Neil Patel is the co-founder of Crazy Egg and Hello Bar. His strategies have helped companies like Amazon, NBC, GM, HP and Viacom grow their revenue. The Wall Street Journal calls him a top influencer on the web, Forbes says he is one of the top 10 online marketers, and Entrepreneur Magazine says he created one of the 100 most brilliant companies in the world.
In this interview he lays out the content marketing recipe he uses to build Quicksprout.com
Alzay Calhoun: Well, hello, everybody. This is Alzay Calhoun with Coveted Consultant. Today, I'm here with a really special guest, a name you probably have heard before. We're going to go deep today.
Today, I'm on the line with Neil Patel, and Neil Patel is the cofounder of Crazy Egg, Hello Bar, KISSmetrics. He runs Quick Sprout, he runs neilpatel.com, and I'm sure there's some other properties that I haven't listed. If you are in the content marketing world in any way, you've heard his name somewhere in that conversation, so he's familiar to you.
Let's just begin by saying, "Hello." Hello, Neil, how are you today?
Neil Patel: I'm good, thanks for having me.
Alzay: Yes, sir, good to have you. We were talking offline for just a moment, and I want to offer the listeners the same introduction. Neil Patel is an example of someone who has built multiple businesses with content as the core. You engage with content before you engage with the services.
I want to use today as an opportunity to better understand how he thinks about that, how he applies that, and some of the results that he's seen. I want to start at the beginning. The beginning is, Neil, would you please tell us where or how you figured out that content marketing was valuable in the first place?
Neil: When I had a consulting agency years ago, I couldn't afford to do pay-per-click like most of the people. I stuck out with blogging, like, "All right, maybe if I blog and educate, I'll generate some leads from it." I didn't know if that was actually the case, or if it would work or not, but it did. Then from there, I expanded, but that's how I started.
Alzay: This might be one of the first questions that people might be thinking about. How long did it take for that version of content marketing to begin to show you some results? Was it three weeks? Six weeks? Three months, six months, a year? How would you think about that?
Neil: It took me roughly six months to a year. I didn't know as much as what I know now. I was starting from scratch, but within six months, I was starting to see results. A year, I started to see good results.
Alzay: At that clip, were you posting once a day, posting once a week, once a month? How often were you publishing content?
Neil: A few times a week. I'd even get to once a day with that blog.
Alzay: You chose to expand, right? You had the consulting company, and then you'd grown from there. What came next? Which property of yours came next?
Neil: Crazy Egg. I was trying to do consulting, wanted to get into software, so I pinpoint with the customers. The customers were saying, "Hey, we'd love an analytics tool that would help visualize the data." That's how Crazy Egg was born.
Alzay: When you thought about building Crazy Egg, were you thinking about content at the same time, or did the content strategy come after the product offering?
Neil: It came after, by far. Years after.
Alzay: Help us understand how you got there. How you got from offering the software as a service, and then wanting to add content into the mix of that.
Neil: We knew content worked, because we saw it work with our first blog and our first company. At that point, we were like, "Why don't we do it with Crazy Egg as well? We should have done this years ago." We just started it up.
Alzay: How do you think about the publishing schedule? Was that once a week, once a month? Were you publishing the content?
Neil: Once a day. I had a blog editor, and the blog editor was in charge of it. Once a day.
Alzay: Who, actually, was writing the content? Were you writing the content, or were you having the editor do that?
Neil: The editor writes the content, or guest authors. The content is in whoever's name who wrote the post. Sometimes I would write every once a week or once every two weeks, and those posts would be in my name, but usually guest authors or the editor would write.
Alzay: Now, you've grown beyond that, right? You've got a number of properties, so let's do a big fast forward. You've got a number of properties, all of them require content, and on some level, your name is on all of that content. How are you producing that level of content?
Neil: It's not that hard when you've been doing it for seven...no, more. Maybe eight, nine years. You don't think about that. I know there's a lot of content to my name, but I've been doing it for so long, it's actually not that much if you divide it up in a weekly basis.
I'm not posting anywhere near once a day, or even once every two or three days. I've just been doing content marketing for so many years. People see a lot of information with my name on it.
Alzay: It's interesting. You've been doing it for a while, so you're used to the rhythm of it. For someone who's not used to the rhythm of it, help them understand your content creation process.
Neil: I first come up with a headline idea, a topic idea. I do this by using BuzzSumo.com. I type in keywords related to my space. It shows me what's hot and what's not based on social shares. I then take that data, and then I come up with my own variation, so a better type of post.
Theirs is "50 Ways to Grow Your Search Engine Traffic." I may do "101 Ways to Grow Your Search Engine Traffic." Then I want to have the headline. I'll write the introduction, I'll write the conclusion, and then I go into bulleting out the body.
I'll bullet it out, then I start writing the rest, fill it out, and make sure I'm using conversational tone, like the words "you" and "I" within the post, and that's mainly it.
Alzay: Where you are now, how often does that happen? Are you doing those steps once a week?
Neil: More. I do those steps probably seven times a week. Writing for me is fast. I can write a post in less than two hours. An hour to two hours.
Alzay: The clients you work with, do they move that fast?
Neil: No. I don't really do much consulting, but they don't move that fast. [inaudible 06:24] that I'm quick.
Alzay: You've moved beyond the world of consulting, but help that person for a second, the person who you would consult. They don't move as fast as you do. Would they use the same tools, use the same process, or would you advise another way of thinking about it?
Neil: I would have them do it the same way. They're just going to move slower, but they should do it the same way. It works.
Alzay: You've got the content. You've got your four, five, six, eight pieces of content, et cetera. Now, it's time to promote those pieces of content. How do you think about promotion of your content?
Neil: The way I think about promotion is, you should be spending 50 percent of your time on promoting. You link out to someone within your blog post, you should email them.
You should be like, "Hey, John, I have to say, I'm a huge fan of yours, so much so that I linked out to my latest blog post. Feel free to check it out here. I would love it if you could share it on your favorite social network. Cheers, Neil." If you send that email out to everyone you link out to, there's a good chance a lot of them will share it.
Another thing you can do is you can go on search.twitter.com, or Twitter's search feature, type in a keyword, see people who tweet out related stuff, try to find their bio, see if they have a website and email address.
I would be like, "Hey, John, I notice you tweeted an article called 'X, Y, and Z' last week. I actually have a similar article coming out in the next week, and it covers A, B, and C that that article didn't cover. Let me know if you want to see it." If they respond back with "yes," I send it to them and ask them to share it.
Alzay: If you were consulting, same process? You'd offer the client some version of that?
Neil: Yeah, no difference.
Alzay: For each of your existing properties, that is the model, what you just described between how you create content, how you promote content. That's pretty much the model. Is that a fair summary?
Alzay: Fair statement? OK. Moving beyond that then, if it's that straightforward, what are we missing? As you work with clients...
Neil: Consistency. Most people aren't consistent. They don't put in the time and effort to try to create good content. That's really what it comes down to, it's execution.
You may say the content quality sucks. Other people are producing, I'm doing better stuff. Hey, if someone stuck with the consistently, their quality will improve. They'll get results. It just takes time. People aren't willing to put in the time and effort or the energy to be consistent at it.
Alzay: Are we lazy, or we just don't fully understand what it means to be successful?
Neil: I think most people are lazy. It's not that they don't understand what it means to be successful, it's just they don't want to put in the effort.
Alzay: Interesting. What do we say to those people? You're in an interaction, we have listeners right now...
Neil: You don't say anything. By them not doing that it's less competition. If they want to do it, they can do it. You see it out there, you see it gets results. If you really want to do something badly, you'll do it. If you don't, you don't. You'll do whatever makes you happy.
Neil: You can't tell someone what to do. People want to have to do it. If you tell them to do it, eventually, they'll quit. If they want to do it, they're much more likely to put in the time, energy, effort.
Alzay: Interesting. Do it, or you don't. What's more to this conversation, Neil? You've made a very complex thing very simple. You just talked about how to create content, how to promote it, and then you just bottom‑lined us with, "Listen, do what this is, or you don't."
For the listener listening, what else would you offer them? What else would you tell them? What haven't we said that needs to be said?
Neil: Those are the main things. [laughs]
Alzay: Wow, Neil, so when you offer your advice online, when you offer your advice to the groups that you speak to, and the private groups, et cetera., you just hold them to the framework you just offered? There's nothing more to ask of them?
Neil: There's not much more to it. You have to keep in mind, I don't really do consulting, so there is no groups or teaching or any of it. I just do it for myself. I know the model works. Other people do it all the time.
Alzay: Excellent. Well, Neil, that's interesting. I'm digging for a secret sauce, and you're telling us that there isn't one.
Neil: It's called consistency. Consistency, time, energy, putting in the effort.
Alzay: Then I'll leave it here. Conclude our conversation. Tell us what it is that we need to know or do from where we're standing right now.
Neil: Go out there and start writing. Your first post won't be great. Your first promotion experience won't be great, but as you keep doing it, it will get better. Start out by just writing one piece of content a week, and then over time, increase it, and you'll get better at it. Do this for at least six months to a year.
Alzay: Ladies and gentlemen, there you have it. Proof is in the pudding. Neil, all I want to do is just say thank you for your time. Thank you for making it simple for us, and I wish you best of luck in the future, sir. I appreciate it.
Neil: Thanks for having me.
Alzay: All right, you got it.