How To Manage The Best Blog In Your Niche With Zach Bulygo From Kissmetrics [AMP 049]
Successful content marketing depends on publishing great content consistently. Do you know how to know what’s working and what’s not? More importantly, can you learn as you go so you can improve your future blog posts?
Today, we’re talking to Zach Bulygo, the blog manager at Kissmetrics. We’ll talk about Zach’s process and planning, how to work with guest writers, how to publish lots of content with a small team, and how to turn your marketing blog into a leading authority. Sit back, relax, and get read to glean a ton of great information from Zach.
Some of the highlights of the show include:
- Some information about Kissmetrics and what Zach does there, as well as what topics are covered on the Kissmetrics blog.
- Why the team as Kissmetrics embraces guest posts and how those fit into the site’s strategy.
- The goals of the Kissmetrics blog and how the team uses data analysis and testing to achieve them.
- How Zach uses data to know that the blog posts and CTAs are working and how the information helps the team tweak future blogs for more success.
- The standards that the Kissmetrics team holds its guest writers to.
- How Zach manages the blog as the only permanent person on the team.
- The typical workflow for a blog post on Kissmetrics.
- Zach’s advice for a marketing team that is hoping to add blog content to their marketing mix.
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Nathan: Publishing great content consistently is one of the staples behind successful content marketing and your marketing blog is one of the best ways to ship that content. The question becomes how can you know what’s working and what about knowing what isn’t working, how can you use what you’ve learned to improve your future blog posts? That’s why we’re chatting with Zach Bulygo today on the Actionable Marketing Podcast.
Zach is the Blog Manager at Kissmetrics. That blog is definitely a leading authority in the marketing industry. Today, you’re going to learn about Zach’s process, planning, and workflows, specifically you’re going to learn how to work with guest writers, how to publish lots of content with a small team, and how to build your marketing blog into the leading authority in your niche.
I’m Nathan from CoSchedule. Let’s chat with Zach. Zach, thank you so much for being on the episode today.
Zach: You bet. Happy to be here.
Nathan: Yeah and we are happy to have you. Let’s kick it off, Zach. Tell me a little about Kissmetrics and what you do there.
Zach: I’m the Blog Manager for Kissmetrics. What that means is that I set our content strategy. I work with our paid and guest writers. I edit their work for blog posts and I write some blog posts myself. I’ve been doing this for about two years now. Before that, I was the content writer and I was doing that for three years.
Nathan: I know that you guys are publishing world class content over there. Let’s talk a little bit about the blog. What kind of topics do you cover on the Kissmetrics blog?
Zach: We like to talk about analytics, AB testing, and then a new thing we’re trying to get into is customer engagement topics and then as well as general marketing and product marketing topics. We’ve recently phased out some of the old stuff we talked about like social media marketing, how to get more followers on Twitter, and social media metrics.
We’ve phased out the social media part because we did some analysis and we found that those types of blog posts don’t bring quality traffic. We’ve phased out that and now we’re focusing more on the analytics of marketing.
Nathan: I think that’s really interesting, what you just said about data. In the topics that you are working with now, why have you strategically chosen the topics that you’re focusing on today?
Zach: I continue to do a big analysis of all of our customers. I look at all of our close ones, as we call them. They signed up for our product and then I use Kissmetrics, frankly, to see which pages they visited before they made it to sign up or request a demo. A lot of those customers view blog posts until they first hear about us and they keep coming back to view more blog posts.
What I found was that the type of blog posts that they were viewing were typically analytics and AB testing. For analytics, it was here’s four reports you can use for Google Analytics or here’s goals. And then AB testing, it was maybe case studies about this company ran this test and they saw this conversion increase. I charted all the blog posts they viewed and I was able to see the patterns of blog posts that our customers looked at. That’s why I reached those conclusions.
Nathan: We use Kissmetrics all the time too and do similar trend analysis like that. Something that you do on the Kissmetrics blog that I find interesting is you allow a lot of guest posts. How do guest blog posts fit into that overarching strategy?
Zach: We have a form set up for anyone to submit their ideas to contribute to the blog. I receive about three to five of these per day. I’m pretty picky when it comes to guest posts because the submission doesn’t look very good. I pass on about 90% of them. The 10% that I do accept, what they usually have is that they have written in a place before that’s good like Moz, Copyblogger, HubSpot. They have submitted ideas that fit within a target topic that I was just discussing earlier, which is analytics, AB testing, and customer engagement.
I receive those and then I work with those writers. They submit headline ideas for blog posts and I get in contact with them and they send in an outline. We work for the outline and then they send a draft in. Then we go through rounds of revisions on that draft. Typically, maybe three revisions before I publish it on the blog and spread it on our Twitter and LinkedIn profiles.
Yes, we accept guest posts but only if they’re good writers and only if they know what they’re talking about, basically.
Nathan: I think that definitely shows in the quality of content that you guys are publishing. It’s interesting that you make it a point that those topics have to relate to the topics that you’ve strategically shown. You’ve mentioned that you do a lot of data analysis. Could you tell me what is the goal behind the Kissmetrics blog?
Zach: There are a few things to it. We want to build awareness of Kissmetrics. That’s definitely why we have these things, to build awareness and to convert people to trying our product. But I guess the sort of sub goals underneath that would be we want to help people solve their problem. 85% of our traffic is from Google. That means that people are googling something that they have a problem with, that they need, or they want information on.
What we try to do in our posts is make actionable things they can do. How to’s or sometimes, lists. What I try to avoid, I think I’m getting better at, is avoiding topics or blog posts that talk down to the audience or sound preachy, I guess, would be the term.
What I look for is actionable stuff. If you Google AB testing and Google analytics, you’ll find one of our blog posts right up there. We literally just show people how to do that. That works because it fits into our analytics and our AB testing, so it’s perfect. Hopefully, we’re helping people out.
And then once we get that audience in there, we hope that they come back at some point and become aware of our product. We build awareness through, we have CTAs placed throughout the blog and then we have some ebooks that we promote. We feature one ebook at a time in our blog posts. Those can get about 100 views everyday on the landing page and then about a 30% conversion on that. We get 30 people a day downloading an ebook that is about our product. We build awareness through that and then we also have links back to our marketing site. We hope the people first check out the content, get use out of it, come back, download an ebook, or go to a webinar, or go to the marketing site and sign up.
Nathan: It makes sense. It sounds a lot like what we do at CoSchedule too. I was wondering, since we’re talking about Kissmetrics, I was wondering about measurement for that goal. How do you measure when blog posts are working, when those CTAs are working?
Zach: For the ebook, again, this is at the bottom of almost every blog post we have. I just put a Bitly link that links to the landing page. I’ll look at the traffic that that gets and then I’ll go into our landing page software and I’ll see the conversion rate that that converts at. I don’t analyze every blog post we publish. I only care about how many Facebook likes it got or Twitter shares. The analysis that I do is literally just go as far as looking at who signs up and then seeing which blog post they visited.
If there are some that stand out to me more, then I’ll make a note of it but I don’t do individual analysis of every blog post. I guess comments would be one of them but that’s not a huge factor because I’ve had a few guest writers add some of their stuff and they share it with their own network and it gets a lot of comments, which is great. It can be a factor. You can see who is coming to this blog post but it’s a small factor.
Nathan: Definitely. I think one of the things that you mentioned was you’re looking at what kind of sign ups you get. I like that example. How do you use that data to improve the blog post that you’re going to publish in the future?
Zach: It really just helps me refine what I’m doing. I know what makes a good blog post and I can verify that with again the data that I look at. If I’m working with a guest writers and their stuff just isn’t up to par, isn’t up to the standards we’re looking for, I think I’ve gotten better at spotting this and just telling them upfront, “Your blog post, it’s got a ways to go before it’s going to be good.” What I offer those people is just a ghostwriter to write for them.
I have a guy that I know who writes really good posts and he does ghostwriting. If I see that those people, they would just take months to get theirs fixed, I’ll offer them the ghost writer. Some of them would take it but they have to pay for that ghost writer. Kissmetrics does not pay for people that hire ghostwriters.
Nathan: You know Zach, something that you just mentioned was Kissmetrics and standards for your content. I think your guys’ content is amazing. I want to talk a little bit about those standards. What sorts of standards or values do you expect from your writers before you’ll publish their content? What are you looking for?
Zach: Just at the beginning, when they submit their form, what I really like are writers that have written in well known places before like Copyblogger, Moz, ConversionXL. If they write there, that’s a definite go ahead that I want to talk to them and get their stuff on our blog. But for individual blog posts, what makes it good is a good headline that people want to click on if they see it on their Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or even emails that we send out for the blog post.
This is one thing that a lot of people miss, images. We like images in our blog posts. Not stock images, people sitting in a boardroom pointing at a whiteboard. That’s not helpful. What we like are images, really screenshots that visualize what the writer is talking about, to help the reader understand. We like a lot of images. There’s no minimum but it should fit into the blog post and flow really well.
As far as writing, good grammar is obvious. What I typically like are short paragraphs, less than three sentences. I don’t like walls of text because I don’t think people like that. It makes for a good reading. I like if they break it up a little bit. Just keep it flowing. When you’re writing, each sentence should build off the last one and the next one should build off the previous one and it should keep moving. It shouldn’t be just dry, boring information. It should be entertaining. It should be fun to read.
Ideally, it should be funny. It should have parts of humor in it because some of the stuff we write about isn’t the sexiest thing in the world. Google Analytics is not the most exciting platform so if you can add a little bit of humor, where possible, I think that’s good for the reader and I think it makes them want to continue reading. Just mix that humor along with some really useful information with images, keep the story and the writing flowing well. And then your conclusion should just sum up everything of what you just said in the above sections. Keep it short.
Nathan: Something you mentioned earlier was that you guys focus on actionable content. Tell me about that. What do you look for in that sort of quality?
Zach: I try to avoid listicles. I try to avoid, “Here’s 100 ways you can increase your ecommerce revenue,” because that’s long and people don’t want to read it. Most of it is just stuff that’s been discussed before. What I like is actual content that’s step by step. We’re showing people how to use a new report in Google Analytics, for example, or we’re going to show them step by step literally, here is what you click on to get there and then the images will have arrows that point to everything, to show them the way around the report. That would be what I look for in an actionable blog post.
Nathan: Obviously, you’re publishing lots of really great content. About how many blog posts do you publish in a given week?
Zach: Three to five.
Nathan: How big is the team that helps you create that much content?
Zach: I’m the only person in Kissmetrics that works for the blog but I have three or four paid writers that I work with and then the rest is filled in either by me or our guest writers. Our paid writers, I can usually get about two to four posts a month out of each of them. It’s usually enough for three a week. Like I said, the rest is filled in by guest writers or by me. When I’m not editing or brainstorming with writers, I’m usually writing blog posts myself.
Nathan: Tell me. Is there a secret to publishing that much content with just one person? Tell me about that.
Zach: I guess there’s no secret. It’s just having a good team of writers around me. I really like the paid writers that I have. They’re consistent. They make my job easier because there are usually not too many rounds of revision that we have to go through. In many cases, there’s none. They send it to me. I read it. I like it. Sometimes, I’ll make small edits myself to the blog post but that’s not too often. They really help me out a lot. The good guest writers are really helpful as well so long as they’re quick to respond to revisions and emails.
I can usually whip out a blog post in maybe five or six hours if I’m really focused and I don’t have any distractions and other stuff. I can usually get one out a week if I’m not too busy.
Nathan: Three to five pieces is a lot every single week. How far ahead of schedule are you planning that blog content?
Zach: It’s not far at all. I think the farthest I’ve had it out was two weeks. That is the farthest. If I’m working on a Friday, I’m going to figure out what I’m going to publish the next week, I’ll have three or four that are ready to go from the paid writers. That gives me Monday, Tuesday, maybe Wednesday. I got these three other guest writers that I’m working with. I hope we can finish this up so I can get it published Thursday or Friday. My pipeline is not large at all. I can only plan out maybe a few days ahead. It’s tough.
Nathan: Why do you like to have a shorter time frame from getting the post to publishing it?
Zach: I would love to have a huge pipeline of posts. I would love to be able to have 15 that are ready to go. That would be awesome. But I have to work with the blog budget that I have, which limits the amount of blog posts I can accept and like I said before, the guest post submissions that I receive usually are good. I only accept a couple of them a week and some of those don’t turn out to be very good. I would love to have 15 but I’m just usually not that full. I would be if I didn’t publish three to five times a week but we like to publish pretty often.
Nathan: You’re working through lots of different pieces in a given week. Typical workflow, what does that look like for a blog post at Kissmetrics?
Zach: We have paid writers. It’s pretty simple. They’ll send in topic ideas or I’ll send topic ideas for them, and then we agree on a few of them, three or four maybe. We skip the outlines for paid writers because no need for it except for maybe one or two of them. They’ll send me a Google Doc and then I’ll read through it. I’ll make comments along the way. I’ll finish it. I’ll send an email saying, “Feedback added. Let me know what you think.” They’ll get through it, they’ll make any changes, and then I’ll publish it when it’s available.
For guest writers, it’ a little bit different because they go through the form and then they got to send in the outline and then we got to work through the draft. Those usually take a little bit longer. We’ll collaborate in a Google Doc, make comments, make changes together. In some cases, I’m more heavy handed with the editing because it’s just easier for me to make changes instead of just asking them because I’ll just note like, “Oh, can you add this?” If I get the sense that what they add may not be great, then I’ll just add it in myself or make any edits myself. They usually don’t mind.
If the stuff is good, I’ll be honest with them. I’ll tell them it’s great. I’ll praise it. If it’s not so great, then like I said earlier, I have to be able to spot that early so I don’t get thrown into this mess of trying to fix a blog post that can’t really be fixed. So yeah, and then we’ll make those revisions and I’ll get it published.
Nathan: Just because you work at Kissmetrics and you’re doing some of these data analyses to understand what sorts of topics you should cover, what’s one of the most interesting things you’ve done with data to improve your marketing?
Zach: I found that Google [00:22:13] too well. They bring in qualified traffic obviously because they’re interested in analytics and we’re an analytics company and with some engagement. A lot of people don’t really know the difference between Google Analytics and Kissmetrics so what I’ve done is I’ve written a blog post that outlines the difference. That gets a lot of pageviews, I think that if you would type into Google like [00:25:01], it would be right there at the top.
But what I also did was I worked with a paid writer that I had to publish an ebook that explains where Google Analytics is missing and how Kissmetrics can fill the gaps they leave behind. This one performed very well by almost any measure. It got a lot of downloads. It brought sign ups, it brought leads, and it even brought a few customers. I don’t think I would have started this project with the paid writer if I did not actually look at this data and see so clearly what needs to be written. I would say that’s the most interesting thing.
I’ve also learned what not to publish: social media. I think if we talk about ourselves too much, our own product, I think that would send people away. Usually, that stuff doesn’t get a whole lot of views either. That’s what I’ve learned.
Nathan: For a marketing team that’s looking to add blog content in their marketing mix, maybe they’re not doing it or maybe they’re not looking at the data, what would you recommend they do to kick it off and be successful at maintaining their blog?
Zach: You should already have an idea of who your ideal customer prospect is. You should have those personas on hand. I would use that to figure out what types of content you want to publish. We did this. We figured out who, we call them gold customers, we figure out who those people were, we talk to them, we figure out what challenges they have, where do they get information from, what do they like to read about that’s in tech, and then I use that to sort of formulate future content or content strategy. That’s what I would recommend that people do.
Make those assumptions based off of your personas that you have and then you start writing posts, start to get a good amount of traffic. Maybe once you have let’s say 10,000 people at your blog every month, I think that’s enough to where a couple of hundred blog posts. I think you’ll have enough to where you can then look into the data and validate those assumptions that you previously made based off of your personas. Usually, it should line up. If it doesn’t, data doesn’t lie, so you know where to go. I would rely on data and looking at what people are viewing before they sign up because that will really, really help you in forming your content strategy.
Nathan: Nice. I think that’s awesome advice, Zach, and probably a great place to wrap this up. I just want to say thanks for being on the podcast today. This was awesome.
Zach: Yeah, you bet. Had a good time. Thanks.
Nathan: At CoSchedule, we analyze our blog post following a really similar process to Zach’s. When we replicated the qualities of our most successful blog posts in new ones, we were able to boost our results as much as 9,360%, really. To top it off, that process helped us understand what to stop doing. All of that helped us generate bigger results with the same amount of effort.
Zach, thanks so much for sharing your thoughts on blog management with us today on the Actionable Marketing Podcast. Thanks to you to for tuning into this episode. You just heard from Zach Bulygo. He is the blog manager at Kissmetrics.