Authority Site Overhaul Case Study #8: Why Content Marketing is Tough

After last week’s rather thorough social media walk through/update, we’re going to keep it relatively light this week.

We’re going to talk about content marketing – and why using content marketing as your sole strategy for driving traffic and attracting links can be an unreliable, and oftentimes frustrating.

If you haven’t been following along with the case study, here are all posts in order:

The First Post of the Case Study (Due Diligence and Validation)

The Second Post of the Case Study (Monetization Strategies)

The Third Post of the Case Study (Creating a Content Creation Framework)

The Fourth Post of the Case Study (How to Validate a Product)

The Fifth Post of the Case Study (Site Structure, Internal Linking and Ad Positioning)

The Sixth Post of the Case Study (Contributor Accounts)

The Seventh Post of the Case Study (Social Media Optimization)

The Eighth Post of the Case Study (Why Content Marketing is Tough)

(Password for all posts is NoHatDigital)

A Tale of Two Posts

One post was intended to be a cornerstone piece of content – we put it together to specifically try and get people to link back to us, in order to drive both referral traffic and help with SEO.

The other post was just a regular old piece of content that was written by one of our writers, targeting a relatively uncompetitive KW.

Post 1 managed to net a .edu link, got shared 1.8k times and increased our daily traffic by about 10x.

Post 2 netted a couple of links, but definitely none as powerful as the .edu link. It’s doing alright, but didn’t perform nearly as well as Post 1, either in terms of attracting links or in terms of driving traffic.

Guess which post is which?

The post that we were hoping to use as a piece of cornerstone content is a comprehensive list of full-ride scholarships in the USA. It’s not that pretty to look at, but this kind of thing should be immensely useful for prospective college students and their parents. You can see that post here. We also did some outreach to relevant blogs (although we did this over thanksgiving weekend, which probably wasn’t ideal in terms of timing). This is Post 2 – the worse performing of the two.

The post that got shared more than a thousand times and helped us get a .edu link was a post about the Best Musical Theatre Colleges. As it turns out, musical theatre students are extremely proud of their schools, and also avid social media users. We literally didn’t do anything to promote this post, and it went mini-viral on Facebook, and got this link from Florida State University.

screen shot update 8

This underscores one of the flaws of focusing purely on content marketing – putting effort into creating and marketing a piece of content does not guarantee results. It’s one of those things where you can do everything right and still get mediocre results. On the flip side, you can put out a piece of unremarkable content and gain a ton of traction.

Yet, despite the frustration that comes with it, content marketing is pretty much the only game in town (or close to it) when it comes to white hat SEO. So what to do?

Taking a Two Pronged Approach

Basically, we try and minimize the disadvantages of using content marketing in two ways. We never rely solely on it, and when we do it, we try to do it in an efficient way that we know will generate results.

You don’t want to use content marketing as a singular strategy – any site that you own should be focusing on driving traffic via multiple sources. This makes sense from a diversification standpoint (don’t put all your eggs in one basket), but diversification is even more important if your goal is driving organic and referral traffic by marketing your content to influencers.

Our preferred method of diversifying away from this strategy is to build an email list – this works well in tandem with white hat outreach because getting mentioned by influencers often leads to one-off traffic spikes that die down after a few days. By building a good lead magnet and opt-in process, you can turn these one-time visitors into sustained traffic.

Other methods include driving social media traffic, or using paid traffic (if it makes sense in the context of your business).

The second prong of our two-pronged approach is to try and systemize your outreach. When we were putting together the scholarship post and marketing it, we weren’t as systematic as we should have been – and that’s probably one of the reasons why our outreach didn’t work as well as we had hoped.

Greg over at NoHatDigital has written extensively about how to get the most bang for your buck using white hat outreach techniques. He uses a bunch of pretty straightforward, well known techniques, but has built a solid process around these techniques that allows him to get better results in less time. Some techniques that you might want to read about include: Expert Round Ups, Content Round Ups, and Give and Go Guest Posting. Also, here’s an awesome post from Greg about what he thinks are the most efficient ways to generate white hat links with content marketing.

In the case of the of the full ride scholarship post, we simply didn’t follow our own advice (or Greg’s advice I guess) – the outreach that we did was as simple as emailing people and asking if they would link to us. In retrospect, it makes sense that the “Best Musical Theatre Colleges” post did better, since it was arguably a form of egobait (although we didn’t really intend it to be that).

Going forward, we’re going to try to market the full-ride scholarship post a bit more, and potentially also consider doing an ERA or a CRA just to see how effective they are in the education/careers niche. If we do end up doing more outreach, you’ll hear about it in a future update.

That’s it for this week – we’ll be working on Kindle over the next two weeks to try and recover earnings  by relaunching all the books and updated the content of the books a bit as well. We won’t have an update next week as the launch process itself typically takes two weeks, and also because we’re nearing the holiday season.

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Leave a Reply 10 comments

Dominique - December 9, 2015 Reply

Hey guys,

I’ve been following the case study since you launched it and I’m loving the detail you’re giving. One thing I noticed is that for the LearnU site, you guys got listed on Best of the web. Since that’s a paid directory, I was wondering if you’ve seen any benefit from it and if you’d recommend buying a listing? Thanks and keep up the awesome work.

    Wired Investors - December 11, 2015 Reply


    I think the BOTW listing happened before Hayden and I got involved. I’d say it’s a strong link for a directory link, but at the end of the day it’s still a directory link. If you can get it, great, but it’s a luxury and I’m not sure that I’d buy a listing if it were up to me.

Ivo - December 9, 2015 Reply

First of all, definitely enjoying this case study. Can’t imagine how much work that full ride scholarship post must have taken. All the content on the site seems to be top notch.

Dumb question but why no search box on the site? I’m not in school or thinking about going to school but found myself browsing the site out of pure interest. Would have stayed onsite longer found no way to search.

Hoya - December 11, 2015 Reply

I’ve noticed in the past that you use acronyms in your writing. For those of us who are new to learning about internet businesses – could you spell out the meaning of your acronyms? Or perhaps have a white sheet of commonly used acronyms to link to? I can always Google them, but it would be faster and easier to have it right there in the post.

    Wired Investors - December 15, 2015 Reply


    What acronyms do you need clarification on? Happy to give you an explanation of anything you need help with.

Russ Lobo - July 24, 2016 Reply

Hey guys,
When is the next post coming out? I am an avid follower of this case study and would love to know how it has progressed. I know you would be very busy with the LTP buy, etc but it would be great to have an update post
Thanks in advance 🙂

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