Also, why Tim is going to live in the woods and work on his beard
Content marketing is something we know we should all do, but it’s so overwhelming many of us don’t know where to start.
So today, I’m delighted to have Tim Soulo from Ahrefs on the podcast. He’s a Marketing leader and with his SEO software, Tim and his team consistently pump out amazing shareable content that builds brand awareness and authority.
In this episode I’ll grill him with questions from you, the erstwhile listeners of the Recipe for SEO Success podcast, about content marketing, the Ahrefs tool set and his own personal experience as a leading figure in the SEO world.
Tune in to learn:
- How often you should publish and update content
- Are blogs a thing of the past
- Will links become a thing of the past
- What questions Tim asks his writers to produce great content
- What has been Ahrefs most effective lead generator
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And big thanks to CoolSanJose for their lovely review.
Tim Soulo is the Chief Marketing Officer and Product advisor at Ahrefs (an industry leading SEO tool, powered by Big Data). With almost 10 years of practical experience in SEO and digital marketing, Tim eagerly shares his knowledge by giving live talks at various digital marketing conferences around the world and publishing blog articles at Ahrefs Blog. He’s the author of many data-driven SEO research studies and a number of detailed marketing guides.
Connect with Tim
Content marketing is something we know we should all do.
But it’s so overwhelming that many of us just don’t know where to start. So today, I’m delighted to have Tim Soulo from Ahrefs on the podcast. He’s marketing lead for this world leading SEO Software. Tim and his team constantly pump out amazing, shareable content that builds brand awareness and authority. In this episode, I’ll grill him with questions from you, the erstwhile listeners of The Recipe for SEO Success podcast about content marketing, the Ahrefs tool and his own personal experience as a leading figure in the SEO world.
Hello, my name is Kate Toon, I’m head chef here at the Recipe for SEO Success and online teaching hub about all things related to search engine optimization, and I love SEO. And today I’m talking with Tim Soulo from Ahrefs.
Hello, Tim, how are you?
Tim Soulo: Hi, Kate. I’m doing great.
Thanks a lot for having me on your podcast. And I would make the job of grilling me easier by grilling you from the start, by sharing with people that it took us three times to record the intro.
Kate Toon: Oh Tim. You horrible person, you. He’s making it up. Yes, I make a lot of mistakes. And Tim said I should just leave them in because it makes it more natural. But I’m trying to like a professional Tim, or sound like a professional.
Tim Soulo: Well, you are anyway, you have a podcast that already puts you into professional league, so you are one.
Kate Toon: Okay. And we were talking, for those of you who are obviously listening because there is no video, we’re talking about Tim’s beard before the show and how he’s trying to grow it into the style of, who was it, was it Rand Fishkin did you say?
Tim Soulo: Yeah. Now you see now you’re grilling me the right way.
Kate Toon: Yeah, we can roast each other. You’re a little Rand wannabe. No, it’s joking. I’m trying to grow my beard as well as Rand’s but it’s a hard job. He puts a lot of effort into that beard. But anyway, let me read out your bio for anybody who doesn’t know who you are. So Tim Soulo is the chief marketing officer and product advisor at Ahrefs, an industry leading SEO tool powered by Big Data.
With almost 10 years of practical experience in SEO and digital marketing, Tim eagerly shares his knowledge giving live talks at various digital marketing conferences around the world and publishing blog articles on Ahrefs blog. He’s the author of many data driven SEO research studies and a number of detailed marketing guides. There you go. That’s impressive. So Tim, I put a call out for questions on Twitter. Also in my I love SEO group on Facebook and in my digital master chefs mentoring group and we were overwhelmed. So I hope you’ve had your coffee because there are a lot of questions to get through. I’ve got my copy as well.
Tim Soulo: Yeah, I have mine with me as well.
Kate Toon: Let’s both have a little sip of coffee, everyone could enjoy listening to us. There we go. That’s the sound of Tim and Kate drinking coffee, probably quite disgusting. Okay, so we’re going to start talking about content marketing. First question is from Amy Annetts. And she says, it’s a bit of a general question, but what is your overall approach to content marketing? If you could sum up the main themes and approach to how you manage your content marketing, what would that be?
Tim Soulo: Yeah, of course, it’s an amazing question that I’m glad that you’re asking it the first one on the show so that if people get eventually bored, they will get all the value just from the first question alone. Actually, my approach to content marketing is super straightforward. It’s like super simple and obvious, but some way I didn’t know that when I just joined Ahrefs. So it actually took me I think, a year to figure out those simple principles. So the first principle is that you should write about topics that people are searching for, so that you will be able to rank in Google and you will be able to get people that are searching for related things to your website. This is like amazingly obvious. This is what SEO is all about. You have to get traffic from Google. But when I just joined Ahrefs, we were not doing this and I wasn’t doing this. So we had to figure this out. Okay, probably we should do SEO for our own website, for our own blog. And we should actually produce content around the topics on SEO that people are actually looking for, like link building, keyword research, even content marketing as well, we have articles about that.
So yeah, a lot of people when they browse company blogs, when I browse personal blogs, I see that they’re churning out content on whatever topic is interesting to them, and not so much like doing keyword research and figuring out what are people actually searching for along the lines of their niche, their industry or whatever. So this is the first thing, make sure you publish content that people are searching for so that you will get that sweet base of traffic from Google. The second thing is that we won’t write about just anything that is popular on Google, we will on the right about the topics that are very specific to what our business does. So in our case, that is SEO because we have an SEO tool, SEO platform. I always use the same fun example, I’m making fun of HubSpot because they have a huge blog and everyone uses them as an example of amazing content marketing.
But if you put their blog into Ahrefs to see their top, top performing pages, the page that brings them the most traffic isn’t the topic, “How to make a GIF image.” It brings them like 100,000 visitors per month, like just one single article. But then think about it yeah you get like 100,000 visitors per month to just a single article but it’s about how to make a GIF image. And if you’re selling like a complex CRM software or like whatever how HubSpot describes whatever they’re selling, how do you convert a person who’s looking to make a GIF image into like HubSpot software? It’s super hard. So in our case at Ahrefs, we write articles where we could actually showcase and mention our products, our features, so that while people are reading about the SEO issues that they were searching for in Google in the first place, they would see how to use our tools, how to apply our tools, and they would get interested to take a trial and then probably eventually sign up for a tool. So these are just to two principles that-
Kate Toon: They’re good principles. I mean, as you said, it sounds like common sense. But I think many people, especially business blogs, do pump out stuff like, we just got a new car parking spot or, a new secretary, kind of stuff that pushing content out rather than inviting people back in.
Tim Soulo: Yeah, or they may still write about their industry but not mention their product. So people learn from them, but people don’t know what kind of product they have and why they should sign up.
Kate Toon: And big important thing I’m going to disagree with you there though is that it’s actually GIF image, not JIF. And we’re going to have an argument about that. If you’re listening to the podcast, what do you think? Is it Gif for JIF? It’s something that drives me crazy but anyway, we can talk about that more at the end of the episode. Well, I think those are two core principles which make perfect sense. But I think if a lot of businesses looked at what they were doing, maybe they’re actually not doing those two things. So a good start. Let’s go on to the next question which is, I think a great one as well. And this is from Slack at Slack digital. And they ask, what do you think is the ideal split between creating content for your own site versus creating content for other sites, so guest posts versus posts on your own site?
Tim Soulo: Amazing question. I think this split depends on how much backlinks you have already and how much of your own audience you have already because for example, Ahrefs, our blog, right now we’re in a position where we have enough kind of traffic coming to our blog every single week or every single month. We have big enough email list, we have a big enough audience of customers. So whenever we publish any article it gets a lot of exposure, a lot of people will link to it and it is like super easy for us to rank our content to Google without doing much, just because we already have generated this audience, this authority, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. But when you’re just starting out, like I said in the answer to the first question, you have to make your content ranking Google, you have to write about things that people are searching for Google but you need backlinks. So if you’re starting or if you’re working on a brand new blog or a brand new company website, you’re blogging for them and they don’t have a lot of backlinks, your content won’t rank. So you have to proactively generate those backlinks.
Yeah, of course, a good way is to simply do outreach.
If you publish something awesome, you can simply reach out to people in your industry and show it to them. If it is awesome enough, they will mention that they are linked to it and eventually it will rank. But more often than not, when you’re starting out, it is hard for you to produce something awesome that people will find so much valuable that they will go to that extra effort of linking to it. So you should be building your backlinks by yourself. And guest blogging is one of the best ways to build backlinks to your own website while you’re creating that content for other blogs.
So I think when you’re starting out you should put quite some effort into guest posting for others. And other than simply like generating backlinks to your website, think about it, you’re building relationships with a lot of bloggers in the industry by creating great content for your website. Also, there’s a high chance that if those bloggers have a popular blog, once you publish an article, it will send you some referral traffic so you get exposed to their audience. So when you’re just starting out and no one knows about you, you should put a lot of effort into pumping articles on other blogs.
Basically, I would suggest to write one kick ass, awesome, amazing article for your own website and then go and write like 10 to 20 guest articles all linking to that awesome article that you wrote for your site. And then as you will start getting traction, as people will know you, as you will generate your audience, you will simply stop doing guest articles. For example, right now Ahrefs team, we maybe do like maybe one or two articles, guest articles per month and we really do it right now because we didn’t stop doing it. Actually we don’t need it at all. We just need to stop and switch those people who are doing those guests articles to something else because yeah, we are at the time where we don’t need it. But when you’re starting out, you should put a lot of content on websites of others.
Kate Toon: What a nice place to be, not needing to do any guest posting, lovely.
Claire Gamble asks, how far in advance do you plan Ahrefs content?
So is it more reactive based on real time data and insights, or do you have a long term plan?
So yeah, I guess what is the split between planned and reactive?
Tim Soulo: It’s both and I cannot tell you any specific numbers like what’s the split between planned interactive. I can just say that we practise what we preach. So like I said, we do keyword research. So we figure out what kind of topics people are searching for that related to our business, and where we can plug our own tools and showcase our own tools. So we have pretty large list of topics, I’d say it’s like around 50 topics that we want to cover. And we also revisit the past topics where we already have an article because we want to update our article and make them fresh and keep them ranking high in Google. And then once we have all the topics that we want to cover, we are being reactive. So whatever the industry’s interested right now, whatever we are interested right now, once you get up in the morning, get your coffee and think okay, I don’t want to write about these but this excites me. So yeah, we plan all the topics that we should end up covering somewhere in future. But then we are being reactive and we just go with any topics that are more interesting to us that suits us best and that we think at this moment will give us the most business value.
Kate Toon: And I see as well as a mix of pieces of content, obviously you’ve had a lot of research and, taking a period of months to pull together, compared to some articles which were slightly more opinion piece based, which don’t have loads of data and are just kind of a response to a question. And I think that’s a good balance. If everything you did was like heavy, heavy research stuff, it would be a bit overwhelming. So it’s good to have that balance. I’m going to jump ahead to a question then from Anuradha Sawhney who has a website called Bidillia. And she asks, how often should you update and reuse your content? So this is something that content marketers are very confused about. They’ve got an old piece of content from say, 2013, it’s ranking well, but obviously the data is showing up in the SERPs. Even if it’s an Anuradha Sawhney evergreen piece of content, you’re still going to look at that and go, that’s so old. Should they be updating? Should they be changing the date and sneaking? Should they be publishing a new piece of content? What’s your policy on that?
Tim Soulo: So policy on sneaking is obviously bad, so you don’t like-
Kate Toon: Never sneak! … But you do. But anyway, we won’t talk about that.
Tim Soulo: No one likes when people treat them badly, when people trick them. So don’t trick other people. If your post is old, let it stay old. Don’t pretend that it’s new just because you change the date. So this is the first thing. But at the same time I have to admit that I’ve seen that it worked for some people so they just update all the dates and all their articles and the traffic to their website starts getting bigger. But again, as this practise spreads. I’m sure Google will close that loophole super soon. So don’t rely on this thing, do great work, write great content. As for how often you should update your content, there’s really no specific answer to that question. Because like I said, here at Ahrefs we have a list of like 50 topics that we want to cover. So we don’t already have articles on these topics, we have to write them from scratch.
And then we can have a track record of published articles, some of them rank high in Google, some of them don’t rank higher in Google. Some of them are quite fresh, some of them are slightly outdated. Some of them are massively outdated. And then you have to balance between the new topics that you should cover, between the massively outdated articles, between the slightly outdated articles. And then all articles are not the same. Some articles are super hard and super hard to update because just there was so much new content that you have to improve that article a lot. Other articles are just you change-
Kate Toon: Just need a little tweak. Yeah. But I guess there’s a couple of questions that come up the back of that. So some people, some very famous content marketers, for example, hide the date completely from the SERP. So there is no date on the post, which I find a bit misleading. I kind of like a date because then it lets me understand how fresh the content is. You publish dates on your articles, right?
Tim Soulo: Yeah. Well, here I will actually plug Ahrefs tool called content explorer exactly because of the reason that some people hide dates or other people update dates, updates there publish dates arbitrary just like-
Kate Toon: Sneakily.
Tim Soulo: Yes, sneakily. We will have to publish dates for every piece of content that you can find in conduct Explorer. The first date will be when our board first discovered that piece of content, and the other date will be the date that is stated on the page. So you will be able to see if that piece of content is [crosstalk 00:16:26]
Kate Toon: Crafty, I like that. I guess the next question is, I guess whether you update the existing piece of content or publish a brand new article and 301 redirect the old content to the new. Which is your preference there?
Tim Soulo: The preference I think is update the same piece of content because you don’t want to mess with your URLs a lot. And as far as I’ve heard, I don’t think we, not that I don’t think, we didn’t study this here at Ahrefs. But a lot of people say that when you do at 301 redirect, you lose a little bit of that backlink. So you should like leave your URL as is.
Kate Toon: Yeah, I think it’s like that leaky bucket. Most of the authority goes across, but just a little bit. And if you do that, too often, you’re leaving a lot of juice on the table or something. That sounds obscene but you know what I mean. Peak District SEO asks, do you ever envision a time when links are less important to the way that Google rank sites? So, lots of people are talking about the fact that we should stop worrying so much about links and just focus on great content. But I mean, really, what do you think?
Tim Soulo: I think I’m a terrible person to answer this question, and not for the reason that Ahrefs has one of the best link databases, but because I’m not a technical person. And Google, Google algorithms are a super technical thing so I don’t know what kind of technical advancements they’re working on. But so far, links are an amazing way to … Because if you have 100 pages on the same topic and like all of them are more or less equally awesome, they are written by authorities etcetera, etcetera, how do we know like which one is the best? It’s hard for people to figure out which of the articles is the best, especially if you don’t have some knowledge or experience in this topic. For Google, because it’s not a human it’s a machine, it is even harder.
So by looking at links they are simply ranking those pages based on how other people “voted” for these pieces of content with links. So right now it is an amazing way to help figure out what page out of millions or even hundreds of millions is the best one. 10 years from now, I don’t know, maybe they will come up with some amazing technology or whatever that would emulate human raters or emulate authorities, I don’t know. I’m not technical, I don’t know.
Kate Toon: Yeah. I mean, I think at the moment that’s still important so we’ll wait and see. But another question which you are in a good position to answer is from Katalin Janssens who has a site called, Discreetly Fit. She asks, are blogs a thing of the past? Now, I’m just going to preempt this a little bit and say, I must admit I am blogging much less than I used to, because I’m spending time on podcasting, on making videos, Facebook Lives, be on social media and less time pumping out a blog every single week or whatever, even if it’s a high quality blog. How do you feel about that? Do you think it’s diversifying a little?
Tim Soulo: I think it depends on how do you define a blog. If you define the blog as WordPress where you can hit publish on an article, no, I think it’s not going away. If you define a blog as a storytelling, no I mean if you define a blog in the way that WordPress, it will go away because it’s not a blog. For me blog is storytelling. So if you have a story that unfolds with weekly updates or monthly updates, so people actually want to hear from you what’s happening in your life. So for example, if tomorrow I will go to live in the woods and I will post updates of how I’m building my tent, of how I’m doing fire of our I’m cooking food, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera, every week, or even every day, something new will happen to me.
And people will get invested to following my story. It’s basically like a TV series. So in that sense, blogs are never going away. So if you have a story that will unfold for a long period of time, you will find your audience and people will follow you. But the way most blogs are built, they just publish articles on whatever topic is interesting to them, including Ahrefs blog. We write articles on whatever, we have a list of topics and we decide whatever topic we want to publish next, and people just don’t follow our blog. No one is reading every subsequent article. People only pick topics that are interesting to them. So right now in our content marketing strategy, we don’t rely on people following us because we don’t have that storyline to follow. We have like random articles on random topics. We rely on traffic from Google. We rely on people finding us in Google because we have those topics. So it is no longer a blog, it is a collection of resources. So I look at our blog as a collection of resources.
But at the same time, what the guys at Group HQ were doing, like follow our journey from like, 100 MRR, our monthly recurring revenue, 100,000 to like 500,000 recurring revenue. And they were publishing their updates, what they were doing, how this was growing. And people were interested to follow that blog because every article was building up on the previous one, and the story was unfolding. So decide which kind of blog do you want to have. Do you want to have a collection of resources that you’ll get traffic from Google, or do you want to get a story based blog where you would blog about something that is happening in your life and your business, etcetera, etcetera? For us, I can tease we’re about to have two.
So we have a blog as a collection of resources, but I’m actually going to launch a vlog, it will be on YouTube, a YouTube channel where I will post the weekly updates of what is happening in Ahrefs marketing and it will unfold as a story. So I will tell about the experiments and the marketing campaigns that we are doing. And in subsequent episodes, I will tell you how they performed, what you learn, etcetera, etcetera. So people will be interested to subscribe and see what’s going on.
Kate Toon: Yeah. So I think there’s a few things out of that, one, I think you should go live in the woods. I think that’d be a really good blog. And but I like that, the distinction between kind of a continuous story and a collection of articles and resources.
I guess the only point I would differ on there is if you have that story, if you have a personal brand story, it doesn’t just have to be played out via editorial content on a blog. So I think there are multiple touch points. I’m very much about my personal brands, but people like to interact with that on Instagram, because that’s where they can see the photos, they like the videos on Facebook, the podcast. It’s kind of a collective story, not necessarily just pumped out through editorial content. So I think to Katalin’s question, I think that just straightforward editorial blog content. I don’t think that’s enough anymore. I think it needs to be diverse across multiple platforms. And those blog posts need to be super engaging and have a mix of video and content and all different things. But I love that distinction between storytelling and articles.
Hey, I’m going to move on to the, I think the final, no we’ve got two more content marketing questions. So we’ll get through these before we jump into the next section. So the next one is from Richard [Beeston 00:23:43] from RB Copywriting. And he asks, this is kind of what you’re talking about, Ahrefs’s content marketing is the best of the best. There you go. We love you, Richard. What questions do you ask yourself and your writers when you’re creating and editing content? How do you keep improving on that standard?
Tim Soulo: So I’ve already discussed that the topics are based on the research, so we want to know what people are searching for. And then we also look at the business potential of the topic based on our ability to plug our own tools and features there because if we can write an article about SEO but there is no way to promote Ahrefs and to show people how Ahrefs helps them, with this kind of thing we won’t really publish that article because there are many other articles where we can actually plug Ahrefs. So we look at our articles basically as sales pages for our tools based on the unique problem that people are having with SEO. So, that’s the first thing. But then those articles should also be awesome because no one would read a boring article or a boring sales page. And especially if you’re promoting your tool, you better make the article amazing so that people won’t blame you for being all sales and self promotional. And I don’t see like if you go to Ahrefs blog, I think 95% of our articles, they have Ahrefs in them. So we actively promote our tool.
But I don’t see people blaming us for that. I don’t see people saying that we are all sales, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. People are actually enjoying it. People actually like the fact that we show them how to do something with our tools. So, that’s the first thing. So yeah, how to make it great, we simply look at the existing content on the topic and we’re trying to think like, okay, how is our article going to be different? How is it going to be better? Can we explain this problem or this concept in a more simple way? Can we add like unique examples that no one else had. Or even whenever we talked about, “theory,” so if we advise to do something, and if we advise our readers to do something, we would go and try it ourselves. So for example, when we were writing an article about broken link building, this is where you find pages that are no longer there. And then you contact the people who are linking to those pages and ask them to update their link and link to you because you have a similar research.
So when we were writing an article about broken link building, we did some broken link building of our own. We got some results and we got some no results. And we actually used the screenshots of people saying like, “No I won’t update the link, I won’t link to you,” because we wanted to be honest with people and we wanted to show them that it’s not all shiny and butterflies. Sometimes you get rejected and with broken link building, we were getting rejected a lot, and we wrote about this. So yeah, whenever you write something, we don’t just make it an opinion. We actually do this stuff we advise and we show real examples of how it works for us so that people could relate. I think this makes our content stand out.
Kate Toon: I think that’s so important because there’s a lot of accusations. I hear it a lot in the SEO Twitter world, which is quite a vicious little place sometimes, about people just regurgitating other people’s theories. They read a blog by, I don’t know, I’m not going to name any names, but they read a blog by somebody who’s at the coalface doing experiment, and they’ve really just rewritten that which I honestly think there is still some value in being an interpreter because often the people who are doing this deep level research aren’t the best explaining themselves to normal human. So I think there is value in that. But I think that, what you’ve just explained that really adds value to showing your own example. So hey, you want to get a featured snippet, you want position zero? Yes, here’s how to do it. But also, here’s me trying to do it. And here’s me failing. I think it’s what we talked about storytelling and one of the most powerful things in content marketing and storytelling is stories of failure, which ultimately teach a lesson but sometimes it is just like rah, rah, rah great, great, great.
And I think those failures are super important.
But also you say a lot that 95% of your articles are about sort of subtly selling Ahrefs by solving problems. And I think you’re pretty open about that.
And I think that’s why you don’t get criticism because it’s like hey, we have a software tool. We’re not going to pretend that we don’t. But you do also publish content around the article. You published a great article about great Facebook SEO groups. And one am I particular favourites, Great SEO podcast where I’m winning the vote.
Tim Soulo: Awesome, congratulations.
Kate Toon: I know. So you do post around your topic as well.
Tim Soulo: Yeah.
Kate Toon: Because still, those are heavily searched for things, what are the best SEO podcast. So you’re going to get-
Tim Soulo: What’s a great way to connect with people, right?
Kate Toon: Well, there you go. You’re maybe getting people then who aren’t necessarily in the market for an SEO tool, but they’re aware of what SEO is. They’re aware that they have a problem that they don’t rank. They’re not quite ready for a solution yet, but you’re kind of warming them up so that when they are they go, “What was that brand?” So a little bit of that as well. Not every single post there’s a push to sell, is it?
Tim Soulo: Yeah. Just a little. The other day one of my colleagues asked me that question that he said, “Tim, don’t you feel that we are running out of those topics where we can successfully plug Ahrefs and successfully sell Ahrefs? And there will be a time we will have to go much broader to collect that kind of audience that we will have to warm up?” to which, I replied, yeah I feel that we are kind of slowly running out of these topics. But are we ranking number one for all of them? So actually I’d rather invest more effort into making every single one of these topics that are highly related to our business rank number one before I go broader. So yeah, we include those broader articles just because we want to break the routine, because like people get tired of writing about super specific actionable how to things, and they also want to write other things.
It is quite fun to collect SEO podcast, marketing podcast, connect with people, get their quotes, make a vote. So yeah, we do this more like a fun project. It is not as much business oriented but like you said it of course has value, it of course has value for us but not as much as sales page for our tool.
Kate Toon: Well, when you do run out of ideas obviously you’ve always got that backup of you going and living in the woods. I think it’s a brilliant … So when you run out, that’s the next plan.
Tim Soulo: Okay. I’m anticipating that you’re going to put this in the headline of the-
Kate Toon: Yes, totally. Tim Soulo’s going to live with the woods and work on a beard for three months. It’s just going to be photos of the beard.
Tim Soulo: Yeah, this might grow.
Kate Toon: A really good question here from Lyndon NA (Darth Autocrat) @Darth_na. I love this question. What tips do you have for handling non circular markets? And by this he means, obviously we’re all in the SEO world, if you write a really authoritative piece of content or even something controversial, and everything’s controversial in SEO, you say the sky is blue someone else’s no it’s got clouds in it, it’s blue and white.
People argue about everything. So if you publish a beautiful piece of content in the SEO world you can pretty sure people are going to talk about it, share it, either negatively or positively. But if you’re a window cleaner, there is no peer group of people sharing your content. So how do you handle that kind of content awareness and that getting out there, that amplification if you don’t have that peer group?
Tim Soulo: Yeah, great question. And why do you even need someone sharing your content? I don’t need anyone sharing content from Ahrefs blog as long as it ranks number one in Google. So if you’re a window cleaner, you shouldn’t care about other window cleaners sharing your content as much as you should share about-
Kate Toon Maybe window cleaner wasn’t a great example but you know what I mean though.
Tim Soulo: Yeah. Anyway, like whatever industry you’re in, of course there’s great pride and satisfaction in people in your industry sharing your content. But think about it. Those high level people, they already know about you, so they are either your customers already or they have their own reasons of not being your customers. But you have to be reaching people who are looking to be your customers, and they are in Google. So don’t think about shares. Don’t think about people sharing or supporting your content, or even leaving comments on your content. All of that doesn’t matter that much. What matters is that being there at the top ranking pages of Google, whenever people are searching for anything related to what you’re doing. Either you’re a window cleaner, or like you’re a barber or whatever you do, if people are searching that I need something done, you should be there regardless if that article got shares or comments.
If they will land on your article and you will be able to effectively persuade them that you’re the right man for the job or you’re the right service or tool for the job. You get business and your business will grow and you’ll be happy even without peer acceptance or-
Kate Toon: Peer approval, yeah. I think that’s the thing. I think people like to have a one size approach fits all. And I don’t really think if you’re working with like a window cleaning site, we’ll use that as an example, that maybe you’d be advocating a content marketing strategy with peer reviews and amplification. That wouldn’t be right for that. If you’re looking more for local links and building up good vibes in the local community and getting testimonials and all that kind of stuff rather than the different approach. That’s a great answer. Let’s finish up because I think I’m going to do something a bit wacky here Tim, that I’ve never done before. I’m going to break this episode up into two parts. So people who are listening, this is part one. We’re going to stop in a minute and then we’re going to come back for part two.
But the final question in this content part of your interview is Jennifer from Pink Hat Digital, and she asks, what has been your best converting lead generator and why? So by that she means what download or template or thing that you use to get people onto your sticky little email list, which one has worked best?
Tim Soulo: Okay, so here’s the story. Like two years ago, not long after I joined Ahrefs, I started using all the blogging and content marketing conventional knowledge in our blog. So immediately we created at an E-book with the best link building strategies or whatever. And we had pop up on our blog that would ask for people’s email in exchange for that E-book. Shortly after we rolled out that E-book, I think it took like just three or four days that someone, some lady tweeted on Twitter that she got our E-book. But then we started sending her our new articles and stuff and she didn’t opt in for that, she only wanted an E-book. And she was pissed off about this. So immediately, I got a link to the tweet in my slack from our CEO and founder Dmitry, and he said we have to remove that. So right now we don’t have, like almost three years later, we don’t use any lead magnets at all. So we don’t have any enticing things for people to set up for our blog other than simply offering them, “Did you enjoy reading this article? Sign up to get the subsequent articles.” That’s pretty much it.
And another interesting thing again, think about it I just told you that our strategy is figuring out what people are searching for in relation to our business and presenting them an article that is basically a sales page to solving their issue with the help of our product. Why would I interrupt their experience reading our sales page that is perfectly tailored towards whatever they were searching for with a pop up or lead magnet or whatever? Why would they just drag them and make them go check their inbox, distract them with an E-book etcetera, etcetera? They’re already reading my sales page and they’re already reading my best persuasion techniques, putting my best foot forward to persuade them to join Ahrefs, like towards the end goal. I don’t want those extra steps, those like middle steps to make them a lead. So yeah, we don’t have any lead magnets because we try to convert people directly into our product.
Kate Toon: That’s very refreshing.
I like that. And I must say, as somebody who has a folder on her desktop full of E-books that I’m never going to read the folder fills up, I delete it, then I start a new one. I think they’re really quite annoying. And often they’re just regurgitated versions of the blog posts that you were reading anyway. And with the whole GDPR thing, you really can’t just say, hey, have this and I’m going to add you to my list. You really have to explicitly make people make that choice and give them the thing anyway. You have to give them the thing anyway.
So, I think if you’re really, really struggling to get people on email list, you’ve got bigger problems than just coming up with some brilliant lead gen thing. I for the recipe site, I have a free course. So literally you are almost signing up to see if you like me, because if you’re going to buy my big course you’re going to hear a lot of this annoying voice and see my face a lot. So I’m always trying to weed you out by making people do the free course and then whatever. So it’s not a checklist or an E-book or anything like that. Yeah, it’s a different approach. Anyway, interesting.
Tim Soulo: Let me add just quick, the reason why I like free courses is because people will anticipate your emails because this is a course, this is not just one time freebie that they get. And they’re not looking to get any subsequent emails from you. But course means that they will anticipate some information from you. And another thing instead of using those pop ups, I don’t know, if a person is interested to read your article, why won’t you mentioned your course within the article? And why won’t you mentioned your course within the perfect context in your article that, if you want to learn more about this, I have a lesson in my course, you can sign up here.
Kate Toon: Yeah, contextual linking rather. And I think, we all know that pop ups they offend humans and Google’s not crazy about them too. So I think it’s fine to embed some kind of lead gen form in the bottom of your blog post when they’ve read the whole article. And you had to go, hey, if you want it, but as you said, I love the idea of not interrupting the flow with some annoying pop up. I saw a great tweet the other day which is like, you get the pop up saying, “Hey, do you want to get this? Do you want to get this?” they’re five different pop ups and I haven’t even seen the page yet. I haven’t even worked out what you do. So beware the pop up for lead generation. Tim, we’re going to finish this episode here. So thanks for listening,