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AO: What was one unconventional growth tactic that you ran that did support surprisingly well?
Eli Schwartz: So, I feel like this is unconventional, but it really shouldn’t be considered unconventional. It’s what I call product led SEO. It’s the idea of focusing on what the product is, building an amazing product and doing SEO around the product. The reason why it’s unconventional is because the way most people do things around SEO is what I would consider to be content marketing, which is they go into a keyword research tool like Ahrefs or SEMrush or Google Keyword Planner.
They research some keywords. They come up with some content, they write content around it. They build some links to it and then they wait for it to rise in rankings. I’m doing the complete opposite. I’m building something that’s really useful for users. They’re going to love it when they find it. I’m not focusing on keywords, but I’m building tens of thousands of pages around that product. They all rank and they all drive traffic and they create a great user experience. When the competitors notice, there’s a huge moat because you now have all of these pages indexed and it’s all growing and all driving tons of traffic.
AO: Tell us like any quantitative results that you’ve seen versus a traditional strategy.
Eli Schwartz: I just got a client that I worked with early last year that allowed me to write a case study around them. So, I can talk about specific examples. The company name is Drops, so they were voted to be Google Plays number one app of 2018. And what they are is a visual language learning tool. So, you go into the app, and it’s a premium model, where you play around with learning words. The reason it’s called Drops is you drop a word down, you learn something else about a word.
The app was hugely successful. They wanted to build a website to help people learn languages. That they could use to drive app downloads where they make most of their money. So, it’s a huge language database that has about 30 different languages, no website, the website was just a marketing page built around the app. So, we built out a product around the words, which if you think about that, we’re competing with Google translate. We’re competing with like dictionaries that have been around forever, by creating a great product experience and figuring out what it is that people might want in a language.
Here are the numbers around that. We launched that product in late June, and between late June and the end of last year, they generated 81.2 million impressions on Google, 860,000 clicks, and keep in mind that they started at zero. So, if you think about that from a content marketing standpoint to get to numbers like that would be absolutely impossible. You’d have to find the most popular search item, write content around it, build links to it. And then wait two years for it to rank. Here, we launched thousands of pages and we’re getting results like that.
And, of course like organic is their only way of driving any acquisition for their business. So, their business has really taken off as a result of that.
AO: Man. That’s exciting. That is so quick. We just don’t see that with SEO from our experience. That’s amazing. So, how can we apply this ourselves if we’re starting out in this similar situation?
Eli Schwartz: So, in any company I’m working with, in my role as a product consultant, I help companies build out strategies around building a product for acquiring organic users. I like to think about what is the organic way that users might want to discover them and how are they going to interact with the product? And by the way, I’m not inventing this at all. This is like TripAdvisor, they didn’t set out to say, let’s create a blog and review the most popular hotels in the world. They would have reviewed, like Boulder from New York, I don’t know the Ritz in London, and then would have created content around that. But instead, TripAdvisor was like, okay, let’s review every single hotel in the world and what’s the template we need and how would we structure such a website?
As a result, they’ve built a moat, and the competitors are still clawing at their ankles, but they’re never going to catch them because they have years and years of doing this. Once they were done doing that, more hotels were added to the platform as more hotels grew in the world. And then they can multiply by every language. So, like really around the product. And they’re not saying like, Oh, how do we build great content for again, the Waldorf in New York? Or how do we build great links for the Waldorf in New York? It’s really the product. Amazon’s the exact same thing. Amazon didn’t set out to say, in the early in the days when it was just books, like what’s the most popular book and how do we build a page for that book?
Amazon said, we want books, all books. We’re going to create a great user experience and eCommerce experience. It didn’t exist. So from there, they multiply that into, I think the next category was clothing and then electronics, and look at what Amazon is today from an SEO standpoint. Everyone has tried to knock Amazon off of SEO, but that’s like a self fulfilling cycle. You go to Google to find Amazon and even Google with Google shopping, can’t beat Amazon. So, what they have done, what TripAdvisor has done, and many other sites. Zillow is another great example. There was no search volume around my home, my address, but Zillow said, well, we’re going to put every address on the web and then we’re going to build pages around it. And they’re all going to rank. We’re not going to, just try to rank for, I don’t know, Bill Gates house from our executive Brooke’s house, they’re going to rank everyone’s house. So that’s what I like to consider product blend SEO. And that’s what people should be thinking about. It’s like, what’s the product we built that people would want to find us and search and potentially convert, instead of what’s the word, what’s the blog post,
JS: Actually, that’s what I was going to ask if, if I’m sitting there and I’m trying to figure out what that product is, what process do you recommend that we follow, as product leaders out there, to determine a) what is that product that we should build that essentially exists in parallel to our core product and b) how far do we go down that road of building out that product when we have, let’s say a core product to support?
Eli Schwartz: So, the first thing is really, instead of thinking outside the box, just kick the box over, just blow up the whole box. If you’re thinking inside the box, once you’re doing keyword research, everyone is doing keyword research. There’s no competitive advantage. You can create a site and in any single category, come up with an idea, look at what the competitors are ranking on, build the exact same content. I like to go where there’s no keyword research. It does not exist. Like when Zillow did what they did, there was no keyword research that they can say how much search volume is around Eli’s house, Adam’s house. Like, it doesn’t exist. Right.
So, when they’re doing and you’re doing something like that, you want to go, I know that there is search volume here. I think there’s product market fit. It helps to validate that, before you go spend a ton of money on it. But like, I’m going to build something. And as a result, I’m going to create my search volume around it. And then there will be search find, like early on. This is probably like eight years ago. I worked at Zapier. What they’ve done is they’ve created combinations between things that shouldn’t necessarily be combined like Salesforce and Gmail.
So before Zapier made a combination between Salesforce and Gmail, it didn’t exist if you searched for it, like how do I combine Salesforce and Gmail, no results, but then Zapier does it. And now you find Zapier and you find other people imitating Zapier and there is search volume. So, when you’re thinking about creating a strategy, you’re really thinking like, what is it that people would want? Like, what are they looking for on search? Like how could we help them? What could we provide them with? And then how do we scale a product around it, completely user centric and product centric.
So, it’s hard to be specific with that answer without having a business to drive, to dive into, but absolutely blow up the box. Don’t think inside the box at all. Like there’s so much out there that. Let’s dig into an example, we’re working with a client in the healthcare space. There’s so much healthcare content that could be created. It’s like, when people think healthcare, they think web MD, they think maybe finding insurance companies, but when you dive into it, like anyone that has ever done any medical research online, there’s so much data out there, how can you expose it?
Provide a great experience for users like drug search. When people search around a prescription drug, do they really want to read the side effects? Or do they want to read something else around it? What can we provide? And all that data is put out there by the government, put up there by the drug makers. How do you make something good out of it?
AO: This is, this is incredible. Can we take a B2B SaaS example? Let’s just say Zoom, as an example. So, we can articulate it. I’m able to see these other examples you’ve given real like Expedia, Zillow, stuff like that. But could you take something that’s harder for me right now, just say a B2B, SaaS, like Zoom?
Eli Schwartz: So, Zoom may be the only one. I can’t think of something around.
AO: I feel better, but maybe something similar.
Eli Schwartz: Okay. So I worked at a number of SaaS companies. SaaS can be a little bit harder to do because, SaaS in general for SEO, is a little bit harder because there’s only so much search volume that will be for the core product. I worked at SurveyMonkey for a number of years and I led the growth there and focused on SEO. So think about serving like SurveyMonkey, it’s a Swiss army knife of like data, but there’s only so many ways that people are going to look for a survey. So, that if you break out a little bit into what does a survey do for you? A survey helps you to make decisions.
Then I can create a bunch of content programmatically around the decisions you are making, like how much the product costs, use a survey for it. What should my packaging look like, use a survey for it. I’m creating content around answering that. The ultimate question you want with the data, and then I’m leading you into the SaaS part which is the survey. Going into another vertical, like say, you have an analytics product, SaaS analytics product. So, there’s only so many ways you’re going to look for what that analytics product is. And then, we’ve got a bunch of search volume around that analytics, maybe tail off a little bit, but then if you think about what do people want from the analytics? I want to know what my benchmarks are. I want to know how do I identify users. So, now you can create a bunch of content, think about personas, all the effort people do on personas. What if you could infinitely create personas by cross sectoring a bunch of data that you pull out of analytics. And now, no matter what anybody looks for, they have that ultimate persona, which says like, this is a persona. These are analytics product too great for personas.
AO: Got it. Jorge, do you have any other big questions to apply to this?
JS: I think that makes sense. I know it’s hard to determine how deep that would go. What would be some of the first steps that you would take, let’s say after kicking over the box and advice that you would give a product leader or growth marketing leader to know that, hey, we’re going down the right track here? We’re not sort of going out on some random limb and, you know, building a product to show that. I know it’s such a hard thing to figure out what features, you know, the whole nine.
Eli Schwartz: Yeah. I really want to say, understand the user as much as possible. So, what is it that you can create where the user, and this part is unconventional, but it shouldn’t be unconventional, but why would the user search for something, too often product leaders and marketing leaders, we’re all guilty of this, where we forget that 99.9% of the day we’re users. We’re going on Google and we’re looking for stuff. But when we go into our roles and our product marketing, we’re creating stuff that people aren’t really going to do just because it’s around.
There’s a keyword, a product because we think it makes sense. And we forget that like people go to search and they go to products because they want to solve a problem. So if you get into the user’s head, be the user yourself, you understand what is that you should be creating. And will someone really, really want to do something like that? Like going back to Zillow as an example, like their hypothesis was essentially monetizing all the volume around housing search, they want to create a new realtor, which again, didn’t exist.
They upset the entire Realty market and they were, they said there’s so much information that’s locked up in our various databases. What if we exposed all that information, think about what they’ve done. Right? They took MLS data, that’s public. They took government data, which are tax records, that’s public. And then they built a really good user experience around it with not unique data. Oh. And they took map data and they took images of houses. So, unless a house is actually listed on Zillow, none of that was theirs. They just built a product around it. Believing hopefully that they talked to users, knowing that people would want to look for this.
AO: Man, this is good. It’s challenging because you gotta get creative. There’s a way that you can look at this and apply this, but you gotta sit for a little bit and think of a creative way that you can do it. And I know that there’s so many examples that B2B SaaS companies can apply, as well as just all sorts of companies.
Eli Schwartz: Yeah, you are so right that you have to be creative. And I just got off a call with a client where we talked about what our roadmap was going to look like. And I explained to them that I don’t want to build anything for three months because if we could build something tomorrow, like if I could give them an SEO audit and say, hey, here’s the things that are wrong on your site, anybody can do that. But, if you sit down and you say, what’s the product, I need engineers, I’m going to build something. That’s you taking your venture money, or in this case, it’s a public company using their investors money to build something sustainable that no one else can do.
Because again, like I said earlier, anyone can go on a Ahrefs or Keyword Planner or SEMrush and come up with searches and keyword ideas and then create content around it. There’s no competitive advantage. Everyone’s going, using the same freelancer on Upwork. They’re using the same keyword database, but it’s being creative. That’s how you build something new. That’s how you build something sustainable that competitors can’t get close to touching. So like, I wish there was an easy answer, but if you’re not being creative, anybody can do it. If you are being creative and you’re building something of real value, that’s where you really extract like an incredible amount of potential from it.
AO: I love it. I think you said it best when you said go where there is no keyword research. This, this is incredible. Thank you so much for this.
Eli Schwartz: Oh, absolutely. I hope you can use this and make a ton of money. If you come up with a way to do this for Zoom, then you can beat Zoom too
JS: Look at what like inbound marketing companies did with like for example, HubSpot did the content marketing stuff, but then they started to also create these products, but these free products that would drive demand and drive in essentially the needs for their target audience, which then drove people to sign up to the main product.So, you saw a lot of that kind of stuff that makes total sense. Thank you so much.
Eli Schwartz: Yeah. And that’s the hard thing. And again, like HubSpot’s a great example of a SaaS. Like there’s only so many ways people are going to look for their inbound tool and then how many different pieces of the content and create it. But like HubSpot, they blew up the whole box and they created a whole marketing suite around the content, which it tangentially sells people, sells their audience and the target market, and then they can sell them HubSpot.So they’re not selling HubSpot with that product, they’re selling the product, then getting them into HubSpot.
AO: This is amazing. Well, thank you so much for your time. This has been incredible.
Eli Schwartz: It was great to be here. Thanks for having me!
AO: That’s it. Another great episode of The One Growth Show , the official podcast of growth marketing conference to learn more about upcoming events, visit www.growthmarketingconf.com and subscribe to the newsletter. If you enjoy this episode, let us know. We’d really appreciate it if you’d give us a five star rating, super easy, just click the last star on iTunes, and also share this episode on social media. After all you want your network to know you’re the person they can always turn to for the best growth and marketing content, don’t you?