Content Crafters is an interview series where we de-construct the tools, tips, and tactics that top bloggers use to get so much work done. you’ll walk away in mere minutes with actionable takeaways you can try out right away. Let’s dive in!
There, she leads blog editorial strategy, managing the content production process and all internal and external writers, and she also directs full funnel marketing strategy around copy, including video content marketing, case studies, lead generation assets like ebooks, and website copywriting.
In addition, she is a co-owner of a cotton and pillow manufacturing company started by and named after her grandfather.
They employee 50+ people in Southeast Texas, sell to hotel chains across the gulf region, interior designers throughout the U.S., furniture manufacturers globally and state infrastructure groups on a contract basis.
Content quality or quantity? Common debate. What’s your view?
Both are important, but the only thing that really matters is what Google thinks of your content.
Because that is how it gets to be #1 (or 0, or 2 or 3), which is ultimately what makes SEO worth it so you can decrease spend on important keywords.
What does Google seem to like?
- When people don’t immediately bounce off of a page they find in the top results
- When a bunch of other related sites link back to pages that people don’t bounce off from
- When people click on a page they landed on (when people scroll on that page!)
- When that page tells Google pretty easily what it is via schema so it can figure out where to put it to start testing all the other stuff (re: the stuff above here).
Those needs mean we have to create quality content that both piques a design interest (click and don’t bounce) and gets people to scroll (longer, bullet points, videos, etc.). We also have to get good backlinks, which means we have to reach out to our friends and other influencers and impress them enough to get a backlink. That means the quality has to impress them.
Most of our content is longer form, heavily focused on a keyword and works to explain that keyword in as comprehensive of a way as possible –– because that’s what Google wants. That is what Google has determined is quality. And turns out, a lot of people really like that, too.
You seem to be able to achieve both quality and quantity at BigCommerce. How?
A mix of using outlines and partners to write content, being able to write quickly and succinctly myself and being able to train others to do the same.
For more technical topics, I’ll interview folks and transcribe and then write the pieces up for them. We have a small team (3 of us), so priorities are important, and they have to blend both what we think we can win in terms of SEO as well as what is relevant to our readers.
Figuring out how to do that, well, that’s the skill in the job 🙂
Can you explain your process for working with influencers? How do you find them and how to do get them to provide you with constant great quotes for your content?
The process isn’t really scalable. And that’s the point.
I do my best to build real relationships with industry influencers and insiders. I go to conferences. I attend their sessions. I tweet at them when I think they do really cool work.
I try not to live in a bubble. I am naturally curious and am very impressed by other people’s work.
I’m also a former journalist so I have no qualms about reaching out to people and making an ask. I did freelance for a while too, so I know how to get people’s attention via email (and how to find their emails).
Really, it’s just about interacting with people, being honest and genuine in your desire to learn from them, and not asking for anything. The goal is to help other people be better at what they do. They help you by association.
How do you work with guest authors? Do you have a paid program, do you have to reach out to many people to find good authors, are they lining up at the door to write for BC?
We have a couple paid freelancers who are my bread and butter. I’ve been working with some of them for years. It’s really, really hard to find writers who can hit my expectation level near every time. I’m willing to pay more for people who can, because the time it saves me is invaluable.
We use a lot of partner writers, too. For them, we draft outlines, because if we don’t, we won’t get what we want and that’s tough for everyone.
With influencers, we often interview them and then write up pieces for their review. This saves everyone time –– and makes sure we hit our goals without having to rewrite really smart people’s stuff.
How do you ensure the quality is good from guest authors? More than that, how do you ensure you’re not wasting tons of editorial time cleaning up guest content? Do you have any documents, processes, or guard rails which have saved you a lot of time?
This is the hardest part of really good content marketing, in my opinion. That is, being able to tell what is good versus what isn’t. And a lot of time, it’s a really hard thing to even explain.
I’ve gotten tons of really great, long-form pieces from folks that I turn down because 1) they wrote it like a research paper or 2) the tone didn’t match the topic (if you’re writing about social media marketing, for instance, make it a bit more fun!) or 3) they kept making claims without any examples or 4) my brain just didn’t want to read on.
Any combination of those things and I turn it down – or pass it to a good freelancer who I think can edit it well.
Honestly, a ton of time probably does get wasted on editing. That’s why for years I wrote the vast majority of BC content. These days, I have more help (again, a team of 3). The editing time isn’t wasted though. I come from a family business background. I know how hard running a business is. I know how helpful this information can be. If I wouldn’t send an article to my mom or my brother to read to help our family business, then I wouldn’t publish it. That’s my bar -– and it’s not a waste of time to make sure its hit.
Any weird productivity tips for your personal productivity? How do you manage your own time and workflow?
My favorite things to do aren’t the scalable things to do. I’m super creative and big idea oriented, which makes details and project organization hard. But I’ve gotten pretty OK at it. We use Jira, so that’s where I manage everything for the team.
I guess my biggest productivity tip is to network. Networking has helped me find great freelancers faster, big customers faster, great agencies faster, get great creative ideas to market faster.
Don’t think in a silo. Don’t think just within your organization silo. Talk to people. learn from people. And ask people for help. That’s a HUGE productivity hack, as counterintuitive as it may be.
Tell me about your editorial strategy? How do you come up with ideas, organize them (editorial calendar?), assign them, and see them through to publication?
It’s a combination of things. We look at our SEO opportunities, trending topics, product roadmap, sales input and partner/campaign requests.
SEO and product roadmap are our priorities always – and they often go hand in hand. After that, we do want to make sure we talk about what is trending in the industry, even if we aren’t building something to suit that (we typically have partners who are). Sales input helps to get a good understanding of prospect voice and tone, and we can blend that in.
We also go back and update content a lot. We live in a very competitive space – both in product and content. What we publish, if it’s even decently good, our competitors will rip off and publish 3 weeks later. So, we have to update our best performing assets regularly to maintain top organic visibility as well as lead generation.
Our calendar is planned about 3 months out, but it changes almost every single day. We hire agile people for our content marketing team – great writers with a business mind and CRO experience, who are comfortable with change.
Additional Notes and Commentary
Hi! It’s your editor again. This section is for those who want to dive deeper on individual points. I’ll expand here on some of the answers above and give you more details on any tools, processes, or resources that were mentioned in the interview.
On Working with Busy Influencers….
There’s frequently a debate in content marketing: should your content come from professional writers and editors or subject matter experts? Especially in more technical industries, subject matter experts often have a set of knowledge that is hard to acquire from cursory research.
The best way to do it, in many cases, seems to be to pull the unique and hard-fought information from subject matter experts, but use expert writers and editors to craft it into a coherent story or narrative.
Tracey works with tons of big name influencers in the eCommerce space, and I’ve often wondered how that process works. One aspect of her process is that she takes as much of the heavy lifting away from the influencer as possible.
As she put it, “for more technical topics, I’ll interview folks and transcribe and then write the pieces up for them.”
You can do this simply and easily. Brush up on those journalistic interviewing skills, get a video conferencing software like Zoom, and optionally, something to transcribe the audio automatically like Rev.com, and you’re set. This process can effectively bridge the gap between influencers and your writers.
Another point that came up quite a bit is how Tracey’s network is a strength that continues to build on itself. She doesn’t try to “hack” or game the influencer marketer process. She goes to conferences and approaches people with genuine interest.
As she put it…
“I do my best to build real relationships with industry influencers and insiders. I go to conferences. I attend their sessions. I tweet at them when I think they do really cool work.
I try not to live in a bubble. I am naturally curious and am very impressed by other people’s work.”
Some niches are more built out in terms of community and conferences, but no matter what your space is, there’s probably a spot or two where the passionate people hang out. Where is it? Try to spend more time there and put an ear to the ground to understand what or who is trending in your space.
On Building a Quality Moat…
The debate is often between content quality versus quantity, but I’ve always found that is a limited way to look at content strategy. Most people, when considering what works best, looks to the present, or more commonly, to the past for answers.
“Livestrong is able to publish 5 crappy articles per day and rank, so quantity is where it’s at,” some may say. And others may point to the success of someone like WaitButWhy to credit quality as the winner.
But what’s your bet on how Google will favor content in the future? If you think it will get better and better at recommending high quality content, then quality becomes your moat. In addition, setting quality as a flagpole for your editorial strategy gives you a “why” to rally behind. Personally, I find Tracey’s bar pretty inspiring…
“I come from a family business background. I know how hard running a business is. I know how helpful this information can be. If I wouldn’t send an article to my mom or my brother to read to help our family business, then I wouldn’t publish it. That’s my bar -– and it’s not a waste of time to make sure its hit.”
On Flywheel Productivity…
Productivity is a tricky topic. Sure, there are many productivity tools that can marginally help your efforts (especially when you use them consistently). But a lot of productivity – the good kind, where you also increase your quality of output – comes from things that don’t scale.
Because the eCommerce space is rapidly changing, and because influencers carry a ton of weight in this space, Tracey’s efforts to build and maintain a network end up being a flywheel that spins faster and faster the more effort she puts into it…
“I guess my biggest productivity tip is to network. Networking has helped me find great freelancers faster, big customers faster, great agencies faster, get great creative ideas to market faster.
Don’t think in a silo. Don’t think just within your organization silo. Talk to people. learn from people. And ask people for help. That’s a HUGE productivity hack, as counterintuitive as it may be.”
This is something that helps in more areas than one. By building a network, Tracey is able to:
- Have an ear to the ground regarding trends
- Find freelancers faster
- Find customers
- Find agencies
- Get creative marketing ideas to try out
- Find topic ideas for articles
- Meet influencers to collaborate with
…And more. Try to get out of your office and chat with others in your space every now and again.
On Choosing Topics…
Everyone has a different strategy for choosing topics and planning out the editorial calendar, but they often fall into one of a few common buckets:
- Search traffic and SEO
- Social sharing and virality
- Customer-driven content
- Product-driven content
- Industry trends
At BigCommerce, they split the bill between SEO and product-driven content, though they usually find common ground between the two purposes. Here’s how Tracey explained it…
“SEO and product roadmap are our priorities always – and they often go hand in hand. After that, we do want to make sure we talk about what is trending in the industry, even if we aren’t building something to suit that (we typically have partners who are). Sales input helps to get a good understanding of prospect voice and tone, and we can blend that in.”
So, they’re not looking at topic choices myopically, but rather factoring in multiple business functions and teams into the ideation process – from sales, to product marketing, to general industry trends, to SEO search volume.