In this episode of the WP-Tonic show we discuss content marketing and how to hire a quality writer to help you produce popular articles that help you get more traffic to your website.
Brenda Barron is the owner of The Digital Inkwell, a content marketing company specializing in providing technology, business, and WordPress-related content to businesses of all sizes. websites like WPMU DEV, WPKube and Elegant Themes
This Episode is Sponsored By LifterLMS
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Here’s A Full Transcript of Our Interview With Brenda With Link
Jonathan: Welcome back folks to the WP-Tonic Show. It’s episode 295. We’ve got a great guest on the show. We’re going to be discussing Content Marketing, how to hire a quality writer to help you with your content for your website, how that can help you get more traffic to your website and produce a much more successful online business, a membership site, whatever you want to do. And our guest is Brenda Barron from Digital Inkwell. Thanks for coming on the show Brenda.
Brenda: That’s so much for having me.
Jonathan: She’s a little bit nervous but I told her I don’t bite. So, can you give us a quick outline of you Brenda and a bit about Digital Inkwell?
Brenda: Sure. I started freelance writing when I was in College and I wrote for magazines then, like parenting, pregnancy, cats are things that I wrote about back then. But, around, I want to say 2013 or so, I transitioned into writing about WordPress and I had used WordPress before then. It was just one of those situations where I applied for a gig writing about WordPress and one thing led to another and here we are. But in between then, I started writing for ManageWP and WPMU and I’ve written for most of the top WordPress blogs and since then, I’ve developed a writing team and tackle content for a variety of websites.
Jonathan: Sounds good to me. Before we really delve into the interview folks, I want to tell you about our sponsor. For this show, it’s LifterLMS. And what is LifterLMS? It’s a great plugin. If you’re into Membership websites and you want to build out your Membership site to a higher level, you need a Learning Management System and Lifter’s one of the best WordPress plugins to do that. We use it ourselves with client websites. I’m a great fan of Chris and Thomas, the joint founders of LifterLMS. They’re both great guys. So I would highly recommend their plugin if you’re looking to put your Membership site on steroids. They’re offering a 15% discount on all the paid add-ons. LifterLMS, the core product, is totally free but they have a number of plugin add-ons. And if you go to the WP-Tonic website and look at the show notes that will be supporting this show, there will be a link and a coupon code which will get you 15% off any of these add-ons, so it’s a great offer. So, go to the website, get that coupon and try Lifter and some of their add-ons. Back to Brenda. How do you see developing content for websites developing in 2018? What trends are you seeing actually Brenda?
Brenda: One of the biggest trends I’ve been seeing, and it’s not just this year, last year I really started to see it pick, was the length of content, it’s getting longer. People are focusing more on creating like all-encompassing, the ultimate guide to whatever you’re writing about or what you want to cover. And I think that’s largely because of Google and it doesn’t prioritize little 600 word articles anymore and long tail keywords don’t work to some degree. But the biggest focus is really trying to be competitive for your big highly competitive keywords and to do that, is creating huge guides to a topic and a lot of that also is well-researched and then trying to get a lot of links back to it from other high-quality websites. What I’ve noticed is shortcuts don’t work anymore. You have to put in the effort to make good content. You can’t cheat your way around it. You have to write good stuff basically.
Jonathan: Yeah. I totally agree with that trend. But can you give some guidance about how? We’re all on a budget. It’s just reality. We’re all struggling. A lot of the people that listen to this podcast either have their own online business in some sector and it’s membership focused or they’re in the WordPress community themselves as developers, designers, writers. We have a very broad audience but they’re all in business. So what’s a realistic plan to try and promote your site? I know this is a very broad question but hopefully, you go with me. How much content should you think about producing? I know you could say as much as possible. But can you just give some kind of guidance?
Brenda: Sure. A lot of the time I think there’s pressure to consistently produce a lot of content but that’s not always what you need to do. Like I was saying, I think focusing on making a really needy, interesting, well-researched guide is more important than getting a new article out every week even. If you turned out like two in-depth guides a month, that would be plenty. And then, you focus the rest of your effort on sharing it with people and getting other high-quality websites to link to it. That’s the biggest strategy I’ve been seeing.
And I think a lot of, like you said, businesses are on a budget. But it’s manageable when you’re not like succumbing to the pressure to produce a new article every day. You’re instead taking your Content Marketing budget that you would spend on having three blog posts a week or something and stretching it out over an entire month into two bigger articles. I think cost wise it’s comparable and I think it makes it more manageable. When you say, “Oh, you need to write the ultimate guide to something. That sounds really intimidating and like, “Oh, that’s going to cost a lot of money.” But not necessarily when you factor in what you would have been spending on many smaller pieces of content.
Jonathan: About the link building side of it, I get a lot of people approach WP-Tonic. They’re mostly totally out of the blue. They’re people that I really know nothing about and very rarely do I click on the links that they’re providing to infographics or whatever.
Brenda: I get them too.
Jonathan: I bet you do. Have you got any insights or based on your experience on outreach that can be a little bit more successful? Or is it really just a numbers game?
Brenda: I think it’s quality over quantity. So getting a link at a really high domain authority site would be better than many smaller sites. But like I said, I get a lot of emails like that too requesting a link back to their content and stuff and sometimes I check it out if it seems interesting. But, yeah, it can kind of just feel like one in a crowd and so, I don’t know that that’s the best way to draw attention to your content.
Jonathan: Let’s re-frame the question a little bit. Sorry to interrupt Brenda.
Brenda: No, that’s fine.
Jonathan: What outreach works with you?
Brenda: Oh, yeah. On the earlier point, I was just going to say that it could be a numbers game. If you blasted that out to a lot of people, a few might stick and you could get some links that way, sure. But I think what has worked for me is just like the long haul, to be honest. Taking the time, building up authority in a niche, building links organically, writing good content that people want to read and that they link to. And then, when I have new clients and building new relationships with people, I might suggest that they check out something. But I think it has to be within the framework of a relationship. You have already the cold call element to it. Like I said, it’s so impersonal and I don’t think that’s necessarily effective. I think you have to leverage the resources you have with the people you know and use that network to expand the reach of your content rather than trying to just toss it out in the world.
Jonathan: Reflecting back, another thing is that if they personalize it a bit, I don’t think my ego is too big actually Brenda, maybe some other people would disagree. But I think I’m reasonably down to earth in some way. Ask Kim, my co-host, maybe that’s why she’s not here with me. Let’s get back on subject Jonathan. So, if they kind of personalize the outreach like they’ve some interest, I don’t know why this works. If they kind of said, “I’ve listened to this podcast,” and they throw in something so it’s obvious they have listened to the podcast or they’ve gone to the YouTube channel and they’ve watched something and they’ve put something in it so it’s obvious they have watched it. And then they say, “Well, it was really interesting. I saw the post that you did to support it but we’ve just got this extra content.” I think that’s more effective. What do you reckon Brenda?
Brenda: I agree. When I said that they can be impersonal, I have received requests like to check out an infographic or an article or something that is directly related to something that I have written and it’s obvious that they read it and it has a more personal touch and those are the emails I usually click through and read and consider linking to if I have the authority to. A lot of the times, in my case, the problem is, they’re asking for a link on a client site that I write for and manage and I don’t have the authority to insert links and those sites. And so, it’s like, “Sorry.” But in cases where I do, if it’s more personal, I’ll usually check it out. But then, there’s the cases where people try to make it look like it’s personal. Then they just like have the boilerplate obviously copied, paste the title of your article here and I don’t necessarily check that out.
Jonathan: Like I say, that’s a numbers game.
Jonathan: So, when it comes to articles having external links, this is kind of a bit of an SEO question and I’m not sure if you want to tackle this but it’s Content Marketing and content production with SEO are intertwined now really, aren’t they? But do you think an article that has a lot of external links to relevant resources with good authority helps the article in general anyway on somebody’s website?
Brenda: I think it does. A link into high authority sites is good for SEO but I think even outside of that it’s good because it shows that you did you research and that you are familiar with the leaders and your industry and that you’re aware of the top content of the moment and I think it just keeps you in the loop. It shows that you are in a loop and that, long-term, is more important, I think than any kind of little SEO Trick. But it is helpful for SEO.
Jonathan: Are there any other things that you would like to put in front of the audience and listeners around how to prepare their articles after they’ve tolled away writing these ultimate guides?
Brenda: I’d say make it easy to navigate for the reader so have some kind of Table of Contents up top if it’s really lengthy. The usual suspects in terms of the checklist you’re supposed to follow, have lots of images, break it up with lists. Just make it user-friendly, easy to read. Don’t just have giant paragraphs where people are scrolling, scrolling, scrolling and they’re just overwhelmed with text. Break it up. Make it visually pleasing. It’s interesting. All these things are very interconnected, design, writing, SEO, marketing. It’s all very connected and I think you need to have all of those elements in order for it to really be effective in the long run.
Jonathan: That’s great. We’re going to go for our break folks but when we come back, we’re going to be discussing with Brenda, how do you hire a really good quality writer, what are the expectations from a writer, what is a good fit, based on Brenda’s experience, what is the best formula between the owner of the website and a writer like Brenda to get the kind of results that both are looking for. That’s what we’re going to be discussing when we come back, folks. We’ll be back in a few moments.
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Jonathan: We’re coming back. I’ve interrogated Brenda. She’s not coping at all. No, no. I think we’ve had a good discussion so far. It goes quick, doesn’t it, 15 minutes, doesn’t it?
Brenda: It does.
Jonathan: Well, it won’t be an eternity for you but it was quick.
Brenda: No, it’s quick.
Jonathan: Let’s delve back into before the break and we’ll delve in about hiring an effective writer. Based on our previous discussion, we seem to be in a kind of arms race when it comes to the length of articles. Do you think also putting video into articles or other multimedia elements is a great idea as well?
Brenda: Oh, absolutely. That’s plays into what we were talking about before and that’s breaking up the text, making it visually pleasing, user-friendly. Adding video is a great way to, not only break up the text but further engage people. It’s something else for them to interact with. Anything like that, multimedia is a great addition I think.
Jonathan: The other factor is, in my mind, I’ve got an assumption how you’re going to answer this question already but I’m going to wipe it out of mind. If you do almost any search on any kind of WordPress term that’s got any kind of traffic number, it seems to be dominated by half a dozen players in the WordPress ecosystem. Literally one of their articles is going to come up either in one, two are three of organic search. A, would you agree with that statement? And secondly, if you’re one of the smaller players, are there any tips or insights that you can give that people can get a result to overcome what I’ve just stated really?
Brenda: I think that is a fair assessment. That is definitely true and it can be really intimidating if you’re small starting out because WordPress is kind of a crowded space. But if you haven’t launched anything, I think that’s the time to really think about how you’re different. So it’s about looking at what is out there at the moment and asking yourself, “What can I provide that hasn’t been provided yet?” and filling in gaps. Some of this is keyword research too. Going broad and narrow and going more narrow with your keyword search. So, let’s say, I don’t know, a WordPress design, let’s say, we want to target.
Jonathan: Oh, that’s not a competitive, isn’t it Brenda?
Brenda: I was trying to think of something very, very broad. Of course, that’s super competitive but this is where your long tail keywords are helpful and you try and build authority on the edges and over a time. It’s a long game situation. Like I was saying before, there’s no shortcuts. So it’s a combination of long tail and making your ultimate guides and your outreach and coming up with a way to differentiate yourself. I’ve worked with many people and the people who succeed are the ones that put in that investment of time at the beginning and coming up with something that makes them different and a real key selling point. It’s like basic business ideas here. Long gone are the days where you can just throw up a website and do some quick keyword research and expect to rank. That’s just not going to happen anymore. You have to really think about your end goal, I guess.
Jonathan: I’ve got two responses to that really. You hinted at the beginning of our conversation that you had some doubts about long tail. Would you like to expand on that a little bit?
Brenda: Sure. I think it’s mostly using that as a sole strategy. A while ago, a few years ago, that was like the be all end all. Forget the highly competitive terms, target the long tail and you’ll dominate in all those little nooks and crannies basically. And I think that can still work but it’s just not as effective as it used to be. And in order to really see your rank increase, you have to do some long tail in combination with targeting those more competitive keywords, making the ultimate guides and ultimate guides are naturally going to have all those long tail keywords in them anyway so it’s about relevancy more than any short-term strategy, relevant content to your niche.
Jonathan: That sounds great. Got any tips? I’ve come to the conclusion, I’ve highly influenced and I would still say by Brian Jackson, the Marketing Director of Kinsta Hosting. He’s a sponsor of the show but he’s a great writer and also a great SEO expert as well but he writes fantastic articles for Kinsta and he put me on to some tools. I see SEO research as a kind of mixture of Science and Art really. When you’re doing your own keyword research, got any insights to that and maybe what tools you’re using?
Brenda: Sure. You’re right. Sometimes it just feels like you have no idea what you’re doing. I think that’s a feeling you have to just kind of accept and get used to.
Jonathan: Well, what I mean by that Brenda is that there’s some people that put forward that there’s a definite methodology and if you follow that methodology, you’ll get guaranteed outcome. My observation of SEO is you’ve got to have experience and it is data-driven to some extent but it’s also based on experience and gut.
Brenda: I think you’re right. It is data-driven but ultimately what you choose to target, what you choose to write about based on that data and what keywords you choose to move forward with is gut. It’s like, “What do I think will resonate with my audience? What do I think will work?” So I agree with you on that 100%. The tools I use. I use Moz. I found this tool a while ago and it’s really simple. It’s just called Keyword Finder.
Jonathan: That’s what I use.
Brenda: Oh, yeah? What I like is that it is pretty straightforward. A lot of the times, you can get very mired in the options and there’s plenty of options in it but it’s a straightforward view when you input a keyword. It’s not just like, “Here’s all the information in the world.” It’s just straightforward and I like that.
Jonathan: Some of these really powerful SEO tools like Rush, Majestic, there’s a couple of others, they’re pretty intimidating and pretty powerful, arent’ they?
Brenda: Yes, absolutely. I like something a little more just straightforward.
Jonathan: You need an ultimate guide just to learn how to use them really, don’t you?
Brenda: Yes, you do.
Jonathan: Yes, an ultimate guide for you to learn SEO talk. If you’re looking to hire a professional writer, there’s a lot of people out there that say they’re a writer. I’ve come across a lot of them and they’re very good writers when it comes to print, brochures but they’re definitely no good at writing content for websites. Got any insights about the hiring process when it comes to hiring somebody to help you with your content production?
Brenda: Yeah. I think a real key is knowing what you want before you post a job ad. What are they going to be writing about? What experience level are you looking for? What knowledge do they need to be bringing to the table? Do they need to be familiar with certain tools? Are you going to expect them to input things in WordPress? You need to lay all that out in your job ad upfront and save yourself a lot of headaches later sorting through applications with people that just missed the mark because you didn’t make it clear what the mark was. I think that’s a big step to making the process easier for yourself. Also, having a clear budget in mind. Also, long-term goals for the writer. That can be vague like just that you want to work with them ongoing could be a goal. But if it’s a short-term project, lay that out, long-term, lay that out. Be clear, would be my biggest tip for hiring a writer.
Jonathan: Confusion is not a good bedfellow, is it?
Brenda: No, not at all.
Jonathan: I think we’re going to wrap it up for the podcast part of the show folks. Brenda’s been generous and agreed to stay on and we’re going to continue the discussion which you’ll be able to see on the WP-Tonic website and also on our YouTube channel. But definitely go to the WP-Tonic website. We’ve got a ton of great articles on there about Membership, Learning Management Systems and a little bit about security and WordPress in general. So, Brenda, how can people get a hold of you? What’s the best methods of finding out what you’re up to and the latest things you’re interested in, in general?
Brenda: Sure. They can visit my website, thedigitalinkwell.com. They can follow in on Twitter @digitalinkwell and pretty much Digital Inkwell everywhere on the social media. That would be the best way.
Jonathan: Domination. Well, that’s great. Like I say, folks, you’ll find the full transcription of our interview with Brenda and the links we discussed in those notes. If you really wanted to support the show folks, there’s two ways you can do that. You can go to iTunes and leave us a review. It really does help the show. Good, bad or indifferent, I really don’t care. You could also Twitter out about the show. Give us feedback. I love feedback. I’m not just producing this show just for my own vanity. I want to provide some value to our listeners and our listeners are growing and you’ve been extremely loyal as well, listeners and viewers.
That’s great. So, if you could do those two things and maybe go to the website and leave some comments about our discussion with Brenda. I think it’s been fantastic. I just wanted to provide some insight about content production and about hiring a writer which we’re going to discuss in a bit more detail in the bonus content. Also, you can join us on Fridays where we do our live Round Table show. It’s always rather punchy and opinionated and we’ve got a great panel of WordPress junkies and online experts and we don’t rinse our words and we rapidly go through a list of the most interesting stories of the week around WordPress and the Internet in general. And you can join us on that show live on the WP-Tonic Facebook page and we do that at 8:30 a.m. Pacific Standard Time every Friday. So, if you want to end a week to observe really intelligent, well, semi-intelligent conversation, I’m not too sure about me, go there. So we’re going to wrap up the show folks and we’ll see you next week. Bye.
Every Friday at 8:30am PST we have a great and hard-hitting round-table show with a group of WordPress developers, online business owners and WordPress junkies where we discuss the latest and most interesting WordPress and online articles/stories of the week. You can also watch the show LIVE every Friday at 8:30am PST on our Facebook WP-Tonic Show page. https://www.facebook.com/wptonic/