Building your brand and authority does not always have to mean planting the seeds in your own backyard. Whilst I advocate nurturing your own garden first, if you want to harvest a larger crop you’ll need to sew your seeds elsewhere too.
To grow a larger audience, you’ll have to go beyond your own audience and get in front of other people’s audiences (OPA’s). The larger, the more relevant the audience, the better.
Todays guest, Tommy Walker learned how to guest post and quickly leveraged that skill writing for top marketing sites like Conversion XL and Crazy Egg. By getting in front of these established and loyal audiences, Tommy developed a loyal audience of his own.
On this show you will learn how to find guest post opportunities and how to write posts that drive traffic in to your own backyard.
Tommy Walker is an Online Marketing Strategist and Consultant. His mission is to mainstream the concepts of online marketing through inspiring, entertaining video content and slick editing. He also writes, a lot, mostly for other peoples audiences.
Through guest blogging and regular contributions to the likes of Crazy Egg, Unbounce, Convince and Convert, and Hubspot, Tommy Walker has built himself a reputation as an established voice on marketing and built a loyal following online too.
Tommy Walker is a former editor of the Conversion XL blog and currently a marketer for Shopify.
Tommy’s bragging rights? He once got fired over a pair of pants, he can beatbox (badly) to NES video games and is a ninja table top role playing gamer. His favourites are D&D and Mage from the World of Darkness series.
A QUICK PREVIEW OF THE PODCAST:
Here are some of the highlights from episode 66 of the Traffic Jam Podcast…
- How Tommy Started His Career.
- Learning From a Gas Station.
- Understanding Consumer Behaviour.
- How to Implement Your Research.
- Tommy’s Content Approach.
- Finding Guest Blogging Opportunities.
- Byline Blindness and How to Overcome it.
- Moving the Audience to Your Own Backyard.
- Forums and Communities as Traffic Sources.
If you enjoy this episode of Traffic Jam, please share it using the social media buttons you see on this page, or click to tweet this Tommy Walker quote from the show:
You can also get Tommy’s quote as exclusive illustrated artwork along with more special episode bonuses: Click Here To Download.
To see the full transcript of this episode in-page click show/hide transcript:
Show / Hide Transcript
Hey what’s up listeners? Welcome back to Traffic Jam, this is show#66 of the podcast that teaches you how to get more traffic to your website and build a profitable audience online. I am your host James Reynolds and very excited to be back behind the mic here at the Traffic Jam towers recording another show because it has been a few weeks now since I recorded a Traffic Jam episode, and extremely excited for this show particularly because we’re joined by Tommy Walker, a very accomplished content marketer who’s done some great things for people like conversion excel and shoppify. Tommy is going to joining us to talk about guest blogging and what it really takes to create effective content online and it is going to come right up in just a moment.
I just want to remind you, as always, to head on over to the episode page of Traffic Jam which today is TrafficJamCast.com/66 because you’ll find there a bunch of episode goodies that accompany the show and you can also join in on the discussion for this episode as well. So head on over there to TrafficJamCast.com/66.
So allow me to introduce our guest. He is Tommy Walker and he’s a former actor, turned gas attendant turned consultant, turned marketer. He does use his excellent story telling skills to explain exactly how that progression came about and you are going to enjoy that right at the start of the interview, unfortunately though, minus a few seconds because I did somehow manage to edit out a very small part right at the start of the interview. But I hope it doesn’t spoil your enjoyment. I am sure it won’t.
So here we go, let’s introduce and welcome to Traffic Jam Tommy Walker for a discussion all about content marketing, and guest blogging.
Tommy: I just couldn’t get enough. And from about the age of 10 to 19, I went to be a career actor, I did independent film, I did commercials, I did stage, I did anything I can possibly get my hands on and my resume became quite impressive. I actually graduated from the only film acting conservatory in the country which had a less than 4% acceptance rate which is more competitive than NYU so it is a very big achievement and the major thing that happened was I moved home and I said, I am going to save up, $600 is all I need to go back to New York and get my head shots, I am going to go and give my headshots and I am going to be a daytime actor because that is where the money is at in the first place, and it didn’t work out. I moved home from Manhattan, I moved to Manhattan when I was 17. I was there from 17 to 19. I figured that I learned and knew everything when I was 19 years old and when I moved back to my hometown in New Hampshire back home, I end up getting kicked out of my house because I was 19 and I knew it all. What do I care about coming home at 4o’clock in the morning? That’s not a big deal. So I ended up moving in with some friends of mine and I slept at their couch for probably about two years and at that time I worked at the gas station across the street from my apartment at that time and my outlook on the gas station was very different than most people that I worked with at that time and I figured everybody in the world needs gas in order to get to where they are going and it is one of the few jobs that you will ever have where you will see a cross section of pretty much anybody from all walks of life. You’ve got the people who live in the apartment complex with me but also like high fluting businessmen coming in because everybody needs to pay for their gas. Taking that approach, I try to be as friendly as possible to everybody and work on some serious customer service skills and got to know who people were and what they needed and I would have people’s cigarettes ready ahead of time and memorize their orders. I got to know their families and whatever, it was just a really friendly job and how hard is it to sweep and mop floors and make coffees? From that, I actually got recruited in to an internet startup that was in my town and it was growing and they asked me to be on their sales floor and I thought, you know, this would be a good change of pace and this is kind of why I keep this type of attitude and I failed miserably on the sales floor over there. It was one of my customers at the gas stations who said, hey you would be a good fit over here and I tried on the sales floor and basically I just sucked it, getting people’s credit card over the phone. And they said, well, we see that you are a hard worker, and that you have the personality, but you are terrible in getting credit card information, why don’t you try marketing? You have two weeks to make your own money, here’s what you have to do in order to do that. Within the first weekend I made my own money and a year went in to that and it was great but the company ended up losing its way and the whole company went from this position of honesty and integrity, don’t tell client what they need to hear in order to make a sale to a hundred people in the sales floor going, money, money! And it was very like Wolf of Wall Street type scenario where one of the co-founders at one point had a hundred dollar bill and lit it on fire and was like I don’t need this because I can make more, and I was like, Oh, god, so I left and ended up going back in to the crappy gas station job and went from a gas station job to a retail job and ended up getting fired over the retail job over a pair of pants and then I said I can either try to get a job and work or I can try working for myself and within two weeks I got my first client and it has been great since then.
James: Awesome! It is actually quite an unlikely in many senses. You’ve ended up in the field of marketing but you started out in an industry that almost needs no marketing and needs no sales, right? I mean it doesn’t need to market too much because as soon as the car runs out of petrol it turns into the gas station. And you don’t really need to convince the guy that’s walked in to the gas station who ran out of petrol to get some money out for gas as he needs gas. You’ve gone from that environment to doing marketing, it is quite an unlikely turnaround. Interesting stuff!
Tommy: Yeah, I mean the cool part about the gas station part is there is one thing I did learn if I look at it from the marketing perspective though. It is like everybody has that need but when it comes to the branding aspect of it, the gas station that I worked at is actually one of the well branded ones and actually one of the much friendlier environments and when it comes down to one of the two companies and one doing the bare minimum and one makes an actual friendly environment and you care about that, you would always go to the one with the friendly environment even if it means paying a couple cents more. That is a very valuable lesson that I did not thought of until now, so thank you.
James: There you go, creating an environment that makes a sale that much easier and that much more comfortable which you know all about being a conversions guy, removing resistance and making things free and easy, it is very, very important so yeah, even the gas station can learn from this stuff. Well anyway, let us kind of get to a more serious questioning, reading a blog post of yours which I think was posted relatively recently you said that clicks are the currency of the internet and we need to understand what motivates consumers to click and obviously attract more, what are your top lessons for understanding the consumer behavior across this platforms that all of us get involved with these days?
Tommy: A lot of it comes down to qualitative research, we get really wrapped up in the idea of packaging our messaging and making it so it is something that people want to hear but a lot times, we’re not actually asking questions. We forget that there are people in the other side of this and that they have questions and legitimate concerns and what I have done from the content perspective is going, let us look at qualitatively what the types of stuff gets traffic from these channels and then see what we can do to run surveys and what not from those individual channels to get deeper in to those channels and questions that people from those specific channels might have. From a traffic standpoint, what that ends up doing is it allows me to create content that says I can pretty much guarantee based on the surveys that I have been running right now that this post is going to do well over Facebook. This post is going to perform extremely well over email. When you start to understand the psychology of the different channels that you have, you can start to repackage things just ever so slightly if it means just tweaking a headline a little bit to go more with what’s in line with these channels as much as the bane of content marketers in existence when it comes to gaining attention, that’s one of the major things that they’ve done. They’ve repackaged information based on whether it is email or twitter or Facebook and I think it is because they’re doing that level of research and finding out what people over that channel care about the most.
James: What practical tips have you got for implementing that? Because everyone says configure your content so that it is better for Twitter or Facebook or wherever else, perhaps by adjusting your settings within WordPress so the snippet looks different but how often should it be changed per channel, is that sort of an open question, it really requires research or is there any sort of frameworks or guidelines that you can adapt to make your content for each of those channels regardless?
Tommy: Yeah, I mean it is a bit of a broad answer because it is very specific to each channel and for each company behind it but the most practical thing I could say is use a tool like Qualaroo, not to go on a plug spree here but use a tool like Qualaroo to run those types of surveys specifically for each channel right? So you can ask different questions your Facebook audience than you could of your Twitter audience. And it sounds fluffy and I totally understand that but also it takes looking at like the analytics reports and asking those questions using those types of tools in order to get the feedback that will help you rewrite the snippets and yeah, it is one of those things where you have to be doing it. I can’t give a general piece of advice on that.
James: Yeah, well let’s talk a little bit about your own content approach. You have got, at least as it appears on the outside, a slightly contrarian approach and that you seem to post more to other people’s websites than perhaps you do to your own. What’s your reasoning behind that?
Tommy: Other people pay me more than I pay myself.
James: There you go, that’s the simple and effective answer.
Tommy: I mean there was a pretty good time about a year ago, I thought that my business was going to be all done, I thought it was going to be over, because I had a client that started paying half payments and then splitting them up further and further and then eventually I had to fire them. Essentially I went on a spree where I said you know what? I have to make a couple hundred dollars an article and it stinks but that’s what I have to do and I ended up finding some guest posting week over at conversion excel and I posted for $200 an article there and what I did not realize was what was happening at the same time was I was also building up a profile and more and more people started to get more familiar with my work and as a result of having to spit out as much content as I wasn’t in order to make ends meet, there was this simultaneous effect of my work was getting better because I was doing more of it but also the profile was getting raised at the same time. And I mean for me it was about getting in front of audiences who need it the most. I feel bad for the people who started following me on the first place, but the truth is the last time I was writing for my blog, I was in a different place career wise and I need to do a better audience development for me own material I suppose.
James: Have you got plans in the pipeline to do that?
Tommy: Yes, it is a matter of execution time though, I need to be building up my own support network on my side, right now I am a full time content marketer over at shopify so my own material takes kind of a back seat with the full time stuff so I am not really in it. It’s not necessary to have a high profile. I do the work that I do because I very much enjoy it, not looking to become business famous by any structure, it happens if it happens but that’s rally were I am at.
James: Well for you it has been slightly different, is it? that exposure and that audience is a byproduct of what you are doing but I guess for other people that would be the main purpose and perhaps the reason that they were doing guest blogging, what advice would you give for others who are looking to learn how to guest post, particularly to grow their own audience, how would they go about finding and selecting guest post opportunities?
Tommy: What I did originally, I took John Morris’s guest blogging course a few years back and it was a mind blowing experience. What a lot of it comes down to, and I can say this from the editor’s perspective, is that sites that do guest post generally have a huge, crap pitches. A lot of people aren’t doing research and a lot of people are looking out for themselves when it comes to that. What I did to get on conversion excel, Hap was looking for a guest blogger on a pro blogger job port, so there’s that. There’s always a resource there, the list has some really great stuff where you can find guest blogging work and really just look at sites that are out there that take guest blogs that are within your own market. One of the things that I did when I am going in to launch mode is I’ll actually work my networks and find out A, who do I know at certain sites that I want to get on to and then just work the introductions. What a lot of people are talking about, especially if you are on the outside of that guest blogging circuit is that it is a very inside club, a lot of the editors will talk to each other and find out, hey is this any good? Who would you recommend? I am looking for writers right now, I have six and seven people looking at me right now saying, hey, I am looking to hire full time content writers, do you know anybody? And it is a lot of that relationship building and referral that works out. For me, when I started writing for Unbounced for example, it was because of the work that I did over at Conversion Excel that I said, one of their editors at that time was like, hey, this is a really great post and I just jumped on the opportunity and said, hey, how come I am not writing for you yet? And that was really what it all came down to. And then when somebody else saw my stuff on Unbounced I’d be like, hey, I’d like for you too and there is this sort of like give and take effect where people are asking you but you also have to put yourself out there. And that is the big part, there is a lot of conversations that happen within the emails that is like, hey, I noticed – let me take a step back here for a second, so I am looking at Unbounced, right, and I said I know I want to get a guest blog out here, the thing that I am going to do is take type their site up to opensite explorer and find out what has gotten the most links in the past. Type the same website in to Buzz Sumo and find out what has performed well over social in the past then I am going to read all of the stuff that’s there and try to pull apart what has worked for them in terms of content, subject matter and style and links or the way the whole thing is packaged. And then I am going to look for gaps where the audience has trouble, people going, oh this is a great post but I wonder blah, blah, blah. I then take all of that information and I put it in an email where I say hey I was looking at your site and I noticed that these posts right here did well, your audience has questions on these, I am proposing a topic that the headline would basically address that and give a synopsis of what the post will be about, and then it is either a yes or a no but from the editor’s perspective, being the person that accepts guest posts that has 2500 words, a lot of it comes down to just the willingness to do the research ahead of time and understand the audience before you put the pitch out there. And I will tell you most editors I know myself, in spite a thinly veiled pitch for your stuff right off the bat.
James: Totally! I have had success with a similar approach and a hat tip to Neil Patel because I think I got the approach and the sort of version 1 of my script from something that he produced and it is literally that approach. It is really identifying who do I want to target, seeing what content has performed well, seeing where the gaps are and then literally going to them and saying hey I know your audience really well, I have been following your blog sometime which actually you should be doing and then saying, hey I love this bit of content but perhaps here’s where some gaps are, I know you may not have time to produce that content yourself, how about I do it for you and that’s an appropriate pitch because you are putting content in front of them that is actually going to be of interest to them and if you are a good enough writer there is no reason that they shouldn’t look up that sort of approach, right?
Tommy: Yeah, exactly. Now, there is a bit of a disclaimer on this too, right? When I first started guest blogging, there was a lot more traffic that came from guest blogs, now I would say that there is a lot of byline blindness. I think Greg Yatti was one of the guys who coined the term. I don’t look at guest blogs as the one and done, end all be all, that’s it. In fact I have found out guest posts go live and I have seen barely blips on my own traffic. However, if you look at it as the beginning of a long term relationship and you start this on a little bit more regular basis, you can build up your own profile and brand recognition or name recognition when you are on that site and then that traffic search comes a little bit more. The metaphor I created is if you’ve seen something only once and that was it and you’ll probably forget almost right away. But if you see a steady stuff of stream coming from that stream from that company, then you are more likely to remember it and check it out when it is relevant to what you need.
James: Yeah, but there’s also no doubt some nuances to try to extract that traffic away from those outposts and I am sure having written a fair amount of posts for others you’ve probably started what some of those might be. How would you go about structuring a post, at least to direct people away from there to your own property even if you are bashing people in the head with a call to action or a free list under the hem, what might be the best structure?
Tommy: Yeah, that is actually great. I talked about this. It is the idea of active links versus passive links. If you are writing something and you link to it in the post in terms of links, the verbage that you use in that line leading up to the link is very important because you are building up either something that is intriguing or something that you can cross over. I am sure that, have you ever read a post in every link you click you have five more things to read when you’re done? A lot of that has to do with how those links are worded. It is not just a matter of oh yeah, and something, something, something product fit something. It is like, oh yeah and the results that came from this experiment and that was the link and that’s what’s over on your site like you can build up that intrigue and it is a matter of building the word sniffing skills in order to do that and really bake that in to the post. And that’s what I find works the best because by the time someone gets to the byline, if they get to the byline, they don’t care. It doesn’t matter.
James: By the time you get to the byline the content has been delivered on an event or something, and they probably have some time to take it all in, are they really going to scan through the byline and kick off? It’s really going to be unlikely, right?
Tommy: I know and I thought there have been plenty of stage when I was editor in excel there are plenty of things that I wrote, it was the most epic piece of information that I had and still the owner of the site was getting credit for a lot of the writing as you should because you built the audience initially but if I go to marketing blogger, it doesn’t matter who the writer is. I don’t care about the writer it is all about the blog so in my mind it is all the same. But if you’re building up that sort of intrigue that goes through, you know, someone clicks over to your site, as long as you are not being crappy with the site that you are linking to, as long as you are a good writer, and that is the big secret, if you are a good writer, most editors don’t care if you are linking to your own stuff but you have to make it so it is not overly like hey come over to crazy betty’s website so yeah it mostly comes down to the act of linking versus passive linking and knowing the psychology behind what gets that click. What makes you want to click when you are reading to a post?
James: Exactly! I mean, that is the thing, isn’t it? We have to sort of think about what is going to drive that action. There’s actually a good interview I did with Brian Harris that I might suggest we link off in the show notes that talked about some of the concepts that you are describing how to build up to the link or build up to the call to action by increasing intrigue as you go. He used the metaphor of television shows and how they place little clues at the start of the show to what’s coming at the end to get people hooked in to get to that next part, I guess a lot like you are doing on the structure of your post to try and get people then to `try and get people to take whatever action you want them to take whether it be a link click or comment or whatever action it might be.
Tommy: And some of the best advice I can give to somebody looking to do more content marketing and guest blogging type of stuff is read books on guest writing. TV shows do this and if you have a show that you’re supposed to show 24 episodes, one hour apiece a week to do that or binge watch people say that attentions spans have died, I think that’s bull, I think that quality content is weaning because words are cheap to produce now and that’s my advice, Lou Hunter’s Screen Writing 101. I would really recommend reading that just to see how screenplays are put together and then put that stuff in to your posts themselves.
James: Moving a little bit from guest blog I know you’re a big believer in private groups, forums and communities and you found that those have really great traffic for you. What about those sort of closed door community that make them such a great traffic source?
Tommy: There are two things, one there is conversation happening and it is completely unsolicited so if you are paying attention to what is going on to private groups and forums, I would say the ones that are overly at everybody and are being self-promotional. You can see what actual challenges are so there’s that but then the other part is, once you’re seeing what those challenges are, you are able to create content that is inherently social, it’s also media but happens to be marketing but then the other part is you’re just oh let’s look at five different groups. What I like to do is build a spreadsheet of like 50 or 60 and then rate them on three different scales. One is knowledge level of the group, are these guys smarter than me? Or do I feel like maybe I can be the smart guy in the room? Overall conversation that is happening in the room, are people actually talking to each other? What is the quality of that conversation? There are a lot of groups where everyone is like oh this is great article thanks for putting it out there but nobody is actually trying to help each other out, but then there’s places and like 500 people are going here’s the possible solution, so there’s the conversation score, and then there’s the overall interaction, do people actually talk to each other or none at all? So by putting that all together in a mass of spreadsheet, you are looking at immersing yourself in different areas in your market and then creating content that addresses specifically what those problems are and also being able to insert any piece of content that you might have in to conversation when it is most appropriate, does that make sense?
James: Absolutely! I would love to perhaps make that framework available, at least summarize it in the show notes because I think it is an excellent, excellent tool. I too have had good luck I’d say in communities and they are much more engaged than many other places online because they tend to be very passionate audiences, quite often they have invested money to be there which makes them more likely to commit to it and be more involved in a regular basis and they of course are very niche as well so I think they’re excellent sources so often overlooked as people go to these bigger networks, the real good quality traffic, the real good audiences that are very much aligned to what you are doing tend to be in these types of places.
Tommy: Yeah it’s the difference between having a small meet up at your local café or bar versus going to a convention. You’re going to have a much better quality of conversation that is going to be happening outside of the bigger scope.
James: Awesome! Well I think Tommy let’s wrap things up there. I’d like also to make sure that our listeners can go and find out more about you. You do live in various places online, where’s the best place we can send people off to?
Tommy: Right now is the shoppify blog so shoppify.com/blog and I post typically on Wednesdays.
James: There you go, so you’ll get that scheduled in, so you the listeners to find the links for Tommy at shoppify blog then head on over to TrafficJamCast.com/66 where you’ll find that link and a bunch of others too all relating to this show, well thanks Tom that’s been an absolute blast, we’ve covered a lot and some really interesting topics of conversation today, thank you for your time.
Tommy: Thank you so much for having me.
So that was Tommy Walker for show#66. Thank you as always for tuning in to Traffic Jam. We will of course be back with another episode real soon and to ensure you don’t miss out on that, as soon as it is released go to TrafficJamCast.com/iTunes or TrafficJamCast.com/Stitcher to subscribe via your favorite podcast player.
Now you can also head on over to TrafficJamCast.com/66 which is where you’ll find the episode page for this show. You can join in on the discussion there and also download some special episode bonuses so head on over there right now, it is TrafficJamCast.com/66.
We end this week’s show with a traffic jam chosen by Tommy Walker, he’s gone for a track called Can’t Kill Us and it is by the Glitch Mob, so enjoy the track and I’ll see you back here real soon!
- Tommy Walker Blog
- Shopify Blog
- Buzz Sumo
- Tommy @ Unbounce
- Guest Blogging – Cheat Sheet
- Blogger Outreach – Effective Hacks to Use with Influencers
THE TRAFFIC JAM:
The Traffic Jam is a musical ‘jam’ chosen by our guest. Tommy Walker has opted for a track called Can’t Kill Us by the The Glitch Mob. Formed in 2006, L.A.’s Glitch Mob have wowed dance floors around the world with a singular brand of bleepy electronica and heavy hip-hop-influenced basslines.
The boomiest track from their album Love, Death Immortality is the instrumental “Can’t Kill Us,” which creeps, groans, and grows as if it were built for a thriller soundtrack.
HERE’S WHAT TO DO NOW:
Download the strategy Tommy Walker used to grow his influence and following using other peoples audiences.
Click download, tell us where to send the MP3 and PDF and we’ll rush them right to you…