On the show this time I'm talking with niche site entrepreneur and expert affiliate marketer, Dom Wells of Human Proof Designs. Dom created Human Proof Designs for two reasons: to teach others about affiliate marketing, and to give you ready-made niche sites that are worth buying.
In this episode we are discussing how to scale content production, important for both niche site creation and business sites using content marketing. Let's dive in...
[Podcast] How To Scale Content Creation With Dom Wells #contentmarketing
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[0:00:09.0] ANNOUNCER: Welcome to the Content Champion Podcast. We provide the training and tools to help you become a content marketing champion in your online business. Introducing your host, the content champion himself, Loz James.
[0:00:28.5] LJ: Hi guys, welcome to the content champion podcast, thanks for listening. On the show this time, I’m talking with niche site entrepreneur and expert affiliate marketer Dom Wells of Human Proof Designs. In this episode, we’re discussing how to scale content production, important for both niche site creation and business sites using content marketing.
So let’s dive in.
[0:00:54.5] LJ: Thanks for coming on Dom.
[0:00:55.7] DW: Thanks for having me, it’s good to be here.
[0:00:58.0] LJ: Now look, before we drill down into scaling up our content operation, could you tell us how you got started in affiliate marketing please?
[0:01:05.6] DW: yeah sure. Back in 2012, I was living in Taiwan teaching English, I’ve been there for a few years and I wanted to stay longer but I didn’t really want to teach English anymore, I wanted to make more money, I had a lot of ambition and I just thought, how can I make more money while still living in Taiwan? That led me to looking online and I read the four hour work week and I just kind of followed my nose and discovered affiliate marketing and I devoured the internet and everything I could and I built my first site in August 2012.
[0:01:46.0] LJ: Tell us about human proof designs because I love it, I’ve been devouring all your content over the last few days.
[0:01:52.1] DW: Yeah, with human proof designs, I came up with the idea when I had been spending a lot of time on websites like flipper.com where you can buy and sell websites, it’s kind of like eBay for websites I guess. One thing I noticed was that there were a lot of people producing this kind of junk scam websites basically, they would just create this cookie cutter website, it was just like the same website over and over again, the same content.
They just change the domain name maybe put a different logo on and they would say, this website’s going to make you a million dollars, you’re going to be an overnight millionaire, you don’t even have to do any work and it’s only $500. To me, I would think, well that’s obviously a scam and people were buying this things and I couldn’t believe it.
I just thought, well why don’t I build sites for this beginners who don’t know how to get started but I’ll actually build legit sites like I’ll do real keyword research and I’ll make each site unique. I spent months researching and getting started and then I put the sites on flipper and I made like $100 because nobody wanted to buy these sites because they wanted to buy the ones with all the fake stuff and the false promises.
I realized I was going to have to build a website around my sites so that I could educate people about the sites and I could deliver training and I could just show the value and turn myself into an authority. That’s what I did and that’s why Human Proof Designs was founded in I guess it was July or August 2013.
[0:03:26.2] LJ: Okay, now you got this big content team that you provide a ton of content every month to your clients, you got to go into that a bit later but could you set the scene for us if you would in terms of the context here because in a nutshell, being able to create and promote quality content, scale as it were, is key to I continued online success isn’t it?
[0:03:47.6] DW: If I could distill it into short sentences, I would say the more content you have, the more keywords you rank for, the more traffic you get to your site and the more money you make so if you have very little content, I can’t really see you making much money with your site unless it’s like you're a dentist or something and it’s a very specific business website like that.
[0:04:09.9] LJ: Okay, it’s pretty sobering that, okay. We need to be creating good quality content, we need to be able to scale that up across that site. Before we look into the details of that, could you tell us about your own content creation team at human proof designs and what sort of results you’ve achieved with that and perhaps on your own sites as well?
[0:04:30.2] DW: Yeah, sure. When I first started out, we were just using other content agencies and I was using places like I Writer, Hire Writers and places like that to get my content and I decided that it was a lot better in the long run if I could do stuff in house because then I would always have the same writers and I could say, this is how our content’s going to be, I didn’t have to spend ages explaining the content and things like that.
From, I guess the end of 2015, no, the end of 2014, beginning of 2015, I started hiring my own writers and then I started hiring editors as well and most of them came from UpWork so we’ve spent enough money in UpWork to be considered premium or elite or whatever the word that UpWork uses and we probably have about a hundred freelancers under us.
Most of them are writers and editors, there’s obviously a few graphic designers and stuff as well. I mean now, early 2017, basically in just under two and a half years, we’ve gone form kind of like no writers to about a hundred. That was fun.
[0:05:50.2] LJ: That’s amazing Dom, that’s really quick success and you’ve set that team up to run in a very streamline way, of a relatively short space of time. I’m just wondering, you said that on the top of the show that you’ve got experience with teaching and is that kind of essential to how you’ve been able to hire people and put that team together? Those skills that you need to be a manager, to really train people and disseminate the information they need to do the job properly.
Tell us a bit about that team?
[0:06:21.2] DW: That’s a good question, I didn’t really… I’m not sure, maybe because I don’t know what it’s like doing this without teaching skills. I can’t really compare but I don’t think I’m a particularly good manager especially is when I first started, it was just me and writers and editors.
I would give writers their assignments and then I would take the assignments and give it to the editors and then I’d take the completed work and give it to my site builder to build a website. It was very hard for me because I was doing all of this whilst also managing sales and wearing all the other hats in the business.
I’m not a particularly good manager and the main reason we scaled was because I hired managers and I installed them. I think maybe the speed that we did with it was my ability to teach my managers, this is how we should do it and yeah, there’s probably a level of patience that I learn from teaching where I realized, whether I’ve explained something wrong or whether somebody just needs more time to get the hang of something or whether they’re just kind of useless which sadly is the case sometimes.
I think the key to our successful scaling was that we spent a few months getting it right and developing the systems so that we were able to scale as in when necessary because we didn’t really set out with this idea that we needed to get to a hundred hires in two years, we basically were like okay, we’ve just sold 10 websites, we need to hire more people.
Let’s not panic how we’re going to do it and so definitely, all of our processes evolved as we kind of develop different needs.
[0:08:01.4] LJ: Okay, let’s zero down into the content creation side of things because I know you build this fantastic niche sites as well. I kind of like a kid in a candy store when your emails come through, I’m just looking through them all and they sell out remarkably quickly.
We can give some links to all this at the end of the show but focusing on the content, tell us about the structure of that of a team that’s going to create content for a site, for anyone listing who is doing content marketing on their business site or building out a niche site. How does it sort of pan out.
Is it you at the top, then a manager and then editors and then writers, what’s the structure to scale it?
[0:08:34.8] DW: Yeah, that’s a great question and it’s actually how we build sites for customers and how I manage my own sites as a similar structure, it’s going to be applicable for various people listening. Yeah, we have a writer, an editor and then even me above them or a manager.
When I first started, I was the manager, now we have, there’s actually two other people in between, now we have the manager and then we actually have my operations manager and then me. For my own sites that I’m running, it’s just me and then my project manager and then like a writer and an editor. What would happen is maybe let’s say I’ve researched some keywords and I give them to my project manager and say hey, we need to get these articles written and then he’ll assign them to the writer, the writer will go away and do them.
The project manager is just there for accountability as well to make sure the writer doesn’t go missing because sometimes they go missing. Yeah, the writer comes back so here’s the finished work and the project manager will take a look at it and make sure it looks like it follows the template.
Very important step that we always regret if we ever forget this step and that we run the content through copy scape to make sure it hasn’t been plagiarized. One thing we found is you can have a writer who produces perfect unique content for you like 100 days in a row so you stop checking and then I don’t know, maybe that writer gets busy or they just try and cheat or they just…
Something happens but suddenly they hand in some work that’s just being lifted from another article. No matter how good your writer is, you always need to run it through copy scape and then yeah, the editor will have a look and the editor’s job is twofold really.
First of all, they want to just catch mistakes like typos, proof reading and also they kind of have to check whether the article make sense like they might say how come you’ve reviewed the same product twice here? How come that you said this?
You’ve said something here and you’ve contradicted it there, they’re kind of there to make sure the writer hasn’t just made some sort of glaring error. And then if that’s all good, the writers just passes it back to the project manager who will then make sure the articles get uploaded.
We tend to assign articles in a batch like eight articles at once, 10 articles at once, 15, 20 because we just found a lot of writers prefer to write in batches, maybe they… like a lot of them are part time, maybe they come home from their day job and they just want to write for three hours and then they’re done.
It’s generally better to do it in batches like that. You can actually get discounts as well because writers would prefer to have, like if you say, can you write 10 articles for $100, they’re more likely to say yes than if you say can you write one article for $10? That’s just the way that sort of bulk pricing works.
[0:11:39.9] LJ: In terms of vetting those editors and those writers at different parts of that structure, is it a case of you just keep the brief very specific, very straight forward and if they don’t adhere to that brief after one, two, three attempts or maybe the first attempt, you can pretty quickly say okay, they’re not going to be a goer, I’ll move on to the next person, quite sort of simple in a way.
[0:12:04.8] DW: Yeah. In addition to that also, their general communication is a really good sign like if someone has a good attitude, they’ve got good communication but maybe they don’t quite get a brief or they make a couple of mistakes that we think other writers would not make, we might be more willing to work with them and give them more attempts to get it right.
Whereas other writers, you can hire someone and they’re like great and then you give them the work and you never hear from them again. Communication is a huge asset for us. It can be just as simple as how they write, are they writing in complete sentences or are they sending like lower case I’s and are they replying frequently and sort of cordially.
So you can learn a lot from how the person sort of presents themselves.
[0:12:54.0] LJ: Another thing… sorry, carry on.
[0:12:56.9] DW: I was just going to kind of say yeah, it’s very much about, you give them a brief, you give them some instructions, you link to examples and then we normally give them one or two test articles and if those are okay, we give them more or we give some feedback or we say, “You know thanks but no thanks”.
[0:13:17.0] LJ: The other bug bear of mine because I have been copywriting since about 1999 which shows how old I am really. I’ve worked with hundreds of writers in that time and the one thing that really gets on my nerves is missed deadlines. So if someone misses a deadline straight away, it’s a bit of a red flag that that’s going to happen repeatedly and then it normally does and experience tells you that if people can’t meet a deadline straight off the bat then that’s a problem.
[0:13:47.0] DW: Yeah definitely but everyone will miss a deadline once in a while and again, this is where communication comes in because let’s say something is due on Thursday and they say, “Something’s come up. Is it okay if I send half now and the rest on Friday morning?” and they message you on Monday then that’s okay but if they don’t even show up for work on the first day then usually it’s best to just save everybody the hassle and get rid of them straightaway.
[0:14:13.3] LJ: Okay, well look we’re going to go and talk about some specifics of the type of content you are creating as well but just to phrase what you said so far in terms of hiring, if you very simple set out a list of specific things to do, the people that do it straight away are the good ones and it can be as straight forward as that really?
[0:14:35.0] DW: Yeah, pretty much. The smart people will figure it out. You don’t need to be too micromanaging there either.
[0:14:43.1] LJ: Okay, cool. Right so you mentioned keyword research as well earlier on. I guess a piece of content comes in from a client or this is going to be created for one of your own niche sites all starts with keyword research does it?
[0:14:56.4] DW: Nine times out of ten it does, yes. Sometimes we write articles just because we know that that particular audience needs that article. So we’re not fast whether there’s a keyword for it or not but certainly that’s where projects would start, yeah.
[0:15:40.8] LJ: Okay what are you looking for just generally in terms of keywords, are you looking for long tail low competition but reasonable search?
[0:15:49.4] DW: It depends actually like when I build a site, from when I start a site I usually will have one or two main keywords which might be more on the competitive side and I am not expecting to rank for 12 months or six months or something where it would take a while to rank but there’s high search volume so it’s worth it and then I’ll supplement that keyword with a whole bunch of long tailed keywords to bring traffic in the meantime so you are covering all of your basis there.
[0:16:22.4] LJ: Okay, let’s talk about content archetypes. Again as you mentioned to the terms of the type of content that you produce at scale, give us an idea of some of the archetypes that you are producing and what elements go into each one that create successful piece of content that get traffic and conversions as it were.
[0:16:43.7] DW: Yeah, so the kind of flag stern pillar article that we all have with our sites is what we call a best stance post. So as an example keyword would be like, “Best nail clippers” or something more appealing. Maybe that will be a thousand words, maybe it would be a bit longer. It really depends on whether it’s like a huge search volume keyword and what we normally do is if it’s an Amazon article for example, we’ll go to Amazon and we’ll pick the top five Amazon products relevant to that keywords.
So this would be like the top five nail clippers. This is whether it’s based on their bestseller rank or their reviews, their number of stars and stuff and then we’ll just put those five in the article. We’ll do an introduction saying, “What you need to look for in nail clippers” like “make sure they have a good emery board” or something like that and then each of the top five, we will do the pros and cons and a mini introduction about the product.
And we’ll do a conclusion and then at the end of the article we’ll have a winner and we might say, “Oh this is the best if you’re price conscious. This is the best if you are travelling or this is the best if you want that” and it’s essentially that simple and we use these no matter what site we’re doing. We don’t have to be for Amazon products, they can be for anything. Another one that works well is an actual specific review post.
So you’re just reviewing one specific product. So again if we went and mail to you up as you were just review one particular nail clipper or another best example because I don’t think people Google specific reviews of nail clippers.
[0:18:29.7] LJ: I was just thinking I’m going to have to bin my best nail clippers and emery boards.com site now that I am working on after that.
[0:18:36.3] DW: Yeah, okay so maybe if you were doing blenders for example people would actually be searching for reviews on individual blenders as well. So you could write like a 1000 word article about that and then to supplement all of that, we will do info articles because Google doesn’t want to rank a website that’s just reviews and affiliate links. So we would do a bunch of info articles as well that could be something like maybe we could go with blenders.
We could say like, “What’s the best blender for juicing” or “15 different juicer recipes” or “how to make sure your blender stays in good condition” so just stuff that’s around blending and sometimes you get an opportunity as well to put product links in there or you could link to a review article as well. So traffic goes around and you can link internally but those are really the main articles that I focus on and then will occasionally have other types that might have been designed to attract links or something like that.
[0:19:43.0] LJ: Okay, so we’ve got our team in place, we’re producing that type of content. We know that that’s going to work and get us results overtime and we’ve done all of that keyword research and everything else you mentioned there, this bit I find really panicky whenever I’m doing client work or working on my own website is getting this stuff published. It can often be over looked, getting the finished article with images in it formatting, uploaded to WordPress everything else, that bit is quite problematic at scale I should imagine.
[0:20:13.0] DW: Yeah, that was definitely the first thing I ever outsourced because you write this article and you’re like, “I’m done” and then you realized you’ve got to highlight stuff and change it to bold and all of that. That is actually easier to scale than content because it’s just a lot easier to outsource, it’s cheaper to outsource because you can find non-native speakers who have good enough English to understand how to format an article.
How to use WordPress, how to follow your instructions whereas you wouldn’t necessarily want to use them as content writers. Content is a lot harder because it’s very subjective as well so you need to make sure that your clients are going to be happy but it is a lot easier to say, “Make sure you use H2 tags on all of the subheadings or make sure you link internally to one other article”. So essentially I scaled it the same way.
I taught my managers how to do it and then they did it themselves for a little while until they were proficient at it and then they were like, “Right, we’re going to hire people to do it for us” so it is very much like a production line like, “Okay, the content is completed. It’s been edited. It’s all good just pass it over to the site builders” and they upload it and format it and then they can either publish it straight away or they can schedule it or they can be in draft for someone to come.
And then the final step is we have someone whose job is basically QA. So we’ll just go over everything and they’ll catch mistakes because no matter how good your person is, how diligent they are, there will just be mistakes. So we found having that final safety net is really important as well.
[0:21:55.8] LJ: It’s interesting because in my research for this call, I was reading an article you wrote about outsourcing and you’ve mentioned a lot of different tasks there and you say in that piece on human proof designs that you shouldn’t employ somebody as a super catch-all outsource super power master whatever I’m trying to say, superhero outsourcer that does everything. You should employ based on those individual specific roles and then have a manager over the top of them all so they do each of their specific things very well.
[0:22:27.9] DW: Yeah, I mean if this kind of superhero multitasker person exists then I’m not going to say don’t hire them but I think a lot of people kind of expect to be able to hire a general person that can do everything and firstly it’s difficult because they’re just going to end up being like a replica of you and if you are struggling to keep your head focused on everything and you can’t think, “Oh have we uploaded everything correctly? Have the managers done it?”
If you can’t cope with everything how can they cope with everything? And also you can just hire specialists for the same price like if your business needs a 100 hours’ worth of worked outsourced, why give it to one person and expect him to spend a 100 hours on 10 different tasks when you can hire 10 people for 10 hours each? I can’t see it being worst and I can only see it being better. So it just makes sense to do it that way.
[0:23:25.2] LJ: You’ve mentioned replicating yourself that’s often for people going from solopreneur status to building their businesses, it’s often the hardest thing is to look at what you are good at and what you’re not so good at and then perhaps outsource the things you’re not so good at or the things that don’t make you as much money in terms of your dealing with the overall strategy that drives the business forward and I think it’s being in that management position is identifying your own core skills as well so you can then manage effectively, would that be a good assessment?
[0:24:02.2] DW: Yeah, I think that’s a good way to do it and I think another thing is like yeah, it does make sense to outsource the things you are not good at first but I also found more success of outsourcing the things that I was good at but I wasn’t the only person who needed to do it. So it was a lot easier for me to outsource keyword research because yeah, I was good at it already so I could teach it but also it was something that anybody could do.
Whereas outsourcing sales emails is a lot harder because nobody can sell a business as well as the owner. Where that sort of thing is something that I am not good at maybe I wouldn’t know how to train somebody else to do it effectively. So there’s a different process involved. If you are hiring for something that you’re not very good at yourself, maybe you need to be more diligent with your interview because you want to be looking for signs that they might have skills that you don’t have and it might be hard for you to actually figure out whether they have that skill if you don’t have it.
[0:25:07.5] LJ: For sure, okay.
[0:25:09.3] DW: I don’t know if that makes sense to you.
[0:25:10.8] LJ: Yeah, I know totally. It made more sense than my superhero superpower whatever I was trying to ask earlier on. The thing that I was just a bit cheeky but in terms of content promotion at scale, we could have a whole series of podcast on promoting your content and I know your business model is specifically creating a content and everything else but for your niche sites, when you start to crank things up how are you promoting content when it’s produced at scale?
[0:25:39.0] DW: Not as well as I would like to that’s the short answer. I mean generally for a lot of niche sites, we’re not promoting it in the kind of traditional go out there and do outreach and share it with social media manner because we find for niche sites that’s not necessarily… Well it’s not the highest priority so we’ll generally do link building to promote our content and link building is something that you can scale but it’s not necessarily something I would class as content promotion so I don’t know how applicable it is.
[0:26:14.1] LJ: Okay, all right if we change or reframe the question to getting eyeballs on the content that you’ve created. If we are looking at link building, link building can obviously… Well not obviously but link building if you work at it in the right way can be scaled. Guys like Authority Hacker and Very South or authorities that I follow are doing great things with White Hat outreach that scale. So is that the kind of thing you are talking about?
[0:26:43.5] DW: Yeah, exactly. I don’t limit myself to White Hat but that’s what I was referring to, yeah. So for me getting traffic to my site, getting eyeballs on my content, it’s all about ranking in Google and the way to rank in Google is pretty much to build links. I will do some other stuff as well like I’ll create content specifically designed to attract links and things like that but yeah, my general strategy is either adding more content or building more links. Those are the two things that I focus on.
[0:27:19.2] LJ: Are you doing PPN’s or Web 2.0 so you don’t have to answer that question.
[0:27:23.5] DW: Yeah but not like, I like to be in the middle. So if I can get White Hat links I will. If I need to be able to PPN links I will. I am not aggressively being in either camp.
[0:27:36.3] LJ: Okay, well I don’t think Matt Cutts or whoever is doing his job now is listening anyway so that’s all really interesting and fascinating and I just want to move onto the PS question in a minute but I just like you to remind us all where we can find you online Dom and tell us about this great case study membership that you are doing which looks fascinating.
[0:27:55.5] DW: Yeah, okay so two questions. So humanproofdesigns.com is where people can find me and follow me and subscribe and get all of our core free content and then in addition, I just recently started I called it the Zero to $10,000 over the shoulder case study which is a bit of a mouthful. I should have tried to put super in there as well. So yeah, the basic idea is I’ve recently sold quite a few of my niche sites so I thought I want to build my portfolio up again.
And why don’t I just share it with all of my customers so I decided to put it inside my membership which we’ve launched the membership recently. It’s got a monthly reoccurring fee or in March $49 and then so I’ve made. After it, it may be going up to 59 and the basic idea is I want to be able to share everything and when you do a public case study on your blog you can share a lot but either you share everything and then some bad things are going to happen.
Like people attack your site or you share everything and the case study isn’t really accurate because you get thousands of people visiting your site who aren’t real visitors like they’re just people who are just reading the case study. One example is Tim Tram from cloudliving.com, he’s doing a great case study with his site and it gets loads of traffic from Vietnam because he’s Vietnamese and loads of his fans go visit his site. So it’s not really an accurate case study.
Also I just want to be able to share it in more detail with all of my paying members so it’s kind of a reward for them as well and then basically what I’m doing is, yeah, sorry just to summarize what I am doing is every week I’m working on my sites and I’m recording everything I’m doing and then editing it all together and uploading a video.
[0:29:48.9] LJ: That sounds brilliant. You know I’ve got sort of a stalled authority content experiment that I am doing. It’s stalled because of the difference in the Amazon payouts for the niche and I’m going to be following along with this because I think it’s an excellent way to do it and I’m going to join up and see what you’re doing and how I can learn from that and put into my own niche sites that I am building as well. So yeah, I advise everyone to get onto that one.
Wait for it listeners, here comes the PS Question.
[0:30:32.1] LJ: This is what I call the PS Question. So could you please share Dom one advance content marketing tactic we can use right after the show?
[0:30:41.7] DW: Sure, so one of my favorite things to do is use either SEMrush or AA Rest. They have the same feature for this and find a forum in your niche. So any forum in your niche and put that forum into the tool that I mentioned. So let’s say SEMrush and then you’ll get a list of all the keywords that that forum ranks for and then I like to filter that out. So only show me the keywords that it ranks in the top five or four so like page one top five positions.
And what that gives you is a list of really easy keywords because if a forum ranks in the top five, then generally speaking unless it’s a really, really high authority forum that means it’s a week keyword and you often can’t find these keywords using traditional keyword research but if you reverse engineer forums, you’ll see all sorts of keywords and you can find great ideas for review posts. You can just find really good ideas for comparison posts.
Generally speaking, if you put those articles on your site, you’ll be able to rank very easily without even building any links and you might even outrank your forum. So I do that with every site several times a year.
[0:31:59.1] LJ: Well that’s fantastic. I’m definitely stealing that. Thanks very much indeed for your time today Dom and great answer to the PS question as well. All that remains to say is everyone go and check out Human Proof Designs and I wish you every success in the future.
[0:32:13.0] DW: Yeah likewise and thanks for having me. It’s been great.
[0:32:17.0] ANNOUNCER: You’ve been listening to The Content Champion Podcast, available at contentchampion.com and on iTunes.
Until next time, thanks for listening.