Stories about Software


An Actually Strategic Way to Do SEO Competitor Analysis

I just spent part of my morning writing up internal documentation to operationalize so-called SEO competitor analysis.  If you don’t believe me and think this is just a rhetorical flourish, here’s a really boring screenshot.


As I was doing this, my last step was to record a high-level explanation of the document, which included this paragraph:

Clients have various ideas about what a competitor analysis is or should be, and they’re often requesting it by rote, as it’s something that SEO firms tend to do.  Assessing competitors, however, tends to be of somewhat limited value, since many of them aren’t even trying for search traffic, or, if they are, they might be doing it naively. 

After typing that, I immediately wrapped up the SOP and started writing this blog post.  My intent is to have it up here on the blog so that we can send it to anyone requesting a competitor analysis.  And I want to do that because we do this differently than the typical SEO firm.

You deserve an explanation of how and why.

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Why SEO Consulting Shouldn’t Exist

This isn’t a clickbait title.  I genuinely stand by the position that “SEO consulting” is a service that shouldn’t exist in the economy.

But before I dive into specifics and my case, I do want to offer a couple of important caveats.

  1. I wouldn’t dispute that some SEO consultants offer some economic value and provide helpful services.  There is economic value to increasing the visibility of content.
  2. The fact that I don’t think the role should exist isn’t a commentary, per se, on people occupying that role.  I don’t think “bathroom attendant” should exist as a role, either, but I’m sure many of them are lovely human beings with friendly demeanors and a good work ethic.

With that out of the way, let me build my case for why the role shouldn’t exist—and what should exist instead.

 Spidermen pointing at each other

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Creating a Company-Engineer Blogging Program

(Editorial note: I originally wrote this post over on the Hit Subscribe blog.)

I’ve been on a listening tour of late, talking to product marketers that own their business’s content production, among others.  My aim has been to discover subtle pain points, identify patterns, and possibly develop productized services to help.

A couple of weeks ago, I heard something interesting.  “We have in-house engineers that want to contribute to the blog, but there are some barriers.”

This is exactly the kind of tidbit that I like to dig into, and it exemplifies what I mean about looking for patterns.  Hit Subscribe has been around for six years, and we’ve occasionally, on request, taken on client engineers as if they were in our author pool to help produce content for the company.  And, as a long-time blogger before that, I’ve also observed companies, often app dev consultancies, try to tease a steady content stream out of their engineering groups.

I suppose I could hurriedly try to roll out a productized service and scoop up the opportunity, but that’s not really my style.  Even if we didn’t phase productized service rollouts (alpha, beta, general), I like to run lean.  Why roll out some kind of offering when I could just write about it and see if anyone finds this interesting?

So today, I’d like to explore the idea of using internal engineers to create content.  Assuming you have folks that are interested in creating content (I wouldn’t try to force it), here’s a series of steps I’d recommend to establish a successful program.

Courtesy of Danial Igdery (https://unsplash.com/@ricaros)

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Gut Check Time: The “Are You Sure You Want Organic Traffic” Checklist

(Editorial note: I originally wrote this post over on the Hit Subscribe blog.)

Today I’m going to dive into a topic and a situation that comes up constantly among clients and prospects.  It’s the “You say you want organic traffic, but do you really?” conversation.

Historically, I’ve tended to have this conversation live.  But it comes up so often that I’m going to immortalize it here, in written form, and hope that it’s broadly helpful.

The lede here is that only maybe half of the businesses that come to us asking about organic traffic are actually prepared to make it a reality.  Thus if you’re reading this, there’s a coin-flip chance that you’ve said you want it but you’re actually going to beg off when the rubber meets the road.  It’s probably even more of a coin-flip if someone linked you here.

So let’s walk through a list of questions to ask yourself.  You should come away with a sense that, yes, you’re all in, or no, it’s not the distribution channel for you.  Either outcome is good since it points you in the direction of what to do next.

Of Course You Want Organic Traffic

I’d like to start out with a brief clarification.  Of course you want search engine traffic, in a vacuum.  Who wouldn’t?

After all, framed this way, your choice is “Would you like a search engine to deposit people on your site or not?”

Who would say no to that?

Sadly, though, whatever anyone may have told you, that’s the wrong question.  Or at least it’s not a refined enough question.

A better version reads as follows.

Are you prepared to turn a decent portion of your site into a somewhat basic form of Q&A, writ large?

Not quite as clear-cut now, is it?  I can psychically hear the doubt creeping in:

  • But we have original ideas we should talk about!
  • Why would we write about something other people have already written about on the internet?
  • Our users will think we don’t know what we’re talking about if we cover basic subjects.

If you’re having thoughts like these, you’re going to either need to change your mental model of using your blog and your site or else think of a different content distribution paradigm than search traffic.

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The Agency Client Bill of Rights

(Editorial note: I originally wrote this post over on the Hit Subscribe blog)

Lately, within the account management function of Hit Subscribe, we’ve been swatting around a philosophical question.

Rather than having disparate sales and account management departments, could a unified customer success group serve both functions for our business?

We currently, tentatively believe that the answer is “yes,” and we’re proceeding accordingly.  But to make this work, we realized that we’d need to provide collateral about how we work with clients prior to when we’ve historically done this: during kickoff and onboarding.

This realization dovetailed nicely with the fact that a lot of the reader/viewer questions I answer in my freelancer Q&A video series are essentially about how to conduct yourself as the owner of a practice.  So I figured I’d write it up, get buy-in from Hit Subscribe’s account managers, and publish the results.

And that’s what this post is.

Scroll with your rights written on it

I’m framing this as a list of rights (with a table of contents for navigability), and I intend our clients and prospects to be the primary audience, with newly hired account managers as a secondary audience.  If any other readers enjoy this or get some use out of it, hey, it’s always nice to put a little collateral good into the world when you can.

What follows is what you can expect from Hit Subscribe—and what we hope you’ll hold us to account on.  We also have a PDF, cheat sheet version you can download, if you like.

  1. The Right to Freedom from Gimmicks
  2. The Right to Minimize Your Risk
  3. The Right to the Best Deal
  4. The Right to Non-Commitment
  5. The Right to Refunds
  6. The Right to Know Prices Up Front
  7. The Right to Labor Transparency
  8. The Right to Unconflicted Advice
  9. The Right to Easily Understood Deliverables
  10. The Right to Vendor Accountability
  11. The Right Not to Play Referee
  12. The Right to Fast, Predictable Responses

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