Content Crafters is an interview series where we de-construct the tools, tips, and tactics that top bloggers use to get so much work done. you’ll walk away in mere minutes with actionable takeaways you can try out right away. Let’s dive in!
Nissar Ahamed is a growth marketer and the founder & CEO of CareerMetis.com, an online publication dedicated to helping job seekers and freelancers with career advice.
Previous to that, he’s held senior demand generation and sales roles at SaaS companies.
In this interview, we cover a ton, ranging from career advice for marketers to lessons learned starting a business. We walk through data-driven content strategy, content inspiration, what skills you need to be a top 1% content marketer, and much more.
How did you get into content / marketing? What’s your origin story?
My entry into content marketing was accidental.
I started CareerMetis.com as a personal blog to share my ideas and experience as a successful job seeker with others. All I wanted to do was to share ideas on how other job seekers can use some of the strategies that I had learnt & implemented – to speed up their job search.
Blogging then became addictive – I ended up writing the first 100 articles on CareerMetis.com.
At around the 6th month time, few people reached out to me to contribute their ideas on my blog. See, at that time I did not know that guest contributing was an actual thing. I accepted the first few contributors. It was definitely a win-win for both parties; I got free content and they got a place to share their content.
Then I realized that this could be something bigger than merely a personal blog.I took a backseat from writing and blogging. I switched my focus from a writer/blogger to an editor/ publisher.
Since then I have focused most of my efforts on editorial, managing contributor pipeline, publishing articles, content strategy,etc.
In short, everything that I have done in marketing/content came out of curiosity and happenstance – as the path unfolded I moved forward to see where the path would take me.
Till date, we have published over 2500 pieces of content – thanks to the help of 1100 unique contributors from around the world.
What’s the most surprisingly difficult aspect of building a content-based business?
Noise. There is too much noise.
You think your blog post or content is unique – but then you realize that there are others who have published something similar. From a publisher perspective, staying ahead of the pack is often challenging.
From a reader/audience perspective, content fatigue is real. They see similar posts on multiple websites. So, as publishers the onus is on us to ensure that we are providing our audience with unique ideas that they can’t find elsewhere.
For me, this has changed what type of content we accept and what type of content we want to publish in the future.
What skills do you believe all content marketers need to have to succeed now and in the future?
Most successful content marketers have embraced the fact that it is both an art and a science.
Yes, creativity is important and you should always come up with original ideas.
However, not paying attention to data (reader engagement, search trends, keyword research,etc.) can be fatal.
You might be spending hours creating the best content (in your mind) – yet it does not make an impact the way you have hoped.
On the other hand, if you are strictly only using data but not providing your content with a unique voice – then the content just becomes bland. Nobody enjoys reading just facts and numbers – they want to read a story.. from you..
In short, the ability to create unique ideas and leveraging data will always ensure a successful content marketing program.
Is there anything specific to your background or personality you attribute to your ability to succeed in content marketing?
I started my professional career in Sales and worked in it for 10+ years. Sales has taught me the importance of always prospecting, and always following up.
For instance, when I sold something to a client – it was necessary to follow up with them with the hopes that they buy again, they provide referrals and they write great testimonials. The work never stopped even after the deal is closed.
I apply the same ideas to my content marketing.
I prospected my first 50+ guest contributors. I scoured social media for people in my niche and sent them tons of cold emails. Some of them agreed to write guest posts on CareerMetis.com.
The quality of content on CareerMetis.com kept going up. This triggered organic searches and then potential contributors started reaching out to me. Now I don’t do outreach to new contributors anymore as we have been able to grow it over 1000+ contributors in less than 3 years.
But it does not stop there. I have a system where I follow up with them (via email) requesting more articles and asking for referrals from other contributors.
I have sent out more than 1000+ such emails, and the results have been astounding.
Today, some contributors are regular columnists.
Others have contributed more than 10 posts, and they keep coming back.
I guarantee that very few publishers out there ever follow up with their contributors.
This is a proven way to build long-lasting relationships; and your website benefits from a stream of high quality content.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned from starting and hosting podcasts? How does it compare with your writing and editorial work?
I look at podcasts as another form of content. There are people who read, and others who like to consume audio content, and some strictly like videos.
That’s why I started The Career Insider Podcast in May 2016.
We have recorded & published over 100+ episodes.
We recently rebranded and will be re-launching in a few weeks – with some great new interviews.
The biggest lesson I have learnt from podcasting is that you just need to ask.
Most/all of the guests on my show came by my cold email outreach.
I was surprised to find out that these experts and professionals were more than willing to spare 30 minutes to chat.
As a content marketer – podcasts are a no-brainer.
It’s no more a nice-to-have, it’s a must-have tool in your personal.
Besides, providing your audience with great content – you are benefiting from the network you build with influencers and experts. Also, you start getting perceived as a thought leader in your field; and all you are doing is just having a chat with other experts.
How do you plan out goals and metrics to focus on with CareerMetis.com? What are your KPIs or North Star Metric?
Our Northstar Metric has changed over the past many months.
When I started out in 2015 – my goal was simple.
I just had to write and publish content. I was less concerned about quality and more about quantity. I was inspired by Grant Cardone’s 10x Rule.
Instead of writing 10 articles I pushed myself to write 100 articles.
That’s when things started to click, we started getting traffic and guest contributors started reaching out to us.
Then my goal become to have 100 unique contributors as soon as possible.
We reached that goal in 5 months – then I set a bigger goal (once again inspired by Grant Cardone) – get to 1000 contributors.
It took me over 2 years to finally reach 1000 unique contributors in Dec 2018. Our contributor network continues to grow, and we have no shortage of good content to publish weekly and share with our audience.
Our current KPI is 10Xing our current traffic.
In May 2019, we netted over 33000 monthly pageviews. Goal is to get to 330000 monthly pageviews by end of summer 2020.
As a publisher, there is a direct bearing on our traffic with monetization.
I know that this might sound arbitrary and is against what most content marketing experts would advice.
However, focusing on one Northstar metric is key for us.
Once our traffic grows – so will our subscribers – so will our advertiser network – and so will our revenue.
What’s your biggest pet peeve in marketing or trend you wish would die out?
I really wish people would stop referring to themselves as an “expert” or “influencer”. Seriously, please stop!
If you are truly an influencer – trust me others will honour you with that esteemed title. And nowadays, everyone’s an influencer. Really?
Let your work shine through – do great work, and you will be rewarded with all the great accolades that will come your way.
I personally feel it is much more fulfilling when the title or award comes from outside your brand.
Do you have any tips for those looking to scale out content production without sacrificing quality?
Here’s a fatal mistake I made in the first 2 years – not leveraging data, especially keyword research.
Yes – publish more content. However, publish it with the intention of reaching people who are searching for what you offer. Help your audience find you, and that starts with research.
When you are able to write multiple quality articles on the same theme. Eventually when people think of that particular term or phrase – they will associate that with you and your brand.
Second tip – you don’t have to be a jack-of-all-trades.
There are so many content strategies to choose from, and it can get overwhelming.
Or you end up trying all of them and then get below average results, and you are frustrated.
Choose one or two strategies and stick with it. Master it. Do it better than anyone else.
The best example of this is Databox’s blog.
If you notice they publish the same type of posts – expert roundups. Almost all their content is research driven, they receive tons of quotes.
The blog posts are long form with tons of relevant images. Each article has one CTA to drive more conversions.
They publish multiple posts in the same format per month, and their results have been astounding. Just take a look at their domain performance over the past 2 years.
Databox receive most of their users or signups from organic search.
How does this apply to you?
Choose a handful ideas and focus on those over and over again – and this is a sure way to make your content stand out. Your audience will crave more content from you when they realize that you always deliver quality.
From where do you draw your inspiration? What books, podcasts, blogs, etc. do you regularly follow or which ones changed how you look at marketing/the world?
Huge fan of Joe Pulizzi and all the books he has written on the subject. I have read all of them. He has done a lot for the industry by constantly evangelizing around content marketing. If he comes up with another book – I will definitely buy it!
Here are a few more content marketing books that I have drawn inspiration from:
I find Eric Siu’s Growth Everywhere Podcast to be extremely informative. The guests on the show share the exact growth marketing strategy they used to grow their companies, and most of the guests on the show are successful CEOs.
Gimme three tips to improve my writing? (What can anyone do to be a better content/copywriter)
- Read a Lot:
I know this sounds counter-intuitive. “I am a writer” you say.
But trust me – reading books, blogs and other people’s content helps you understand what works. You are able to find out from others what has worked and what has not, instead of spending months of trial-and-error.
Almost everything I have learnt about marketing – I have learnt first by reading it from someone successful; someone who has done it before me, and then applying those ideas in my career or business.
Some techniques have worked, and some have bombed. But by applying these ideas -I have become a better marketer.
Under a question above, I have provided recommendations on books and blogs that you can read.
They are just starting points, and I am sure there are tons more.
If you find others -please share with me (hit me up on LinkedIn) – I am an avid reader and learner.
- Don’t judge your first draft:
As writers, we are often very self-critical.
This criticism often impedes our ability to get more writing done.
Perfectionism creeps in and before you know it you have wasted time on contemplation rather than actual writing.
Steven Pressfield refers to this as resistance.
However, the only proven way to overcome this it to sit down and write. That’s the only way to beat resistance.
As you start writing, ideas start flowing to you and before you know it – your draft is ready.
So – stop judging yourself – just write. Take a break. Then go back and edit. Then edit again until you create a masterpiece.
But first – just write.
- Put yourself in your audience’s shoes:
As content creators we sometimes get into a habit pattern of publishing for the sake of publishing.
Yes – more articles means that Google indexes more of your pages – that means more potential pageviews and so on.
However, if your audience is not responding well to what you have published – then everything has been in vain, isn’t it?
Put yourself in the shoes on your audience. Before you go live with your final draft ask yourself these questions.
- Will that individual get real value out of this content?
- How is she going to benefit from reading this?
- Can she get this information from elsewhere?
- What will make her come back to your content in the future?
Ponder over these questions before hit the Publish button.
Your audience is your customer. Always put their needs top of mind.
They will then reward you with better content performance, and maybe a few comments and shares. Even better – they will keep coming back and become ardent die-hard fans of your content.