In this wide-reaching Slack AMA, Ash Read – Head of Content at Buffer answered a bunch of our questions about how he approaches content.
About Ash Read
Ash Read has impressively grown Buffer’s blog to over 1.5 million sessions per month. From multiple (quality) blogs and podcasts and new content published regularly, the Buffer content machine is impressive. We dive into how he thinks about content in this AMA.
🔗 Buffer’s content hub
🐦 Ash’s Twitter
💼 Ash’s LinkedIn
Extract from Ash Read's AMA
- As a content marketer, what are some of the biggest challenges you’re facing at the moment? Is there a bugbear that nobody else is really talking about?
Biggest challenge now… that’s a great question. Something that’s always on my mind is over-reliance on Google. ~80% of our traffic is organic and though I doubt we’ll lose it all overnight, I don’t like being so focused on just one channel. When you’ve had some success with search, it’s natural to keep wanting to feed that beast, but gradually I’d like us to generate more traffic from owned channels like our email list and even using our app to get people back to the blog(s).
That’s a shedload of content you’re creating there, not least of all because you have several different publications under one blog. What’s your philosophy to creating a content ops system that helps you keep track of the who, what, when etc.? You’re running a media company there!
Honestly, the biggest job is keeping a handle on the back catalogue of content we have. Right now we’re not publishing a ton of new content. I use Notion to keep on top of most things. Our whole team recently made the jump to Notion for project management and our team wiki is there too so it’s a one-stop shop of everything Buffer. We have a content calendar and projects set up to keep on top of all of our deadlines and who is doing what.
In your experience, what are the most important steps an early or mid-stage content marketer can take to work their way up to a senior content role?
The biggest lesson I’ve learned is to fully understand what your boss cares about. Earlier in your career you’re often tasked with traffic growth and that number becomes your north star. But rarely is a VP of marketing taking that number to a CEO or board meeting. As you grow, start to think about what problems your boss/CEO are facing and how you can help to solve those problems through content. Also, try to shape where you want your career to go in your own mind so you know the path you want to take clearly.
Which elements you focus on to drive organic traffic growth – ie produce a load of content vs build links vs optimise/build out what you have? Your blog has its own authority now but if it didn’t, how would you approach judgements like keyword difficulty versus volume in pursuit of organic growth?
We’ve been blogging for around 10 years now (I joined around 5.5 years ago) and in the early days it was very much a volume play and we’d aim to publish as frequently as we could and cast a very wide net for content topics (even if they weren’t that closely related to Buffer). Now a lot of time is spent optimzing what we have. I focus on lot on internal backlinks right now and ensuring we’re linking to relevant posts where possible — right now I’m auditing our Instagram-related content to make sure we’re linking between each post where possible). Without domain authority, I’d try to uncover the SERPs where “throwaway” content ranks. So pages that have results that likely weren’t intended to rank. You see this often when news sites rank for a term, you can often outrank these types of content by out optimizng the existing pieces.
Here are the other questions Ash answered:
- Which tools do you find useful for content planning/roadmapping? I saw Trello got shut down – curious what you use now for keeping track of all the content coming out or in progress (Beth Gladstone)
- Are there any content forms that you think are really underated or have surprised you with their success over the years?
- What does the ‘head of content’ do in a day? What are your goals and objectives and how are they measured?
- What part did SEO play in your strategy for getting the Buffer blog traffic to over 1 million sessions per month?
- Do you have any tips for a company just starting out with its content strategy?
- Is there pressure to build a major social media following working for a social media company?
- Why does Buffer focus on remote working so much (thinking annual report) when it’s social media scheduler (okay and a bit more )
- How do you measure success from SEO? Do you split organic into branded and unbranded, & are you able to attribute leads and conversions in this way too?
- With all the new content formats like ClubHouse, Twitter spaces, Reddit Audio…how do you decide what to do for awareness activities and conversions?
- Lots of bookworms here 🙂 …what are you reading at the moment?
- What piece of content or content campaign are you most proud of creating?
- How do you find working with a US company, is all the work async and what tools do you use to facilitate that?