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Traffic Growth, Boosting Your Rankings, and Analytics with Databox’s Kevin Kononenko

January 21, 2020

hello everyone we are back with another
AMA in our special series at inbound in Boston and today I have Kevin’s
Kononenko that’s a mouthful but very cool name
he works at databox which full disclosure we are databox partners but
it’s an amazing tool and Kevin’s role there is as a Content marketer and you
lead their blog right so those of you out there struggling with getting
traffic, coming up with content ideas, optimizing content, we’re gonna talk all
about that stuff and thank you for joining me
yeah thanks so much for having me Tammy. Absolutely. So, I’ve got my questions here um you know
I’m very forward without my paper I’m living in the future now alright so you grew traffic
databox from 12,000 monthly sessions to 60,000 in just 16 months
that’s impressive, how? okay so I’m sure it’s not a simple
answer so break it down so one quick caveat to that I want to give full
credit to my team is that so I joined in March 2017 and then we had our director
of marketing John Bonini join in October of 2017 so there’s a six-month stretch
in there what is mainly just me and since then we’ve expanded the team to
John and then we have another team member named Spella in Slovenia and a couple freelancers So it’s changed but that first amount of momentum was me so I can talk about that route okay being humble yeah full credit um I think to take it a step back here
one of the great things about working at databox is that we have a really strong
feeling of who our customer is and like what niche were targeting so one of the
biggest ones for us is HubSpot partners our CEO Peter Caputa previously at the HubSpot Partner Program and he knows all about that world and
he has really good feel of what the problems they are facing and how we use databox to solve them so you know on one hand there’s the organic content side and I’ll take about that in a moment, but in terms of targeting a niche that’s gone really far when you think about
like creating a word of mouth with it right how many dashboard tools are out there? there’s there’s a lot of dashboard tools and from our perspective you got
to find a way to distinguish yourself these are all open API anyone can
build on these API so what’s gonna be the difference with your tools and all
the other dashboard tools plus all these little nuances add up and those are the things that
aren’t gonna get someone over the hump from usually you using no dashboard tool
whatsoever using an Excel spreadsheet or powerpoint tools that you know really well
but might encourage lot of manual labor and and get him over the hump to
adopting a new tool so I’d say just like really focusing on the problems within the HubSpot partner community has allowed us to create word of
mouth which in terms of strictly metric driven terms is direct traffic a lot of the times people typing your your name into the browser. So know your niche, what you’re going after and it’s really and that really comes
off of them knowing what the exact problems are and being able to speak to
those that’s what people search for yeah answers to the problems I think you
bring up at the point sometimes people just start writing about what they know
or what they think is like you good content and if you’re not answering a
question that someone has or solving a problem they don’t care yeah and I I
think the specificity is been really helpful for us so like let’s think about
the content our competitors are writing they all use content marketing as one of their main strategies they’re all
sort of talking about the same things they’re talking about the value of KPIs
in your business they’re talking about the value of automating your reporting
or you know the top marketing metrics but it’s that little extra step that we
take that makes it contextual to the HubSpot community that sets us apart and
I think that’s one of the reasons that HubSpot partners may not have adopted any of the other tools or some of them have
tried one or two in the past but this is the thing that goes way of above and
beyond we understand your problems a little more than just the general KPI article which solves a lot of people’s problems but might not speak to that one demographic and so that was
like the the branding direct side yeah and then in terms of organic traffic I
think one of the biggest things we’ve done is we have this co-marketing process so perhaps you’ve been a part of it. We may have participated in it, the reason I really like the co-marketing strategy is we’ll either talk to our existing customers or
we’ll do cold outreach to people on the internet and it’s just purely again giving them something beneficial to them, in this case a backlink when they contribute to one of our posts and there’s no sales pitch that comes in the second or third email right it’s just
purely give and it’s a way to get people familiar with the brand in a really positive way
and get some good free content yeah right exactly so then when you think about the
organic side you know that turns into I think our goal has been releasing two or three of those post a week those are two or three posts that are two thousand, three thousand words targeted at a specific topic such as all
the digital marketers and then we later ask people to share it it’s getting
shared in that niche again, it comes back to the niche, and that’s what takes us beyond just traffic into getting enough momentum to
get those sign up like I think about it like I know in sales there’s a there’s a
big history of multiple touches right it’s like how many touches within two
weeks I think for us content works a little bit of the same way where you want you want to create that momentum within the HubSpot partner community people need to be hearing about you over and over again it’s probably not some people may
just one hearing about the dashboard tool thinking “oh that’ll solve my problems” most people, they’re busy with their day,
they might hear about you once but then after it becomes repeated you keeping hearing
about us do things like co-marketing then they’re gonna try to say alright I
gotta try this tool and other people in my niche that are
doing what I’m doing are finding success with it I can relate to yeah
and so you know and I I think it’s interesting when you have so just going
back to the niche that sometimes people get afraid to niche down because then
essentially saying we’re saying kind of no to a part of the market but like you
said everybody’s fighting for that for that undifferentiated side of the market
and then when you nice down you own that niche and in the end it can end up with
actually more customers more traffic all of that because you are differentiated no
one else is trying to own that space yeah especially when you’re a dashboard tool most of the market doesn’t have a dashboard tool right. They’re using excel or
PowerPoint and so it’s not you’re not always competing against these other
people you’re competing against just inaction or just doing nothing which it’s
always easy to keep on that status quo, everyone loves to stick with excel, you’re taught that from middle school or whatever when you learn how to use these tools so that’s where it especially helps is getting over that barrier and helping conceptualize that
this tool will solve multiple types of problems they might not have seen are all part of one bigger problem. That’s awesome, keep up with the good work and
you know we we started looking into doing some of those types of co-marketing efforts
with other people on our own blog so I’ll let you know how that goes. yeah happy to help if you need it! alright oh did you hear that he said
yeah alright I love this question I’ve been asking this question to almost every
one I’ve been talking to in this series but I like to hear all of your different perspectives so if I want to improve my rankings and boost
traffic to my site where’s my time better spent, optimizing my old
content or creating new content? yeah yeah good question good question so I
would say the first thing that comes to mind is just how much blog traffic
are you generating in the first place and also what are your goals so let’s say
if your goal is go from 1000 monthly sessions to 1200 monthly session
you might just need to optimize old content frankly you know there might not need to
be a big undertaking that goes along with that if you’re like more on
venture-backed startup and you’re more on that piece you probably need to have
a huge domain with pages covering a bunch of different keywords or the pillar
cluster contents that we can read a lot of content to support that I would say
we spend most of our time writing new content and there will be a time down
line like our goal for this year is to do one hundred-thousand session, well once you’re at one hundred-thousand sessions
there it better be an optimization process then but I think for the time
being we are really trying to build out those pillars and clusters and and go in
that direction so I’d say it depends on your goals and it depends on the point
that you’re at like we work let’s say impact branding right they’ve got a huge
blog or if you’re HubSpot you have a huge blog for them optimization might be it or even if you sell to like big enterprise clients like a
manufacturing client and you have one post that does really well you might want to
put more time than any of that but I most people I talk to I feel like new
content for me is the one, you just got to build up that domain and have the commitment week in and week out. And like you mentioned, building those content pillars around the problems that people have within your niche and all that so and I think it depends
what kind of legacy content do you have what state is it in I know we went through
kind of an optimization process of like 6 years of blogging that many of the
articles weren’t really relevant to what we did anymore and then you know trying to
build out these content clusters to figure out what is worth saving what’s
worth you know optimizing and then what do we kind of redirect or get rid of and
you know so like you said it depends on where you’re at in your business
yeah yeah I think in all those cases your right optimization would be the right choice. right right right right um I guess you could do both but if you have limited resources sometimes you have to pick and choose
yeah yeah all right so how do you decide and I’m I’m really personally interested
about this because we put out a biweekly newsletter yes so how do you guys at databox decide what to include it in your email newsletter? yeah so one of the
great things about working databox is we have we have a direct side so just
normal businesses and then we’ve got the agency side and so and also we know what
data sources people are connecting so if you’re using HubSpot thats probably says
something about you probably practicing inbound marketing and so we’re able or we
actually have we call them connector specific newsletters we’re able to
target content based on what connectors people are using within our platform and
so yeah if you’re using you know Facebook ads we probably know something
about you and if you care about paid social ads and so and then we actually have one more
newsletter outside of like the connector specific ones of our users which I’ll
come I mean it’s kind of a the potpourri the all of the above
yeah it’s the users that haven’t activated this datasource yet and also there are
email subscribers and it’s gotten sizeable over the over the years so for our connector
specific newsletters that means they’re using these they’ve used the product
seriously at least once we can direct things at that certain type of market I
think the hardest one to do is Google Analytics because if you use Google
Analytics what does that say about you? I’m not sure exactly. so with those ones we might include
things like web design we’ve done articles about web design, we’ve done more like general digital marketing tips
we have a bunch of posts about google analytics dashboard, but the HubSpot newsletter we can include some really specific content
from our top partners that’s targeted to that
so I’d say all of those those newsletters for the the on-boarded users
are more about just how to become a better digital marketer and making the
assumption that they’re already using a dashboard tool and a dashboard tool
won’t solve all your problems so like how do you do all the other things.
for the content newsletter we call it our top content newsletter which just
goes out to the unactivated users and the subscribers it’s essentially like it
your unsegmented people yeah you’re kind of it’s brilliant that you get I mean
segmentation active segmentation it’s so brilliant because I I imagine I’m just
guessing that unsegmented email newsletter the conversion rates open
rates on that are substantially lower than those on the segmented pieces yeah
yeah so depends how much but lower definitely
yeah substantially yeah but but lower so I mean segmentation is always going to
improve things but so that could I see a challenge so how do you choose those content
tables yeah so for that one we will include things like we’ve have some
great posts from I know IMPACT branding has done one for us they’ll share all the dashboards that they use to run the marketing team, so IMPACT is a five-person
marketing team they’ll share the ten dashboard they use to manage all the different marketing activities
that’s the kind of thing to share what with that newsletter because that would be
useful for a director who isn’t sure if dashboards are right for them or like I
how do I work this into my existing process that’s more a little more conversion for
at this rate because they can download those dashboards and start using them and I’d say that’s one of our big pieces of content
the other big thing that goes into content newsletter is like just like
solidifying the problem in people’s mind we’ll talk about SMART goals and things like
that because we finally found that SMART goals are a big reason people use our product and most of the market is using
SMART goals right so we’re still trying to educate people about that so that one
might not have as direct impact on conversion but it all goes to solidifying
that set of problems in people’s minds that should get them over the hump of like “I’m using nothing”
to I need to use one tool to track all of this so essentially in that one email
newsletter you’re trying to cover almost different content at different stages
of the buyers journey whether there’s you know just at the awareness stage trying
you what exactly the problem is with like SMART goals, to considerations what
are my options okay I’m gonna make SMART goals then how
do i track them what are my options out there and then some decision-based
content that like here is these dashboards you can create yeah I mean that one has five
slots and it only comes out once a month so if you have like multiples of content
do you go based on you know what was our traffic what was the interaction with it
on social how do you literally curate which individual pieces
go in within a month’s? because you’re creating so much content yeah yeah so
first it’s super fortunate to have the connector specific newsletters we can
already cut the pool way down after that I honestly just make a qualitative decision
based on the quality of writing I’d say like we include three links and three articles or videos or podcasts we’ve done and each of the newsletters and I’d say number one will be
something that I felt was really well written and a high quality piece of
content or if it’s something that did well on social or email but we don’t know that yet, but yeah did well on social let’s say then I may put that in there. Next question, we’re going to get a little more into that reporting and whatnot so this
is a couple part questions but what reports should every marketer be looking
at on a daily basis monthly basis and then quarterly bases okay oh okay so for
us this is something that you’re going to hear more and more over the course of 2018 and into 2019 is
it really depends on your goals on your company goals so let’s say you want to grow
your website traffic by twenty percent this month because you want to grow your revenue by 15% and you’ve tracked that funnel as HubSpot likes to do from that point forward it requires a
bit of customization on your part to try to understand where is that 20 percent
growth in traffic going to come from is it gonna come from social or organic or
even trying to think about all those things
so I’d say in terms of this the high-level strategy, what needs to go in
your dashboards it needs the needs some you got to make some bets yourself as a
marketer right you don’t want to spend evenly spend your time on six different
marketing channels because you might not hit your goal in that case you need to make some sort of bet that one channel is gonna carry you and you can see a
path that comes first is setting up that goal and then after that I would say we
advised I’ll start on the like quarterly basis right quarterly basis you want to
set some sort of intermediate goal thats going to lead up to that annual goal and I think the beauty of think of it that way: quarterly, monthly and daily is it gives you
so many opportunities for feedback on your decisions yeah and we talk to a lot
of marketers that are making one annual plan let’s say okay we’re here’s our
goal for the year we’re going to write you know ten pieces of blog content a
month to E-books, whatever and we’ll re-evaluate at the end of the year and it’s really hard as just a human team to get
any feedback on your decisions when you do that and so I’d say on the quarterly
level that’s like if you even just start there you’re gonna get more feedback and
so that really really you need to break your goals up into these segments
anyways and then make sure that things are headed in that right direction
like you said if you think this is the action that’s gonna get me to my yearly
goal but you’re a quarter in and it’s not even indicating that it’s going
that direction at that point if you haven’t been looking at anything you
will have wasted a whole year versus at a a quarter at a month and say maybe we
need to pivot a little bit yeah number of at-bats is another metaphor
about just if you only have one annual plan you get one at-bat and you might be
great marketer and you can do everything with one at-bat but you might want four
at-bats you know to give yourself a chance and then okay so we talked about quarterly and then on the monthly basis I’d say divide that even
further and we also at the monthly level we also bring in the concept of leading
and lagging indicators we’re big fans of the book four disciplines of execution, I don’t know if you’re familiar with this one. I’m not I’ve been getting a lot of book recommendations from these
interviews though so I will add that to my reading list, you all add it to you reading list. I’ll quickly summarize one of the most
important parts is this concept of leading and lagging indicators so a leading
indicator is an activity that you can control that you believe will lead to results
and the lagging indicator are those results just are the things that we were
expecting to work did they actually work and that’s actually out of your control, monthly traffic is kind of your control, in the arms of Google or whatever it is up to them to
figure out so like let’s say a leading indicator for you is you want to wright 15
blog posts this month and then maybe we also want to send out 150 pitch emails
for backlinks and that is something we can control
if we’re good email copywriters will get a bunch of response on that but these
are all activities we believe will lead to a big growth in organic traffic towards the goal so I’d say on the monthly basis you can
start like holding your team accountable to those leading and lagging indicators
and that gives you more data if you’re tracking leading ones on like what do we
need to do next because because maybe you thought we need to write 50 blog
post a month to grow by 20% that’s actually 25 or maybe it’s less or maybe you can turn to another or you or you put even more resources because it’s working so well so who knows
and I’d say on a daily basis on the third tier the best thing in our product
we have like a daily scorecard and a more important one might be alerts so a
scorecard is a lot of marketing initiatives are long-term right you’re
not gonna every giving day might not have a big impact so that’s just nice to
inform you but the alerts are probably a bigger deal so you can set up an alert for if one particular post is going particularly well that might start to kick-off things in
your brain like I need to share this on social more I need to post it in a
certain form I need to include in my newsletter so you can set up
good alerts and then there’s also the bad alerts like hey I’m in charge of
doing paid social for my company and we forgot to flip something on or off and
now the ads aren’t running that’s a really silly way into like miss your
goal because, or your website’s down yeah everything’s 404ing and you don’t know what happened, yeah something
like that that’s like bad alert but also good that you know it so in other words a daily basis might be the best way to just keep you in
touch with especially good special or especially bad updates that was a complicated question I really appreciate your answer, all
right I’m gonna skip down a little bit and talk about something
interesting so you are really into psychology and everyone who watches know that’s what my doctorate is in
says so I would love to talk about this with you but anyways I am just curious you know
you say that you like to apply evolutionary and the hero psychology
to marketing yeah how do you do that what are some really important theories
or way of thinking that you’ve seen really applicable to marketing yeah
yeah so I’d say one of the the biggest things is like when it comes to being a
dashboard tool this is one of the reasons I’m enthusiastic to join data
box in the first place is that people are much better at comprehending
relative metrics as opposed to absolute metrics
and kind of evolutionary one of the evolutionary underpinnings of this I
believe your people correctly is that people’s consciousness status so humans
evolved in tribes of 150 people or less all this good stuff you always have to
be aware of what your status welcome to tribe to see how you compared to other
people and that’s like a relative not right there’s no, it tells you something
about your role and your place yeah relieves uncertainty for a person because we like
to know what we’re supposed to do and and how to behave so that’s one
indicator yeah yeah so if you think about that relative concept when it
comes to digital marketing metrics a lot of people will focus everything on an
absolute number they’ll have a spreadsheet that just said you did
twenty thousand sessions this month and and you know you did you have fifty more
social followers wherever that is and that’s so just one metric that will be hard to
comprehend but even when you put it in a spreadsheet let’s say and you just line
up a bunch of absolute metrics people’s brains aren’t really good at translating
like the hard numbers, if you put it in a graph that puts takes all the emphasis
off of those specific numbers and puts it into a relative trend of like how
did my numbers change over the last six months and that’s just so much easier
for people to comprehend immediately as opposed to saying and thinking about it
for a few minutes so I’d say that one of the biggest ones
it’s just absolutely relative and that’s where graphs and data visualization comes in and makes it easy and the other one that I’ve talked for about
is feedback loops it’s another one I am big on because I like goals and I’ll
explain a little bit about psychology behind that the biology is that people
are always trying to make homeostasis which is your your body staying in the
same state and feeling consistent and that things aren’t out of whack and
bothering you and one of the ways that you can so if you don’t say goals it’s
very easy to stay within homeostasis but actually not move your marketing
metrics just kind of drift along into the future
and then next thing you know at the end of the year you might not have accomplished
what you wanted to, and so when you have I wish I could remember the framework around this okay, let’s say you
start setting monthly goals people’s brains are gonna get a little out of homeostasis right there’s there’s a change in the world that needs to happen
well there’s the the future self or the goal doesn’t match the person’s you know
the the current state or the ideal self and so there’s like this dissonance and
and uncomfortableness yeah that they want to then resolve yes and it needs to be a slight
uncomfortableness right because if people get too uncomfortable then they might
start to resent the leadership of the company and whatnot but
turtle yeah yeah yes that’s where the leadership leadership stuff comes in but
um so lets you create that slight discomfort and what’s gonna happen is as
long as you give people the ability to do something about it their brains are
gonna kick in and just start people’s brains to start thinking about it when
they’re not at work and other times of the day just just like kind of illuminating
and turning on it and that’s more of what you want in
terms of hitting that goal it’s like a slight bit of discomfort and then resetting the end of the month
either reducing the goal or raising the goal but keeping keep it moderate not
like really upsetting people with some ridiculous like that you need to grow
out of control but also that’s a good way to get them to create that feedback
rating of what I need to do differently this month and the next, the goal needs to be within reach
but you know like reachable but something that someone has to strive for
yeah ideally right so if you and you sit the unreasonable goal someone will just decide not to do anything because its impossible anyways kind of that learned helplessness like I
can’t do anything about it anyways but you’re right if it’s just a little bit better or if
you you know they say like if you’re working with someone that’s just a
little bit better than you you’re not totally or you compare yourself to
someone else just a little bit better than you you’re more likely to improve
than someone that’s like ridiculous like I’m not gonna compare myself to Brian Halligan here or something but maybe we can compare to each other you know and I just want to be a little bit better and I feel like you’re a little bit better
than me and I can strive for that yeah yeah yeah if the goal is too unrealistic
another way of maintaining homeostasis is to just start ignoring it right because if you’re not
thinking about it then it’s not going to bug you anymore but if it’s in the reasonable category then you can still
just create that little bit of discomfort I mean I’m a psychologist and I haven’t even thought about how this, how this relates to dashboards, who knew, well I have really
enjoyed talking with you today Kevin and I love your guys work and I think if
you’re not familiar with Databoxer at least just with their blogs and what
they’re doing on social you should follow them to have a lot of great
content that comes out from from real marketers doing work so they asked us
for for us to give advice and about things you know from what’s better HTML
or plain text emails or what dashboards do you use on a daily basis these things
that you want to know what other people in your role are actually doing so it’s
really really helpful I really love your guys content and I want thank you again for joining me, yeah happy to do it, all right you guys that wraps up another special AMA at inbound we’re
gonna go party somewhere I mean go to sessions and learn bye you guys. If you
like that I bet you like this or check out this video and don’t forget to

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