Gregory Ciotti

Writing / Content Strategy

Guest blogging strategies that helped grow 36,733 email subscribers

At the time of writing this article, the Help Scout blog is currently sitting at 36,733 email subscribers, a nice 6000+ bump from ~9 weeks ago when I published this article.

Although much of our traffic strategy now relies on search, in the early days guest blogging played a huge role in getting us off the ground. To this day, I still take the time to publish a few guest posts each month on sites with great audiences.

This is likely the millionth article published on guest blogging—do I win a prize?—so instead of running through the gauntlet of baby steps that everyone else covers, I’m simply going to share the somewhat different things I’ve tried that have worked for us in the past 14 months.

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30,000 newsletter subscribers in 12 months

Few businesses benefit as much as software companies from the use of content marketing and customer education. Today I wanted to at least contribute a modest content success story outside of the usual suspects (Mint, OKCupid, etc).

The Help Scout blog has had a solid first year, and in a short 12 months we’ve managed to build up a newsletter of 30,000 subscribers, when tens of thousands of visitors per month — over 100,000 last month.

I’d like to simply distill some of the more important things I’ve learned over these past 12 months and go over the fundamentals of how we made it happen.

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Defining your content’s goals, with bread

One of the toughest things about “content” is defining and implementing goals for individual pieces.

Today, I wanted to elaborate on a bit of advice that I was first told about from Pamela Vaughn of HubSpot. She and her team get all credit for the terms I’m about to use.

Thinking about content in a wheat vs. white context can change the way you write. It has helped me focus on what the secondary goal of a piece of content should have, other than “be good.”

Below I’ll explain the difference between the two types, and how you can put each into practice.

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A stupidly simple way to get more people to read your content

Given the incredibly positive feedback that my previous post on building 30k subscribers in 12 months received, I wanted to take the next few articles and share some more in depth tactics on strategies I used to make it happen (so make sure you’re on my newsletter).

To begin, it’s very likely that you’ve come across a “round-up” post on your time online. If you don’t know what that is, it’s when a blog rounds up a few notable experts on a single topic and gets them to share their advice.

The gist of using this technique is that the people featured will share the post. It’s a nice way to get a post off the ground, but wouldn’t it be even sweeter if you could somehow get that benefit while writing a truly long form article that address an topic in full?

This is where the drip technique comes into play.

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How to read and organize online articles (without driving yourself crazy)

The secret to great writing is great reading material. To that point, I am often asked the question:

How do you organize all of the things you read?

My system is actually pretty simple, and it relies on organizing my regular reads, quick digesting and sorting one-off articles, and sometimes doing extensive note-taking with online apps.

Let’s break it down.

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Be Like Han: 7 Life Lessons from Han Solo

I’ve learned many things about bettering myself from Han Solo.

Han deals with force users, droids and imperial fleets on a regular basis, yet he’s been gifted with nothing more than a quick wit, his fellow “nerfhearder” Chewie, and the Millennium Falcon (equivalent in today’s standards to a beat up Camero).

Despite the fact that every other main character in the original Star Wars trilogy is either uniquely gifted, the “chosen one”, or simply benefits from the small advantage of being able to control shit with their mind, Han still prevails as the most badass character in each film.

Here are some life lessons from Mr. Solo.

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The science of creating controversial content

If there is one rule that permeates the web, it’s that controversy is key if you want to get people talking.

Most of us recognize this, but we implement this strategy so poorly that it’s painful to watch. I’ve witnessed companies turn their publication into a vendetta machine, trying to stir up controversy by calling out individuals and other businesses.

That strategy is dumb because it puts you on a fast-track for being viewed as an attention grubbing sleazebag who lacks professionalism and the ability to keep their mouth shut.

And yet, I still advocate for creating the right kind of controversial content. So, how can we have our cake and eat it too?

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A not-so-brief guide to better content marketing

Expecting customers to succeed with your product without your help is expecting too much.

This is why I love working in content marketing. My job boils down to proactive education that helps businesses succeed with our software.

About me? I’ve been a content strategist for quite a while now, focusing exclusively on software startups. I mostly did contract/freelance work for the first couple of years, but I’ve recently joined up with an amazing team full-time.

It’s a SaaS startup called Help Scout, and it provides an easy help desk/email support solution for small business owners.

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List Building for Blogs: The Only Guide You'll Ever Need

Building an email list is the #1 way to grow a blog from a vacant no-man’s land in to a thriving metropolis.

Bottom line.

…but I can’t just say that and not offer up the proof!

Below, I’m going to show you why building your email list/newsletter is far-and-away a better use of your time vs. focusing on your social media profiles, and I’m then going to get into the most in-depth post on building a list from a blog.

Let’s jump in!

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The 5 Core Human Drives (Which Does Your Business Sell?)

Recently, I’ve been reading The Personal MBA (by Josh Kaufman), and my thoughts are so far that it’s an interesting book, but it’s definitely aimed towards folks who have had zero experience in the arena of self-employment.

That’s not to say that the book isn’t valuable, it’s just that each section reads a little too quickly and won’t dive into topics deeply (if that is what you are looking for).

That being said, there are some great fundamental discussions in the book.

I wanted to discuss the section on core human drives, and hear your thoughts about this categorization of what people want.

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