One of the considerations we made during the production of Agency Course was to make sure our lessons provided value to business owners across several markets. While my experience is primarily in the US market, these courses have reached students all over the world.
Because many of those who sign up for Agency Course have graduated from my PPC and Analytics courses, we baked as many international perspectives as we could into the Agency program. And I’m proud to say that we have made an impact on businesses in 10+ countries so far.
You might read that number, 10 countries, and think – “who cares?” or you may think “wow, that’s a lot” or you may think “meh, that’s hardly anything.”
All of those are valid responses, and that number only becomes useful with context.
Guy walks into an all-night party in Tallinn
Last month I was in Tallinn, Estonia for the Digital Elite Camp conference. It’s an absolutely wonderful place, especially the medieval old town that is also a UNESCO World Heritage site.
After the conference was completed, an extended happy hour took place outside of the conference venue. It was near the solstice in Estonia, which meant it never really got dark outside. I just stood there, soaking it all in. That is, until a steady stream of students came by to thank me for my courses.
It was surreal. Meeting people from several nationalities, ages and skill levels. All of them thanking me for creating these courses. If you want to hear the lessons I learned from these interactions, check out Episode 53 of my podcast. I think you’ll really enjoy it.
While I enjoyed many of my interactions in Tallinn (and even met Agency Course owner named Andres in person), my favorite conversation was with Edin and Emir from Objeqt, an agency that is working on building up their own brand and client base. How were they approaching things? As they put it, by hustling to get noticed.
Hustling your way to glory
Edin told me a story about how one of the posts he published went “viral” earlier this year and the steps he took to ensure that it would happen. It was a compelling story that I thought would be particularly interesting for all of you aspiring agency owners out there.
So I asked Edin to write up his version of the events, and the rest of this post is from Edin’s perspective. Take it away, Edin!
Imagine if you will a start up agency, trying to make it in the world of digital marketing. They are fresh, optimistic, have a lot of ideas, some writing skills (by no means exceptional) and a lot of good will. They (and at this point I ain’t fooling no one – we) decided the best way to success is content marketing.
In our particular line of work – conversion rate optimization (colloquially known as CRO), some topics tend to be almost stock to every agency website out there. Those are topics related to anything Google Analytics and A/B testing methods and tools. As a matter of fact we’ve found out many non-practitioners are actually better at writing about it than the actual practitioners. Being aware that there is reason for this, we built up a few of our own articles on that subject and put them online.
This first article and a following few were directly related to the ecommerce websites, an audience we aimed to be our target… well, audience. We placed them on Twitter and other social networks and through our friends and acquaintances. The results were modest, as you can see:
The main point of our tale starts in February 2017. This is when we got access to Google Optimize, a brand new Google testing tool. While it had been in open beta for a few months by that time, not too many people had tried it. The topic was not revolutionary, but it was news. So we went and wrote an article about it.
And we put it online:
We published a first look at Google Optimize, and since we liked the article a lot (not just because it was ours, though that helped too), we decided to try and get people more interested in it.
In the second week of February, we began our small email marketing campaign, with a goal to get at least a few people we knew were famous in the digital marketing world to look into this post. We made an inventory who we knew and could send an email with at least some chances it would be opened and read. Among the people we sent an email to was Jeff Sauer, Peep Laja and Talia Wolf.
In the email we asked them to check the article out, give us their opinion about it and share it if they felt comfortable to. The mails went out and we crossed our fingers waiting. As is the case with every new website owner, we monitored our Google Analytics account virtually 24/7.
The dream of everybody is to have a post go viral on social networks and on rare occasions when stars align this dream comes through. And the funny thing about it is that you rarely realize it is actually happening. The event, just like the tsunami, takes you entirely by surprise.
The post was shared by many CRO authorities on Twitter, Google Analytics shared it as well. It reached a whole new level when Rand Fishkin(one of our marketing heroes) shared it and the post was included in the Moz Top 10 newsletter.
Of course, thanks to Google Analytics we can measure the impact on our site.
All of a sudden our visits spiked. From barely 40 to 50 unique views a day, our site was receiving 500 people a day. The last two weeks of February had a total of 2.5k unique visits.
What is more important is that 43 people contacted us asking about the services. That’s a wonderful position for our small agency to be in. We also captured 107 new email addresses! These came in the form of email course subscriptions and content upgrades.
So what did we learn from this post and all that happened around it?
- Influencer marketing is a thing! If you take your time to contact people and write a personal email, they will most likely respond. The main message is don’t overdo it. We try to save this technique for our most relevant posts.
- You need to have good content for this to work. The content we posted was timely and it was interesting to read with valuable information. This was probably the primary reason why people helped us promote it. I wouldn’t expect they would put their name behind mediocre or low quality content. So, before you rush to contact anyone make sure you have something valuable to offer.
In effect, this post put our website on the map. We rode the wave after that by publishing more articles of similar quality.
All this being said, we still have a lot of work to reach our goals. We have, by no means, “made it.” Not from just one post, anyway. But when you achieve success once – it makes it easier the next time.
But one viral post is not a long term strategy. You need to continue publishing and drawing your attention to yourself and your content. To really make it, you need to be consistent both in quality and frequency of posting.
Follow through with this and you will notice that influential followers will take their time to check up on you. Often they will share your new content of their own initiative, without any ‘hustling’ from you. And, having already established initial contact, it will be much easier to do it again.
There is no magic bullet for success and no secret ingredient that will do it for you. Influencer marketing is another technique that will only work if you do your homework. And even then… What happened to us may well have been a unique combination of events (remember the aligned planets) and brought in a happy result. We got lucky, because it could have fallen on deaf ears. You won’t know unless you try.
So we continue writing and share our content on Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Plus, Facebook and everywhere else. And with each new post we make, we secretly hope for another tidal wave of a viral hit that will flood our site with thousands of visitors. We urge you to do that too. Not only will you provide unique and usable content, but you will learn a lot doing it.
Happy writing and be excellent!
– Edin Sabanovic
Back to Jeff.
Thanks Edin! It was great getting to know you in Estonia. And this post is super helpful as well.
Objeqt’s story reminds me a lot of how I put Jeffalytics on the map in 2013. It started with my Google+ case study reaching 40k+ people and then the Periodic table of Google Analytics a month later drawing in 40k+ visitors as well.
It is absolutely possible to use content marketing to make visitors come in droves, and for those visitors to become legitimate business leads.
What’s holding you back? Here are some excuses why you wouldn’t want to make this much effort:
- You think you are not a good writer – Edin is not a native English speaker. He wrote his successful post from his home country of Bosnia and worked with an editor to clean things up for publishing. He targeted an international audience of influencers and had great success with that approach.
- Write about what you know + what is new – Objeqt had minimal success in their posts about “common” topics. It took a combination of a fresh perspective + new technology to trigger things. Only the truly unique stories have this viral opportunity.
- Content marketing is a 10x strategy – There are many things you can do in your business to build demand. Many of them involve 1 on 1 communications, small groups, etc. These are vital for businesses to grow, but can be a grind. Content marketing, when done effectively, can give you 10x the results in the same amount of time. Think about that for a minute.
Hope you like this case study. Let me know if you want to see more of these in the comments!