John has worked with companies like Zenefits, DocSend, Gremlin, and WP Engine to grow their inbound marketing and get more leads. He’s a master of getting leads for B2B companies, leveraging AI to help create content.
An edited version of our conversation appears below.
When you start with a new client, how do you decide what to prioritize?
It really depends on the size of the site and if they have the content in place they need to rank. A lot of sites want their homepage to rank for a really high traffic commercial keyword and obviously, we can’t do that.
Since content production takes so long, I always prioritize content creation and content planning first. I’d really focus on content creation. If they have content already, I work on content optimization.
Also, changing internal links and linking structure takes a long time, so I like to get that done early.
How do you think about mapping search intent?
Typically, I’ll create pillars first with awareness content at the top of the page. Pillars have a tendency to rank for multiple terms so it helps to really think about intent here. I always try to rank a “what is” page because that’ll tell Google that my site is the authority on that topic.
Next, I look at content hub pages as different types of intent and figure out the ways to write for different types of intent. If you map different types of intent to the stages of a purchase journey, you can create a narrative structure for your hub. And that’s great because thematically structured content often leads to much better opt-ins.
I always try and hit the dominant intents that are going to drive traffic. In B2B, getting the nitty gritty intent can be tough, so just using common sense sometimes works best. You want to think about the questions people might have during the purchase journey.
While mapping intent is important, you also need to understand your buyer. You should connect the dots to see where keyword volume is lacking. You’re trying to answer the deep burning questions that buyers have that your competitor isn’t answering.
What mistakes do you often see beginners making?
Many beginners try to be tactical instead of strategic. They try to execute one piece of content without having a network of content to bring buyers through. Also, I’ve seen a lot of businesses lack a plan when mapping content. That’s why I like MarketMuse and other content inventory and planning tools.
Try to focus on your product and your product topic. What is your audience looking for? Be hyper-specific and provide a variety of solutions, leading to your product as one of them.
If you’re trying to rank for thought leadership, you definitely need links but owning your content outright can really help. Google has gotten much better at determining who the real authority is on content and they realize that links aren’t the end-all, be-all for authority.
Spend time and resources on content quality. You need to find people who really know your space and can write great content, but that won’t be cheap. A lot of people expect SEO to be the same as it was five years ago, and they don’t realize it’s going to cost at least $40,000 for content that can compete on 500 terms. You need a writer who can write content that pulls you into the sales funnel gracefully.
Tell me about your work and how people can get in touch with you.
I usually work with B2B SaaS companies that have $10 to $80 million in venture funding. My company helps B2B SaaS companies own their topic online through the use of topic clusters. We focus on mapping content to the purchase journey, figuring out all the ways we can use content to promote their work and get buyers.
I tend to work with sales-assisted SaaS companies to get more emails in their database. I like working with more technical products with a big focus on AI. Using AI allows us to plan out content without having to actually learn the technical knowledge ourselves. It’ll do the heavy lifting for us, completing the bulk of the research. And by leveraging that technology, we can move a lot faster.