In her talk at brightonSEO, professional word nerd Alice Rowan shares the secret sauce to scaling content. Welcome to the wonderful world of topic clusters, y’all! Here’s the presentation deck and supporting documents that you will need to implement her topic cluster strategy.
What are the key talking points of your presentation at brightonSEO and how did you come up with the topic?
The key focus for me is helping small content/marketing teams to avoid burnout. I’ve done everything from being a one-person marketing team to working in an agency of 60 people. And the pressure on content writers is always immense.
Content strategy is more and more at the forefront of marketing strategy, especially following Google’s August Helpful Content Update. But writers are often undervalued and their effort is underestimated.
My talk is basically a whistle-stop tour of how to create a robust, SEO-friendly content strategy in the most efficient way possible. I want to help people understand how much work is involved without making it seem daunting. And critically, set expectations for how much of this work can be produced by one person in a year.
What presentations are you most interested in attending/speakers you are most interested to hear and why?
There are so many clashes for the folks I want to see, but thank god for the replays/online event!
The top 5 for me are:
- Rumble Romagnoli – An airtight keyword research strategy to beat any SEO competitor
- Matt Alfrey & Carl Sadecki – Delivering total performance in B2B through content-led SEO
- Matt Greenwood – Spreadsheet sorcery: a Google Sheets guide for the aspiring wizard
- Sarah Presch – Cultural sociology & SEO: How culture impacts buyer behavior and help improve rankings
- Steph Naylor – How to come up with content ideas without relying on search volume
What tips do you have for attendees to maximize their time on-site at brightonSEO?
I’ve never actually been before if you can believe it. I’ve always wanted to go to brightonSEO but never quite made it. And now my first time attending, I’m also there as a speaker. Mad, isn’t it?
I hear there is an app which I will be all over. I think the key thing is to plan ahead. You want to know which talks/tracks you want to see before you go.
A big thing for me as well is going to be taking quiet time. I’m autistic, which for me means that I struggle in the company of a lot of people for extended periods of time. So earplugs, noise-canceling headphones, and solo walks on the beach are really going to help me stay mentally present at the talks I attend. And my own talk of course.
Your two cents for folks struggling with their content marketing at time-strapped start-ups.
Content is always an important part of your long game. Organic content marketing strategy isn’t a quick win, but it’s like anything. Consistency is key. Publish a blog a week (or every two weeks if that’s more manageable) for a year and (Christmas aside), you have 25-50 blog posts in a year.
If you wait until you “have time”, you’ll never find the time. And you’ll have no content. Google isn’t going to thank you for that and nor will your traffic.
Creating and distributing content consistently will help you get leads and customers even when all of your other budget runs out. Ads are great, but they won’t protect you when budgets are low.
If you want to go all-in on an SEO-focused strategy, you need to be creating content consistently. And if you don’t have the budget to hire someone full-time, bring in a freelancer or contractor to help in the short term.
You have the potential to create 50-70 pieces of content from one well-written ebook or hour-long webinar. So if you lead with that, you have more opportunity than sporadically writing blogs about random topics.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your freelancing business?
Honestly, just being present. The key is consistency. For me, LinkedIn is my key lead generation tool, so I make sure I am there several times a week doing one of the following:
- Starting conversations with other freelancers
- Explaining the latest SEO updates in simple terms
- Interacting with other freelancers, SMB owners, and marketing professionals in my target industries (aka the people who will employ me)
- Sharing content writing tips and strategy explainers
- Once in a while, I’ll share some feedback about my availability. But it’s not about me, it’s about helping my community and my prospects
And the key to all of this: is being unapologetically myself. I swear like a trooper, I am blunt in the way I communicate, a love an emoji, and I make no apologies for any of that.
Call it a “personal brand” if you like, but it helps to weed out the people who don’t like to be told exactly how it is. I can’t work with people who can’t take clear, honest feedback
What do you think is the most exciting trend in digital marketing right now?
As a content writer, for me, it’s got to be the Helpful Content Update and what that’s doing to the prioritization of content in wider marketing strategies. Businesses are starting to become more attuned to the necessity of quality content, rather than throwing sh**t at a wall and seeing what sticks.
And it’s about time too. As Google rolls out more updates focused on usability, readability, and helpfulness, I’m getting more excited about the future of content marketing.
Video may be dominating social, but written content is still king when it comes to web presence outside of those platforms.
The go-to people you’d recommend for all things content and writing?
Always put your readers first. This is best seen when it comes to formatting. Subheadings, bullet point lists, graphics, etc. Anything you can do to make it easier for folks to scan your blogs or web pages for exactly the information they need, the better.
And you’ll see this reflected in your bounce rate, time on page, repeat visitors, and rankings. Putting your readers first tells Google (and obviously your readers) that they are your priority.
What are the top 5 tools or apps you use almost every day?
As a freelancer, I would be absolutely lost without:
- Canva – Branding, design (inc. my BrightonSEO slides), and social graphics
- Calendly – For booking calls with clients, prospects, and subject matter experts
- Grammarly – I have some clients who use US English and some that use UK English. It’s a lifesaver for switching between the two)
- Google Calendar – I literally plan my entire life on my Google calendar. ADHD brain takes over without it
- Spotify – I have so many playlists for work, fun, road trips, chillout, all sorts
What was your worst job and what did you learn from it?
My first foray into marketing was in an agency. Hands down the most toxic place I have ever worked. I was barely paid minimum wage and did the jobs of three people. But I learned the foundations of everything I know about marketing now. And fell in love with website projects.
The other contender is the last job I ever worked before going freelance. My boss was a micromanager to such an insane degree. Could not let anyone actually do their job.
But what I learned from that is that I never want to work for other people again. Freelancing has been in the back of my mind for years. And without that awful job, I never would have taken the leap.
So honestly, I’m very grateful for both experiences.
What advice would you give yourself when you first started digital marketing?
It’s going to feel overwhelming, but not because you can’t do it. It’s going to be overwhelming because people are overwhelming. And in about 8 years you will find out why (it’s the neurodivergence).
You have loved marketing since you were a kid. You were drawn to its creativity but you will fall in love with the logic and the data. Learn as much as you can in those early years. Read up, attend conferences, and watch webinars. Soak up information from everyone who will talk at you about what they do. And never stop learning. Digital marketing is like a giant puzzle. You can see the bigger picture and you will never have all of the pieces. But you will know people who can help you fill in the gaps. You’ve got this.
Alice is a freelance SEO content and web copywriter who works primarily with service-based businesses and marketing agencies. She can help you spread the word(s) about your services and get into Google’s good books at the same time. When she’s not writing and researching, you’ll find her wandering through a forest and trying to keep her houseplants alive.
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