How To Build a GTM Content Engine with Tracey Wallace

While it’s not our focus here at Verbatim, we believe in the power of SEO. 

For companies turning on GTM content, we especially believe that investing in SEO is best paired with pillar content since both have evergreen, compounding value. 

To dive deeper into best practices, we sat down with Tracey Wallace, Director of Content Strategy at Klaviyo, who gave a masterclass on leveraging content as you go to market. We cover: 

  1. Metrics that actually matter and why you should be doing less
  2. The best ways to determine your content priorities at scale
  3. How to run your SEO and pillar content on parallel paths
“There are a lot of ways you could tackle content, but building intentional frameworks and repeatable processes are ultimately the keys to success.” 

Tracey’s Playbook: Two Sides of the Content Coin

Tracey emphasizes there are two key ways to build your company’s content from scratch:

  1. The SEO approach
  2. The audience-first approach
1. Successful SEO for New Companies

Startups raising early rounds tend to have very little SEO authority – by no fault of their own.

Google prefers older domains, which yield more success within their network of backlinks. So, young companies struggle in going after competitive, high-volume keywords. 

All in all, it can take roughly 6–12 months for SEO results to turn around on those high-volume terms, which is an often unfeasible time frame for an early-stage company. 

With that, Tracey suggests the following tips for startups that do decide to go the SEO route: 

  1. Use longer-tail keywords — For instance, instead of “email marketing,” try “email marketing for automotive industries.” 
  2. Use specific terms with decent volume — Try as low as 100 searches per month. 
  3. Use terms with low difficulty scores — Compute difficulty scores with tools like Ahrefs

As a rule of thumb, keywords with solid volume and low difficulty are far likelier to rank sooner. 

Then, you’ll want to produce high-quality content for those specific terms. Tracey follows many creators on Twitter who are implementing the same playbook: 

  1. Identify key terms.
  2. Write high-quality, long-form content around them.
  3. Launch those articles, and promote them. 
  4. Try to get at least 2 to 4 backlinks on each one over the next 3 months (the sooner, and the higher the domain the backlink lives on, the better).

If you’re in an industry with rankable keywords, just start there. Most categories already have SEO-friendly topics to pick from and you plan your content roadmap for the first few months. 

2. The Audience-First Approach

Tracey champions the model of human-centered design: building solutions by interviewing users on unique problems, then going back to the drawing board to plan accordingly. 

You can apply that same concept to content by conducting targeted audience research. Identify and interview the readers you hope to attract to your blog or site. Tracey recommends: 

  1. Defining your target audience — This’ll likely be your company’s ICP
  2. Interviewing your audience — Personalize questions as the conversation progresses and figure out what keeps this audience up at night
  3. Collecting findings — Distill the problems you could solve for these users via content

Ideally, those problems will overlap with low-difficulty, longer-tail keywords. 

Overall, her key goals for content in the first couple of months are: 

  1. Shipping 1–2 articles per week with low-difficulty, longer-tail keywords
  2. Interviewing 50+ users to define common problems your content can solve

This lays the foundation for publishing some of the only content on the Internet that’s explicitly targeted to the specific problems your ICP experiences. 

“Share your content with the people you interview. Get them to help promote it, and show them you’re trying to build and write specifically for them.” 

Creating Trustworthy and Distributable Partner Content

Tracey admits it’s difficult to put out both high-quality SEO content and partner content. 

Because it requires a well-oiled team plus lots of trial and error, a model that integrates the two is typically only feasible once a company is further along on its content journey. 

Looking at her own career, the BigCommerce team found their integrated approach only after their Series D, while Klaviyo has just recently started standing up both SEO and partner content. 

Regardless, Tracey sees immense value for early-stage companies in plotting partner content across marketing channels — for four reasons: 

  1. It unlocks your network of customers, partners, and investors
  2. It helps drive distribution through co-amplification
  3. It supports an audience-first approach to content
  4. It maximizes the impact of social proof
Low-Lift Ways to Leverage Your Network

Leveraging your network is an easy way to combat subpar organic search distribution. 

As mentioned, brand-new sites have low domain rankings; it’ll take a long time before you can hit page one. So, you’ll need a lot of distribution help from partners, investors, and users. 

Tracey recommends a monthly questionnaire — sent to influencers, customers, or anyone who could have an opinion on your content — as a low-effort tactic to get your network involved. 

Whether you’re a solo founder or a small early-stage team, she stresses that anyone can do this. When writing, pushing, and analyzing these questionnaires, be sure to: 

  • Keep it short — Keep surveys to a maximum of 10 questions, all of them optional
  • Repurpose replies — Read every response and pull notable quotes into your content
  • Keep respondents involved — When a piece goes live, reach out to say, “This published piece includes your response. We’re excited to feature you!” 
  • Make it easy to share — Always tag featured individuals and include links in your emails, i.e., “Here’s the Tweet and LinkedIn post about it. Feel free to share your feature!” 

As your content capacities expand, try co-branded pieces, guest posting (aim for two guest posts per month), and more to distribute and raise your domain ranking through backlinks. 

Naturally, guest posting is also trickier to juggle since you’ll have to pitch people, write content that’s not 100% your own, and the piece will live on someone else’s site. 

“Make the most of your network – these are the people who understand both your and your target audience the most.”

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How to Leverage Social Proof and Credibility

Tracey leverages social proof to avoid speaking into a vacuum or into the void. 

It’s hard for companies to move past their own positive self-image of their product or service. As such, social proof becomes that trustworthy, neutral third party. 

Simply put: “Without social proof, there’s zero reason for readers to believe your content.” 

She instructs all of her writers to quote at least three qualified individuals in each article — an old guideline from her time in journalism. 

And if she’s not pulling direct quotes from interviews, Tracey might include Tweets or social mentions from around the web, effectively citing research others have done. 

She encourages leveraging the broad sweep of the Internet to show that others are also discussing, agreeing with, and supporting what your piece is saying. Best practices include: 

  • Avoiding data from prior to 2020, since the pandemic has changed everything
  • Gathering unique quotes that can’t just be pulled off social media by anyone
  • Linking to original data reporting and analyses from reputable sources
“Good content strategy leads with social proof and credibility, then it layers in education. Both can activate partners, investors, and influencers in your network.” 

How Enterprise Companies Can Revamp Their Content

Based on Tracey’s experience at larger enterprises, even if your company runs a blog, that doesn’t mean there’s a content engine or robust strategy in place. 

In fact, the beauty of starting something from scratch is getting to do it right from the onset. For legacy organizations, there’s often a lot of clean-up to be done. 

However, for companies at Series B, C, and beyond, having a higher domain ranking means you can stage some quick wins. Here, Tracey advises implementing key initiatives, such as: 

  • Adding gated assets to individual blog posts to drive conversions
  • Reeducating your team on how to write high-quality content
  • Looking at distribution and what garners actual shares
  • Repurposing or redirecting your existing content for quick SEO lifts

If you’re conducting an SEO audit on all existing blog content, Tracey would: 

  • Identify and consolidate any content duplication or cannibalization issues
  • Define what you do and don’t rank for vs. what you should be ranking for (and what your competitors are ranking for)
  • Read the content to understand the current quality, length, and style
  • Retrain the team and get everyone on the same page

The last is especially pertinent, explains Tracey because you can’t bulldoze over everything a team has known and worked on so far. 

Finally, as soon as possible, start to track back to revenue. 

At past companies, Tracey noticed there was little consideration of how to translate content into profit. The team would typically just hope that readers would wind up signing up or trialing. 

“If you’re at a Series-C company or larger, your team will not get the resources it needs if you cannot prove that your content generates revenue.” 

Tracey’s KPIs for High-Performing Content Engines

Content metrics don’t have to stop at the number of articles shipped, keywords ranked, etc. 

Below, Tracey outlines her two quantitative priorities for SEO: 

  1. Tracking sessions — She considers tracking sessions more accurate than page views
  2. Time & bounce rate — A high bounce rate or low time spent (on the site, an article, or a page) might indicate your content isn’t matching the intent of the search

Combining the two (by matching sessions data with bounce rates plus time spent) can offer insights on what to manipulate or tweak to continue gaining traffic. 

Tracey also uses month-over-month session numbers with Ahrefs to gauge keyword performance. After all, 90% of her articles are published and optimized for one key phrase. 

Even if it’s a lower-volume keyword, she’ll track and note its improvement. 

Track Content Success Throughout Your Funnel

Further down the funnel, Tracey will track how many readers are (depending on the CTA) signing up for a newsletter or downloading an asset. For those who download an asset, she’ll ask: 

  • How many are clicking into the email to reach the asset? 
  • How many of those downloads then turn into MQLs? 

Even if someone downloads your materials, they’re still just a lead. 

So, it’s crucial to track how many people successfully move into your MQL flow and then have your sales division follow up accordingly. 

Eliminate Your Low-ROI Efforts

To cut down on low-return tasks and spending, Tracey tracks performance data like: 

  • Total session volume and session volume per channel
  • The success of new mediums (i.e., social promos and videos)
  • Which blog posts and article formats are garnering the most traction

If you’re sizing up your channel mix, she also stresses that just because something doesn’t drive an immense impact within the first few months — that doesn’t mean it’s not working at all. 

Ultimately, Tracey advises the following takeaways on metrics: 

  1. Look at your sessions, time on site, and conversion rates based on CTA
  2. Keep a close eye on your lead-to-MQL numbers from your blog
  3. Always track your metrics back to revenue
“I’m always looking for things to stop doing. If a task or investment in content isn’t generating returns, it’s just a pain in the butt that’s not worth it.” 
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