#4: Jeffrey Kranz, a content marketer and CEO of Overthink Group, shares what he’s learned from helping companies across multiple industries understand what content the people they’re trying to reach actually want to read, and how to attract those people to their content through organic search.
PS. Here’s the Santa Claus video we mentioned 😉 https://youtu.be/6-jpjFYyoRk
Ep. 4: Jeffrey Kranz on SEO Trends and Why Less is More When it Comes to Content
Jeffrey: When I started doing content marketing it was pretty widely recommended that you, you know, you want to do content marketing. Here's what you do. You start an email list and a blog. You email your list every time you publish a new blog post and you publish a new blog post twice a week, at least. And that put people on what I refer to on the Overthink Group blog as a content treadmill. A lot of people producing a great deal of content at this breakneck pace. Now, I'm seeing more companies benefit from pulling away from that.
Josiah: Hey everyone, that was Jeffrey Kranz, a content marketer and CEO of Overthink Group. In this episode, Jeffrey shares what he's learned from helping companies across multiple industries, understand what content the people they're trying to reach actually want to read and how to attract those people to their content through organic search. Jeffrey has some really great insights on SEO trends and what is and isn't working today, so definitely stay tuned for this one. Also fun fact. Jeffrey and I have been good friends since we lived together in the same college dorm, so we definitely had a lot of fun putting this episode together. I'm really excited to share it with you. So let's jump in.
Announcer: You're listening to the Content Heroes podcast where entrepreneurs, marketers, and creatives share how they build profitable businesses on their own terms by creating content online. And now your host, Josiah Goff.
Josiah: Welcome to the Content Heroes podcast. I am here with Jeffrey Kranz of Overthink Group. Thank you so much for being with us today, Jeffrey.
Jeffrey: Oh, absolutely. Thanks for having me Josiah.
Josiah: Well, why don't we start by you telling us a little bit about your story and how you got into content creation and that led to starting Overthink.
Jeffrey: Yeah. I got into content marketing because I was already in marketing. I was mostly doing copywriting and I really enjoyed teaching other people about either the products that I was working on at my job or just talking about things that I enjoy reading up on in general. And so it would've been about 2012 that I started really learning about SEO and how people are, you know, I was Googling questions to find the answer and I started realizing, Hey you can use a couple of tools. That was back during the Keyword Planner days. You can use some tools to see what other people are Googling and then you can write things that they find. And I think my first SEO project was, you remember when Peter Jackson did the Hobbit movies? I watched the first one and there was the scene in which Bilbo Baggins asks the wizard Gandalf is there any other wizards in middle earth? And Gandalf says, Oh yeah, there were originally five. And I thought, Hmm, I bet a bunch of people are going to go home and google five wizards of middle earth. And so I wrote an article that just listed those. It's very crude way. It should not have been done that way. It would not work in 2019. But I made a little article, it was optimized and it had the answers and I was ranking. I think I got up to like position 4 or 5 for 'wizards of middle earth' and stuff like that. And I thought, okay, well that's cool.
Josiah: That's a fantastically nerdy way to get into SEO by the way.
Jeffrey: Yeah, I started, I started thinking, well, if this can happen, then what else can we do with this? So I started doing as much content writing as I could at the job that I was at at the time. Started really getting some traction in that. I launched a blog of my own just to kind of be a sandbox for SEO and content writing and inbound marketing. Then in 2015 I had either enough people that I had known through work or just folks that had heard, Oh, Jeffrey's good with content, he's good with SEO, to start Overthink Group, which is an SEO and content marketing agency. So we helped a good deal of different clients, but most of our clients are in some sort of growth mode where they're trying to either define a new product category or redefine a product category. And so we helped companies and content marketing teams understand where the gaps are in the market. What do the people that they're trying to reach want to read and what sort of competition are they up against. So from there we helped different brands put together plans for how to make that content and how to bring that traffic to them via organic search.
Josiah: What does that process look like? Can we dive into that a little bit?
Jeffrey: Yeah, yeah, sure. A really good example would be B2B saas company that we've been working with. And obviously if you're an individual content creator and you're blogging about what you love, that you're probably not going to be blogging about the same sort of stuff as an eCommerce saas company that serves industry clients. But I think the principles are the same in that, what we do is we try to understand what is it the you're helping someone do? And that can be if you're a content creator, maybe you're a musician, maybe you're helping people understand how to play music, that you can be exploring music theory or different instrumental techniques if you're on the b2b side then you might be helping someone or your customers that you're trying to reach. You might be trying to map out a customer's journey. How do they go from feeling a need to exploring different brand options and then choosing a place to buy. Whether you're a big B2B saas company or you're an individual content creator, if you understand what the people you're trying to reach are trying to do and how you can help them and that becomes the seed for your content strategy. You don't want to just find, well, here's one little thing that you're helping them do. You wouldn't just do music theory or journey mapping. You would dig into all the different, all the different topics surrounding that. There are a few tools that we use. Ahrefs is my favorite, but usually if you're a content creator, your imagination is going to be your best starter. Just like I was watching a movie and there was one point in the movie when I thought, Oh, that's a question that I bet people will be asking. If you're very familiar with a domain of knowledge then you’re probably facing many questions a day of that people have, you just need to listen for them because if you can answer them, then that's where you really get this wellspring of content ideas. Then when you go from coming up with the ideas to putting ideas into writing we help people validate those ideas against the actual search volume and demand. And so for a company that often looks like just saying, okay, well here's some things that people might be searching for a couple hundred times a month, if they're the right kinds of people that are searching for that and great, let's write these pieces of content on that topic and bring in the traffic. If there's a lot of search volume that's not that relevant, then we might say, let's not waste your time there. Or let's tackle that in a few quarters. Let's knock out the more important stuff first. So there's a lot of triage and prioritization there.
Josiah: Oh, that's great. So one of the things that I'm really curious about because you guys, you know, you write for a lot of different clients across a lot of different types of industries. So I feel like you have a good sort of grasp of what's working across all those industries in those different topics and stuff. So what are you seeing right now that you would say would be kind of the one or two or three things that are making the biggest impact right now in terms of gaining following?
Jeffrey: Yeah, that's a great question. A few that I'm seeing really gained traction. One of them is this idea that quality is finally winning out over quantity. When I started doing content marketing, it was pretty, pretty widely recommended of that you, you know, you want to do content marketing, here's what you do. You start an email list and a blog. You email your list every time you publish a new blog post and you publish a new blog post twice a week, at least. And that put people on what I refer to on the Overthink Group blog as a content treadmill. A lot of people producing a great deal of content at this breakneck pace. Now I'm seeing more companies benefit from pulling away from that because a lot of the reasoning for creating that content was just to have something to say to your audience, a way to show up in their inboxes. Lot of people were subscribing via RSS or they were actually on an email list proper. But from an SEO perspective, that doesn't really help you all that much. Google has made a lot of changes and updates in their algorithms over the past six, I guess seven years now since I started. And now in the old days, let's say we wanted to rank for different kinds of goldfish care or something like that and you know, you could actually write a blog post on the food that you needed for each individual breed of goldfish. There are a lot of breeds of goldfish. I know because of a different nerdy story that I probably don't need to tell. But now there's, to take that analogy to to this point in time, instead of having so many individual posts just dialed into the best flake food for a ryukin goldfish and the best pellet food for a ryukin goldfish and you know all of those. Now Google's getting pretty smart or they've been this smart for awhile rather and you just need to right one general article on food for goldfish or you could, you know, you could get into some sub-categories but you don't need 40 different pieces of content that are trying to answer what is essentially the same question in different ways. That was a time when keywords were a lot more important. You know, having those specific keywords in your title tags and throughout the piece. Google has become a lot more sophisticated since. And so that means you don't need one post for each keyword that you're trying to target. Rather you want to get more toward one post on a given topic. Otherwise you have redundant content. And redundant content does have a few disservices. One is Google looks at your site and see as multiple different pages that are vying for being about the same thing, which isn't as great as having your entire site pointing to one page on one topic. And another problem is it is pretty disruptive for your readers in that you have multiple pages usually written years apart that tackle the same question and usually not in identical ways. So you can have some contradictions and inconsistency is within your own content. And then a third problem, which should be really obvious, but it might be the most expensive problem of all is you're spending your team's valuable time, an effort on writing what is essentially the same post over and over again. And I don't think that does anyone any favors and Google doesn't either. So instead of doing that, what I'm seeing more companies benefit from, and what we tend to help a lot of our clients do is consolidating their efforts on fewer URLs and fewer pages. This involves a lot of going back and finding those five blog posts that were essentially about the same thing and merging them into one definitive posts on the topic. That's one trend that I see doing a lot of people, a lot of good. Another one is doing a general cleanup of the blog. There's a tendency that a lot of content creators have, and I know because I did this, I committed this sin for many years in that when you publish a blog post, you might remember some related posts and build internal links back to those posts before you hit publish. That usually, once you've published a blog post, there's not a lot of updating the linkage within that post, which means you know you do that for one or two posts, no big deal. You do that for three or four years and you end up having this huge archive of content of that only links to posts that were published before it. And so that means that your earlier posts might still be getting a lot of traction. They might be some of your most mature pieces of content. They've climbed the ranks, they're getting more of that traffic, but they're not linking to anything that you published after it, which means that all the content that's published afterward needs to fend for itself or it doesn't get the same sort of interlinking help that it could be getting by just going back, auditing your content and finding out, well what are the ways that we can be networking our contents to better reflect all of the material that we've covered. That's a way that we've helped our clients boost a lot of their organic traffic. Just going back through old blog posts and linking to relevant posts that didn't exist at the times when they were published.
Josiah: So how important is that kind of linking?
Jeffrey: Well, in terms of search, it's quite important. You have different, granted Google wants to get to a point at which it doesn't matter what sort of links are pointing anywhere, it's just they can identify how relevant a piece of content is on its own merit. That's where Google eventually wants to get to. It's not there yet. And they've said that having a single URL on your website about a given topic, and I believe it was John Miller that said something to the effect of the amount of internal links or having a body of internal links pointing to definitive page on your website signals to Google. This is the page of that website, that content creator, that brand has said is where they discussed this. So if you're writing a website about let's say music theory and you're gonna reference the circle of fifths very often, then you want Google to know which page on your website should they be surfacing, which pages about the circle of fifths. Google wants to be able to just determine that on their own. And sometimes they do, but it always helps to help them out and by building those internal links then that really helps you when it comes to designating which page ranks. And that's something that I've seen happen on my own properties and client properties as well. Just building internal links to a given page. It tends to help it perform better in the search results.
Josiah: That's great. So I'm kinda thinking through, you know, a lot of the people that I talk with, a lot of the content creators, they've been doing this for a long time. As you well know, they've got five, six, seven years worth of content on the site. The thought, the very thought of like going through all of that and trying to do what you just said is probably very daunting. So do you have some tips on, I mean obviously aside from hiring Overthink Group to come in and do a for you, right? Do you have tips on how they could get started? Just sort of breaking that down and identifying the areas where they need to focus on, how to get the most of that.
Jeffrey: There are a couple of different ways of that you can start doing this on your own. And it really depends on how you've been doing it in the past. So if you've been pretty conservative with the amount of tags and categories that you've used, then a lot of your work or the starting work is kind of done for you. You can just pick one tag or one category that you've published a lot of content on and just work through at one category at a time. And then you can space out your work that way. If you want to see a lot of results right away and you don't have much organization at all, then open Google analytics, look at the pages of the are getting the most traction already. And then find other pages on your website that mentioned what those pages are about. So let's say you are doing, let's go back to the circle of fifths blog posts. I don't actually know a lot about music theory, so if anyone listening has this website, then send me a link and I'll read it. So let's say, you have that blog posts on circle of fifths. You see that getting some traction and you think, Hey, you know we're ranking about position eight maybe bottom of page one. Maybe we see ourselves on page one some days and then page two some other days. We want to fix this. You can do what I did when I had a page like that, I just googled the thing that that page was about and then site colon, my domain and it pulled up everything that Google had indexed that was related to that thing and so it turned out I had multiple pages on my website that had mentioned this topic that I had not linked, that I hadn't built any links between those pages that I had already written and this other page that I wanted to rank. So I went in and I linked those pages to that page and I saw some results in that. There were a good deal of links that I built and a bit of time that past, but I did see now, now we ranked number one for that search term that we were going for. You can't flip from page due to number one quite that quickly all the time, but that's a tactic that's worked quite well for me and worked well for clients as well. Let's see. Another way that you could do this on your own is you could go through, you know, put your website into a tool like Buzzsumo and see which articles are getting shared the most on a given topic. If you're dealing with a great deal of traffic and see how your article is performing there. But I would say just working with your, with your tags and you probably know off the top of your head what you blog about and you know which pages or you should have a good idea of which pages bring in the most traffic and which are your most valuable ones. Build links to those.
Josiah: Man that's so helpful. So I want to shift gears a little bit because one of the pieces that I love that you put together was basically an overview of what content marketing is.
Jeffrey: Oh yeah. How does content marketing work?
Josiah: Yes. I thought that was so well done. I've sent it to several of my clients. And so what I'm curious about is your thoughts on where does, you know, just content creation cross-over into content marketing and what's the difference if there is and like what's the objective and is content creation really at some level, always marketing is, you know, I don't want to get too meta here, but you know, and then also, and then I also wanted to...
Jeffrey: Is this podcast episode content marketing?
Josiah: Is that question content marketing?
Jeffrey: Sure it is. You'll find the answer at overthinkgroup.com/...
Josiah: Oh, love it. So I thought we could use that as a segue into maybe giving a summary of that, what is content marketing piece?
Jeffrey: Yeah. Okay. So in some ways, so content marketing is willing an audience by giving them free helpful stuff. And that free helpful stuff is usually content. It might be video, it might be a podcast, it might be, it might be blog posts, ebooks, like any given medium. It's not that important. The main idea is you give people something that they enjoy, something that educates them, something that entertains them. And then you build some affinity for your brand. And when the time comes for people to make a purchase decision, they know about you. Hopefully they know about you and they like you. And then you make that decision a little bit easier for them. For content creators, it can be, it can feel kind of dirty thinking of the content you're making as marketing. So I wouldn't say when I talk about content creation and content marketing overlapping, I wouldn't say that the content itself needs to be a marketing pitch. You're not you don't need to make something an advertisement. But if you are making something that's intended to meet some sort of demand, then in some ways you are doing marketing. Not all marketing is sleazy. In fact, I think the best marketers are the people who help other people make wise decisions. That's how I got into marketing. I like exploring choices and finding out now what are the different nuances that go into making those choices. And then how do I decide and I like helping other people do the same. If you're a content creator, then by nature, you're already educating or entertaining people or at least you should be. And so if you think about what those people want to learn or what those people want to see, you're gauging the demand of your audience. Then to some degree you are doing some content marketing. You can use a lot of the tools that a content marketer uses for or brands you know, even like boring saas companies. You can use a lot of the tools that I use to do the stuff that you love and make the sort of things that you love. You're blogging about music theory, then you could see what are people Googling, what do people want to know about the different modes. What are people curious about? You can find inventive new ways to illustrate the content that you're making and make that more appealing to people. I like using tools, the same sort of tools that I would use in a business context or my creative endeavors just because I'd like to know what people are looking for. And then I can still make whatever I want. But if I know that there's something that 10,000 people want to know more about every month as opposed to something that maybe 10 people want to know more about every month, then in some ways I'm kind of building in the reward or extra reward for me as a creative by just understanding, Hm, I published this in a couple of months, 10,000 people might see it every month after that. That's really, really cool and it takes some of the guesswork out of whether or not people want to see the sort of stuff that I'm making.
Josiah: That's great.
Jeffrey: Does that answer your question?
Josiah: Yeah, totally. So I know we're coming up on the hour here, so I want to respect your time, but before we hop off here, I'm really curious to hear thoughts on where you think things are going in terms of content marketing. You know, all hop on tiktok or you know, like what's the,
Jeffrey: Oh man.
Josiah: Where's this thing headed?
Jeffrey: I think that in terms of, so there's always going to be more platforms and that's because there are always going to be marketers like myself, that ruined platforms. That's just how that goes. As soon as someone starts thinking, how do I optimize this platform for my business then you kind of know, okay, this platform, you know, people don't gravitate toward platforms so that they can be advertised to. And so that just means various platforms are going to have their rises and falls and you know, sometimes your parents get on the platform and it's not cool anymore. Sometimes the platform may or may not meddle in international elections and foreign affairs, no, you never can tell. But that is something that I think we're going to see a lot more of is you know, like you mentioned Tiktok I think Tiktok is a really powerful platform. There's a lot of really, really cool content on it and I don't know all that much more about it because more of my, more of the audience that I'm going for and really just more of the strengths that I'm trying to play too. Keep me in the LinkedIn and YouTube sort of a space and just blogging in general, of course. I think it's more important to understand your strengths and understand how you can best make content than it is to have a presence in various networks that you're not going to be able to maintain. Think about what you enjoy about the network that you're on, because that's going to give you more insight into how to actually stay there and make that successful. So that's the one thing that I'd be aware of. Yes, Tiktok is a trend and there will be many that follow it. If you move early and you do it well and you understand the new platform, then that's awesome. That's really great. And if you don't, well maybe the next one or maybe you were better off putting your effort into doing what you're doing well. Some other trends in terms of content marketing and content creation. I do think that we're going to see more people making video or what's going on. I don't even know if that's, if that should count as a trend. We've seen more people making video. But what I hope begins happening is there's less demand from people in charge. The videos look like pristine, polished national TV ad level videos. I think there's going to be a lot more appreciation for the content itself as opposed to the presentation. And don't get me wrong, I love really good presentation. I think presentation is fantastic. And I would rather watch a beautiful video than an ugly video.
Josiah: Oh, you mean like the video we did for Christmas ten years ago?
Jeffrey: Yeah. Yeah. That's the one.
Josiah: So for everyone listening I, way back in the day we used to do some filmmaking and the very first one I ever did was a promo that Google was running for Google TV. And I suckered Jeffrey into doing this thing for me. So Jeffery was my actor and he played Santa Claus and Timmy, and basically the video ended with Santa Claus punching Timmy and taking the Google TV. But I still say we were robbed of that competition because it was the best video by far.
Jeffrey: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. Absolutely. In fact, even today in 2019, everyone should strive for their videos to be exactly like that. That is the standard. But, but yeah, I think that, I think that more people sharing knowledge via video is going to be something to keep in mind. I think we see that, especially on the rise on LinkedIn video being a really, a really easy way for professionals to share their expertise in an unpolished way. That still works. So long as there's something of value there. So that's a trend that I see. There's a lot of trends happening in SEO. Google has brought things to a point at which fewer than half of searches on Google result in a click. It doesn't mean that everyone's organic traffic is going down now. It just means that more and more questions are getting answered on the Google results page itself. We see this in featured snippets. You see this when you, when you Google a movie, you can see how long it is, you can see where it's playing, you can see when it's playing. You can see the cast, you can see all of that without ever leaving the Google results page. And so that's something that I do believe is going to be a growing influence on how we think about content because the easy questions are going to be more promptly answered and people who are answering questions and people who are creating content and want to get more traffic from organic search are going to need to focus on answering harder questions. That's something that I definitely see happening already and I see that growing. Oh, one other thing. If you can do original research and provide some original owned statistics, then that's great. That's a great way to earn links to your website. If you've cultivated an audience and you can get a statistically significant amount of people to answer questions about just the sort of stuff you blog about, that's huge. You don't need to do a national study. You don't need to say, we surveyed a thousand people and now we know that 30% of marketers don't use Tiktok or believe Tiktok isn't valuable, but that's, you're not going to be able to state things like that, but just being able to say, I surveyed this audience, we know this about that audience, this many people responded and here's what they said. Having that original research can be a great way of earning links, especially in your niche if you're doing anything that's related to your neighborhood or your community, then that's a great way of getting local reporters to mention you linked to you. Original research is the kind of thing of that I think a lot of content creators can benefit from, especially if you've been doing it long enough to build up a good audience.
Josiah: That's fantastic. Well, Jeffrey, thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us today. Before you hop off here, can you just tell everyone where they can find you online?
Jeffrey: Sure. You can find me on LinkedIn, Jeffrey Kranz. That's probably the best way to hear about my thoughts on content marketing in the moment. I send a weekly newsletter on just content strategy and how to think about the kind of content that you're producing and you can subscribe to that at overthinkgroup.com/newsletter. It goes out every Monday, and so that's a great way to stay up to date on what's happening in the content marketing and content creation world and just think like a content strategist. I would say those are the two best places to get more of my thoughts on this sort of stuff.
Josiah: Awesome. Thank you so much.
Jeffrey: Yeah, absolutely.
Josiah: Hey everyone. Thank you for listening to the Content Heroes podcast. I just wanted to take a second and let you know that we have some amazing guests planned for the coming weeks, so if you haven't already, go ahead and hit subscribe so you can make sure to catch every episode. And if you enjoyed today's episode, go ahead and leave a five star review to help make it easier for other content creators to find and enjoy the show. Lastly, I'd like to invite you to join our Content Heroes Facebook community where you can connect with other online content to creators to share, learn, grow, and have fun. To join the group, just visit contentheroes.com/facebook. Once again, that is contentheroes.com/facebook.
Sign up to receive email updates
Enter your name and email address below and I'll send you periodic updates about the podcast.