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How should publishers prioritize SEO?
Depending on how narrow your chosen niche is, there could be a lot of search demand that hasn’t been serviced.
Hello there! This is the latest edition of my Q&A series where readers ask me questions and I do my best to answer them.
But there’s a catch: while the answers are free to read, only the paying subscribers get to ask the questions. If you’re a paying subscriber who wants to ask a question for the next edition, you can leave it in this thread over here.
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Ok, let’s jump into it…
How should publishers prioritize SEO?
The first question comes from Ari Lewis
Any ideas on SEO or just growth hacks in general for us? We have had a slow down in email signups. We are launching reports and webinars which I'm optimistic about, but how should we think about improving SEO, web traffic and email signups?
Most newly-launched media companies start out by producing one of two kinds of content: SEO-friendly content or share-friendly content. The SEO-friendly content, in general, attempts to answer questions that people are likely to type into Google, usually at a time when they immediately need an answer to their question. Publishers that start out specializing in SEO-friendly content typically cater to business models that try to quickly drive some kind of purchase or transaction. Their readers are researching options to buy a new computer or hire a plumber or invest in real estate. Audiences for SEO-friendly outlets don’t tend to be very loyal because they only stumble across your content when they need something specific.
Share-friendly content is either news-pegged or contains some component that would compel its readers to share it — whether it’s to express their political views, advertise their own expertise, or bring joy to others. These types of outlets tend to build more loyal audiences that return again and again, either by subscribing to a newsletter, bookmarking the homepage, or following on social media. I think of the newsletter you’re reading right now as a share-friendly outlet.
Like I said, brand new media outlets tend to only have the resources and inclination to create content for one of these categories. But once a media business reaches a certain maturation point at which it has access to more resources, then the editors can start to brainstorm new content categories that will help diversify traffic sources. Right before I started writing this newsletter, for instance, I got off the phone with a media operator who built a super successful real estate blog that performs well on Google, but she was looking for ways she could diversify her traffic and build a more loyal audience. She essentially had the exact opposite problem that you have.
So what’s a good way for a share-friendly outlet to start prioritizing SEO? To answer that question, let’s turn to Pat Walls.
Walls is the founder of Starter Story, an outlet that specializes in publishing longform case studies from successful entrepreneurs. He saw a lot of early success when the case studies were shared on social media sites and Reddit, but he noticed that they didn’t tend to rank well on Google. Here’s how he shifted his strategy:
His biggest breakthrough came after he started taking information from his case studies and repurposing it within SEO-friendly pages. “We found that interview content doesn’t do well in search engines, because an interview doesn’t get straight to the point, which is, I think, the most important part about SEO: answering the searcher's query as fast as possible.” So he started creating landing pages with titles like “Start A Roof Repair Business.” Each page would have several categories at the top that included “summary,” “startup costs,” “businesses,” “pros & cons,” and “marketing ideas.” Each section pulled from both already-existing Starter Story case studies and outside data sources.
The impact from this experiment was seismic. “It's been the biggest change in our business,” said Walls. “We went from 100,000 unique visitors to a million per month. Most of our traffic is now coming through SEO. A lot of people come in through an SEO-optimized article and then stay for the interviews, sign up for the newsletter, and so on.”
Definitely check out my full interview with Pat Walls over here: “How Starter Story grew to 1.4 million monthly visitors and $500,000 in annual revenue.”
So how can you apply this to your own individual niche? Here are a few ideas for article topics:
Listicle articles that rank companies or other categories within your niche.
How-to articles that help readers within your niche solve specific problems they’re likely to have.
Wikipedia-like reference articles that compile information about important companies or people.
Data products that track statistics within your field. There’s a reason that Statista dominates so many Google searches.
Depending on how narrow your chosen niche is, there could be a lot of search demand that hasn’t been serviced. It’s just a matter of determining which questions haven’t been properly answered.
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Web3’s blatant blind spots
The next question comes from George Aliferis
Why [do] all the crypto projects (DAOs) typically use Medium for their blogs? Instead of Mirror which is made for Web3?
Let me start by translating this question: George has noticed that the owners of Web3 startups tend to promote their projects on traditional social media sites instead of publishing mainly to Web3 platforms.
Your question points to the thing that Web3 enthusiasts gloss over when touting the utopia of a “decentralized” web: that there’s a reason why content creators and users were attracted to centralized platforms in the first place.
Web3 advocates congregate on platforms like Twitter and Medium because those platforms have network effects that expose content to a larger audience. You can decentralize your content creation by simply launching a Wordpress blog and a newsletter, but even content creators who do this still spend a lot of time growing their presence on more centralized social platforms. Why? Because those social platforms offer reach.
Believe me, I think the world would be better off if these people spent more time posting to Web3 platforms and less time posting to social media. It would be a lot easier to ignore them.
Searching for Web3’s use cases
Here’s a related question from Jon Winsor
I keep hearing hints about what web3 could do for creators, but never hear it adequately explained.
Ha, I actually tweeted out this joke on Twitter today: “My guilty pleasure is reading Web3 press releases and trying to figure out what the hell the company does just from the press release.”
For instance, here’s an excerpt from a press release I received from a company called Calaxy, which just raised a whopping $26 million. I’ll pay someone $5 if they can figure out what Calaxy actually does:
Co-founded by tech entrepreneur Solo Ceesay and NBA star Spencer Dinwiddie, Calaxy rocks a sleek design and intuitive interface like legacy social media platforms, but packs a more powerful punch thanks to Web3’s leading distributed ledger technology—Hedera Hashgraph. The result is a digital experience that will set a new industry standard for how creators and fans can engage within a more interactive and equitable framework …
…While the Calaxy application is set to revolutionize the Creator Economy on the back of this successful $26 million raise, The Creator’s Galaxy protocol that it’s built on - a decentralized, permissionless protocol with open-source governance - already has a total coin market cap of over $500 million. The protocol is powered by the $CLXY token, of which one billion were minted in April 2022. The recent successful public and private sale of the $CLXY token provides greater distribution of protocol governance within The Creator’s Galaxy and will accelerate growth and support the expansion of the ecosystem ahead of the highly anticipated launch of Calaxy App this summer.
If you can't succinctly explain what makes your company special in the press release, then your average user won't get it. I think that’s why you’re struggling to understand the value; you keep seeing buzz phrases like “decentralize the web” or “own your content,” but you don’t see how the product is solving a problem that you actually have.
That’s why a lot of Web3 companies tend to use technical jargon like “decentralized, permissionless protocol with open-source governance” as if that’s supposed to mean anything to anyone. It doesn’t! At least not to the normie consumer who’s going to supposedly abandon Web 2.0 and flock to its Web3 counterparts. If the jargon is confusing you, it’s also confusing most other people.
Musicians like to accuse Spotify of not paying them enough, but it's their record labels that are capturing 85% of the revenue Spotify pays out. [Vox]
Cord cutting hasn't just been bad for cable companies; it's also bad for TV advertisers who are finding it increasingly difficult to reach consumers with their ads. [Mike Shields]
"Routine editorials, point-of-view syndicated columns and many commissioned guest essays consistently turn up as the most poorly read articles online." [Poynter]
Companion podcasts are relatively cheap to produce and a great way to keep fans engaged in between new episodes of a TV series. [The Verge]
Vox Media is tired of outsourcing its programmatic advertising to third party adtech platforms that take a huge cut of revenue. [Digiday]
This isn’t media related, but I just finished the season 2 finale of Hacks last night on HBO Max, and that show is so good. You should check it out!
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