Content Strategy Case Study: 36,282 Readers + 1,000 Email Subscribers

content strategy blog post bannerA few weeks ago I get this email out of the blue from Jimmy…

The email said:

“The first time I used your Skyscraper Technique I got 30k pageviews, 1k email subscribers, and currently rank #2 for my target term.”

Needless to say, I was intrigued.

So I pressed him for more info.

Turns out Jimmy was happy to spill the beans on his entire content strategy (step-by-step).

Let’s jump right in.

Free PDF Checklist: Download a PDF checklist that will walk you through the exact Skyscraper Technique process from this post.

This 3-Step Content Strategy=More Traffic, Backlinks and Sales From Your Content

Here’s the deal:

If you’re serious about getting results from your content, there are 3-steps you need to know:

Step #1: Find content with a proven track record of attracting backlinks, social shares and first page rankings.

Step#2: Make strategic improvements to that content.

Step #3: Promote that content via email outreach (today’s post has A LOT of info on this step).

And BAM. You’re done.

As you may know, these 3-steps make up The Skyscraper Technique…

…an SEO and content strategy that’s changing the way marketers create and promote their content.

Not familiar with The Skyscraper Technique?

No worries.

I filmed a video that walks you through the entire process.

Now that you understand how The Skyscraper Technique works, it’s time to dive into today’s step-by-step case study.

Jimmy’s Post Went Live on September 28th…

…and here’s what happened:

The post generated 4,865 Pageviews in its first week.

first week pageviews

It also attracted over 5,600 social shares (that’s not a typo).

social share count

Including tweets from ballers like Neil Patel (118k followers)…

neil patel tweet

…and the official Eventbrite Twitter account (189k followers):

eventbrite tweet

Because Jimmy got so many eyeballs on his content, bloggers started linking to it pretty much from day 1.

referring backlinks

And these aren’t your average, run-of-the-mill backlinks either.

We’re talking about mentions from the authority news sites, like Entrepreneur…

entrepreneur backlink

…and Inc.com:

inc backlink

But that was just the beginning…

“But Wait, There’s More”

What happens when a page attracts a bunch of high-quality backlinks?

That’s right: the page ranks higher in Google!

And that’s exactly what happened to Jimmy’s post.

The post currently ranks #2 for its target keyword, “email marketing best practices” (1,600 searches/month).

get vero rankingsKeep in mind that the keyword “email marketing best practices” is no joke.

With a CPC in the $26 range, the first page for this keyword is an eye-gouging, hair-pulling dogfight.

Despite the fact that Jimmy’s site is relatively new, his post ranks above big brand sites like MailChimp, HubSpot and Econsultancy.

Because he ranks #2 for that target keyword — and dozens of long tail keywords — organic traffic to that page continues to roll in day after day.

When you combine the surge of viral traffic in September with the slow drip of organic traffic, you have a page that’s brought in 36,282 total pageviews.

total pageviews

But as you know, no one ever went out of business because they didn’t get enough website pageviews or tweets.

That’s why I want to point out that the traffic that lands on this page converts like a champ.

In fact, this single post has generated 953 new email subscribers and 256 free trial signups.Β 

Want to know how Jimmy did it…and how you can do the same thing?

Keep reading.

How Jimmy Daly Generated 36,292 Pageviews from One Piece of Content

Now it’s time to learn how Jimmy had so much success so you can emulate it.

But first:

Who is Jimmy…and why did he create this guide in the first place?

Jimmy Daly heads up content marketing at Vero, a small (but growing) email marketing company.

jimmy daly

Here’s something you may or may not know the email marketing industry:

It’s INSANELY competitive.

But get this:

The entire Vero team is only 5 guys (including Jimmy).

5 guys!

And these 5 guys are going head-to-head with giants like GetResponse, MailChimp and Constant Contact.

Can you say David vs. Goliath?

Fortunately for Jimmy, the Vero team have an ace up their sleeve.

An ace that gives them a puncher’s chance against the big brands.

And that ace is:

SEO and content marketing.

Or as Jimmy puts it:

Jimmy Daly

We looked around at the big guys β€” MailChimp, Constant Contact etc. β€” and their blogs were boring. The content was really generic and uninspiring, leaving a massive opportunity for us.

Jimmy Daly
Jimmy Daly

Before Jimmy came on board as the head of content marketing, Vero’s CEO (Chris Hexton) ran the blog.

And because Chris focused on banging out super-actionable content, he grew the Vero blog from 0 to 15k monthly visitors. Not too shabby if you ask me.

But to take the Vero blog to the next level, they needed someone who had time to eat, sleep and breathe SEO.

In other words, Jimmy πŸ™‚

But to compete against the big players in the email marketing space, they needed something else:

A proven content marketing strategy they could leverage for SEO success.

In other words, The Skyscraper Technique πŸ™‚

Let’s dive into the step-by-step process Jimmy followed.

Step #1: Discover Awesome Content

Before you put pen to paper, you need to find content that’s already done well.

You have two options here:

1. Super-Relevant Content – This is content that’s directly related to your industry. For example, if you run a dog blog, you’d want to look for popular content about dogs. Simple.

2. Semi-Relevant Content – This type of content isn’t 100% related to what your blog tends to cover. However, there’s something about it (like the format, writing style, or visual design) that you can incorporate into your Skyscraper Content. For example, a blog post titled “50 Ways to Improve the Health of Your Cat” could easily be turned into a piece of Skyscraper content: “75 Tips to Boost The Health of Your Dog”.

Jimmy decided to go with option 1: find super-relevant content in the email marketing space.

In Jimmy’s own words:

Jimmy Daly

After we discovered the Skyscraper Technique, we did some keyword research to identify keywords that we wanted to rank for. “Email marketing best practices” was a search query that no one had really conquered. There were some link roundups and a few short posts, but nothing that soared high and above everything else. Inferior content was not hard to find.

Jimmy Daly
Jimmy Daly

Here’s how you can follow the same content discovery process Jimmy used:

First, use the Google Keyword Planner to find keywords with a) high search volume and b) lots of commercial intent.

(Need help coming up with keyword ideas? Then check out Keyword Research: The Definitive Guide).

When Jimmy used the GKP, he noticed that the keyword “email marketing best practices” had a search volume of 1,600 searches/month.

google keyword planner results

1,600 monthly searches ain’t bad.

But what really got Jimmy excited was the commercial intent behind this keyword.

(In case you’re not familiar with it, commercial intent=the likelihood that someone will buy something)

How do you measure commercial intent? Check out the Adwords cost per click (also known as “Suggested bid”).

In the case of the keyword “email marketing best practices”, the average CPC is more than $26.

adwords suggested bid

Here’s the thing:

Despite the fact that people were shelling out 26 bucks per click, the content on the first page was surprisingly weak.

When Jimmy sized up the top 20 results in Google, he saw content that…

Lacked depth (this page has only 250 words on it):

low word count page

Was hard to use (this is a category page):

category page

Or didn’t have any actionable information (this page is a list of links to other articles):

roundup post

That’s when Jimmy realized he could use The Skyscraper Technique to outdo the content that currently ranked on page 1.

Here’s how he did it:

Step #2: Improve The Content You Found In Step 1

Now that you found content that’s performed well, you need to execute the most important element of any content strategy:

Create something MUCH better.

Jimmy used 5 techniques to push his content to the next level:

1. He published ONLY actionable tips.

This is important.

No matter what industry you’re in, people want information they can use right away.

That’s why Jimmy packed his post with 100% meaty advice.

Or as Jimmy puts it:

Jimmy Daly

We’ve made a huge effort to keep our content detailed, educational and super actionable. If you can’t read a Vero post and immediately implement the content into an email campaign, we’ve failed.

Jimmy Daly
Jimmy Daly

Jimmy walks the walk. All of his tips are insanely actionable:

actionable tip

2. The post is loaded with real world examples.

When it comes to content, there’s one thing I’ve found to be true almost 100% of the time:

People looooove examples.

When you hear the words “for example” your brain breathes a sigh of relief. That’s because research shows that examples make learning easier.

For example (see what I did there πŸ˜€ ):

Jimmy includes at least 1 real world example for every tip in his post.

example email

Does adding examples take more work than simply saying, “do this”?

Sure.

Is it worth it?

You better believe it.

3. He curated quotes and insights from experts.

To pile another layer of value on top of his content, Jimmy included original quotes from industry experts.

How?

For every tip in the post, Jimmy found an expert that knew a lot about that topic…

…and he emailed them for a quote.

For example, Jimmy’s first email marketing tip is: “Create an Exclusive Club”.

email marketing tip

He realized that Alex Turnbull of GrooveHQ uses this exact strategy with his email newsletter.

So he emailed Alex for a quote.

alex outreach email

Because the outreach email was short, sweet, and to-the-point, Alex took time out of his day to reply:

alex reply

And Alex’s insight was added to the post:

expert insight in a post

Note: These expert quotes will come in handy when you’re ready to promote your content. You’ll see why in a minute.

4. Next, Jimmy cranked up the post’s UX

As I mentioned before, most of the “email marketing best practices” content out there was hard to use.

For example, a good chunk the top 10 results in Google were category pages or roundups that had links to other articles.

To make his content stand out, Jimmy created a very cool table of contents:

table of contents

Not only does this look cool, but it makes the post much easier to use.

Instead of sifting through 5,000 words to find what you want, you can simply click on any tip from the table of contents…

clicking table of contents

…And you’re magically teleported to that tip.

blog post tip

5. The design looks awesome.

There’s no way around this:

If you want people to read and share your content, it needs to look GREAT.

And that’s exactly why Jimmy worked day and night to make his guide easy on the eyes.

Not only was the guide jam-packed with high-res screenshots…

screenshot example

…but he created that colorful table of contents you saw earlier.

Keep this in mind:

Jimmy COULD have simply used a boring, plain-text table of contents.

And that would have worked OK.

But he knew that he’d get more “ummph” from a table of contents that stood out.

It took countless rounds of revisions, but over time, his design went from this:

epic guide first draft

To this:

mockup draft 1

To this:

mockup draft 2

To this (the final design):

final design

The end result of all this hard work?

An Epic Guide To Email Marketing Best Practices: 20 Tips for Dramatically Better Emails.

email marketing best practices post

Now that Jimmy’s epic guide was live, it was time to move on to the most important step:

Content promotion.

Β Step #3: Promote Your Content

There’s no two ways around it:

If you’re serious about squeezing every last drop of value from your content, you need to actively promote it.

And when I say “promote”, I don’t mean sharing your content on social media platforms Facebook or Twitter.

I’m talking about strategically sharing your content in a way that maximizes traffic, backlinks and social shares.

How?

Let’s take a look at the 7 strategies Jimmy used to promote his guide.

1. He announced the post to his email list.

This is HUGE.

Your email list is the #1 content promotion tool you have. Period.

In fact, there isn’t even a close second.

Remember:

Your subscribers are made up of people that LOVE what you’re about.

In other words, they’re a group that’s very likely to spread the word about your content.

That’s why Jimmy sent out a blog post announcement email to Vero’s 8,000 email subscribers:

vero email

As you can see, his email doesn’t look like a stuffed shirt corporate newsletter.

In fact (besides the big green button) the email looks like it could be from a friend. This is exactly how you want your emails to look.

How did it do?

Well that single email attracted 733 visitors in 48-hours.

(Try getting that from Facebook)

Side note: If you’re struggling to build your email list, then you definitely want to check out this post.

2. Jimmy pinged his expert contributors.

Remember how Jimmy collected quotes from a bunch of email marketing experts?

Well, after his post went live, he sent his experts a quick heads up to let them know.

outreach email

Because the experts felt like they were part of the guide, they happily shared it with their audience.

outreach reply

3. He pitched his guide to link roundups.

Next, Jimmy promoted his guide to people that run link roundups.

In case you’re not familiar with them, link roundups are posts that curate (or “roundup”) awesome content from the week.

The best part? There are roundups in almost every niche.

For example, this is a roundup from the parenting niche:

link roundup example

Here’s why promoting your content to link roundups works so well:

Your pitch actually makes their life easier (yes, really).

I’ll explain.

Roundup curators struggle to find content to include in their roundup. But when you suggest your new post, you deliver content for them on a silver platter.

In other words, there’s no arm twisting required to get your link.

Here’s the search string Jimmy used to find active link roundups:

link roundup screenshot

When he found a roundup that looked like a good fit, he reached out and suggested his guide.

Here’s an actual email Jimmy sent that resulted in a link from Marketing Land’s daily roundup:

marketing land outreach email

(And here’s the link from Marketing Land):

marketing land link

If he wasn’t able to find an email address, he used Twitter.

content promo tweet 1 content promo tweet 2

(Both of these tweets resulted in links)

4. He internally linked to his new guide from older posts.

I probably don’t need to tell you that internal linking can add some juice to your on-page SEO.

But that’s not the only reason to do it…

Internal links also get more eyeballs on your new content.

That’s why Jimmy added a bunch of internal links to his new Email Marketing Best Practices Guide.

Here’s an example:

internal link example

Internal linking is one of those things that takes 7-minutes but can make a HUGE difference in how your content performs.

5. He included “Click to Tweet” buttons for every single tip.

This happens to me at least once a week:

I read an article, think it’s cool, so I decide to tweet it…

…only I can’t find a tweet button.

So I say “oh well” and close the tab.

Bottom line: You want to make sharing your content on social media extremely easy.

Jimmy’s took this to the extreme. His guide contains a “Tweet this tip” button to go along with every tip.

For example, when you’re reading tip #3 (“Ask for feedback”), a “Tweet tip 3” button appears on the page:

click to tweet button

When you click on that button, a filled-out tweet appears that’s specific to that tip.

pre filled out button

Because that “click to tweet” button makes tweeting the guide so darn easy, lots of people used it:

example tweet

6. He scheduled tweets to promote each tip.

As you know, you should always (as in every single time) tweet your content multiple times…

…even if it’s the exact same tweet.

That way you get your content in front of people that are on Twitter at different times.

Makes sense, right? Right.

But here’s the thing:

SEEING your tweet is only half the battle.

For your tweet to work, people need to click on it.

That’s why — to maximize clicks — you want to mix up the format of your tweets.

For example, Sally may like the copied-and-pasted blog post title…

…but Mark might like a big ol’ information gap.

Here’s how Jimmy applied this approach to his campaign:

Jimmy Daly

I wrote 20 tweets, one for each tip, and cycled each one through our Buffer feed. I made sure to @mention people and businesses in the tweets.

Jimmy Daly
Jimmy Daly

Here are two examples:

twitter tip tweet twitter tip tweet 2

7. Jimmy reached out to .edu sites (this didn’t go so well)

Like any content marketing campaign, Jimmy’s content promotion wasn’t all puppies and rainbows.

Unfortunately, despite a solid approach, Jimmy wasn’t able to get any backlinks from .edu sites.

Here’s what he tried:

Jimmy found 25 .edu sites that had a page about email marketing. For example, here’s a page he found on Kent.edu:

email marketing edu guide

And here’s the email he sent to the person that ran that page:

edu outreach email

Unfortunately, Jimmy hasn’t received a response so far.

Most people wouldn’t have mentioned this. But I did.

Why?

To show you that your content promotion doesn’t have to be perfect.

As you saw, Jimmy’s guide performed GREAT…even though this particular technique didn’t happen to work out.

8. Jimmy reached out to people he mentioned in the guide (this worked great).

Here’s a mistake I see a lot of people make:

They mention an influential person in their content…

…but they don’t give that influencer a heads up to let them know about it.

Biiiiiig mistake.

Jimmy knew that influential people are busy. Too busy to notice they’ve been mentioned in a blog post (crazy, I know).

So he sent emails to all of the people and companies that he mentioned in his guide:

heads up outreach email

Most of which were happy to share his guide with their social media followers:

outreach email response

Now It’s Your Turn

Ready to rock with The Skyscraper Technique content strategy?

Then click on the image below and enter your email.

When you do, you’ll get access to a free downloadable PDF Skyscraper Technique checklist.

Skyscraper Technique Checklist
    1. Thanks Brian. Me too. That’s the #1 reason that I can publish case studies around the same strategy. Everyone adds their own twist to the approach.

  1. Nice work Brian and Jimmy!

    It’s great to see that the tips and strategies shared actually work.

    Unfortunately I’ve been procrastinating for some time on my content so I haven’t really used any promotional strategies.

    Hopefully I can take what I’ve learned in this post, get my butt in gear, and make waves like Jimmy did.

    Keep up the great work!

  2. It’s a real investment in time but it totally works. We just launched another post like this targeting a new keyword and are already having similar results.

    1. Thanks Lulian. Definitely. This technique makes a lot of old school link building strategies so useless that they’re basically obsolete.

  3. Nice work Brian & Jimmy.
    Brian, kudos for showing the .edu sites that didn’t work out. I think that brings a very human element to it and really highlights how some outlets respond much better than others.
    Do you have any idea how many people Jimmy contacted in all for this campaign? Would be interesting to know what his conversion % was for this.
    Mike

    1. Thanks Mike. Yup, I plan on including that kind of thing more often. It’s the reality of marketing. Good question. Not sure exactly how many people Jimmy reached out to but he’s around today and might probably chime in with that answer.

    2. Hi Mike – I reached out to about 100 people via email + Twitter. Many (most actually) didn’t respond but the ones that did helped it spread far and wide. My conversion rate for shares and links is probably around 30% – not amazing – but that built momentum to help us get the attention of bigger sites (like Inc and Entrepreneur). I recommend getting some good social shares before reaching out to bigger sites for links. That way, when they visit your posts they can see that people like it – it eliminates risk for them to share/link to content they know people like.

  4. FYI, I’m putting together my epic Skyscraper post. I must say it feels like a full time job even with two VA’s helping. I tried to put together a checklist but even my $45. per hr. VA doesn’t seem to get it. “sigh”

    This should be fun because my niche (Austin events) is totally outside the marketing niche so we’ll get a dif. take on it. When I get 37,000 visits to my post, I want a “success” post written about me, btw!!! πŸ™‚

    Anyhoo! The main reason I’m commenting is to ask about the “Click to Tweet” feature. Never seen one like that. Plz supply source?

    thanks! darlene πŸ™‚

    1. That’s great to hear, Darlene. Jimmy actually just said on Twitter that he spent 80-hours on his post. So don’t feel bad about it taking a while. For all its benefits, The Skyscraper Technique does take hustle.

      Win, lose, or draw I’d like to hear how it goes. But yeah, if it works out I’d love to feature you as a case study.

      1. Thanks for pointing that out. Yeah, it’s not so much putting together the content cuz I’ve been in Austin forever and know a lot of the places I already want to feature… it’s streamlining the promotion process so I don’t spend $1000. bucks on help with that.

        Hey, after I bragged on my unique niche, I noticed the Netherlands guy!

        Oh wait! Brian do you know the Click to Tweet source he’s using on his page?

        thx

    2. Darlene – That Twitter button is something we actually built in-house. I’m thinking maybe we should maybe turn it into a WP plugin. Here’s an existing tool you can use: https://clicktotweet.com/

      These efforts are definitely time-consuming … lots of blocking and tackling. For example, I spent hours (many of them) combing through my inbox, signing up for new newsletters, taking screenshots, editing, blurring personal information, etc. There’s just no way around the grunt work. Totally worth it though.

  5. I love this article. I’ve always preferred to write longer posts with high value and actionable steps the reader can implement immediately versus shorter posts with thoughts or opinions. I think it boosts credibility and gets more people to talk about them and continue to come back to use as a reference guide. Your case study formula is proving this tremendously. I think today’s reader is much more intelligent than in the past and with so much clutter on the Internet they prefer to go to sites that offer ways to help their business.

    1. Well said, Eric.

      I also think the way people read content online has changed. Unfortunately, the content marketing advice hasn’t. So most so-called “experts” tell people to write short posts because “people have short attention spans when they’re online”. Nonsense.

      Like you, I’ve found that people are more than happy to read in-depth stuff as long as it’s on a topic that they’re interested in.

  6. Hey Jimmy/Brian

    Awesome job on this post. I was actually on your blog the other day and I saw that amazing email marketing tactics post. So it’s good to get the full story here.

    1. You’re the second person to say that, Dave. So it looks like a few Backlinko readers were part of the 36,282 πŸ™‚

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