April 26, 2019

Go all-in and risk it; or just enjoy the rewards?

I've built up a small (side-)business while learning to code. It's a niche online jobboard and after about 6-7 years I can almost live off of it. Now I've hired 3 student freelancers to help me out with content marketing. (Oh, and I do part-time freelance web developer work.)

  • Without the 3 freelancers, the website probably covers 80-100% of my living costs (i.e. I could make it my full-time job) – and it's quite automated so I probably need to spend 1-2 days / week only. Growth potential would be limited (it's a niche), but I can save up money.
  • With the 3 freelancers, it only covers 50% of the total costs, but it might grow more, but I can't save up as much money.

The issue: Even with the "aggressive" (and I think high quality) content marketing and lots of money spent for the last 2 months... I'm feeling it's not moving the organic traffic needle by much. My fear is that all this investment now is just wasted money and time.

I feel, even investing a lot of time into it, it doesn't affect it super-much. So should I invest resource and money and time in it for growth potential (though I'm not seeing much of it as of now)? Or just keep as it is and just be able to live off of it for a while as a source of passive income and save up the extra part-time freelancer income and perhaps work on a new project?

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    Content marketing is a slow grind - I would suggest 2 month is too soon to make a call. Your content needs time to find its audience, and for your site to become a substantive knowledgebase rather than a couple of sporadic posts.

    It's also about squeezing out all the juice you can: Are you Link Building? Is your stuff hitting the ground on Google? Are you using platforms like Medium to extend your reach?

    Really good insights here: https://www.growthmachine.com/blog/seo-case-study

    I think you need to do another 2 months and make the call again - A good question to ask yourself is how do you know the content you're creating is useful? Are you certain that its better than other content out there on the same topic? Are you getting feedback?

    1. 1

      Thanks for your reply – and thanks for the link, looks really interesting. I've read tons of SEO and online marketing articles, but maybe I have too strong tunnel vision on some certain areas now and thus not using more creative ways to gain traction. I should take a step back and get a big picture overview again.

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    In my opinion I would take the 80% and invest your time in the next project.

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    Hey well done, I would make call based on makes me most happy. Growing this, moving to the next project or keep freelancing?

    One question, where and how have you hired the freelancers exactly?

    Cheers :)

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      I think all three :-). Freelancing gets me in touch with new teams and ideas – and also I enjoy helping out teams. Though for long-term I'm looking for something 3 days / week (the last couple of years it's been 4 d / week).

      My own "old" project makes me feel proud (it's overcome some rough patches) and gives a nice steady-ish income and I've automated many things.

      Working on new projects lets me experiment and just explore new ideas (e.g. new programming languages, frameworks, concepts).

      Maybe I just need to find a balance between the three.

      I found the freelancers through the local university website (and of course my own jobboard ;-) ), the work is fully remote, though and we work mostly asynchronously, so they can work when / where they want and it's mostly manageable chunks of work they can do on their own (once they're onboarded and understand the process).

      Cheers

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    Is it possible that you are confusing content marketing with SEO?

    Even if people use the terms interchangeably they are different things.

    Quality content is very important to rank on Google and get organic traffic, but it's not sufficient.

    There is a lot more work to do (keyword research to evaluate if the content has volume, on page optimization, content promotion and link building...).

    Content marketing can also be used to generate traffic in a lot of ways other than SEO (for example using FB ads to generate top of the funnel traffic and capture their email).

    What kind of content marketing have you done exactly?

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      Yes, I might have used the term "content marketing" a bit loosely. Until now I've focused almost only on organic search growth; I've only spent little on ads (mostly Facebook, because I can't really compete with big jobboards on search engines).

      I'm going deeper into SEO + Content Marketing, and I've shifted my focus from technical development and more towards online marketing, because I think I'd have more impact here.

      Regarding "What kind of content marketing": We write a lot of interviews (somewhat similar to what Courtland has done on Indie Hackers – though very different niche), many overview articles (e.g. "Where can I get a XYZ job" or "How do I become a XYZ"), the job category pages were optimized (e.g. we add additional job information for some of the high ranking job categories), we promote many of the posts on Facebook and automatically give it a paid boost if it gets good organic range.

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        In my experience interviews usually don't do well from a search perspective because they don't rank for specific keywords, unless you present them as case studies (eg "How Larry Page drives traffic to its startup" vs "Larry Page interview").

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          Yes, I make sure that the interview (and their titles) attracts both current users (e.g. via newsletter) but also users from search engines. We often structure interview titles like:

          "Green Design: How the founders of X upcycle airbags to rucksacks" or

          "Becoming a [XY worker]: How this university initiative is helping students enter the job market"

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            Good! Then I would wait longer before making any decision, at least 6 months to see if these articles are helping your organic traffic 😉

  5. 1

    In just 2 months I don't think you can evaluate if your marketing strategy is paying off! To answer your question: Why are you trying to increase the revenues? What's the goal? If the website already covers 80-100% of your living costs, you can stop freelancing and try to grow it yourself.

    1. 1

      That's true, 2 months might be a bit short; I should maybe wait it out a bit while continuing (and optimizing) the efforts. Perhaps it IS growing and I don't see the forest for the trees.

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