Content marketing is definitely in the top 3 spammiest areas of marketing.
Not a day goes by where someone isn’t trying to get me to link to their dodgy looking website or sending me nonsense.
In some cases you just have to respect the hustle. I know the article I was pitched yesterday wasn’t written by “John Smith” because the use of English in the title didn’t make sense. If you’re a non-native English speaker though, you often need to take those risks. I’d do the same.
But content marketing isn’t all spam and nonsense.
Lots of places do great content that’s high quality and produces loads of value for their audience. Outreach, relationship building, and collaborations aren’t always tacky either – they can be great ways to co-create content; media content being a really useful avenue for this.
We’ve created the best process management content on the web for a good while, and people come to us as a trusted source on other areas like onboarding, HR, operations, ISO, and customer success. That stuff, we’re good at.
The second part, though, is something we’ve been working on doing better.
In this Process Street article, I’ll explain how and why we moved to a co-marketing focus to support our SEO and business goals, including:
- Why not just backlink build and guest post?
- How is our relationship management system set up?
- We’re seeing results and our flow is much smoother
Let’s jump right in!
Why not just backlink build and guest post?
This is where we hit the problem statement – and I’ll have to apologize because it’s not that concise. Here’s a couple of key points:
- Google claims that it doesn’t really care about backlinks and that a lot of SEO tactics aren’t what drives its algorithms.
- Backlink building en masse requires quite a bit of effort, particularly if you care about quality.
- Reciprocal linking and/or paying for backlinks is all very much against Google’s TOS, meaning they can delist your pages or limit your traffic as a punishment.
- Simply inserting a backlink produces little value other than the backlink itself.
However, you need to factor in some core truths when interpreting them:
- Google lies. (Sorry John Mu). But they do, and various informal studies suggest backlinks still have value. Search almost anything vaguely complicated that you’re knowledgeable about and let me know in the comments of this article whether the contents of the front page are a true reflection of usefulness, or whether your SEO tool’s estimation of backlinks/domains/URLrating appears to be a more influential factor towards determining the ranking.
- Reciprocal links are a highly natural output. Two companies in the same space which both do content marketing but are non-competitive will probably have linked to each other’s content. For example, pretty much any recruitment or hiring software of note has given Process Street backlinks at some point or other, often repeatedly, because we’re an authoritative source for employee onboarding. Similarly, we’ve produced maybe 100 pages of content on employee onboarding – different processes, resources, reports, hyper specific blogs, etc – so over the course of those pieces we’ve linked to most of the major recruitment/hiring software repeatedly too.
Ultimately, our conclusion is to write the best content we can for the people who find our modern process management product most useful and collaborate with companies whose users might find our software useful too.
That leads to both high-authority industry-specific backlinks and targeted traffic to our priority pages. It also increases social share activity and other positive signals.
How is our relationship management system set up?
There are two different ways someone can enter into the system:
- They come to us;
- We do outreach to them.
How we do outreach to new co-marketing prospects
In the case of doing outreach, we put our list of email addresses of similar companies into Close and shoot out a sequence.
We’ve taken a few different approaches to this but we try to make them relationship oriented – so we might pull an email list of companies that integrate with Zapier, for example, as that means they can integrate with our product and their users (and ours) can build automations using the two products.
This is us trying to ground the relationship and outreach in end-user value from the beginning – trying to focus on real value and output at each stage of the process.
We lead-score everyone who comes into the system
Once someone has replied to us positively, or initiated the communication with us, we create an Airtable record for that contact so we can track each lead over time. That record can be found in another Airtable view where it lives as a task on a Kanban board.
Once that relationship goes from being a suggestion to an agreement to do something together, we move the record along the Kanban board into a column which triggers a zap (an automation with Zapier) which automatically runs a Process Street workflow and posts the URL back into the Airtable record.
The Process Street workflow it runs is a content collaboration process. That’s where we’ll enter the details of the prospective partner and determine what kind of relationship we’d want to have with them. One of the steps in the workflow is to assign a Lead Score to the company.
This is just like a sales workflow which might score high value leads. If a company looks to be a decent size, with a use case overlap with us, and an audience we think mirrors elements of our own, then that company might score a 4 or 5.
We do one form of collaboration and continue with our favorites
We will try to find some form of beneficial collaboration with anyone who enters into our pipeline. If it’s not possible, then that’s the fault of the filtering on the initial list – a list of Zapier partner companies, for example, should yield good partners almost always.
But our workflow is built with conditional logic; an if-this-then-that feature in Process Street workflows to adapt the workflow run to the information entered into it. So once we’ve agreed one little collaboration with a company that looks a really good fit for us, the workflow will show another task for us to try to continue the relationship long term.
Invitations go out to join our PS-Relationships Slack instance
When we agree to do one activity with a company, we ask them whether they’d want a longer term collaborative relationship. If they say yes, we trigger our invitations.
Our Slack invitations are triggered from inside our Process Street content collaboration workflow. We have native Process Street integrations which we use for a lot of things, but this one we do via Zapier.
The information from earlier in the workflow (company name, contact email, etc.) go into Zapier when the relevant task is completed in the workflow, those details are used to automatically create a new public Slack channel in our Slack instance named after the partner company, and the contact is automatically invited into that channel.
The automation also does a few other things, like invite our marketing coordinator (Karolina) to the channel, post an instructional welcome message in the channel, and post the URL of the partner’s content collaboration workflow as the channel description. Karolina then manually makes the channel private.
This means that when the partner enters the Slack instance, what they see is one public #general channel which is locked, and one private channel named after their company. Karolina, on the other hand, is faced with a Slack account that looks like a relationship management CMS.
Instead of copying people into emails and things getting lost or confused, we just add people into the channel.
Want to collaborate on social media? Let me add our social media manager into the channel. Want to submit a guest post? Here’s the editor. Want to include Process Street in your product with some affiliate relationship? This is our partnerships manager.
More than that – we can just initiate calls directly through Slack if we need to discuss anything more substantially.
We’re seeing results and our flow is much smoother
We don’t collaborate with colleagues via email – so why would we do that with long term marketing partners? It doesn’t make any sense.
Our play is to cut out spending any time on crappy backlink exchanges or items that don’t drive enough value.
Instead, we collaborate with other cool brands, and we do so at a higher volume than before – both on number of brands and on number of collaborations per brand.
As a result, we’ve seen a significant increase in how many high-value activities we generate.
And what used to be spammy is not anymore. If you’ve worked in content or SEO, you’ll have received that email saying “You should check out our guide, your audience will like it”. Well, now that we’ve cultivated real relationships with other brands rather than fake say-it-but-don’t-say-it fake exchanges, we can actually do that for real! Not as part of a strategy – as part of a genuine interaction in an established relationship. Not reciprocal – just appreciating the value mutually generated.
Strategically, our content has become more and more specific over time, just as our product has become more and more focused and enterprise-ready. This means creating content and approaching problems a bit differently.
We’re much more focused now on driving value, building relationships, and actually marketing our product than we are about just turning the wheels on a content machine.
That’s where we see the short-term value and where we’re betting the long-term play is too.
Do you have a system in place for managing your co-marketing activities? What have you found works (and what doesn’t)? Let us know in the comments below!
Great article Adam, can you talk a bit more about the SEO and Social Networks strategies?