Behind the Brand of FYI’s Million Dollar Blog Strategy
Auditing FYI's Content Strategy
Every business has five inherently scalable marketing channels:
- Business development and partnerships. This also includes affiliate marketing and influencer marketing.
- Virality and network effects.
- Paid ads. This includes both online (Google and social ads) and offline (billboards and magazines) ads.
- SEO. This includes Youtube SEO and Amazon SEO.
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:
- Business development and partnerships are hard if you are new to an industry. People partner with those they trust.
- Using virality and network effects depends on your product, and usually, it’s more common among consumer products like Facebook.
- Paid ads are often expensive unless you have an established brand. An exception to this is when targeting keywords on a new trend before it peaks. You may also get lucky by creating a paid ad which becomes semi-viral.
- Sales often require the most paid labor to become more successful.
- SEO with educational content allows you to help people at different stages of the customer journey.
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.
The Good: In-Depth Research Report for Traffic, Links, and Sales
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.
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.
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.
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.
What I’d Do Next
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.
- You get more potential links. Although you won’t get every link, more people will see the study and reference your company. Further, a bigger brand usually gets more organic traffic from Google, creating a link magnet.
- You increase your brand value by association. When your partner publishes the story, they indirectly endorse your business. And when thousands of people see your logo alongside their logo, you increase your reputation.
The Good: Crafting Middle-of-the-Funnel Content
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:
- Someone visits one of FYI’s comparison articles, such as “Evernote vs OneNote: The Best Note-taking App in 2019.”
- Based on the article, the reader decides to use OneNote.
- From the recommendation, the reader has a higher trust in FYI if they value using OneNote.
- With more notes stored in OneNote, the reader needs a tool to find documents faster.
- The reader finds out FYI solves this problem. Since she trusted FYI once before and was successful, it’s more likely she will do so again. So she signs up with FYI’s freemium plan.
- As her demands increase, the reader now feels safe upgrading to a paid FYI plan with all the value she got for free.
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.
What I’d Do Next
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:
- [Integration] Alternatives. For example, “Dropbox alternatives.”
- [Integration] Pricing. For example, “Dropbox pricing.”
- [Integration] Reviews. For example, “Dropbox reviews.”
- [Integration A] vs [Integration B]. For example, “Dropbox vs Google Drive.”
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.
- FYI is in a new market. Looking at the Product Hunt catalog, there was one competitor which launched late 2015. As a result, the market is less likely to make a comparison between competitors. Instead, customers are more likely to search for product keywords.
- Many FYI competitors will pivot or die. When browsing through FYI’s competitors, I found two already dead. Another former competitor, Findo, is now an AI tool for HR. This is the nature of a new hot market. While it’s easier to get traction, you cannot learn as much from studying the competition.
- FYI is most likely the market leader. Many of FYI’s competitors had a major launch on Product Hunt. But very few had begun to build a scalable digital marketing channel. FYI already has more than 140 pages on their website. I would estimate they’re already bringing in over 100,000 visitors/month. As the market leader, FYI should focus more on growing the market because more people choose the market leader by default.
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.
The Bad: Customer Personas Need Clarity
If a startup has a blog, you can learn a lot about what’s important to their business. Consider these blog headlines:
- How to Get a Scrum Master Certification
- The 4 Things That Hiring Managers Desperately Want You to Do
- 3 Quick Steps to Delete Your Chrome History Right Now
When I read these headlines, it seems like Shah and Prokopets either:
- Do not have a clear customer persona.
- They have clear customer personas, but the content strategy doesn’t fully align on how to serve each persona with their content.
I say this because:
- The first two topics are for two different personas: those who want to become scrum masters and hiring managers. I would venture to say there’s very little overlap with those personas.
- The last two headlines lack specific benefits to the reader. From my observation, typically this happens when there isn’t a specific problem an article solves for its reader.
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.
What I’d Do Next
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:
- They know each persona’s pain points which relate to FYI.
- They can consistently produce articles for each persona.
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:
- Searching for a file (6,600/month)
- Searching for a file in Linux (18,100/month)
- Searching for a file Windows 7 (590/month)
- Searching for a file Windows 8 (70/month)
- Searching for a file Windows 10 (20/month)
- Dropbox search (880/month)
- Slack search (590/month)
- Google Cloud search (2,900/month)
- Windows 10 advanced file search (170/month)
- Google Drive search (2,900/month)
- Evernote search (260/month)
- Windows cloud search (110/month)
- How to find a saved file on your computer (110/month)
The Ugly: No Clear Blog Positioning
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.
What I’d Do Next
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™.