Weekly Finds - Week 39, 2020

This week's Weekly Finds episode features billion dollar blogs, Hubspot's new SEO strategy, growth lessons from video games, product positioning, and Google core updates.

Weekly Finds - Week 39, 2020

Audio version:


Sometimes, you plant a blog and a successful startup grows out of it. Emily Weiss built Glossybox on top of Glossier. Nathan Barry started his personal blog, sold courses and ebooks in the value of $250,000, and then built Convertkit along the way. Mark Sisson started with his blog "Mark's Daily Apple" in 2006 and grew it into a $200M business.

Nathan describes these creators and how they built businesses on top of their personal brands in The billion dollar blog. The key lesson for me is that the key to building a business is letting the personal brand go and putting the product in the foreground. That's the mistake some creators made who were not able to pull it off: they held on to their personal name instead of the business. Recurring revenue or SaaS is the business model that turned out to be most successful.

The idea of freemium and SaaS has also been adopted in the gaming world and even taken to a next level. Games like League of Legends (and I'm sure many earlier ones) offer the game for free, charge for skins or upgrades, and make a successful business out of that. a16z recorded an interview with the makers of Spellbreak about the 12 lessons they learned when driving 600,000 sign-ups before the game even launched.

My top 5 tips:

1. Put the dev blog on IMGUR.
2. Don't advertise too hard.
3. Gifs, gifs, gifs.
4. Set up a referral program.
5. Create a cool kids club.

I found it fascinating how the team developed the game right in the community instead of siloed. The key lessons is that games are grown like a software product these days. They think about testing, feedback, Product-Market Fit, expansion, etc. Games can provide blueprints for software companies in return.

Every software product needs positioning, a topic April Dunford is passionate about. In her presentation about nailing product positioning, she talks about the 6 pillars and questions that help you figure it out:

  • Market category - What context makes the value obvious to your customer segments?
  • Alternatives - What would you use if [product] didn't exist? (Usually not a direct competitor to the product)
  • Unique attributes - What features do you have that competitors/alternatives do not?
  • Value - What value do the attributes enable for your customers?
  • Customer segments - Who cares a lot about the value?

The key lesson for me is that the positioning statement is outdated and the 6 pillar framework April shares is a more structured approach.

Hubspot follows a new structure to content as well in their new content marketing strategy. One, for which I've been beating the drum for a while: omnichannel marketing for SEO. The idea is plain and simple: don't just focus on an organic result, focus being present on platforms, and aggregators that compete with you as well. Hubspot now focuses on creating content in many formats like audio, video, slide decks, etc. The key lesson here is to not see SEO as an isolated discipline, but acknowledge and push the idea of omnipresence to drive SEO.

I'm going to finish this week's Weekly Finds with an update on SEO, or better said with SEO updates. The debate on whether sites that were impacted by a broad core algorithm update can recover before the next one rolls out or not is a bit tedious.

Barry Schwartz had two conversations with John Mueller about this topic. The point we can take away here is that there seems to be a difference between how Google updates punish or reward sites. The key lesson is that broad core algorithm updates are overhauls of Google's understanding of meaning and quality, so it seems that it's harder to "recover" from them if that's even possible. Other updates, however, might look at smaller factors that are more black and white. So, what we should do is compare the impact of algorithm updates on our competitors and other sites to better understand whether a broad algorithm affected a certain vertical or a certain type of site.