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Hey GH! I'm Jimmy Daly, a longtime B2B content marketer and currently Marketing Director at Animalz, a content agency based in NYC. I've been working in B2B content since 2010, doing everything from SEO for lawyers to content strategy for Fortune 500 brands and starting a few blogs from scratch. I've run content marketing at Vero, QuickBooks and now Animalz.

Here are a few B2B content resources I recommend:

- Everything on the Animalz blog

- Short essays like The Hub and Spoke StrategyBlogs Are Libraries, Not Publications and The True North Formula

- My content course, 5 Days to Better Content Marketing 

I live in Vail, CO and love to ski, mountain bike and trail run. Feel free to ask questions about those things too. :) And please say hey on Twitter!

I will be live on May 29 starting at 930 AM PT for one and a half hours during which I'll answer as many questions as possible.

  • TC

    Tad Chef

    7 months ago #

    I'm intrigued by the concept of creating content without building an audience. For me this is a common mistake and akin to showing a movie in an empty cinema. Aren't you overly reliant on Google traffic then? How do you get visibility in the first place then?

    • JD

      Jimmy Daly

      7 months ago #

      I'll clarify what I mean by You Don't Need an Audience. The problem with here is that "building an audience" assumes that your content is interesting to readers in the past, present and future. This can and often does work but it's (1) inefficient and (2) not an especially useful framework for brands to use.

      Your readers are likely not part of a growing audience, but rather a continuous stream of people with a problem to solve. At the moment they need an answer, they search Google and find you. Your “audience” is actually a different group of people each day.

      Building an audience is absolutely valuable, but comes with a few risks that I suggest content marketers think about:

      - When people aim to build an audiences, they often let content strategy go by the wayside in favor of a high volume of new content. This creates a bunch of other problems.
      - Building an audience often goes hand in hand with running a blog like a publication. I'll address that in more detail in another answer. :)
      - Companies benefit from customers, not audience members. This is one of the many ways that content efforts fail to support business...they prioritize their own growth above the company's.

      5 Share
      • JD

        Jimmy Daly

        7 months ago #

        And to answer the second part of the question (How do you get visibility in the first place then?), I suggest leveraging your network first, then focusing on organic traffic. We launched the Animalz blog in January and this is exactly what we've been doing. Our "audience" started off as people we already knew and is slowly expanding. As we improve our DA, we'll focus more time on SEO.

  • AR

    Andrew Rasmussen

    7 months ago #

    Hey Jimmy, I'm a huge fan of your writing – it's been instrumental in our marketing strategy over at Canny.

    In your Hub & Spoke strategy post, some examples are super long one pagers (eg. https://hubstaff.com/time_tracking) and some are a web of connected/related posts (eg. https://convertkit.com/toolkit/ultimate-guide-starting-blog/). Is one strategy better, or are there different times when you'd use one versus the other?

    How competitive does a keyword need to be for you to consider using the Hub & Spoke strategy?

    Thanks!!

    • JD

      Jimmy Daly

      7 months ago #

      Hey Andrew!

      Thanks for the kind words and awesome questions.

      As a general rule, the more competitive a keyword, the more content you'll likely need to rank. A keyword with medium difficulty might require a one-page hub while a very competitive keyword might require a cluster of pages.

      HOWEVER...I've seen this vary wildly. If you look at content that ranks well for short-tail, highly competitive pages, a single post from a site with a high DA is often at the top. It's important to factor DA into your own strategy.

      Here's another way to think about it. When I build or advise others on building hubs, I encourage them to create content that kills the bounce as quickly as possible. The content should engage people quickly and get them clicking or scrolling right away. Low bounce rate and high dwell time are correlated with good rankings. This is how sites with lower DAs can compete with more powerful sites...by creating a content experience that keeps people on the site and clicking around. Both examples you shared do this really well. Hubstaff uses anchor links to get people deeper into the page and ConvertKit uses multiple pages to encourage clicking.

      As for how competitive a keyword needs to be to justify a hub, I can only say that it depends. If you can rank for a keyword with a single post, it's obviously the preferred way. If you're finding that it's too difficult, it's time to consider a hub and spoke setup.

      Here's more info on SEO for content marketing that might be helpful too. :)

      4 Share
  • CH

    Corey Haines

    7 months ago #

    Hey Jimmy!

    Great work. Fan of you.

    How do you think about balancing story with SEO?

    I find that some content makes for a great story and gets a lot of initial traction but flattens out. Whereas some posts have little initial traction but gain traction in the search results later on for compounding traffic.

    • JD

      Jimmy Daly

      7 months ago #

      Here's my very honest and cynical take on storytelling in content marketing: it's overrated.

      And here's why. Most content marketers just aren't that great at telling stories. If you are the exception to that, then, by all means, build storytelling in your writing. But if not, you're better off focusing on building subject matter expertise so that your content can be as specific and non-obvious as possible.

      The story that you tell is a long, arcing one. It's a complex blend of brand, personality, design, writing style, etc. This is hugely beneficial to any content marketing strategy. The micro version of this—trying to build anecdotes and stories into individual posts—is often a distraction from the topic at hand.

      I highly recommend building personality into the content designed for search, but I wouldn't worry too much about storytelling.

      4 Share
  • DH

    Dani Hart

    7 months ago #

    Hi Jimmy!

    What does your martech stack look like?
    Any tools you've added to your list lately (and why?)

  • AT

    Alexandra Tachalova

    7 months ago #

    Jimmy, I have a question about round-up posts. Do you think they still perform well like they used to? I can definitely see a point in using them to connect with influencers. But in general, round-up posts seem to be a very low-quality content that doesn’t rank so well in Google.

    • JD

      Jimmy Daly

      7 months ago #

      Hi Alexandra!

      Great question. I have never had much luck with roundup posts, either when I've created them or had content included in them.

      Part of the issue is that I think people are just sick of shiny, new things. As someone who's been doing content marketing for 8+ years, it's impossible for to imagine that I could learn something new from reading a roundup post. (That isn't really true, but it's gut reaction when I come across one.) I strongly prefer an emphasis on a handful of proven best practices. On the Animalz blog, for example, I write about the same handful of core concepts over and over. If I spent time trying to find new things, it would distract from the things I know already work. Executing on those things is the priority.

      I do, however, think that curation can work well. I'm not aware of many brands that do a good job of this, but plenty of people run curated newsletters that are just better versions of roundup posts. The practice certainly isn't dead, but it's evolved.

      • AT

        Alexandra Tachalova

        7 months ago #

        Thanks for your answer. I have similar feelings about roundups and I don't read them that much. Sometimes, I'd scroll through a round-up post quickly to see if there are any familiar faces involved. From time to time, I use round-ups to boost engagement on Twitter.

        But a few months ago as I was browsing through Reddit, I came across a very interesting approach. It turned out to be a highly engaging conversation during which one blogger shared a link where he/she incorporated all answers. Basically, that kind of content consisted solely of experts' comments within this thread on Reddit. In the end, a post got enough traction because that blogger posted a link when comments were still coming.

        So we decided to mirror this approach because I once had an engaging conversation on LinkedIn. But I believe that the time plays an important role in this case. Eventually, what we were working on was slowly becoming a post. Here you can find a discussion I created---> https://growthhackers.com/articles/21-experts-weigh-in-how-to-build-an-online-community

        So, I'm curious if you've ever heard anything about this strategy, or if you think this technique can always be successful.

  • JQ

    Jason Quey

    7 months ago #

    Hey Jimmy! Love your content writing style and stories.

    Curious, what helps you come up with an intriguing story that showcases your point, such as in https://www.animalz.co/blog/tenacity-not-brilliance/ or https://www.animalz.co/blog/explore-v-exploit/?

    Or do you come across a story first, then develop the content around it?

    • JD

      Jimmy Daly

      7 months ago #

      Hey Jason!

      Thanks for the kind words, I'm a big fan of your work!

      I wish I had a more scientific answer here, but I'll tell you my process. There are a number of things I've identified in content marketing that are very rough concepts. An example is that many blogs fail, or that content marketers tend to overemphasize top of funnel content.

      These vague ideas start to get sharper as soon as you notice them. I write them down, then try to pinpoint exactly what that thing happens. As the idea comes into focus, I start collecting thoughts in a doc, then slowly begin pulling the article together.

      I do a lot of reading and often find that something in a book or an article triggers a lightbulb moment. There was a line in Jim Collins' "Good to Great" that referenced "tenacity, not brilliance" that caught my eye. I found the source of the quote and realized it partially explained why many blogs fail: they try to innovate when simple execution would have been sufficient.

      In summary, I take lots of notes and read a lot. Sometimes, things come together but there are a few dozen very rough ideas in my notebook that haven't come into focus yet. It's a messy, ongoing process but I guess that's the life of creatives!

  • FS

    Francesca S

    7 months ago #

    Hey Jimmy!

    Love your work.

    How would you approach content marketing for a brand new company in a competitive space? Would creating relevant, high-value and comprehensive posts still work when you have established competitors (with much higher DA) that are doing the same thing?

    • JD

      Jimmy Daly

      7 months ago #

      Hey Francesca - Good question. This is something we hear from our customers at Animalz all the time. I recently wrote a post on this exactly topic called How to Succeed at Content Marketing: Do It Better, or Do It Differently.

      Here's the gist. The thing that makes blogs successful is often the thing that makes them hard to replicate. If your space is crowded, consider creating a totally new content formula. Think of Buffer sharing their salaries, Mattermark’s daily curation, or Ben Thompson’s analysis. It’s MUCH easier to grow a site when you have a formula that breaks the mold.

      The elements of a content formula are as follows:

      - Channel – Where will you meet your readers?
      - Cadence – How often can you write without sacrificing quality?
      Perspective – What’s your angle? Are you a curious observer, an expert analyst, or a thoughtful curator?
      - Tone – How does your writing make people feel?
      - Execution – Can you actually meet the expectations you are setting?

      Taking an approach that’s different than your competition feels risky because it hasn’t been validated yet. But maybe it’s just the opposite. Staking out territory in an existing industry with a fresh take is actually less risky since you don’t have to compete head-to-head with a number of other sites.

      4 Share
  • BH

    Ben Heinkel

    7 months ago #

    Hi Jimmy,

    Glad to see you here - thanks for doing this AMA. I'm a fan, as you already know.

    I've got two quick questions on the Hub & Spoke model you talk of:

    1. How are you ensuring your spoke content is not competing with your hub for the same keywords (you do mention using short vs long tail keywords, however a hub with "customer photos" and spoke with "customer photos examples" would compete)
    2. Have you experimented with hub pages that are much more than just indexes ? Hubspot's topic clusters come to mind (https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/pillar-cluster-model-transform-blog)

    Thanks a lot!

    • JD

      Jimmy Daly

      7 months ago #

      Hey Ben - These are two very smart questions. I'll address them separately.

      1. A hub and spoke model works best when the structure can be paired with an existing hierarchy. Here's an example from my interview with Atlassian SEO lead Kevin Indig. Think about entities instead of keywords. So if you want to rank for the keyword [car], you'll have to cover related entities like horsepower, windshield wipers, tires, brands, etc. An example hierarchy might be [car --> brands --> models --> parts --> windshield --> windshield wipers]. A matching URL structure can help you rank for the hub (car) and the spokes (windshield wipers).

      Example: site.com/car/parts/windshield-wipers

      Content will naturally rank for variations of your target keywords assuming that the content is strong and includes those variations in the body and sub-heads. I wouldn't worry about two content pieces to address "customer photos" and "customer photos" examples UNLESS you find that the search intent of those two keywords is distinctly different.

      2. Clusters are very useful. I think of clusters in the context of running your blog like a library vs. a publication. Blogs that run like publications tend to create a high volume of loosely related content. Blogs that run like libraries identify the topics they need to cover, map out the hierarchy, the create content to address all the topics that should be in that library. The difference may seem subtle, but in practice, it results in less content and better rankings.

      5 Share
  • AA

    Anuj Adhiya

    7 months ago #

    Hey Jimmy - very cool to finally have you on!

    Talk more about starting blogs from scratch.
    If you had no audience (assume that your friends/family don't understand or care about what you write about and your professional contacts have more great content at their finger tips than ever before), how would you go about it?
    What are your first days, weeks and months focused on?

    • JD

      Jimmy Daly

      7 months ago #

      Anuj - Great question. We launched the Animalz blog from scratch in January, so this is all very fresh in my mind.

      Here are a few thoughts, not necessarily in any order.

      - Build a Twitter following for yourself. This is something you can leverage for a number of different things, and you get to keep it if you change jobs. In my opinion, this is an asset that every marketer should be investing in. When it comes to launch a blog or product, you have a place to start. The Animalz blog initial growth came from my Twitter following. That early traction has allowed us to scale pretty quickly.
      - Write often in the early days, then scale back as your traffic grows. I'm generally not a fan of throwing ideas against the wall to see what sticks, but it's valuable in the early days of launching a blog. Use this as an opportunity to "explore," then "exploit" when you've found a few things that resonate. (More on the explore vs. exploit idea here.
      - Use top of funnel content as a loss leader. I go into a bunch of detail on this idea here, but the gist is that you can use certain types of content to drive links to build DA. Those posts may never convert a single customer, but they will help you rank the posts that will convert.
      - Interview people and write stories about them. One of the first posts we did on the Animalz blog was an interview with Atlassian SEO lead Kevin Indig. Not only did I learn a ton from him, it made for a great post and is still the most popular article we've done. As an added benefit, interviews have built-in distribution since you can ask the interviewee to share the post as well (assuming it's good!).
      - Hire an editor and designer. You work should be polished and professional. Just because a blog is new doesn't mean it shouldn't look great. New visitors will judge your site and content quickly. You can quickly level-up by making the site looks great and the articles read well.

      There are so many more things I could add here. I'll leave more comments as I think of them. :)

      • JQ

        Jason Quey

        7 months ago #

        +1 on interviews.

        Another upside is they add a fresh perspective that the writer doesn't have.

  • JF

    Javier Feldman

    7 months ago #

    What piece(s) of content that you developed through your career would you say was the most innovative?
    Can you talk about how you've developed this content piece and advice you have for others on doing so?

    • JD

      Jimmy Daly

      7 months ago #

      Javier - What an interesting question!

      I'm not sure that any content I've ever created is truly groundbreaking, but there are a handful of pieces that performed really well and taught me a lot. One example stands out.

      Way back in 2014, I wrote a post for Vero called Email Marketing Best Practices: 40 Tips for Dramatically Better Emails. It was a cornerstone piece and I put a ton of effort into creating and promoting it. It's racked up hundreds of thousands of pageviews and still ranks near the top of Google for "email marketing best practices."

      Soon after it was published and started performing well, I started shopping it around to SEO sites as a case study. (I talked about this in a lot of detail on Marijana Kay's podcast.) Brian Dean wrote a case study. That brought a ton of awareness to the post and spurred a few other interviews. These posts were all about SEO and content marketing but drove links to a post on email marketing. Interestingly, those links were the ones that took the post to the next level. It ranked #1 for a bunch of terms for several years.

      But then another interesting thing happened. The post got tons of traffic and links but converted almost no one. The post itself was about email marketing, and Vero is a tool for behavioral email. This felt like a huge failure until we realized that our newly established DA helped us rank for middle of the funnel content that did drive new customers. Posts on behavioral email, event tracking, retention, etc. all ranked quickly because the site was gaining authority. That was when I realized that top of funnel content can be really valuable as a loss leader...even if it drives no signups.

      The takeaway here is that content marketing can be more complex than most people realize. It's very difficult to innovate when it comes to content creation, but that's okay. Most of the time, good execution is all that's required.

  • JD

    Jimmy Daly

    7 months ago #

    I need to take a break for lunch and some meetings but will be back to answer more questions later!

  • PH

    Pradyut Hande

    7 months ago #

    Hey, Jimmy.

    Glad to have you here!

    In my experience working with SaaS companies across diverse geographies, content marketing as a concept and practice adheres to the "one size doesn't fit all" tenet. For instance, whilst talking about omnichannel marketing or marketing automation, the messaging, language, and eventual content that resonates would be different for different audiences across Europe and Southeast Asia.

    How do you recommend one accounts for this challenge? Would love to hear your thoughts on the same.

    • JD

      Jimmy Daly

      7 months ago #

      Pradyut - Great question. We experience when I was running content at Vero. The company is based in Sydney and served customers in Australia, the US, Europe and beyond. I recommend, if the budget allows, to hire people with expert knowledge of those areas if the messaging and language is different enough. In order for any content to really resonate, it has to hit home. Good people in the regions you're target should be able to do that well.

  • JP

    John Phamvan

    7 months ago #

    Hey Jimmy,

    Who do you hold up as a gold standard for content marketing? Why? Break down their strategy for us to the extent that you can, please.

    Thanks!

    • JD

      Jimmy Daly

      7 months ago #

      Here are a few people/sites that I think do excellent content marketing:

      - Shopify - great branding, tons of useful info
      - Intercom - they are taking the practice of content marketing to a new level
      - Wistia - excellent written and video content, spot on branding
      - Zapier - they excel at what i consider "unsexy but effective" content
      - Greg Ciotti - one of the best content marketers ever. great writer, great strategist
      - Hiten Shah - he's been doing great content for years and still delivers every time
      - Andrew Chen - I'm not sure he considers his essays to be content marketing, but this is the kind of work I aspire to

  • MD

    Mark Anthony de Jesus

    7 months ago #

    Hey Jimmy

    What are the biggest differences doing content for a Fortune 500 brand vs a startup like Vero and now an agency?
    Is there anything about all of those varied experiences that tripped you up at the start?

    • JD

      Jimmy Daly

      7 months ago #

      Interestingly, the biggest difference I've found is that big companies care less about quality and more about quantity. Large companies seem to feel the need to create thousands of posts. On more than one occasion, that strategy has backfired and created all kinds of SEO and UX problems.

      Here's one other difference that I'm not quite sure what to make of. Small companies tend to have a single person running content. That person can use the blog as a chance to grow their personal brand and following since their image is tied to tightly to the content. Companies benefit because the larger their content manager's following, the more they benefit. This also means that person doing the work has more at stake and wants to take total ownership of the strategy and content creation. It's a symbiotic relationship that larger companies shy away from.

      In my experience, one motivated person can outperform a large team with a big budget simply because they are more invested.

      3 Share
  • TN

    Tri Nguyen

    7 months ago #

    Hi Jimmy

    No secret that content can yield leads but how do you measure accurately (to the extent possible) attributing impact on the towards the bottom line?

    • JD

      Jimmy Daly

      7 months ago #

      This is the ultimate content marketing riddle. To be honest, I don't have a perfect answer. I do think you should be able to correlate traffic growth to business growth. It's a rough measurement, but it's just accurate enough to be useful.

      I also highly recommend collecting anecdotal feedback. If people are praising your content in tweets, emails or even in person, collect it all somewhere. It's a powerful way to make the case that you content is working.

  • JD

    James Dunn

    7 months ago #

    What channels have you found that have over delivered or under delivered on your expectations for how people find your content currently?

    • JD

      Jimmy Daly

      7 months ago #

      Using the Animalz blog as an example, I'm surprised at how much traffic we drive from Twitter and how little we drive from email. I still believe in the power of an email list, but I did not expect social media to be so valuable.

  • SK

    S Kodial

    7 months ago #

    We all try lots of different tactics when starting a blog. So how do you balance staying patient with switching tactics that aren't working?

  • AK

    Anwar Khalil

    7 months ago #

    Howdy Jimmy and thank you for your time - How important is the SEO channel to B2B platform that's expanding out of Australia into the US?

    Also how important are the long tail keywords for us?

  • VK

    Vrushal kapadnis

    7 months ago #

    Hey
    Thank you for taking your time out for the AMA, Jimmy
    Here is my question:
    What is your growth hacking framework?

    • JD

      Jimmy Daly

      7 months ago #

      Tbh, I don't have one. I'm a big fan of great execution on simple ideas. Most of the time, the people/companies that execute best on a few simple, proven strategies win.

  • SV

    Steven van Vessum

    7 months ago #

    Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions @jimmydaly!

    1) What's the ratio between time spent on content creation and content promotion?
    2) What does your content promotion playbook look like? What platforms do you use mostly?
    3) Do you know of any other platforms similar to GrowthHackers that may be worth looking into? (Besides HackerNews, and https://growth.org - which is WIP)

  • ST

    Stanley Tan

    7 months ago #

    Hey Jimmy,
    Are you guys profitable and how are you monetising your userbase?

    • JD

      Jimmy Daly

      7 months ago #

      Hi Stanley - Yes, Animalz is profitable but we don't have a userbase per se. We offer content strategy and creation services to our clients, and have a team in place to do the work.

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