Merchants know that content marketing can engage and retain customers. However, identifying a topic that prospects want to consume — read, watch, listen — and then producing it is often difficult. But not for Kyle Boureston. His company runs seven niche content sites. He’s refined his topic selection methods over the years to engage visitors from organic search.
He told me, “We start with a keyword or a topic to understand what’s being searched. We mostly use Moz to identify those popular themes. We’re looking for keywords with search volume. Then we try to find some grouping to create multiple pieces. Then we write it and dress it up.”
Boureston’s insights can help ecommerce companies improve their content marketing efforts. He and I recently spoke, addressing keyword sleuthing, freelance writers, search engine optimization, and more.
Our entire audio conversation is embedded below. The transcript that follows is edited for clarity and length.
Eric Bandholz: You’re in the content creation space.
Kyle Boureston: Yes, my company is Boureston Media. We launched in 2013 with Mantelligence for men. Then we created Galtelligence for females. The Unbox is product and subscription-box reviews. Gamertelligence is for, well, gamers.
Bandholz: So, seven properties?
Boureston: That sounds right. Plus, we’re on YouTube for Mantelligence and Galtelligence.
Bandholz: Content is increasingly important to ecommerce. Walk me through your operations. How do you generate ideas? Who’s doing it?
Boureston: We are strictly content. No ecommerce. We make money mainly through advertising and a bit through affiliate marketing. We start with a keyword or a topic to understand what’s being searched. We mostly use Moz to identify those popular themes. Surfer SEO is helpful, too. We’re looking for keywords with search volume.
Bandholz: So you’ll have this concept. You’ll type it in Moz and see what keywords come up.
Boureston: Yes. Then we try to find some grouping to create multiple pieces. Then we write it and dress it up. We try to focus on higher-volume keywords. For example, we’d likely avoid keywords searched less than 500 times a month. Some topics may only have a few keywords. Others have 40, 50.
The number of pieces per topic depends on the relevant keyword volume. Ten pieces per topic is a good goal. And the length of each piece depends on the topic. We shoot for 1,500, 2,000 words. Some are shorter. A product review, for example, will be shorter.
Bandholz: You’ll assign it to writers after you’ve identified the topics and keywords. Is that it?
Boureston: Yes. Craigslist is our primary source of writers. I target those ads to Austin, Texas. I’ve found good people in Austin, even though I didn’t always live here. Nowadays when I post in Austin, roughly half of the applicants are outside of the area, perhaps due to sites that aggregate job listings.
We try to find people who match the voice in our writing, our style. We don’t focus on a specific topic initially. If they’re able to sell a product well, if they match our writing style, if they’ve gone to the website and looked at our other product reviews to emulate, then we have a conversation about their interests and what they want to address.
Bandholz: What’s the going rate for a freelance writer?
Boureston: We pay from 3 cents to 10 cents a word. Higher pay does not always equal better content in my experience.
If we post the lower rate on the ad, we’ll usually hear from junior folks who just graduated college or folks with full-time jobs that are trying to get into freelance writing. We have a lot of people who are getting their feet wet. They’re all independent contractors. We’re their starting point, which does contribute to more churn, unfortunately.
Bandholz: So you manage these freelancers. You give them the topic to write about. They deliver. Then you post. What about photography?
Boureston: We use stock photos from multiple sources. We’ll sometimes create our own visual, such as an infographic. We started adding quizzes and, occasionally, a table of contents. We try to dress up articles for better engagement. We’ll use freelance designers if necessary.
Bandholz: So how big is your full-time team?
Boureston: We don’t have one. It’s just me. The rest are independent contractors, all remote.
Bandholz: Search engine optimization. Everyone wants to crack that nut. You’ve mentioned your focus on organic keywords. What’s the state of SEO in 2021?
Boureston: It’s chaos. Google releases an algorithm update quarterly or more. One quarter I’m doing great, and the next I’m eating ramen. Fortunately, we started early enough that we have some authority as a foundation. But it’s stressful.
Bandholz: You have many opportunities to grow your brands. Where can people learn more about you and reach out?