Many small businesses and startups are out there to solve the content puzzle. How do they create a remarkable industry blog that positions them as thought leaders? It’s neither easy, nor coincidental how some blogs take off and carve in niche in their industry. If you’re wondering about this for your brand and business, this episode of the Social Trends Show is for you. We speak with the ex-blog editor of the SEMRush blog, Tara Clapper. You need to hear it and take notes. This is blogging gold!
Listen to to the show here:
Social Trends Podcast: What does it take to create a remarkable industry blog?
Credits of the show/ music: www.purple-planet.com
Production: Brandanew.co hosted by Upasna Kakroo
Show Guest: Tara Clapper is a freelancer writer, editor and a content marketing specialist. At the time of this interview, Tara was the blog editor for the SEMRush blog and has since moved to a new opportunity. Connect with Tara here
FULL TRANSCRIPT OF THE BRANDANEW SOCIAL TRENDS SHOW, Episode 5, Season 1
Upasna: Hey everyone, it’s been a while since our last episode, and as expected a ton has been going on in the social world. If reports are to be believed, SnapChat has just released its first hardware product and has even renamed itself into Snap. It’s unbelievable how fast things move in this new tech oriented world. As bloggers or marketers how do you stay on top of things? How do you create a remarkable industry blog that’s known for its quality. How do you ensure that you’re innovating constantly?
Some of these answers are hard, but there’s no one better than a leading industry blog editor who can help us with these. Today on the Brandanew Social Trends show, we have the mind and soul behind the SEMRush blog, Tara Clapper. As a part of the industry you’ve definitely seen the SEMRush blog with amazing insights and ideas for those interested in social marketing. I am very stoked to welcome Tara on the show. And before we get all her insights, I want to mention it’s not just important for people interested in social marketing. But anyone in any industry trying to create a blog that’s of value and position themselves as thought leaders. And before we go ahead, here’s a word from the production team.
The first season of The Brandanew Social Trends show is edited by Upasna Kakroo. Our theme music is called Fingerpoppin’ and our break music is called Celebration. Both of these come to us courtesy of purple-planet.com.
Welcome back! We’re talking today with Tara Clapper- the blog editor for the SEMRush blog. And Tara will be sharing her insights on managing a remarkable industry blog that we’d all love to create!
Upasna: You’re managing a massive blog with tons of external and internal contributors, what’s the secret to staying on top of all the content? Which blog management tools do you swear by?
Tara: I stay on top of content for the blog in a few ways, using a few different tools. First of all I am pretty active on Twitter and Facebook I make sure I login in to those social media channels, if not every other social media channel everyday. So I make sure I catch the latest news in digital marketing. The second thing I do is that, I work in an open office environment here at SEMRush, so I hear all the other news that other people are discussing just by sitting around them, being near them. Yeah, sometimes its a little distracting to have my workflow interrupted by other people, but for the most part it is a benefit because I get involved right away in these conversations about trending topics. So, that’s really important. That’s a big key to success. I actually sit right across from Becky, our social media manager. So, she finds all this information right away. So as soon as this information is out there, I get informed and that’s a huge help.
Upasna: While that sounds simple, I know that Tara is actually juggling with a LOT of content leading an established industry blog. For Brandanew, we often work with an enormous number of emails from guest bloggers- that we like, but often feel overwhelmed with too. How does someone even larger deal with that? I was really tempted to ask Tara that and this is what she had to say
Tara: As far as staying on top of all the content that comes in, that’s actually a huge issue, because it is very hard to read and respond to all the emails I get. I get a lot of emails. I get a lot of pitches. I get a lot of unsolicited submissions. I get a lot of content that people have written that was approved. I have internal content, I have external content from our guest contributors and of course you know how blogging is now. It’s not just blog content, I am also dealing with a lot of video content, pictures, infographics and all of that comes into me. We’re actually retooling our editorial process a bit here at SEMRush. I am working on it personally and I think in the future, you’ll be able to actually notice some of the changes on the SEMRush blog and on all our other channels. Because, it is a very big deal, to manage the voice and the tone of a brand, even just on one channel like the blog.
As far as the blog management tools I use, the number one thing I use is Co-Schedule. It gives me an editorial calendar so that I can keep track of the content that I am planning. Other people on the team here at SEMRush can put requests on the calendar to publish content on a certain date. So that really helps me balance the type of content. So, I don’t have only things about social media publishing on a given day or week. And I also try to alternate between guest posts and our internal content. So, that really helps me stay on top of that. Co-Schedule also helps me assign very tasks to team members. So, every post that goes up for example needs to have a header image as well as a social image. In co-schedule I can go ahead and schedule it and then assign the task for our graphic designer Bob, so that Bob can go ahead and create those graphics. That’s super important to me. Because otherwise it’s too much to manage without that tool.
The other tool I use to manage is our custom designed content management system. We used to have WordPress and I really like it and miss it. I use it in all my freelance endeavors. But, our team at SEMRush has actually designed a CMS especially for our use. So, right now, it is still new. I can’t manage the entire blog process in there, but it is heading in that direction, where they’re building more tools in for me to help manage the heavy amount of content that I receive.
Upasna: Now that’s a good tool for you all to test. I have to admit that for Brandanew’s blog, we’ve often relied on Google’s spreadsheets, Yammer and also Asana to work with the team and share ideas. Personally I found those tools to be very engaging and helpful while maintaining a definitive master calendar. The tools you choose will depend on how big your blog is, how much you’d like to scale and more aspects like that. And my recommendation is to test tools as much as you can!
And I know, I know, so many tools, so much content, can all get a bit overwhelming. You may wonder what’s in store for your day. I asked Tara what her what’s an average day like for the SEMRush blog editor?
Tara: There is no average day for me as the SEMRush blog editor. Our environment is so collaborative and I come up with so many new ideas that I am encouraged to explore those ideas because that’s how we innovate here and that’s what sets us apart, I think from the rest of the companies. There are a few tasks that I do everyday. I do receive posts, I do a lot of email. I edit posts and I publish them. So, those things are quite standard, and for a blog editor those things won’t change at all. We do daily standup meetings every morning at 10:30, so the team kind of checks in with each other and it’s a part of the agile marketing process. So, we’re all aware we’re doing and what kind of progress we’re making incrementally. So that’s another thing that always happens. Lunch is a thing that always happens. Our team does the lunch together sometimes. I sit next to Katherine Burns our community manager and I go with her to lunch a lot. So, that’s another standard thing.
But there are other things that I do during the day that are pretty unique to our own situation. Right now I am blocking our entire editorial process for our whole company and that’s a little everyday. Yesterday I was a guest on the writer access webinar channel and that was something that I don’t usually do and that was really different. But fortunately, I am in charge of my own schedule and so when things like that come up, I can’t take advantage of it. I don’t have to go to eight levels of approval so that I can be a guest on a webinar. If I’m asked, and if I pursue it, I can do it. So that kind of freedom makes being a blog editor fun and really gives me a lack of repetition in my daily tasks and that is what makes for innovative thinking.
I’ve also been able to attend a few different marketing events, most recently I went to Collision to New Orleans. That also helped me so much – get some fresh ideas, highlight new companies on the blog and make contacts that wanted to publish some content on the blog. Those kind of events really help me get new information that I need to inform a new marketing strategy for the blog and also just make sure that I am current on what’s happening in the world of marketing.
Upasna: I really do like the emphasis on an open environment to get all these new ideas. It may all be shared online, but a lot of our big ideas come from interacting with team members in person.
And moving on, I sort of went back to the basics. For an editor, who’s juggling with multiple things, one way to reorder and be able to maintain some balance is to be able to prioritize things. Often we look back at our base goals to select activities that make sense to us. We need to know what goals we’re chasing to be able to trim down or prioritize the how-tos. I asked Tara, how she was placing blogging in her content marketing strategy? Was there a focus on mere branding and community building, or was blogging a significant part of the overall lead generation efforts?
Before we go further and hear what Tara has to say, here’s another word from our production team.
You’re listening to the first season of The Brandanew Social Trends Show. Our theme music is called Fingerpoppin’ and our break music is called Celebration. Both of these come to us courtesy of purple-planet.com
If you’re interested in social media and digital marketing trends, don’t forget to check out the content marketing 101 eCourse listed on brandanew.co. Invest in your own learning and stay ahead!
Upasna: Welcome back. Before the break I asked Tara what were the goals of the blog she managed and how did it fit into the overall content marketing strategy for SEMRush. Here’s what Tara had to say.
Tara: Blogging is a part of our content marketing strategy. We are making more of an effort to be more deliberate about our content strategy. Right now a lot of it happens really organically. I work hand in hand with our community manager to actually drive traffic to the blog and once we’re set on expanding our advocacy platform even more, Kathleen can use the blog channel to bring more advocates in. So, we do use it to build community and to explore our brand and to express our brand. But, you know, we do also use it for lead generation. We do have calls to action, sign up for the blog, sign up for webinars, which we do use for lead generation as well. There are very few hard sells on the blog. I did some hard sells at the end of a webinar yesterday, and it felt really strange to me, because I am usually not out there, like ‘sign up for a trial’, ‘sign up for SEMRush.’ It’s usually all about what we can do for you, what problems can we solve, or just about discussing trends in digital marketing. So, while the blog is used for lead generation, it is not the primary goal of the blog.
The primary goal of the blog is to get information out there, to answer people’s questions about how to use our tool, and hopefully to get them coming back. We have to consider not only the new audience that we’re hopefully bringing in to discover our content and to discover our tool, but we’re also looking at our existing users, making sure they’re supported with the amount of content they need to use the tool effectively. SEMRush has grown considerably over the past few years, so our customers success team, in particular Mike Issac has created content to support them and Mike’s content lives on the blog. And it lives there so that you can come there and find the latest updates on the tool as well as features that you might not have known about. And if you search on our blog for the ‘discover Thursday’ post, you can find some posts he puts up on Thursdays all about these hidden areas of the tool that you don’t know about. So, you can find out about how other people use the tool, discover areas about it and hopefully get some more marketing insights than you’re already getting through SEMRush.
Upasna: These are useful tips. So anyone who’s wondering how to use blogging as a part of their overall marketing plan, being useful and sharing tips can really help build a community and brand advocates. And talking about a community, one major part of the community for a blog comes from external contributors who share valuable content and make scaling content much easier. But as an editor, you need to somehow sort through and maintain the voice and tonality of your blog and have a selection criteria towards accepting guest contributions. Quality is the hallmark of a top industry blog. So how could one make that happen organically? I asked Tara, as a well established blog editor, what were some of the top no-gos / mistakes she sees new bloggers making she goes through their content or guest contributions?
Tara: The top mistakes I see people making. First of all, sending me unsolicited content, I don’t like because most of the times it’s very generic content. Sending things that haven’t been proof read, that haven’t gone to an editor. I am a freelance writer and I also do a lot of guest blogging on other marketing sites. And I usually have someone proof read it, before I send it off, because even if I am an editor, I am still going to make mistakes and I am more likely to miss them if they are in my own writing. So make sure you get a proof read. Establish some sort of a relationship or contact with the editor. Don’t just send unsolicited content wildly. It’s very rare that I accept unsolicited content. When I do accept unsolicited content, it can’t be stale. It has to be something newsworthy that I want to publish today. Right now, Pokemon Go just came out, if somebody sent me a mediocre article on Pokemon Go versus some other article that was even written better, I would probably select the Pokemon Go article, because I need articles that can be engaging and timely and that revolves around what people are talking about. You know, generally don’t send unsolicited content, but if you’re going to do it, make sure it’s something that will grab the editor’s attention and stands out and is something that the editor isn’t otherwise receiving.
I’d also say, don’t be completely unestablished if you’re pitching to an established blog, like the SEMRush blog. You need to start somewhere else, even if it’s your own marketing blog or webinar channel. Publish a few things there and then go ahead and pitch bigger channels. Don’t go about pitching really well established channels until your name is already out there. If I Google you and I can’t find anything related to marketing and you’re trying to publish on the SEMRush blog, then it’s going to be really hard for me to believe that you’re an expert on SEO, because I can’t even find you on Google. So make sure that you take care of yourself first, you know clean your own house. Make sure that Google is showing me what I want to see when I google your name, otherwise it is hard to establish that trust. There are link sellers out there and I do get contacted by them and I need to make sure that the new blogger is not a link seller or some kind of a pseudonym for a link seller. So I need to see some kind of a proof that you’ve actually published something and you’re not someone who’s trying to scam us, trying to get a link on our blog.
Upasna: I like where Tara was going with it. It’s been a strong pet peeve of mine that people need to be found and be found well. So, anytime you consider creating an awesome blog, think about what perceptions you’re creating. How are you maintaining your personal brand? How does Google see you? And how do you grow organically? These are questions not just for bloggers or social media marketers but just anyone in today’s socially connected world. What are you doing to stand out?
Write to us at Twitter at Brandanewco or write to us through the website at brandanew.co. We’ll await your feedback, and till then, have a great start to the fall !
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