This episode starts off with the students presenting the content strategy for their “new client”. Erica also discusses the importance of understanding the landscape in Content Marketing.
After you get a client as a content marketer, the first thing you need to do is understand the landscape.
She also talks about;
NB: Teaching starts at 43:00
A massive thank you to Rickety Roo for sponsoring our content Marketing cohort.
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What Erika Does: Head of SEO Branding at Semrush
Noteworthy: Erika is also a public speaker, regular webinar host, and awards judge.
Connect with Erika;
💡Understanding the Market Trends
Erika talks about the importance of understanding market trends as a critical first step when working with a client. She advises researching the market, identifying the main pain points your client is solving, and using Google search, social media, and platforms like Quora to gather insights on what the industry is talking about and where it’s heading.
💡 Using the Wayback Machine
She introduces the Wayback Machine as a tool to explore a client’s website history, looking at how the website and its messaging have evolved over time. This analysis can provide valuable insights into a client’s historical positioning and how it’s changed.
💡 Seeking Information from the Client
Erika stresses the importance of asking questions and engaging in open dialogue with the client to gather as much information as possible.
She suggests being bold in client calls, highlighting both strengths and weaknesses and using these discussions to gain a deeper understanding of the client’s needs and goals.
💡Understanding the Client’s Industry in Initial Phases
Erika Varangouli shares that the time you spend understanding an industry during initial client interactions can vary significantly. While there’s no one-size-fits-all answer, she suggests that spending around an hour to gain a good feel for an industry is a reasonable starting point.
For someone with prior experience in a particular industry like SAAS, the focus might be more on understanding the specific client, whereas those new to a technical field may need to invest more time.
Erika Varangouli 0:04
Okay, we’re recording, I’m so set up for this call. And I think the next sessions as well, as we discussed, you’re going to have an assignment every week, or most weeks, I think, right from one week to the next. Sometimes if it makes sense, we might move it to a bigger assignment every couple of weeks. But for now, it looks like weekly, I would like us just start each week with a standup, like, this is a very standard practice. Hi, nice, we were missing you.
It’s a very standard practice in teams and an agile company. So where they have adopted the agile methodology, if you haven’t heard about it, like it started as a methodology for developers, but now it’s getting more and more adopted by other departments as well. Jimmy up on Slack, if you want me to share some resources about what it means, but part of practising the agile methodology is having regular stand ups with with quick updates on progress. And like main milestones that the team has, and, and blockers that they see. So I thought we would adapt that to our sessions and start every week, there’s, there’s 10 of you.
So a quick fire, rapid fire round of like each one of you talking for two minutes, about the assignment you had for this week, based on the work you did this week. And I will always be Claude. So that’s easy, because for every one of you, it’s Claude. And I need you to tell me, this is my standup with you. I’m your client. So you have shared with me your findings or your document or your assignment. But you have these two minutes to highlight that top things that you found, or what you’re struggling with, so I can address it with you. And I can help you overcome any barriers you have. As we progress, I would like to set up some calls individually, with each one of you. Those cannot be every week. So we will have to take turns.
But I think it would help if like once they turn once every four or five, four to six weeks, we meet up and we sort of discussed progress with the assignments and like any struggles you’re facing or anything else you want to talk about. So if that’s okay, I’m going to start setting those up as we move forward after the first couple of assignments. So we have some things to talk about. So if that sounds good, I know Claude me contacted you last week with with what my business does. So let’s let’s take two minutes each I will I will be timing how long everyone speaks, it’s important that we stick to the timings as well and learn to do it within the assigned time. So let’s let’s talk each one of you in turn, about what you found, when I shared my business and my brief and like what my struggles are and what I expect from you. Maybe I will update the invite to have it in order. So no one wonders what order to speak in. But let’s start let’s who wants to go first? Who wants to talk for two minutes about what they found from last week.
Chitra Iyer 3:44
I can go,
Erika Varangouli 3:45
go go Chitra your two minutes start now.
Chitra Iyer 3:49
Okay, so great. Thanks, God for giving me the chance to look at the Thrifty Europe site. I looked at the site and I’m focusing on Europe because you specify that you have 400 locations in Europe. So I’m not touching the USA right now. Okay. However, I must say that the experience of using the US side was extremely different from using the Europe side. So I think it was a bit of a fragmented customer experience for me and I had to really find my way around differently in both of them. So now coming back to the Europe side. Thrifty has a well known brand name and that’s fabulous. It’s part of a big family like hood. So that’s, you know, half the battle won, we have so much of learning within the system.
But what I found to be the three biggest gaps or opportunities, let me put it that way, is one SEO people can’t find you to content people can’t engage with you because there is no blog there is no social media strategy and there is no way to engage with the brand and three, there is no reason for people to stay with you once they try you because there’s really nothing on the side for returning customers, there isn’t the US but not in Europe. Okay, so these were the three biggest gaps I found on your website.
And what how I would address it really quickly just at the very top level, from the goals that you said you had for the brand. A people need to know you and find you. So we need to build awareness. For that, I would think that we need to invest a lot. Search Optimization. Okay, the second thing that we need to focus on is people need to try you and by you, which means you want it to generate leads and generate business from from thrifty. So for people to try when by you, we need to create an engagement strategy, where once they know you, they feel compelled to actually try it out, try out the product for this, we need content, we need to amplify our message across where our customers are
Chitra Iyer 5:52
thinking and why Wow, last week,
Chitra Iyer 5:57
but sorry. Thank you. Thank you.
Erika Varangouli 6:00
That’s really impressive. Chitra thank you so much. You’ve already raised some some great points that I’m looking forward to discussing with you. And I’m super curious about like your versus us. And we can discuss this further. But amazing point. Thank you so much. This is a great start.
Chitra Iyer 6:19
Thanks for your time.
Erika Varangouli 6:21
Thank you. Good idea based on Roshni’s question. I can share like everyone’s assignment like which client has been assigned to you. afterwards. When you start with a stand up and your two minutes you can say, hi, Claude. Great to work with you on this side, which does this. So define logo of the main purpose of the business that you’ve been assigned it? So great stuff who wants to go next?
Roshni Shaikh 6:51
I can go next.
Erika Varangouli 6:52
Go roshni go. Yeah, awesome.
Roshni Shaikh 6:54
So I’m talking about smart trucking.com. It’s a website to help truck drivers get started with their career. So the things that I noticed first is, whenever I do a copy audit, I divided into three sections. One is SEO. The next one is UX and conversions. So when it comes to SEO, I found that the testimonials which are not there is like absolutely no testimonial on the homepage. So the social proof factor, the credibility factors completely missing, which is not only bad for UX and conversions, it also bad for SEO, you know, people cannot find the kinds of phrases that they’re searching for. So you’re not getting indexed, there is a first thing and if at all, from the organic traffic, people come and land on your website, on your page, they don’t know if they should trust you. Or if you’re just saying words from your end, because there is absolutely no social proof.
Everything else is all the social proof is hidden in the service pages, like the one on one consultation page, and things like that. So social proof is missing. The second thing is the value prop statement, it says a truckers guide to thriving in the trucking industry. Nothing wrong with it. But I feel like when you’re reading it aloud, it kind of sounds repetitive. If I have to rephrase it to sound good. In the visitors mind, the truck drivers guide to thriving in the logistics industry or possibly sounds better to me because you’re referring to the industry as a whole to which trucks or truck drivers service. That is the first thing about the value prop and there is a subheading that says actionable insights to help you get your trucking career into high gear. And then there’s a CT game with social proof that says, join 100 plus 100,000 plus drivers, which is good.
But if it is followed by testimonials instead of the about section, then that would propel the conversion rate, you know, to a much higher rate. And after the section there is this about section which talks about you know, all truck driving career is challenging. And there are a lot of changes happening and etc, etc. But they’re not nailing down the exact problems, the exact challenges the truck drivers face. For example, if you actually sit down with a truck driver and ask them what are the challenges, they’re going to give you a completely different narrative. So that narrative is currently missing in the about section. So instead of having that about section itself, you know, let’s talk about the challenges, build a narrative and then branch it out into the services that you’re providing on the website, for example. consultation.
Erika Varangouli 9:29
Thank you very much. I see you already have tonnes of ideas that we can discuss as well as we progress. All right, who’s gonna go next?
sandra Tabansi 9:43
I think I can go next
Erika Varangouli 9:45
Onize Muhammed 9:48
Okay, all right. Um, the company that I was given, or the client is google branded.com. And Google branded is a research company that provides AI I quality insights to help business grow, businesses grow. So when I did my, I looked at the website, I saw a few things that I feel like cobranded is doing well, which is one, the homepage is clear and concise and the website design is really beautiful and attractive. And it also the website is also very mobile friendly. I didn’t have any problem navigating the mobile version, as I did with the laptop version, then I also the the website is also engaging, I would say the language used was really straightforward and easy to understand.
So I think that would help with UX, then, if you think that I think that we could improve on for granted is to make the website more informative. There wasn’t any blog post any explainers. Any about your section to kind of, you know, dig deep into understanding what insights the website tries to get from the users. So that’s one. The second one is the website could be more interactive with, you know, putting up a very obvious tickets survey button on the homepage. And it could also be personalised a little bits, that is information used to personalise the website experience could come as maybe a poll or a survey something just to get interaction from the people that are going through the website. So thank you, Sandra.
Erika Varangouli 11:58
Thank you very, very much. As the you already had a lot of notes there. Probably you have more to do. here who wants to go next?
Festus Eze 12:11 Let me go lists. My client is a TrainerRoad.com. Their road is a cycling application. So from their homepage, because he then more about the websites. That’s the official section about fishery, various publications. This we call this a customer that’s really this application is good, because they use section about particular 1000 reviews, and they have 4.9 5.0 this will really convince any customer that this product is good. They have a frequently asked section asked question section, then this we have to answer questions that a client would like to know about the homepage describes how the second application can help a cycler to improve and then it has a clear call to action then downloads, the offer a free trial for 30. This is the incentive to the homepage, then, where there are gaps website is offering localization in 13 different languages. What’s their localization is not well implemented. There is a nice job of English and other languages, it will be better if the translation is complete in other languages, and look at the scan and click on page SEO. Score CCNA for consultant port 1000 pages in the sitemap is only registered in the sitemap they can do better than the other by raising the score to like some system 89 or 9200. Then the other point is that okay? The internal linking is not very good. We have about 3% of current pages. And these pages are in the sitemap every page in the sitemap I suppose. But yeah, either in the main navigation in internal linking of HTML Sitemap, so they can improve on that. So that every page in the sitemap Thank you. You have a link they shouldn’t be offered.
Erika Varangouli 14:50 Thank you very much. I don’t know if I was the only one I think you were experiencing some connection issues as well. So part of what you were saying I wasn’t able to Get right. One thing I would say is, let’s use this to practice as well. So I’m Claude right now I’m not Erica. So talk to me as if I’m glad like, I saw your side, I found this, I like this, I found these issues. And remember to always get into it, because I think this can be good practice for all of us as we go. Okay, so I’m Claude. Now remember, I’m not Erica. But thank you, Francis, you raised a lot of SEO issues there. So I think it’s interesting that that you raise them, let’s progress to work on this as we go together every every week, um, who wants to go next?
Peris muthinja 15:41
I think I’ll go next. I’m working on eddie’s wheels, which is a mobility solution for disabled pets. One I like I like this site, I like the videos, especially the one that is the showing how you are how the staff meets cut, which is on the homepage, to elect the product page. They are well defined and have we use. Three also liked the detailing that the product, the ordering and pricing web page was very detailed, and they gave a very good process now a few things that I think we can improve. Um, I feel that the website is a bit cluttered. It has eight different web pages, it has eight different pages, I think we can consolidate them into five, where we where we have the home, the homepage, the product, then the ordering and pricing, and then the blog and the contacts, we will get them the news and the frequently asked questions, the news, and the gallery combined into a blog into the blog page.
I’ll also set up a blog page as a blog section. So that then we can update content like on the various conditions that cause the pets to have the mobility issues. And then I think I would also want to have maybe videos or podcasts within when interviewing expert views from maybe veterinarians or all people who have dealt or even do case studies for clients and how they’re able to, to, to use their mobility products for their for their for their pets.
Now for on the homepage, the slogan, we test our products on animals, it didn’t sit very well with me. The way it sounded to me is like the we use, we test how good our product is on the on the on the animals or the pets themselves. And I think, okay, to me, I didn’t I didn’t find it. Okay, I didn’t like it. So I’m still working on maybe what we can do, then. When the social media handles,
Erika Varangouli 18:27
thank you, Peris, I know, I can send you have tonnes more to say you’ve already raised some interesting points. And I appreciate that this is a very kind of specialised product as well. So thank you very, very much. I see you already have tonnes of ideas. Anyone wants to go next? I can go next. Go Ashleigh Oops. All right.
Ashleigh Ferguson 7 18:51
Great. So hi, cod. Thanks for reaching out to me. So there’s a bit of what I understand for a story hunter. I noticed that you mentioned that it’s a leading platform clinic to professional filmmakers with cranes. I think it’s the other way around collecting claims with toolmakers. And I think it’s a source of difference as a big difference. Because the landing page actually does focuses on the brands need much more than it focuses on the filmmakers or the creatives.
And I also think that that’s probably a lost opportunity where the landing page itself can be split into two so that the brands know where to go and the Freelancers know where to go. I think the Freelancer section is kind of tucked at the top and it’s kind of hard like navigating. Other than that the landing pages short is to the point the USP is very clear. And they’re also testimonials from big, big brands that add to the credibility. However, once again, since the focus is also on promoting talent, I think there should be somewhere on the page that’s dedicated to highlighting their talents, their portfolios, that also lead to the marketplace, but it’s sort of a teaser to the marketplace, whether that’s actually going there.
Also for a brand that focuses on the visual element of storytelling. I expected to see more of that element on the page. You know, for example, storyboards from the brands that they use. In terms of the actual content. There are case studies and their blog posts in the resource section, which is actually great. But also thinking that once again, that there needs to be some focus on the actual talents, and probably case studies, from the talents perspective, as well. Also, for the blog post the header with a blog with the blog categories, it’s kind of hard to see since it’s tucked at the top, I would have that more as a main focus on the page that people can actually navigate to the categories that they’re interested in.
And also, I think there is an opportunity for community to be developed since there’s an issue generating sales lead, the creative communities in my experience is very close knit. So I think that a curated community would entice persons to actually buy the service. And I also think that this could help with the issue you’re having of creating content, and you’d have access to subject matter experts. Also, I had to look for a YouTube page.
Erika Varangouli 21:01
For Your time is up, but you already raised so many things Thank you so much. Thank you. Anyone else?
Mae Josémaria O. 21:13
Yeah, I think I can go next go. Thank you for reaching out, I want to code u.com. That’s a web based local platform for project management. So similar quick search on your website, I saw that everything is pretty organised. And it says what you guys do right off the bat, and the industries and niches that you cater to. So it gives like the high level overview of what you do. And there is also there is also its links out to different different pages, they use cases to their use cases, which leads out to different pages. So it makes it easy for people to get to understand that. And I also liked that your content as well categorised by when you get to the use cases section, you can see this is the webinars section getting started and how to use Podio. And that’s about it just the thing that stood out to me most was your organisation and the ease of navigation.
But when I tried to locate been as your your, your tool is not something that everybody’s used to, when I tried to navigate to the blog section to learn more about what your to does, it’s pretty hard to locate. Instead, I found that it’s under Support. It’s not it’s not actually called a blog. I’m not sure why that is. It’s it’s under support. And the support gives you access to articles about Podio. That’s where you get the webinars and podcasts and how to get started using it.
So that’s something I think we need to work on. I also noticed that on that section, the Help section Yep. When you when you click the homepage and upload your logo yet, take it back to the homepage, maybe to some browse through the home page, it doesn’t, it doesn’t take you there, it’s kind of like isolates you. So you either have to log into Podio. Again, to go back to the home page, or you find somewhere else doing what it’s the health section practically isolates you from the actual page. Another thing that I found is the support articles that are there, they are really out of date. So my nine, nine years old, some are 12. Some are like four years old, and a good portion of them is cancelling.
And I also noticed that the use cases not even all use cases are the case studies that you guys featured, are featured. They are not really scannable and it has it’s kind of like a mix of text and videos which is which is absolutely bots. It’s it isn’t giving too much information for people like that, that preferred reading and scanning and watching long hours and features. And I feel up push to try and reach out to more recent clients to guess how they use your platform. And I know that
Erika Varangouli 24:42
time is up mae but you already mentioned a few things there that are big, they’re not small thing. So thank you very much looking forward to working with you. Anyone else?
Onize Muhammed 24:56
I’ll go next. Hi Erica. Hi, Claude. Hi, Erica.I’m Onize, i Your Brand stay for long is a hotel platform, hotel booking platform, I’ve checked it out the websites is good that that’s the homepage is good. And I like that you have a customer support page. But they it’s barebone. It’s very, they’re really not interactive and not going to show what you really do and how you stand out. Also, I noticed that there is no blog, I think that is why we are here. And then to be able to view the blog, we would have to start with customer research so that we can know the customer pain points, what I really like about the products, and generally they are pinpoint also tried to know your competitors, and what your best product is, then we can build a content strategy of that we would build a content strategy with content ideas, we topics around your pain points.
Also, we try to target the different funnel stages, which are the top middle and bottom of the funnel stages. But to start because you know as is, as you’re just starting, it might be difficult for you to start from the top of the funnel. In order like that, it might be difficult for you to stand out in SEO wise it might also I would advise that we start from the middle bottom of the funnel so that you can gain advantage SEO wise and also so that you can get content that you can target topics that will also bring in revenue, right. So that’s the overview
Erika Varangouli 27:20
good, thank you. Okay, thank you very much. Is it onize? Do you pronounce it on ONize? Yes. No, it’s perfect, great name. Have I missed anyone has everyone shared their feedback their initial feedback with me? Emmanuella I think if you’re talking we cannot hear you. And one of my lie we can give you a bit of time to log back in if you want are sort out the issues find the thing. We were only missing a Manuel Ah, now everyone else must have shared their insights. Right? Yeah. Emmanuella, I just feel free to jump in whenever you’ve sorted it out if you can manage to sorted out. So let me very quickly say something. So first of all, I just wrote on my hand with my pen.
Secondly, I I love that you all had and demonstrated some very different approaches, right. And so I could see overall trending either going very top level, or going too much into detail. My input on this is that if this is this is what we would call mainly like a discovery call, right? It would not be a two minute stand up with a client. But it would be like a discovery call, you’ve received an initial brief or a client has approached you or a company and they’re giving you like top level information. So then you kind of jump on a call with them to discuss some things after you look at their website. My experience is that at this point, you want to you want to stay top level, right?
You don’t necessarily want to go into details on your own. Unless you think you have something like really strong on hand, which you would understand by talking with them over time. I have one thing that I want to ask you all what is the one thing that everyone missed? So Emmanuella. I’m sorry, I’m spoiling it for you now. But what is the one thing that no one mentioned? Can you think about it?
Erika Varangouli 29:44
It’s absolutely fine. Emmanuella. Like we know how it is with networks. It’s fine. I think we can we can do your discovery call at the start of next week with the next assessment so you can do it together and your stand up and have a bit longer. Time, what is the one thing? Ah, okay. Emmanuella Do you want to go now for like two minutes? That’s fine. Before we find the answer, go, go go. I’m happy for you to go.
Emmanuella Ballidawa 30:16
Hi, Claude, can you hear me?
Erika Varangouli 30:18
Yes, I can.
Emmanuella Ballidawa 30:21
So thank you for the opportunity to have a look at your website, the speaker lab.com. The homepage is it’s a great homepage, which speaks to the target audience, that our speakers or aspiring speakers looking to get booked and get paid. And I think the homepage answers to the needs interests and pain points of your target audience. I also like the fact that your podcast is rare, it’s recent, it’s updated. And it’s also caused a lot of content from recent students of the speaker lab.
A few issues that I found with your website was much as you have a success stories page, you don’t have any social proof on your homepage, or any other page, you just have a whole page with success stories on their own, which when your target audience reaches your homepage, they wouldn’t know who you’ve helped, and what they’ve benefited from your programme. And so it’s possible that they might bounce off your website from that. Another thing was your blog.
Your blog was a bit dull, because it’s, it’s lacking a lot of visual content. And I also noticed an issue with I felt like you, you you stuffed the keywords within your h2 or the h2 have the title of the blog post in them, which I think I feel like is a little bit too much, and is not pleasing to the reader. That’s all I have for you right now. Claude, I look forward to working with you on this project. Thank you.
Erika Varangouli 32:24
Amazing spot on great stuff. Emanuella thank you so much. Um, so before we would all of us mean, let me just make a disclaimer that I want to make sure we’re all on board. I was super happy to see some posts on LinkedIn last week, like for the first course and tagging me and this is amazing. I know Chima and the FCC love that as well keep doing it. My ask is that if you want to share progress, what we do here every week, it’s up to you entirely. Please don’t share the the exact website you have been assigned.
Because these are from me. I don’t have like permission from anyone or I haven’t approached all of them to say I’m going to use your website for a course though. I don’t know just in any case, you can say like our client in this industry, or I was given a website, but please don’t disclose the exact website you will be working on just in case we cause any trouble. That was my only thing. So my question remains, what is the one thing that no one touched on? Can you think about it?
Chitra Iyer 33:45
Was it like our own in your like, like ourselves? Like why are we are introducing ourselves? I don’t know.
Erika Varangouli 33:57
No, let’s assume I’m Claude. So I approached you. Let’s assume someone introduced me to you or I found you on LinkedIn. I’m gonna I’m gonna spare the the agony. So no one has any questions. I think Roshni, I think you have your mic on and it creates a nightclub? I think it might be. So no one asked me any questions. So I’m Claude. This is our discovery call, right? granted a two minute call. But I saw some of you felt compelled to give me very detailed kind of ideas on what to fix or what is wrong on my website or my content, but no one asked me anything on remember last week was the main thing that I put at the end it’s like always ask questions only smart people ask questions.
So I this is a lesson I learned as well. While working in content Mark Getting when people come to you and they say we need a content strategy, we need to do this tell me what to fix, you feel there is a pressure to have all the answers. It’s the same for SEO, it’s the same throughout this whole industry. The only way to have the right solutions to come up with something that your client can implement, is to ask them questions and get to know them well. So in this scenario, for example, you know, Claude, gave you a very top level brief, your discovery call is where you need to ask them as many questions as you can about their business about what they want to achieve their goals, make them make it specific, ask them about why they’ve made choices. So for example, if you say, I noticed all these issues with your navigation or your internal linking, you are doing this wrong, or that is wrong.
It may be very well, fine. But before making an assumption that this is like something that can be fixed or should be fixed, you would be surprised how many times clients may already know that, there’s just a reason they cannot fix it, it might be the way the website is built, it might be their internal resources, it might be just something completely different. Or they may already have a specialist in house, who has, you know, done the research and decided that they have other priorities that will have bigger impact versus changing something.
The only way to know is to ask questions. So a simple tweak to some things would be when you note for and I think in this stage is especially when you decide to go into details, right to say something that is very specific, like a see those pages are not under that section, your links to the pages are not working or broken, your mobile site is terrible.
Return it with a questions like Is there a reason why this is the case? Why you’ve made that choice? Or do you have any kind of internal limitations for this? So my biggest input is ask questions, never fear to ask questions, if you don’t ask questions, I guarantee you, you will do a bad job. If it’s not a bad job, let’s put it the other way, you will not do your best job because you will not be able to understand and identify the things that your client will also be able to do and implement and bring the best results. So that was my main kind of observation. Also, I loved how, in many cases you started with, I like this and this and that on your website, it shows you know, you never know a client that will at the start. So it shows also that that you’re quite balanced. It’s like, okay, I look at something open minded. I like this things.
But these are where I see the improvements are things we can do, which is where you come in, this is why cloud needs if everything’s perfect, then they don’t really need anything. So having this balanced approach of a C, you’re doing this very well that very well. And then here’s where I could spot some initial opportunities for improvement, or things I wanted to ask you, because I can see the opportunity. But I want to know how you see it, or what’s holding you back is is a great approach. And then also use this opportunity discovery calls, right? This is like the first step in content marketing. And I’m, I’m actively trying to encourage every person I speak with or work with in content marketing.
There were many years of bad practice of like, and still people getting just a top level break from a client. Obviously, many need the work, though that just go in and do what the brief says, right? Take advantage of discovery calls, call on your clients to have even a quick call with you and use it to understand them and ask questions. Even if it’s a short call, like half an hour to go over the brief, don’t just take for granted what they ask of you. Right? Even if they’re absolutely right, like they have a stellar SEO team or even internal content marketing support, and they need someone to do content. What will help you build your authority and understand the business better is to ask questions and then have insights not just implement what someone else asks you to do, but add your own input. So that’s about it. I loved that you didn’t just stick to content. And this is also an important thing for us in content marketing, right.
It’s like when you’re looking at someone’s website to assess what they can do. Naturally nowadays, you will not just think of content, you will think of UX the user experience, right? You will think of how things function in terms of SEO, are they optimised? Right? You will think of other places where that brand or company is active and are mentioned on. So I love that, that there were many approaches like that. My advice would also be to be very cautious. At this level with the advice you give them, you don’t know the business on Well, you haven’t done an extensive analysis. And also, many things are down to very, very scientific kinds of approaches and methodologies. So for example, when you’re saying, I didn’t find it easy to find that section, that’s perfect. If you say, I think you should change this and put that in the navigation, you should have this you shouldn’t have that.
You’re treading on some risky areas, because for example, a B testing is one way to know for sure, maybe they’ve already done it. And it showed that this is the best way to do it. Maybe they haven’t. But my alarm for cautious for being cautious is when we’re it is our job as content marketers to fit into that we’re the voice of of the user, essentially, right. And that is just not just the words on the page. But when we’re talking about solutions, we need to have much better insights from the client. And we also need to be experts or get an expert opinion and just say, you know, I didn’t find it intuitive. Maybe Have you considered conversion rate optimization? Or have you tried it?
Have you tested something? And what were your findings, and that can lead you down a different path. We’re not expected to be experts in everything. I’m not an expert on the CRO right. I know when I needed. I know how to read the results. I know maybe how to set up an experiment. But I’m not a CRO expert, I always ask for someone’s help on this thing. So you’re not supposed to know everything. Don’t let anyone treat you like you know, everything. It’s it’s a disaster.
So these are my top kind of comments and insights, I found it really really insightful to hear you all talk about your first experience on the website. So with 15 minutes remaining, and I wanted to start tackling the the first stage of content marketing, right, which is when we’re starting to analyse the landscape, I am not confident we’re going to finish everything in one session. So I have split it, I have a full deck, but we can stop where we reached this week and finish it off next week with the assignment. Okay, so let’s let me just get going. Please interrupt me for questions from Erica, you’re speaking too fast, we cannot understand too. What is this? What is this mean? Okay, please stop me, because I cannot see my screen when I’m sharing my screen as well. So, um, let me share my share. Okay, share? And can you all see my screen now?
Yes, yes, we can. Okay, so let’s start. When you get a client, or you work for a company, you start your job at a company as content marketer. And you’re told, you know, through content, we just want to grow the business or whatever, increase the leads, or whatever, what is the first thing we do is like, we need to understand the landscape, right? No website exists in isolation. No business exists in isolation. So we need to start mapping the world around it, to understand what we should be doing more or less off. And what is important to do. So this is a million dollar question. There’s tonnes of things I’m trying to keep, I will try to keep all the sessions to the,
Erika Varangouli 44:12
to the absolute essential things away, I see it and then we can expand from that. So three things I think you always need to get a good grasp on. One is what are the market trends on shifts? Two is your competitors, right, your competitive analysis? And three is your audience. Those three things, what does the market and the industry look like? What do your competitors look like?
And what does your audience look like already give you a great advantage over 90% of businesses out there. So these are the three steps that we’re goin to cover in this section. So first market trends. Please Can someone confirm that you also will have access to SEMrush you’ve been given free access to SEMRush.
Chitra Iyer 45:07
It’s not to SEMrush it’s to SE Ranking
Erika Varangouli 45:12
SE ranking. Okay, I haven’t used it in a bit. But I had also requested that we give you all Pro accounts for three months. Let me investigate that. So, go. I’ll check with Chima if this was the case, because I think we should have given you all like three months to to use during this. I haven’t used SEO ranking. I don’t have access to it. But I’ll figure out a way to sort it out as well. So okay, good to know, I thought you’re already in it. Right? Let’s understand to the extent that it’s possible. I don’t want this session to turn into like, I told you from the start, like how here’s summers, like there’s so many great tools out there. So I’m approaching it in a way of like, the theory behind it, how you can do it like if months from now you’re a freelancer and you cannot pay for any tools?
How can you do this manually? Then offering some insights into workflows or other tools, which you can use, right? So please don’t see it as like, Oh, if I don’t have SEMrush, I cannot do anything. I want you to have SEMrush? Because it is it involves a lot of what we’re going to talk about it has solutions for it. But I’ve also ways to do it manually. And someone is someone trying to say something sorry. No, oh, sorry. Okay, so someone must have left their mic on. So that’s fine. So market trends on your, you study your client site. If you need to identify, right, okay, let’s say someone is widely again, say, okay, they’re in the SAS industry, or they’re in technology, they’re in comms. They’re in athletics, whatever.
But that is very wide. So start by studying your client side write? How do they describe their business, and then aim to describe it in three to four words. So for example, if you go to SEMrush, let’s I’m using SEMrush as like an example of a business because I work there. And you look at their homepage, you will find that they talk about like online visibility software, SEO and content marketing platform. So as you navigate through their homepage, and like product pages, you see the things they talk about, try to distil that into one short description of what they do. So if I had to do it in three words, for SEMrush, I’ll say online marketing software, right.
And then it has way more extensions, but it’s good to put it down to pin it down into three to four words. And then you have to look, I would look at the main products or services they offer. And you can pick I would pick max for to begin with, like, especially if you work on a large websites with tonnes of products or very different solutions. You need to understand, even from their website, where is the main business coming from? Right? What are the most important products or services for them? There are hints about that right? What do they talk the most about on their homepage? What do they have on their navigation at the top versus towards the bottom? What do they talk about the most in their FAQs, or customer success stories or everything else?
So even if they have a lot of products, by looking at the hierarchy in the navigation, you can pick the top ones, I’m putting four because I’m not taking into account, let’s say okay, if Amazon is your client, alright, but for everyone else, you can pick maximum four, to just get started about their top products and services, the most important for them. And then you need to look at what problems they’re solving. Right? Again, look for hints in their content on their homepage. Some companies are very bad at talking about this, because they are very enclosed in what they offer. So the way they talk about their solutions, is we have this amazing product this is doing this great. You have to reverse that and think like the audience, why would I pick that?
What problem would I be solving, right? And then you have to identify those main pain points. So if you go to SEMrush again, like as a website, let me just show you because it’s faster to show you that so let me log out. So if I’m here, I’m not logged in. So I find Samaras you know online marketing all of that we’ve talked about. Then I scroll down and I see okay, SEO grow organic traffic. This is a pain point someone has that They want to grow their organic traffic.
That’s why the tools I’m offering may help them content marketing create content that ranks so you can identify by going into those pages like you can go into feature pages and then SEO, for example, keyword research, boost your traffic and conquer SERPs with SEMrush. Seo. So it’s again about traffic and ranking well. So identify those main pain points that your client is solving. And then use the phrases write them down on a spreadsheet on a document, use them to search a search on Google, right? See what Google results what results Google returns.
When you search for the terms or key terms, or keywords you’ve written down. At this point, you haven’t used any tools remember that like, it’s something that you can always do, even if you have access to no tools? So what do they return for that? What did they say? What did they return if you search for like SEO tools, online marketing tools, or I don’t know, type mobility, I think wasn’t who has pet mobility devices or cheap long stays at hotels, see what comes back, but don’t just see the websites pay attention. Google nowadays gives you tonnes of of information around what people want to find, right, what the what the market is relevant to.
They have people also ask questions, they have relevant terms you can look for, they have the tags at the top with like images, news about it, you know, local market. So there’s tonnes of experiences from people. So discover news content. And then there are some modifications, you can you can search with, for example, the term you’re using plus press release, or industry, let’s say SEO plus trends, or SEO plus report, or trends report. So depending on the industry can vary widely, but use Google search and diversify it so you understand what people are looking for what the industry is talking about, but also where it’s heading. Then check on social media with those terms, like what comes up on YouTube or Instagram or Tiktok, you may get an idea from your client, like which social media they’re active on. Sometimes they’re terrible at that they just go for the main social media because they think everyone should do it.
Or they’re not active at all. So go on those social media platforms and search with those terms. And use places where people genuinely go to ask questions. So go to Cora, go to Reddit, and find what relevant topics people talk about what other struggles, what kind of solutions other people offer. And last I thought substack substack is a great place to search for any relevant newsletters. So you can see what kind of content is not visible online. But it’s being created by creators in this industry, and shared with clients or potential clients.
All of that, and given you a great idea of what the market looks like, what the trends and just looked like you already start to see some players in the market. But I haven’t gotten into that yet. It’s just to get a feel for what the industry looks like where people are active on where brands are active on and what topics they talk about. Put your clients website on the Wayback Machine. Have you used it? Do you know it?
Roshni Shaikh 53:54
Yes, yeah. So it just takes you to like whenever it is recorded, the first versions of a website is going to be shown to you.
Erika Varangouli 54:04
So let me show you very Can you see my screen steal? Yeah, yeah. Okay. So, for example, some this is the Internet Archive, right. So it can show you versions, not just of a website, any page from a website as well, theoretically, or most of them as long as it’s called them. But if I put for example, semrush.com here, you can see that it started like getting snippets off the website, the homepage here from 20.
Erika Varangouli 54:36
Oh, oh, I think you’re not sharing the entire screen and the to see the website that you don’t.
Erika Varangouli 54:43
Okay. Yeah, cool. So you will see that you put here the website or a specific page later on if you want to see how a page has changed over time, and it shows you how much like it has kept snippets it takes snippets of that page. So for example, over this, I wanted to check. Okay, how did we talk about sem rush back in 2010. So you can click up here. And then here you can see any dates that are highlighted in a circle, you can pick, that’s the time that they took this snapshot. And if you click on it, hopefully soon, sometimes it was slow, but it’s fine. You will see that page as it was at that specific date. That was terrible.
But like I can see now we’re talking about online visibility management back then we were talking about advanced keywords and competitors research tool, right? So much more limited. And you can do the same for like big brands in that space or websites that have already come up and see how do they talk about it over the years they’re offering? How has the market shifted over time? Right? So I would suggest you use it, it’s good. And then last, ask your client, ask your client about what the market the industry looks like. What are the challenges? What are the trends? What are the shifts? What is the future like?
What do they foresee as the future trends and they’re trying to build a business around it as I’m assuming, because otherwise, they will be out of business in a few years. So your client is a great source of information about this. I want to stop here. Next time, we’re going to talk about stop sharing. Competitive analysis. This is a huge part of this stage. And this is where you’re going to have your first like assignment with a document to be submitted. But for today, what I wanted us to summarise right, discovery of a client is not just a brief brief sometimes tend to be terrible, like the ones I purposely shared with you. Ask questions.
Cullen collect as much info as you can share that be bold in those calls, right? Highlight the good things. But don’t be afraid to say that there are gaps and already highlight opportunities you’ve seen, but ask questions to understand which ones is worth pursuing. And then where you start, before focusing too much on your client and its competitors or their competitors understand the market. Unless you understand this is one of the main friction points between why companies do not hire freelancers, and they prefer to employ in house right. Understanding.
Peris, how long have you been away for? So it is it is a common friction that companies choose to hire in house, although it may be more expensive, because then they feel and they know that an in house person will get to understand their business and the industry better. It is the number one reason why Freelancer may struggle to get to work with so it’s not that they’re worse writer than someone else or a strategist, it’s the business things that they cannot understand the industry and the business as well as someone in house. That’s why it’s so important to ask questions, and to understand the industry before you do anything for your home. Any thoughts or questions? After today?
sandra Tabansi 58:36
Since Erica, can you share your slides? with us
Erika Varangouli 58:39
yes, I can. I will. I will split them. So you don’t have the next one the next week funds but yeah, I can definitely share I’ll put them in the folder with the with the recordings of the lessons as well as last week’s as well.
Roshni Shaikh 58:55
Question? Yeah, yeah. So how much time should you ideally spend understanding the industry because it’s, we’re in the initial phases and just a discovery call. You know, in case you don’t have the client, it’s like too much work. Understand that, you know, I mostly work with SAAS clients and to not deviate. Because I understand the SAAS and so many other ecommerce companies, right. So, how much time is too much? In the initial phases to understand the industry? For example, the assignment that I was given it was about the trucking industry, and I have no idea what CDL is and things like that. So
Erika Varangouli 59:35
yeah. So that is a great question running. So there is no one answer. That is right. You know, I cannot tell you one hour or 10 hours, right, I worked at agencies and the biggest like money bleed for agencies is also like pitching for new clients where they have to do all of that even to get in front of them, and sort of have a chance during the business. What I would suggest is Depending on how experienced you are, I think you can spend an hour and get a good feel for an industry, right, you will not be an expert, you will not know the business. But by searching with some of these ways online, on social on Google on forums, I think you, you start to get an idea.
You already have seen some websites appearing in search. So you can look about what they’re talking about as well, right. But also what else is happening? That can vary massively though, like, as you say, SAAS, if you have worked with clients in one industry for a long time, maybe at that point, you want to go deeper into the specific client. And you don’t need to understand the market that well. Or if you’re not so experienced, and it’s a very technical, let’s say, field, you may need more, this is fine. This is up to here. My experience is like an hour is good to get an idea. Maybe you want to invest more, it depends. Do you see a big opportunity, there’s a client that takes you a lot of money, or become an ongoing and retain client right or not. Ask questions in advance about their budget. Like before you do all this work.
Ask them like what is your plan here? So you want to work with three? In this case, we know three months 15k? If no one says to you and say I’m interested in working with you, can you look into this a Okay, what did you have in mind project retainer? What budget are we talking about? That can lead you to assess better for your business? Whether to look one hour or 10 hours before this whole? Thank you.
Chitra Iyer 1:01:44
Yeah. Hi, Erica. Hi, I have a quick question. So I have also faced a similar challenge, finding that sweet spot between how much to say in the discovery call. And I’ve, you know, setting expectations with the client, that discovery call is about me asking questions and not telling you anything at this stage, because a lot of clients expect that on the first call. They get pretty pissed off sometimes if you haven’t done your research. And I’m not making some strong statements already in that discovery call, you know, so how do you, you know, what’s your recommendation to handle? Should we send things in advance over email that these are some of the things I’ve found? And I’d like to talk about them on the Discovery call? Or like how do you find that sweet spot? Yeah.
Erika Varangouli 1:02:28
Oh, so great question. The answer is I don’t I usually am myself. And some people like it, some don’t. That goes for everyone. For every business, every business model, you’ll have to accept that you will not match with everyone and balancing obviously, like your work and your income, with your your psychological balance, and also getting a reputation that is good for you. Right? Oh, getting repeated. Work is hard. So I think what I said is kind of a guidance is like, you do need to come in prepared, right? Asking questions, is not going that call and just ask questions to get to know them. Although by setting up a call for discovery, you can say that, usually before I do anything, I would like to learn more about you.
So I would like to set up a quick discovery call to ask you questions, to ask the right questions, you already must check some things on the website, right? So otherwise, you will know you will not ask the right questions. Going into that call, then you can ask a question, set the expectations, even with the agenda, like this is a discovery call. I want to ask you things about your business, your business, model your goals, put that in the agenda. And then on that call, after you have that kind of conversation back and forth, you can say okay, I have taken a look at your website, what you’re telling me now may change some things.
But here’s what my initial thinking is based on what I found and what you’re telling me now. You will find customers as you say to try I know I’ve encountered them as well in the past where and this is usually an indication either of the business, they’ll be very mature, or you know, small businesses they need just to they hit the ground running and get things done right. Or there’s no maturity around SEO and content knowledge. So it’s kind of like okay, this is what I need, I want you to do it for me or you tell me what to do, you should know because you’re an expert. It is part of you educating them as well.
You need to be educating them that unless you know this unless you understand this, you will not do a good job. And this is also maybe a difference between between just doing content writing or copywriting and doing content marketing content. A copywriter or a writer shall expect the brief the strategy has been done elsewhere, they pretty much need the brief. And that’s it, they can go ahead and write something, they still need to ask questions, in my opinion, and the good ones do.
But to do content marketing, you are a strategist, you are someone who needs to be involved in that kind of knowledge around the business, otherwise, you cannot do a good job. So I think she’s right, we all need to have a bit more courage to stand, or what is right. Some of them may not tolerate or like it, I think those are the cases where you would end up probably not working out anyway at some point, right?
Because if they want to just tell you what to do, or you tell them what to do, so it works, but you don’t have the right info, you will either not do a good job, or you will do your best. Still, maybe they’re not happy with their results, because there are there are parts of the picture missing. So then a bit down the line. They’re like we’re doing all of this, we’re not seeing the results we wanted. So you’re not doing a good job. So no, I think you need to be insist on things.
Chitra Iyer 1:06:09
Yeah, yeah, totally agree. And I think when they want you to jump straight into tactics, content tactics without discussing the context and agreeing what needs to be the foundation, that’s always a red flag.
Erika Varangouli 1:06:21
It is unlike Okay, content tactics, maybe, you know, some people think, okay, content strategy are they’re going to charge us for so long to do nothing. Okay. There is an educate as professionals, it is our job to also educate our clients. Right? It is it is part of what we do it’s not just deliver a strategy. But content tactics are still dependent on what are the resources? What are the limitations on the website? What exactly are their goals? Do they want to engage? Do they want to convert?
Do they want leads? Do they want to rank? What is important for them? What are their business plans? Like now maybe they have this illusion, but they’re building another one that they have to prepare for? All of those things you need to know. Otherwise, you cannot do even tactics?
Erika Varangouli 1:07:14
Anything? No worries.
Speaker 4 1:07:17
Oh, Erica, one last question. Sorry. So I will be speaking about podcast SEO you the coming week with Captivate FM. Do you have any tips for me or any resources, especially related to podcast SEO, versus other kinds of organic SEO?
Erika Varangouli 1:07:37
Do you want to email me, Roshni about that? And I can have a look like I could not think off the top of my head. But I’m sure I’ll I’ll do. Yes, thank you. Thank you. All right. Anything else?
Onize Muhammed 1:07:50
I’m sorry. I had a question. Concerning budgets. You spoke about trying to walk with me, whichever company with the specific budgets that the for asking them about their budget? So is there like a ballpark for? You know, a kind of budget budget? I would say like budgets limits for content marketing, taking off, like the content marketing for a, let’s say small business.
Erika Varangouli 1:08:31
Do you know not that I could share? And, and sort of be valuable or truthful? You see the whole range? Sandra, you see like, if you I’ll share the slides, and you can check the even the report we did this year about content marketing and the budgets that companies have or content marketers have to spend. You get anything from a few $100 per month to 1000s or 10s of 1000s per month, right? It depends on many things. I think this is why you need to be asking, number one, you need to be asking to get an idea if someone comes to you and says Well, I have $200 per month sorry but my assessment is like for that money you need to give a writer something to write and just one thing and that’s it like you’re not talking about content marketing or anything else you’re talking about an article or two or something on the opposite side, as a professional, you need to know how you price your time.
Right? So if I come to you and say okay, Sandra I have $300 And for you $300 Is what you budget for two hours of your work you you charge $150 per hour. Then you need to tell me okay cool for that budget. All I can do is two hours consultation per month or I can do an article for you but If you need to give me the brief and the topic, so it goes both way the client needs to know what budget they can allocate. You need to know that in order to understand based on your time and your cost, what you can deliver within that time or to say, Okay, I want to work with that client, because they’re a big name where I want to build my portfolio.
So I’m going to charge less, but still, you need to have some sort of assessment of how much do you price your hour or your time on it, right? Otherwise, you may end up working endless hours for for a price that may not be actually doing, like maybe taking away all your time to get other clients to do work for. So so both of them need to be defined. But as far as I know, and I understand the industry, it’s it’s wild differences. Thank you. No worries.
Onize Muhammed 1:10:59
Thank you. Very, you if you’re hired, as a content marketer, are you expected to give like a broad opinion on the websites UX, the copyright, the copy of the website, and everything generally on the website? Or you will just expect it to limit yourself to your area of expertise probably is the blog, or the SEO blogging site?
Erika Varangouli 1:11:29
Look, this is what I said on these at the start as well, like be very cautious when branching out with advice on things you’re not an expert on. Right. I everyone should do that not just content marketing. It’s a good question. Again, you’re asking me about how other people see us as professionals, I revert that question back to each one of you. What do you think is your role? And who are you doing this? Like, I can tell you that like maybe nine out of 10 businesses, or clients you will get are not mature enough in their business model? Or in like, their understanding of what it is. So for them content marketing, content, content writing are synonymous.
Right? So you need to assess, okay, is that person coming to me, and if they’re treating if they come to you to write something that they brief you about? Okay, you can act more as a writer at that point than a content marketer, right? And I would suggest that you consider these for pricing as well, right? When you’re asked to do strategy is a different level of expertise and work that goes into then writing something, so maybe you want to price it differently, and how what you deliver within those projects is different. But on the other hand, if you asked me, from my point of view, who do I find valuable, someone that I just go to give them a brief and just give something back to me that may be good or maybe perfect?
Or some of that I give this to? And they tell me Okay, look, this is what I did. But I also noticed X, Y and Z or I want to ask you this, because if your answer, there is this one, then we can do the other thing that’s going to work better. So if you ask me, I need both, probably. But the one I value the most is the second one, because then I know I have someone I can trust to take some work off my shoulders, right? Someone who has the right ideas, let’s assume they have good ideas, and they back them up with with logic and data.
And I don’t have to do it, or I don’t have to have all the answers because they’re experts and they can do it. So it’s absolutely fine. To act as a writer, when you’re approached to just do writing. You don’t have to do content marketing, someone’s only paying you to write, but what your role is as a content marketer, doesn’t for me doesn’t depend on what the other people think it’s what we do as an industry and professionals.
Erika Varangouli 1:14:10
Thank you. All right, class. It’s been amazing. I have to go pack because I’m going to Brighton in an hour and I haven’t even done my suitcase yet. But look, we’ll continue next week and at the end of next session. We will have the assignment for the week after Okay. All right. Thank you so much. Thank you. Have a good rest of everybody. Goodbye.
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