Tracey Wallace is a writer turned content marketer turned SEO pro. She was the head of BigCommerce’s content team and now serves a similar role for MarketerHire, a marketplace for freelance marketers, which launched in 2019.
In our recent conversation, she addressed the post-Covid workforce, the benefits of hiring freelancers, and, yes, how to drive traffic with content marketing.
Our entire audio interview is embedded below. The transcript is edited for clarity and length.
Eric Bandholz: MarketerHire has grown dramatically.
Tracey Wallace: Yes, we’ve grown an insane amount. I’ve been there for about a year and a half. I was the only full-time marketing staff initially.
MarketerHire is a marketplace for freelance marketers. When I joined, the primary marketing tactic was ads; they are still important for us. But I was brought in to build organic search traffic, which is my background. I’ve done it for several other B2B companies.
We’re trying to grow our marketing team of five employees and seven freelancers. We use freelancers from our network. But we still need in-house talent, so we’re hiring product marketers, copywriters.
Bandholz: Everyone is looking for marketing help now.
Wallace: Right. So many people have quit their jobs. In August, the number of people in the U.S. who quit their jobs was the highest in 20 years.
It’s scary for business owners. Larger companies can throw more money, more benefits. But it’s expensive for the small guys. We recently interviewed over 600 marketing leaders and found that many are hiring freelancers. They still need work done.
There are a lot of freelancers; many have more credentials than internal employees.
Hiring freelancers can be cheaper, too. But it requires careful onboarding and project scoping. Even marketing leaders that hire freelancers don’t always know the size of a project.
Bandholz: We’ve shifted a lot to freelancers at Beardbrand. The beauty of hiring freelancers is getting someone one day a week who’s specialized, such as social media, video editing, or copywriting. That’s all they do, and they love it. Whereas one person in-house may love social media but hate blogging or video work.
Wallace: Right. That’s the challenge sometimes with early full-time hires. Early on, you need folks to do a lot of things. But as it scales, the business requires specialized expertise.
Bandholz: Let’s revisit organic search. What are the strategies to execute that successfully?
Wallace: We could do a two-hour-long podcast on organic search strategies. People often ignore it because it takes time. Marketers are not typically patient. We can put money behind a Facebook ad and see quick results. Organic search takes six months to a year.
That’s a lot of money for businesses to invest without seeing an immediate return. I worked at BigCommerce for four and a half years. I was the only content marketer for three and a half of those years. That’s nuts. Shopify, on the other hand, had a bunch of people working on it. HubSpot invested in it very early.
The best advice I can give to any small business interested in growing organic search traffic is to post one article a week — even once a month. And write about your own expertise related to your business.
Do a quick Google search on your topic. There’s a ton of search-engine-optimization tools to help. But Google itself will provide information just by searching. There’ll be 10 articles on page 1. Look at those, especially the top five. Read them.
At the bottom, Google has “Related searches.” Copy those suggestions and drop them in a Google Doc. Google also includes similar questions in search results, called “People also ask.”
Click on those questions, and more pop up. You only need three or four questions. Drop those in a Doc, too.
Then look at what you’ve just collected. Start to formulate the kind of questions to answer and what people are looking for. Those questions should be headers in your article — HTML headers such as an H2.
Then write the answer in your own voice below the header. You could even use CopyAI or Jarvis.
Bandholz: What are CopyAI and Jarvis?
Wallace: Those are new copywriting tools. I’m not sure how much they cost. I’ve tried them and a few others.
I’m a writer. It’s not challenging for me to produce content. I’m not a fan of the copy the tools produce.
But if you aren’t a writer, those tools can help. Insert a topic such as how to build a bike. Then choose your tone, voice, other variables. You could insert entire outlines, and the tools will write articles for you.
It’s all based on artificial intelligence, not human writers. But you can edit it and copy and paste it.
So if you are struggling to publish one monthly article, try an AI tool.
Bandholz: So the strategy for SEO is developing content around the products you’re selling.
Wallace: Yes. I use an SEO platform called Ahrefs. I prefer it over Semrush. A lot of people prefer Semrush. I’ve used Ahrefs my entire career.
Go to Ahrefs and enter your home page URL at the top. It will show the number of keywords your site already ranks for. For each keyword, Ahrefs lists the search volume.
Ahrefs also provides a keyword difficulty score — 1 to 100, with 100 being the most difficult. If you’re new to content marketing, ignore the higher scores and focus on the lower ones.
Look for keywords with a high volume that you’re already ranking for, even just a little bit, and with low keyword difficulty. Then go to that page on your site and improve it — add content or improve what’s there. You can pretty quickly start moving up.
Google rewards sites that update pages.
Bandholz: Beardbrand has around 1,000 articles. A lot of them haven’t been touched in years. How do we update them?
Wallace: You’re in a good spot with 1,000 older articles. Again drop each article URL into a tool such as Ahrefs. What keywords are they ranking for? Most probably aren’t ranking for many.
Then figure out which URLs are the strongest — ranking for the best keyword or getting the most traffic. Then rewrite that article and combine all related blog posts into one using 301 redirects. Google likes long-form content.
Try to update the top articles once a year, if not every six months. You don’t always need a huge update.
And include pictures by all means. Put the keyword in the image name. It’s super important. You can even hide keywords back there. Tools such as Clearscope will tell you what keywords need to be in your article for it to rank the highest. I highly recommend it.
Sometimes you can’t fit all the keywords in an article. I include those in my picture names.
Bandholz: Let’s address email collection? Do you recommend popups?
Wallace: Well, I hate popups as a consumer. I’ve always hated popups. But they work so well.
If you want to collect more email addresses, a popup makes sense. Just know that some people will despise the website because of it.
I like what some brands are doing with SMS, where they solicit text messages on their Twitter profiles or their website or even packaging. Consumers text the brands. As a shopper, that does not feel like it’s in my face. It doesn’t feel desperate.
Bandholz: At Beardbrand, we encourage folks to text “Style” to a phone number, and we’ll provide style advice.
Wallace: I love it. I think it’s genius. I’ve seen cooking brands say, “Text ‘Recipe’ to this number, and we’ll send you recipes.”
It’s genius. The brand didn’t spam me. I asked to receive the info. I’m not annoyed. Plus it’s easy to opt-out.
I should add that I don’t know how it’s working for brands. But as a consumer, I like it.
Bandholz: SMS is killing it for everybody now. Merchants need to get on that train before it gets crowded, like email.
How can listeners reach out to you?