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We’re an email marketing company but we’re trying to grow a business just like you.
It seems logical to share our ideas, challenges, successes and failures with you. If this blog were only about email, we’d be withholding a lot of knowledge about marketing, business development and sales.
This post is going to examine the strategy behind out latest email guide – Email Marketing Best Practices: 20 Tips for Dramatically Better Email – to show you how we wrote it and promoted it. No secrets here … we’ll share the numbers and, if you have questions, we’ll be happy to answer them.
Why an Email Company Spends So Much Time on Content Marketing
Vero is an email marketing company but email isn’t the only way we communicate with our users and it’s certainly not the only way we grow. In Vero’s early days, our CEO Chris Hexton started blogging about creative ways to use email after realizing that so many people were struggling to execute effective campaigns.
The blog has grown steadily ever since, peaking at 43,000+ pageviews (more on that here) in April 2014.
Recently, we’ve made some changes to our content strategy. The idea is to publish less frequently but in greater detail. You’ll see more behind-the-scenes posts like this one on the blog along with monthly “epic” content like our latest guide.
Let’s take a closer look at what it takes to put together epic content that drives more traffic and leads than in a month than 12 blog posts.
Brainstorming Epic Ideas
We brainstormed topics long before we started writing. Initially, Chris and I were planning to create a massive list (500+) of email resources and tools. We actually started collecting the resources – see the list here – before deciding that it just wasn’t actionable enough. (This is an idea we may revisit later … let us know if you think it’s a good idea in the comments.)
The idea for the guide that was ultimately created was inspired by Brian Dean of Backlinko. Rather than starting with a content idea, Brian recommends starting with a keyword. We chose “email marketing best practices” because we believe the content currently ranking for this phrase is outdated and unhelpful. We knew we could create something way better. Brian refers to this as the Skyscraper Technique – see what ranks for the keywords you want and outdo them.
Once we settled on the keyword, we followed Brian’s template for expanded list posts. Rather than churn out another hollow list post, we planned to spend extra time loading each email marketing tip with examples, screenshots, and actionable advice. The result was a 5,000-word post with 40 examples and an accompanying swipe file.
We wrote the draft in Penflip so that we could easily collaborate on it without passing docs back and forth. Then, we set about designing the post. We drew inspiration from our friends at HelpScout and Groove and added our own zest in the form of a beautiful table of contents.
The stage was set: a massive and useful guide, a beautiful design and, perhaps most important, a promotion strategy.
Content Promotion, aka Making Someone Else’s Life Easier
Content promotion and link building get a bad rap. Our outreach strategy hinges on building actually relationships with people in our industry. Here are a few ways that we built links and got shares to this guide, along with the actual emails I sent.
If you take a closer look at the guide, you’ll notice that we built in easy opportunities for sharing. Next to each tip is a button. Clicking that button opens a pre-populated tweet with a tweet unique to that tip.
Prompts readers to tweet this:
The next thing we did was contact everyone mentioned on this list. I scoured each of their sites until I found the right person to talk to, then sent them an email or tweet. Here is a sampling of outreach that result in a share:
Resulted in this tweet:
When it comes to link building, the fastest and easiest way to get links is to get featured in daily or weekly content roundups. To do this, simply search for “[industry] roundups” published within the last month. That way, you know they are current and publishing regularly.
If you’ve ever been responsible for writing daily or weekly roundups, you know how hard to can be to discover fresh content. Unsolicited contributions can make your life way easier (assuming the content is good). When reaching out to other writers, your sole mission should be to make their life easier.
Here’s an email I sent Marketing Land that resulted in a link:
And a tweet I sent UpCity that resulted in a link:
— Jimmy Daly (@jimmy_daly) September 30, 2014
And another tweet I sent to MindJet that resulted in a link:
You get the idea. I did this over and over via email, Twitter, Facebook and Google+. Another great benefit of being included in roundups is that most blog send a newsletter that you might be included in also. As the post started to gain traction, it was also picked up by a few other blogs, as well as Buffer’s suggested content list and GrowthHackers.com.
As of October 24, we’ve accumulated 309 links from 47 different domains and a lot of shares. Awesome!
Does Epic Content Work?
For us, the important question is whether publishing one epic post per month is better than publishing 2-3 posts per week. Here’s a look at the numbers.
In September, we published 12 blogs posts. On the last day of the month, we released the epic guide and have published three other short posts since.
In an effort to use the guide to get more subscribers, we included a prominent call to action. Readers could download a swipe file containing all the examples in the guide if they signed up for our newsletter.
That alone has already generated more than 500 new subscribers.
Here’s a look the entire blog in September versus just the guide in October.
So far, we are thrilled with the results and are already in the process of creating a new epic guide for next month. Stay tuned! 🙂
Have any questions about the creation or promotion of our content? We love chatting strategy … just let us know in the comments.
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