The content and SEO folks I follow and admire
By Tracey Wallace
Any expert worth their salt probably doesn’t think of themselves as an expert. All of us are just on different levels of a growth curve, and we always have room to move up more!
I feel like I know a lot about content marketing, especially for B2B and especially in the ecommerce space. That’s really cool––but there are a lot of folks out there who know just as much as me, or even more, especially about tangential topics.
These are the folks who’s newsletter and tweets I follow religiously, and who’s thoughts on any given topic I take into consideration in terms of how I approach content and SEO.
Luckily, most of these folks are friends now, too! Some of them still aren’t, though, at least yet! A girl has to have some unapproachable idols, am I right?! Still, others you won’t even find on this list because they don’t “do” socials or newsletters. They are the epitome of “money talks, and wealth whispers” in that they whisper so much, you can only find them by recommendation.
Anyway, the folks below round out the crew who has been there, done that, and treats content marketing like performance marketing––for good reason.
Kevin is one of the only ones on this list I don’t personally know, but I’ve come to really love his newsletter and all of the content on his site that dives deep into how different types of company do SEO, why they do it that way, why it works for those business models and more. It’s an incredibly useful resource to understand how others have done this, and to even take that language and those examples to your own c-suite to get your content plans through approval.
I first met Fio when I did some consulting for Hotjar, and she’s a force in this industry. She’s a researcher at heart, meaning that the words and the sources and the actual quality of the writing are incredibly important to her (this is more rare than you think in the performance content marketing world!), AND she is equally dedicated and focused on producing results.
She’s becoming one of the go-to people for product-led content marketing education, and let me tell y’all, don’t sleep on this information. I have a hunch that Fio, like me, learned early on that the best way to get higher-ups off your back so you can focus on creating the high-quality content you want is to prove to them just how well it is performing––in the same way your performance team reports out on their numbers. And she has years of experience doing this across organizations.
Benyamin comes from a content marketing background, and has graduated into marketing leadership in general. His performance content marketing background has been incredibly helpful on that journey, because, done right, content marketing teaches you product marketing (the product and how to position it), brand (storytelling and look & feel), performance (SEO, CRO, etc), lifecycle (down-funnel CRO), etc.
Benyamin is a profound marketer, too. He’s shared with me countless decks from his time in the content marketing world (like 12+ decks!) where he’s thought through extensive how-tos, whys, etc. for presenting content arguments, presenting to execs, training new team members and more. Plus, he’s just a good human who looks out for others, helps mentor the rising community of content marketers and marketing leaders, and is a man who readily uses the ladder he climbed to where he is to help pull others to his same position.
When I was at BigCommerce in the early days, Tommy Walker was the name to beat in the industry. He was known as the best content marketer––but moreover, the best editor in the game. He was over at Shopify at the time, and was a major part of their SEO dominance. He later took on launching the Shopify Plus blog, laying a strong foundation for the next person on this list. Then, he migrated over to Intuit, and now, he runs his own freelance business with clients including LinkedIn.
Tommy is one of those good people that when you grab a beer with him, his love for this craft (editing primarily!) is so clear––and so fascinating––that time just flies on by without you noticing one bit. His deep thinking on the topic is evident in his work, including his video series with other B2B content marketers as he asks them to live edit a piece! He’s working on creating more and more materials for more senior content marketers to help this career path become that––a clear and paved career path for those that come next.
Aaron Orendorff was my long-time rival when he took over the blog at Shopify Plus when Tommy left. And he was a really good rival to have, too––the kind that forces you to better your game, and fast. Aaron is a no-nonsense content marketer, who delivers incredibly long-form value that tracks back to lead gen and revenue. You wouldn’t see him publishing a piece of content for no reason––all of it must track back to the ultimate goal of serving the business and the product.
I knew Aaron was good people when after I published my first proprietary report at BigCommerce, he reached out over an industry Slack channel to congratulate me, point out the pieces he really liked, etc. That’s who good competitors are––the ones that push each other.
He, like Benyamin, has moved on into marketing leadership in general, and is now leading marketing over at Recart. All I know for sure is that we’ll see some incredibly cool stuff coming out of that organization in 2023––so it’s one to watch and follow as he gets his ducks in a row!
Krista Doyle started out less as a content marketing contact and far more as an actual friend. She went on a couple (I think?!) dates with my wife’s best friend, and then married one of my college sorority sisters! She’s a comedian at heart (and a southern gal at heart!), and has written a book: Does this Bible Belt make me look gay?
She’s also worked at Twitter (and got out before well, everything!), started her own content and SEO agency, run multiple niche websites, and now, is running SEO over at Jasper.ai––and tweeting about all things AI content.
She’s a passionate go-getter and figure-outer, and I can just feel is about to bring incredible change to the world of content marketing, in what will be the most emphatic way!
I hired Corinne when I was incredibly burned out at BigCommerce. I managed her for about 6 months, I think, and the last great thing I tried to do for her was get her a raise before I left. It worked!! Since then, Corinne has gone on to do incredible work at Postscript, and then moved into the food tech industry––where she’s run full-on brand teams and produced some of the industry’s coolest campaigns and programs.
She is far more than a content marketer now, but it’s her content marketing roots that help her build narratives top of funnel that convert lower funnel––and it’s so incredible to see the work she gets out in the market.
I don’t remember exactly how I met Alex, but we’ve caught up in person so many times over the years. He was at ConversionXL (which is where Tommy Walker also started out––and Shanelle Mullin, who isn’t on this list because she isn’t a content marketer, but who is equally a badass), and then later at Hubspot. We always caught up for coffee in downtown Austin because he’s one of those brave (non-Texan) soles who moved to Austin years ago and didn’t purchase a car.
Alex helped me realize early on just how advanced some of my content production processes were––esp. In comparison to Hubspot, which shook me to the core in my earlier career. My team was doing this better than Hubspot?! No executive of mine would ever believe it! Ha.
He also really lit the fire under me to build a stronger network, and to ask for what I needed more often. He’s helped me get a ton of friendly backlinks over the years, and so much of that it was his advice and nonchalant attitude to performance content marketing. He just has a je ne sais quoi about him, and that same kind of approach to this work.
Yet, his approach to this work is incredibly effective. His agency has long been working with Jasper.ai (so he works with Krista now!) on their content marketing, and a handful of other top-notch brands. His Twitter and LinkedIn following havent’ grown all that quickly, but the stuff he puts out is fiirreee––and is so helpful for content marketers needing to position their work with execs.
I worked very briefly with JH when we were both consulting for Postscript in their earlier days, and the SEO documentation he made for them, and subsequent content guidance was phenomenal! His insights and expertise on how to produce high-converting, SEO content, when, where and why (and how to pitch it to founders and execs) is bar none, and he shares a lot of that information for free on Twitter and elsewhere.
All right, that’s it from me this week! One thing you may have noticed in here–– I reference “performance content marketing” a lot in here, and to be honest, there’s really no such term. I’m denoting this for all of these marketers because none of them focus only on production or working as a service organization. To every single one of these people, content marketing must drive revenue for an organization in order for it to be successful, and they set up processes to do that at every organization they go to.
That, to me, is performance content marketing.
When you track, just as well and as frequently as your performance team does, exactly how content affects the company’s bottom line. You report out on that. You plan to improve that. And what you do in the meantime is set yourself up for incredible success––and make it far easier to communicate to leadership. Because at the end of the day, content marketing is a way for companies to drive more business, and to me, is a foundational reason why a media model isn’t the most effective to set up (for most orgs!).