180: Establishing Your Expertise with Jeff Coyle

Welcome to episode 180 of the Food Blogger Pro podcast! This week on the podcast, Bjork interviews Jeff Coyle from MarketMuse about becoming an expert on your blog.

Last week on the podcast, Bjork chatted with Jeff Hunt about buying websites. To go back and listen to that episode, click here.

Establishing Your Expertise

Jeff helps run MarketMuse, an AI planning and optimizing software, and they focus on optimizing your content to improve your search engine ranking potential.

This episode focuses around becoming a subject matter expert on your blog; choosing a topic to go all-in on and really become “the” expert of that topic.

You’ll learn a lot about why subject matter expertise is valuable as a content creator, what a quality piece of content actually looks like, how you can prove you’re an expert, and so much more.

Let’s dive in!

In this episode, Jeff shares:

  • What led him to MarketMuse
  • Why subject matter expertise is valuable
  • What a quality piece of content looks like
  • How you can prove you’re an expert
  • How to find connections in your content
  • How narrow your expertise should be

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Alexa Peduzzi: In this episode, I chat about WordPress 5.0 and then Bjork interviews Jeff Coyle from MarketMuse about becoming a subject matter expert for your blog.

Alexa Peduzzi: Hey, hey, hey lovely listener, you are listening to The Food Blogger Pro podcast and we are thrilled that you’re here. I’m Alexa and I’m the General Manager of Food Blogger Pro and the Producer of this podcast and I am thrilled for you to dig into this episode because it’s actually one of my favorite Food Blogger Pro podcast episodes to date. But before we get to the episode, I want to take a quick second to thank our sponsor WP Tasty. WP Tasty is our site for food blogging plugins. We have a recipe plugin, a Pinterest plugin, and an affiliate auto linking plugin, and you can learn more over at WPTasty.com.

Alexa Peduzzi: For our Tasty Tip today, that is our helpful little tip for you sponsored by WP Tasty. I want to chat about WordPress 5.0 AKA the Gutenberg update. You’ve probably heard about Gutenberg. Raquel, WP Tasty’s wonderful Product Manager, was actually on the podcast to chat about it just a few months ago and you can check out that episode by going to FoodBloggerPro.com/163. Gutenberg is WordPress’s new way to build content. It’s a whole new editing experience and it allows you to easily build flexible posts and pages, and you know, I want to focus on that word ‘new’ for a second.

Alexa Peduzzi: Change is tough, it always is, but change can also be good and exciting, which is what we are anticipating with this WordPress update. It’s a big change to WordPress but it’s also the most tested release ever, so I wanted to use this Tasty Tip to reassure you that everything will be okay. While it may take a bit for you to get comfortable with this new WordPress editor, we think it’ll be a good change for WordPress sites. If you want to learn more, I encourage you to go to FoodBloggerPro.com/Gutenberg. That link will take you to an informative blog post on the Food Blogger Pro blog all about Gutenberg.

Alexa Peduzzi: Raquel and I kind of tag teamed this post and it answers questions about what happens to your existing content with Gutenberg, what you can expect with WordPress 5.0, and what else you can do to prepare. As of last Thursday, December 6, this WordPress update is live so you may have already seen some of the differences in your WordPress editor. This post at FoodBloggerPro.com/Gutenberg should help answer some of those questions that you have.

Alexa Peduzzi: Now the episode. I totally wasn’t lying when I said this is one of my favorite FBP podcast episodes. Jeff helps run MarketMuse and AI planning and optimization software, and I know that description sounds just a bit intimidating but if we break it down a bit, it’s all about optimizing your content to improve your search engine ranking potential. This episode focuses around becoming a subject matter expert on your blog, so picking a subject and becoming the utmost expert on that topic.

Alexa Peduzzi: You’ll learn a lot about why subject matter expertise is valuable as a content creator, what a quality piece of content actually looks like, and how you can prove you are an expert. Without any further ado, Bjork, take it away.

Bjork Ostrom: Jeff, welcome to the podcast.

Jeff Coyle: Thank you for having me, I really appreciate it.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, I’m excited to talk to you today and excited to share the conversation with the podcast listeners today because rewinding the tape, there was a conference that I was at and some people were talking about MarketMuse. I think maybe MarketMuse even did … Maybe it was you that did a presentation. This was Rhodium, not this year but the year before. Was it you or somebody from Rhodium?

Jeff Coyle: No, no, yeah, that was me, that was me.

Bjork Ostrom: Okay.

Jeff Coyle: I’m a huge fan of the Rhodium community.

Bjork Ostrom: For sure, so Rhodium is this group. It’s people that are interested in kind of buying, building, scaling websites, some people sell websites, and there was this presentation that you did and it opened my mind up to not only the realities of where search is going but like where search was at that time and I just had never thought about it that way. My hope is to do that same thing for people that listen to this podcast because not only is it something that’s really interesting and really exciting and really cool, but really impactful when you start to understand better how people are using search engines, and especially when it’s people that are doing this for their business.

Bjork Ostrom: People that listen to this podcast, that’s what their business is. It’s understanding search and social media and things like that, getting traffic to your site through those mediums. But before we do that, I want to hear a little bit about your story, Jeff. If you could rewind the tape for us, I know that you haven’t been doing MarketMuse your whole life. Before that, you were involved with search and search engine and marketing and that kind of led into MarketMuse, so what’s kind of your quick spark notes story of your career and what led you here?

Jeff Coyle: Oh gosh, the spark notes story of that. I’ve been in the search space for about 19 years, since it really was in its infancy. I had an interest in search engines and a usability theory while in school. I was doing that … Actually, a specialization of my major in computer science was in usability and how users read, how people utilize information both from a search basket but then just in general and information architecture. My first job was with a company called Knowledge Storm. In Knowledge Storm we were really focused on selling leads via content marketing, but content marketing in those days was white papers and brochureware, you know product marketing materials that you got leads for and you sold them to technology companies.

Jeff Coyle: Then in 2007, we sold Knowledge Storm to Tech Target and Tech Target is a great publisher of technology business to business focused content, so probably things that your listeners aren’t publishing but it’d be the difference between CRM software and ERP software. I managed a large in house team there that was focused on every way to generate traffic, whether it’s organic, whether it’s really working with a large editorial team to generate readership as well as conversions to … Whether it was to a subscription of some sort or generating a lead that illustrated buying interest in a technology purchase environment.

Jeff Coyle: At the same time, I also managed a number of web publications, including Notebook Review, and many other publications, you know Computer Weekly. We had about 300 sites that were under our review and we were really just trying to figure out what content strategy would work best. I did a brief stint at a private equity firm working with them on their portfolio companies and then I co-founded and took MarketMuse to market. Really focused on transitioning people’s thinking from thinking just about search engine optimization to also thinking about how that works with the point of content strategy and how we should be thinking about exhibiting subject matter expertise with everything we do and how that will drive the bus for success.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, what do you mean by that? When you say exhibiting subject matter expertise, when you go to a site, I’m guessing that your experience with MarketMuse and also probably some of your experience before, like leading up to it, has allowed you to have these kind of special goggles that … Like you see the web through and that other people don’t have, so is idea of subject matter expertise, when you look at a site and you say hey, this looks like a site that has subject matter expertise versus one that doesn’t, what are the differences between those sites?

Jeff Coyle: That’s a great question. What I’m typically thinking about is from a standpoint of if I’m going … Why do I deserve, what would this one page that I’m reading, why does this person or this entity, why do they deserve to be found for this specific article, for the things that it is about, for what it is most … The value that it’s providing. From a page level, I’m looking to say after I read this content item, what things do I know that I didn’t know before? What tasks can I complete that I couldn’t before? Does this do anything to point me in the direction of next steps and next things, next questions I might want to know to encourage whatever it is that step that I wished to take, whether it’s learning more about … If this was informational. Whether it’s if I’m considering a product purchased, is it giving me information that guides me further down that process.

Jeff Coyle: From a page perspective, it’s really saying is this doing the things that were promised to me when I got to this page. Whether it be a search query or be a reference. At the site level, that’s when it gets a little bit more complex where you really have to also ask yourself why do I deserve to be the authority on this type of … On this particular recipe or this type of cuisine or this type of use of a product, and it’s saying what are the things that somebody who would write a great recipe for Thanksgiving time, for fried turkey, what are the things that somebody who is an expert on that recipe, what are the other things they likely would have also published?

Jeff Coyle: Would it truly be likely that they would only publish recipes or would they be getting into other things that relate to that topic in order to tell the story that they actually were that expert? Also, what relationships to other types of content might exist in that environment? And that goes into putting your best foot forward so that future articles that you write, whether it be recipes or lifestyle type posts, will it be on the back of someone who has told the story? You know, they told the story that they actually know what they’re talking about. I want to trust that. I want to kind of have a feeling that this recipe is going to come out good.

Bjork Ostrom: I think those things make sense and I think it’s a really good reminder as content creators, you can’t just put content out, right? A lot of times I think there’s this mentality of you just have to publish on a consistent basis and three times a week and make sure that you have new fresh content that’s coming out, but so much of it isn’t necessarily the amount but the quality of it, and especially with content being such an easy thing to do, it’s easy to press publish on a piece of content. That means that if there’s lots of supply of this, then in order for you to get to the top of that, you really have to be intentional and think about those things and to make it as quality as possible.

Bjork Ostrom: But how do you measure that? Like what does that look like in terms of understanding quality and how do people know … And this is not the intent of it, but I know that MarketMuse as a tool ties into this and it’s kind of some of the reason that you created it, but how do people even get started with understanding what quality looks like and start to wear the 101 goggles. You have the 301 version where you can really see through that, but like how do people start to develop that understanding of what quality looks like?

Jeff Coyle: Yeah, I think that … Certainly 301/101 goggles completely understand, but what I will say is though I had to do all this manually throughout my career. I had to build all these processes to be able to do this by hand and some of these things, you can create workflows to do this type of analysis by just laboring through. It’s not something that necessarily has to involve that scale to do it with a large data process to ensure that your hit rates are going to go up and track those things over time. That’s when looking at things that would provide that level of information but I think it really hinges on really having a mirror in front of yourself and your writers and saying what are the things that I know about what it is that I’m writing about that no one else knows and have I exhibited those things well and what blind spots might I have?

Jeff Coyle: Whether that’s a purer view, whether that’s really just being self aware of who my writers are, how I’m developing that content, so that’s something that a lot of folks don’t do and that’s something that’s applicable really in a lot of industries, whether it’s service industry, whether you’re a lawyer, whether you’re … Focus on interests. What do you know from having your feet on the ground in a kitchen? From doing restaurant management? From being a published writer? What are those things that people would want to know that they wouldn’t know unless they met you or somebody who had your level of expertise and why isn’t that on page two? That’s something that I like to catch up with when I’m doing more of a strategy session.

Jeff Coyle: As far as quantify and quality, there’s a lot of different processes people would go through on that. What I like to look at is to build this narrative and say if I were a subject matter expertise and I were covering this topic comprehensively, what are the topics that I would naturally have mentioned in this page? Much like a recipe, right? This is actually an analogy I use in no matter what industry I’m speaking about. If I were to write a recipe for again, I don’t know why fried turkey is on the mind, but we’re writing a recipe for fried turkey and my recipe doesn’t mention the word oil. Something’s wrong with it, right? Because you need some sort of fat, right? Something’s wrong with that because I’m not … I’m missing … Unless I got an air fryer dynamic.

Jeff Coyle: As long as there’s something out there that’s illustrating that I actually have the ingredients that’s making up the recipe, what if I don’t mention the word turkey, right? Or if I don’t mention concepts about preparation, common things, so that’s the easiest way to think about it is to say what are the steps that one would need to take to be successful executing this or taking part in it and answering the questions. What are these ingredients and how am I putting them together to tell the story that I have, that I don’t have blind spots, that I really know what I’m talking about. That this isn’t wrong, right?

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, and I think specifically of … There is this post that … It was a recipe actually that Lindsay shared with me this weekend. She’s like this is really cool what they’re doing and it was a really small thing but instead of a video what they did is each step they broke down with a GIF or GIF, whichever side you’re on, and walked people through like each step. It was this visual example of like what it looks like to have success specifically with that recipe and I thought oh, what a great way to layer on value to something where if you were to compare that against the exact same piece of content on another site that didn’t have that, there would be less … It would be less helpful. Most people would say … There might be some people who are like I just want to read it and they had the option to actually hide those images, but I think of that as an example of like hey this is something allows this person to demonstrate their expertise in a way that most pieces of content wouldn’t have.

Bjork Ostrom: My follow up question for you would be I think people hear that and they’re like yeah, that makes sense. Like I’m an expert in what it looks like to eat grain free or I’m an expert in what it looks like to create healthy, simply recipes. That’s my expertise and that’s what I know about or whatever it would be, vegan, but how does a search engine then know that you are the expert by the things that you say? I think that’s one of the things that’s always baffled me is how much of this is human and how much of this is a machine or a Google bot coming to your site and scanning through and being like you are an expert and awarding you the expert tag. What’s the difference between those, how does that work?

Jeff Coyle: Oh, that’s such an awesome question and it’s also there’s a lot of different …

Jeff Coyle: It’s actually become an awesome question and it’s also there’s a lot of different steps and what I like to always … whenever I’m waxing on how the algorithms work. Also, add some tactical ways to not just figure that out on your own but also things you can do to speed along the process of learning. So, the best thing when you put your foot forward on a quality content and there’s even some things and if you want to look up, there’s some, things you can with food logging in, unless someone specifically, there are some technical search engine optimization steps that you can take that relate to mark up. I’m going to just say, become an expert in that. That gets you in the door. Make sure that your stuff is marked up appropriately.

Bjork Ostrom: And when you say marked up, to clarify, for those listening, that’s like using … And we’ve talked about things like this in the podcast before using the right alt text description for your images and file names and using in our space it’s we’re able to use a recipe plug in so-

Jeff Coyle: A recipe plug in, yeah, exactly right, using those, that’s going to get you, yeah, yeah, make sure that they’re appropriately set up and that’s really an important getting you in the door type of thing, making sure you’re staying on top of that type of thing with your site. You don’t want to go out with something that’s inferior to what might be available, just so you can hint. You’re giving the search engines effectively hints. The important dynamic I think of what you’re asking though is how it’s transitioned over time from being able to just assess the words that are in the pages versus what they’re about and that’s the big shift and from 2013 on, I’d say, that real innovations have been publishing into the search engine, into their core algorithms. I can get into a lot of detail there but to stay out of the weeds, I’m trying to say that this is likely to be the best answer for this specific query. This is likely to be semantically related, semantically meaning what is it about? What is this page about and also they’ve added on a couple years later, almost like a super charger. It’s called Right Brain prior to that Hummingbird, if you want to look up these references and prior to that they really just focused on quality and coming up with ways to assess quality at these-

Bjork Ostrom: When you’re naming these things, these are updates that happened to Google so Google, just like your computer, just like Microsoft Word, goes through these updates, we don’t see them because we see the same Google bar when we do a search but that’s why, for some people, they’ll talk about their search rankings dropping sometimes overnight because Google pushes out an update. It changes what they view as the best piece of content and therefore some content shows up higher, other content falls off the map and for somebody that runs a site that is primarily driven by search traffic, that’s why it’s so important to be aware of these things and so, you were saying with Rank Brain, there is a switch that happened and can you explain a little bit about what that switch was?

Jeff Coyle: So, not to get into the science behind it but the applied, how it felt afterwards, really was that more really complex queries were being solved by what you saw in the results. So, where historically, maybe the results seemed like a near miss or catch all results, you were really getting a higher pit rate on complex queries that you might only ever see once. So, a great percentage of queries that go into a search engine only happen once, when they happen once a year or a very small percentage of time. So, if you imagine how hard of a challenge that is if you’re designing search engines, you’ve got to figure out how do I do that? So, early attempts of doing that were things like query, rewriting, and getting to … And that would be where you, if you typed in something long like, “How do I fix a broken hubcap on a 1968 Ford Pinto Hatchback-

Bjork Ostrom: Which, I have Googled before. No, just kidding. I haven’t. Wouldn’t that be awesome, though?

Jeff Coyle: Yes. How do I figure out what the intent is behind that query and then map it well? That’s what they have done. They’re doing even better now than they ever have before and they will only get better at that.

Bjork Ostrom: And so, this is to draw parallel into our world so I just typed in what I thought to be a long obscured search. How many chocolate cookies are in a cookie and what I found interesting is actually when I scroll down … I don’t know what result it is, three, six, maybe seven, there’s a pinch of yam, so the food blog that we have is Pinch of Yam and it’s an article that Lindsay published for perfect chocolate cookies.

Jeff Coyle: Nice.

Bjork Ostrom: So, it’s interesting to see this piece of content is ranking not for the keyword that we want it to rank for but for this long search term. So, as a publisher, how do we start to be intentional about thinking about some of these things when we’re crafting our content?

Jeff Coyle: Yeah, and that’s really exciting. That’s a great question. So, I like to think about these things as three core, or four core action plans. One is that, like I mentioned, that self reflection. I want to examine what I’ve got today. I want to examine my site and look at all of my pages. Figure out what’s worked in the past. What types of ways are people finding me? What types of queries are they, typing in? What, intent can I learn from those queries? Are they all very similar or is it all over the place? Are my hit rates for content higher when I publish a certain type of content and really trying to figure out why that is. Is it because I have one really awesome post? Is it because only one of those posts got a lot of credibility from external sources, just trying to figure out what is assessing my inventory of content and saying, “Where have I been strong and successful? Where do I think I have great content that underperformed? Where do I have weak content that punched above, it’s weight?

Jeff Coyle: I’ve been trying to get an assessment of what that can tell me about maybe things that I want to work on or do better, make sure that I can find content that I want to update and keep up to day because 90% of my traffic is going through one article, one recipe that I haven’t updated in six years and I haven’t built any new content around it. So, one tactic there is really getting up to date of where you’re at and then figuring out what are the topics, what are the things, what are the concepts, what are the … if it is a particular recipe type thing of type of cuisine, or type of technique, how can I start to build deliberately and strategically, content that starts to effectively exhibit that I’m an expert. So, if I’ve already got a few pieces of that cloud, imagine the cloud of hubs and spokes.

Jeff Coyle: If I’ve got a few nodes throughout that, that are already doing well, well I’m just assembling the rest of that and I’m trying to figure out what is that cluster? What is that cloud of content look like that would fill out the puzzle, where I do have gaps and fill them out. So, looking at what I’ve got, trying to fill that out, and then the third biggest piece that we can dive into any one of these is assessing the competitive landscape. So, even at a query level, I can look and see who’s in that space. What are they doing? Am I doing a better job than them with this individual page? Am I doing a better job with them generally with the rest of their stuff? Where do they ask stuff? Where do they have gaps? How can I put myself out there, my content out there in better way than they are? So, when you combine that assessment of current state, the aspirational state, where do I want to be? What do I want to know? What gaps do I want to fill? And, when you take that on top of competitive analysis, that’s a recipe for solid strategic process for someone who might not have the infrastructure of a ten person context strategy team.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, for sure. And, I think it’d be worth walking through each one of those. So, the first one, self-reflection, looking at what you have, examining that, getting a good idea of that. One of the ways that we talk about this is shining stars and finding your shining stars. What are the things on your site that really perform well? One of the ways that we’ve talked about doing this is just simply going into Google Analytics and sorting by your most popular piece of content. It could be from the past year or the past month, in our niche, it’s seasonal so maybe grabbing that from the past year and saying, “Okay, what’s been a really top five pieces of content?”, and getting a good idea of what those are. You had mentioned a couple other things like, “Hey, what’s something that I feel like is really good that isn’t performing well?” In regards, to those types of analysis, is that kind of, a gut check? Is that just saying, “I’m going to block out two hours and just spend some time strategically about my content, maybe spending some time on Google Analytics or is that a spreadsheet kind of thing that you would rank from one to five, certain pieces of content? What does that look like, in terms of actually going through that specific process.

Jeff Coyle: So, I can speak to it in a couple different ways. So, tactically, if you don’t have a technology like MarketMuse, we can evaluate the quality and comprehensiveness of any content on any topic and that’s one of the core functionality of our platform. We look at the comprehensiveness. How does this page model that which we consider a subject matter expert page on this topic? If you don’t have that, some things to be thinking about are really business indicators, right? So, length, expenditure, historical peak of traffic. Maybe it’s in a lull. Was it doing well at one time and now it’s not? And then, like you said, something that, it’s a head-scratcher as to why it didn’t do better. Those all tell a story. If you can also have some information about landscape as well as how comprehensive the page is, that gives you an unfair advantage because you could say, “Oh, in order for me to write content about chocolate chip cookies, my cookie section, I’m going to need about 400 additional articles on cookies because there isn’t a competitive cohort. There isn’t a competitor in this cookie recipe space that doesn’t have a massive volume of stuff attacking cookies. I wrote four article. Why do I have think that I should be even in the same discussion?” Those are the types of things to be considered at that side.

Bjork Ostrom: And those, number two that you talked about that I thought was interesting, you talked about starting to see where there’s connections with your content, and I think the word that you used was the, “cluster”, of content and I think of Pinch of Yum so we focus primarily on recipes and there’s some story telling and lifestyle stuff that Lindsay integrates into that. Another section that she has is food photography, so she talks about and has done blog post on how to take better food photos. Would that be an example of cluster of content and if you were consulting with us, looking at that specifically, what do we do then to improve that? Do we build out the photography resources with the goal being that we are viewed a subject matter expert on food photography?

Jeff Coyle: Well, I think that there’s a couple questions in there and yeah, that’s something that I think might beginning to publish on food photography. You’ve already begun the process of having an effectively two large content topic goals. One is in the food recipes and then you branch out. There’s a couple techniques to be looking at is, is it natural that those two things are going to coexist? So, how well was that food photography content received? How well did it do out of the gate? Or, are there things that you might need to cover that are a bridge between those two topics? If you had a blog, Pinch of Yum, and then all of a sudden you started writing posts about kitty cat photos, that is going to be a much harsher bridge for you to cross. But, going from food and recipes to food photography, it is a related topic. It is an adjacency.

Jeff Coyle: So, yes, if you were building now to become an expert on food photography, is a completely different set of types of content. Can you connect those two, do you need any bridge content in order to tell that story. So that’s what I would be looking at. Within food photography, it’s what types of things are you bringing to the table with that content and the way that I would be researching that would be heavily. If I’m going into new topic, I’m going into a new zone, it’s going to be heavy competitive cohort analysis, competitive analysis. What do those competitive content inventories look like? Do any of them cover photography as well as recipes? What do they look like? This is a bit of a secret work flow so this is worth the price of admission, but look at their history of posts.

Jeff Coyle: Look at their cadence of publishing and then cross reference that against their performance on those topics and that’s a concept called competitive cohort profiling and if I can look at their cadence of publishing, I can look at when they started publishing on that new topic. How quickly did they see success? Did I see success quicker of slower than them? So, really, when I enter a new space like that, that’s adjacent, those are my steps that I’m putting out there and that allows you to be a little bit predictive and allows you to be able to right size your budget effectively too, to know how hard it’s going to be to get into it. The other thing, if it’s a passion and you want to write it, write it and see what happens. If it’s truly a tactical thing, it’ll give a return on investment, you got to be a little bit more deliberate. So, those are some things to be thinking about, for sure.

Bjork Ostrom: Is the belief that search engines, Google, whatever we’d want to say, that there’s an understanding around the general topic of a site and therefore let’s say you write about … we’ll just use photography as an example, that for all terms, your site if it’s viewed as an authority on photography then it will have this built in boost like maybe there would be a site that has a similar amount of traffic, similar amount of links, but if their focus is on gadgets and then they publish a post on photography, they for the same search term, they wouldn’t rank as high because their site isn’t viewed as a holistic photography website?

Jeff Coyle: Yeah. Absolutely. That is really as well as I’ve heard a description of authority, which is a very difficult metric to quantify.

Bjork Ostrom: Yes.

Jeff Coyle: At MarketMuse, we have, behind the scenes, that’s really one of the horror of our algorithm is to try to assess your authority on a topic.

Bjork Ostrom: Got it.

Jeff Coyle: And how can that instruct what you need to do? And that’s really a blind spot in the market of search tools that are out there is that they’re giving everyone the same metrics and advice. The competitive score, for example, that you get for Pinch of Yum is going to be the same as if I made a friendly blog and posted one article about the Iphone. It’s going to still say that, that’s 82. What do I do with that information?

Bjork Ostrom: Right.

Jeff Coyle: And so, what people who are actively pursuing strategy like you mentioned, yes, it goes in both directions too, by the way. All boats rise if you do something that really puts yourself into an authoritative state publishing your material that does really well, a lot of your other content that’s related will start to potentially improve as well. So, if you had success, consistent success will breed more and more consistent success, that’s why, for example-

Jeff Coyle: Success. That’s why, for example, like you mentioned, if … Not to name any … But that’s why somebody who started a new blog tomorrow and wrote an iPhone post versus if the Verge writes the same post, who do you think is going to have a better chance?

Bjork Ostrom: Right, yeah.

Jeff Coyle: No matter how great, and in some cases that authority can be overwhelming to a market and give a dramatic, unfair advantage to that publisher. That’s what you need to be watching out for to ensure that you don’t waste money on certain zones. If you’re just … I have to take the brand out of it but I’ll give you a customer example.

Jeff Coyle: We, for a customer, they were focused on two core markets, and we gave them our estimation of the content they would need to remediate and put them as the leader in both of those core topics. One of them was 120 content items in 2018, the other one was about 650 that they needed, and here were the topics that were on. The business basically said, “Gosh, that might be something we’re going to do after our revenue is 3X what it is, but let’s focus on this other thing that we know we can take on at the cadence of content we know we can create and crush that, build up enough revenue on that topic, and then pivot.”

Jeff Coyle: So that’s something that I always like to say. What was once search engine optimization strategy and is adapting into content strategy is truly now business strategy.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. It’s what all about what focus do we want to have? What is our area of expertise? What is the thing? Almost like, what is branding for our business? What is the brand going to be?

Jeff Coyle: Yeah, exactly right. And the other piece on competitive analysis is, if you have access to any … Even a free keyword tool, even Google Adwords Keyword Planner or a free keyword tool, any topic that you care about, dive into all those keyword variants and try to figure out what story they tell about what people are thinking about when they’re thinking about this topic. Because let’s say that there’s … The nerd word for this is intent fracture, it’s very fractured intent, there’s a lot of different ways someone thinks about it.

Jeff Coyle: But the way to think about this is to say if 90% of the people who are thinking about chocolate chip cookies are thinking about eating them and the best ways to stack them on top of one another, and you’re going out there with recipes, well, is that really going to get you what you need? So it’s really important to see how wide it is that people are thinking about this, how specific it … How can you build the best experience for people only going after your intent, what you want your leaders to learn? Is that something that is going to drive the bus with what your business goals are?

Jeff Coyle: If you’re getting those things right, it feels like being self-aware, identifying with that aspirational, that perfect view would be, you can start to plan and say, “Hey, this month I’m going to approach filling the gaps in some of my thinner recipes by updating them. Next month I’m going to write a really long form article about the different” … What a weird thing to say about recipes. The different variants of chocolate chip cookies and all the different types of chips.

Bjork Ostrom: You never know. People could be curious about it.

Jeff Coyle: Those are ways that you can … Nothing goes better for writers, too, than hearing about it in this manner. You’re not bits and bites-ing them. You’re not dropping a keyword on their head and saying, “Do this.” It’s this is the outline of what we need to fill. Get creative. But cross all these T’s. And we’re going to have success and high five, and that’s what editorial teams love to hear. That’s why we’ve been successful.

Bjork Ostrom: And by cross all these T’s, you mean hit all of these areas within this specific focus that we’re focusing on.

Jeff Coyle: Exactly. This topic, this post, making sure that every recipe you have maybe talks about regional variants in the region that you’re targeting the market or maybe talks about what cuisine it belongs to, how it fits into a meal in this particular ethnic target of mine. Really getting into if you truly were the trusted advisor, what are the things that would be in your page outline or that rubric that you want to consistently bring to the table in that recipe experience or that blog post? Whether it’s a style experience … I know it’s not just recipe sites in the food space. We work with a lot of publishers who are crossing that chasm between lifestyle, expertise, hobbies.

Jeff Coyle: But it isn’t to say that you can’t have a site about a lot of things. I like to toss that myth. You certainly can. It’s just starting from scratch and doing that is more difficult now than it’s ever been because it’s about things and concepts and expertise, not just about words. And that’s where it is a little bit harder. Can be done. A lot of people do it really well. It’s a lot easier when you’ve got some existing power and a history to work with.

Jeff Coyle: To start from scratch though I’m a huge advocate of competitive cohort profiling and if any of you readers want to know more about that, have them look me up. I’m very transparent with our strategies.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. We’ll be sure, if you have any articles or anything like that, we can link to that. That was actually going to be, as we’re coming to the end here, one of the questions that I was going to ask was, for people that are listening to this I would imagine one of the takeaways that they have is, okay, I need to really own a certain area, and that area should probably be an area that I’m an expert in. And we can’t decide what people are experts in, but we can help people decide how narrow they should get in their expertise.

Bjork Ostrom: In the world of food and recipes, as well as many other niches, you could get really small, right? You could be an expert on cell phones or you could be an expert on Apple cell phones, or you could be an expert on the iPhone 10S, and that would be really, really small, that would be niche. So as people think about, okay, what is the thing that I want to be an expert on, how small should they go in their expertise? How narrow should they focus? And then what does that look like to then add on other areas of expertise as they land and expand, to use a common phrase?

Jeff Coyle: No, I didn’t know that, that’s a great question. I think it certainly goes … The depends answer is terrible but it’s one where it really goes with what your business goals are. Is it something where you’re doing your research about this and you feel it’s a profitable niche? Do you already have some profitable niches in mind that you’re not as much already of an expert and you’re trying to get into them by using this foundation of stuff that you know you’re dominant? So it’s about setting proper expectations based on the scope.

Jeff Coyle: And then just trying to figure out how I can get into the things that I do want to publish, more from an enterprising perspective or entrepreneurial perspective. It’s not something where it needs to be an either/or, but I think that how niche it is really depends on those business goals. If you know you want to get into something that’s a larger than, you are going to likely have to do it in pieces versus just boiling the whole ocean. Who can afford to just go out and source 300 pages and then dump them into a market? Will that even have the intent that you desire?

Jeff Coyle: I think that how do I right size my scope is by budget and business goals. And then also competitive landscape. Those are the three things. This is a great piece of advice. Shy away from longtail hunting. Only going out and finding some really, really longtail weird queries and writing posts for each of them, because that tactic really leaves a lot to be desired. You may get lucky. Your hit rate is going to be a mixed bag and that tactic was very popular about six or seven years ago. Easy to do, it’s a lot harder to be successful now. You’re always going to have to go and build out these pillar content items that represent the fact that you’re a success, you know what you’re talking about.

Jeff Coyle: What I would be thinking about, if I do find those niches, even if they don’t generate immediate traffic for you today, build out that thought leadership material, build out that pillar content that tells a story you’re an expert. Really put the investment in there and then, over time, as you do grow and become more of a resource for that, it’s already going to be there and it likely will have contributed to your success, whether direct or indirect.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, that’s great. Jeff, I know a lot of the reason that you know this stuff is because of MarketMuse. You’ve been able to run this analysis of so many sites, you get this chance to do a little bit of an x-ray into successful websites and help websites that aren’t have success grow through the use of the MarketMuse tool. So I want to take some time for those, we’ve referenced it a couple times, can you talk about what MarketMuse is? And I know that you recently just relaunched this big new overhaul called the MarketMuse Suite, the 2.0, and if you can talk about that as well that would be great.

Jeff Coyle: Yeah, sure. I’d love to catch up on those things. One thing I did want to note was that when we’re helping sites, they can be in any state. It’s someone who’s just starting out or a very established … One of the largest food publishing websites is a customer of ours, just for reference before we get into what it is. It’s really about how much investment in content, what’s your culture of content and do you want to put out fantastic things. Our goal as a business isn’t to provide recommendations that cut corners. And I like to be very upfront with businesses when we’re working with them.

Jeff Coyle: So MarketMuse is an AI platform really that lets marketing teams build high quality content at scale. And you mentioned we’ve helped thousands of sites. By analyzing massive amounts of web data we build content briefs or content blueprints, or in this condition recipes, that show exactly how to write to comprehensively cover a topic.

Jeff Coyle: So MarketMuse Suite, it’s a SaaS platform that analyzes your entire website, even up to millions of pages, and identifies content gaps, high quality, low quality content opportunities throughout your sites. So we work with hundreds of brands really focused on thought leadership, boosting engagement and the fun result of having 2 to 6X improvements in their search traffic, even as quickly as the first year they work with us. So MarketMuse Suite is focused on tactically identifying those opportunities. Whether it’s creating new content or updating existing content and building out content briefs that you can hand right to your writer and they’d be able to execute on that content item with a shared agreement of what you expect as a strategist or business owner.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s great. And also a great resource for additional content. MarketMuse produces content as well, and as I was preparing for the podcast was reading through some of the blog posts that you’ve published and there’s been some great webinars that you guys have. Everything from the basics to 201, 301-type conversations around SEO, which is always good for me to get outside of my box a little bit, to tie it back to how we started. When I heard the presentation that you gave it was like, “Man, there are some people who are thinking about this stuff at a really high level,” and you guys are doing that.

Bjork Ostrom: So appreciate you coming on the podcast, Jeff, sharing your insights, sharing a little bit about MarketMuse. If people want to learn more about that, if they want to get in touch with you, if they think they might be a good fit for it, you talked a little bit about who the right market would be for those people. Can you reiterate that? The best fit for people and then if they want to learn more, what that process looks like to reach out with you and have that conversation.

Jeff Coyle: Sure. Typically what we’ll see is a team that has more than two dedicated resources, whether freelance or in-house, developing content. They have a culture of content. Their goal is to generate high quality traffic and engagement. That’s typically going to be a great starting point that you’re owning any particular space. We work in whether you’re a publisher, local B2B technology or pharma life sciences, anything under the sun from a topics perspective.

Jeff Coyle: On our site, the top right, there’s actually an experience where you can grade one of your pages, if you’d like to check it out on our site. And then also on the top right on marketmuse.com, you can fill out a contact form and a leave us a little bit of detail about the sites that you manage, a little about your role optionally, if you want to get into that level of detail. And we’ll set up a customized demonstration of what we can provide. And I think that if you’re putting this much energy into making it to the end of this podcast I think.

Jeff Coyle: I think really getting into the details about what makes your sites tick, if that is something that drives you, it’s being able to have a control center for all of your content gives you an extremely unfair competitive advantage. I always write this online if anyone’s read anything. We give you an unfair competitive advantage and that’s the spirit of which I run the product department.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s awesome. Jeff, thanks so much for coming on the podcast, for sharing your insights, your knowledge, and I know that it will help people move along and achieve their goals and continue building and growing. So really appreciate it.

Jeff Coyle: Thank you again for having me on the podcast. It’s really excellent. And if any of your readers have some stories about some things that they published or updated as a result of this discussion and they send them in, please send them along, I’d love to hear about that.

Bjork Ostrom: Awesome. Yeah, we’ll make sure that that happens if we hear of any of that.

Jeff Coyle: Wonderful. Thank you again.

Alexa Peduzzi: Wasn’t that such a great episode? So many great takeaways. Thanks again, Jeff, for being on the show, and be sure to check out marketmuse.com for more information about optimizing your content.

Alexa Peduzzi: And now it’s time for one of my favorite parts of the episode, the reviewer of the week portion of this episode, and this week’s reviewer of the week is Rebecca from nobigbites.com, where she’s cooking up healthy seasonal food for families. I love that. Her review says, “This podcast has so much awesome information for food bloggers. I found the interviews about branding and marketing particularly helpful. Thank you, Bjork, for bringing so much transparency and insight into some of the more murky and mysterious parts of success in the food blogging industry.”

Alexa Peduzzi: Thanks so much for your review, Rebecca. We love to share reviews from our listeners, so if you’d like to be featured on an upcoming episode the Food Blogger Pro podcast, just leave us a review on iTunes.

Alexa Peduzzi: Thanks for tuning in this week. We appreciate you sharing your time with us and from all of us here at FBP HQ, make it a great week.

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  1. I think this is my favorite FBP podcast so far, it has really helped me see so much clearer. Thank you so much, Jeff and Bjork!!