Content First with Codeless’ Brad Smith
Content Production Experts.
Brad Smith is the Founder of Codeless.
Codeless produces hundreds of pieces each month for the top SaaS, service, and affiliate sites in the most competitive spaces on the Internet.
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Welcome to The Thoughtful Entrepreneur Show. I'm Josh Elledge, Founder and CEO of UpMyInfluence.com. We turn entrepreneurs into media celebrities, grow their authority, and help them build partnerships with top influencers. We believe that every person has a unique message that can positively impact the world. stick around to the end of the show, we're all reveal how you can be our next guest on one of the fastest growing daily inspiration podcasts on the planet in 15 to 20 minutes. Let's go.
All right with us right now. We've got Brad Smith. Brad, you're the founder of Codeless. Codeless is on the web at get Codeless.com. We're gonna be talking about SEO, we're going to talk about marketing. We're gonna talk about writing and I am grateful to have you on the show.
Thanks, Josh. Appreciate it.
So Brad, Have you always been a writer Have you done a lot of writing historically which kind of led you to grow this company and by the way, codeless is doing very, very good business. So I just First off, congratulations on your success on that. And I think you're very excited to learn some best practices and kind of, you know, you know, kind of learn about who you serve and the outcome that you help provide. And then, of course, any great advice for people that are kind of looking to up their game and writing and and especially writing for both humans and for Google.
Yeah, yeah, definitely. Yeah. So I came in, right, in kind of backwards in a way. So I was always trying to use writing to promote our other services that we were doing at the time, or promote myself. When I first became self employed. I didn't have a network. I didn't have marquee clients. I didn't have nobody knew who I was. And so I always use writing to kind of like, amplify that and get the message out. Fast forward a few years. And then I started to kind of discover this, this growing space where writers and writers about certain types of technical topics was really in demand. So that's kind of where Codeless started.
Nice. And so your background then what types of your coffee Another company, you've done, I guess, freelance of freelance writing is yourself. But what led to the creation of Codeless? Back in 2014?
Yeah, definitely. So I started out working in marketing and house at a few different places. So with a software company with a travel company just kind of bouncing around started freelancing and doing stuff on my own outside of that. So that included some freelance writing, but mostly a lot of like SEO based stuff. So everything from technical SEO to link building codeless started with kind of a different message in mind a few years ago, the initial idea was to provide more of like an integrated service, so will not just like redevelop and redesign your website, for example, then but then we'll also be able to do all the other stuff like the will be able to optimize it over time. So if it doesn't work, if a page doesn't work, if a landing page doesn't work, based on the ad campaign you're running, we'll just keep changing it keep running past it's kind of like this evolving thing. That pitch works well for certain types of things. It doesn't work well, for others, we had a lot of issues at the time just figuring out how to actually grow it. And so it was about four or five years ago, we doubled down in this kind of content first direction, because I was having a ton of success there. And it's been, it's been, you know, great ever since.
When you say content first, explain a little bit more about what you mean by that.
Yeah, definitely. So I looked, I looked at basically all the services we were providing and I thought, Okay, what are we excelling in? And what's what area what market is kind of growing? And this kind of like really long form in depth, SEO based content was exploding at the time. It's still Yeah. And so that's where I kind of doubled down in terms of like what we were doing internally at the company because I was finding personally a lot success were with it, where I was just maxed out on demand in terms of a lot of large sites trying to ask me to write for them and I just couldn't write for anyone any longer. So I tried to figure out okay, how do we scale this now? How do we scale? How do we take subject matter experts and get them to produce content a certain type of way for a certain type of company, and pretty much go above and beyond what most other companies are providing in that sense.
Okay, so, so get Codeless are you producing content for your clients website? Or are you helping them produce content that can appear elsewhere?
Both is the short answer. The long answer is, most of his work is all for clients directly. So a lot of stuff goes on their own websites. Yeah, we also do produce a lot of content that is going other places, whether that's like big media publications, Ghost writing, all that sort of thing.
Okay, and so you kind of launched this idea, and, and so did get codeless. So get codeless didn't start necessarily with only doing long form content and kind of this, you know, this hybrid of both, you know, you know, primarily, you know, content for the clients website and for distribution. But that, right, you know, it's kind of coming have evolved into the current model that you do now.
Yeah, exactly, we were trying to do a lot more, we were trying to go a lot broad.
Everybody starts with more, I'm gonna deal with this a little bit.
But then you find out quickly that you can't become an expert at all those things, and you can't really go that deep. And so I kind of got fed up and to the point where I was like, okay, we're gonna just scale back pretty much 90% of what we do focus on one thing, but just try to do it better than everyone else. So that's been kind of like the whole genesis for all this.
Right? And so now, I guess, in the early days, what were you doing to attract clients?
Everything? No. So I was a lot of personal referrals. So people I knew people I could get in front of. So especially with something public facing like content, I would try to do as much as possible to get my face and my stuff in front of the people who would eventually try to hire me. So that means, at one time writing for pretty much every big marketing related sites on the internet's I would also try to do things within that content. So I would write In a very specific, stylized, snarky way, just to try to the idea was like, how can I get someone to read this and know that it's the same writer, or the same person across, even if it's across 10 different websites. So everything from the images that I would put on there, I would try to brand the images. As I mentioned, like the way I wrote, I tried to make everything very, very specific and stylized to me, hopefully, and make it really differentiated from all the other types of stuff out there in
that space. How would you get that in front of your ideal clients? Is it pretty much hoping that they would discover you, SEO?
Part of it was that Yeah, so for any big topic, for example, like let's say, Google AdWords cost, or some just pick any big marketing topic, I try to write on those. So if anyone was searching for them, and what I was doing was I was writing for those on much bigger websites. So unbounce Moz ad espresso word stream, I was writing for those on huge websites where Yeah, the odds of success were actually really high. They're going to see it right and then generate a lot inbound attention to referrals. So people would come see who was writing about these topics. And then they would see all the other huge websites that I've written for. And that would pretty much like seal the deal if they were looking for anything remotely close to that.
Yeah. So how are you able to write for kissmetrics, unbounce, Moz, etc.
A lot of free pitching initially. So I would just, I would just try to track down either editors, I would try to a lot of places, especially in the marketing space at the time had just kind of like open calls for submission. So a lot of it was based on timing where a website might be looking like Search Engine Journal might open up their call for writers one time a year, and so you need to be prepared to act. And then you need to have really good angles and ideas. So for example, I already knew based on success on other websites, a topic like Google Analytics and how Google Analytics is lying to you. I already knew something like that was really interesting to people. And so I would kind of pitch like my best of ideas. Yeah, all these places for free initially and then after you get in Then you can kind of either, you know, try to try to assign it to the client or it usually translates into some inbound attention,
you know, when you are and this is something we have some experience with newspaper columnist now for over 11 years. And, you know, that's all we did for my other company savings angel is just, you know, it's it's serving audiences on other stages. And so obviously, writing a newspaper column every single week for the past 11 years, I've produced a lot of content, my team and I, and then of course, TV and radio and that sort of thing. But, you know, if you have a, you know, a service minded, you know, mission that you're going to just provide the highest value content possible. People will discover you there and they'll follow you. Do you have any evidence that you know, because let's say you had an article that went pretty got pretty popular in Search Engine Journal, that it translated to people reaching out to you directly to work with.
Oh, yeah, tons, tons. It's been I think a key concept there specializing in one space, because that generates referrals a lot easier. And that kind of inbound. Yeah. So I had that a time with ad espresso, for example. It's a Facebook advertising platform software. And the editor of word stream, saw my writing there and asked them actually kind of happened like, with a bunch of different places were sites that was similar to or maybe even like an indirect competitor of the site I was working with, at the time, reached out for for services. Another example was I was I was writing for unbounce. And they weren't paying writers at the time, but what they do is they would bring you for free up to their conference, and so you get free conference ticket out of it, you'd be able to go and meet people there. Yeah, again, we would usually translate into some kind of work with with people, you know, other attendees and other stuff.
And most of these these opportunities are are unpaid. Is that right? A lot of them were initially
Yeah, I mean, you like you know, at the beginning, you have a lot of time. And so and so you just have to kind of A little bit, and then eventually you can translate a lot of those like kissmetrics. I started writing for free. But then after a few months, it quickly translate into more of like a paid engagement and then scaled. Oh, we were able to, like translate a lot of those in time.
That's great. That's great. I'm good. So and, you know, does that do you think the opportunity is any more? Is it more difficult today? Or are there more platforms? And so therefore, look, you don't you don't have to, you know, I know y'all. I know you want to write for Moz but they're a little competitive. So why aim there? Like a level? Why don't you aim for like a, you know, like a C plus level blogger website with strategy advice?
Yeah, exactly. It's on the one hand is more competitive. So Moz I don't think anymore. Like is openly accepts new content. Now, people are gonna have to know their editor and you have to know how to like get in and pitch them stuff. So in one respect, it's gotten more competitive in the other respects, there are way more platforms available. There is there's are so many More websites that are doing this, the space and what I've learned is that the the amount of money in this space has also grown a lot. So content teams are bigger content teams pay writers more, they're looking for more writers to produce, like higher quantities of content. So even in the last few years, the opportunity is a lot greater even though in certain cases, it's a little more difficult to get in at certain, you know, big, like, premium sites.
Yeah. And so is this part of then what what you offer through codeless is that we're producing the content and maybe also identify partners like these ones that you can set them up as a contributor, is that part of it?
Potentially. So our sister company you serve is more focused on PR and link building and so do a little we do a little more of that through there because we do have really good relationships with different big websites and business technology. codeless primarily just does content production and right most of the time like now 90% of the time it's for a client's own site. So we So the short answer is yes and no.
Okay. All right. And you're a co founder of usurp.
Yeah, yeah, exactly. My co founder, and that is Jeremy, he used to work with codeless. And then we this, as you can tell, like there's so much demand and opportunity in the space right now that, that we had a lot of people asking that same exact question. But yeah, we kind of had to spin it out and figure out a way to supply all those people.
Yeah. So user, by the way, is at U. S, e. rp.io. If you're interested. So for the person who's listening to us, you'll kind of learn more about a service that might be able to get them that sort of outcome. And so, you know, a couple things, obviously, you've learned pretty well is how to hire and manage writers. Where does one hire, you know, especially, let's say that you're not really ready for the, you know, $40 an hour kind of writer like, you know, you you just want someone that's going to, well, where would you go If you wanted a more of a junior level writer, where would you hire them? And how would you hire them?
Yeah, definitely. So it depends a little bit on the type of writer you want. And the reason I say that is because for us, we hire everyone. And we try and test everyone as contractors first before hiring them part time full time, that's going to be different than somebody trying to hire an in house role who might be looking for a writer on a site like indeed or one of those. So the different job boards for example, like I would recommend, if you're looking for more of a contractor type angle than something like problogger would be like a much better fits. It's also pretty good in that gives you like a pretty wide variety of good quality and the cost isn't that high either. Okay, some other platforms, the job posting type places, the cost could be a lot higher, but again, I would, what I would reiterate is that if you're looking for more of a contractor, you want to look for more freelance based job postings as as opposed to the ones like India and other stuff because what you find is that writers are a different breed in a way and, and the type of writer you need to like pump out content is gonna be a lot different than the type of writer you need. Who's gonna specialize and understanding your brand voice and all the intangible stuff that goes along with that.
Yeah. And would you do prefer for, for freelance writers pro blogger over like an Upwork?
Yeah, I would, for a few reasons. I we try to hire and train and retain essentially an approach Upwork is so transactional, that it makes it difficult to do that. Whereas with pro blogger, for example, or even like if I can just control the relationship a little more, so if I can, if I can work directly with the writer, then we can, we might start them at one piece a week, but then we might try to scale them up to you know, 5678 plus a week. So it's it makes it easier to evolve the relationship as you go then a platform like Upwork, which tends to be a little more transactional kind of project focus. Hmm,
interesting. That's great. Yeah. And pro blogger IS IT pro blogger.com and For a maybe more senior level writers, where would you go?
That's a good question. So it's a million dollar question.
Yeah, exactly. It's a mix of two things, a lot of volume. So the whole idea of like finding the, I'm looking at 10 different writers and hiring one, unfortunately, is not accurate, you have to look at hundreds to find one. So that's the first kind of trick is you have to create a hiring system, or at least have some type of process where you can vet a ton of different people. Yeah, you can't do it, though. So that's the good news. It's just text numbers. The second the second thing is you try to kind of like cherry pick. So what you can do is you look at other sites in your space, other other websites of where, whose content you might admire, and then you kind of had hunt the different authors that you see listed on there. So it's just simply googling those people sometimes and they're by lines, they might have websites, sometimes they might have LinkedIn profiles. You could just search on LinkedIn for the same you know, people's names. More or less than come up with with those people, but essentially trying to kind of like scrape or take a list of authors from the sites that you admire in your space, and then trying to reach out to see if those people freelance or contract right on, you know, either on the side or full time.
Yeah. And realistically, if you're, say, a US based or English speaking, looking for content, you know, as much as you'd love to save money, which, you know, I've heard this a few times, it's, it's going to be really challenging to find somebody and say for from the Philippines, that's it's honestly going to give you quality content. It's, it's, I mean, that's been my experience. And I've kind of I was talking with Chris Ducker about this and he's like, yeah, I wouldn't, I wouldn't go, I would not use it. Like, I would not go to us to hire writers. It's just Yeah,
definitely. You have this weird problem now, where 20 years ago, everyone was saying, Oh, you should just create content because the world needs content. Yeah. And we're at this weird point now where people don't need more content. There's way too much And so you have the competition's becoming a lot savvy and smarter so that the people you're trying to publish content against are probably doing it as good or better than you might already be doing it. So the barrier to entry is higher. The way most content is found is still through search engines like Google. That's getting a lot tougher, though. And then Google is also reducing the available or the options for people to rank organically. And the same goes with with Facebook, Instagram, you can't share content for free anymore, you have to pay for it. So the stakes are all rising. And you're getting to a point where I'm telling people unless you're really investing a lot in the content, and you really think you can break into like the top, you know, three, for example, you might be better off investing that money somewhere else, because it's doesn't make sense anymore to invest a little bit out, you kind of have to like really treat it seriously. Otherwise, it's not going to pay off like it did.
So what do you do instead?
I mean, you could try a bunch of other things. You could do fewer pieces. So like put all your budget in To one big piece and then promote that, you know, basically, that could be a better option. Combined tactics to so do a lot more retargeting you, if you have one really good piece like one really good case study, for example, you should be able to run not only like top of the funnel ads to get new people to find it. But also retargeting ads to get people back and then and then use other different types of media. So if you're gonna produce one case study, you can add video to it, you can add audio to it, you can add custom images to it, and then all these things are going to help you with that promotion too. So you can use video and audio in your Facebook ads, and you're gonna bring the cost the cost down a lot more than you might just by sharing a link and trying to promote that. So there's usually a few different ways you can kind of go about it, but that's one of the big ones that I typically recommend.
So you've got a podcast from through Codeless and it's called copy weekly. And so right now you could just add anyone who's listening this podcast just go to search for copy weekly, you can subscribe and what will be Hear,
the idea is to go really deep on these nerdy content marketing, SEO writing topics. So yeah, I felt like a lot of the people or a lot of the podcasts I saw out there around these topics only touch surface level stuff. And a lot of times, they're by people who are talking about what they think works. And so the goal with this is I'm interviewing clients, I'm interviewing people who work at huge companies, like I mentioned, and just asking them, like, what are they doing? Where are they putting money, what's worked for them? What hasn't worked for them, just really trying to understand better like, what they're thinking, because typically, it's those types of people who are setting the the trajectory that we're all trying to kind of like, follow behind.
brilliant, brilliant, well, and again, congratulations, Brad on your success. Um, you have a few clients that folks might recognize the names. Do you mind sharing some of your clients you've had the opportunity to work with?
Yeah, definitely. So our main clients are in marketing technology and SAS stuff. So ad espresso word stream, we worked at kissmetrics and Crazy Egg. We've worked with fresh staff, so like Help Desk type software, all that stuff in. We were in cybersecurity. And we've also worked in finance. So a couple big sites and those and then a lot of big affiliate sites who you might not know by brand name, but if you typically search for anything around those categories of those pieces of software, whatever, then usually some of our stuff showing up.
Yeah, excellent. All right, Brad Smith, you are the founder of get codeless and er Codeless. Listen, it's on the web at GetCodeless.com. Brad, thank you so much for joining us. Thanks, Josh. Appreciate it.
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