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Neil Patel Reveals How to Tie Your Content Marketing to Revenue

By Joe Lazauskas February 16th, 2015

Reading about Neil Patel’s career trajectory will inevitably make you feel bad about yourself.

Patel launched his first entrepreneurial venture—an online job board called Advice Monkey—when he was 15. And by the time he was in college, he had co-founded an SEO and marketing company called Advantage Consulting Services that counted Fortune 500 companies like Samsung, Amazon, Microsoft, and Viacom amongst its clients. Before he turned 21, Patel had made enough money to invest a million dollars in a hosting company, Vision Web Hosting. He lost all the money from that investment, but it didn’t really slow him down.

Today, Patel is 29 years old, and he’s already the founder of two successful marketing software companies—Crazy Egg and KISSmetrics—as well as Quick Sprout, a site that started as Patel’s personal blog but has quickly turned into a million-dollar consulting business.

The most impressive thing about Patel, though, might be the fact that he’s managed to build blogs with over 100,000 readers for all three of his major ventures, leading the charge by personally writing eight blog posts a week. He dishes out an unbeatable combination of content marketing hacks, practical advice, and measurement secrets that have made his posts a must-read for anyone in the industry.

I caught up with Patel to discuss how brands should measure content marketing success, the ways SEO has changed, and how to create passionate content that resonates with readers.

Serial entrepreneur Neil Patel

Do you ever sleep? Because your career is absolutely insane so far.

Thank you. Yeah, I sleep well, but I probably work a bit too much.

How did you manage to launch a million-dollar marketing consulting business when you were still in college?

It took some hard work. The thing I learned from it was that people will pay for results. If you can actually get really good at something and provide results and aren’t full of crap, you’d be shocked at how much business you can generate.

That makes a decent transition to the topic of content marketing, because a lot of content marketers are struggling to show their bosses that what they’re doing works. What advice would you have for them?

When it comes to showing that it works, all that you have to do is go through the analytics and you can show them how many more visitors that they’re getting. That’s one way, and that’s extra brand reach.

Two, if you’re collecting emails, you can show them how many more emails you’re collecting—because emails are worth money. Corporations know that if you get emails, then you’re going to get sales.

Third, you can show them how many more leads or sales or conversion points that you’re actually getting through the content marketing. Through any analytics tool you can actually track conversions based on entry sources. You can see, “All right, here’s all the people that came through from the blog, and here’s all the conversion that went through.”

Do you think with that kind of methodology it’s possible to tie a piece of content to a hard revenue figure?

Yes, I do. You may not get a full figure in which there’s more revenue, but you can at least track directly: “Here’s all the traffic we got from the blog and here’s how many leads it generated, and here’s what a lead is [worth to us], or here’s how many sales were generated.”

We do it with our own businesses. We know how much a lead is worth based on what our sales team quotes back, et cetera. We can actually see content marketing as a cash-flow positive.

For a lot of brands, tying content to revenue is a little bit of a chicken before the egg situation, since many are struggling to build a loyal audience. You’ve been able to grow three different brand blogs to over 100,000 readers. How did you do it?

It comes down to going above and beyond. If you look at most people in the content marketing world, all they’re doing is writing content to get traffic or sales. They’re not going above and beyond. If you can actually make your design way better or create content that’s much more detailed and actionable, people take notice and are more likely to share and tell others about it.

Why do you think that most big brands with way bigger budgets than you struggle to even approach a six-figure audience?

Because most big brands and blogs look at how much money can they spend to actually get the people over to the site, to create a popular blog or whatever it may be, versus actually thinking in different ways.

It’s not how big of a budget or what you can do with the money. It’s “What is your target audience or ideal customer, what are their pain points? How are they struggling?” Then, from a blogging perspective, you need to go in and solve those pain points.

Big brands are just throwing money at things and they’re not necessarily thinking it through fully. Just like anything else in marketing, it’s all about solving problems. If you can help people solve their problems through your content, you’re much more likely to get them to read your blog and pick up much more traction than if you’re saying, “Hey, let’s spend 100 grand on content marketing.” All right, what are you going to do with $100,000?

You work with a lot of big brands. Is that essentially the advice that you give them? How do you get them to change their behavior?

The way I get them to change their behavior is, I say, “Hey you know what? Before we decide how much we want to spend and what we want to do, let’s survey people—your potential customers, your current customers—and let’s find out what they want.”

It doesn’t matter what you want to do or what I want to do. All that matters is you want to make your customers happier. From there you take the data and show them based on the data that here’s what we should do. You’ve got to make them create decisions based on the data points versus just doing whatever they want.

One frustration I hear a lot is that a lot of brands tend to have an outdated concept of what SEO is. They’re still focused on keyword-stuffing tactics, as opposed to adjusting to how things have evolved with Google’s Panda algorithm. What’s important for SEO right now?

When it comes to SEO, you can’t end up erasing crap. That’s what I always tell big brands. It’s good product and good services that continually sell in the long run. If you ask Coca-Cola “Why are you successful?” [it’s] because people love Coke. The product is awesome.

You’ve got to focus on putting the best product out there. The same goes with the web. Whether it’s SEO, content marketing, whatever it may be, you’ve got to create the best product on the Internet to give to people. They usually understand that feel. When you pitch that to big brands, they get that and are like, “Oh, cool. It’s not just about keywords.”

How do you usually advise that brands go about actually creating the content? Should they build an in house team? Should they tap freelancers or an ad agency? What do you think works best?

I think all approaches work well and fail. It just depends on what a company wants to do. It’s just about finding the right people, whether they’re in an ad agency, or you’re hiring them as contractors, or maybe as full-time employees. It’s all about talent.

If it’s a good person, it doesn’t matter where they’re located or how you hire them. You want to get the right people working on the project. People with experience, and people who are passionate about the content that they’re creating.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Image by SarahLeung1/Flickr
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