How content can be leveraged to increase retention and grow customer advocacy
Founder and Blogger
Today on the show we have Ryan Robinson, founder, and blogger of ryrob.com
In this episode, we talked about how Ryan conducts revenue-generating keyword research, why revenue is his number one content metric to track, and how he helps companies with their overall content strategy.
We also discussed how Ryan tracks and measures results for his customers, how he uses content marketing as an educational tool to fuel long-term growth, his content generation process, and easy content production hacks you can apply in your own business.
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Andrew Michael: [00:00:00] hey, Ryan. Welcome to the show.
Ryan Robinson: [00:00:02] Hey, thanks for having me.
Andrew Michael: [00:00:03] It's a pleasure. All the listeners, Ryan is a pro blogger and content marketing guru. He teaches over 500,000 monthly readers. How to start and grow a profitable side business on his blog.
ryrob , ryrob.com. He famously built up a side hustle to over $160,000 in less than one year while working a full-time job. he's also the host of the side hustle project podcasts, and has worked with clients such as LinkedIn, Zendesk, QuickBooks, and more to help them grow their content marketing.
So he's here today to talk to us about how content can be leveraged to increase retention and grow customer advocacy. And my first question for you, Ryan is now that you're focus full-time on your podcast and your blog. What is your side hustle?
Ryan Robinson: [00:00:49] this is the first time I'd say in possibly my life, at least my professional life, that I really don't have a real side hustle that I'm dedicating like [00:01:00] regular scheduled time to cause I'm so like, so diligent about my schedule and, putting three hours a day into a side project usually.
but we're. We're in 2020, which has been a very weird year. so I've paused side hustles, which is weird. I have, I do have one other side blog that I run with a friend of mine. it's called smartwp.com and it's basically just WordPress tutorials, a lot more of the technical stuff related to blogging.
Whereas I don't get too deep on my own site about the technical tutorials and walkthroughs. So it's a destination for me to just plant the seeds of growth for a different type of content. That's still related to what I talk about, but serves a little more technical of an audience. So that's my at least occasional side project.
It's not as diligent as I would like to be.
Andrew Michael: [00:01:48] Nice. And, I, I mentioned in the intro, you've helped a lot of people get kicked off and get started in content. And, I'm interested like from a couple of perspectives. So today obviously I think content is a [00:02:00] super powerful mechanism to help educate and teach, like users and the markets.
And, we'll talk about why it's relevant. I think to general attention a little bit later, but yeah. What is your typical process look like when you walk into a company like that to try and help them get started? what is a conversation starts off like, is that we want to start getting into content.
We want to start producing, something of substance. what is your process look like working with customers then.
Ryan Robinson: [00:02:25] Man. I hate to say it, but it does really depend on context. So where the company is at currently is usually my first line of thought, if, cause I want to figure out okay, have they ever done content before?
And if they have, what's the state of that is there like 50 blog posts on their site already that are just, old and not optimized that could be repurposed as kind of acquisition tools. Rather than just writing a ton of brand new stuff. cause I'll tend to try and prioritize, leveraging somehow what a brand has already done to [00:03:00] basically do a save time and efforts.
but it does really depend, because sometimes I'll walk into a client that has like. a thousand articles on their site and there's 50 different articles about, CRO and they're all cannibalizing each other, and none of them are ranking well in Google search results because. They're all trying to go for the same keywords.
So I think the problems are always unique when I step into a client, but typically the thing that I'm working towards with any site, any brand person who starts a blog, the most important metric to really aim for me is how do I figure out what readers. Customers really want and come up with content ideas that actually solve those problems.
So I'm always thinking about typically. Revenue generating keyword ideas at the end of the day. So what will actually move the needle for a brand? I think there's a lot to be said about content [00:04:00] as an education resource. and there's. a really good case to be made. I would say for having like education as a primary goal of your content, but I'm really good at coming up with the right keyword phrases, the right positioning on those keyword phrases for articles that are going to eventually bring in traffic from typically search engines.
and have that be fairly high converting towards. Whatever the customer's goal is usually that's like free trial sign up or some sort of, purchase event.
Andrew Michael: [00:04:33] Yeah. I love that focus, I think, in terms of like revenue generating keywords, I think that you mentioned, because typically, I think content itself is one of those things that has a longer term horizon to see an ROI, but ultimately can eventually does some possible other channels have become super powerful, but.
What does that process look like? How do you determine, what are good keyword generating? I'm making assumptions, but are you looking at like Edwards [00:05:00] seeing what sort of campaigns are run what's converting? there, like how do you go about investigating and figure out which keywords you want to go after and which ones are going to actually have an ROI and the revenue.
Ryan Robinson: [00:05:10] Yeah. That's that's a great question too, because it does depend so much on the context of where the company's at the moment, just as a starting point, I know that in my mind, anything I publish is going to take six months. To really rank well on the first page. And that's ideally, if a client company has a very well-established site, that's authoritative credible.
so I know going into it like, all right, this is a long-term investment and going to have to put a lot of time and effort into promoting the content also after it goes live. But typically when I'm thinking about the keyword research process, I will usually look at if there are any major gaps.
Currently for the brands. So what are their competitors, talking about on their own site, their landing pages that are for SEO or, their blog posts that rank well, what are we [00:06:00] missing that they're doing that seems to be doing well? And so I'll often use a tool like H refs for that. That's my preferred tool for just seeing alright, what are the best pages on a competitor website?
And why don't we have those on our site is how I'm. Thinking, and that's not necessarily to say that you have to imitate everything your competitor is doing, but it's a good starting point to gather some new ideas from. but yeah, typically from there, I'll spend more time in HRS than something like AdWords personally.
Just because I love how many different facets of the SEO landscape you can learn from H reps. But yeah, I would say that's my home base of everything. Yeah.
Andrew Michael: [00:06:40] And then how are you measuring this at the end of the day though? As well? Because I think this is also like one of those things where you really want to be able to measure the effectiveness of content and.
Because there are multiple benefits in the sense that it's not only one like driving new acquisition, like you have the opportunity to educate, you have opportunity to make sure you have the right [00:07:00] positioning. So when it comes to measuring with your customers, what are you typically looking at?
What are the metrics you're tracking? for them.
Ryan Robinson: [00:07:07] There are a couple of different metrics. traffic, I think tends to be a vanity metric, especially if it's low converting. So I typically say like within the first few months of one of my client articles being published, one of the metrics I'll track is the number of links that I've acquired for it.
So I tend to build into my content marketing work, a measure of. How much I'm going to promote each article that I published for you. just because I'm trying to connect what successful SEO content looks like. And. Backlinks from other credible authoritative sites tend to ladder up towards ranking your own post high in the SERPs.
So typically traffic is a little vanity, but it's good to see it, basically just going up consistently. So I like to keep an eye on that through Google analytics typically. and then backlinks as a measure of the success we should have soon. [00:08:00] And then, yeah, starting. Usually a few months down the line.
Sometimes it can be faster for a site like LinkedIn that has a domain rating in the high nineties. they can rank pretty easily for really competitive keywords. So for a site like that, yes, I can start to monitor trial signups or, even paid events like with their Linda product online courses.
Revenue is my ultimate, like number one metric that I, I care the most about, because I know that, for a client, they care the most about that. And they're not going to continue hiring me unless the effort I put in actually drives revenue too.
Andrew Michael: [00:08:35] And I can tie it back. Yeah.
Ryan Robinson: [00:08:37] Yeah. And it's hard.
It's not always easy to attribute revenue to an individual article necessarily, but
Andrew Michael: [00:08:44] yeah. how do you do it as well? I think in LinkedIn's case, it's self-explanatory they have obviously a huge amounts of data teams working behind the scenes to get them the links and data you need, but in maybe some smaller company, how are you going about it?
Like setting up tracking [00:09:00] for this sort of stuff. What are, tools you're using to get the metrics you need?
Ryan Robinson: [00:09:04] I think the most, like the most relatable, easy, lightweight way to do it is literally just UTM tags. So in articles that I publish, I'll have. I think about close the CRM company, a company I used to work for and did a lot of content marketing for, we would sometimes use UTM tags and blog posts just to track from, all right.
Someone clicked in this article about sales strategies over to create a free trial. And we logged that UTM tag in the trial signup event, which is something that can be tracked in Google analytics. So that's probably like the. Lightest weight way that I've done it. And it's not always perfect.
I think some stuff probably falls between the cracks, but, it provides a proxy of if it's working.
Andrew Michael: [00:09:49] That's good. Yeah. I think anytime you're talking about metrics and analytics, like nothing's ever perfect. And if you're just getting good strong signals, I think that's, like good enough for you to keep moving in [00:10:00] the right direction.
so then I'm interested as well. Like another topic when it comes to the content that you produce and the companies that you work with. Like you mentioned, obviously you've been new to big deer, focus on revenue, generating content, and that's the sweet spot for yourself. But have you ever engaged with customers looking like from purely from an education perspective or purely from a positioning perspective and what do the content projects then look like when it comes to that?
Ryan Robinson: [00:10:26] Yeah, it's really interesting. because I think it comes from a completely different perspective. when the clients not as, at least primarily interested in revenue generating content, one example is, a project management tool called plan.io, that I've worked with for years.
And I recently handed off to a friend to take over, but, been such a great client because they aren't. Immediately concerned with every article driving revenue and basically their goal is to try and rank number one for the top 50 to [00:11:00] 100. Keyword phrases that people who are interested in better project management, Google search for, and so their goal is really like the longterm relationship building with customers, potential customers.
and so the metric they care about most is actually email signups. So getting people who come to their blog and say, all right, Hey, this content is good. Like I'll sign up for their email address, to learn more. And then. There's a nurturing campaign process that happens where they invite people to do a trial of the product and, a certain percentage upgrade to paid eventually.
But it's, it is interesting cause it's a way longer term focus. and I honestly think so those are some of the best clients I've had because I don't feel under the gun to deliver on conversions right away or revenue right away. And so it's, I'd say from a relationship perspective, like everything is very smooth and easy and.
it is a certain kind of client that can afford to invest in content that way. Like they have a pretty sustainable business that grows by word of mouth and [00:12:00] some other advertising channels that work really well and are dialed in for them. But content as an education tool is In their mind, a longterm strategy to fuel growth rather than immediately
Andrew Michael: [00:12:12] immediate. Yeah. cause interesting why I ask as well as like I noticed, at Hotjar when we had people who had visited our blog retention was almost. Double with blog visitors versus non blog visitors. and I think it's some way intuitive in the sense that, they're coming, they're getting educated.
They're learning like how to use the tool better or how to get the most out of specific aspects of the product. And not only that, as well as this discovery phase, like you said, when they're just trying to become better product managers, they discover the product there. I understand a bit of before they go ahead and sign up and start using it.
So I was interested in have you noticed something similar equipping of the concert you worked with? This is something that they've had mentioned or tracked, with you, if you have any specific case.
Ryan Robinson: [00:12:55] to be honest, I haven't tracked that metric specifically. but I would say [00:13:00] anecdotally, yes, absolutely.
Like people that are regularly on the blog, I can even say from my own blog audience now that I'm blogging full time. The people that are on my email list who have clicked an email, twice in a month are significantly more likely to sign up for my course or purchase the book for me.
when I do send out emails, promoting products I'm releasing. So I think at least anecdotally speaking, I would completely agree with you. I've seen this trend happen with my own stuff and across client work. Yeah.
Andrew Michael: [00:13:31] Yeah, I think it's definitely an interesting way as well to measure content. I think because typically, like you say, it's really 80 to 90% of the time it's focused on that acquisition fronts.
Like just bringing a new business through the door, but ultimately as well, if you can bring the right business through the door and then help educate and keep them for longer, sometimes it has an even bigger ROI. That's. Yes, it's a lot more difficult to measure. but like you say, the example of plan.io, they could be seeing those results, [00:14:00] like for years to come and they compounding as well.
It's not just about acquiring, even though I think content to extent has got its compounding impacts. yeah. Cause you did one something
Ryan Robinson: [00:14:09] it's a long-term investment. And like when another example, even on my own blog, I, I publish a lot of like revenue focused content or stuff that is designed to get people, to join my email list and eventually purchase a course or a book.
But I try and mix it up where I publish. One long form article every week or two. And I try and publish what I like to call like a listener Q and a, where I'll take a question that someone asked after listening to a podcast episode or a blog comment that they've left and. I have this like a really long scrolling Google doc rock of questions.
People have asked that don't necessarily ladder up to some huge keyword opportunity that translates into revenue. like I've often had some really profound questions get asked that have a lot of nuance to them. And I take the time to answer them in a [00:15:00] public posts on my blog, usually rather than like just privately over email or a tweet.
And I find that when I send out emails, promoting those kinds of articles that are like, not as revenue focused, but maybe tackle a relatable question that lots of people have. I get the most replies to those emails. So I think people like really Resonate with, whether you're a brand or a person, promoting a creator, promoting your own stuff.
I think people really resonate too, just like a human element to content, rather than just lists of all the best hosting companies or like how to do X, Y, Z every time. I think it's really good to have a mixture of yeah. Like relatable human stuff coming out in your content too.
Andrew Michael: [00:15:41] Absolutely. I'm interested as well that you mentioned like a few different things now, like the blog, the podcasts, like eBooks, like different products producing, you're one person, what is your like content generating process look like? How are you maximizing time and scale to be able to produce all of this?
[00:16:00] Ryan Robinson: [00:16:00] Yeah, this is, this is something I'm always entering anything on it, but, as of today, the process that I've gotten dialed in with my blog content at least, is that I have become more of an editor than a writer of my own content. Today, it changes as I like go in phases of being interested and, doing the deep dive writing.
But as of today, I'm usually not from start to finish sitting down and writing a 5,000 word article. I have a couple of different writers that I work with, who I basically view this as outsourcing a first draft too. And so I'll usually, I will always come up with the keyword phrases that we're going after.
I do write the kind of like listener Q and a ones, myself always, but for something that has an SEO focused I'll always pick the keyword phrase. write a couple of title drafts, work on them with an outline typically to make sure we're hitting all the right bullet points. Do a little competitor research to see if there's.
Anything we're missing. and then turn it over to one of my writers and they'll typically [00:17:00] whip up something that's two, 3000 words in length. And then by the time I get it back from them, in a Google doc, I then go to work like expanding it, weeding in my own examples, case studies, screenshots, Typically filming a video, if it's like a high value keyword phrase, I'm trying to get a little more into YouTube these days.
so yeah, I end up usually doubling the length of most articles, for my freelance writers to when it gets published.
Andrew Michael: [00:17:27] That was going to be one another question, how do you scale the content then? but I think in this case would just be hiring more good, writers as well to do the job.
Ryan Robinson: [00:17:35] as of today, I am still my own bottleneck though, because I am the editor that kind of goes through everything myself. And I'm very aware of that being a kink and how much I publish, But I've decided at least in 2020 I'm okay. With working a little bit less and not trying to like.
Really pushed myself hard to scale a business beyond what I feel interested in.
[00:18:00] Andrew Michael: [00:18:00] Yeah. That makes a lot of sense. So definitely the motivation as well this year is probably not aware it was.
Ryan Robinson: [00:18:05] Yeah, for sure.
Andrew Michael: [00:18:07] Yeah. and then the other thing as well, like to ask is that you have, The podcast itself, like one of the things I found interesting as well, and we chatted before the show, was Steli from close.
I remember when I was chatting to him, about this is he would say that he would record just some thoughts every morning. It's like voice recording and then the team would then go ahead and take and book blog posts off of this and do different content and things like that. Are there any other sort of like good hacks that you found to be able to produce content really quick and then be able to sort of ship that content besides this obviously.
Ryan Robinson: [00:18:45] Yeah, I've I have done a version of that. Steli like, Steli does audio recordings a lot. and I've done, I've challenged myself to create content in reverse from how I normally do it. So I'm a writer by trade, I think. And I process best through [00:19:00] writing, but I've done a few times now where I just film a YouTube video basically.
and then I. Upload it to rev. I have someone transcribe it. and then from the transcription, I will then turn that into a blog post. So I do think you can go like in different directions with your content creation process based on what feels most natural to you. but it always turns out way differently when I start with like video first, as opposed to when I take to writing first, my.
My thoughts tend to be a little bit more jumbled, I'd say, versus like writing. I have a very deliberate process I follow. but yeah, it's interesting to experiment with that.
Andrew Michael: [00:19:37] Nice. Yeah. I found it really interesting cause I thought it was a great way, like to be able, just to get your thoughts out really quickly.
And I think like you said, for different people works different ways. others who might be more like, structured to prefer reading, writing as opposed to like the spoken word. I just find the joy even like with reading, I. I've got hooked on audio books. I never used to. And then all of a sudden I was like, [00:20:00] this is the way I love to consume this type of content as well.
And I even noticed like for myself as growing up school, like the time I would do really well was the time I actually listened to in class. if I had to rely going back in a few times, Yes a few times. it just wasn't a as always as effective as well. So I think definitely there's this concept of different people resonate to content in different ways and being able to meet those needs.
I think of everyone is powerful.
Ryan Robinson: [00:20:25] Yeah. I think it's an important part of like web accessibility to, just beyond the like technical accessibility stuff. I think it's really important to offer people different, mediums. To consume your content because, as you said, audio is a way that you like to process some people process by video, some people process through reading.
And I think there will continue to be more opportunities for reaching people. like even tick-tock as an example, right? one minute of content, some people prefer something really short form as a way to consume and learn. So I. I think it's [00:21:00] only going to keep changing, really
Andrew Michael: [00:21:01] changing. Yeah. I think this is an interesting point though. Cause it's like more fun when you think about okay, let's take your docs. Like a company's docs, for example, like they put together these documentation to educate customers and then there'll be this question, like what's Spanish. Should we produce a video series or should we write a blog?
Or Do everything like the different people, like obviously you need to pick and choose your battles, but like picking between a video over a written form. I think ultimately is you can't say one is better than the other because up to the person who's. Making that decision to say, okay, this is what I prefer.
So this is what everybody else prefers, but it's never the case. I think there's just this had a lot of different people like to consume your content in different ways. And the more you can serve that need the better, obviously it needs to be, bear in mind your resources and where you want to be focusing.
Ryan Robinson: [00:21:51] Yeah, I think there's something to be said for leaning into your skills. And your interests. It's that's why I tend to write first because that's what I'm best [00:22:00] at, out of all the different content mediums. But yeah, it does make me think of my, like my freshman year high school, English teacher, who, the very first moment of class, he writes on the board, the word truth and he crosses it out and he's the first lesson of this class is that.
Truth is objective. And no matter how strongly you feel about something, there is another person out there who looks at it completely differently or learns about it completely differently. That's a good lesson, I think. And in terms of content creation. Yeah.
Andrew Michael: [00:22:31] Absolutely. I love that as well. It's like just being able to be open to other people's perceptions of the world and yeah, you're always not necessarily the right way, always, or whatever.
so I'm going to throw one last question. one question that you, I think that I ask every guest on the show, we'll hear from your perspective, let's imagine that you arrive at a new company. you get hired at a new company and. You get their churn and retention is not doing great at all.
and you've actually been asked by the CEO to try and [00:23:00] turn things around for the company. from your perspective where you're sitting in your role, what would you want to be doing? Like he's given you three months to try and prove and show some results. what would you want to be doing with those first 90 days?
Ryan Robinson: [00:23:12] I think my very first task would be to figure out if obviously there's a leaking ship. Are there any holes that can be plugged with the existing content that we have? it's just one thing. if the brand doesn't have any content at all, then I'm like, okay, three months, this is going to be a hell of a challenge.
But if they have some content that's maybe, After the right keyword phrases, but it's not the correct format or it's not more, it's not in-depth enough or it doesn't have a video when it should have a video or you never ask someone to sign up for your free trial within the content. And so everyone eventually exits the page without taking any action.
I think there's this kind of a shorthand list of like low hanging fruit where. I would first want to see, like, all right, is there anything salvageable here that we already have? and [00:24:00] so after working through that, then yeah, I would be heavily focused on revenue generating content that it looks like competitors are going after, or, questions that we've gotten from readers customers that we haven't yet answered correctly on the blog.
Then it's, it's something else too where if there's no like help center or knowledge base for existing customers and everyone who signs up is leaving after a month or two, because they don't know how to use the product. I think you could learn a lot from just actually sitting down and interviewing people and, maybe zoom calls her today.
but just talking to them and hearing what their experience is like using the product and. Hopefully being able to interview some customers who've also left and actually turned out, hearing why they did that. I think there could be a lot of insights as far as just ways that educational content could help support them and get them to those major early milestones after signup, that they feel [00:25:00] successful enough with the product that they don't leave.
But yeah, it is hard to tell though, because sometimes the product itself can be the problem and no amount of educational content can help.
Andrew Michael: [00:25:09] It's gonna be good. Absolutely. last question then, for today on this, his, like what's one thing that, you know today about or attention that you've learned through your experience that you wish you knew when you got started with your career,
Ryan Robinson: [00:25:24] man, I do think that I was late to realize the importance of. Educational content that doesn't serve a revenue goal. And I know that is something we've talked about a few times already, but I wasn't publishing even anything on my own blog let along for my clients and jobs and stuff that didn't have a super clear SEO keyword make money through this exact pathway.
but I think that as far as like long-term relationship building so much value can be placed on just. Educational content that doesn't ask people to buy anything [00:26:00] and ideally answers questions that people already have. Who've been to your site. They're on your email list. They're existing customers. And we did this a lot at close, actually, where we would, every quarter we would, regularly do video calls with customers, and just ask them how their experience with the product is.
And we got so many content ideas out of these, calls with them. we would come up with stuff for the blog. That's more public facing for anyone, but we would also come up with really good, help desk articles to do or video tutorials, to film and. And we would do webinars regularly, too, where we'd take Q and A's from customers.
So I think a lot of these like softer content mediums that aren't like super revenue focused can provide so much unexpected longterm value for the business. That it's easy to just not even think about them because they don't make you money today or next week. but it's what keeps people around too.
Andrew Michael: [00:26:58] I think I love what you said as well, in terms [00:27:00] of like bullets building a relationship building. It's like another opportunity for you to like, provide value to strengthen that relationship you have with the customer. And ultimately like people are going to stick around. If they feel they've got a good relationship, they've got trust.
Like you've earned that trust through all the great content that you put out all the ways you try to help them with their problems they have.
Ryan Robinson: [00:27:17] yeah. And people care to understand like, The people behind the product that they're working with too. that's been something I've learned over time is that, lots of, especially, let's say like small business owners and people that are at smaller companies, midsize companies, like they, they really do care to know that they have a real human on the other side of the product they're using.
That'll reply to their email or answer their, help ticket with, without just a copy and paste macro and bring some real humanity to the conversations.
Andrew Michael: [00:27:50] Absolutely. Yep. There's humans at the end of the software building a 10 using it. And we shouldn't forget the connection between the two. it's been also having you to [00:28:00] run really appreciate you spending the time joining the show.
Is there any sort of final thoughts you'd like to leave the listeners with anything they should be aware of? How can they keep up to speed with your work?
Ryan Robinson: [00:28:09] Yeah, I'm, blogging, virtually every day on my site now. it's just ryrob.com and I'm really focused on blogging advice these days. So I'm tackling the a to Z of everything about blogging content marketing.
Andrew Michael: [00:28:23] Awesome. yeah, thanks so much and wish you best of luck now going forward.
Ryan Robinson: [00:28:28] Yeah, thanks for having me.
Andrew Michael: [00:28:29] Cheers.
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My name is Andrew Michael and I started CHURN.FM, as I was tired of hearing stories about some magical silver bullet that solved churn for company X.
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