Every business has five inherently scalable marketing channels:
By inherently scalable, I mean the channel is nearly limitless in its growth potential. It also doesn’t always require more manpower to significantly grow the channel.
For most early-stage startups, I recommend focusing on content marketing with SEO. Here’s why:
In my last article, I interviewed Hiten Shah to learn how he built three successful startups. Crazy Egg and KISSmetrics both became million-dollar businesses in large due to SEO and content marketing. And Shah and cofounder Marie Prokopets are now using the same playbook to grow FYI.
Since they’re putting their eggs in this basket, I decided to pull back the curtain and audit FYI’s content strategy.
Industry reports and surveys are an excellent opportunity to get a ton of traffic and links.
People are curious about what’s happening in their industry. These studies answer pressing questions with hard data. So people show up en-masse to surveys.
Professional bloggers often use data to back up their points. When they do so, they link to the study to cite their source. As a result, surveys drive a ton of links.
With a ton of links, you get more organic traffic from search engines to all of your web pages.
Let’s take a look at one of their surveys on remote work.
I’ll start with something obvious but often overlooked.
The design and formatting for this article are gorgeous. It’s easy to skim, but in-depth if you want more information. Right away, you can tell this report wasn’t done overnight by some guy looking to make a quick buck with affiliate ads.
And I’m not the only one who has noticed this. B2B content strategist and SEO consultant John-Henry Scherck also noted this, which got him a solid amount of reactions on Twitter:
How did Shah and his co-founder Prokopets promote the survey?
Here is what I would hypothesize happen. Or at least what I would do if I were in their shoes.
Before I dive in, keep in mind this isn’t Shah’s first SaaS rodeo. Not everyone will be able to repeat his success. But some of the lessons I cover will help you at any stage of your startup journey.
First, the team promoted the survey in the usual content promotion channels. It was shared in the FYI newsletter, along with a few posts on social media.
On Twitter, Shah also created a Tweetstorm. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, Tweetstorms are a series of tweets connected by replying to the last tweet. This often drives a ton of traffic. You can see what Shah did here:
If you notice, Shah strategically tagged many influential people and brands relevant to remote workers. This led to many of them liking and retweeting the thread.
Second, Shah more than likely promoted the survey on his newsletter from his personal blog. Since blogging on-and-off since 2011, I would bet he has well over 20,000 subscribers.
Third, two people shared the survey on Hacker News. The first time it was shared on this developer forum, it got little traffic and traction. But the second posting made it to the front page with over 410 points and 350 comments. Given the time difference, it’s likely the posts happened as a result of promoting content effectively on other channels.
Fourth, Prokopets and Shah promoted the survey on a couple of remote-based websites. Prokopets wrote two remote articles for We Work Remotely and for ProductCraft. Shah also was a guest on The Remote Show podcast by We Work Remotely.
The company Miro also partnered with FYI on the remote survey, who blogged about the survey results too.
Finally, Shah and Prokopets leveraged their influence on Product Hunt. If you’re unfamiliar with Product Hunt, it’s a community geared toward product makers who are often remote workers.
They created an early-access page, which got 451 subscribers before his launch. Once the survey went live, Shah hunted it on Product Hunt, which is under 700 upvotes at the time of this writing.
If you go to the survey on FYI, you’ll notice Shah and Prokopets drove traffic back to Product Hunt with a bar at the top of the screen.
This call-to-action button creates a loop of increasing traffic. People who find the survey on Product Hunt go to the website. Once they read the survey, the reader is more likely to return to Product Hunt to vote for the survey. The reverse-path is also a beneficial traffic loop for someone who starts on FYI and goes to Product Hunt.
Yes, having over 41,000 combined product hunt followers helped Shah and Prokopets launch successfully on Product Hunt. But even if you never launch on Product Hunt, you can see the value of building long-term relationships in a community.
Surveys are large projects. When promoted well, pay off in spades and dollar bills. Here’s an article I wrote on how Orbit Media pulled over 600 links in six months from a survey.
My recommendation is to do larger content projects like this once a quarter. Then once FYI gets enough traffic or links to make it worthwhile, I’d attempt to outsource the work to do them once a month.
FYI should also consider doing surveys as guest posts. I’ve done a survey guest post on Orbit Media and Buzzsumo has done them with Moz and OK Dork. Here’s the value in taking this approach:
Here’s a fascinating content play that’s rare to see.
Of FYI’s top five pages by organic traffic, three are targeting bottom-of-the-funnel keywords. By itself, this isn’t special. I’ve talked about the value of building competitor pages before. And affiliate bloggers create these pages all the time.
What’s unique about FYI’s approach is their reviews are relatively unbiased. This is because FYI isn’t collecting any money if someone buys a product. But this rapidly increases trust while associating them with products FYI integrates with.
Here’s how this approach works:
Psychologically, this is like a sales tripwire offer. By buying a product from your recommendation, a customer increases their trust in you. Even if the recommended product isn’t from you and therefore isn’t as powerful, the psychology still works.
The simple answer is to build out more of these bottom-of-the-funnel pages. Each integration has dozens of combinations the FYI team can work through.
FYI can write an article targeting:
Even if FYI doesn’t integrate with every tool mentioned, this still delivers immense value for their customers.
I would also advise FYI to hold off on building competitor comparison pages for 3 reasons.
That said, FYI should revisit this once a year. Eventually, the market will mature and it may be worth creating these pages even as the market leader.
If a startup has a blog, you can learn a lot about what’s important to their business. Consider these blog headlines:
When I read these headlines, it seems like Shah and Prokopets either:
I say this because:
Given how recent FYI was launched, it would not surprise me FYI needs to flesh out their customer personas. Like most marketing work, personas should get better over time.
Whether knows their audience or not, the articles should focus on solving the common problems their audience has. After my audit, I would guess the customers all are remote workers.
I would not start writing content specific to each customer persona until:
At this stage, I would also consider creating separate blogs on the same site because the personas have little overlap. OkCupid does this with their regular blog and their engineering blog. Buffer also does this with a social media blog and culture blog.
I’d also write articles about each of the problems users have the products FYI integrates with. For example, here is a handful of keywords related to their products with a ton of search traffic:
Most smart entrepreneurs like you understand the need to set yourself apart from the competition. But it’s rare for people to realize they need to also position their blog.
Why is positioning your blog important?
You want to have a clear and compelling reason for someone to return to your blog. If someone has a problem, you want them to say to themselves that your blog will most likely solve their problem.
Need more organic traffic? Go to Backlinko or Ahrefs.
Want to learn more about retiring early? Look at Mr. Money Mustache or I Will Teach You To Be Rich.
If the niche is too crowded, you can position your blog by targeting a more specific customer persona.
Consider Growth Ramp. There are tons of blogs on copywriting, such as CopyHackers, CopyBlogger, and Unbounce.
So I focus at Growth Ramp on teaching the principles of copywriting as it relates to early-stage startups. The problems and solutions are often 80% similar, but not 100% the same.
For example, it’s unlikely a general copywriting blog would discuss how to create a go-to-market strategy or pricing strategy. But positioning strategy and messaging is much more common in copywriting circles.
Positioning FYI’s blog will help them continue to stand out above the noise as competitors begin to focus on content marketing.
First, FYI should hone in on their customer persona if they haven’t done so already.
After FYI clarifies who they are serving, it will become easier to get clarity on their blog positioning. Knowing what’s missing in the market will take some research.
One way to 80-20 positioning a blog is to find a list of competitors and look at all the keywords they rank for. I’d then look for keywords which the competitors are ranking and are easy to rank for in Google. In Ahrefs, these are keywords with a difficulty score of 30 or below. Finally, I’d look for patterns in the keywords.
Easy-to-rank keywords often exist because no one is blogging about the term. As a result, it becomes easier to get organic traffic when you position your blog effectively.
This growth audit is a sample of our full Growth Ramp Gap Analysis™. Click here to learn about our Gap Analysis Procedure™.