15 June 2022 |

These things take time: A content marketing mantra

By Tracey Wallace

But why me? What do I know that you don’t? 

Honestly, probably not all that much. I’m not a great cook. I’m a decent swimmer. I’ve only ever run a consecutive 5 miles––once––in my life. 

But when it comes to content––like so many people obsessed with words––I began young. 

  • I started editing issues of Vogue at age 9––for fun. 👀
  • I published a weekly newsletter for my neighborhood block by 11, mostly detailing the whereabouts of the local cats. 
  • I joined the yearbook in high school and became the managing editor. 
  • In college, I studied English literature while working part-time at the student newspaper as a page designer and op-ed writer. 

I then graduated into the great recession, and lucked into a $32,000 per year job at a company called Demand Media. It was started by the former founder of MySpace. Months after I joined, I got to witness the company IPO––and share in the morning champagne. 

I knew nothing about the technology industry prior to getting this job. I’d never heard of an IPO. I was from small town, East Texas where the primary work available was in an oil plant. 

That job was awful, but I’m thankful for it so often. There were so few jobs available to new graduates then, and I was lucky enough to get one in an industry that would change my life. 

Today, organizations like Demand Media are known as content farms––which peaked prior to February 2011, when Google released the Panda algorithm update. Google has released a lot of updates since then, but few hit as hard as the Panda, which wiped companies like Demand Media off page 1, for good

That update also began to lay the foundations for modern SEO and content marketing, including the keyword cluster theory, and longer form content in general. 

It wasn’t until about 2016 that I began to have any substantial career success in content marketing. At that point, I was running BigCommerce’s blog––as a team of one––and had been for about a year and half. 

Before 2016, the blog was used primarily as a publication outlet for BigCommerce’s partners. I had no real say in what was published, and was a glorified WordPress uploader, if you will. 

But in 2016, I put my foot down. 

I’d built great relationships with BigCommerce’s partners. I had been keeping a close eye on what Shopify was doing––and with folks like Tommy Walker heading up their content strategy, they were doing very good things. 

I wanted to do things differently, and I knew we needed to because the blog wasn’t producing any sort of real result. 

  • It wasn’t driving a ton of traffic. 
  • It wasn’t converting the traffic that even came. 
  • Partners weren’t happy about it. 
  • The company wasn’t happy about it. 
  • And I was tired of producing content I didn’t even want to read myself. 

Things didn’t change overnight, but bit by bit, day by day, meeting by meeting, and post by post, I made a mark on the ecommerce technology industry. 

Within a year and a half, the blog was driving more than 1 million monthly sessions, generating more than 10,000 monthly content downloads, and driving hundreds of thousands in ARR (annual run rate) for the company. 

Suddenly, I was speaking at every company all hands, just before the CEO. 

Then, I was invited to speak at industry events: 

  • Hubspot’s Inbound
  • The Traffic & Conversion Summit
  • The Amazon Prosper Show
  • Klaviyo’s inaugural KBos. 

My sessions were crowded––all 500 seats accounted for, and little standing room left. 

From the outside looking in, I was a bright content marketer on the rise, but by 2018, I was having nervous breakdowns before driving into work. 

Months later, I’d quit BigCommerce after 4.5 years with no job lined up. I traveled to Amsterdam with my mom. Paris with my wife. I was lost. I didn’t know who I was without that job, but keeping it was taking a physical toll. 

I’d go on to join two early stage start-ups as their head of marketing, leading content-first marketing strategies that built organic traffic foundations so that organizations weren’t overly reliant on Facebook ad spend. 

I wasn’t surprised at all by Apple’s iOS14 updates––and the subsequent ones––nor by the chaos it caused in the industry. 

Organizations like Google, Apple, Facebook, and the like are in competition with one another, and their algorithms and their walled gardens of data––and the access they do or do not provide to it––are their most critical intellectual property. 

Just like the Google Panda in 2011, Apple’s iOS14 privacy updates wiped many companies off the map entirely, nearly overnight. The ones that weren’t wiped off either had strong organic and owned marketing channels or were quick to restructure their paid social advertising programs and ride out the storm

Today, content marketing is more important than ever for organizations–– especially for technology companies, as they work to better balance owned and paid sources of traffic. Those who haven’t already started focusing on SEO have a long way to go to catch up. 

All of this to say––I have been you. 

Whether you are starting your marketing journey, years into it and still haven’t had a big success, or an executive wanting to figure out how to better batten the hatches for stormier business seasons ahead, I want to help. 

The strategies and tactics I’ll cover can work almost anywhere. Some of them are more mindsets to implement for yourself than something tangible for you to publish. That’s just as important as the weeks you’ll get publishing checklists and outline templates.

Never forget that your ability to be a world-class content marketer begins with your ability to become a trusted source––and that starts with your internal team. They must trust you, and you them. 

And finally, while I know content marketing to be a fascinating, fun and lucrative field for just about anyone, nothing is more important than your personal health, mood, and mind. Burnout is real. It took me three years to get over mine, and I wouldn’t wish it on a soul. 

  • It steals your focus. 
  • It clouds your clarity. 

And it is something completely in your control. I learned that the hard way. Hopefully some of those lessons can rub off on you in these weekly newsletters. 

As always, if you have questions, concerns, ideas, or just want to say Hi, please send me a quick email by just replying to this one. You’ve got my ear, and I will try to help best I can.