This episode features James Scherer, the VP of Strategy at Codeless. Through his work with Codeless, he has helped companies such as Monday.com, AdEspresso, Freshworks, HotJar, and dozens more SERP-topping SaaS & affiliate brands dominate their page one positions through content and backlink profiles.
James talks about content marketing and why he thinks small businesses don't actively do it. He shares what tools they are using to find keyword terms on what they’re creating the content around.
Discover James’ thoughts about staying on the first page using content, how content mark marketing works for an e-commerce store and what kind of content they should be creating.
Listen as James discusses the competitiveness of keywords, domain reputation, and pillar post approach. He also talks about AI-driven content and shares advice on how a business owner can avoid becoming frustrated while waiting to get some results.
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To find more information about James, go to www.codeless.io
ABOUT THE HOST:
Andy Splichal is the World's Foremost Expert on Ecommerce Growth Strategies. He is the acclaimed author of the Make Each Click Count Book Series, the Founder & Managing Partner of True Online Presence, and the Founder of Make Each Click Count University. Andy was named to The Best of Los Angeles Award's Most Fascinating 100 List in both 2020 and 2021.
New episodes of the Make Each Click Count Podcast, are released each Friday and can be found on Apple Podcast, iHeart Radio, iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, Amazon Music, Google Podcasts and www.makeeachclickcount.com.
Andy Splichal 0:00
Welcome to the Make Each Click Count podcast. This is your host, Andy Splichal. We're happy to welcome this week's guest to discuss today's topic, which is from zero to 25,000 monthly visits in less than 12 months using content marketing. This week's guest is a VP of strategy at Codeless, who, through his work with Codeless has helped companies, such as monday.com, add espresso, FreshWorks, HotJar, and dozens more of SERP-topping SaaS and affiliate brands dominate their page one positions through content and backlink profiles. A big welcome to James Scherer. Hi, James.
James Scherer 0:36
Hello, Eddie, good to be here.
Andy Splichal 0:38
Now, these companies that you work with, like monday.com, I mean, they're huge. And given how big some of these companies are, is what you are going to share today with listeners relevant then for smaller businesses?
James Scherer 0:52pieces of:
Andy Splichal 1:36
Now what let's define content marketing, if we can, and if you can create? I mean, I'm curious if you can create such results like zero to 25,000 monthly visitors in less than 12 months, then why do you think more small businesses aren't actively doing it.
James Scherer 1:54
Because the barrier to entry is really intimidating. We're in a space now within content? Well, first, let's quickly define what content is. Content is the creation of educational, either word or video or audio, you know, content that attracts people to your business. The reason I make educational a big part of that is because for me, at least the idea of content marketing, the reason it works, is that it's merit based, if you are educating effectively, if you do a good job of creating content, then people will be attracted to that content, and therefore your brand, based on the merit of what you've created, rather than you know, the direct opposite outbound marketing, which is you going to them wherever they are, and saying here, buy my shoe, buy my software, whatever it is. So the idea is that you're creating something worth coming to. And then you're doing an effective job of promoting your brand through that education through that, hopefully subtly through the value of what you're producing, you're communicating the value of what your product is, or service, your software, whatever it is.
Andy Splichal 3:00
And so why why don't more small businesses do it?
James Scherer 3:04
Yeah, and the reason there is because it's, it's a very competitive space. For a lot of businesses. You know, we've been in here, I've been doing this for about 13 years. And when I first got here, it was way less competitive, you could create mediocre content, and not really even thinking about the key phrases that you were targeting, throw it up and go would rank it on the first page of of the surfboard search engine results pages, and you drive traffic, that's no longer the case. And it hasn't been for a long time. The fact of the matter is, is that the competitor, you know, there's a lot of businesses out there competing for the same few positions that drive traffic, unless you're in a very niche space. And the problem is, if you're in a very niche space, then there's no search volume for what you want to rank for. So ultimately, you have to be very intentional, very strategic about what are we creating? What are we targeting? What what key phrases? What topics do we want to really rank for? And can we rank for, based on our businesses, you know, the stage of our business? How, how much Google knows us already, all those factors determine whether or not this is going to be, you know, deliver a positive ROI in one month, six months, 12 months, 18 months. But ultimately, I do feel very strongly it will at a certain point, no matter who you are, if you do it, right.
Andy Splichal 4:19
So what tools are you using to find those keyword terms on what you're creating the content around?
James Scherer 4:27
For sure. So an absolutely essential tool is going to be keyword research or analysis tool, SEMrush, Ahrefs, Moz, clear scope, SEO, surfer, whatever it is. All great tools. I use h refs, but just because that's the one I use, not because I have anything against the others. And what that tool is going to what you need essentially, is a basis an understanding of what is out there, what search volumes are there related to my space, and how attain Trouble is ranking for those search terms. And what are my competitors already doing that I can maybe take advantage of. And these platforms will allow you to see all of that stuff all the search volume data, what your competitors already ranking for, what they've done, like what what the individual URLs are that are ranking, how awesome they are, who's linking to them from other publications, you know, the amount of data that you get can go from just really okay, what is the search volume per month for this key phrase all the way down to very advanced? Like, how many referring domains and backlinks does this URL have, and what is the reputation of those of those sites, it can get, you can get as granular as you want. But that's really the essential tool behind all of this.
Andy Splichal 5:41
What's a quick win what's if somebody is just getting into content marketing, they want to create some content, what is one or two things that easily can be done where they could see some traffic.
James Scherer 5:53, it drives hundreds and then:
Andy Splichal 7:36
Do you have to continually send links update content to stay on the first page?
James Scherer 7:47
Yes, but within reason, the initial investment of content creation backlinking. And optimization is very important within the first six to 12 months. But once you get a ranking position in the top three. It's it's it's hard to come off it. And the reason is because of how SEO works. So a key ranking factor in in what Google determines what URL should rank here is traffic. If you're on the first page of Google, you get traffic's traffic, a key ranking factor is referring domains, the number of people who are linking to that piece of content, if you're on the first page, and you have a lot of traffic, people are going to link to it. Because when they type in, you know, how many people graduated from University of California this year, and your article pops up the top, they're gonna be like, Okay, there's my citation, you know, so that that's referring to me automatically. The another ranking factor is time on page, if you have a lot of visitors who are really enjoying the content, your time on page is going to be really good. If that content is relevant to other content you've created, then your bounce rates going to be low. All of these are ranking factors that are kind of built upon your first ranking position. So it takes a lot to pull away from it. Somebody has to be really, really good. Really, really good. To beat a article. It's already on the first page or already the top of the first page.
Andy Splichal 9:11emember, I think it was early:
James Scherer 9:29
Nothing like that those those fundamentally changed the way that we create content. Those those removed the ability for us just to stuff keywords into a piece of content and make me go live and have it rank. The most recent ones, you know, in April, we had the page experience algorithm update which basically rewarded sites that load quickly have good image optimization, have intelligent, mobile optimization, all that kind of stuff. And most people are doing that already because it's good for UX, but that really does boiled down on that. However, you know, what tends to happen now with algorithm core algorithm updates is that it'll, it'll hit a couple groups, Google is pretty good at this. And so what I tend to see is businesses who do sketchy stuff or, or, and do any kind of like Gray Hat SEO or, or have weird site structures or doing duplicate content or are backlinking in weird ways. Those are the businesses that seem to suffer from core algorithm updates. If you're, if your site runs well, and your content is good, and you're linking intelligently between pieces into your homepage, and all that stuff, and and you have, you know, you have a community of people who are backlinking to you, you're going to be fine with any core algorithm update that's going to be coming from Google because they're trying to reward people like you. They're trying to cut down on people if you're doing it in a sketchy way. And if you don't, you should be fine.Andy Splichal:
Will content marketing work? Well, yes, it will. But how well will it work for an e commerce Store? And what kind of content should they be creating?James Scherer:
I mean, the short answer there, it's going to depend on what you're selling and what your competitors are. The long answer is that absolutely. Content marketing can work for E commerce, we have many ecommerce clients, they see significant success. It is it is better for lifestyle and wellness oriented ecommerce companies, it's better for outdoor oriented ecommerce companies, there needs to be a certain level of education that comes into the buying process in order for content marketing to work effectively, because ultimately we're talking about is getting somebody in at the top of the funnel in an effective way with significant, you know, significant search volume, and then communicating to them something that is valuable and educational. But that also mentions by the way, we also sell this thing, if you're in an e Commerce Industry, or if you're selling something that is that doesn't have that same level of education is involved in the buying process, you may struggle a little bit more, and that's okay. I'm I, I have obviously seen content marketing work for E commerce. I've also said no to clients who have who have wanted it, because I don't feel confident that we're going to be able to deliver a positive ROI in the short, medium or long term for them, because there's either far too much competition, which you know, Amazon and eBay, or their buyers aren't looking to get educated on anything related to their products.Andy Splichal:
But what's what's, what's an example of where a buyer wouldn't be interested in getting educated on a product,James Scherer:
curtains, tables, flooring, to a certain extent, what you also have to consider is that in order to invest significantly in content, there needs to be a significant number of searches out there relevant to your space. So when we're talking about outdoor oriented stuff, like there's an infinite number of backpacking, backpacking, absolutely camping, child oriented stuff, hiking, like any number of different kinds of searches related to your products in that space. If you're selling curtains, people just go to the curtain store and they say sweet, this curtain looks nice. It looks like it's going to block the light, I'm going to buy that curtain. They're not looking to educate themselves on why people buy curtains, the benefits of this curtain versus the other curtain, how long this current curtain is going to last them the most value, you know, the best curtain brands? So, you know, but it gets is this possible to get creative? Perhaps not with curtains, but chairs? Absolutely. I know you can dive into the ergonomics of chairs, what to look for in a chair, why it's important to care about your chair, let alone like a lot of the other stuff that we that we don't even think about.Andy Splichal:
Sure, yeah, no, that makes sense. Hey, um, I guess when you're doing your keyword research, how do you balance the competitiveness of a keyword with the search volume coming in? I mean, are you looking for like long tail keywords with little competition? Or is it medium? I mean, how are you doing all that?James Scherer:
I'm doing it based on who I am. If I'm talking about one of our clients, who's you know, just getting started, doesn't have much domain reputation hasn't published a lot of stuff and then do then they should be going after the things that are most achievable, which is the low Keyword Difficulty low competition, longtail searches, because we want to do is build up momentum. You want to publish something more competitive and link to it, but don't expect it to rank anytime soon. Get that get the competitive stuff live and support it with longtail oriented content. That's kind of the idea behind most of the content strategies we're doing here. But I want to add another variable to what you've said there's competitiveness, there's search volume, there's also relevance and intent. There's so when I talk about content strategy. search volume is a major one and you're looking to help which content, the targets that serve that those high volume searches, even if they're very competitive, but you and you want to prioritize those from internal linking and supporting that content and stuff. But you also want to do the same for those searchers that are really related to what you sell and who you are. And what you want to be known for. high intent searches is as important as search volume in my book, because if I'm generating hundreds that 100,000 visitors, but the page that are going to is only vaguely related to what I do, and what I sell, then a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of that 100,000 is going to do anything, you know, they're not going to convert, they're not going to buy. Whereas if I'm getting 1000 visitors, but a good proportion is you know, 5% of the people who are on that page, are converting not something I'm looking to sell or promote. Suddenly, I'm far more enthusiastic about that ranking position that I am for the one that's driving 100,000 visitors. If you look at what is the intent behind these searches, not just competitiveness and the search volume,Andy Splichal:
you know, you made another interesting point where you're looking at your clients domain reputation. Now there used to be, it was really cool. They had a PageRank. Right, Google showed you what they're ranking one to 10 on your domain reputation. How do you how do you determine the domain reputation now?James Scherer:
Well, it depends on which platform you're looking at. So H refs, which is again, SEO analysis tool that I use, does it purely based on referring domains and like number of backlinks to any given?Andy Splichal:
Okay, and is it same thing where they're kind of given you a one to 10? Rank?James Scherer:
Yeah, it's, well, it's one to 100. But yeah, it's basically PageRank, which is PageRank. For Yeah, you're right. PageRank is one to 100. Yeah, yeah. Which is exclusively based on on, you know, number of backlinks and the strength of the domains that we're linking to, you know, SEMrush and Moz. And SEO surfer in clear scope, I think all have a little bit more. They take into consideration a few more factors other than backlinks. But I would, you know, it's things like you know, site speed, it's things like number of total keywords that you have ranking in the top 100 search results. It's, it's, you know, a traffic, all kinds of fun stuff. But I would say that the reason that H refs has has gone the way they have and hasn't changed, really on how they're ranking domains is because backlinks are still that important. PageRank is gone, but the value of a high quality, backlink to your site is as strong as it's ever been.Andy Splichal:
Now, you've helped businesses like earlybird go from zero to 75,000 visitors per month, in an 18 month period, which is incredible, using the pillar and post approach. What is the pillar post approach? And how can our listeners use it to increase their organic traffic?James Scherer:
Great question. Okay. I've already alluded to it actually, the pillar and post method is the idea that you are breaking your content plan into a few different categories of content, so related core categories of what you do and what you offer. But that are you know, that each category of which has significant search volume within that category, a bunch of different key phrases within one category that have search volume. With Early Bird, we targeted three categories they do. It's a investment kind of gifting app that you're allowed you, it allows you to gift stocks to minors, so children really glitching out. And we targeted gifting, investing, and like general, like, kind of parenting, financial literacy stuff. And you create so those are the three categories. Within each category, you have a few content pillars, content pillar is what I alluded to earlier, is the content that targets very competitive, very high search volume, key phrases, you get those all up first early on in the process, then you create within the category support pieces, we talked about longtail searches, within each category that support through internal linking each pillar. Those come in kind of months, 23456. Now, at the end of the first kind of three months of doing this, and I'm talking about publishing, you know, your pillars, each category support content, each category, doing at least eight to 10 pieces of content every month, which I know is a lot, but you can slow down down the line, but do that upfront. At the end of the three month period, you look very closely at the analytics and you're saying Okay, which one of the categories? Naturally does Google seem to vibe with? Which what ranking positions are we seeing for our pillars and our support content? Let's double down on that category in month four, five and six. Because we need to take into consideration here and be really conscious of is that rankings breed rankings traffic breeds traffic. So if you can get traffic when within one individual category, it's going to be easier to rank other pages within that category than it would be to switch categories when you don't have any positions and keep pushing that. So the value of the internal links when At any given category or is greater when that category is doing well as a whole. So once three to six, and then you just keep going from there switching categories around, and you should see something in traffic and even in a 12 month periodAndy Splichal:
Now eight to 10 content pieces a month, you know, I've had a few guests on in the past who have discussed AI driven content. You know, I'm curious, do you think that AI content is any good? Or are you talking about those eight to 10 content pieces should be fully written by hand, I guess created, whether I guess it's video or written or whatever it is?James Scherer:
Yeah, I have, you know, you're talking to a guy who manages 75, freelance writers who were very scared at this topic, I'm not gonna lie. The fact of the matter, though, is I've reviewed a few of these platforms, marketmuse phrase, Jasper, they are getting better. They're getting closer. But the fact of the matter is, is that they're not there yet. And ultimately, I think that Google is Well, Google is already in the most recent core algorithm update targeted AI generated content specifically. So they're, they're aware of it and they are penalizing content that they believe to be aI generated. But regardless of that,Andy Splichal:
So you're using you're using copywriters for your clients.James Scherer:
I'm exclusively Yeah, content marketer, content writers and coverage for all of our clients. However, we do use AI to help us create outlines, and also to review our draft content and compare it to what's already ranking, and then adjust our content based on that those tools used to be a phrase for that to say, Hey, you're missing this subject that your competitors included in their content, make sure you include it. So we use it for that for straight up creating long form content with AI. It's not there yet. The tools still sound kind of funky, and B. We know that Google rewards, unique thought thought leadership, cutting edge new takes opinions, that kind of stuff. They've been very clear about that. Again, the most recent update talked about that very specifically about about creating content that is valuable, as part of a ranking. And as part of why the record content. And ultimately AI generated content is by definition, regurgitating what's already out there. It's just taking the existing ranking competition and turning that into a full length piece of content that doesn't duplicate it. Exactly. So it can't bring novel software can't bring a unique take. So we know Google's already aware of it. And B Google's told us years ago that unique original content is core to what they're ranking. So as much as you know, this would change and make my whole business far more profitable. If I could just throw it to a computer. I am not optimistic in the next couple of years at least.Andy Splichal:
How can a business owner avoid becoming frustrated when they start out and they really need to be patient before seeing results?James Scherer:
It's tough go into it with a full understanding of what you're getting into. Because the reality situation is the most spaces or aren't going to see traffic for at least three months unless they do some funky stuff. But celebrate the little wins you know when we when you look at a URL that's not driving traffic yet it's on the first page yet but it's climbing is getting there it you know it's good content, you see a referring domain come in every few days. You see some some backlinks, you see some success on social media, these little wins fuel the path the slow plodding path to significant ROI, because it does get there really does, you know, a lot of our clients earlybird is, is a standout one for sure, but zero to 75,018 months isn't anything to stick your nose up at and even if we're talking about zero to 25, which, you know, some some of our clients are in that kind of space. It's, it's, it's a hugely profitable investment, if you do have the patience. So go into it, knowing that you're going to have patience, you're going to have to have patience, and don't get scared and run away. Because if you just have a little bit of patience and you'll see return,Andy Splichal:
Who is the perfect client to work with you. If they're out there, they should absolutely get in contact.James Scherer:
Anybody who understands and sees the value of content you who perhaps they've they've tried it before. And they know that it works or they they're fully bought in. Because again, our clients have to have patience. Anybody invested in content has to have patience. So a client who trusts that this is something that's worked for, you know, 1000s and 1000s of businesses like them and all over the web people succeed on a daily basis with this stuff. I'd say as well content, you need to do an evaluation of what is my niche? What is the search volume for what I want to rank for? Is there significance search volume out there? There usually is genuinely illustrating, as I said, someoneAndy Splichal:
And how would you how would you recommend they do that research?James Scherer:
H refs? Yeah,Andy Splichal:
I mean, they have a trial that you can just sign up and look for some keyword, smile. ButJames Scherer:
I mean, what actually would be would be genuine worth looking into, if you know where you're like primary competitors are, take a look at their sites and see if they have blogs that they seem to be investing in, take a look at the blog content, how frequently are they publishing? What level is the content? Without having to dive into any of those, like, check your competitors strategies out? You can tell if they're investing significantly? And if they are, and you think they know, and you think they're currently not dumb, then they're only going to be investing significantly if they're seeing a return from it.Andy Splichal:
And is that what you're putting the most of that content you're putting into company blogs?James Scherer:
Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. I mean, there's absolutely room for email, gated content, ebooks, industry reports, white papers, webinars, lead generation content, that kind of thing, video for sure. But the heart of all of those content types in my book is the longtail sorry that the long form blog article. Because I it's far more profitable and far more efficient for me to create a long form 2015 100 to 1000 word article about a subject, turn that into a video script, turn that into a webinar, turn that plus a couple other related into an ebook or, or white paper, you know, turn, turn that into a slide deck or presentation that I'm doing as a webinar, don't create that kind of content from scratch. If you already have a 2000 word article, you have all the value there. And you're indexing any of those. They don't need to rank but they can have value very easily for lead generation and for prospecting for sale stuff, social media, but don't don't create that content from scratch, if you already have it.Andy Splichal:
And are you helping Google find those blog posts? Or are you just putting it out there on a regular basis, so it's being indexed normally.James Scherer:
I mean, the content that we create is, is built with a content plan that has intention. So every content piece that we that we write, we know what category it's in, what it's supporting, what is it being supported by what it's promoting. We're checking all the content is optimized for search using these tools, as well as just general experience. So we're, you know, with with SEO, in general, you do all the best practices, you follow everything you need to do you create great imagery, high quality content, the page is beautiful and clean and fast to load. Maybe you add video to or whatever it is, and then you put it out there. And then it is up to we're in a space, which unfortunately, is we are at the whim of the Google gods. And all you can do is do everything right, and then hope and cross your fingers. And if you do it right, and you're targeting something that's relatively attainable for your business, you should see results.Andy Splichal:
And how can an interested listene or if they're perfect or not perfect for you? How can they find out more information about about you? And what do you have available your services with Codeless?James Scherer:
Yeah, for sure. Head over to code this code. this.io just cod le ss.io. Or realistically, if you have any questions about this stuff, I really want to get in touch and have a conversation. Feel free to email me James@coldless.io I as you can tell, I love talking about this kind of thing. I'm also on Twitter @jdscherer last name is SCHERER. But yeah, emails, good emails easy.Andy Splichal:
Well, anyway, this has been great. Is there anything else you'd like to add before we wrap it up today?James Scherer:
No, I'm getting that. Just, I guess there's a certain level of you got to trust. You got to trust with content, it will pay off. It's scary at the beginning. It's expensive at the beginning. But there's nothing like the ROI of an article that you wrote two years ago still driving 1000s of visitors a month. There's nothing like it.Andy Splichal:
Well, this has been great. I think this is the most fun I've had talking about SEO in quite a while.James Scherer:
Glad to hear it.Andy Splichal:
All right. Well, thanks again for joining us today. For listeners. Remember, if you liked this episode, please go to Apple podcasts and leave us an honest review. And if you're looking for more information regarding connecting with James or Codeless.io you will find the links in the show notes below. In addition, if you're looking for more information on growing your business, check out our podcast Resource Center available at podcast dot make each click count.com We have compiled all of our different past guests by show topic and include each of their contact information in case you would like more information on any of the services I have discussed during previous episodes but that's it for today remember to stay safe keep healthy and happy marketing and I will talk to you in the next episode.