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Inbound Success Podcast

What do the most successful inbound marketers do to get great results?

You’ve heard the stories about companies using inbound marketing to dramatically increase sales, grow their business, and transform their customer relationships, but not everyone who practices inbound marketing knocks it out of the park.

If you want to know what goes into building a world class inbound marketing campaign that gets real, measurable results, check out the Inbound Success podcast. Every week, host Kathleen Booth interviews marketing folks who are rolling up their sleeves, doing the work, and getting the kinds of results we all hope to achieve.

The goal is to “peel back the onion” and learn what works, what doesn’t and what you need to do to really move the needle with your inbound marketing efforts. This isn’t just about big picture strategy – it’s about getting actionable tips and insights that you can use immediately in your own marketing.

Feb 18, 2019

How can a simple change in your keyword research approach dramatically increase traffic, leads and revenue?

This week onThe Inbound Success Podcast I spoke with Emily Maxie, VP of Marketing at software development company Very, and Stacy Willis, Emily's strategist at IMPACT, about the incredible results they got by focusing on pillar content and topic clusters. 

The two of them shared how they worked together to revamp Very's SEO strategy and why the new approach they used for keyword research at Very has inspired Stacy to change how she carries out keyword research for all of IMPACT's clients.

The results of this work are impressive - an 88% quarter over quarter increase, and 1100% year over year increase, in website traffic, along with notable improvements in the quality of the company's leads.

This week's episode of The Inbound Success Podcast is brought to you by our sponsor, IMPACT Live,  the most immersive and high energy learning experience for marketers and business leaders. IMPACT Live takes place August 6-7, 2019 in Hartford Connecticut and is headlined by Marcus Sheridan along with keynote speakers including world-renowned Facebook marketing expert Mari Smith and Drift CEO and Co-Founder David Cancel.

Inbound Success Podcast listeners can save 10% off the price of tickets with the code "SUCCESS". 

Click here to learn more or purchase tickets for IMPACT Live

Some highlights from my conversation with Emily and Stacy include:

  • Very is a software development company that focuses on IoT and machine learning.
  • The company was doing digital marketing and while it was successful in driving traffic to its site, it was the wrong kind of traffic and the leads were unqualified.
  • Working with her strategist, Stacy Willis of IMPACT, Emily identified three key topic areas that all fit within service offerings that would be the right fit for Very, and developed a pillar content and topic cluster strategy aimed at building credibility in those areas.
  •  For those three main topic areas, Stacy and Emily used SEMRush to identify the related keywords that had the highest search volume and lowest competition.
  • Pillar content needs to be at least 4,000 words long and to gain immediate traction while her team worked on creating that long form content, Emily started by publishing blogs that were focused on her subtopic keywords.
  • Emily makes it easy for her team to produce content on highly technical subject matter by interviewing her company's subject matter experts and then writing the blogs herself, but giving them an opportunity to review the articles for accuracy before they are published. Her big tip? Don't "write past what you understand."
  • Emily began posting the subtopic blogs at a pace of three articles per week in June of 2018 and before she could even publish her pillar content, the company saw an 88% quarter over quarter increase in website traffic.
  • As of this January, the company's year over year traffic increase has been 1100%.
  • Very is now also ranking number one for "IoT application development" and for "IoT app development" - two of its target keywords.
  • Stacy shared that the experience with Very has been so positive that it has inspired her and the team at IMPACT to change the way we approach keyword research, and now they focus exclusively on keywords that are related to their pillar content topics.

Resources from this episode:

Listen to the podcast to learn more about the changes that Emily and Stacy made, and get the specifics of their new keyword research and SEO strategy.


Kathleen Booth (Host):Welcome back to the Inbound Success Podcast. This week on the Inbound Success podcast, I have two guests. One is Stacy Willis, who is a strategist with IMPACT. And the other is Emily Maxie, who's the VP of marketing with Very. Welcome to the podcast.

Emily Maxie (Guest): Thanks. It's great to be here.

Emily Maxie, Kathleen Booth, and Stacy Willis
Emily, Kathleen and Stacy recording this episode

Kathleen: Stacy's been on the podcast before. She's a familiar name. You haven't been on before. Tell my listeners a little bit about yourself, your background, and also about Very.

About Emily Maxie and Very

Emily: Yeah, absolutely. So, my long ago background, I went to school thinking I was going to be a journalist, and graduated the year that the iPad came out. And all newspapers were laying people off. And so I worked at a newspaper for about a year, but ended up pivoting into marketing pretty quickly. And landed doing marketing at a technology company, and just really love doing marketing at tech companies because it's kind of the fact based very analytical side of journalism that I love.

But it's also an ability to be creative, and it's much more in demand than print journalism is. And yeah, it's just kind of my niche, and it's something I love. And then Very is a software development company that focuses on IoT and machine learning. And we have been around for about seven years. I've been with them for about a year and a half.

Kathleen: And IoT, for anyone listening, is the Internet of Things. Which I feel like I want to ask you to define that, but I also know that that's an incredibly hard thing to define. So I don't know, are up for it?

Emily: That's like the Pandora's box right there, right? Yeah. I can give kind of ... I'm sure this isn't the official definition and it might make our technologists cringe, but for the marketers out there, any devices that you have that are connected to the internet is the Internet of things. So we've seen the refrigerators that are connected to the internet and you can see inside of them from your cell phone or things like that.

We recently created a connected fish tank where you could turn the lights on and off, and check the water temperature from your phone. So all of those interactions between our physical world and the internet is what Internet of Things is.

Kathleen: That's so cool. Well good definition. All I could think as I was listening to you say that is the last thing I want to be able to do is see inside my refrigerator, unless I absolutely have to because it's gross.

Emily: Yeah, yeah.

Stacy: And that refrigerator that can tell you when something's gone bad. That's great.

Yeah, or if you're out of milk.

Kathleen: I saw something in People Magazine the other day and it was Ryan Seacrest's refrigerator, and I'm not kidding, it looked ... There's no way they cook in that house. And he had baskets with ribbons on them inside of his refrigerator. And I think the only food in there was like spirulina shots.

If I had that fridge I would be fine looking at it all day.

Stacy: Of course.

A Keyword Strategy for Very

Kathleen: So interesting. So the reason that I was excited to talk to you guys, the two of you, is that you worked together on a really interesting effort to revisit the keyword strategy for Very, and it had some really impactful results.

So let's rewind the clock and start with really what ... First of all, obviously Very is doing digital marketing. That's what you're focused on. What are your goals? What type of clients are you looking to bring in? And what types of keywords were you targeting?

Emily: Yeah. So really our goals ... I came in a year and a half ago being the first marketer that Very had ever had. They'd been in business for seven years and never had any marketing. And it all had just been the partners out there hustling and using their personal network, some things like that. And the first time that we had someone reach out to us through the website, it was like magic to them. They were just like, "What? This is so much easier."

After that happened I was really able to kind of not only grow the marketing budget, but I think elevate marketing within the company as more than just fixing the website or making things look pretty, stuff like that.

So really, our goal with marketing this year is to drive millions of dollars of revenue for the company. Last year marketing drove 2.2 million for the company, and that was our first year actually doing marketing.

So I'm really excited about 2019, and the keywords that we were focused on. Well, we spent about a year focusing on the wrong target segment. So we now rank really highly for a lot of blockchain related keywords, which is not a segment that we're going after anymore. So it might be something that we go after in the future, but we just really found that ... You think Internet of things is hard to explain, try explaining blockchain.

And also just there was a lot of immaturity in the market. People didn't really know what they were buying or what they wanted. There was this gold rush with initial coin offerings where people got money overnight and then they were spending it very recklessly and it was just not the type of client that we wanted to work with for now. But that was really what we were focused on, with kind of a secondary focus on IoT and machine learning, which are now the core tenants of our business.

Kathleen: So if I'm hearing you correctly, it sounds like what you're saying is that you understood that they were the wrong keywords mostly because the type of client you were getting was a poor fit. Is that accurate?

Emily: Yes. We understand now that they were the wrong keywords because we ... And SEO and AdWords were not the only things we were doing, we're also sponsoring conferences. And so we were doing huge push across the board for these types of clients. And we kept getting people raising their hands and saying, "I have a project." And then they would move through the sales cycle and then, "Oh, I don't actually have funding." Or they'd get to the end of the sale cycle and then we'd just never hear from them again.

We should have pivoted faster away from it, we should have seen it faster, but we have a pretty long sales cycle so it took us awhile to identify. Yes, we're getting tons of interest from this, but it's not the right fit for our business.

Kathleen: Yeah, that's really interesting. I think that's definitely a situation I see a lot. And I've seen it with a lot of clients we've had at IMPACT and when I had my own agency, we saw it too. Inbound marketing can work really well, and you can be getting lots of leads and still not feeling like it's right. And that's a familiar refrain to me. So you recognized that you were driving leads but they were not the right kinds of leads. And at the time you were working with Stacy, correct?

Emily: Yep.

Kathleen: So you guys sat down, and how did you approach the challenge of determining what is the best way to attract the right kind of lead?

Emily: Go ahead, Stacy.

Kathleen: I'll let you start. Or you want me? Okay. You want me to jump right in?

Emily: Yeah. Go for it.

Stacy: What we wanted to do when we were looking to put together a holistic keyword strategy was to not isolate ourselves so far down one path, but to make sure that we were building credibility on a number of topics that all fit within service offerings that would be the right fit for Very. So full disclosure, at the time that we created this, we still weren't 100% sure that blockchain was the wrong one. So it is one of the three topic areas we did cover.

But what we did was we created a bit more breadth, and made sure that we had three major topic areas we were going after. And organize these into a topic cluster kind of keyword strategy. So I'm sure that most people hearing this will probably be familiar with what pillar content is. But if you're not, it's the organization around a high level topic area, and then you'll have subtopics that are highly related.

So the example that we always use from our own website is website redesign. And separately, a subtopic from that might be how much does the website redesign cost? It's a really specific area of that main topic. And so we wanted to go ahead and create a wholistic strategy for Very. That worked to give us coverage over three topic areas instead of just a single one.

Kathleen: And what were those three topic areas?

Stacy: So at the time that we created it, it was blockchain, IoT, and machine learning, were the three.

Kathleen: And how did you ... And knowing the situation you had previously with that wrong type of client, how did you approach this in a way that you felt would eliminate that same issue from happening?

Emily: So just to clarify, we realized that maybe two months ago and we did this keyword strategy probably five or six months ago. So it was after we did this keyword strategy, we got a ton of volume in the door, and then we were able to see, okay, two hits, one miss. And we're able to kind of eliminate blockchain from the bunch. But at the time of developing this, we were still very focused on blockchain. And in fact, it was the one that we're most focused on.

Kathleen: Wow. That is so interesting to me because that, what it says to me is that the new strategy worked really quickly if you were able to see that fast.

Emily: Definitely.

Kathleen: And it worked in the sense that it did deliver leads, but they were the wrong leads and you realized it. So that's so interesting. All right, so let's go back to before you knew that you didn't want to target those.

Stacy: Naive little Emily.

Kathleen: Yeah. And no, I mean I don't think if there's anything naive about it, I mean I think this is just the reality in marketing is you have to try things and you have to watch them, and recognize quickly when they're not working and pivot. And so kudos to you for doing that.

Pillar Content and Topic Clusters

Kathleen: So going back, you identified these three big topics that you wanted to build clusters around that Stacy described. Walk me through the process that the two of you used to determine what those subtopics would be.

Stacy: So I was lucky. Emily just gave them to me. She knew what her team was really, really good at, which I think is really important. So I'll let her speak to that.

Emily: Yeah, I basically went to the team because we are a services company, we are very dependent on what our team's capabilities are. And because we're technical services company, it's not just, okay, we do blockchain, which we no longer do, but it's, we do blockchain, we build smart contracts. We don't work on this framework or that framework, we do work on these.

And so it got down in the very specific nitty gritty and the technical. And so I kind of gave Stacy a list of here's what I think, I have no idea what the search volume is. And then she curated that list, and said, "Okay, here are some of the keywords related to these that we should be going for."

Kathleen: Okay. And Stacy, so Emily delivered this list to you. How did you go about evaluating that and coming back with those recommendations?

Stacy: Well, I'm a giant nerd. So I enjoy diving into really, really specific data. So not everybody may get as super excited about this as I do, but-

Emily: No, we must both be giant nerds then, 'cause this is what I like to talk about every week. So-

Stacy: Oh, that's good, that's good.

Emily: Yeah.

Stacy: So then nobody's gonna hold it against me as I talk about it at length right now. Excuse me. Apologies, I'm fighting a little bit of a cold so I might cough throughout this.

Kathleen: Oh, there is something going around.

Stacy: Especially if I get more excited. Yeah.

Kathleen: There's something going around and these were the times when I'm happy that I can podcast over zoom so that I don't get your cold.

Stacy: Darn, I wanted to give it to you.

But what we did internally is we went and dove into a tool called SEMrush, which is possibly one of my favorite tools of all time because it gives you access to the greatest level of data on keywords that's out there. What we did is took the areas in which we knew that the team was really good at delivering, so those three topic areas, and said, "What are the combination of the terms that have the highest search volume?" So that's the most number of people out there looking for those terms.

And the lowest competition. Essentially not that many other websites are competing with you trying to rank for the same term. And what bubbled to the top throughout all this research of keywords that were related to these areas, keywords that were maybe variations of ways to say this.

The example that I can put there is machine learning and artificial intelligence, kind of ended up being synonymous terms. But they're very different terms when you're thinking about search, right? They have no words in common, but they're highly related. So it really helps to know which way people are referring to it to find you, right?

And so what we did is we looked at all of those kinds of related terms and bubbled up to the top those that had the best potential based on that search volume and competition crossover. And we organized them into a structure that looked like we talked about what these topic clusters were.

There was a high level keyword which is our big very general topic area that had a very high search volume. And then we connected all of the smaller subtopics that we found that were the best crossover of that high search volume, low competition, that are more specific.

And some of the tools that we use when we're trying to get a little more specific with our keywords or things like Answer the Public.

Kathleen: I love that one.

Stacy: That's one of my favorite. Yeah. It-

Kathleen: They also have the best website home page experience with that grumpy-

Stacy: Oh my gosh. I sometimes will sit there and watch his face for about 30 seconds because I'm like ...

Kathleen: Same.

Stacy: I just need someone to be mad at me for about 5 seconds.

Kathleen: He's mesmerizing. So if you're listening and you've never gone to answer the public, check it out and there's this super grumpy older man on the home page, and it's awesome.

Stacy: Yeah. It's great. He's judging you for how fast you're typing in your keyword. It's hilarious.

Kathleen: Okay, so you used to answer the public.

Stacy: Yeah. So we pulled the data out of SEMrush, we bubbled up the best opportunities, and then we go to answer the public to say, "What questions are people asking about these terms that we want to be answering?"

And so what we did was we actually started building out all of our subtopic blogs before we even started on our pillars. So pillar content is typically 4,000 words and above. So we're talking pretty hefty material that takes a little while to get all of the content put together that get maybe the subject matter experts you need on board and get something out the door.

So we didn't want to hold that up. So we put together the full editorial calendar of all the subtopic blogs and started diving into those first. And I can let Emily share how she worked with her team to get those moving and forward because I think that's probably her journalism career coming out. I've never had a client that's been so great at getting content out the door.

Creating Content for a Highly Technical Industry

Kathleen: Ooh, Emily, I need to hear about this because this is the universal challenge that all marketers face. So talk to us.

Emily: Yeah. Well, first of all, I've never been at a company where I have had such a responsive team of experts. We're small company and we are completely remote, which means we all have to be really good communicators. And so everyone in the company is just great at getting back to me. And so that is one thing that really helps.

Another secret weapon thing of mine too is I'll interview them for a blog post on a topic. I'll write it up and then I'll tell them, "Hey, here it is. You can preview it. It's going live on this date. Please get your feedback to me before then."

And so it's not leaving it to them of a question like, do you have any edits? Is this approved? It's just saying, "This is happening." And I always give them their respectful amount of time. I'm always very respectful of the fact that they have a job to do. And there's been times where someone has been like, "Oh, I had edits, and it went live." And I'm like, "That's okay, it's the internet. You can go and you can make edits."

So that's kind of my sneaking enjoy of getting things out the door.

The other thing I'll say is just having a writing background. I write a lot of it myself. And then just get them to sign off. So for a lot of the topics I would just go and become a subject matter expert on whatever it was by doing research and things like that. And then running it by our internal subject matter expert. And they'd say, "Here, this wording isn't quite right. But other than that it's good to go." And that's-

Kathleen: I am impressed because it's ... I , it's one thing ... I've had lots of clients from lots of different industries over the years, so it's very funny and random, but I mean I know a weird amount about commercial landscaping and insurance. It's one thing to become an expert on commercial landscaping, it is entirely another to do research and make yourself into a subject matter expert on IoT machine learning and natural language processing. So I mean how do you do that? How much time does that take? And-

Emily: It's very time consuming. Yeah. So it is very time consuming, but again, the journalism background, really they taught me. I mean I had classes where they would say, "Go attend this event and deliver us an article about it within the hour." Because that's the type of thing you have to do if you're a journalist.

And so it's really kind of like going in, understanding as much as you can, not writing past where you understand. Don't go beyond what your understanding is.

But just doing a ton of research and not getting hung up on, is this perfect? And I think that's one thing that is really difficult for a lot of people. It's difficult for me. You want everything that goes out to be perfect and the best that it can be, but sometimes just getting something out, especially if it's a timely topic or something that is a new term that no one's ranking for, is getting something out is better than getting nothing out. And then you can go back and refine it in the future.

But at that point I was doing a lot more of that. Now I've moved into ... So I was director of marketing then, I'm VP of marketing now. And since being promoted I've been doing a lot more strategic work. And so I've offloaded a lot of that copywriting to IMPACT. And they're working with our internal subject matter experts on blog posts. But yeah, at the time I was writing a lot myself.

And in fact, this morning, I spent about an hour writing a blog post about something that the fun thing about being able to be a marketer and a writer is we can have a client who has a question, and I can just write something about it, and get it on the blog post that day, and have our sales team send it over to the client. And potentially win that deal because I'm just able to be very responsive and nimble.

Kathleen: That's fantastic. We have one of the partners at IMPACT is Marcus Sheridan, who's fairly well known in the marketing world. And he is adamant when he works with companies that they have an in house content manager. And he specifically tells them to hire journalism students. And I think it's for the reasons that you outlined, which is that they tend to be well trained in how to get the story out.

And I loved what you said about not writing past what you know, because I think that that definitely is a trap that marketers fall into. And sometimes it's because you want to sound smart. And there's lots of reasons for it, but I think understanding your limitations and sticking within the guard rails you have is a really good lesson. And I love that you give people those deadlines and say, "I'm putting it up. If I don't hear from you, it's going up regardless." Very smart.

Emily: Yeah. We also have just a great working culture at Very. And a very much a fail fast culture, and an agile, nimble, get out the MVP type culture. And so there are other companies that I've been at where there was a lot more bureaucracy around what goes out the door and who sees it, and the checks and balances and all of that. And here it's really just me, and I love that. I really find that interesting and engaging.

Kathleen: Yeah, the startup world is not for every marketer. Some absolutely love it and wouldn't have it any other way. And some don't need a ton of resources.

So I'm curious. Alright, you identified all these subtopics, you built out the themes you wanted for the articles. It sounds like you started writing as the pillar was being developed. Can you talk me through, how much content was this? And in what amount of time? How many articles did you put up?

Emily: That's a really good question.

Stacy: You guys were on pace for at least three a week for an entire quarter, is what the cadence is that we'd look like in terms of blogs.


Kathleen: Okay. Go ahead.

Emily: We're not still at that cadence. But that's what we were for a while.

Kathleen: Okay. And this started when?

Emily: This would be, we were looking at the launch of this strategy around June of 2018.

Kathleen: Okay. So that's when the articles started going up, or that's when you finished the strategy?

Emily: So that's when the articles started going up. So the really interesting thing about this is we built this strategy knowing that the capstone is the pillar, right? The pillar pages was gonna tie everything together. But what we found is because over the course of the quarter is when we were going to even get the first pillar out. So we were like, "We'll just tackle the subtopic blogs first, then they'll all be there ready for our pillar when the pillow goes live," right?

The Results of Very's Pillar Content Strategy

Emily: Well, before the pillar even went live, our traffic went through the roof. So it was really telling in terms of how we should overall be structuring keyword strategies going forward.

Stacy: And the results of this which had originally been, let's just put together three pillar content strategies, was now let's change the way we do keyword strategies as a whole for our clients at IMPACT. So that was what came out of this.

Kathleen: So when you say the traffic went through the roof, put some numbers behind that for me. What was it at and what did it go to?

Emily: So we saw an 88% quarter over quarter increase in traffic.

Kathleen: 88?

Emily: 88%, yeah. It went from 8,800 range of organic businesses, just organic, to 16,600 for the quarter.

Kathleen: In one quarter.

Emily: Yeah. So that's quarter two compared to quarter three.

Kathleen: Wow.

Emily: And the crazy thing about that is that in May of 2017 this was a brand new domain with zero SEO juice. When I came in, it was a 100 percent brand new domain.

Kathleen: Wow.

Emily: So our year over year growth this past year, January nine to January nine, compared to the previous period was 1100 percent gross.

Kathleen: Oh my gosh. And do you have any numbers around what happened to your lead generation? What was the growth there? And I know some of it is growth, but some of it is also just the quality of the leads. I'd be curious to know more about what you saw.

Emily: Yeah. So the really interesting thing is, obviously we dabbled in and in blockchain for a while, but we were also working on building up the topics around machine learning in IoT, and we have started to get in really, really high caliber clients. I wish that I could mention their names because they're names that you would recognize, but they're still in our pipeline and I definitely shouldn't.

But we have gotten through organic really high quality leads coming to us and saying, "You are obviously the experts in facial recognition." Or, "You're obviously the experts in building internet connected products."

And the content speaking for itself, we're ranking number one for IoT application development and for IoT app development. Several of those key words that if you'd asked us a year ago, it would've just been, no, that's not a thing that's possible. Maybe in five years or something like that. So yeah, we're definitely seeing the results in terms of business as well.

Kathleen: And how long is the typical article that you're producing? Are these 800 words, 1600 words? Do you have any kind of guideline around that?

Emily: I don't have any guidelines. I like to say right until the topic tells you to stop. Because again, it's kind of like getting too far out in front of your skis or getting to a point where you feel like you're just saying things just to say them. So I don't have any guidelines. If I had to guess, I would guess it's between 800 and 1600 words for the ones we're producing.

Stacy: And I'd say on average the ones that you've outsourced to IMPACT, probably run around the 1,200 range.

Emily: Yeah, that makes sense.

Kathleen: Now when did you wind up getting the actual pillar content up?

Stacy: That's a good question because it wasn't even in the quarter. No, where we grabbed all these results from, which is why it was so exciting. And we're like, "okay, all keyword strategies have to be done differently from now on." The blockchain one, I believe, Emily, was the first one to go up?

Emily: It was, and it was created in September.

Kathleen: And when that went live, did you see, again, any sort of a boost? I know that you wind up kind of shifting the focus away from that, so I don't know if that's the best one to use as an example. But I'm curious to know if that had an impact on the traffic as well.

Emily: Yeah. But not as much as I kind of thought. So we got about 300 views to that pillar page. But compared to the blog posts, it's nothing. And so I think really the thing that shines about this or thing that stands out about this strategy is the strategy itself. And I think the ... At least, I don't know what you've experienced with other clients, but for us the pillar page is kind of like an afterthought, and it's more of the strategy behind it. Yeah.

Kathleen: Well, it makes sense because if you have the more niche topics covered in the blogs, I think that tends to be what people are searching. So that does seem logical.

Emily: Yeah. And quite honestly with every pillar strategy, it's the combination of all of the pieces is what really drives the traffic. There's not really any one piece that you'd say, "Hey, this is the only thing that matters." It's really the fact that all of them are connected together.

Stacy: And Kathleen, we've seen this on the IMPACT website with our website redesign pillar.

The traffic boost that it's given all of the blogs that it's been connected to has been far greater than the traffic boost to the actual pillar itself.

Kathleen: Yeah, that's absolutely right. Interesting. So now at this point, fast forward to today, do you have all three pillars and clusters completely up? Or are you still working on some of 'em?

Emily: No, we're still working on the content for IoT and for machine learning. And really it's not because we've been slow on the marketing side, but our business has been figuring out exactly where we want to play. And within, we say we do IoT and machine learning, well both of those are huge umbrellas. That's like saying we're a marketing agency.

Well for who? And what do you do? And what technologies do you use? And so I'm still in the process of a couple of things. So first is working really closely with our sales team to do customer interviews and prospect interviews to figure out service market theft. And then the other thing is just publishing a lot of blog posts that could be potential pillar content reference material and seeing how they perform before going too deep into one.

A New Approach to Keyword Research

Kathleen: Interesting. And what would you say ... Stacy, I'll throw this one out to you. You talked about how this experience kind of inspired you to say we really have to change the way we do keyword research now and content strategies. If you had to distill this down into what was the biggest change that you made, the before versus the after, how would you describe that?

Stacy: Yeah. So the way that we use to deliver keyword strategies was, here's a list of keywords that are completely ... We're not even considering how they're related to each other. We're looking at each keyword on an individual basis and its own performance, which is still important. But what this has done is now involved a layer deeper where we're actually grouping our keywords that we're recommending clients target into groups of related clusters.

So if we ever are presenting a keyword strategy to a client and there's a single keyword, they're saying, "Go after this keyword," and there's nothing else related to it, that's not gonna happen anymore, essentially.

So that was kind of the old way, that you know, it's been the way since inbound became a thing. It's get your long tail keywords and write a blog. And you just think about that one keyword at one time for one page, as opposed to thinking of it more holistically across your website, of how many keywords do I have in this group that can all lead up to the same topic area?

And so now we're making sure that if we are putting together a keyword strategy or an editorial calendar that we are grouping topics together into groups like that. Because when we saw that even before we had all of the pillar built up together, that was a signal to Google that we were a topic area expert. And they rewarded us greatly for it.

Kathleen: That's interesting. Now have you seen that ... What is the pace of growth look like since that first big jump? Has it been fairly steady, or?

Emily: Yeah. Yeah, it's been pretty steady. I would say that we have some months that it looks like, "Oh, it's not growing quite as fast" and part of that is just we have backed off on the content creation to focus really hard on the business strategy. So that then we can go back and go hard, and know that we're making the right bet so that we don't make the same mistake again that we made with focusing on blockchain.

Kathleen: It is so interesting how literally as you scale up and scale back content publication, it's like turning the faucet on and off. You can really see a direct correlation to traffic and leads-

Stacy: Definitely.

Kathleen: And that's fascinating. Interesting. So if somebody wants to check out your site and see some of this content that you're talking about and get a sense for what you guys are doing, where can they find it online?

Emily: Yeah. Our URL is And you can go to our blog or you can go to /resources, which is the place where we have a lot of videos and white papers and things like that. And you can find the pillar page there as well.

Kathleen: By the way, I love your domain name.

Emily: Oh, thank you.

Kathleen: Yeah.

Emily: Yeah, talk about SEO Challenge when your brand name is Very, forget about branding traffic.

Kathleen: Yeah, that's tough.

Kathleen's Two Questions

Kathleen: Well before we wind up, I do have two questions I always ask my audience. And I'll start with you, Emily. Company or individual, who do you think is doing inbound marketing really well right now?

Emily: So I'm going to be a terrible marketer and just let you know that I don't keep up with other marketers because I'm really occupied keeping up with technology so that I can be really good at my job where I'm at. And that's one reason I work with Impact is because I need people to help me who are keeping up with the latest trends and things like pillar content and stuff like that.

Kathleen: So my question for you is - and I love that answer because I actually am more fascinated to hear about your experience as a consumer of content - so you just said you try to keep up with technology. Is there a technology website or blog that you think is doing a really great job?

Emily: Yeah.

Kathleen: Who do you like to read?

Emily: I love Women Who Code. I love reading HBR, Harvard Business Review. Yeah, Women Who Code is really my favorite newsletter because they keep up with both women and tech stuff, but also just trends in the industry and things like that.

And we're also ... Another thing that I'm just passionate about is women in tech, and we're really trying to recruit female developers. And so I'm looking at not just how are other tech marketing themselves, but how are they marketing themselves as an employer brand. And so figuring that out and kind of seeing what other people are doing.

Kathleen: Ooh, I'll have to check that out because I'm kind of curating my own list of really good email newsletters. So that sounds like a good one to add to it.

Emily: Yeah.

Kathleen: And I love examples from outside of the marketing world.

Emily: I also love the Reboot podcast, which is just a very grounded and thoughtful podcast about being in a startup and kind of keeping your head on straight while you're at a startup. So that's a really good one too.

Kathleen: Ooh, that sounds like a good one. And it sounds like I already got my answer to my second question from you, which is, with digital marketing changing so quickly, how do you stay up to date? And it sounds like what you said is for you at least it's relying on an agency to kind of keep you up to date.

Emily: Absolutely.

Kathleen: Yeah.

Emily: Yeah. I'm a one person marketing team, and I do events and the website content. I'm now an interim head of sales for a little bit and covering for someone while they're on leave. And so I have a thousand hats. And being able to stay up on marketing is something that is so important, but I just don't have the time to do. And so that's the biggest reason that I work with IMPACT.

Kathleen: Great. And Stacy, I interviewed you recently and I got your answers. Any new tidbits to add to what we talked about last time?

Stacy: Yeah. Um, I'll just throw out that I've also very recently been super impressed with Invision. Their content production engine is amazing. Not only to people who aren't users, but their community for designers and the way in which they engage people to use their tools successfully.

So they have great examples of how you can use this part of their program or things like that I think probably go a whole heck of a long way in keeping their users satisfied and more engaged with their product over time, which is still a function of marketing, although we don't always think of it as such when we're really focused on bringing in new leads. But I've been really, really impressed with what they do.

Kathleen: Oh, that's a good one. I'll definitely check that one out. Well, thank you both. This was so interesting.

How to Reach Emily

Emily: Emily, if somebody wants to find you personally online, what's the best way for them to connect with you?

Emily: You can find me on Twitter @EmilyMaxie, M-A-X-I-E. Or on LinkedIn. The awesome thing about having a super weird last name is I'm the only Emily Maxie. So-

Kathleen: Perfect.

Emily: Just Google Emily Maxie and come find me. Yeah, I would love to connect and geek out about marketing or technology or whatever it may be.

Kathleen: I love it, and Stacy, what's the best way for somebody to connect with you?

Stacy: So directly through IMPACT's website is the easiest way to get to me, or on LinkedIn. And you can find my LinkedIn profile through the Impact website, which is probably easier 'cause Stacy willis is not a very unique name.

Kathleen: Well and I'll include links in the show notes to all of your various profiles.

Stacy: Awesome.

Kathleen: Thank you both. It's been fascinating. I'm really excited to check out some of the content, Emily, and just get a sense for what you guys did to get these great results. But I appreciate you joining me.

You Know What To Do Next...

Kathleen: If you are listening and you learned something new or you enjoyed this episode, you know what to do. I would love it if you would give us a review on Apple podcasts or the platform of your choice.

And if you know someone doing kick ass inbound marketing, tweet me @WorkMommyWork because I would love to interview them. Thank you, Stacy, and thank you, Emily.

Stacy: Thank you.

Emily: Thanks.

Stacy: Have a good one.