be on the show. I’m assuming that if someone here is listing and they would like to form a partnership with you of some kind looking you up on LinkedIn, would be the easiest way to get ahold of you.

Dave:                  Uh, I’m a LinkedIn person these these days, so, uh, yeah, that, that’s the best way to get my updates or any questions people might have. Uh, yeah, find me on LinkedIn. Dave Chaffey is quite a unique name. I think there’s one other internet marketer in, in Australia with the same name, but I’m the, uh, the Brit.

Trent:                  All right. Very good. Dave. Thank you so much.

Dave:                  Thank you, Trent. It’s being a good, thanks for a great set of questions.

Questions Asked During the Interview

[01:06] What does your company do?
[02:20] When did you start the company?
[03:09] What is your YOY growth rate?
[04:42] Who is your target customer?
[07:33] How are you segmenting your visitors on your email list?
[10:20] What have been the drivers of growth? (Content Marketing, SEO, CRO, and Email)
[12:17] Tell me about why and how you focus on conversion rate optimization (CRO)
[13:40] Tell me about one of your CRO tests
[16:00] Tell me about how you are using email
[17:00] How often do you send your newsletter?
[18:50] Why do you send twice a week?
[20:04] How much of your content is curated vs original?
[20:29] Tell me about how you are using curated content
[21:55] Are you making use of humor in your emails?
[24:50] Tell me about your SEO strategy
[25:30] Tell me about the keyword list you advise your clients to develop
[28:05] What is your favorite keyword research tool?
[29:32] When and why do you use the Google Search Console?
[31:32] How often do you republish older posts?
[35:18] Tell me about your link building strategy
[36:14] Tell me about your proactive link building strategy
[37:15] Tell me about how you are involving influencers in the creation of your posts
[38:15] Tell me about your content promotion strategies
[39:21] Tell me about your guest posting strategy
[41:36] What is your customer acquisition cost (CAC)?
[43:21] Tell me about the point at which you wanted to hire your first employee for content production
[45:10] Tell me how you used the content editor when you first hired them
[46:50] Have you ever made use of contract writers?
[48:10] Tell me about some of the systems and processes that you used to manage your content marketing
[50:50] What haven’t I asked you about that I should have?
[53:00] How much of your use of Intercom can be automated?

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Today’s Guest

Dr Dave Chaffey is co-founder and Content Director of digital marketing advice site Smart Insights. Smart Insights is a publisher and learning platform that helps 150,000 members in over 100 countries plan, manage, and optimize their digital marketing activities by applying the actionable advice via planning templates, guides and interactive e-learning tools.  Free members can download free guides or benchmark their digital capability using Toolkits covering all key digital marketing activities including Digital Transformation, Digital Experience Management, Marketing Automation, Content Marketing, SEO, Social Media Marketing, B2B Marketing, eCommerce, and Agency Growth.

Dave is author of 5 bestselling books on eCommerce including Digital Marketing: Strategy, Implementation and Practice and Digital Marketing Excellence. He has been recognized as one of 50 marketing ‘gurus’ worldwide who have shaped the future of Marketing by the Chartered Institute of Marketing

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