Rapid Results, Lots of Fun: Growth Hacking Tips from Ann Smarty

Do the words “rapid results” make your heart rate pitter patter with glee?

Are you looking for a fun way to help your clients?

If you don’t know Ann Smarty, you’re in for a treat. Ann has been on the forefront of blogging and content marketing for years — plus, she knows her SEO stuff (@seosmarty is even her Twitter handle!).

Read what Ann has to say about growth hacking strategies, why building your brand assets is so important — and why you may not need a blog. Enjoy!

The topic of “growth hacking” is hot – but I run into people who don’t know what it is. Can you please define growth hacking and tell us how it differs from digital marketing?

I am not aware of any formal definition. Here’s how I understand it: Growth hacking means coming up with efficient tactics to grow your business.

Growth hacking can be part of digital marketing but while the latter is more long-term and strategic, growth hacking is usually about rapid results, lots of experiments and fun.

Moreover, while digital marketing is comprehensive (it aims at building all kinds of aspects of your business including sales, reputation, usability, etc.), growth hacking is about mostly doing whatever it takes to grow the site user base.

Growth hacking is also less about watching competitors and more about developing unique growth ideas.

I’m asking this for all those businesses out there who really don’t want to blog. Is having an on-site blog a prerequisite for digital marketing/growth hacking? Or, are there any non-blogging “hacks?”

Blogging is just one growth hack. There are many more :)

For examples, growth hacks in my newsletter include YouTube tricks, ways to obtain natural links that bring traffic and users, creating brand assets that generate user base of their own, etc. It’s not just about blogging, though blogging usually makes it easier!

Do you run into people who insist email marketing is dead? Is it really? Where does email marketing fit into an overall growth hacking strategy? Or does it?

The death of email marketing was a thing a few years ago when social media sites were just emerging and many people thought social media communities would eventually replace email marketing.

Well, guess what, social media platforms are mature now, they are useful for marketers but they definitely never replaced email marketing. In fact, the two are most effective when combined!

You discuss increasing Google search exposure by answering niche questions. Are there any specific ways of doing this or Q&A forums you’ve found work better than others?

The most effective way to earn traffic by answering questions is to answer them on your site and build up a resource.

One of the most efficient scenarios I’ve come up with so far is the following:

  • Any time you plan to create and publish content, use SERPstat to find related questions people tend to type into Google’s search box
  • Break those questions into generic ones (those that deserve creating a separate page to address them) and specific ones (those that should be covered inside an article)
  • Do some more digging to research search volume and competition (SERPstat can show you both) to pick the best generic questions to create content around
  • Use specific questions as subheadings as well as a clickable table of contents within each article.

Here’s a good example of the above scenario in action.

Also, make a good habit of covering each customer’s questions on your site as a FAQ question. Not only will it increase your chances to rank higher, it will also decrease the amount of customer support emails.

You’ve also discussed creating alternative web traffic sources by building brand assets. Are you saying that Google traffic isn’t enough? How can that be? ;)

Even if we forget about the (always) disturbing Google whims (manual penalties, ever-growing list of tools), depending on one source for traffic, leads and customers is never a good idea! :)

What are the best hacks for building these assets? And what “alternative web traffic sources” should an agency or individual consider?

I’ve discussed my favorite platforms to build brand assets here. In short, brand assets can be any page or resource that can be bring you traffic (preferably on auto-pilot).

For example, a must-build brand asset is an email list (which you can scale by using automated workflows. Here’s more info on all the ways to automate your email communications and grow engagement with GetResponse).

Social media accounts are more brand assets to consistently develop.

Creating on-site brand assets is another great idea. Think eBooks, apps, aforementioned FAQs. These will bring return traffic from bookmarks and downloads.

The sky is your limit really… Creating an online course and publishing it throughout educational platforms is one idea, for example. Or publishing an instructional download, such as a pdf. Or even maintaining an author column at a high-profile niche publication.

The more you do, the more traffic sources you build!

It sounds like writing good copy (newsletter copy, email copy, web copy) is a needed growth-hacking skill – which is great for SEO writers! Is there anything else folks should know?

Content has always been the foundation of any other marketing efforts. It’s never “build it and they will come” though (unfortunately). Creating good copy is a necessary step 1, then there come many more steps including publicizing and marketing that content using your assets (e-newsletter, social media channels) or paid placements (search and social media ads).

What’s your top growth hack tip for snagging some “low-hanging fruit” success?

My favorite growth hack won’t work for everyone but it will hopefully inspire many. I have found that re-packaging old content is an easy and absolutely awesome way to create new traffic sources.

For example, I went back to my old content, ordered voiceover on Fiver and created three premium courses on Udemy. Now they work great for bringing brand recognition and site visitors.

What’s your favorite music to listen to while you’re writing?

I am not listening to music when writing. I am a multi-tasker. I am writing, monitoring Twitter and feeding baby – all at the same time. I cannot also add background music to all of that :)

9 replies
  1. Ray Richards says:

    Lately, I see clickable table of contents being mentioned (and present) on a lot of blogs. It makes the post look better, add some clarity and organization to it and makes it easier for the reader to find what he or she needs. I just wonder why we haven’t used this tool more in the past. It’s only recently that this has gained popularity. Anyway, a great article and it’s easy to see Ann Smarty is really smarty :) when it comes to SEO.

    • James Mawson says:

      I like them a lot too!

      I think part of the reason why they weren’t around so much in the past, is that the bar has really lifted a lot higher in recent years regarding how much value to offer with a single blog post. A few years ago the whole “publish 500 words 3 times a week” attitude was still very prevalent. Now it’s about doing that one really in-depth piece of feature content. And that’s especially true when you want to win links to it!

  2. Peter says:

    Great read! Well, this is probably the 3rd time this month I see someone recommending SERPstat so I guess it’s time to try it out. I would also like to add that creating great answers on Quora seems like a way to go at the moment but it requires a decent amount of knowledge and effort to be put in if you wanna see some results.

    • Heather Lloyd-Martin says:

      Hi, Peter!

      Yes, Quora is another great tip. I know Ian Lurie from Portent answers Quora questions all the time and recommends doing so as a branding/traffic-driving tip.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting! Have fun with SERPstat! :)

  3. Deep Shah says:

    That’s some interesting ways to drive targeted traffic to your site. I didn’t know I can use Quora to drive my target audience to my site. I am in the starting phase of promoting my cleaning business website and I am going to surely try your techniques.

    • Heather Lloyd-Martin says:

      I’m so glad you enjoyed Ann’s tips. Ian Lurie, another SEO expert, uses Quora all the time and says he’s gotten clients from it. If your target audience is on Quora, it’s certainly something to try!

  4. Yesmin Kshetry says:

    All the growth hacking tips mentioned are really an eye opener for me. It has shifted my mind set from just promotion to adding value to the internet community by help your target audience. By blogging and sharing some free online courses or free trials I believe we can get lots of quality traffic. Thank you for sharing!

    • Heather Lloyd-Martin says:

      Yes! I was just re-reading this interview myself, and I was blown away by the amount of excellent tips Ann shares. I’m glad you enjoyed the post!


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