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!
Before his recent move to 2ndKitchen, he co-led G2.com’s content marketing strategy and team of 30 writers, link builders, and promotion experts – leading G2’s Learn Hub from conception in Feb. 2018 to over 1.5M monthly visitors in Sept. 2019, and building over 5,500 high-quality referring domains to the Learn Hub in that time.
He’s a link building master and knows a ton about content marketing strategy, SEO, and working with influencers. We cover all that and more in this interview.
How did you get into content marketing? What’s your origin story?
I came to G2 essentially right out of school back in 2015. I found the small startup on BuiltIn Chicago and drove from Bloomington, Indiana up to Highland Park, IL to interview at a small start up. I had no idea what I was doing or getting myself into. Luckily for me, G2 was (and is) a disruptive idea that snowballed quickly. I originally was a research specialist, focusing on software categorization and creating technical content for those pages.
About two years ago, myself and teammate Jakub Rudnik transferred to marketing, as we had been leading the content strategy and promotion efforts from our research team.
From there, we were giving the freedom, tools, budget, and headcount to execute a large content vision.
That led me to recently launched my own content marketing and link building agency and blog at LeviOlmstead.com and helped me take my next step in my career at 2ndKitchen leading the entire marketing department.
And that’s my content marketing story!
What do you believe is unique about your background, skills, or experience that allows you to be an effective and successful content marketer?
A few things. One is that I worked at G2, which gave my team the respect and trust from the entire SaaS industry. Having those connections made being a content marketer much easier. G2 covers all SaaS verticals, which allowed us to cover nearly any topic. While that is really exciting and gave us so many different opportunities to grow, it was also a challenge to determine what is our most valuable pieces of content and topic clusters to focus on.
For me in particular, I would call myself an extrovert and empath, which lends itself well to being a successful marketer. I truly believe the best marketers are the ones that build lasting, symbiotic relationships with other great marketers.
What’s your process for finding and working with influencers? How does relationship building tie into your content marketing process?
I work with brands and content teams that I draw inspiration from. If I see a piece of content that is executed great, has a strong backlink profile, great UX, perfect CTAs, etc., I always reach out to those teams and try to set up a call to talk shop. You have the obvious brands here such as HubSpot, but also the less obvious brands, such as Hotjar.
How are you able to make guest posting work at scale? How does G2 scale their external content production?
I focused a ton of energy on the guest posting program both internally and externally. Internally, I published 70+ articles from guest contributors on the Learning Hub in a month.
We funneled requests through a smartlist in HubSpot and set them up into an email campaign that pulls topics from a pre-selected group of articles we want to write for our Learning Hub, but don’t have the writer bandwidth to. The guest posting program essentially created 2-3 additional writers for our team to cover topics we couldn’t previously.
Externally, we had team members who exclusively builds relationships with outside brands and writes on external sites, while also sourcing opportunities for the rest of our team to have a contributor article on external websites.
What’s an absolutely essential skill or attitude needed to succeed in content marketing?
First, the ability to understand user intent and conduct competitive analysis. You won’t rank for the keywords you want unless you understand the intent behind why someone is searching for that keyword. Many times looking at the competitors that currently rank at the top of search results will give you a great starting point for what to cover and how to cover that search topic.
Second, understanding that you can’t always ask things of others. You must build relationships in the truest sense of the word. If you can build meaningful relationships with other content teams, they will gladly work with you in terms of linking to resources, guest posting, hosting Twitter chats, etc.
When it comes to content promotion, what’s the biggest mistake most content marketers make? How can they improve their content promotion process?
I think many content marketers do the bare minimum here, and many great pieces of content go unseens because of it. Do everything you can to be successful. Tag the people, brands, and examples you use in your article on social. Post it in communities such as GrowthHackers. Do link building outreach to other blogs covering similar topics. Skyscrape your competitors to steal links. Reach out to your relationships to see if they could fit your article into a piece of theirs.
If you didn’t work in content marketing, what would you be doing and why?
If I wasn’t in content marketing, a journalism gig at a music, sports, or pop culture website. Content marketing and journalism are becoming closer and closer, and working for The Ringer or Pitchfork would be an absolute dream for me. I went to a high school that had a well-funded journalism department, have a degree from Indiana’s Media School in videography, so I have the background that could help me break into that industry if the right break would come my way.
What inspires you? How do you come up with ideas for content, copy, etc.
I follow my favorite brands on social and try to stay on top of what they’re doing. I have Twitter lists of my favorite content teams and marketers to stay on top of their new content. I use Ahrefs’ alerts to follow certain new content published around certain keywords. I also have a handful of favorite sites that is more journalistic than content marketing (Pitchfork, NME, The Ringer, Fader, The Atlantic, FiveThirtyEight) that I follow religiously. Those specific 6 publications tend to be very liberal in trying new content types, graphics, and styles – which I try to draw inspiration from for G2 content.
Gimme three tips to improve my writing (or rather, tips that anyone can use to be a better writer)
- Include quotes from experts on the topic you’re writing about. If you’re writing a piece on wireframing, reach out to a web designer at your company to provide a quote. Think about your favorite brands or other connections in your network that work in design, and as them for quotes. Think about brands you want to link to your site, and reach out to their designers. Including quotes not only validates that your article is accurate and gives diversified opinions from the thought leaders in those spaces, but also lends to more exposure and promotion when those experts you include in your content share the piece on social or link to it in the future.
- Update your content! Things change. User intent changes. Make sure to stay on top of what is currently ranking at the top, and make sure your piece is always answering the right questions and that you’re staying on top of what the next big thing is. Does your article not have a table of contents with jump links, but all the other top articles do? Better go in and add that table of contents.
- Don’t forget about promotion. Really. You could make the best piece of content online, but if you can’t build links to your article. and get eyes on it through social promotion and other channels, it will be never be given the chance to succeed. Spend the extra times sending emails to bloggers. Make sure to let those you included in the piece know it was published.