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The ‘Awesomeness’ Factor, a Renaissance for Curated Newsletters, …

Darrell Vesterfelt:

Hey everybody, welcome to the Copyblogger Podcast. This is the week of July 6th, 2020. My name is Darrell and I’m here with Tim Stoddart, Copyblogger partner, SEO genius.

Tim Stoddart:

What’s up Darrell? What’s up everybody?

Darrell Vesterfelt:

Marketing genius.

Tim Stoddart:

Glad to be here.

Darrell Vesterfelt:

Cooler tattoos than me, he’s like the coolest guy.

Tim Stoddart:

Stop.

Darrell Vesterfelt:

We’ve got a few announcements. Tim, I’ll start off and I’ve got one after you.

Tim Stoddart:

Yes, sir. All right, some quick announcements. Number one, we have officially published the waitlist page on My.Copyblogger. As soon as we made the, My.Copyblogger announcement, I got a ton of pings on Twitter. I got a lot of email replies with the newsletter. I know that everybody is very excited about that. We are very excited to launch it. It looks great. It’s going to be amazing, and the waitlist is copyblogger.com/waitlist. Go there, sign up as soon as we launch it and we’ll give you some teasers along the way.

Tim Stoddart:

You can be the first to know when My.Copyblogger is launched and up next, we have finally published the transcripts to almost all the podcasts. I think we’ve got a few to go still, but if you want to download the PDFs to our podcasts to any of our interviews, if you’re potentially hearing impaired and you still want to learn about that, you can go to the podcast page on the website. Go to any of the episodes and we now have the transcripts available. Like I said last week, you can read them on the site or you can download the PDF and that’s yours for the taking. Darrell I think you’ve got one too, right?

Darrell Vesterfelt:

Yeah, and next week we’re actually going to spend a decent amount of time talking about My.Copyblogger, what it’s going to mean, the new community that we’re launching at the end of this month. We’re really excited about it. It’s something that we’re reviving historic parts of Copyblogger. We’re adding a new spin to it and really excited about what that will mean for you guys. We’ll spend a dedicated amount of time on the podcast next week about that, but check out copyblogger.com/waitlist and you can add your name to be added there as well.

Darrell Vesterfelt:

On Wednesday of this week, July 8th, I’m hosting a free workshop with Copyblogger celebrity, Sonia Simone. This workshop it’s going to be called The Key To Selling Or Marketing Anything. It’s absolutely free. You can learn more at copyblogger.com/anything. Sign up, there will be a replay available, so if you’re not able to make it live on July 8th, we will send out a replay to you. Check that out as well, really excited to teach with Sonia. She and I share this passion around using writing to sell, and we’ll be teaching about that for free on Wednesday, July 8th, copyblogger.com/anything.

Tim Stoddart:

I’m pumped about that. I’m going to be watching it just as a fan. I’ve been reading Sonia for the last 10 years. I know a lot of the longtime followers of Copyblogger are fans of Sonia and so I am going to be, like I said, watching as a fan. I highly recommend that everybody else check that out because Sonia is no mess around writer. She’s brilliant. All right brother, let’s get into the stories. That’s all we got?

Darrell Vesterfelt:

Yeah, dive into the stories. First story of the week is an article from searchengineland.com, this is your area of expertise. The title of the story is, what 20 years of Google algorithm updates say about what SEOs should focus on next, so this is by Barry Schwartz. Tell me a little bit about what’s going on in this story.

Tim Stoddart:

Yeah. Yes, sir. Well, the article within itself, it’s more of just an announcement. Barry Schwartz for SEO nerds like myself, he’s very, very well known. He’s super respected in the search industry and this particular article is nothing but a piece of promotion for an SEO keynote talk that he’s doing on SMX Next for Search Engine Land.

Tim Stoddart:

The reason why I wanted to bring this up and the focal point of this conversation, is there’s a really, really great quote in here. The topic of his talk is around the idea of build something that is awesome. Over the last 10 years and we’ve talked about this before, Darrell, and we’ll probably continue to talk about it, but Google just gets smarter and smarter.

Tim Stoddart:

The ranking signals that we use to tell Google what our content is about, and how we can climb in the search rankings become less and less relevant. They’re still very relevant so SEO is still a thing, but machine learning, understanding user behavior, understanding how factually relevant and how informative your piece of content is, are just all becoming more important in terms of how Google indexes certain pieces of content for certain search queries.

Tim Stoddart:

With that being said, there’s a really cool point in this presentation where John Mueller joked to that, “Awesomeness is a Google ranking factor.” This is such a cool topic to talk about and to brainstorm around because, John Mueller, when he says awesomeness, he is talking about signals such as time on site. Such as how much did you click on a particular piece of content? How many people came to it and maybe shared it with other people or interacted with that page in some way?

Tim Stoddart:

Building something of value is becoming more and more of like a legit ranking signal. It’s so cool to talk about this because a lot of content marketers like myself, we focus a lot on the technicalities. We want to format it perfectly. We want to have all of our headers and all of our links and our quote blocks and our user experience in just the perfect spot. We want to make the perfect piece of content, but more and more Google is figuring out how to know if what you are creating, excuse me, is relevant, is helpful and just ‘awesome’.

Tim Stoddart:

I just, I loved this idea. I love talking about it in the context of people creating content to just add value and to help other people. It’s just a really cool concept.

Darrell Vesterfelt:

I didn’t know who John Mueller was, but John Mueller works for Google and I’m guessing…

Tim Stoddart:

He’s a smart guy.

Darrell Vesterfelt:

I’m doing a Google search on John Mueller and I’m guessing he works at Google. I’m guessing he has something to do with the algorithm, which is why he’s so famous here. This goes back to 2017, this idea of awesomeness and what happened is, somebody asked him on Twitter, “What’s the main important factor for rank a website in the top search results on a particular phrase?” His reply was, “Awesomeness.”

Darrell Vesterfelt:

Since that tweet in 2017, that idea of awesomeness has been something that has trickled through different areas of conversation around what it means. I think it’s really awesome. We get a lot of SEO questions because you’re such an SEO expert. I have learned a ton about SEO since we met last year and I’m geeking out on. I’m super excited about all that I’ve learned, but I think what’s cool about this idea is that, the quality factor really, really matters.

Darrell Vesterfelt:

It’s not about the technical piece and what that should do for people like me who aren’t SEOs is say, “Oh, I know what awesome is. I know what good content is.” I don’t know all the technical aspects of SEO. I can learn them. I can use things like Yoast, but I know what great content is. I’ve experienced it. I think I’ve created a little bit of it, so I know what it’s like and I’m trying to aim for that more so than I am to learn about all these technical aspects. That makes SEO more attainable for people like me, who haven’t spent a decade-plus becoming SEOs like you.

Tim Stoddart:

Yeah, you nailed it. When we hosted our masterclass, there was so many questions about technicalities, especially because I’m more of a traditional SEO. I do believe in following best practice and I teach that stuff especially, but I can’t tell you how many countless examples I found. I mean, honestly, I think Copyblogger is a really great example, our search traffic is huge.

Tim Stoddart:

The amount of search traffic that Copyblogger gets is mind-blowing, frankly, and there wasn’t a whole lot of technical SEO ever spent on the site. It was just that the community of Copyblogger, the writers over the past decade-plus tried really, really hard to create content that was ‘awesome’. If you’re a writer and you’re struggling with this idea of search, you’re trying to be found in the search engines and you’re intimidated by it, that’s okay, we’re here to help you.

Tim Stoddart:

Also, I think in this day and age and even more and more in the future, we need to just prioritize people. We need to just prioritize, like how can we serve people? How can we create something that is just going to blow people out? That they’re going to use and come back to over and over again? If you do that, you’re going to be fine.

Darrell Vesterfelt:

Awesome, so second story is actually from Morning Brew, morningbrew.com/marketing, and essentially Morning Brew is launching a newsletter specifically about marketing, just really interesting. If you don’t know what Morning Brew is, Morning Brew is a daily business briefing built for millennials, so it’s a daily newsletter that gets sent out about business. It’s geared towards the 25 to 35-year-old millennial, but I know that there are hundreds and hundreds of thousands of people who get this morning newsletter or this daily newsletter every single morning.

Darrell Vesterfelt:

Very interesting that they are taking their business newsletter, and three days a week creating a specific newsletter just for marketing. You found this, I’m curious of your thoughts about what this means for the newsletter industry. We’ve talked about this quite a bit, but the CA newsletter giant like Morning Brew doubling down and creating these kind of subsidiary newsletters underneath their main one is super interesting. What are your thoughts?

Tim Stoddart:

Well, I find this interesting for two reasons. One, because it’s just another example of the power of email. Morning Brew, they don’t do anything very fancy. They really just send out a morning newsletter every morning. Then on Sunday, I forget what they call it on Sunday, but it’s kind of like a quicker version of their traditional newsletter that gets sent out for the six days of the week.

Tim Stoddart:

I wanted to just talk about that because of this resurgence of newsletters that we’ve seen over the last two years. I know that when we talked to Brian, Brian Clark, he’s a huge proponent of curated newsletters, especially because there’s so much emphasis put on the idea of creating content. When you talk to Brian and when you see these newsletters like the Hustle or NextDraft or Morning Brew, I can’t help but wonder, how many people could find success in their content marketing away from creating original content and just going more towards this curation model?

Tim Stoddart:

There’s so much information out there. Like maybe the best thing to do is spend time getting all of the best pieces of information together in one place and being a curator, being like a harbinger of information. Obviously Morning Brew is seeing a ton of success. They’ve started I think two or three subsidiaries, and this one is called Marketing Brew. Like I said, if you want to check it out, go to morningbrew.com/marketing. I wanted to just talk about it for that reason, because it’s just another example of the power of email and how it’s not going away.

Tim Stoddart:

The second reason that I wanted to talk about it is that this newsletter is specifically about marketing material. I think that says something about the industry, about what we’re doing right now. It’s more and more important than ever to come up with online tactics to grow your business. Morning Brew is killing it with their general newsletter. They’re killing it with some of their subsidiaries and it’s a highly competitive field to get into the marketing space with a ton of other really, really smart people. There’s so much space out there because there’s such a thirst for knowledge. There’s such a thirst for wanting to grow brands, grow small businesses, grow online businesses and sell services and products through the internet.

Tim Stoddart:

The second reason why I thought this was an important story to talk about, is just to hit home on the fact that, hey, what we’re doing isn’t going anywhere. I can speak personally, a lot of times when I come up with new ideas, I start coming up with reasons why I shouldn’t. One of the crazy things that I come up with is like, hey, how long is this really going to last? When’s the new thing going to come around? The reality of the situation is that, what we’re doing right now especially with the state of events in the world, this is only going to get stronger and stronger. People need to double down on using the internet, using content, using information and curation to spread ideas and grow businesses. If you’re thinking about doing it, jump in because there’s never going to be a better time.

Darrell Vesterfelt:

Yeah, I completely agree. There are so many niches that are underserved in this newsletter space, and then there’s a lot of opportunities still.

The success that people are having on things like Substack and we’re seeing huge newsletter groups like Morning Brew grow, I think there’s a ton of opportunity. The good people team, my agency, we’re actually in the process of developing a newsletter that we’ll be launching later this year. We’re really excited about it and when we do that, we’ll kind of use it as a case study and tell you all the behind the scenes of what it’s like for us to launch basically a newsletter from zero in a very specific niche. I’m really excited about when we do that.

Tim Stoddart:

Yeah, what a cool idea.

Darrell Vesterfelt:

Yeah.

Tim Stoddart:

I would love to do that. We’ve talked about sort of for starting, a newsletter it’s kind of intimidating because you’re starting at zero. We’ve talked about getting that first 100 subscribers. We’ve talked about getting that first 1,000 subscribers and how there actually is a process to it. That would be so cool for us to do like a live case study on, hey, we’re at the same spot you are. We’ve got zero subscribers.

Tim Stoddart:

The first thing I do is tell my friends. The second thing I do is ask my friends to tell their friends and grow it organically. It’s a great idea, Darrell, we should totally do that.

Darrell Vesterfelt:

We’re really committed to documenting the whole process from start to finish. We’re going to use ConvertKit. We’re going to use ConvertKit Commerce and we’re basically going to start with absolutely nothing except for a knowledge of the industry that we’re launching in. More to come on that. We’ve got some preliminary things starting, but probably sometime in September, October we’re going to launch that out and I’ll let you know all about it when that happens. It’s a great industry and here’s just another case of why this industry is growing, not shrinking.

Tim Stoddart:

Absolutely.

Darrell Vesterfelt:

All right, so that concludes the stories for this week. This week’s question is from Amber. Here’s her question.

Amber:

Hey, Tim and Darrell, I really love the podcast. My name is Amber. I just had a question about blog frequency. I have a blog right now and I’m getting decent traffic, but I’m looking to get an upswing in it. What would you suggest the frequency of blog publishing should be? Usually, right now I publish one per month at about 800 words. Do you think that should be more frequent or less frequent with more texts? Any advice would be great. Thanks.

Darrell Vesterfelt:

Awesome, thanks for the question, Amber. Tim, I’m going to let you start on this one, because I know that you have a lot of thoughts about frequency of content, length of content, specifically when it comes to having traffic come from search engines with content. What I’m hearing her say is she’s posting once a month currently. Second, she’s writing about 800 words per article and third, her goal is to see a quote upswing in traffic. I’m curious to know what your thoughts are about her current plan. If she wants to see an upswing in traffic, what should she be doing with the current content schedule?

Tim Stoddart:

Very well, Amber. Thank you so much for the question. This is certainly a topic that many people struggle with, sometimes myself included, to be frank. There are two pieces of advice I have to give here. The first one is, first decide what your intent for your content is. If the avenue in which you are looking to grow your blog is going to be through search, you’re going to have to make your content more than 800 words. There’s just a lot of competition out there. There are other people doing really good stuff. In order to compete with them, it’s most likely going to have to be more than 800 words.

Tim Stoddart:

I would say 1,200 words is a really good place to start. I personally find that 1,200 is this good, sweet spot where people don’t lose patience and can get through the whole thing. It’s lengthy enough that Google recognizes it and indexes it, so that would be my first piece of advice.

Tim Stoddart:

Well in addition to that I would say, there are other ways to grow a blog other than search. If you want to get more traffic through search, definitely increase the length of your content. If not, maybe it’s social media, then my advice would be make the content as long as you think it needs to be. I know that kind of seems esoteric, but that really is the best way to do it. Make it as long as you think it needs to be to provide the information that, that particular post is meant to provide.

Tim Stoddart:

With that, then we’re talking about frequency. My advice with frequency is pick a schedule and stick to it. In some cases it’s once a month. I do know of some blogs that post once a month and get a lot of success and they spend a lot. I think, what’s that boy? Brian Dean, Backlinko.

Darrell Vesterfelt:

Backlinko.

Tim Stoddart:

Yeah, he posts probably once a month I would say and he spends a lot of time on his content and it’s great. There’s a reason why he’s seeing so much success in his blog because of that. I think once a week is a doable and reasonable request for anybody that is really, really trying to grow their brand. Yeah, so pick a schedule, stick with it, get it done every week, every month, every day, whatever your schedule is and just get it done no matter what. What do you think?

Darrell Vesterfelt:

Okay, so I have a few thoughts. I think yes, to all of that. In addition, there are two ways that I think about increasing traffic when it comes to the content and the amount of content that’s being written. Thought number one, if you’re posting once a month, that’s totally okay. I would cosign the idea that it needs to be a much longer post than 800 words if you’re posting once a month.

Darrell Vesterfelt:

What you need to be doing is you need to be spending about 20% of your time creating the content, and about 80% of the time promoting the content that you’ve written. If you’re wanting to see an uptick in traffic, you could essentially not change your posting schedule at all whatsoever. You just need to spend the appropriate amount of time promoting the content that is written.

Darrell Vesterfelt:

That can be done via social media. That can be done via being a guest on other podcasts. That can be via a ton of different ideas. That can be done via a bunch of different avenues of how you’re going to promote the content that you’ve written. A lot of times people expect that if they write content, like if you build it, they will come and that’s just not true. If you want to see an uptick in traffic, you’ve got to do an uptick in marketing activities to drive people to that traffic as well.

Darrell Vesterfelt:

What Tim is an expert in is, Tim is an expert in search engine optimization, which is going to draw traffic from the search engines. A large part of your marketing strategy has to be active marketing, talking about your content to drive people to your website. A lot of that can then be, again, partnerships, social, guest posting, podcasting other places, the list goes on and on and on. Your marketing activities have to sustain the goal of seeing an uptick in traffic too, so that’s my first thought.

Darrell Vesterfelt:

Second thought is, if you’re doing the appropriate amount of marketing, then more frequency is going to equal more traffic. Correct? If you have an audience that you’re driving, so say you have a large social media following. If you post once a month and you’re promoting one post a month, theoretically, if you post twice a month, you might see more traffic.

Tim Stoddart:

Double, yeah.

Darrell Vesterfelt:

Theoretically, you could double, it could be less than double, who knows what it is? The more frequency that you post, the more you will see traffic come to the site as well. Now there is like an amount of diminishing return on this as well. Posting every single day, you’re likely going to drown people out. You’re likely not going to be able to sustain that, but finding the balance. I want to go back, full circle back to what you said too, is finding a balance that works for you. I don’t know Amber’s specific niche, but finding a balance that works for you and your niche.

Darrell Vesterfelt:

If I have a blog about bread making, I’m not going to post every single day because there’s not a new thing to write every single day. If I have a blog about the latest tech news, I might post every single day. I have a good friend who has a large site about fantasy football, and so for a large portion of the year they’re posting every single day because news is breaking. People are getting injured, somebody is getting traded, somebody is getting released and the news is going out so it’s really important. It’s raining in Pittsburgh this week and so it’s going to be running more than passing, so that stuff has to come out every single day. He’s writing multiple times a day sometimes, not just every single day.

Darrell Vesterfelt:

The second thing with that is then your abilities to sustain it and I think this is like working out. You’re not going to jump up off the couch and run a marathon the next day. You might start with walking a mile, so it might be once a month is a great velocity. Finding the sweet spot and then building up your capacity to be able to post on a consistent basis are the two things that I would say. Theoretically, if you’re doing the right proportionate amount of writing and creating versus promoting what you write and create, the more frequently you post, the more traffic you will also drive.

Tim Stoddart:

Yeah, I want to stick on that point of content promotion for a little bit as well, because it’s something that we probably don’t talk about enough and something that I think the industry doesn’t really talk about enough because a lot of people don’t know what that means. They think, “Well, I created this piece of content. I posted it on Facebook. I posted it on Twitter. What more can I do?” I know people are looking for specific tactics.

Tim Stoddart:

I’ve come up with two that work really well for me. One of them, I think a real hidden gem in the content promotion world is Quora. That if people go on there and they find people that are asking questions about the industry that they write about, let’s say it’s bread making again, there are people that ask tons of questions about bread making on Quora. There are people that ask questions about everything on Quora. It’s really one of my favorite sites and just scour that website.

Tim Stoddart:

Find people that are asking questions about things that you can help them with. Then if you have a link or a piece of content on your blog that can answer that question, send it to them. If not, maybe that’s a great opportunity and a great topic to write about. One is use Quora, and then two similarly, although it has a little bit different of like a personality is Reddit.

Tim Stoddart:

On Reddit, I’ve noticed that things can go viral a lot quicker, but there’s a lot less like, what do I say? Like seriousness, there’s a lot less active engagement around people asking questions and looking for answers. It’s got a little bit more of like that kind of gossip, what’s going on? Who can we make fun of today? Sort of social media vibe.

Tim Stoddart:

With that being said though, depending on the niche that you’re in and the context, like Reddit is a great place to promote your content. There are other ways to do it than, “I posted it on Facebook. I posted on Twitter, what more can I do?” My two tips, Amber are getting involved in Quora, answer questions and get involved. Really meet people and learn and post comments and do stuff more than just content promotion. It’s a really cool community, and then the second thing is, do the same thing but with Reddit.

Darrell Vesterfelt:

I’ll add a third, Facebook communities and groups.

Tim Stoddart:

Yeah.

Darrell Vesterfelt:

There’s a lot of groups out there that are about specific niches. You can join those groups really easily. Similarly to Quora be engaged in Facebook groups as well.

Tim Stoddart:

That’s a good point.

Darrell Vesterfelt:

I think a lot of people do is they think that social media is a platform to drive traffic. While technically true, it is not a platform anymore where you’re going to increase your traffic. Right now you have a social media following and what I’ve noticed is very few people are seeing their social followings grow in the way that they did in the early 2010s and when these platforms were a lot of newer.

Tim Stoddart:

Yeah, that was too fast.

Darrell Vesterfelt:

You can’t just promote your stuff on social media because the same people are going to see it and you’re getting into this loop. You’re going to see no growth as far as your platform goes. What you need to do is you need to find out where the people who are interested in your topic are hanging out and go there.

Tim Stoddart:

Find your tribe.

Darrell Vesterfelt:

Find your tribe, so it could be things like Quora, Facebook groups, Reddit, those are great examples of places that you can go find new people. It’s also old school stuff like guest posting, that stuff still works. It doesn’t work in the same way and at the same velocity that it used to, but I know that there are places where you can go contribute content to a group of people that don’t know who you are yet and bring them in.

Darrell Vesterfelt:

If you’re just posting to social media, you’re doing this incestuous thing where it’s like the same people are hearing the same thing from me and I’m not seeing a growth in my traffic. Well, of course not, social sharing is way down than it was five years ago. Social growth is way down than it was five years ago, so you’re going to go have to find the tribes of people and then bring them back to you.

Darrell Vesterfelt:

It’s like a shepherd, go find the sheep and bring them back to your pasture. You can’t do that if you’re just promoting on social media, it doesn’t work in the same way that it used to. Trust me man, I loved when it used to because I had some things that were shared on Facebook 150,000 times.

Tim Stoddart:

Man, it was awesome.

Darrell Vesterfelt:

It was awesome. That doesn’t happen anymore, it just does not happen in the same way. You’re going to have to go. You’re going to have to do a little bit more effort, which is why I’ll go back to the rhythm, like finding your right rhythm. I would rather see you post once a month and spend seven activities, seven tries of trying to get new people to come to your site per article. Versus writing every week and not doing that action, and just sharing it on social.

Darrell Vesterfelt:

All of this stuff is kind of a balancing act between frequency and velocity, and the actions you’re doing for marketing and bringing people back to your content. It’s super important. It used to be the thing where you just write five times a week, Monday through Friday, and hope that the social shares would hit. I’m telling you from experience, sometimes I’d have millions of hits from social shares from a single source like Digg or Reddit or Facebook. It would just be like an avalanche, that just doesn’t happen in the same way that it used to.

Darrell Vesterfelt:

You’re going to have to do a little bit more active work to drive your tribe and build the email list because Copyblogger, a huge amount of our traffic comes from search, which has been a decade-plus almost 15 years of work building that up but also from the email. When we send an email out about the content that we’re writing, it’s driving the traffic back. We’re building that traffic by doing marketing efforts that are driving new people to the site, and new people are signing up to our emails.

Tim Stoddart:

Yeah, I love it. Amber, just get involved, that’s the easiest way to summarize everything we just said. Get involved in your community and just get in there. Talk to people, tell them about what you’re doing. Just go get involved and I think that’s great advice for anybody.

Darrell Vesterfelt:

Well, on that note, Tim, we’ll wrap up this week’s episode of the Copyblogger Podcast.

Tim Stoddart:

Yeah, great chat Darrell.

Darrell Vesterfelt:

I will see you next week. We’re going to talk a lot about My.Copyblogger on that episode. I’m really excited to share more about what we’re doing in the future. You and I have been pending on this for almost a year and just couldn’t be more excited about what it’s going to mean for the Copyblogger community, and excited to see so many people in that community. Yup, hope you have a great week everybody, we’ll see you next Monday.

Tim Stoddart:

Okay guys.


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