Content Marketing

Content marketing

This is page nine of the Growth Marketing Guide.

Content marketing includes blogs, newsletters, webinars, podcasts, ebooks, and more.

At the bottom of this page is a cheatsheet that recaps most of this handbook.

On this page, I'll cover:

  • What makes content great
  • Which topics to write about
  • Modern SEO advice
  • Converting readers into customers
  • Driving traffic to your blog

The value of content marketing

Ads fail for most companies. Sales fails for many of the rest. It's really good content that acts as an alternative. It can propel underdogs to market leaders.

Content is the most effective way to educate customers on why they should buy your product. Ads and landing pages can only do so much in the space they have.

Content is also your opportunity to build a relationship with audiences. It helps them respect your competency, invest in your journey, and join your tribe.

Even if you fail to acquire new customers via content, content still helps improve retention among existing customers: great content that educates and entertains increases engagement and loyalty.

We generate content in order to:

Write extremely high quality content

The first rule of content marketing is to write for extremely high quality. Until you've established quality in the reader's mind, they don't read closely. Instead:

The antidote is to not shy away from great, in-depth content.

The truth is that people don't actually have short attention spans for content: They finish three hour Joe Rogan episodes and they binge fourteen hour Netflix shows. What they have is short consideration spans: they must be hooked quickly. To do so, ensure your first minute is incredible.

Extreme quality stems from four factors:

Writing for quality is a separate topic covered in my other handbook.

High quality is critical to SEO

Writing for quality is not only important for retention, it's also critical for ranking on Google. Google used to be all about backlinks—but not anymore.

When someone finds your page through a Google search, Google measures your post's quality in part by whether someone bounces from it to read another site instead. To keep readers from bouncing, you have to hook them immediately, cover everything they're looking for, and do so concisely.

What to write about

Search-driven (SEO) content should fulfill these criteria:

  1. You have something comprehensive and actionable to say about the topic.
  2. Potential customers search Google or YouTube for this topic.
  3. The topic can naturally segue into a pitch for your product.

Sharing-driven (social) content should fulfill these criteria:

Generate content in both categories to see which break out.

Sourcing content ideas

Here are four tactics for generating content ideas:

Summarize trends

Sign up to receive notifications from every blog, newsletter, and Twitter influencer. (If you sign up for these alerts using Throttle, it'll aggregate all this spam into periodic email summaries.)

Whenever a topic trends throughout these digests, consider writing a roundup: Summarize what's happening in a concise, easy-to-reference post.

Related, use Google Trends to find the breakout keywords in your industry. Is anything exploding in popularity? Write about it.

Remix existing content

Find the news aggregators (e.g. Reddit, ProductHunt) that are influential in your space. Monitor them for content that flies under the radar—perhaps due to an unenticing title, boring intro paragraph, or poor writing. Then remix that content into something more engaging. Always credit your sources.

Piggyback off competitors

Run your competitors' blogs through Buzzsumo. It’ll show which of their posts were shared the most on social channels. This is a proxy for determining which type of content most successfully appeals to your mutual audiences.

Consider writing about these topics, but add something unique to warrant your entry into the conversation.

Talk to your customers

Ask your sales and customer support teams what customers are frequently asking for help with. Turn these questions into content.

Choosing the best ideas

With your content ideas in hand, narrow down to those that are useful and novel. My framework for identifying novelty is to collect ideas that cause you to react in one of these four ways:

When readers encounter a novel idea that triggers these reactions, they get a dopamine hit. This keeps them reading and makes them more likely to share.

Optional — Starting niche

If you're struggling to attract an engaged audience, you can start by catering to a small niche of very passionate people: write thoughtful, quality content that no one else is giving them.

They’ll be ecstatic that someone is finally talking about their interests, and they’ll engage deeply and shout your work from the rooftops.

Once you’ve saturated this beginning niche, repeat the process while incrementally expanding: If, for example, you began by targeting Canadian bicycling enthusiasts, next expand to Canadian and American bikers. Then to hikers and runners, and eventually to all outdoor enthusiasts.

Converting readers into customers+

Content must not only attract readers but also convert them—into subscribers, purchasers, or some other meaningful status.

To understand reader conversion, first review the blog consumption funnel:

  1. They visit your blog post.
  2. They skim your opening paragraph and/or table of contents and/or section titles.
  3. If they're intrigued, they may begin skimming the post and reading others.
  4. If the posts resonate and you pitched your product effectively, they may choose to learn more about you by clicking to your product pages.
  5. They skim your product pages.
  6. If they're intrigued, they may engage by providing an email—or buying.
  7. If they're not intrigued, they'll bounce.

This is one of many paths a reader can take through your content. To continually usher readers forward, focus on four goals:

1. Prevent readers from bouncing

To prevent people from bouncing, make reading frictionless:

2. Encourage further reading

To build affinity with readers so they convince themselves to buy your product, expose them to as much great content as you can.

For instance, the blog post a visitor lands on from a Google search may be most related to their search query, but it might not be the best post for converting readers into customers. Therefore, every blog post should cross-link to your best-converting posts.

And don't bury these links at the bottom of the page where no one reads them. Inject them naturally into the content.

Your goal is to continually feed readers quality until they encounter a post that finally strikes the chord needed to get them to convert. 

3. Don't turn readers off with your pitch

Next, introduce your pitch without turning them off. When pitching, consider three principles:

Pitching newsletters

When pitching a newsletter subscription in particular, overcome people's concerns of inbox spam by visualizing its value and putting readers in control:

4. Capture their email

Consider making some of your content only accessible to readers who enter their email. Getting an email is how you convert an anonymous visitor into a newsletter subscriber. Now you have an ongoing dialogue.

There are a two strong ways to "email gate:"

Give readers enough non-gated material to first see how great your content is.

Content distribution

If you blog and no one reads it, you didn't blog. You wrote in your diary. 

Content marketing = content creation + distribution.

Content distribution happens via internal and external channels.

Internal channels

Internal channels are the channels you own:

Try all of them.

External channels

These are the distribution channels you don't own:

Try all of these channels.

The audience funnel

Not all content channels are equally good at acquiring users. Only some are optimized for attracting new eyeballs. Namely Twitter, YouTube, and SEO.

Other channels are better optimized for keeping those eyeballs engaged—until they eventually purchase. Podcasts and Newsletters are biased toward this.

This bifurcation exists because some channels do a great job automatically distributing content for you (Twitter, YouTube, SEO) while others have weak discovery mechanisms (Podcasts and Newsletters).

As a result, there's a proven funnel for building an audience through content:

Twitter/LinkedIn/YouTube/SEO → Newsletter, which pushes content → Site

Let's break that down:

I dissect the craft of building audiences in my podcast discussions with famous creators.

Guest blogging+

Guest blogging entails posting your content on someone else's blog.

This exposes you to new audiences and might increase your site's SEO potential by securing a "backlink" from a popular site in your space.

This is hit-or-miss. Most blogs are read by no one. You can partially assess blog engagement by seeing how how frequently its posts are shared on social media. (BuzzSumo will tell you.) You can also get a broad idea of a site's traffic by visiting its Alexa page.

The pro's of guest-blogging:


How to submit a guest post

Write guest content then send it for consideration. If it's high quality, this is like handing bloggers candy: you did their writing work for them this week.

In other words, don't first ask for their permission to write. If you do, the good blogs will ignore you because saying yes is a commitment to editing your post or awkwardly rejecting you if it turns out your post sucks.

Before you email them your post, ensure your writing mimics their style:

Make it a no-brainer for them to simply copy-paste your post and hit publish.

SEO primer+

There's surprisingly little worth knowing about SEO. Most of the Internet's SEO advice is a waste of time—they're trivial optimizations offering marginal returns. 

Primarily focus on four things:

If you're new to SEO, below is a quick primer.

Topic depth

Fully cover your topic to increase the odds of being the last site a Google searcher visits to satisfy the intent of their search. Answer all their possible questions.

Google detects if you're the last page that's visited, and they heavily promote you for it. They want content that resolves a searcher's intent.

External links

Google values the number of relevant and trustworthy sites with non-trivial amounts of traffic that link to you.

You don't need quality backlinks to rank at the top of Google for many queries, but links do speed up the timeframe in which Google tests you on the front page.

Page titles

Keep your page titles below 62 characters—or Google will truncate it.

Also, avoid clickbait syntax such as "You won't believe how X did Y!" It's played out, and it makes you look like spam.

Instead, aim for specificity and accuracy. Examples:

Keyword authenticity

The keywords in your post's title should exist within its content—or Google will assume your topic is misleading. Don’t stuff keywords to try to game Google.

Meta description

Your meta description is for enticing people with a summary of what your post covers. Don't stuff this with keywords either; Google no longer uses this to determine your site's relevancy to a search query.


Include one or two primary keywords in your post's URL. Do not exceed five total keywords, or Google will dismiss them as an attempt at keyword stuffing.


If you're covering a topic that's continually trending and changing, such as politics or bitcoin news, your content will become outdated quickly. And Google aggressively prioritizes trend-related content that was recently published. For this reason, trending content is unlikely to stick at the top of search results. It's therefore not a good long-term investment, and I recommend avoiding it.

Building an SEO-driven blog

For a deeper dive into content production, see the Demand Curve curriculum.

User-generated content

Sometimes users generate share-worthy content for you. If they do, that's vastly preferable to creating content on your own—because now you have a scalable and viral content engine.

User-generated content (UGC) can be a silver bullet that catapults a startup, but unfortunately it's not realistic for most businesses. Here's the litmus test: If your product's core purpose is to help people create and distribute content—if that's why users are signing up—then UGC is viable.

For example:

You use those products for the purpose of creating or sharing content. Therefore, they have UGC potential.

Leveraging UGC

As with every growth asset, UGC exists within a funnel. Optimize every step of it:

Key takeaways

P.S. I invest in startups across all stages and sectors. If you've got traction and think I can be of help, reach out.

Learn more advanced growth

Via Demand Curve, I'll train you or your company in ten times more growth marketing topics than were featured in this handbook.

We also run a growth agency for larger companies looking to scale: Bell Curve.


Below, enter your email to instantly receive this handbook's cheat sheet. I will not send you any other emails.

Success. Check your inbox and respond to the email with "Yes."

Julian's blog posts


How to engage listeners


How to create great work

Life advice

How to act on advice

Personal values

How to choose a career


How to generate ideas

Vanity metrics

How to set goals

Mental models

How to make decisions

My favorite stuff

Shows, films, artists


How to write clear sentences


This year, I got tired of overlong books and bad book summaries. So I made a monthly newsletter that just shares the most interesting highlights from famous books. I distill each book's key lessons into short paragraphs. 50,000 people read it. Subscribe to see the first issue.