#13: Bootstrapping With Rand Fishkin From Moz (And How To Plan Big Content For Your Website)

What you will learn

  • The steps Rand would go through to bootstrap a new startup with content marketing.
  • How to validate your content ideas to avoid wasted resources.
  • How to know what to put inside your content to increase its chances of success.
  • How to convince influencers to contribute and amplify your content.
  • How to tackle content creation and utilise your team's strength to stand out.
  • What to outsource and what to not outsource.
  • The Technical considerations of big content.
  • How to plan your launch.
  • How to structure ongoing promotion.
  • How to convert big content traffic.

In this podcast I am incredibly honoured to receive Rand Fishkin, founder of Moz (his blog here) to share his expertise with us.

Rand Fishkin

Rand particularly qualifies as an authority site guru since Moz went from being his personal blog to a well funded software company (I’m sure we all wish the same happened to our blogs and sites).

In this episode, we’re trying something new. Fictional business cases. In that one, Rand and I go into business and decided to create a men fashion site featuring talented local designers.

Because we’re self funded, we can’t really afford to spend thousands of dollars in paid traffic, that’s why we decided to create a ultimate guide to men’s fashion that we’ll update every year. to draw attention to our site.

This podcast is the initial brainstorm where we plan the content, from idea validation to creation to promotion to ongoing updates.

While this interview is centred around that case study, there are many things you can take away from it and apply to your own business if you want to use bigger pieces of content to gain visibility online.

Don’t worry about taking notes either, I’ve prepared them for you, just click on the button bellow to download the 2 pager checklist we came up with in this interview.

Full Transcript

Welcome to the Authority Hacker podcast, the place to learn incredibly actionable marketing tips to dominate your niche. Now your host- Gael Breton.

Gael: Hey guys, welcome to the Authority Hacker podcast, episode 15. In this episode, I am very honored to receive Rand Fishkin who is the marketing guru of Moz. If you don’t know what Moz is- Moz is the biggest inbound marketing software out there, along with Hubspot. Rand has also been a very big inspiration for Mark and I; he was the one that made us understand that you didn’t need to do gray hat SEO and to hack your way through platforms to make an online business work. Back in the day, we were very gray hat Mark and I, and because we kept watching Rand’s videos of Moz called Whiteboard Friday we started realizing that there was ways to do proper marketing, gain visibility, without cheating the system and doing it long term, and to some extent Rand is very much responsible for the business direction that Mark and I took and the reason why we are building authority sites and long term properties these days. Now, Rand is a very popular guy on the internet and in this industry, and for that reason, there are hundreds of interviews of him all around the internet. So I wanted to do something a little bit different in this podcast. So, in this podcast, Rand and I are hypothetically going into business together. And our business idea is that we are creating an online e-commerce that’s curating the work of several very talented local designers that don’t necessarily know much about the internet, and don’t know how to sell their creations online. So we are these guys. And we have amazing pieces of man’s fashion clothing to sell on our website. Now, because that website is starting on a low budget, because my mum funded it with a couple of thousand dollars, we can’t really play around with what the other big e-commerce will do such as like PPC and so on, we do not have the budget for that. So, the one solution for us to gain visibility is to use content marketing to create something exceptional and gain recognition in that market. And that podcast is Rand and I brainstorming how we are going to do that through a big piece of content. The whole thing is how we go from finding the idea, validating it, creating it, promoting it, and converting with it. That’s exactly what you’ll get in this interview. Now, Rand has been sharing all these tips and secrets in this podcast, and I created a very nice pdf that gives you a step by step process that Rand recommends you go through to create your own big content and you can download it on autorityhacker.com/rand. Now, I’ll let listen to the interview, and I’ll talk to you at the end.

Gael: Hey guys. Today we’ve got Rand Fishkin from moz.com. Moz is one of the biggest SEO software that was ever created. What I really like about Moz is that Rand started it as a blog and slowly grew into an authority and turned it into a software company that now has hundreds of people. So that’s clearly an inspiration for anyone that wants to create authority sites. So, Rand thank you very much for joining the podcast, do you want to give us the introduction about Moz?

Rand: No that’s great. I appreciate it Gael, that was very kind introduction.

Gael: Cool. So in today’s interview, we are going to do something a little bit different, and that’s the first time I do it so I can’t promise it’s not going to go crazy. The idea is that I want to get experts to share very practical knowledge, and rather than just asking you what is working in Google and all that stuff, which you write a lot about, and I am going to be linking to all of that if people want to check it out; we are going to go in business together, Rand, we are going to create a website that curates local designers for men clothing, that are not necessary very good at the internet or not very good at show casing their products etc. So we can take our experience of the internet and take these amazing local talents and basically create a nice, curated e-commerce store, I think that would work quite well. But the thing is, we just started, we have a pretty low budget, we are bootstrapped, it’s like my mum funded us and she gave us a couple thousand dollars. So we’ve got to find a way to gain some exposure in that pretty competitive industry. Since you are really good at doing content and getting exposure through content, I thought we could start by creating “A Beginners Guide To Men’s Fashion” where people that do not care much about their fashion but should, can go and basically spend less than a $1000 and go from being a dog to being James Bond, by dressing up properly. And obviously, I’ve done a little bit of keyword research for that as well, men’s fashion 24000 and a bunch of other long tail keywords we could create like a really nice guide. I think we could gain some exposure for our store, what do you think?

Rand: I think it might work, but I would want to validate that idea, at least the idea of a guide as being the best possible content investment we could make, and I’m not a 100% sure or 100% sold that it would be a good case.

Gael: So how would we go about validating that then?

Rand: So, I do a bunch of things first: first I go look at all of the other kind of guides to men’s fashion that are out there. I would want to look at everything that’s gone popular on social networks, I’d search for men’s fashion, and men’s clothing and that kind of stuff and I could look back over the last year or two. I’d go to Google and I would search for men’s fashion, men’s fashion guide, beginner’s guide to fashion for men, all that kind of stuff. I would try to assemble all the resources that have achieved some degree of success or visibility on the web, and then I would ask myself, “Am I confident that we could make something ten times better?”

Gael: So you would be just looking at the quality of the content and then the metric you would be looking at?

Rand: Yeah, I’d be looking to see if these things got shared, if these things actually started ranking well. One of the things that would be one of my concerns is people who are searching for man’s fashion- are they actually looking for a guide to men’s fashion, is that what they are searching for, or they are searching for specific clothing. Are they searching for styles, do they want to see brands, are they only going to buy from brands that they already know… And so, we need to rethink how we are approaching this problem, rethink our keyword set, those kinds of things. I would probably conduct some interviews, so I would go talk to guys who have recently made fashion purchases and I could find those by looking at things that people have tweeted or things that people have posted publicly on the web. And reaching out to them, one to one, we could probably do some user interviews through our designers right? So we’ve got a collection of designers who make stuff for men, we can go talk to some of their customers, their best customers, their newest customers, people who bought from them but they never bought from a fashion designer before, that kind of stuff. And really get a sense of this industry in field and whether we are solving a true pain point with that guide, because if we are not- I don’t want to invest the effort in that.

Gael: Cool. I think that’s a good point actually, a lot of people go about creating content and then they are like just launching it and nothing happens. And they waste a lot of resources, so, actually running a lot of content, I fell that’s like the biggest mistake and that happens quite often to just launch content that doesn’t work. So how long would you spend on that, just basically until you validate it or…?

Rand: Also, this is another thing, right, I would try and understand the space and the problem before I come up with the solution that I want to validate. I think that’s another problem that a lot of companies make, not just marketers by the way, a ton of people are like, “I want to make this product, so I am going to go find and search out the problem that leads my solution.” And that’s a terrible way to go about things, most of the time, a very terrible way to go about things. A great way to go about things is, “What’s the problem? What’s the best way I could possibly solve it?” A bad way to go about things is, “Here is a solution I’ve already come up with, now what problem does it solve?”

Gael: Cool, so that’s very mature lead startup oriented thinking actually, where you basically try to evaluate the idea with the minimum viable solution that you could actually look at.

Rand: Yeah, and I am a fan of the minimum part of it, I really like the process of saying, “I’m going to go look for problems to solve, not solutions in search of a problem.”

Gael: So we would go and interview designers etc, if you wanted to just go online, imagine that the person doesn’t necessarily have access to the designers’ customers or something, it’s maybe a little bit interesting, not that strong, would we go somewhere online to find validation?

Rand: Yeah, I mean there is a couple of really cool ways to go about this. So, one is explicit and one is implicit. So implicit is kind of searching the social web, looking at forums, looking at the comments on men’s fashion sites and from people who are already contributing and talking about that world, especially people who are just getting into it, so looking at things that might relate to where men have particular interest that are not necessarily about fashion but where fashion sometimes comes up as a discussion, where what people are wearing sometimes comes up as a discussion. On the explicit side of that, I would potentially think about using Google consumer surveys or Survey Monkey audience as a way to basically say, “Hey, I want to get men between age 22 and 40 who make between X and Y amount of money, and show this initial question to them and then if the answer take them through this and I pay $2 per response, and I am willing to get 500 responses and pay a $1000, and now I’ve got this great validated explicit consumer research.”

Gael: So, I’m talking in terms of like a bootstrapped company. A lot of people would be quite afraid in spending in that research because they would be like, “Oh there is no money left for content.” And then you mentioned like a $1000 or something; for bootstrapped company, you are like for a small website owners, this is quite a lot, like is it worth spending that much money or like how do you balance your budget, in that kind of stuff, you know?

Rand: I would say that yes it is, but certainly I bet you can find a statistically valid sample size that only needed like 95 responses, and you are only paying $1.30 per response, so maybe you can get a lot closer to a $200 or $150 budget, and still have something worthwhile. But it depends on how confident you want to be in your market research and how much you care about getting that right, because to my mind, the problem is not the cost of creating the content. I am a content creator, so as far as I am concerned, the only thing that goes into content creation, is my time and energy. As far as getting that right, making sure that I don’t waste all that time and energy, that is where I am going to go and apply dollars. And to me, amplification, that is also something where I am very skilled in doing that without having to pay money, so I don’t need content distribution networks, I don’t need to pay per click, I feel confident in my inbound marketing skills, so really that thing that I am not confident in is especially in the space I don’t know, like men’s fashion, what’s the market problem, who is out there that is going to care about this, what will be the solution where if we can make a really good one of these, everyone and their dog is going to love it. It will be amplified all over the place. And you can do that totally for free too if you are willing to spend a lot of time building relationships, so you say, ok you don’t have access to the designers. Go build relationships on social media, in forums, over email, through LinkedIn, through having conversations with these people, getting on the phone with them, starting a blog, interviewing men, like there are a hundred ways to skin that cat. You can be as creative as high budget, as low budget, as you want to be, but I think you need to validate those things before you go out and say, “I’m going to make piece of content x,” or “pieces of content a through z”.

Gael: And would you do that for all your content or only big content?

Rand: I would only do that for big content, because I think small content be ideas that you learn as you go. With small content, with blog posts or an individual graphic or a low video you might make or whatever, you are trying to use your intuition, all the things you are learning and kind of rapidly iterate, so I write a blog post, it really resonates, I write 5 more they go nowhere. What was the difference with that one? And over time, I want to figure out how do I get more of those resonating posts and fewer of the non resonating ones.

Gael: Cool. Let’s say that we validated the idea that people are kind of interested in that, but we don’t really know exactly what to put in there, yet, although I imagine it went through the validation process we’d already have a little bit of an idea of what to put in there. Like is that the only way you go about finding out what to put inside or like how do you decide what is inside the guide?

Rand: I think the validation is one part of it, but the second part of it for sure is coming up with some great ideas and then sharing those with people who you hope will help you amplify this, people who have a reason to want to amplify this. And hopefully, for us, that’s people like our designers who have invested interest in it, and its people who blog in men’s fashion space who believe that by sharing this they can get lots of new social followers and retweets and amplification of their own and those kinds of things and be seen as thought leaders for sharing this unique piece of content that came out of nowhere from these guys who have never been in fashion before. I think that outreach process connecting with influencers and I wouldn’t recommend that we start with the biggest influencers in the field because they are just not going to talk to us. We want to find small niche influencers, people who are flattered that we thought of them, people who really care about the problem, people who are also relatively early stage but have at least small to medium size audience that kind of stuff, and we want to validate our ideas of what goes into the guide with them, so we say, “Hey, we run this survey, we talk to this folks, they said they would love this. We are planning on building it. Here is our outline, would you be willing to contribute- could you tell us what stuff are we missing from this?” That can do really remarkable things for you as well.

Gael: So is that the only way- essentially there are other guys out there. And, if you want to get the attention like the content where it says “we need to be better” like how do we make sure we become better then?

Rand: You make sure you are better by- I want to call it “the look in the eyes metric” and this is if you sit down for a coffee with an influencer in the field or with someone who is in this world at all, and you start telling them your idea and their eyes light up. They start looking at you, they are not paying attention to their phone any more, they are completely engaged in what you are saying and they are jumping in and be like, “Yeah, you could do this, yeah what about that, oh my gosh, what about this,” then you are onto something. And if you don’t get that response, you have either chosen the wrong person or more likely- you are not building something that great.

Gael: Ok. Another question, to just get back to previous one actually is like, you said like let’s talk to this people and get their input etc, what if I outreached- how do I get people’s attention?

Rand: It is I think my experience has been that you can, so long as your message is interesting, so long as you are approaching them in a credible, thoughtful and empathetic way, and so long as you are reaching out to the right people. I’ve never seen the case where you get no response, you know, “Hey we have a 100 people that we targeted, they are all small to mid size influencers in the men’s fashion world, they are all people who care deeply about local clothing and say they deal with local designers, and we are helping those people exactly and we reached out to these 100 people and not one responded.” That means your email sucked, you are coming across terribly. So I think when you do that, if you go about that process right you might have to fear that only 30 out of a 100 got back to you but you don’t have to fear that zero.

Gael: Yeah. That’s my experience as well, we’ve done a lot of outreach in the past, but a lot of people are afraid, they are like, “oh but nobody is going to get back to me,” before they send the first email. So I think it’s important to ask that question.

Rand: Yeah. And you’ve got to have in mind some true empathy, you need to be thinking to yourself “What is it that I am providing this influencer, this person, how am I helping their career? How am I making them better?” And hopefully, the answer is “I’m going to include them in this guide, that’s going to help their SEO by giving them a link, that’s going to help their social by mentioning them in there, that’s going to help their amplification because when they share this thing out there”, it’s not like the big fashion bloggers who are picking it up and writing about it so they’ll have this kind of exclusive thing to their audience and be seen as more credible. Hopefully, you are helping them by giving them information and insight they didn’t have before because you’ve done this cool research that you can share with them. Hopefully you are helping them to accomplish their own goals, because they are also passionate about local men’s fashion design and that’s exactly who you are helping. So, you’ve got to find all those angles and intersects of shared values and goals.

Gael: Yeah. You’ve got to give something back.

Rand: Yeah, if you can’t identify those you’ve got the wrong influencers.

Gael: Yeah, that makes total sense. OK, so let’s say we have not necessarily a lot of designers, but like 5 of them accepted to like review our stuff. And we’ve created a page in WordPress, password protected so we can update it and send it to them and we get their feedback. Now, we need to create that guide, right, and that’s the big part, and neither you or I are experts in men’s fashion, how do we go about creating that content? Do we try to figure it out ourselves, do we get help from outsource people or do we try to write it ourselves with the help of outsource people- how would we go about tackling that industry when, you know, we are amateurs, we like it but we are not authorities.

Rand: As we’ve gone through the whole process up to this point, hopefully we have become more knowledgeable than 95% of the general population, and more knowledgeable than 50% of even a lot of the people in the field, at least about this specific problem, or issue, or guide that we are creating. And so because we now have that knowledge, we are in a unique place and we should be the ones creating that content. I would not try and outsource that. I would do this however, I would say, “Hey, Gael, maybe you are a terrible writer but a phenomenal illustrator, and I happen to be a terribly bad at visuals, but it turns out I am a good writer. We should leverage those two strengths, you illustrate, I’ll write. You are going to make comics, you are going to make some embeddable graphics, you are going to make some diagrams, you are going to make some fun charts that show the asymptote of where it no longer pays to spend more money on jeans then a certain dollar amount because you can always get plenty good jeans at $85 or whatever it is. You are going to illustrate that.” That would be sick, like amazing! I want to see exactly how many dollars I should spend on jeans and how much I should never spend more, because I’m not getting any better jeans than that. That illustration is going to really help us and then my writing style is going to work better than your writing style, or maybe neither of us are good at writing but we are both great at video and so you know what- this is going to be a video and visuals guide. Or, you know what we are good at? It actually turns out both of us are programmers by background, we are great at design and we have a bunch of interactive libraries that we have worked with over the years, and so we are going to make this an entirely interactive graphic, data driven presentation. We are going to collect all of the details of how much you will pay by brand, across the 50 major fashion websites and then compare that to local small designers and you are going to be able to see what you get at Macy’s, Nordstorm’s, and JCPenney and Ross and like all these things versus local designers and how much you’ll pay at those stores for similar comparative brands, holly shit- that sounds amazing tip.

Gael: I’m wondering if just that boost of excitement just had that look in the eye validation thing?

Rand: That’s exactly, yeah. That’s what you want, you’ve got to find that in other people, you’ve got to be able to tell them that story and then they go, “Oh my God, yeah, I do this I do this.”

Gael: Cool, so you want to leverage the strength of the team mainly and you are not really into bring anyone else in the process, right, what’s your stand on like outsourcing and so on, because a lot of people are trying to do that?

Rand: I mean, I can understand why some folks are doing that, right, I think if you say to yourself, “Hey, we really think there is tremendous opportunity here to have a set of visuals that we want to add but neither of us have the skills and we think it’s really going to resonate, let’s hire an artist to do a few graphics for us”. I think that’s ok, but what I think is less ok is, “Hey we have this idea for the content, we are going to make a rough outline and a couple of sketches and then hand it off to an outsource team who is going to build it.” When you are early stage and you said we couldn’t even afford $500 for market research so wow- no way am I passing that off to anybody else.

Gael: Fair enough. I was going to ask aren’t other people creating the content for Moz right now, but I guess you are on a different scale.

Rand: Yeah, absolutely, right, and we have very different mechanics around that so we very rarely pay people outside the company to create content, they are kind of donating the content in exchange for the audience and the amplification.

Gael: Ok, that makes sense, cool. So, any kind of like SEO snippets and stuff like that we need to think about, about that content as well like any kind of technicalities we need to think about that page before we get on like all crazy as well?

Rand: Yeah, absolutely right, so we would probably try and take our keyword research document, put it all together, align it with what we have decided the guide is going to be about and what it’s going to focus on, and determine the best keywords for sort of the title and the headline of the pieces and maybe the individual sections if those are going to be separate pages versus all in one and then we are going to figure out- we are going to want to place it on our main domain in a subfolder not on a subdomain, not on a separate microsite, so that we benefit the whole domain with the content that’s being created and so you get those rising timeless phenomenon. We are also going to want to make sure to the best of our ability that we have some way that we know this piece of content we are going to produce and invest so much energy in has a way to get links to it and that could be that individual visual elements have some citation back or they are easily embeddable in content that could be that we give all the people who contributed to the project snippet that they can put on their website or we know that a lot of our designers or a lot of these bloggers who are going to link to it will do that for us whatever it is, but we are going to want to make sure that not only is it link worthy, but link likely.

Gael: Yes, it’s just easy for people to just grab the code and put it on their site basically.

Rand: Yeah, that’s like the simplest version of it and I think there is much more extensible and advanced versions of that that we could consider depending on the type of content we are creating and who we are reaching with it.

Gael: Ok, do you think it’s worth targeting different keywords for different sub sections for that kind of content or should we just think as like one main keyword?

Rand: Depending on how big the guide is and if it’s multiple individual pages and people can access those pages on different URLs, I would say it’s probably worth going after multiple keywords. Because, each of those sections can earn links by themselves all of those keywords should relate in kind of the topic modeling fashion back to the primary topic and so all the links and ranking signals and usage data and amplification signals and search volume signals, all that kind of stuff is going to help all of the content potentially rank well and so we should target a wide group of keywords that is still highly relevant to what we are producing, we want to make sure that any keyword we are targeting we feel confident that we would if our page ranked on page 1, it would be the best result that user could possibly find for that query.

Gael: So, should we break it down in several pages or make just a giant page all in one page?

Rand: It really depends. I personally am a fan of breaking it up into multiple pages because I think that scrolling very long page can work well in some formats but it can be really frustrating for more informational educational topical guide stuff, so someone might want to like get to our men’s fashion guide and then be like, hey, I remember that they wrote something great about neckties and bow ties and that’s what I want to read. And so I want to click the neckwear section and go straight to that.

Gael: Yeah. That makes sense. Also, probably in terms of like internal linking, that makes it a lot easier to like from your blog post etc link to specific sections of it and in terms of like the page rank, you know.

Rand: yeah, it’s a good user experience, you want people to be able to navigate to the thing they are interested in and passionate about, and the problem they want to solve as quickly as possible not sort of force them to go through the whole document just to find one thing.

Gael: Cool, that makes sense as well. Ok, so look, we’ve just spent like 3 sleepless nights, making that content, we hate it at this point, you know. And we are about to press the publish button. But is there anything we need to do before we press that publish button? How do we make sure we get some attraction as we launch, is there some people we should talk to etc, what should we do?

Rand: So all of these people who have contributed to us, who’ve helped us with ideas, who we’ve gotten feedback from, all the designers we talked to, the influencers we talked to, the potential customers, we should give them like sneak heads up, right, or you know, as we talked to them along the way even better, it would be like “Hey, thanks so much for contributing, Gael and I are launching this thing on March 1st, is it cool if I sent you an email on February 28th saying heads up this is coming out and ask you to share across your networks? And if you wouldn’t be comfortable sharing it across your networks, please tell us why.” Like that’s huge feedback, that’s like super powerful when someone says, “I don’t think I’d shared this,” and you can find out why they wouldn’t, that’s awesome.

Gael: Yeah, because a lot of people would just be very nice and friendly initially and then when you ask them to take action, they would be like, “I’m not so sure about it.” So I guess that’s when you get the final resistance when you actually- I guess like people like, you need to match their standard at this point for them to do it otherwise they won’t, right?

Rand: Right, and I think one of the easier ways around that problem is to make sure that you are providing them with something when they amplify it, right, that you are creating a reason, a goal for them that is also being served by the amplification of the content, right. It’s either they look good, or they are going get more followers, or their own interest is being served because you are selling their work on the site, so if this gets picked up well it will help their SEO because of the link value, but whatever it is, right, like you want to find all those different points where you are providing value to them and provide that very empathetic experience because then it should be obvious to someone why they should share.

Gael: Yeah. Ok, so it’s probably worth going at them, if they are being resistant or something, would it be worth going at them and be like, “Hey, we can feature you in our next newsletter if you share” obviously that content has to be good and stuff, but just basically like offering like counter value for them sharing it around, like should we make deals like that?

Rand: I would not personally, I think you can. I wouldn’t tell someone like never ever do that, that’s terrible, I wouldn’t personally. I would always try and get it the other way and if somebody says no I’d rather move on to more targets and try and make them happy.

Gael: Ok, anything we should do about social media to tease the content, like can we make a teasing campaign or something?

Rand: You can, I think social is tough on the teaser campaign stuff, right. I haven’t seen that work very well for anything other than like on movie or video game trailer.

Gael: Fair enough.

Rand: It’s just not a lot teaser content, I think people wan the message they don’t want a tease for the eventual message, because social you are so used to just scanning through and only clicking on the things that you really deeply care about, so I think wouldn’t necessarily go that route. What I would do is I would definitely be using social for the weeks and months up to the time period when we publish it to build up a great network.

Gael: Yeah. Interact with people, connect with them, chat with them, respond to posts on the networks, build some engagement and also share their stuff. If you have been awesome to this niche blogger in man’s fashion and you’ve been sharing his stuff one post of his every week or two for the last six weeks, he is probably going to be like, “Dude, you guys are awesome, thank you so much for always saying nice stuff about my work and it’s clearly you actually read and subscribe to my blog because you only share the ones that you really like, you are not just sharing everything to try and get my good grace,” and you’ve left some comments on his site and all that kind of stuff. When you have a relationship, that’s another good reason why when you ask for a share you are going to get it.

Gael: So basically, give to the industry before you ask for anything?

Rand: Oh my God yes. In my case, it was one of those like before I ever asked anyone to subscribe to our software, back then I didn’t even know we are going to make software, but I was hopefully blogging and giving back for like 5 years.

Gael: yeah, I know, I was reading it back then. That’s something that I try to tell people, it’s like the link building, outreach etc, like when people just email you out of the blue and first thing they ask is a link, you know, chances are pretty low. Whereas, if you build a campaign where you are going to be like start commenting on their site, start with sharing their stuff, maybe just even send an email to say hi or whatever, and then ask for a link like a couple of weeks later then your link acquisition rate is much higher and that’s very important, especially in niches where there is very few link prospects.

Rand: Yeah, I think that’s certainly one way to go, I like it almost even better when it’s more natural than that. When intention is not, “Hey, I should build a campaign to create a relationship with this person so that eventually I can get a link from them,” but rather, “what can I do help them?” Because nothing, just because. Because I want to help them, because helping them is a good thing and if they get back to me, awesome, that’s great, that’s fantastic, and if they don’t- I don’t care, I still help them, that was my entire goal was to help them. And if you do that for a lot of people you will find it comes back to you.

Gael: I absolutely agree, it’s just like when you do it for someone else, like another company or you hire a consultant etc, it’s not necessary the easiest thing to sell to the SEO, you know.

Rand: No argument, but it works way better.

Gael: I agree, it’s just like sometimes you need to play with both, you know.

Rand: I like things that don’t sell well to SEO. I really do because those are competitive advantages, things that anyone can sell to a SEO or to a client or that like everyone is like, “oh yeah, of course we should do that.” If it’s obvious, then it’s not a competitive advantage, it’s only the weird, hard to prove valid, hard to show why would you invest so much effort in that, that kind of marketing, is where people don’t invest, under-invest and because of that their returns are high.

Gael: And I’ll tell you that’s one of the main reasons why we are switching to making our own sites rather than doing client work actually because it’s very difficult to convince people but like we do it on our site and it works, it’s just like it’s hard to convince people. All right, we’ve done a lot of pre-launch, outreach, people are ready to share it, they are ready for social to share it, we are pressing the publish button- how do we go about social, like any extra outreach we should do, should we try to get on Redit and are we going to get flame for self promotion, like what would be our plan on the day of launch, basically.

Rand: Yeah, I’m actually kind of a believer that launch day is when you collect all the work that you’ve done in the past, but it is not the day for unusual amounts of amplification or pushes on your site. Like, you could submit to Redit or ask someone you know, “hey you’ve got a Redit account relatively popular, you submitted a bunch of good stuff, if you think this is cool would you submit it? And if you don’t think it’s cool, please tell us why.” So I think those kinds of things are fine, but I wouldn’t go out of my way the day of launch. I would have a slow burn campaign around that content, right, which means I pay attention to people who ask particular kinds of questions on Twitter, on Cora, I am a member of this Facebook group that talks about men’s fashion, I’m in the sub Redit about men’s fashion and so I might be like Redit is a good example of this, I would try and do it in a very non promotional way so it’s six weeks after launch, someone is asking about neckwear issues and you are like, “actually, we made this kind of cool interactive graphic thing for bow ties versus neckties and styles to wear with different kinds of suits and shirts and that kind of things, here is I made a little Imgur link, because I didn’t want to link directly to the URL which by the way is xyz if you want to type it in, but like no live link, here is the Imgur thing so you could see what it looks like”, and I’ll link to Imgur instead because I know that’s kind of Redit protocol. And so that may be the comment I would leave to them, all the people that are checking out that thread would see that in there and hopefully that would do well and I would try to be non self promotional but just information and value giving in that way, that’s how you do it network by network person by person, process by process and maybe you just say, “Hey 30 minutes of every day I’m going to monitor all these sites to see if there is anything relevant, jump in and contribute when I can.”

Gael: So it’s more of the slow burn everyday task rather than like let’s just do a big launch day?

Rand: Yes. Some of the things that I do and have done for years is I have alert setup I use Moz’s tool, you could use Google alert, or whatever, but I get my fresh web alert for pages that mention my name but don’t link to me. And I’m like, hey, if the source is important enough I see it in there, I’ll jump in and be like, “Yo, over here.” Like I appreciate the mention, here is my blog if you want to actually check out the thing if the person in the article is talking about. Or, I’ll drop that person a line or tweet at them and say like, “Hey, thanks for using this image from my blog, you didn’t link to the post, here it is if you feel like it.”

Gael: Cool, so everyone that is listening, if you want to start talking to him, just start blogging about him.

Rand: Or tweet to me or whatever.

Gael: yes, you are pretty easy to reach. Ok, so, one thing I wanted to ask is should we look into pied exposure like Facebook, Stumble Upon, Outbrain, Twitter adds, that kind of stuff, like what is your take on these things?

Rand: I think it is valuable once you prove to yourself the customer lifetime value and the conversion rate as well as the visitor path, right, the path to conversion, so if this is our first piece of content and our first project and we haven’t really launched all the stuff yet, I would not do it, I would generally consider that to be not a good use of funds. However, if we launch this piece and we launch the next piece and the third piece we look back at these two big content pieces and we are like, over the course of six visits, which included like a re-targeting pixel we were able to drop and included some searches and that kind of stuff, we are able to share that basically by spending almost no money, maybe few dollars on re-targeting, few dollars on PPC, we could capture 5% of the people who visited the piece and left and bring them back to our site and turn 20% of the people who did return to the site into eventual converting customers, and the customer lifetime value for us is $700. So, we know that we can spend X amount on the amplification and if we get people to the content and we can get them back at a rate that’s half of the organic, acquisition rate, we are going to be positive so let’s go spend some dollars there. But until you have those numbers, I wouldn’t do it.

Gael: Cool. Spend it in research instead.

Rand: Yes, spend it in research, spend it on product right, make some new relationships with designers, let’s hire some people that kind of thing.

Gael: Cool. I like it. Now, here is a question where we might have different opinion which is how do we go about converting people that visit that content? We’ve created that amazing piece, like I should try to get emails, try to get some social followers, etc, how would you go about trying to do that?

Rand: I like to be subtle but I actually like pursuing all of the angles that you’ve described, so some of it is direct, meaning in the piece itself, I think it’s totally legitimate to say here is the distribution of bow ties versus neckties in different kinds of outfits and that kind of stuff, and in a little parentheses below be like, “P.s we actually have some very cool bow ties and neckties by local South African designers”, and you can click that link and go check them out. I think that’s totally fine to include in the guide. I also think it’s fine if someone gets through one section of the guide down to the bottom to have something that’s like an email capture, or a sign up to comment or log in or whatever it is, and I think it’s totally legit to nudge people to follow you on social networks although generally speaking, your content that you put on social, will do a better job of that than anything else.

Gael: Cool, so like you are not against things like, it’s very popular right now, content upgrades, and that kind of things, where basically we could create an extra pdf that’s like maybe the fashion of bow ties where people could download it from their email and so on at the end of the bow ties section for example. You would be cool with that, right?

Rand: Yes, I think so long as you do it in a good way, one issue with that is I would really want to test that so I would want to say like, let’s have a few sections where we offer that for free, you don’t have to do anything, and a few sections where we put it behind an email and then let’s go see- let’s validate for sure that the email capture is actually truly more valuable to us than the higher rate of visibility and all the social amplification, and SEO power and all that kind of stuff that we get from putting it up there for free.

Gael: Cool, that makes sense actually, just test everything. It’s just like probably something we couldn’t do initially, until we get a bit of traffic.

Rand: So, certainly one way you could test it, right, if you are talking about multiple sections of the guide, you could make a couple of them behind the email wall so it’s like download our advanced guide to bow ties, behind the email wall, and check out our recommended jeans brands by price point and that’s totally free.

Gael: Cool. Ok, I like it. Is there any way we can get people to share that content more, I don’t want to call it a tip but like there is good practices to get more shares you know.

Rand: I think certainly, I have seen some of the like embedded tweets, like tweet this specific sentence or call out that kind of thing. I think those work ok, it depends on your audience and then the thing that I would say that definitely works well is if you make some social optimized images that work well in the Facebook cards and twitter cards and google plus cards and that kind of thing, so that when people do share them on the network the snippet, that little visual and the text in there is just really compelling, you know, that’s kind of like an add that you are crafting for people to share, so that’s definitely important. And then having great visuals that people do fine and want to share I think a lot of times when people are creating content, they go overly professional and inauthentic with visuals. And I think that you can actually be pretty amateur with your visuals but if they feel authentic, if they feel very home grown unique they share a data or a viewpoint that is hard to find anywhere else on the web, that can really resonate with folks.

Gael: Actually, you know we run a lot of Pinterest stuff, and actually my suggestion would be having Pinterest buttons on the images. But we run a lot of Pinterest stuff and it’s funny, because we have a designer and I am the worst Photoshop person you will ever meet and the funny thing is, my graphics very often outperform the designers’ graphics.

Rand: Right?

Gael: Because it’s just like information, it’s about what’s inside rather than like how it’s designed, and like I have a page, a health site that has like 45000 re-pins or something, just because I literally took a bunch of recipes and made a really horrible infographic out of it. And that really works well, so I totally agree with you, it’s more about making explain a graphic than it is about having an amazing corporate design kind of thing.

Rand: Yep. I think there is something to the authenticity piece of content and if your visuals are also beautiful and very professional that can work even better but you can be amateurish and succeed pretty well with as long as those visuals convey something authentic.

Gael: Yes, I totally agree. So yeah, for that guide, my personal preference for social share would be taking all the images and making sure they are Pinterest friendly and have a pin button when you hove r your mouse over it.

Rand: The one thing I might point out to you though, is that Pinterest has a very low percent of male users.

Gael: Yeah. True.

Rand: So for men’s fashion it might work, because maybe the 10% of men who are on Pinterest are like our target market anyway, but we should just validate that.

Gael: Fair enough, that’s a good point, I actually didn’t think about that. Cool, so the last section I want to talk about, and I think we talked a little bit about it but it but what would we do to keep that piece of content living, because we spent so much time on it, I don’t want it to die off in two months, you know. So how do we keep it living?

Rand: I think there is two things you can do- one is you sort of have an annual or biennial update that you know you are going to do, so we do this with Moz, with number of our guides, and big resources, every two years we rerun all this data and we rerun this collection and we aggregate and we produce the new ranking factors every two years. Or the industry survey which we do every other year and so that’s one way to go. And then the other way to go is more to say we are going to make the entire thing or sections of it intentionally updated and update worthy so like in our list of jeans brands that we recommend, we will have new ones that we add in every time a new brand of jeans comes out or new style that we check out, we’ll add that to the list and then we can tweet about it or put it on Facebook and be like, “Hey, this month Gap came out with a new line of jeans, the first one in two years, we reviewed them all and added them to our database you can now find it here.”

Gael: Any other promotion we do when we update the content?

Rand: I think you can along with the sort of social sharing and some of that, you can reach back out to some of those influencers especially if there is like the blogger for Gap, right, you can say, “Hey dude, you know we chatted a few month ago and you weren’t really interested in contributing this guide, I just want to let you know that now Gap stuff is featured in there.” And, it’s like that guy is going to pay attention, because it’s their stuff.

Gael: Yeah, they can show it to their manager, their boss.

Rand: So anytime you make someone else look good with your content, make sure you are reaching out to them, make sure you are showing them, you know, somebody else produces something awesome in your field, and you want to go update your guide with that piece of information and link off to them and include the visual from their work, call them out- let them know, be like hey man, I wanted to include you in our guide, I love this piece that you wrote, will that be cool with you, and if they say great, you go ahead and do that and then you get back to them and like hey, awesome and by the way we are sharing it on social here is the Facebook post and here is the tweet and the Pinterest pin and thanks again.

Gael: Yeah, cool. I think we are done brainstorming that piece of content, I hope you had fun doing it?

Rand: It was an interesting exercise for sure.

Gael: Yeah, I thought it was more interesting to go for something practical and see how you really think and how you guys plan your content rather than asking you what is the next trend for 2015 which is a great post you did, but I don’t want to do it again in audio format, you know. So, thank you very much Rand for joining, it’s been really insightful, it actually shows that there is not metric behind creating big content and getting links for it, it really is how you do it, a lot of people just put that mystical mist around it where it’s like something magical that gets you a lot of links instantly and so on but I think that was really a good job at demystifying everything, so, thank you for that. Do you want to tell people where they can follow up with you and where they can read a blog and so on?

Rand: Sure, so I have a personal blog at moz.com/rand, and I also write for the main Moz blog at moz.com/blog, and then the social network where I am most active for sure is Twitter I’m at @randfish.

Gael: Cool. Any final words?

Rand: Yeah, I really appreciate you having me on man, this was tons of fun and hopefully folks learned a lot and will have some great feedback for us.

Gael: Cool, thank you very much Rand.

All right, that was the interview with Rand, I hope you got a lot out of the interview, and that you have a better idea on how you can create big pieces of content that will generate a lot of the attraction to your site initially, and if you are working on low budget that is probably one of the best things you can do, obviously it will take time and will take effort and sweat but you can’t really have everything, you can’t have a lot of traffic no money to spend for it, and not work for it, so I absolutely recommend you follow that tactic. If you are more on having money type of thing, you can spend money on advertising ad build an audience that way but it really depends on what your priorities are. If you liked that podcast, don’t forget to rate us on iTunes because that really helps us grow the podcast, grow Authority Hacker, and just justify the time spent on creating that podcast. Also if you want to download the step by step process we just talked about in that interview, go on authorityhacker.com/rand, you can download a beautiful pdf with every step outlined so that you know what to do when you want to create big content. I’ll see you in the next podcast.

Thank you for listening to the Authority Hacker podcast. If you liked this episode, don’t forget to rate us on iTunes and we’ll give a shout out in the next episode. If you want more, 100% free niche marketing tutorials and hacks, head over to authorityhacker.com.

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16 Comments

  1. Hi Gael

    What a fantastic guest to have on the show – I’ve just started listening to this now and am going to take some notes. Nice premise for the episode by the way :-)

    I’ve followed Rand’s work for years and am particularly interested in his approach to content planning so thanks for putting this together.

    I’ve shared this across my social networks.

    Great stuff Gael :-)

    Cheers

    Loz

  2. Knocked it out of the park, Gael. Not very often we get to hear Rand talk about how he’d do what we’re doing. Super, super interesting. Super, super actionable.

    The timing was good for me as well, since I’m in the middle of watching all the videos from MozCon 2012.

    Keep up the great work. :)

  3. Gold mine is right here Gael!

    Great tips and thank you for making checklist pdf!
    I like the tip Rand was mentioning to ask questions always, this will really help in content creation!

    Cheers!
    Yaro

  4. Hey Gael,

    Amazing episode of the podcast, some very interesting points were made here. I completely agree that reaching out is a great way to push promotion before you even publish the post.

    Keep up the great work and hope to see more experts around here!

    Filip

  5. Solid advice from Rand, and very cool that he joined you on the podcast.

    In the process of building and scaling a handful of authority sites, the customer-centric approach to big content seems like a huge time investment. I suppose it’s worth it if you’re totally bootstrapped, but otherwise maybe best to outsource!

    Cheers,
    Danny

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