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In this week's episode, Jack Chambers-Ward is joined by freelance copywriter Alice Rowan to discuss how to create quality content without burning out.
Jack: Welcome to episode 55 of season two of the Search with Candour podcast. I am your host Jack Chambers-Ward, and this week I am joined by UK-based freelance copywriter, Alice Rowan. Alice and I are going to be talking about the topic of how to create quality content while also avoiding burnout. And it's a pretty interesting topic. I think you're really going to enjoy this one if you are looking to get into content marketing or you are already working in content marketing. Maybe you're feeling a bit stressed, maybe you're feeling like being pulled in too many different directions. Whether you are in-house agency, all that kind of stuff, Alice has got you covered on this podcast because we talk about a really interesting way of structuring and planning your content that you can really make the most out of it and you can get the biggest return on investment. And I mean investment in terms of time and money and blood, sweat, and tears and all that kind of stuff. You can get the most out of your copy and your content rather than just kind of creating content and throwing it out into the ether and not actually get anything back. So I think you're really going to enjoy this episode and I had a lot of fun talking with Alice Rowan.
But before I get to all that, before I get to my talk with Alice, of course, the sponsor for this week's episode and the sponsor for the whole of season two is the wonderful SISTRIX, the SEO's toolbox. And you can go to sistrix.com/swc and check out some of their fantastic free tools such as the SERP Snippet Generator, Hreflang Validator, the Google Update Radar of if you want to check your site's visibility index. And not only does SISTRIX provide free tools and a paid tool in terms of the SEO toolbox, they also provide some fantastic insights into particular industries and sectors known as Sector Watch. The fantastic Charlie Williams, who is a member of the data journalism team over at SISTRIX, has dived into the SectorWatch all around air fryers this month.
And how do I put this? I'm kind of known as an air fryer person. I have a lot of people asking me about the kind of air fryer they should get or what kind of thing can you cook in an air fryer? How long do things take in an air fryer? Apparently, I've got a bit of a reputation. So much so that my secret Santa in the office here at Candour was an air fryer cookbook. So that kind of puts you into perspective, right? And what Charlie does in Sector Watch is essentially look at the top domains and the highest-performing content. And this is the key here and I think is what I find so fascinating about Sector Watch each time and why I think Charlie does such a good job of diving into a particular sector, you look at the transactional or the do intent for that content, and you also look at the no informational intent of content as well. So you're kind of looking at the industry from two different sides and how different domains and different businesses and different websites are building their knowledge and creating their content around air fryers. So let's dive in, shall we? We'll have a little look here. And what Charlie has done is the top three domains for the transactional intent based on air fryer-based keywords. We have some pretty big names to put it lightly. Amazon.co.uk here in the UK, bbcgoodfood.com and argos.co.uk. Anybody out there in the UK, no surprises here, I'm sure. They're three very, very big retailers for this kind of stuff. And kind of swapping over to the informational or kind of research side of things, if you're looking into finding out more about air fryers, bbcgoodfood is also there. Delish.com and goodhousekeeping.com are there as well.
And not only is it those top three, Charlie has got the full list of the top 25 domains for the transactional and the informational intent there as well. It's a really interesting list. And I think even coming across and looking at the different SERPs for literally just the word air fryer as of January 2023, understanding why certain pieces sit in certain places in the SERP and understanding where different keywords relate to each other, you can actually see essentially how different directories rank across a variety of different air fryer related keywords. So taking BBC Good Food and their review directory for example, that is a lot of that kind of how-to-buy guide kind of content kind of stuff. So it is informational, but it's also leaning towards that transactional stuff as well. You get a lot of that kind of product updates, product reviews. All that kind of stuff I think works really, really well for starting that customer journey.
And taking the examples that Charlie has in SectorWatch, if you are working in this kind of sector, you have clients that are in this industry, it's the perfect way to get a glimpse, to get a snapshot using SISTRIX's extensive database of keyword data and information. You get a pretty unique look into a sector and into a particular industry. So I highly recommend you go and check out the latest episode of Sector Watch over at sistrix.com/blog. And of course, the links for that and the links for the free tools and everything will be in the show notes at search.withcandour.co.uk.
You may know my guest from her recent talk with BrightonSEO and a lot of videos on TikTok. I see a lot on TikTok, so much so that my wife saw my guest on TikTok the other day and asked who she was. It was like "I've got some SEO person on my TikTok!" and I was like, "Aha. Well, that is my guest this week." Alice Rowan, welcome to the show.
Alice: Hello. That's exciting.
Jack: I know. I was like, "I know that person. That's cool."
Alice: She's the one who swears a lot, who gives copywriting tips on TikTok.
Jack: Exactly, exactly. I feel that's kind of your whole brand, right? You swear a lot and you write good copy. That's all you need. That's a brand right there.
Alice: That's the dream, right? What could you possibly hope for?
Jack: Exactly, exactly. So for the listeners who don't know you, don't know your history and journey through... We'll kind of get to the main topic in a bit, but let's start off with how you came into digital marketing, how you came into being the superstar copywriter you are now and your kind of journey through your career.
Alice: So it all started 10 years ago when I was at university studying my first degree, my undergraduate degree in English language and creative writing. And a local agency reached out and they were like, "Hey, we need interns because we are really busy," and they didn't want to pay for the extra help. So we need interns.
Jack: We need work done for free. Yeah.
Alice: Exactly. And I was already balancing a full-time retail job and full-time study. And I was like, I'm an overachiever, why not? Let's go for it. And so I started as a copywriting intern at a local agency and then somehow survived four years of working there.
Jack: Not as an intern the whole time?
Alice: No, no, no, no, no. I interned unpaid for two months, and then they offered me a minimum wage part-time position. And then to be honest, the pay didn't get much better from there, but the experience did. I learned essentially what I would consider to be the blueprint and the scaffolding of everything I know now came from my four years in the agency. It specialized in luxury hospitality of all places. A strange niche to have for four years.
Jack: I always find hyper-specific agencies so fascinating. Where we had a client that didn't go with us, I think it was a PPC client. Again, I'm not purposefully misremembering for NDAs and stuff, I just legit can't remember. It was one of my clients. I don't do PPC here at Candour. But one of the clients said like, "Oh yeah, sorry. We went with another agency"... Who I think it was rubber stoppers on the end of drainage pipes. That is their entire niche. And I'm like, there is an entire agency that only works with rubber stopper companies. How could you possibly have enough clients? So I find that stuff fascinating when you get a super specific agency.
Alice: I feel like that person was maybe lied to.
Jack: 100%. They were lied to. Absolutely.
Alice: This agency, I can confirm legitimately, exclusively luxury hospitality.
Alice: Except for my very first client, which was a carpet company owned by the best friend of the CEO of the agency.
Jack: There's always a mate in there somewhere. Oh yeah. It's the manager's mate, the boss's mate. Yeah. Yep, yep.
Alice: So on the plus side, when I do eventually buy a house and I want to do renovations, I know an awful lot about carpets and flooring.
Jack: I thought you were about to say, "I know an awful carpet company."
Alice: No, no, no. They're wonderful. They're really great. They're really nice people. But yeah, I happen to know a lot about that area.
Jack: There you go.
Alice: So a huge part of what I was working on in the agency was websites. So we'll come full circle to that in a minute because that's now my specialty is website copy. And the beauty of working in an agency for that long is that you become so embedded in the processes. And I am also a bit of a nosy Nelly and I like to understand how all of the different parts of everything I'm doing work together, which ultimately, I think, has made me 10 times better at my job. I also think there's a lot to be said for content writers and copywriters who don't necessarily value those intricacies because words on their own are just words. You also need SEO, you need design, you need development, you need to understand the usability and the site map and the flow of information. There's so much that goes into it.
Jack: Yeah, I saw a post from you recently on LinkedIn talking about how important design is and I think how much it builds trust, how much, like you said, it influences customer journey and user journeys and all that kind of stuff. And God, that goes underappreciated from a writing perspective. So many people think you chuck words on a page and job done. And so often when I'm doing sort of competitor analysis for a content brief or something like that, the copy's great, but I can't read the damn thing because there's just a wall of text. There's no clear formatting, there's no headings, there's no images, there's no table of contents, there's no nothing. And it's just 1500 words just in a big block. If I actually stop and read it, it is very well-researched, it is well written. They clearly know what they're talking about, but good luck reading the damn thing.
Alice: Yeah, like it doesn't matter. I was chatting at an event in Bristol yesterday. It was a Q&A thing, and I was talking about how it doesn't matter how good the content is if it's, like you said, a big wall of text, if it's not formatted. If the person reading it has not been considered, people will take one look at it, go, "No, f*** that. That's not for me."
Jack: Yeah, absolutely.
Alice: And then all of your effort has been for nothing. Yeah, I have some quite strong feelings about that. Copy, in my opinion, it's the glue that holds the whole machine together. It's what ties together the messaging. It's a huge part of how you can be found on Google. It's a huge part of what makes people click through to your pages when you turn up in the search. You can't use the glue to hold everything together if you don't understand what you're trying to hold together. That's a really terrible analogy. I'm much better with the written words than I am with the spoken word. I feel like I should assure you that right now.
Jack: Yeah, I think that's really interesting because you get into that... Like we said, if everything else around it is working really well and the copy's rubbish, again, you can spot it straight away. And if a couple of those elements just aren't working, we were talking just beforehand about how you get certain sites that work really well and are well designed, but it won't load so cool. You'll have all the brilliant copy and all that kind of stuff, but the page doesn't load. And as you mentioned, attention spans are not long in this day and age, whether that's on TikTok, whether that's browsing. Most people browsing on their phone these days even outside of social media and stuff, just Googling something, people don't go past the first few results typically, and people will not scroll through 12,000 words of a massive integral thing that is basically illegible.
Alice: And that's the thing. So a lot of the content that I write is cornerstone content, pillar page content. It is by its very nature long, beasty content. I spent a lot of last month writing this huge 4,000 word piece of content about cybersecurity, which is already a very dry subject, but the way that you get people to actually read this stuff is by putting in graphics, putting in images. And not those shitty stock images of a group of middle-aged white men just going-
Jack: Yeah, default office white guys. That's what we need it on.
Alice: Yeah, exactly. That's not going to help. But you want things like tables of information. Also something I think people really underestimate and underappreciate is the same information formatted in several different ways on a page because everyone looks for different things and people consume and comprehend information in different ways.
Alice: So some people might want a bullet point list. Some people are going to want more in-depth explanation. Some people are going to want a table. Some people are going to want an infographic. And people are so scared to repeat themselves in content, and I actually think it can be so useful and so valuable.
Jack: Yeah, definitely.
Alice: Google, also, as it turns out, doesn't mind that so much as long as you're not literally just copying and pasting loads of chunks. But that piece of content, for example, it starts off with a two-sentence introduction and then here is an eight-point bullet point list of the eight different things we're going through in this long bit of content. All going to be hyperlinked so you can skip down to what you need. And then everything is broken down by process. So there's, here is a summary checklist and then linked out to another piece of content that's, here's the whole thing in lots more detail. And it's about incorporating lots of different ways of conveying the same information that bulks out that content so Google and other search engines can go, oh, so this is actually really in-depth and useful, but it also keeps people on the page, which is really important as well. They're more likely to digest the information. It's a similar kind of idea to how in terms of advertising, whether you are looking at organic or paid, on average, people need to see the same message seven or eight times or the same product seven or eight times before they'll buy. And I think that principle can be applied to content as well.
Jack: Yeah, absolutely. I know we've kind of dived ahead and ignored-
Alice: Yeah, sorry.
Jack: The past six years of your career and dived forward, but I think that was totally true. Watching your BrightonSEO talk, you had a similar kind of approach even to your talk in a similar kind of way of, by the way, there's going to be links for this. If you want more details about this, there'll be a link, have this QR code. You'll get it all in more detail in a checklist that I don't have time to go through right now. And that is so true. I think that was one of the things that really resonated with me the most from your talk. And by the way, listeners, the topic... Hello, we're already at the topic whether you like it or not. We are going to basically be talking about how to create quality content without burning out. I think it's kind of a quick little summary of it. You had a much punchier title for your BrightonSEO talk, but it is a bit rude for a podcast. So we'll use the making quality content and not burning out thing instead.
Alice: Okay. Fine, be that way.
Jack: But yeah, I think that was something that, like I said, really resonated with me was the repurposing of that content. And you can think of, oh yeah, I've made this blog post or whatever, and so many people think, cool, content done, end of story, end of job, off you go to the... I was about to say to the printers, but that seems a bit redundant these days. Off to the digital printers. But you can actually repurpose that across social media, like you said, infographics to make that then much more shareable and increasing your chance of getting backlinks and all that kind of stuff, I think, is something so many people, and myself included, really underestimate when it comes to stuff like podcasting as well. Audio. And I've seen it crop up so often now whether it's a newsletter or an article. And at the top it'll say, "Listen to this article," and the author has actually narrated or they've gotten a narrator in to literally read the article for you. And that's not only an accessibility thing, that's a whole other branch of being able to spread the word and share your content around. And I think that you really nailed that and I thought that was really interesting. So what was your kind of inspiration for that? How did you come to that conclusion through your years of writing and realizing, I can actually repurpose different bits for different media and across different platforms and things like that?
Alice: So I guess we'll kind of jump back into the career history part of this. Because when you're in an agency, especially when it's a creative agency, it was all branding and websites, you are surrounded by an entire room or building of people whose entire function in their 9:00 to 5:00 is marketing. And that can maybe set you with some false expectations for what life is going to be like when you move past agency life. I left that agency for reasons, and I went into the B2B tech world. Specific again. Landed in a really specific niche and stayed there for four years across three different companies. L&D Technology of all things and HR Tech. So I was working for, I think, four years, three different companies or four different companies. I lose track. Lots of things happened. Anyway, so I was working for B2B companies. And I was either throughout every single one of those with one exception, I was a one-person marketing team at one point. I was a part of a two-and-a-half-person marketing team and that was about as luxurious as it got. And so there was me, there was a kind of digital marketing PPC guy and then there was a part-time designer. And that was it. So to go from being in a company of 50 people where everyone's purpose is marketing and building software and building websites and you're all marching in the same direction to having to compete for time, attention, budget and anyone to give a shit about what you are doing, it was quite a challenge. And so there was part of me that was like, oh yeah, I get to come in here and I get to make the strategy and I get to do all of this and I finally get to take control over the content instead of being told what to do all the time. Three guesses why I ended up going freelance. And that was all well and good except I was like, oh, I was now expected to produce so much. And basically this could honestly be a whole other conversation, but the attitude at that particular company was marketing works for sales, which I hate a lot. That's not how it should be. The only function of marketing is not to drive sales. It's one of them.
Jack: Weirdly enough, Areej AbuAli touched on this in her BrightonSEO talk back in October talking about how she had transferred from being in the marketing team as the SEO person or technical SEO, however granular they get, but you know what I mean. The digital marketing part of a wider marketing team to actually being moved over to the technical side of things and being part of the development team because she was working in technical SEO. And it actually makes way more sense to have, as you said, working with the people who actually will buy into that stuff. If you know need to make changes to the website, it makes sense that... This was an in-house role. Working closely with the people who make the changes to the website so they understand where that value is coming from, the whole point of that decision rather than working with the marketing team and then going through the sales team and then going through the sales director or whoever it is and there's just this whole process and it's like, I'm just ticking boxes at this point. We just need to change the thing on the website. Please, can we do that? Everyone agrees, but the marketing team are stuck answering to the sales team.
Alice: Yeah, I just think there's so much wrong with how so many B2B... I think it tends to be more in the SMB space, the small to medium business space, who think that marketing is a luxury and not a necessity. And it's something that often they've been, I don't want to say bullied into, convinced that they have to do. So they're all like, "We'll hire a token marketing person." And then expect them to be a unicorn, but we'll pay them less than sales because they're less valuable than sales. It's a whole thing and it's not exclusive to that one company. It's happened at a lot of places I've worked for, a lot of places I've interviewed for and a bunch of clients I've worked with as well. I work a lot with small to medium businesses who don't want to hire a full-time marketing person in-house. And as much as it may seem completely contradictory to my business, I spend a lot of time convincing them that they do need a marketing function in-house because as lovely as it is for me to work with them, they're going to spend more money hiring out freelancer than they are managing in-house. To actually get back to, I think, the question you asked me 5, 10 minutes ago, whenever it was, I do love a good ramble.
Jack: Welcome to the podcast, ladies and gentlemen. This is what it's like.
Alice: So repurposing content, I believe, is where we started this conversation.
Jack: Spot on there.
Alice: So I know how it feels to be unseen and overwhelmed and overlooked as the only marketing person or as the only person producing content in an entire company and having the pressure of the entire sales team, especially if there's been a really recent pivot to an inbound marketing strategy and then it's suddenly like, oh, you've gone from some pressure from sales to all of the pressure from sales suddenly being on your shoulders when they're a team of 20 and you are a team of one. And that's a huge part of why I wanted to do the talk because so much at these big conferences, they're great opportunities for people who are either running a small business or they're the only marketing person in a small business. They're a great opportunity to go to, but I feel like people are often sent to them because their managers or the CEOs don't know what else to do. They want to help, but they don't know how. And so I wanted to step in and be like, hey, we only have 20 minutes together, but I need you to know that I see you. I see you, I've been where you are at and here is how you can manage this without burning out and without wanting to leave your job and without rage quitting in exactly the way that I did last year. Yeah. And it's all about being sensible in the order in which you produce content because you can produce really high quality, really valuable content stuff that's going to bring in leads and get the sales team off your back. Stuff that is going to help your search results, stuff that's going to get you on the search for certain key terms, things that are going to help you with lead nurture and also so many of these functions that shouldn't fall on the shoulders of one person but too often do. And there is what I consider to be a common-sense way that turns out isn't very common as is often the way with common sense. A common sense way to content production that basically allows you to create content at scale without wanting to die.
Jack: That's the ideal world. Like you said, that seems like common sense, but as we were saying earlier, I think so many people misunderstand or misinterpret or misrepresent how much work goes into even just getting something onto a website from a copywriter's perspective. And then again, all the people you have to answer to, whether that's clients or in-house or whatever it is and the processes you have to go through. And then the design, who's sourcing the images for this piece? Are they being created originally? Are we using stock? Do we have an account for that stock thing? Are we doing AI stuff now? What's going on here? Millions of different ways opposing and prodding and pulling in different directions. And you're totally right that it's easy to get overwhelmed and just feel like too much going on at once. And I just wanted to write a bloody blog post. Honestly, that's all I wanted to do with my life. Nice and easy, but no, nothing's ever easy. And again, there was something that again really resonated with me from your talk was that kind of approach, having a structured plan and really coming at it with do it in this order and go in with a plan instead of just kind of fumbling about in the dark and being like, oh, I'll do a bit of this and I'll do a bit of that and then I'll do this thing here and then, oh no, it's not all coming together and I'm all stressed and oh, the deadline's coming up. Oh god, what do I do? All that kind of stuff. So can you run this through a little bit of your plan? We won't go through the whole thing in full detail. Maybe we will. I'm sure we'll pull around it and touch on a few different topics. We've kind of been bouncing around all over the place already.
Alice: ADHD alive. Take the scenic route through every conversation.
Jack: Exactly, exactly. It's what we're here for. That's what podcasts are made for. That's the whole point. So yeah, let's kind of delve into that planning stage, I guess, and thinking about something that really caught my attention was you talking about... Obviously, I feel like a lot of people listening will know this spoke before the hub approach where you create essentially the smaller pieces of content, the blog post and stuff, before you create that big kind of pillar page. And then you also kind of talk about creating the big commitment pieces first and then repurposing that into smaller articles. And I guess my question is how do you gauge that scale? How do you understand where each piece fits in that kind of plan? And how do you plan out this is the big piece, these are the smaller pieces, this is what needs to be repurposed, this is what doesn't? And how does that then help you to not get overwhelmed and stressed out?
Alice: So in terms of what can be repurposed? Everything.
Alice: To give you a short answer there, everything. So just to give you an example directly from my own marketing around the Brighton SEO talk, so I did the talk, I obviously posted about it a lot on my social media and everything. Ended up with about 3,500 people have watched it, I think, between online and in person, which is insane. But I created a landing page where people can download those assets. So you have the talk and then you have the little bit extra, which is the slides. And there's also bonus content in the slides, in the PDF that wasn't in the talk. There's the three checklists that I put out. I've also written blogs about every single step of that process. I haven't directly called them Brighton SEO talk step one. I've just written about them over the process of creating the talk itself.
I have created TikTok videos about them. I've created reels about them. I've tweeted about them. I've written LinkedIn posts about them. I was making sure to create all of that additional marketing content as I was putting the talk together. And then there's also the fact that I've written newsletters that have covered those specific stages. Now that is not the planned and organized way to do it. That is the way that I've done it because I've been working in marketing for long enough that I have enough experience to be able to successfully wing it. If you are in the position where you need more structure, the way that I recommend doing things is you start with the piece that requires the most amount of effort first.
Now that means there is going to be a delay between when you start working on whatever this project is, whatever you want your topic cluster, for example, to be, and the first thing that's published. And in the marketing world, quick wins, which is a term that I hate. Seem to be prioritized above all else, even though planning in essentially the reverse order is going to make your life 10 times easier. So you want to start with the biggest commitment piece first. So whether that is a webinar series, whether it's an e-book or a white paper, something that takes a lot of time, a lot of effort, potentially a lot of people, you want to get all of the people that aren't you out of the way in this process at the beginning because that way, once that is done, things are signed off... You know how long it takes to get artwork, and then get approvals done, get that all sorted, get everyone and their mother to sign off on things? You want all of that headache out of the way first. And then you potentially, depending on what publishing schedule you want to use, have three to six months worth of content that you can get out of that one resource. So if we take an e-book as an example, this is the example I used in my talk, you could split a 5,000-word e-book out into four blogs. So obviously you want to leave the intro and the conclusion where they are. They don't belong in blogs. And use them as extracts. And then from those blogs, you can do a recording like you mentioned earlier. You can record video snippets of you literally reading out the blog. If that's all you have time for, that is perfectly fine. Post that on Instagram, on TikTok, on whatever platforms make sense for your business. You can also repurpose bits of the blogs but without linking to them on LinkedIn as part of the personal brand building because if you link to the blogs, it won't get seen by many people.
Jack: LinkedIn does not like links, does it? Despite the name?
Alice: No. Yeah, yeah. Bit hypocritical really, if you ask me. But yeah. And then Twitter threads and all of that kind of stuff, you can repurpose it into emails. And all of those things apart from LinkedIn can also help you drive traffic back to your website. If you look at my slides or certainly one of the blogs on my website, I went through the specifics of the potential. But you can either write an e-book and then... So you've got the e-book, you got the landing page and you've got, say, two or three token social posts that you put out. So you can either from this one resource that you have poured your heart and your mind and your soul and your brain and your blood, sweat and tears into, you can get five pieces of content out of it or you can repurpose the living shit out of that content and get 70 to 80 pieces of content out for your business. And that is how you create large quantities of content without burning out because you put the effort in at the front. And then once you have that huge list of things and different publications from different places, maybe you can look at getting guest posts on other websites and stuff. At that point, once all of that is already published, you can then look at building out things like cornerstone pages. I mentioned this in the talk as well. You have to build in reverse order because that cornerstone page, that's going to be really the SEO hub for that topic. But if people are going to land on that page, in order for you to be able to link to other pages or for them to be able to go to other pages, the other pages and posts have to exist first. So you start with the big effort piece, you then splinter that out as many times as you possibly can and then you create the SEO hub at the end. And you may well get SEO benefits of publishing various pieces of content around the same subject area anyway along the way. And they are all there to prop up the big SEO piece at the end. And is it the perfect content strategy? No, but I tell you what. It is a damn site better than the way most one person marketing teams are burying themselves into the ground.
Jack: Yeah, I think that's such a key part of it. It's maybe not the best way of doing it for everyone, but it is a way to stop that burnout and stop all the stresses that come with it, that we've already kind of touched on a few of them. But being able to have a consistency to it is so key. I know that's so key in podcasting. That's so key in content creation. The classic, we'll publish three or four times a month or whatever. Cool. Maybe don't dive straight into that with just one person. Our writer will write four pieces a month. That's fine. Actually, come up with a realistic plan, and then like you said, being able to repurpose that content adds so much value to that initial investment of your time, blood, sweat, tears, all the other stuff that goes into it. And literally when you are trying to sell that proposal to, in your case as a freelancer, clients and things like that, or if you're in-house and you're talking to the directors or agency and you're talking to your clients, yeah, I understand. We won't get anything published this month, but next month, oh boy. And from then on, you're going to get 20 different things here and then the next month says another 20 things and I poured my heart and soul in for this initial piece, but the investment is worth it. It's going to pay off in the end. It's going to be that long-term plan, that big piece that is going to really pull through in the end rather than randomly chipping away and just hoping for the best.
Alice: Yeah. Exactly, exactly. You already hit a nail on the head there. So much of marketing is setting expectations, especially setting expectations for people who don't understand marketing. And it can be really frustrating, but one of the most satisfying things is going through that process and then at the end of that two months, three months, six months, however long you... I don't want to say drag that process out because that sounds bad, but however long that process takes for you realistically in your position. You get to look back at this whole massive campaign that you've created and you can sit there and genuinely be like, I did that, and it's all coming together. And it is one of the most satisfying feelings because also as well, posting on social, in your newsletter, on your website, running blog series, all of that kind of stuff, being consistent about one topic for three to six months will do wonders for building your reputation. Absolute wonders for it because then even when people don't engage with your content... For example, if you go for the instant gratification side of things, you're looking at social. Even if people aren't going in on your content, they're not liking and commenting and sharing and engaging all the time, you never know who is watching and you don't know how often it's going to be a case of someone will go, I'm having this problem at work at the moment and I think we really need this kind of tech, but I don't know anything about it. And someone will go, I know a company who does that.
Jack: Yeah, I saw a post on TikTok-
Alice: Because you've been talking about it for the last couple of months.
Jack: The other day that... Yeah, they do this thing that's incredibly specific and turns out it's exactly what you need and it almost transforms into some weird word-of-mouth thing. You get that moment where, like you said, repurposing it all to different platforms broadens your audience so much because a lot of people are not in the places where you're going to be posting if you are stuck to just, we are a particular industry and I publish on this industry journal.com and that's exclusively on our website. Cool. You're not going to get any new customers out of that because eventually, you're going to run out of people in that small area. But suddenly if you're cross-posting to socials and, like you said, eventually getting through to publishing on other people's websites and all that kind of stuff, it broadens the options so much. And like you said, you're able to then repurpose and reuse all that kind of stuff and then it's a visual medium. Now I'm going to do a YouTube video about it or a social video about it. We've got these graphics that were in the original piece, we can now reuse those as the visual part of the video instead of a blank screen or me just talking into a camera for five minutes or whatever it is. Having all those different elements is so key to that, I think. And that's a thing, like we said, so many people misunderstand and don't give enough credit to and how important that can be in terms of, like you said, the word campaign I think is really important there because so many people think of content creation as a... Either I feel like most people think of it as a very finite thing of, here is a piece of content, full stop, job done, as I said earlier. Or it's never-ending, we are constantly churning out stuff into the ether and just hoping for the best. But actually having a campaign there, you're totally right. You're building a reputation. You're establishing yourself as the source to go to, whether that's you, whether that's your clients, whatever it is, coming back around to talking about double-E-A-T and all that kind of stuff. You're demonstrating yourself as an expert, you're showing your experience, you're proving your authority, you're proving you're trustworthy. It's all coming together. It's all building together to prove that, oh yeah, I saw them on LinkedIn and TikTok and that blog post and a guy on a podcast mentioned it the other day and oh, they were a guest on a podcast the other days. I'm just talking up podcasting now. Good. Do it. Do podcasts, everybody. And you see it tackling different things. Like you said, when you get to, oh, I saw it 5 or 6, 7, 8 times, you realize, I've seen those guys everywhere. That company is... Maybe I should check them out. Huh, I've never thought about it. Or something will change. Say you move in-house and suddenly you realize that the, I don't know, tool company that fixes drains has been following you around in all the different places. You're like, I do need my drain sorted out. What a weird coincidence!
Alice: I feel a certain kind of way about the creepy nature of data scraping and ads following you around all over the internet. But I think there's a lot to be said about the consistency of your messaging and the consistency of the topics that you talk about. And I tell you what. I feel like while I was working in-house, I learned a lot in theory about how marketing works. And there were obviously tangible results for that, especially the first place that I was at. We used the HubSpot CRM and I was in Google Analytics all the time and I had so much access to the data. In that two years, I learned a huge amount practically about the stuff that I was next to in the agency but didn't really get to sink my teeth into. So it was kind of the next step up. And there were real tangible benefits. I did a lot of experimenting with the content strategy because they were like, "We need more of an inbound marketing strategy. Our sales team can't keep cold calling people because people don't like it." And I'm like, "Wow, what a revelation."
Jack: Welcome to 1995, everybody.
Alice: And the CEO said, "But we have a brand. We have a logo." So that's where we were at with the... Yeah.
Jack: That's all you need.
Alice: Anyway. Obviously. Everyone knows that. But yeah, so I kind of really took the marketing strategy into my own hands and I experimented with a lot of things, did an awful lot of lead gen and got to play around with a database of 90,000 people, do so much experimenting with email workflows and segmentation and if, then, that kind of splitting things. I love data. It was so much fun. I feel like running my own business has taught me a lot in practice about the stuff that I learned in theory. And there is really something to be said about working with other people's data when you work in-house for a business, it's all well and good. Actually, it's amazing especially if you have access to, like I said, a database of 90,000 email addresses and job titles and all of that kind of stuff in the CRM. That was amazing. But I am seeing firsthand on a really small scale, because I am a one-person business, how my content is directly impacting my sales. I like having access to that end-to-end. It has been such an eye-opener because when I first started freelancing, I had 500 connections on LinkedIn or whatever from the various jobs that I'd worked and stuff. And it took a couple of months for things to get going, and then it took another couple of months for things to get stable. And then I was announced to BrightonSEO, and it just took off. Things started happening and I was like, oh damn, I'm running a business.
Jack: I'm a business owner now. I need to be serious.
Alice: I did a business. It's been, honestly, life-changing doing all of that. But now that I've done that talk and I was at an event yesterday and I'm on here and stuff... Thank you by the way for having me on. I really appreciate it.
Jack: You're welcome.
Alice: It's been lovely so far and I'm sure the rest of it will be too.
Jack: Now here comes the hard questions, the horrible bit of the podcast. No.
Alice: Oh shit.
Jack: It will only be nice. I promise.
Alice: But yeah. The consistency of the messaging, it means now that... Because I had no idea who I wanted to work with when I first started because I was like, I've got this luxury hospitality roots and I know lots of people in the industry and it's really fun, creative work, but also a bit bougie and I'm not into that kind of thing. And then I have all of this experience in L&D and HR Tech, but you will be amazed how competitive freelance writing is for those sectors. There was me thinking, oh yeah, I'm coming in with a great sector speciality. No, it's so saturated.
Jack: I'm going to be the HR Tech people again.
Alice: Oh no.
Jack: Everybody's going to come to me.
Alice: It's so, so saturated. And so I kind of panicked a little bit. And then I pitched the talk to BrightonSEO, and then I planned the talk for BrightonSEO. I am a copywriter. I wrote a fun title and I wrote an interesting description. Then I made the talk very much in that order. And I was developing the talk and so much of it just came back to my small business SMB one-person marketing team roots. Again and again and again. Everything came back to that. And because I spoke about that and I have been very open about how much I struggled when I was in that position, and people are like, thank you for being honest about this. And I was like, oh yeah, people like the honesty. They like it when you don't sit there and paint this picture of the digital nomad, freelance aspirational life. Freelancing is hard. It is so hard, and it's hard in such a different way to being a one-person marketing team. But I talk very openly about the challenges and very openly about the rewards. I'm very open about all of it because I think that's how it should be, and I'm not interested in gatekeeping information, especially useful information. And I'll circle back to that in a second because I think that contributes a lot to the success of a business as well, is how much education they're willing to give away for free? But because I talk about that so much, I talk about small business life so much and the realities of being a one-person marketing team and how to create strategies without burning out, I am now known as the go-to person in my circle and by extension their circles of, "Oh, my friend has a small business and he's launching and he doesn't know how to do his content strategy. Do you have time to help?" I'm like, "I'll check my calendar, but probably yes. Let's do the thing. Let's have a chat."
And I'm getting more and more referrals now because people are like... They know that I work with small businesses and I work with one-man bands and I do it because I empathize with that situation and I want to help people. People deserve good marketing. People deserve to feel proud of what they do. And sometimes that's going to mean that they need to outsource to someone else because they haven't got the slightest clue what they're doing and they don't necessarily want to learn. And sometimes that means teaching people. So I think a huge part of how businesses can build their reputation is by putting out free educational material. It's part of the expertise piece, of the EEAT side of things. And there's a lot of businesses I found that have this very strange mindset of, but we can't give everyone everything for free because then they're not going to want to work with us especially when you work in service-based. But the point is, you put all of this information out for free so that people know that you know your shit, and people can trust you because gatekeeping doesn't build trust.
Jack: I'm going to make that the tagline of the episode right there. Gatekeeping doesn't build trust. Right there.
Alice: Yeah, for sure. It's very much what I stand by. A huge part of the entire purpose... Well, the selfish purpose of my business is I never want to work for another person again in my life. The more aspirational Simon Sinek style, Start With Why... Purpose of my business, and I haven't figured out how to put this eloquently yet so bear with me, is to give everyone the access they need and the fair chance they deserve to be proud of what they're doing. And that's really important to me. It's part of the reason why I have so many different ways that people could work with me. Not to make it convoluted, not to make it confusing, but it's just so that if someone just wants to go, I don't know what I'm doing and I don't want to do this, do it for me. I'm like, okay, great, I'll do that. And if someone's like, I desperately need to learn how to do this because I can't keep outsourcing. And I'm like, okay, cool. Let's work together for a week, two weeks or months, six months. I will train you. And there are some people who are like, so I think I get what's going on and I just need a couple of hours of your time. I'm like, okay, cool. And there are some people who can't afford to pay for any of it, which is totally fine. We all start somewhere. And so I have email series, I have blogs, I have my newsletter, I do things like this podcast and I speak at events. And apart from BrightonSEO, for the most part, those events are fairly achievable financially for people. I just want to help, basically. I want to help. I don't want to gatekeep. There's too much gatekeeping in marketing and it's shit.
Jack: Yeah, absolutely. And I think that's something I've circled back around quite a few times on the podcast before where you don't want to deal with all the crap and all the gatekeeping and all the bullshitters and the charlatans and all that kind of stuff. But like you said, we'll chuck out a headline-grabbing thing that sounds cool and if you don't know it's bullshit, then it seems very interesting and "I will 10 times your traffic." "I will 15X your revenue."
Alice: "Build a six-figure freelance business in five weeks." No, mate. You're gone.
Jack: Exactly. Yeah. And you're right. That totally comes back around to that common sense thing as well. Just hold on a minute. Wouldn't everyone just do that if that was a thing that you could do? No, that's not how that works. Okay. And there's a whole other industry of scam courses and all that kind of stuff or just the Logan Pauls of the world doing, here's how you become an influencer. Get 1 million followers on your YouTube channel. Oh God. Yeah. Okay, great. Again, if that was that simple, everyone and their mother would be doing it and we'd all have a million followers and then a million followers is the baseline and it doesn't matter. So what is the plan here?
Alice: I know. And I've had multiple people ask me if I'm going or when I'm going to start a course, but I don't know that I want to. I understand the sensible thing from a business perspective is to build passive income, but gatekeeping doesn't build trust and gatekeeping doesn't help people, so I don't want to do that. In a couple of weeks, I think it's on the 14th of February, I've got a completely free 12 week email series that teaches people the basics of website copywriting. Does it make business sense to put it out for free? No. Does it make business sense or financial sense to encourage people to learn to do the thing that I sell as my main service? No, but that's not why I'm doing it.
Jack: Yeah. Does that make people think, oh, Alice Rowan, the copywriter, the content marketing person? Suddenly, you're out there. As we said before, people will see your talk and then hear about you on social media. Or they know someone, like we said before, clients working with word of mouth kind of stuff like, oh yeah, I worked with a copywriter a few years ago. Yeah, she was great, blah, blah, blah, blah. All that kind of stuff you are bringing... Again, it's that long-term planning. It's that feeding back around into if you do it right and you commit to it and you're consistent, it's going to pay off in the end. Don't just try and pull a shortcut and round all the corners and just be like, oh yeah, we'll just do this thing and chuck it out and hope for the best and that'll do kind of thing. In the same way, giving away educational stuff for free, I know you've got your ‘Write your own f---ing website’ thing as well. Having things like that where people can pay you for your time, but the reason I know who you are is through BrightonSEO. It's through LinkedIn, all that. The reason you are on this show right now is because you have put yourself out there. You have branded yourself. People know Alice Rowan as this content marketer, as this copywriter. And the fact that you are able to do that while also... Oh yeah, I saw a really good tip on LinkedIn. I literally said in the conversation earlier, "Oh yeah, I saw you post about design a few days ago." Having those abilities to just be able to refer back to, proving yourself to a new client or proving that you are trustworthy and an expert. Yeah, go and check out the stuff I have for free. Imagine what I'll do for you when you pay me.
Alice: Yeah. And it's also a case of, I have spent years of my life preaching the importance of the long game and planning for the long run, not for a quick win. I hate quick wins. I think often it's kind of a cut off your nose to spite your face situation. You can invest in a quick win and it actually pay off. But I think more often than not, it doesn't, and it becomes a diminishing return situation. So I want to work with people who trust me. I want to instill a level of trust with people, and I want to have a good working relationship with people. And I want people to understand how complex content is, whether that's because trying to learn how to do it properly themselves or because they want to hire someone. It's like the email series, a huge part of that was inspired by some difficult interactions that I had last year with some clients in particular who we didn't vibe very well, and there was a complete lack of understanding of all of the different nuanced things that go into website copy, in particular. And it's 12 weeks, and it barely scratches the surface. It's enough to get you started, and it's enough to help people who are thinking of maybe hiring a copywriter to understand just how much goes into it. And both of those things are really important. It's not like a ha ha, gotcha moment. It's a genuine education piece that was born out of a shitty situation. In fact, a lot of the things that I'm doing are born out of shitty situations, and I think that's a huge amount of what marketing can be. If you're working in-house, speak to your sales team. Why do prospects turn you away? What is the number one reason people are saying no to your product, to your service? And how can we fix that? How can we learn from it? And how can we market in the opposite direction, but not in a deceitful way?
Jack: Yeah, absolutely. I think that is a very nice note for us to end on there. Don't be deceitful. Don't be a bullshitter.
Alice: And don't gatekeep.
Jack: The most important thing is gatekeeping doesn't build trust.
Alice: Exactly. Couldn't have said it better myself.
Jack: I quoted some really famous, brilliant writer that was, "Gatekeeping doesn't build trust." I can't remember who it was, but they were really brilliant and insightful and wise and all that kind of stuff.
Alice: I hear they spoke up BrightonSEO in October as well.
Jack: Apparently so. Apparently so.
Alice: And drew quite the crowd.
Jack: Awesome. Well Alice, if people do want to follow you and they should, first of all, how can they follow you across the various social medias, websites, email newsletters, all that good stuff, all your repurposed and free educational content?
Alice: Oh boy. Well, I am chronically online, as the kids say.
Jack: Aren't we all these days.
Alice: Not to sound so much like a millennial, but my website is alicerowancontentmarketing.com. On there, you can find all of the links to all of the things. Because of domains that were taken and some domains are too long and all of that fun stuff, I have different handles on every social media channel.
Alice: So I am hoping, Jack, you might pop them in the show notes so I don't have to-
Jack: Of course. Naturally. Of course.
Alice: Perfect, perfect.
Jack: The list is-
Alice: Just wanted to check.
Jack: Just need to go to search.withcandour.co.uk. Click on our face and you'll get the blog post. That will give you the full transcript, all of the show notes and the links for everything to find Alice across Twitter, LinkedIn, your copywriting website, TikTok. And like I said, even my wife has seen you on TikTok!
Alice: I love that.
Jack: So you got to be doing something right.
Alice: I'm on Instagram as well and I have the newsletter that goes out every two weeks. And if website copywriting is something you are interested in learning, my new email series, Demystifying Website Copy, launches on Tuesday the 14th of February. And you can sign up for that through my website.
Jack: Perfect. There we go, listeners. So if you are listening to this when it goes out in early February, you got about 10 days or so, just over a week to get signed up and go and check that out. Like I said, links for everything in the show notes and should be nice and easy to find for you. Everything you'll need is in one handy place. Well, thank you so much for joining us. It's been an absolute pleasure.
Alice: Thank you for having me. This has been wonderful.
Jack: Glad you enjoyed it. I'm glad the pressure's off after the first podcast, and now you can go off and do all the amazing things and carry on doing talks and doing other podcasts and stuff as well, hopefully.
Alice: I hope so. In fact, I think I have a few TikToks to film this afternoon.
Jack: Hey, there we go. Nice.
Alice: So I'm sure I'll be popping up on your screen again soon.
Jack: I will see you again very soon. Fantastic. Thank you again, Alice. This has been really, really fun to chat with you.
Alice: Okay, thanks Jack.
Jack: And that wraps us up for this week. Thank you once again to Alice Rowan for joining me. It was an absolute pleasure to talk about content and dive into some strategy and planning around that and avoiding the all-important burnout that we want to avoid in this day and age. I've got some really interesting conversations coming up in the near future as well. I'm talking about knowledge graphs and five mistakes that will stop your brand from ending up on the knowledge graph. That's a conversation with Sadiq Ajala that will be coming in the next few weeks.
I'll also have a conversation with Lily Ugbaja talking about content that stands out on the soon-to-be AI-dominated SERPs. Essentially diving more into content and looking at it from a slightly different perspective. And as I've mentioned over the last few weeks, Mark and I are working very closely with SISTRIX and we'll be having some live streams coming up for you through LinkedIn, and we'll be also here on the podcast feed as well. So stay tuned for all of that coming in the next few weeks throughout February. And yeah, thank you so much for listening and have a lovely week.