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The Current State Of Content Marketing

In Conversation with John Reinesch

In this episode of Ecoffee with Experts, Dawood Bukhari chatted with John Reinesch, co-founder at Chosen Data. John discusses the current state of content marketing, the pitfalls that agencies frequently encounter when implementing SEO, and his tried-and-true method for boosting organic click-through rate. Learn effective digital marketing strategies by watching this video right now.

It’s exciting when you get to the point with a client that you get them to understand what’s happening and put the investment in, and it really starts to pay off.

John Reinesch
Co-founder at Chosen Data
Hello, everyone. Today we have with us John Reinesch, co-founder at Chosen Data. It was difficult getting John on the show. There were a lot of to and fro, you know. But John, Thankyou so much for taking our time and have been looking forward to having you on the show. And finally today, here you are.

Awesome. Excited to be here. We made it work today.

John, before we go down deep into content SEO and what your company specializes in and what you specialize in mostly. It would be great if you could introduce yourself to our viewers. And of course, the company is now.

Yeah. So I’ve been doing SEO, probably closing in almost ten years now for typically an agency setting. So I’ve worked for a lot of different agencies before being the co-founder of Chosen Data and at Chosen Data we do SEO and content production for B2B, SAAS, and MarTech companies. So yeah, just excited to get into all things SEO and that really remains my main focus.

You said yourself, that you have vast marketing experience. What made you start Chosen Data, your own agency?

Yeah, there were a few things working for a lot of different agencies as like a freelancer or in-house or in all different scenarios, you start to see a lot of inefficiencies, a lot of things that you start to think about like there’s probably a better way to do certain things. So when we started, a couple of the things we had in mind were really transparency and the quality of the work. We’re kind of a big initiative we had. We wanted to make sure and it gets more challenging as it grows. But being able to deliver really high-quality work and being transparent on results, on what’s happening, having good communication, really improving the client experience, which often can get missed by some agencies. So that was kind of the initial thing that sparked it. And then from there we kind of went in a lot of different directions. But I’ve always liked working with SAAS companies and in particular B2B, so that’s really where the industry focus started to play in.

SAAS is exciting. Obviously, you work with some agencies, who work with SSAS, but like, because of rank wants, we handle their marketing as well. I can totally understand it's a different ball game altogether, but it's exciting every day.

Yeah, it’s always fun. We particularly like the B2B services for like the long buying cycles in some industries where there’s a lot of content that goes into it.

A lot of content and a lot of automation, it's all about content, right? Like looking for those keywords, creating those pillar pages around those keywords, and having a good automation funnel. I totally understand.

Yeah. And it’s one of those things where kind of there’s so many different directions you can go. And because no one’s really going to search one keyword and buy something, typically there’s, there are so many different things that go into it, let alone when you get into other channels like paid media. But even just for SEO, there are so many ways you can go with it. So it’s a lot of fun putting together those strategies and actually executing them.

Right. What does the growth plan look like from here?

Yeah. So for us, really, we’re just looking to continue to stay focused. I think it’s a big thing for us is staying in B2B, SAAS because we know our processes and the way we do our work works really well for those types of companies. We kind of built everything with SAAS companies in mind and kind of what they need. So when we do content strategies and keyword research, we’re really thinking about kind of the whole funnel that someone’s going to go through. We’re not just going to look at a few bottom funnel keywords and just focus all efforts there. We’re really going to be thinking about how can we get in front of people all throughout their journey before they’re ready to buy. So keeping that focus, I think will be a big thing for us and just continuing to build out kind of our client portfolio in the space.

Talking about content. What is your opinion on the current state of content marketing as a whole?

I think a few things. I mean, the timing of this is pretty good with Google’s new updates. I think the way we think about it and this kind of the way we’ve been thinking about it for a while. When you start working with larger companies, there’s part of the focus is, that you don’t want to do something that’s going to screw things up or some of the tactics that you can get away with on maybe a smaller site, maybe an affiliate site that you can control adds a lot of risk to a bigger company. And so we’ve always been having a content-first approach where when we create something, we’re not trying to take shortcuts. We’re really trying to think about is this content objectively better than what’s already ranking. And there’s a lot of ways you can determine that, but that’s kind of our main focus and one that we know works in the long term. It’s something to be said. If you were running an affiliate site or a site that you can control, if you can make money now and get results now, there’s a benefit to that. But with some of these companies, we really want to make sure like what we’re doing is going to last and actually contribute to the company’s growth. So that’s always the way we think about it, is really making sure we’re not cutting corners and we’re really actually putting a lot of research into the content to make sure it’s going to be better than what’s there. And that tends to work well when you start doing that consistently for a long enough time.

Right. What are some of the most common mistakes that people make when it comes to doing SEO for MarTech companies?

Yeah, I think a couple of things that we see very common is going from keyword to actually content creation. A lot of times what we see, we’re really big on creating content briefs. We’re that’s a step we see get skift quite often where a lot of companies will find a couple of keywords and they’ll send those keywords over to a writer and ask them to go write something. Really. You’re putting a writer in a bad position where they have to then create something that actually is going to rank without having maybe the SEO background or doing their research into kind of what Google wants to see on the first page. So the content brief we’ve found is very critical to making sure now when we give this to the writer, they don’t just get a few keywords, they actually get some search engine analysis on what people actually want, semantic keywords. We’ll even put in a rough outline. So the writer has a jump start into kind of what sections probably need to be there, so you want to do it where is not too limiting as well. So there’s a point where you can get rigid in the process, but there is definitely some key kind of elements you want to hit in a content brief to make sure you’re putting your writer in a good position to actually have a good chance at ranking.

So what does that content brief process look like? Like, you compare the top ten pages, like any particular tools you use? Any insights would be helpful.

Yeah. So the first thing is kind of always where it starts is just with the keyword research. So we have to figure out what keywords are we trying to rank for with this post. A lot of ways you can do that. A couple of things that we like to do are once we have a few keywords in mind, actually, use a tool like Ahrefs or Semrush to see what are other articles that are ranking for the keyword in the top ten. Where are they also ranking for? And a lot of times you’ll see that some of those pages may be ranking for hundreds of keywords, and that’s usually a good opportunity with one page. You can get that visibility. So once you have that nailed down, we use tools like Market Muse, Clear Scopes, and another one to pull in kind of those semantic, NLP-type keywords. But those are really important because what a normal keyword research tool, you’re kind of getting the same words over and over. With those related terms you’re really getting kind of the additional topics you’re going to want to cover to make sure are really going to be in-depth. So those types of tools are going to be pretty popular over the last few years, but it’s important to just use those in the kind of brief process because now your writer can skim through it and jumpstart some ideas in their head on like things are going to want to touch on in the article. So once you have that laid out, then we started just looking at search intent. So really the method, they’re just going to Google typing in the keyword and actually taking a look at what’s showing up. A lot of other things you can do there, but we’re looking at what type of content is there. Is it all blog posts that it might be difficult to get a product piece to show up? Sometimes you’ll find it’s mixed and there’s a little bit of everything on there, and that opens up some opportunities to do something different. So a lot of ways you can get into search intent, but it’s important to actually think about that. Like, what does someone really want when they’re searching for this keyword and not trying to force something to rank? So that’s a key aspect. And then once you do that, then we’ll typically when we make an outline, we are looking at a competitor’s content. A lot of tools that can help out ranking is a new tool that’s good for this, where they’ll actually show you the outlines of the top ten pages that rank all on one screen. So then you can start kind of piecing together your own article and get some inspiration from what competitors are doing. A lot of times you’ll see there’s a lot of overlap, like the same sections over and over. So those are the ones you probably want to add in. But I’m always thinking of like, how can we also make this unique? And like, what are they not doing?

This is where the manual approach comes into play like. So we love using surfer SEO as well. It does a good job of doing the comparison. But you also have to see what are the things that are missing because, at the end of the day, your page has to be better. So, make sure whatever it is had in the top ten, but also has that additional unique element to be better than them.

Yeah. And that’s really key because a lot of people do start the online process nowadays, but they do stop at like just grabbing sections that are already there. It gets challenging if you’re doing it for a client and you’re not like a subject matter expert and you might not know the nuances of their industry, but sometimes, getting someone on their team to talk to you a little bit or to review as well can help. But it’s always thinking about like, how do we take what’s there? We might need some of that, but then what do we add to it to actually make this better? And if you do that, you’re typically going to do well in the long term. You’re not usually going to see algorithm updates hurt you or all these other things. So it’s a really good long-term strategy.

Also, I think that people like using AI for content, I mean, let's see what happens there. I'm sure, there's something coming, But yeah, that'll be interesting to see.

Yeah. That’s interesting, research with these new updates if those types of content if that’s really going to take a hit. So the way we think of AI content now is almost like a, not even a first draft, but almost like an extension of the outline. Like sometimes we’ll actually run some content with some of the tools, but it’s like just meant to give the writer more ideas and not necessarily meant to be like, we’re just going to hit publish right now. That’s the way we tend to use it.

That's a good approach. Also, you know, like sometimes because as an agency, if you're writing for a client where your writer is not like a niche expert, you just kind of getting like the topic idea. I mean, topic ideas obviously on the goal not get was but at least getting that outline because a lot of these AI tools also just give you the outline on just kind of a good starting direction. You don't need to write the entire content but maybe use that as a starting direction. And but ultimately the content has to be unique. That's what I believe I'm sure some people would not agree with it.

Yeah, I think part of it too is like if depending on budget, you like if you’re kind of scrapping together a site and you don’t have a budget, you’re doing a lot of the work. Some of those tools can help you just get stuff out there and then maybe you start getting traction from some of it and then you kind of rework it and make it better. So there’s something to be said about that too, depending on your situation. I’ve worked on some affiliate sites over a couple of little ones going where I’ll use some of it and then just kind of put feelers out there almost and see like what’s actually getting traction before you actually invest the money in actually getting stuff written and doing all that work. So I think there’s some use case, but I do think long term, you really do have to be thinking about like how is this better than anything else.

Right? How can one use the Google search console to improve their organic CTR? You talked about this quite a few times, so I thought it's better to get more insights.

Yeah, This is something I really like to think about. We actually built a Google Sheets tool, basically your import, your search console data and it’ll analyze your click-through rate for each of the top ten positions based on your own data. So it will actually aggregate when you’re ranking and position one, what is your average click rate across all the keywords you write for, and do that for each position. So the cool thing about that is then you could start to run formulas that show when I’m ranking in Position five, do I have any keywords that are below my average? And those are usually good opportunities to look at because you’re below your own average. If you just get your click rate up to your standard, you’re going to get clicked right away and let alone if you do better than your average. You should go find some good opportunities that way. If you have a lot of data and a lot of content, it makes it pretty easy to run something like this. And you can also put in industry benchmarks if you rather do that. There are a lot of studies on what your click-through rate could be at each position, but I like to do that first and then really identify what’s actually below average. And if you’re already on the first page, you are in some good positions, you can get some pretty quick traffic increases by doing that. So I’m a big fan of reading stuff up in Google sheets with the search console. You can work directly in the search console too and use that and use the platform. Just kind of skim through your pages and see what’s getting a lot of impressions and clicks. But I’m a big fan of actually exporting into sheets and messing around with the data a little bit to get some more insights.

Yeah, talking about Google sheets, like you said that you also encounter an issue where you're not able to tag external people like we have we have this issue where we have these Google sheets shared with clients and we were tagging them. The comments were there, but they were not getting the notifications.

Yeah, that’s to a downside. And some people don’t know to look for them to like maybe they even get it and they don’t, they don’t check it or they don’t know it’s there. So we try not to rely on the comments in Google Sheets anymore, probably because of those reasons like, well, usually either get in Slack or like a project management tool. So that way people have it on their radar because it’s very easy for that stuff to slip. For a while we were doing that in Google Docs, using a lot of the common features. And the more people that have started getting involved, if there’s not like a task or something set that they know they need to do it, it’s hard to manage. So it’s a nice feature. But yeah, we’ve had a lot of issues with it as well.

Right. Investment content is increasing. You mentioned that as well. Investment in video content is also increasing. Like, you know, it's increasing every day. So how do you see its impact on SEO?

Yeah, video content. It’s going to be huge and I was resistant to it for a while, like a lot of people in SEO. But if you’re not doing video, yes, most people should be. Maybe there are a few industries that are an exception. The way I even think about it too, you’re seeing Google Show a lot of videos in search results, sometimes even tik-tok. You are all other rankings for some things now. So what we’re trying to do to get ahead of is that this is still new to us, in our like big blog posts. A lot of times you could spin out the angle into a long-form video or a few short-form videos, and you can start embedding those into your content. So now you have a page that it already has a really good blog that people can read, but then you have the other content types embedded, which we’re starting to think that that’s going to be interesting might not be a direct ranking factor, but if you can improve engagement and get people to consume and stay in your content, that’s always going to work. So we’re starting to think about that more. Not only can you get a lot of content ideas out of the blogs you already have for video, but then actually now you have a relevant video or multiple ones that you can embed in your content. So that’s the approach we’re taking. And on the platforms themselves, you can get a lot of traffic from short-form videos and obviously long forms as well. But from the SEO standpoint, we’re already seeing a lot of videos rank and particularly the short form ones are going to be interesting, like how that actually really plays out for Google. So, I think it’s something you got to be looking at.

Yeah, we didn't test like, again this is not recent, a long time back you're working with a lot of inbound companies. They create a lot of content. So basically, what we were doing is, was converting that long-form pieces into small stock footage videos, they were embedding on the same blog, obviously, also promoting it across channels as well. But you know, like now with these videos ranking with zero position, so much happening, I am sure like investing in the video right now and we smartly embedding it into our good blog pieces and stuff, might see long term results.

Yeah. So that’s what I’m thinking too. And sometimes the videos themselves can rank and there may be a shift we see start to see more of. But at the very least if you have the capability of producing video, it’s definitely time to start doing it and something we’re personally trying to get more active into on our end and then might be something even for our clients. It’s also hard to find a good video agency, but. But I think that’s going to be pretty critical coming up.

Right. How have you seen link building change over the years?

A lot of the way I think about link building now is because we definitely have a content-first approach, but there are definitely going to be situations where you need links. It’s pretty much inevitable. So we’re big on actually getting links from websites your audience would know. That’s hard to maybe quantify that, but it’s one of the criteria we kind of has like, is this a known website in this space? If it is, we can pretty much assume like that link is going to have value for a long time. So that’s one thing we look at sometimes it’s hard to gauge that with metrics. As far as metrics, we really like to look at like how much organic traffic and how many keywords the website’s ranking for instead of just a domain authority. Because if the website’s ranking for a lot of keywords and they’re relevant and they have good content, that’s a good sign. The website’s probably going to be around for the long term so that link will have a lot of value. So we gauge a lot of different ways, but we’re big on that. Like can we find a list of like industry-relevant websites? Our audience is going to be on those sites. Anyways there are benefits outside of just SEO for thought leadership and getting discovered on those sites. When we get to find that that’s usually the perfect fit and we’ll try to go ahead and either do a guest post or find some way to get a link. Sometimes you run out of opportunities there and that’s when you can go to smaller sites that maybe aren’t as known. They still can work well. We’re always hesitant like it might work well in the short term and we kind of take what we can get now and then we have to figure some out later. But that’s usually not our first approach when we have the resources and the clients have the budget to do it the right way. So as far as changes, I feel like a lot of it’s been pretty similar recently where quality sites, think organic traffic and organic keywords is a good metrics to start monitoring when you’re getting links. There are other ways outside of guest posting with guest postings done a lot, but it’s still relevant, I’d say. Sometimes doing a webinar or some other content type or a video with another brand can get you a link where it’s not a traditional guest post. So I think some of those methods going back to the video, like doing joint video and things like that, it’s another good way to get links and now you have another asset type to use and do different things with. So kind of thinking about link building and that extension of marketing instead of just a way to get links which sometimes we get a little too focused on.

No, absolutely. I think relevancy is very important. You know, one more additional feature we look at when we are looking at relevant sites and we also look at how many relevant articles that website has. That's a really good thing where we would do a site called site and see actually what those keywords are for the relevant categories. You know, how many articles does that website have? it's not a known site, but it's had it has stable traffic, good keywords, and around 100, 200 relevant articles, which means it's a good investment now because the traffic will grow, and ultimately it will help our website.

Yeah, that’s a good point too. Sometimes you can get ahead of it before the site gets bigger. You can get in where the investment might not be as high. So if you see something that’s trending up and you can see like all the content is really good here, they’re still publishing, they’re still investing in their own site. Those are really good opportunities and that link is probably get more valuable over time. And you have the relationship to now with the site, which is always good.

Right. How important do you consider internal links in SEO strategy?

Yeah. It’s always a part of our optimization process. The way we like to think about it is kind of the way I explain it to clients basically and it’s a simple way to think about it. But these are the more you link to something, the more important you’re basically saying it is. So there’s a page you only link to once and it’s buried in your site. You’re really telling people in search engines like, We don’t really care about this page too much. So that’s kind of the simple way I like to break it down for our clients, but they are important. We find that, taxes, and internal links are still a factor. We’ve been messed around for some time. We did some testing on like footer links and links in the navigation and those still can have a big impact sometimes. So we did just a small-scale study on our site and put an exact match keyword for one of our services. I think it was for like technical SEO agency that was the keyword for our service page. As soon as we did that, we went to the search console and almost days later our average position just shot up. So it’s when you actually mess around with some things, some of that still can work. I think the footer can get pretty spammy if you start having this massive footer with all these links. And I think that might actually negatively impact you. But we were surprised to see that it was still a pretty big deal having those navigation links, let alone contextual links, which I think are still important as well.

Tell us your favorite Client story.

There are always some good and bad versions of it. But we have one client. He’s actually been with us for a long time who’s in the health space, a dermatologist. And the cool thing about them is we actually treat their site as almost like a national brand where he also has a skincare line and different things. So he wants local kinds of clients, but he’s actually interested in growing his website into like an informational resource. So the exciting thing with that one is once you start getting that snowball effect of content publishing and starting to rank, every time we publish something, we’re almost getting to page two almost instantly right when it gets published. So we’re just starting to see things start to compound now where originally it’s not a massive site by any means, but originally it was getting maybe a couple of thousand sessions a month from Organic Search and we just broke the 30,000 a month mark and almost every month is going up. So once you get in the groove with content and publishing frequently and actually using a good keyword strategy, it’s difficult in the beginning you got to stick with it. But then you start getting that effect where now things just improve rapidly. So that’s always exciting when you can get to that point with a client and get them to understand what’s happening and put the investment in, it really starts to pay off. And that’s why we’re hoping to break the 100,000 mark in about a year. So we’re ramping up content on that. So it’s always fun when you actually hit those numbers and see things start to grow like that.

All right. Our best practices while pushing a new website live and ensuring no loss of earlier SEO value.

Yeah, there are a lot of checklists out there you can go through for migrations. We have one as well. I think we give it out on our site. But I like to think about it as if you’re redesigning a site or making big changes like what to do before, during, and after. So kind of thinking about it that way really make sure you’re kind of being comprehensive. The biggest thing obviously is that everyone knows redirects are always going to be really important. You’d be surprised how much that gets missed. I really like not just creating a redirect map, but actually crawling your pages that are getting the most traffic and just really like double and triple checking those because it’s very frequent that you miss a few on there and don’t realize that those are actually driving a ton of search traffic now they’re gone. So that is one of the biggest things. And then really just kind of benchmarking and monitoring after you launch, there’s pretty much always going to be something that gets missed. But if you can catch things early, a lot of times you’ll prevent a lot of that loss from sticking in your rebound quicker. So crawling the site regularly, checking analytics, checking those pages that we’re driving traffic, making sure they’re not far off, and then doing what we actually found good which I was a little bit out of SEO but is actually doing more link building. So that part is the actual part for the new site just to kind of get some links going. But actually even looking at doing more paid media and just increasing marketing, kind of not a direct effect, but there’s just kind of some of that crossover where now your branded search might be going up, more people are going to the website and sometimes you’ll have some good synergy there. You also cover some of the initial loss for a little bit with that additional traffic. So that’s one of the main things we look for depending on what the client’s doing.

All right. One valuable tip you would like to give an audience that they can implement right away.

I would say a couple of things, so one of them is to take a look at the keyword rankings you already have. Do you already have any first-page keyword rankings? If you do, one thing that’s working really well for us is starting to do and a lot of people are doing this nowadays, but it’s something that’s sometimes easy to forget about, is doing title tag and a description testing almost like you’re testing ad copy because really that can be some of the quickest wins that you see. You already have these rankings, you’re getting some traffic and you’re not always going to nail the tail tag on the first try. So it’s really important you change it, let some data come in and see what’s happening, and then you might have to change it again and maybe even a few months to just like ad copy things get stale. So if you have some critical pages, making sure that you’re doing that regularly will help maintain traffic, but you also get some increases. So that’s something everyone can just go into the search console, take a look, see what’s there and see when was the last time you actually updated the title tag and met a description. That’s simple, but it’s you’ll be surprised how well it still works all these years later. I’m doing that.

In the end, I like playing a rapid-fire round of 2 to 5 questions. Are you ready?

I’m ready. Let’s do it.

Describe your style in one word.

Bad, I would say. I got no style.

So if a movie was made about you, what genre would it be?

A sci-fi.

That sounds interesting. Now, favorite superhero?

Probably. I was always a big Batman fan.

I love Batman. One subject you would like to learn more about?

For me, probably some of the things that have been on my mind a lot. It’s more on that on the business end nowadays about scaling companies, all the things that go involved in that. That’s something we’re going through now as well as we get bigger. A lot of these new issues get introduced that you might not have to deal with as or when you’re a smaller company. I’d imagine that continues to change the bigger you get. So that’s something I’m diving into and really trying to learn as much as I can.

Have you read Traction, the book?

I’ve heard of it. I’ve never read it.

Well, you should definitely read Traction. And, I just would suggest maybe the first time you read it, but I would suggest if you actually decide of implementing it for your agency. Like, get somebody who knows traction and who is following traction in his company to help implement it for you. Because then, you know, you don't have those biases because when you're doing it yourself so. We did traction twice, the first time we tried doing it ourselves and we ultimately ended up creating our own version of traction and then we made a friend do it for us. And on that kind of was much better.

Awesome. I’m going to read that for sure.

Yeah. Are you a morning person or a night person?

Morning. I like to get started early. It’s always hard to still wake up, though, no matter how many times you do it and you have to kind of force yourself.

Sci-fi, Batman, and then morning. I mean, that doesn't match that.

Yeah, it’s weird, right? For some reason, at night I can’t work really. When it gets to a certain point, I’m ready to relax or work out or do something. I can use my energy in other ways. But yeah, well, after a certain point, like, I got to stop work. But I do like to start early, which is interesting.

You know, if you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?

That’s a good question. I’m actually going to South Africa in mid-October. I think we just booked it. So I’m excited to see that, that’s going be somewhere new, that’ll be fun to see, and I’ve also always wanted to go to Europe and a lot of places in Europe I want to check out. That as well is on my list. So definitely now that I’m obviously working remotely and kind of we’ve always been remote, I definitely want to kind of get some more traveling going now because it really can work well with you still getting work done while you’re traveling. So that’s on my list.

Right. Well, John, it was fun having you. I had a blast and hopefully, we'll catch up sometime soon.

Yeah, definitely. Thanks for having me. It was fun to finally make this work.

Same here, best of luck.

Awesome. Thank you.

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