10 Content Things I Learned in 2021
The end of 2021 also marks the end of my first year as content manager at AngelList. As with any good job, I learned more lessons than I can count. Here’s a list of my favorites:
1. Work in public
Make all of your work visible to the entire company:
- Set your strategy docs and content calendar to be accessible to anyone,
- Alert the entire company every time a new piece of content goes live (or create a dedicated Slack channel for content),
- Share metrics on content performance where everyone can see them.
Working in public helps everyone in the organization understand what you do—which is crucial for getting buy-in on projects, working cross-functionally, and maintaining accountability.
2. Slowly then all at once with SEO
A winning SEO strategy requires a ton of research and planning. I spent my first 4 months on the job formulating reader personas, ideating content topics, designing a dedicated education hub, and outlining it all in an enormous strategy document. Then I went around explaining the strategy to stakeholders, gathering their feedback, and adjusting accordingly.
Once the strategy was agreed upon and the stakeholders satisfied, we were able to launch the Venture Education Center in just two months. Within days it shot to the top of Product Hunt. By year’s end, it’s responsible for a third of all search impressions for angellist.com, and has provided us a veritable foundation upon which to scale SEO operations for years to come.
3. Don’t report, tell a story
Numbers don’t have meaning until you give them meaning. Instead of:
- “The blog got X amount of traffic this quarter.”
- “Blog traffic grew by X% this quarter over last quarter.”
Then explain why.
- “We’ve been publishing more data-driven content.”
- “We’ve been getting influencers to reshare our content on LinkedIn.”
- “We’ve been reposting our articles as Twitter threads.”
And how it’s impacting the bottom of the funnel
- Click-through rates
- Demo requests
- Newsletter subscribers
Good content is narrative and so is good content reporting.
4. Most performance metrics don’t matter
Most content measurement metrics are vanity metrics and uncorrelated to bottom-line impact on the business. Your goal shouldn’t be to track as much data as possible, but hone in on the few key pieces of data that correlate to how content is driving outcomes. Out of the box Google Analytics doesn’t make it easy to track this data, which is why I set up goals in Google Tag Manager that count when a high-value action is taken.
Some of the goals I track:
- Clicks to investor application
- Clicks to launch a fund page
- Clicks to launch a syndicate page
With these goals in place, I can more easily connect content to outcomes by tracking things like:
- Users acquired from search that completed a goal.
- Users who entered through the Education Center who completed a goal.
- Users who entered through the blog who completed a goal.
By connecting content to outcomes, I can provide a more wholistic picture of how content is driving outcomes.
5. Every piece of content should have a go-to-market (GTM) strategy
When it comes to content, a lot of brands work harder instead of smarter by focusing on volume. They publish hundreds of blog posts a year but fail to properly distribute the content or measure its impact.
At AngelList we publish less frequently, but aim to be thoughtful about what we’re saying, how we’re saying it, and what outcomes we want to drive. That’s why most blog posts, tweets, and emails we produce come with a dedicated distribution strategy, target audience, goals, and success metrics.
Having a GTM strategy around every piece of content minimizes wasted effort.
6. Remember your legacy
What will people remember you for once you’ve left the company? What can you point to in future job interviews and say “I did that.” Understanding the legacy you’re building will help you determine if you’re working on things that really matter (for the company and for yourself).
7. Learn technical things
Make note of:
- Your company’s tech stack
- Defects in the product
- The process for building and deploying
Do this by meeting with members of your engineering team and shadowing their work. The more you understand the product the better equipped you are to explain it to customers and collaborate with colleagues.
8. Find your unfair content advantage
What kind of content can you/your brand produce that’s 10x better than anyone else? This is usually based on three things:
- Internal expertise
- Proprietary data
- Access to industry influencers
Your content strategy should utilize the unfair advantages of the organization. Fortunately for me, AngelList boasts all of these advantages—although it took some trial and error to figure out how to utilize and deploy them effectively.
9. Scale your time
Once you find your unfair content advantage, your job is to find a way to produce more of it at a low marginal cost to your time so you can focus on identifying other winning strategies.
10. Be humble AF
Embrace criticism. Defer to the person with more context. Ask dumb questions. Request feedback.
Keeping my ego out of my work has helped me produce some of the best content in my career.
Here’s to more lessons learned in 2022!