BLACKSHIP ONE PRESENTS…
The Best Content Marketing Agencies Pick Keywords Like Buffett Picks Stocks
We own a small empire of internet companies. When producing content for those projects, we look at keywords and topics much like Warren Buffett looks at stocks.
Our Content Marketing Agency Picks Keywords Like We’re Picking Stocks
Content changes businesses. Content changes lives.
Over the years my content marketing efforts have allowed me to do everything from build a small empire of revenue generating online businesses (like the site you’re on right now), travel the world and even buy a liveaboard sailboat.
This has been possible, because from a young age, I’ve approached content marketing much like Warren Buffett has approached picking stocks.
Today I help run Blackship.One (a content marketing agency) designed to help technology brands grow. However my foray into content marketing started 20 years ago when I first started developing digital products as a University student.
Where investing and content marketing intersect
From a young age I’ve been interested in business and investing and as soon as I turned 16 I purchased my first stock. I found a stock club in an investment magazine. I simply had to cut out a stock selection form, write down the stocks I wanted to purchase on this sheet of paper and then mail the investment group a cheque for the purchase price. They would then buy the shares for me and take a small fee.
At this time, I had no investors in my family. Therefore, in order to learn how to invest I needed to make trips to the local library.
This is when I first stumbled upon the famous investor, Warren Buffett. While Warren Buffett has never written a book, he has written a series of annual letters to his shareholders which provide a great deal of insight into the way he looks at investing and business in general.
His approach to investing was heavily influenced by his teacher, Benjamin Graham, who is known today as the father of “value investing”. Graham’s book The Intelligent Investor, was published in 1949 but is studied around the world today by people interested in learning how to evaluate companies.
Around this same time, I also started learning how to make websites. I started teaching myself both front-end and backend development. The more I learnt about how websites worked, the more I viewed them as a new asset class. Just as others were investing in real estate or the stock market, my goal was to invest in this new type of digital asset.
For the fist few years I was mostly just learning. I would built something (my first website was a music forum), then throw it away and build something else. Most of my projects were making pennies, if anything.
A few years passed and I entered University. I was 19 years old and I was still actively building websites and investing in the stock market.
However, at 19 years old I cracked the code on website monetization. At the time I was obssessed with men’s health and built a website that was primarily monetized through affiliate links and advertising. At this point, my web properties were making me between $100 – $200 / day because I was spending time daily creating high-end content that Google loved.
My investments on the other hand were only increasing between 5% to 15% / year. Because I was dealing with such small investments (under $1000), this didn’t really amount to much at the end of the year.
As a 19 year old boy, the payout I was getting from my websites was way more exciting to me than my stock market payouts.
That said, I didn’t give up on the stock market entirely. I was still fascinated by stock analysis and learning how to read financial statements. Strangely, I even found accounting fascinating. But now I was fascinated by these topics, not because I wanted to invest in publicly traded companies, but because I wanted to apply the learnings to my own web properties.
Applying investment knowledge to building an empire of websites
Up until this point, I was mostly just succeeding at content marketing because there was so little compeition at the time. At that point in my internet career, my content was responsible for driving 100% of my sales. I knew that if I wanted to bring my dreams of building a portoflio of internet companies to life, I would need to make it my mission to figure out how the internet worked. I didn’t want to continue succeeding on brute force and luck.
I figured, if I could better understand how Google’s algorithm worked, it would be a bit of a super power and allow me to scale my empire of digital assets much quicker.
In this blog post, I want to talk to you about how I used Warren Buffett’s stock investment philosophies as my guiding light as I scaled my internet properties up into website that received millions of yearly visits.
1. Don’t judge my content’s short term performance.
One of the biggest mistakes I see most content marketers make is that they give up on their content marketing campaign too early. They judge their efforts 3 months in and don’t see the results they want, so they give up.
In one of his letter’s to investors Warren Buffett had the following to say about performance jugdements and time horizons:
“While I much prefer a five-year test, I feel three years is an absolute minimum for judging performance. It is a certainty that we will have years when the partnership performance is poorer, perhaps substantially so, than the Dow. If any three-year or longer period produces poor results, we all should start looking around for other places to have our money.”
Warren Buffett went on to say:
“Before I ran this [BRK], I had a partnership. I had a great group of partners. And essentially, I like to be left alone to do what I did. I like to be judged on the scorecard at the end of the year rather than on every stroke, and not second guessed in a way that was inappropriate.”
At Blackship.One, we take a similar approach for our client sites and our own sites. Not every piece of content you publish will be a huge success. Similarly, sometimes you’ll take a swing and miss. At our agency, we tend not to focus on winning every single batter, our main focus is on winning the war. Content marketing is one of the most powerful growth channels, but it’s also one of the harder channels to succeed at.
Not only is it really hard. But the process (especially early on), can be quite slow. The content you publish today will need time to earn the necessary signals required to do well in organic search. Ahrefs published a study analyzing the results of 2 million pages and they found that the average age of a page on the 1st page of Google is over 3 years old. The same study found that 95% of new content won’t rank within the first year.
There is so much data publically aviable on to thopic of “how long does it take to rank in organic search”. Yes, even with this data avaialable, people still see view themselves as an exception to the rule and expect massive results in 4 months.
Huge results do come, but they come slowly. For us, content has driven over 80% of all of our sales across all of the web properties we own. Content is the single biggest driver of growth for our company and therefore we’re happy to play the long game.
2. Squiggles are for giggles
This point builds off the point above, but essentially, if as an investor, you’re too zoomed in on a stock’s price trading chart, it’s hard to separate signal from noise.
You’ll see a lot of candlesticks going up and down in a seemingly sporadic fashion. A big institutional investor might cash out and you’ll see a price drop. Or speculative news might break that inspires a buying spree and pushes stock prices up. Thousands of these little event can happen in a day. In a lot of cases this is all just noise, with no real connection to the value of the company people are betting on or against.
Technical investors rely on studying these patterns and they make buying decisions based on the historical performance of patterns. Often these investors don’t have a clue what they are buying. They are just buying (or selling) the probability of a certain candlestick formation.
Warren buffet has never subscribed to this approach when selecting companies to invest in. In fact, in the book “ground rules”, the author states that:
“The squiggles, as it were, are “for giggles.” We should only care about trailing 3-year figures (at a minimum) because that is the threshold where markets can be expected to become efficient. Five years is better. A full market cycle is the best period over which to evaluate an active manager.
What we take from this at our content marketing agency is that being too zoomed in can lead to a lot of inaccurate readings.
You might publish a post and it gets picked up on Google’s news feed for a day, or you might publish on social media and your content goes viral. Big spikes in traffic are exciting and you might feel on top of the world for 24 hours.
Other times, you’ll invest a week in writing a perfect piece of content, you’ll publish it, and nothing…. Radio silence. It’s discouraged to say the least.
At Blackship.One we work day in and day out to produce value, but we don’t focus too heavily on reading noise signals, whether they be positive or negative. What we’re looking for, is a growth curve that’s pointing up and to the right at a healthy incline by the end of the year.
3. Business is most intelligent when it’s most investment-like
Benjamin Graham said that investment is “most intelligent when it is most businesslike”. I would also argue that business is most intelligent when it’s most investment-like.
This is why we look at content as an investment. We can leverage content to create a passive stream of income for us for many years to come. The more content we create, the more awareness we drive to our brands.
Therefore, when approaching content we’re not looking for some gimmicky quick win. We’re not looking to produce content faster or cheaper than anyone else. As ranking in organic search becomes more challenging, producing exceptional content is of paramount importance.
In short, great content is an investment in your company’s future well being.
4. Compounding traffic growth is powerful
One of my biggest takeaways from Warren Buffett’s investment style is his focus on the simple math of compounding growth. What seems like insignificant improvements in value can have a huge impact over time.
We see this same compounding effect in the world of content marketing. Incremental increase in traffic leads to huge results down the line.
Depending on the site we’re working on, we generally aim for between 20% to 200% or higher MoM growth. But let’s be conservative and assume that our web property only grows on average at 20% MoM.
Let’s image we’re starting with a website that has 2000 monthly unique visitors. You’ll work like crazy your first month and after the first 30 days you’ll only be up to 2400 visitors. At this point, it hardly feels worth it ton continue. Often you’ll work 12 to 16 hour days for a full month for 400 extra visitors. Most people see these numbers and give up.
For those that don’t, the next month isn’t much better. Another 30 days of intense work and now you’re only up to 2880. At this point, even people who didn’t think they would give up, do. They give up because either they run out of money or feel totally exhausted from the process. It’s hard to produce enough content for a 20% MoM growth rate.
However, what happens if you don’t give up? Let me show the power of compounding traffic growth:
Starting point: 2000 unique visitors / month at a 20% MoM growth rate
Month 1: 2400
Month 2: 2880
Month 3: 3456
Month 4: 4147
Month 5: 4976
Month 6: 5971
Month 7: 7166
Month 8: 8599
Month 9: 10,319
Month 10: 12,383
Month 11: 14,860
Month 12: 17,832
Of course, this is over simplified math, but at our content marketing agency we do this all of the time. This is exactly how we scaled a recent web property from 6000 monthly page views to 168,000 page views in only 6 months.
Compounding website traffic growth is as real as compounding investment returns. Results are not attractive early on in the process, but if you stick with it for one to three years, you’ll have a widely valuable digital asset on your hands.
5. Don’t be enticed by inferior techniques
In the world of investing you have people who try to lure you (and your money) into a strategy they claim will help produce fast and above average results.
In the world of investing, it’s often reputable people with less slimy business tactics that are trying to sell you inferior performance.
Look at the data around managed funds for example. The majority of managed funds underperform the market as a whole. In most cases, you’re better off buying an index fund (which is an average of the market) than you are investing with an active fund manager.
Active fund managers win some and they lose some. But if you look at their aggregate performance at the end of the year, the vast majority of them underperform the market as a whole.
You see the exact same dynamic play out in the world of content marketing. You have people telling you to invest heavily in building your Twitter following, Facebook group or Instagram account. Other will tell you the road to internet millions is on Pinterest or TikTok.
For people who are drawn towards shortcuts, it’s easy to get enticed by inferior methods.
When you feel burned by these inferior methods, you often jump to another inferior method. Often after wasting years jumping between inferior methods, you realize that the shortcut was actually the long cut, and in many cases, people would have already found themselves at their desired outcome, if they just never wavered from the long path in the first place.
This is another thing I learnt from Warren Buffett. Although it doesn’t always seem obvious at first, the longcut is often the shortcut.
6. Establish the measurement standard and put measuring sticks in place beforehand
Buffett’s own performance goals for the partnership were ambitious. His goal was to beat the Dow by an average margin of 10 points per year.
On the topic of the importance of goal setting and measurements he had this to say:
“The outstanding item of importance in my selection of partners, as well as in my subsequent relations with them, has been the determination that we use the same yardstick. If my performance is poor, I expect partners to withdraw, and indeed, I should look for a new source of investment for my own funds. If performance is good, I am assured of doing splendidly, a state of affairs to which I am sure I can adjust”
Buffett went on to say the following:
“I would consider a year in which we declined 15% and the Average 30% to be much superior to a year when both we and the Average advanced 20%. Over a period of time there are going to be good and bad years; there is nothing to be gained by getting enthused or depressed about the sequence in which they occur. The important thing is to be beating par; a four on a par three hole is not as good as a five on a par five hole and it is unrealistic to assume we are not going to have our share of both par three’s and par five’s.”
However, it’s the following quote on measurement that I think about the most here at Blackship.One. On July 8th, 1964, Buffet wrote his investors saying:
“It is perhaps too obvious to say that our policy of measuring performance in no way guarantees good results—it merely guarantees objective evaluation.”
This quote applies to content marketing because if, as content marketers, we’re able to objectively measure our performance, we’ll be able to improve our performance.
As I’ve mentioned numerous times throughout this article, achieving explosive monthly organic growth rates won’t always be possible. There will be times when we’ll be down some months. When this happens, if we know what our goals are and we know the yardstick we’re using to measure our performance, we’ll be able to properly analyze the situation. Without goals and yardsticks, we won’t be able to properly judge our performance and it will be much harder to plan the required corrective measures if need be.
7. You have to be highly disciplined to succeed at content marketing
Warren Buffett didn’t want to “play” markets. Buffett’s teacher, Benjamin Graham, in his book The Intelligent Investor, introduced “Mr. Market”, a fictional character who was manic-depressive, erratic and hard to predict.
Graham came to the conclusion, that’s it’s better not to speculate on how Mr. Market will behave on any given day. What Graham noticed was that over the long run, markets do tend to get it right and reflect a reasonable valuation of a company.
So rather than playing the market, Buffet, with a calm head, would invest in businesses with good fundamentals. What “Mr. Market” was doing this week, or this month, even this year, had very little impact on Buffet’s decisions.
However, for many people, Investing is highly emotional. We’ve found the same to be true with content marketing.
Content marketing doesn’t bear fruit overnight. It’s not uncommon to make an investment in a piece of content that won’t pay dividends for 16 months. To the undisciplined founder, it’s easy to give up by month 6.
However, at Blackship.One we stay the course and play the long game… ALWAYS.
We’ve proven our thesis many times over. So it’s important we don’t quit on our idea, before our idea quits on us.
We’ve proven that valuable content, given enough time to earn the necessary signals, can produce enormous future earning potential for many years to come. If the fundamentals look right (content quality is high, market interest exists, competition is low etc.), then continuing to produce tier-one content is the right thing to do.
To the undisciplined founder however, giving up will feel like the right thing to do.
8. You’re not right or wrong. Just develop a value system that works for you.
Warren Buffett didn’t believe his system was the only system that worked. It’s just a system that he understood well and worked well for him.
We believe the same about content marketing. It’s not the only growth channel. There are countless others. You can invest in PPC advertising, social growth, offline growth, partner or affiliate growth to name only a few example.
The reason why we prefer content marketing over other growth channels available to us, is because it’s the channel that we understand well. It’s also the channel that has outperformed every other channel for us over the years.
However, many people do find success on other channels. The reason why we tend not to focus much on those channels is because for every 1 minute we spend on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or affiliate marketing, we’re only producing a microscopic fraction of the the results that we would get if we spent the same amount of time and energy on content marketing.
9. Look for undervaluation and take a scientific approach to exploiting gaps in the market
Lastly, Warren Buffett taught me to be calculated. Mr. Buffett is very calculated in his approach to selecting stocks. He knew that he needed a scientific method for analyzing and identifying undervalued stocks.
He didn’t believe you needed to have a high IQ to do the type of work he did. You just needed a sound intellectual framework.
We take the same at our content marketing agency. For example, we have top level content plans and granular, in-the trenches keyword strategies. It’s this scientific method which allows us to outsmart our competitors and rank well in organic search.
I hope you’ve found this comparison between investing and content marketing valuable. For me personally, this approach has changed my life. I’m happy to own a small but growing portfolio of internet companies (including Blackship.One) that provide real value for customers and allow me to live the life I want.
If you’re attracted to this approach and you’re interested in working with one of the best organic growth teas on the internet, then get in contact with us today to schedule a free 45 minute consultation to learn how we can help you scale your company.
We’re a friendly and approachable team, so please don’t hesitate to reach out.
We Help You Grow Through Content
Blackship.one is a content marketing agency that helps hi-tech brands grow through the use of our organic growth playbook. We help with content planning, strategy, writing, publishing and SEO optimization. If you want to learn more about how we scaled a recent project to over 160,000 organic page views / month in 6 months, watch the video to the right. 🤝