Interview: Trevor Klein, Moz Content Strategist

Interview: Trevor Klein, Moz Content Strategist

Our InterviewFX series continues, bringing you valuable insights and tips from business owners, marketers, and more. Today’s interview is with Trevor Klein, Moz‘s content strategist.

Trevor graciously shared some of his thoughts with us about content marketing, including whether or not all businesses should have a content program, what he thinks about content shock, and how to come up with new ideas for articles, blog posts, and other forms of content when you’re having trouble.

Read on to see his advice, and to get a peek into Moz’s company culture!

1. What is the company culture like at Moz, and how does the TAGFEE code affect the work you do on a daily basis?

rogerIt’s no secret that the culture is what makes Moz such an amazing place to work. The TAGFEE tenets (transparency, authenticity, generosity, fun, empathy, and the exception to the rule) really do play into the decisions we make on a day-to-day basis.

The way we communicate with each other and our community, the way we react to situations, the way we prioritize our projects, and our firm belief in inbound marketing are all rooted in those core values. I’ve never felt quite so trusted by an employer, and as a result, there’s a distinct lack of eye-rolling and gossip around the office. It’s really helped take the snark out of marketing. =)

2. Do you think that all businesses should have some kind of content strategy or content marketing program?

All businesses would benefit from some kind of content marketing; that doesn’t mean it’s the right thing for all businesses to do at any given moment. Sometimes the products or services need focused attention; sometimes resources are so squeezed that they’re better placed in other areas. That said, like everything else in the world, “having some kind of content marketing program” isn’t a binary state. Companies don’t flip a switch, decide to dive into content marketing, and hire a team to manage it; content is often a far subtler and broader field than we give it credit for.

Ian Lurie of Portent Interactive published a piece on our blog recently in which he calls for people to stop equating content with a blog, saying “content is anything that communicates a message to the audience. Anything.” With that in mind, all businesses already do some sort of content marketing – some of them just aren’t being very intentional about it.

Whether you’re a marketing team of one at a small startup or part of a team at a large company that’s considering putting more resources into content, the most important thing is to start with goals. A lot of organizations have a content plan that looks something like this (borrowed from South Park):

  1. Do content
  2. ????
  3. Profit!

Like social media, though, content cannot be seen as an end within itself. It’s not a solution. It’s a means to that end… you have to come up with the end yourself. Ask yourself what you hope to get out of content. Is it brand awareness? Is it traffic? Once you’ve got that, take a look at all the content you’ve already produced, and make sure it’s contributing to those goals. Presto: You’ve got a content marketing strategy. No huge endeavor required.

3. What is your opinion on the idea of content shock?

This is something we’re hearing more and more about these days: content overload. We hear how people can only take in so much information; that they only have so much time to spend reading content, and at some point, something has to give. This is a pretty narrow perspective brought about by a lot of very stressed-out marketers. =)

Let me explain. It’s important to remember that consumers have a different perspective on content than marketers do. As marketers (especially content marketers), we’re tasked with staying on top of our respective industries. We have feeds and alerts set up for our competitors, our partners, our inspiration, and we feel nervous and guilty when we have to “mark all as read” – like we might miss a key post and be left behind. We spend an inordinate amount of time scouring the web for content (time that’s often better spent elsewhere), and then we project our stress onto our audience, thinking they must be pulling their hair out by now.

The thing is, our audiences simply don’t approach content that way. They’re not going to subscribe to as many blogs as they can, hoping to learn ALL THE THINGS, then cry out in desperation, covering their ears because they’re up to their necks with too much noise. Of course they have a limited capacity to consume content, but their approach is (and always has been) to search for solutions to one problem at a time.

Here’s an example. If I need to know how to use a function in Excel, I’m not going to collect as many different sources as I possibly can that mention working with spreadsheets, then absorb as much as possible with my limited time. I’m going to do a quick search, then pogo-stick between the top results until I find a page that gives me a clear explanation that I perceive as reliable. No matter how many tangentially relevant posts exist, I’m just looking for the one that resonates and delivers a real solution.

This brings us to something the Content Shock piece got right — we need to stand out from the crowd and be that solution. We need to spend the extra effort to create the piece of content that people land on, look through, and say “Finally! That’s what I was looking for.” We also need to realize that SEO is as important as it’s ever been, because consumers are only going to pogo-stick until they find what they’re looking for.

So are we headed for content overload, or content shock? No. Instead of 10,000 pages of results, we’ll have 20,000. The trick is still to be the result that gives people the answer they were looking for (which, by the way, is exactly what Google wants you to do, too). It’s so much better to have one great piece of content that does a wonderful job answering questions than to have 10 mediocre and largely skippable pieces of content. As Ron Swanson says, never half-ass two things. Whole-ass one thing.

4. Some businesses have trouble finding topics to write about or craft their content around – do you have any suggestions that might help them tap into unexplored ideas?

It’s really easy to think we need to create something fun; that if it doesn’t make people smile and laugh, it’s not going to get shared, and will be a waste. Unless excitement is part of your brand voice (think Red Bull), posts don’t need to be entertaining in order to be runaway success stories. They just need to provide value, and there’s a great way to be sure they do that: ask.

Seriously, just ask people. Email a few customers and ask them what their greatest challenges and pain points are these days. You’ll have the added bonus of making those customers feel like they matter even more. Or, embed a quick survey widget on your website so that anyone with a few spare minutes can give you feedback. They’ll give you their problems, and you can use those to come up with solutions, each of which makes a great piece of content.

Startup Stock PhotoIf you’d rather not (or can’t) do that, put yourself in their shoes. Better yet, go grab three coworkers, reserve a meeting room for half an hour, and do some brain writing. Stacey MacNaught of Tecmark gets credit for this idea: Have each of the four people in the room spend five minutes coming up with three responses to the following question: “If I were a member of our target audience, what questions would I have that I might type into Google?” Pass them to the right, then write three more ideas, hopefully sparked by the three already written by your coworker. Repeat two more times. You now have four sheets of paper with 12 ideas each, having spent 20(ish) minutes in a room.

5. What’s one piece of advice you’d like to give to a business considering starting a content marketing program?

As I mentioned above, don’t “do content” for content’s sake. Have a vision in mind, create specific goals, and stop yourself regularly to ask whether your efforts are contributing to those goals. If you don’t, it’s far too easy to spend an inordinate amount of time on content without actually doing much to move the needle for your company.

TrevorKleinTrevor is the content strategist at Moz—a proud member of the content team. He manages the Moz Blog, helps craft and execute content strategy, and wrangles other projects in an effort to align Moz’s content with the company’s business objectives and to provide the most valuable experience possible for the Moz community.

Hey! Want to volunteer yourself to be part of InterviewFX? We’re looking for smart topic experts, business owners, entrepreneurs, authors, and all-around awesome people who are willing to answer five questions on our blog. Our readers will get amazing advice, and you’ll get all the fame you can handle. Tweet us @webpagefx and we’ll get the ball rolling!

  • http://www.businessesgrow.com/ Mark W. Schaefer

    I am the author of the content shock article and I wanted to clarify a point that seems to be misunderstood by Trevor. My aticle was written from the perspective of businesses trying to cut through information density. I don’t think any rational marketer would deny this is difficult and it will be getting much, much worse. The cost of competing is going to go up in many sectors. Information density is GOOD for consumers. More choice, and also the quality will have to improve.

  • http://twitter.com/nicoleckohler Nicole Kohler

    Thanks for stopping by to add your thoughts, Mark! I think it’s clear that we all agree that the amount of information available IS going to go up, and that more choices are a good thing. How individuals will react to those choices — whether it will result in content marketing losing its ability to be a sustainable strategy for many businesses because consumers have tuned out, or whether it will make consumers pleased with their options, or somewhere in between — is up for debate. And that kind of discussion is ultimately very valuable, IMO.

    Definitely appreciate you chiming in here! Your original post certainly inspired a lot of discussion, that’s for sure!