How to grow your company through content creation and backlinks
Interview with Troy Roennfeldt, Founder and Managing Director of Increaseo
Content creation and finding backlinks can be a tricky task to master. Many people opt for the easy route of writing a short article and crossing their fingers that it will be picked up by other websites.
However, as the founder and managing director of Increaseo, Troy Roennfeldt, tells WordPress Marketing it is crucial to plan long-form content and spend time building up relationships with other websites.
How to create great content
One of the hardest marketing challenges is writing content which brings in consistent organic traffic. Troy runs through the key steps to maximize traffic for your content including how to identify it, what tools he uses for keyword research and much more.
How to get backlinks from influential websites
Once you write your content you need to promote it. One of the quickest ways to do this is to get backlinks from websites that already enjoy the levels of traffic you aspire to have. Troy reveals the tools he uses to identify targets and how he builds up relationships with potential partners.
How to run a remote company
Increaseo is a remote company and Troy reveals the benefits of its setup and what he does to ensure it functions smoothly. He reveals some of the biggest challenges you might face and how you can overcome them.
Not only that but Troy runs through his personal checklist of what to do to ensure your remote company becomes a success.
The advantages of a remote company and how to run one
How did you start your company?
Yes, so I’ve had a varied career to date. Way back when I did a double degree in accounting and computer programming and went into the accounting system space that’s when I ended up in London.
For a while we were implementing accounting systems, maintaining accounting systems. It was actually around the Y2K bug and then after that we went into the euro conversion.
When I came back to Australia I kind of diverged from there and I set up a business recruiting for accounting systems specialists as myself and my business partner we’d both come from that background.
So we built up a small agency and while we were doing that we also built up an employment website business. So we had a whole range of employment websites again focusing on the accounting systems space. Most of them were in the I.T. space. We were selling that solution into corporates who were running them as internal job boards across their businesses.
We were also powering other niche employment websites. We ended up selling that business and I stepped away and tried to work out what I wanted to do next. So since we’d started going down the path of websites I decided that SEO was where I wanted to be and hence the name Increaseo.
Very soon after that I quickly realized that whilst I kind of enjoy web SEO it wasn’t necessarily the most enjoyable work. I sort of worked more on project management helping companies with the digital infrastructure and then we started more down our traditional digital agency path with SEO as an offering. So that’s a short story.
In your experience over the last few years what have been the advantages of running a remote team compared to a normal team based in one office?
We kind of have rolling support in case we get an inquiry from a client at 5 p.m. at the end of the day and it’s urgent and they need something done now. Our development team doesn’t have to sit here and work all night. They can sit there and work all day.
Obviously we don’t like to always have to do projects and tasks that are so urgent that you have to drop everything to do it. You try and plan it out a bit more but from time to time these things happen. And being able to respond to those needs and help clients out in a really quick and efficient manner is really really helpful.
It also does have drawbacks and when you’re working with developers sometimes there needs to be a bit of a project management side to it. And so having to then work through and answer urgent questions in a timely manner and for the developers so they can keep working means that myself or some of our project managers might have to work some evening shifts just to make sure things keep moving so that can become a bit of a drag.
But if we go to the larger projects and we can plan it well that doesn’t need to happen. In the early days when it was just Hannah in a different time zone and we didn’t have any development resources here, you’d kind of also get in a bit of a hole sometimes. For example, if a client asked us something at 10 o’clock in the morning and we needed an answer then and there that was sometimes a bit challenging.
I’m not a developer but sometimes I can work my way around it and I can know enough to get myself out of trouble sometimes. So if there is something separate quite often I’d be able to hack into it and work something out. But sometimes it’s just beyond me.
How much do you benefit from saving money running a remote company?
So we do have an office but not everyone’s in the office. So you do benefit a lot. Because we’re on the Central Coast we’re not in the CBD of Sydney. Our client base is all over the country. We actually have a warehouse which is just a big square box. And so it has a bit more of a trendy sort of feel to it.
It’s a lower cost because it’s not commercial space, it’s more industrial and we’re in a regional area. So we save a lot on overheads being on the coast. We also don’t have to have as big an office because we don’t have as many people in the offices as we normally would.
Staffing wise we’re not saving. I guess we’re not offshoring to super cheap countries. So we don’t save a huge amount in staffing as if we offshored to the Philippines or to India or something like that. If it’s a larger project you have to weigh the savings in development costs with the increase in project management costs.
You’ll have a much higher project management component when offshoring to some of the lower-cost countries. And that can work very well if you get your processes in place. I don’t have the patience to do more project management work. That’s been my experience. I know a lot of people and other businesses that have made it work really well for them.
Let's imagine someone wants to start their own remote company. What are the checklists that they should be going through to make sure that it is successful based on your experience?
It’s people. So I think having the right people in place that have a good skill set, have a good work ethic, get on well with the team and have a good sort of workflow.
So we use GSuite, Gmail, Google Drive for all our documents. We use Slack for messaging. We use ClickUp for project management and task management. Every week we have Google Hangouts where we just go through all the projects everyone’s got on. So once a week everyone’s on video conference dialing in from wherever they happen to be whether they’re working from home, whether they’re in the office, whether they’re in Helsinki or Paris or in the Alps. And we all see each other face to face and talk through each other with everything.
So I think that’s key to having that communication channel. Everyone feels they can chime in. We have all sorts of random Slack channels where people are looking at non-work related stuff, work-related stuff, ideas, products that they want to develop, marketing ideas, sales ideas and much more. Just the communication flows well between everyone.
The mistakes to avoid with your digital strategy
What are some of the mistakes that you find companies are always making in digital strategy?
Not actually thinking it through probably. Thinking through and working through a strategy, that can be a time consuming and expensive process. How much do you want to go through the various dances around pricing?
Before you even get to that point, I need to have a separate discussion and it’s more around a discovery session and a workshop and a review of what’s currently in place and interview with all the different business departments.
But that’s a process and a lot of people don’t necessarily value that and they just go “I’ve got this website here, I want to build another website that looks prettier.” And you go “OK, it will look prettier but will it actually do what you want it to do? And will it hit the key target audiences that you want?”
We actually have an interesting project on at the moment with a client that is quite unique in that they are a large corporate but they’re internationally owned and their Australian office has a very limited digital presence. They don’t have a .com.au website. They don’t have social media profiles. If you Google them you just struggle to find them other than you find their international businesses so we’ve actually got a really unique opportunity with them and we’re going through the process now where we’ve just interviewed all the management staff and query them.
We ask them what is it they think they want out of the business so you are talking to accounts, we are talking to sales, we are talking to customer service, we’re talking to the GM, we’re talking to IT. And so we kind of get a state of play that’s a lot broader than if you just go and build a website.
Then we sat down and we did competitor research. We looked at all their key competitors in the space and go watch what social media are they covering. What functionality do they have on their website? Just dig through and try and work out well which ones are doing it poorly. Which channels seem to resonate with their clients so that we can come back to them with a proposal. Based on our understanding this is what we think you need as a business and this is how your competitors are doing it. This is what we propose going forward but then rather than just going out of that let’s build a website. We then go to another stage and go “Well maybe we could do baby steps and test the theories.”
So maybe we’ll go to a wireframing stage, put that wireframe in front of people and test out how they use it and what they’re expecting to find and how they find it. So you go through a bit more view X strategy and design strategy that is not just making a page look pretty and coloring in the colors but putting more thought to trying to get to a defined outcome. In other words, what are users trying to achieve when they come to a website.
There are of course a number of questions to this. How do we encourage them to do that? Does it just need a brochure site? Is it a more functionally rich site? Is it maybe an app? Is it an e-commerce site? Or is it an ordering website?
So looking holistically and not just diving straight into the nitty-gritty. People assume they know what their customers want without actually researching it. They go “I know they want this. I know that color doesn’t work well.” Does it? Doesn’t it? How do you know?
How to find out exactly what customers want
So you mentioned about knowing what the customers want. How do you find out exactly?
It’s best to ask questions as they’re doing tasks. So ideally you get them in a room and you ask them and watch them and they kind of send out a stream of voice consciousness so they say “I am clicking on this button because all of the such and such reason.” “I expect on this page once I go here I expect to find such and such information.”
So you get the stream of consciousness that explains what they’re doing and why they’re doing it rather than watch them do something. And then after the fact ask them why did you do that. They might have an answer that may be totally different but if you get the answers from them while they’re actually doing a task that’s a much more valuable outcome.
So customer interviews and even just simple things like putting some mouse tracking on a website so you can see the heat map, see what people are doing, where they’re going, where they’re clicking. That’s at least a baseline of information that you can try and get how people actually interact with the website. But, obviously, the digital strategy goes across a whole range of channels. It’s not just focused on the website and social media it’s all of that digging into a particular customer finding where their users live, where they hang out, where they interact a lot is key.
How to promote yourself on social media
So once you identify the social media channels that work for a company what do you recommend to the company to take advantage of it?
So then a lot comes down to resources. So if they don’t have any resources that’s pretty hard to maintain a channel. If they can throw a lot of resources then it’s around formulating a strategy around what kind of content resonates with their users with a view to conversion. And a conversion for different businesses can mean different things.
So in FMCG business which is, say, producing a particular product which they sell through various retail outlets their marketing might be very different from an actual e-commerce website or a services website where you’re selling through other channels, it’s more around a brand strategy brand awareness.
Share a voice how you fit in with the market and then what does that look like. Is that viral content? Is that informative content? But if you’re e-commerce then you need to think slightly differently about it. How do you get down to an actual conversion? A channel strategy might be more around collecting emails so you can share brand messages. You still want to collect e-mails in e-commerce, but your email purpose is quite different. You’re going to be sending emails about sales and products and that sort of stuff whereas another outlet might be more around how to use the product, promotions and that kind of thing.
How to create great content which websites will link to
What's the best way to ensure that other websites are linking to the one that you're working with?
Without having new content, evolving content being generated on the client websites it’s really hard to do an effective link campaign without producing really good quality content.
Two things will happen. A — you might get some links naturally if you do a good campaign. B — it gives you some leverage to start to do work partnerships with other websites. You can talk to other websites going, “Hey I’m producing this piece of content here are we able to come to some kind of arrangement. I’d like to do a post on your company’s website, get an article, get a link back to ours so you provide something of value.” To them, they’re getting a good piece of content. Sure, you can have a link.
So there’s a whole range of techniques and methods around link building but it’s challenging, it’s time-consuming as you need to have good quality clients with good quality budgets with enough man-hours to do that outreach and form those relationships and produce good outcomes.
So it’s a tough business and that’s where we’re working on some side products ourselves which we’ll try and help streamline that outreach process so that it’s not as time-consuming for a lot of agencies that work in that space. A lot of the outreach efforts can be quite spammy so we’re trying to rein in that spamminess.
So the first step is obviously to have good content that people are willing to link to. How do you essentially identify that? I mean let's say for example we have a website that makes recipes or that has recipes on it. What could you do around it to make sure that people would find the content and would actually link organically to it?
You probably start to group your recipes together, so you might do things like summer recipes, winter recipes, collections of soup recipes. You may do that naturally via category landing pages or you might do a specific article around the 10 best summer recipes which then link to the individual recipe details and most recipe websites probably have themes. There’s a massive keyword volume in a lot of recipes and, say, if you’re a vegetarian specific recipe website.
There are themes you could focus on and you might even start to produce content that’s tangentially similar to recipes but not specific recipes. For example, it might be nutrition, lifestyle, health. So you can do some articles around vegetarian space. You might produce an article all about gut health. You can link into recipes, you can link into different categories of recipes. You can do a whole lot of articles that cluster around the topic of gut health, so a bit more depth into specific areas. Then if you do a link outreach program around gut health that pulls in visitors to your website that will be interested in recipes but you’re not relying just on the recipes to get the traffic and it builds both sides up to get people into the recipes that will read your article content.
How to conduct keyword research
So once you come up with your ideas I suppose an important thing to do is to do some keyword research and see what keywords have high volume and maybe a low competitive rate. How do you go about doing that?
Before the keywords, you probably need to step back a little bit. If you’re planning your content you start with your business offering. So recipe sites are probably slightly different. If it’s just purely a recipe site what’s the product you’re actually trying to sell? Is it recipes? It’s gonna be a pretty tough business just doing recipes. There are some really big recipe websites out there already. If you’re going to go up against them you’re going to be in for a tough time.
We want to try and get some more inbound leads happening. I would first start talking with your sales team about what are the questions people are asking when you’re selling to them because if you can answer a person’s questions prior to talking to them it’s so much easier.
They’ll also be Googling trying to find the answers to those questions. We usually look at a framework of trying to break down a range of different questions and you’re looking at questions around pricing and costs, comparisons, problems, reviews, interviews with key people. People are always going “how much does it cost to do X?” “How much does it cost to buy such and such?” So if you can answer those questions in detail you don’t necessarily need to give away the price.
So if you’re a service business you might not want hire costs of X number of dollars to build a website. Some people do but they usually go for the lower package and so they might go “it’s nine hundred ninety-five dollars and you get three pages” and that’s how much the website is.
If you’re in this space where it’s more you’re 10 to 20 to 30 to 50 to 100 thousand dollars you can’t really say a website costs X amount of dollars. But what you can say is these are the factors that you need to think about when working out how to price a website. So are you going to do UX, customer interviews, digital strategy or are you just going to work out a site map, build-out five design template pages, implement it, migrate the content.
Think about the SEO implications when you map from an old site to a new site, migrating it to a hosting environment, setting up Google Analytics and tags, all the different things. And once you start telling people this is what you need to think about when doing such and such then they start to gain appreciation. This is what I need to be asking about, this is what I need to learn about.
The other thing is to look at say for example “how to stuff” like how do I not lose my traffic when I build a new website. These are the things you need to think about when you migrate from website A to website B. And if you answer those questions you are providing value to the user. You’re setting yourself up as an authority in this space. They find you via search and they can see your service offerings and then you’re more likely to get a call from these people.
So we tend to look at our content around a range of different topics that match different services or products within the business and then look to generate content that generates that. So once you kind of do a bit of a brainstorming session then you go a bit crazy at the start and you might generate a couple of hundred ideas of content. Talk to your sales guys, get their ideas and then from there then your keyword research and that’s more of a prioritization thing rather than anything else.
So just because something has a low keyword volume doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t want to do it. It might mean even if it gets 10 searches a month they might be 10 people that want to buy your product as opposed to if it gets two thousand searches a month. That means probably every man and his dog is targeting that keyword. So it might be harder to rank for it if you get any visibility within the search engine. So picking the content you want to write is not always about the search volume.
How to build up successful relationships with other websites
And once you know you have keywords that are going to attract the right customers how do you then conduct the link outreach program from that and how do you get in touch with potential other websites?
So we use Google site search site operators so we use different strings and queries to try and identify sources. We use tools like Ahrefs to dig into other content. Use BuzzSumo to find articles that may be in a similar topic that have resonated well with people. And that’s why it’s an intensive process.
It’s quite a lot of research that needs to go in to work out who might be a potential target and then, even if they are a potential target, doesn’t mean they want to be a target. So trying to then do an outreach strategy that gets a good response and gets a relationship going with them.
And this is the process that we’re looking to work on and try and solve with the product that we’re working towards. The outreach kind of does start when you’re formulating the idea. But we also do spend a lot of time around once we finalize a content calendar working out what is a key piece. So you don’t want to just write a five or six hundred piece of content. You won’t get anywhere. It’s just a bit of fluff that you paid someone 20 bucks to write.
You need to spend time, effort, research, look at the other pieces of content that are ranking for the keywords you are targeting and write something better. So you don’t want to just be the same as everyone else. You want to answer the question, write the topic better than anyone else has done on the first, second, third page of Google. And then you will find if you do the really good piece of content you will actually rank better than other websites that might have better-ranking capabilities because you’ve done the effort.
And then if you structure well then you can start to gather snippet pieces of content and in search results so that you’ve answered the question in such a way, you’ve structured your content in such a way that Google highlights you in the snippet position and then you effectively dominate the home page of Google for that.
Regarding reaching out to another website. I assume one of the important things is to consider how they're going to benefit from it?
What's your approach to that? How do you consider that when you get in touch with them?
So it depends on the website and who they are. So for example, if our client is in one particular niche we are producing content for them and doing link outreach. They have a company that is tangentially similar to them, works in the same industry but doesn’t sell the same product. We can reach out to them and go “Hey can we write some content for you?” We can link back to them. They can we can get them to link to another page we have. We can come up with some sort of arrangement where we provide them with some quality content.
So sometimes you might not necessarily put your best effort and spend all your time writing you know a two and a half thousand-word piece of content for them. You might write a good piece of content for 900 words or something but you don’t go all out but you put it on their page get rolling back and do something for them like that.
That is, sometimes the best ones are the ones where you’re not direct competitors. It’s not just a random website that you’re working on that you’re asking for the link that has a whole million loads of articles, it’s not just a guest posting website. It’s a real business, it’s real blogs real content that is not a direct competitor, but is in the same industry. They are the best ones, so you get that contextual link, you get a really good strong link.
Troy’s new business venture and how he came up with it
You're working on a new project at the moment a collaboration platform. How did it come about and what made you realize that it would be a viable business venture?
So when we were working with a lot of our clients doing link outreach one of the big challenges we had was the time-consuming process it was finding other business owners, other websites, people that controlled websites and that were willing to work with us in an efficient manner.
The current workflow with a lot of businesses that do link outreach is utilizing tools such as Ahrefs etc. to find a list of outreach targets and this might be hundreds or thousands of people. You then scrape those websites to find out the email addresses of the likely contacts of those websites. And then just effectively spam them. So if you’re not spamming them, you do going one by one and being much more targeted. But then that’s a really time-consuming process.
So what we thought was try to come up with a solution that shortcuts that process, that gets a network of people together where you can connect with people based on certain common SEO metrics such as MOZ DA or Ahrefs, similar metrics with verified websites and being able to connect with them.
The idea is that you’re able to find and reach out to people in a really quick manner to say “Hey this is what I’m about.” “Can we do something?” And being able to connect with people much simpler and easier. That’s the short of it. And then it’s a collaboration platform with content creators people who own and control websites. Obviously, it’s you know it’s a bit of a gamble. We think it’s a great idea. We have quite a few people lined up to be beta testers from agencies and website owners etc. and so we’re just going through the development phase at the moment so we should be ready to review something in a few months’ time.
Once you have the idea what is the process of getting it to market? If you could talk us through how you've planned and approach it.
So both Sean who’s head of SEO and myself we spent a lot of evenings sat down, mapped it out wire framed what it might entail, refined and because it’s a side project. It allows time for it to percolate in the back of your head. You work with clients you go “Oh actually if we’d had this and this and this that would solve that problem.”
So it’s been probably about 12 months where it’s been in the planning phase. We have written specification, documentation, done wireframing thought, debated amongst ourselves, other team members who aren’t necessarily SEO people and just gone “This is what we’re doing. What do you think?” Get their feedback.
Final question for me then Troy. What would be your top tips for someone starting out to ensure they increase their backlinks?
Produce content and ask. The biggest thing is we’re shocking with this as well. So I’ve been doing this for years and for many years I had a single-page website that just said this is who I am here are my contact details.
Even now we have a much more comprehensive website, but we don’t necessarily produce as much content as we should. We have a plan in place and we’re starting to do that. But even then like most of our business has been from word of mouth and referrals. I would say dive into it sooner rather than later. I wish I had done it five or six years ago and done it properly rather than just getting “Hey, we’ve grown our business and we’ve grown it well,” but it’s all relied on my business networks and my referral networks and word of mouth. So that’s been great, but it needs to continue to grow.
We need multiple channels of business and it’s like I said at the start where when I first built out those websites I was relying solely on Google and that can crash and burn and if you have all your eggs in one basket with the one channel of business then you’re leaving yourself massively exposed. So I would say actually do the work that’s the main thing.