The 3 Pillar Strategy We Use To Drive Conversions From Content Marketing

Before building my own content marketing agency, I worked as a freelance writer for a variety of content marketing agencies and found that the typical content production process looked like this:

  1. Find a topically relevant keyword with high volume, low difficulty
  2. Send it to a freelancer to write
  3. Publish it (maybe build a few manual links) and hope for the best

However, I noticed that most clients weren’t happy with the results these agencies produced, and eventually, I realized it was because this process doesn’t produce results.

Over time (and with some help from mentors), I identified why this process doesn’t work:

  • As most agencies report on traffic, the blog posts typically target TOFU keywords with a lot of volume but low purchase intent. So the posts typically didn’t drive conversions.
  • If the agency builds links to the post, that can help increase rankings, but it isn’t a scalable method to consistently increase that website’s authority. Like paid ads, the second you stop doing link outreach, you stop earning links. In addition, those links you build are often removed over time, so it doesn’t produce compounding results.
  • Over time, the blog post begins to decay and slip in the rankings. So all that hard work you put into creating the content and building links eventually disappears.

So instead, I’m building a content marketing agency that fixes those three problems. In this post, I’ll describe the three pillars of my content marketing strategy, my philosophies behind why I believe in these three pillars, and some results I’ve achieved using this strategy.

Here are the three pillars:

  • Produce expert-level content for high purchase intent keywords
  • Create original research that passively generates high-quality links
  • Treat each piece of content as an individual campaign and refresh it frequently

Let’s jump into it.

Pillar #1: Produce Expert-Level Content For High Purchase Intent Keywords

The first pillar of my strategy is to target high purchase intent keywords – even if it means the keyword has less than 20 monthly searches.


I’ve found that these keywords drive the overwhelming majority of conversions. Just look at this screenshot from one of my clients over the past seven months:

On average, the BOFU posts generated 90% of total conversions over the past seven months, even though many of the keywords had tiny volume (less than 20 monthly searches). 

I learned this strategy from the team at Grow and Convert, and it’s worked out well for me.

I wish I could take credit for the strategy behind these results, but I actually learned it from the team at Grow and Convert.

Long story short, several years ago I had the co-founder of Grow and Convert, Benji Hyam, on my podcast and he explained the concept of pain point SEO. Essentially, they target low volume, high purchase intent keywords and report on conversions – not traffic.

I still remember the idea of reporting on conversions hitting me like a ton of bricks and eventually I signed up for their course where they teach members how to execute their exact process, which includes:

  • Customer research
  • Identifying pain point or product focused keywords
  • Interviewing an expert
  • Writing the post
  • And more…

To this day, I still think it’s the best process for creating conversion-focused content, so I use it with every client and also report on conversions.

In fact, the BOFU content I created for this SaaS company generates (on average) 22% of their total monthly sales:

So here’s a brief synopsis of the process. 

Customer Research

A key reason most content doesn’t convert is that the writer and/or agency doesn’t know what key customer pain points the product solves and how it’s different from other products on the market.

So I interview the founder, customer success team, and sales team at the beginning of every engagement to identify those key pain points. (You can read more about how I execute customer research here.)

Then, I craft each piece of content to address those key pain points. This process is simple yet incredibly effective.

Think about it – if you’re actively searching for a solution to a specific problem and you read about a solution that solves your specific problem, isn’t it a no-brainer to buy?

I’ll give you an example.

Let’s say you have a marketing analytics tool and I discover during customer research that 90% of your customers purchase it because they want to track conversions from content.

So in the blog post, instead of just positioning your tool as another good marketing analytics tool, I’d talk about how you’re uniquely positioned as the best marketing analytics tool for content marketers.

If a content marketer is actively looking for a marketing analytics tool and they read that, it’s a no-brainer for them to convert because they see how you solve their specific pain point.

While it may seem simple, you can see how identifying pain points, and addressing them in the blog post (even if it’s targeting a keyword like “best marketing analytics tools”) makes it a no-brainer for the ideal customer to convert.

Identifying High Purchase Intent Keywords

Rather than prioritizing keywords with the highest volume and lowest difficulty, I prioritize keywords by purchase intent first and then use high volume/low difficulty as a secondary filter. 

For example, if I sell project management software to startups I would probably select the second keyword even though it has much less volume

  • project management methodologies, Volume = 3,400 (TOFU Keyword)
  • project management software for startups, Volume = 40 (BOFU Keyword)

I used to balk at this idea, but when I saw the data, I changed my mind. As you can see, the low volume BOFU keywords always drove significantly more total sales than the higher volume TOFU and MOFU keywords:

I’ve found that there are two main reasons why the BOFU keywords often drive more conversions than TOFU keywords:

  1. Only a fraction of those searchers are even in my target audience (using the example above, the searchers for the TOFU keyword might be from real estate, construction, or other industries that aren’t startups)
  2. Even if the searcher is a startup, the team might be perfectly happy with their current project management solution.

You could argue that those startups that found your post on methodologies will later come back and buy from you when they’re ready. However, they will probably just Google “project management software for startups” when they’re ready to buy, so if you don’t show up when they search for that term, you’ll probably lose them anyway.

So how do I find these keywords?

There are two main categories of BOFU keywords:

  • Product focused keywords
  • Pain point focused keywords

Here are the product-focused keyword frameworks:

  • Competitor Comparison Posts (Example: Freshbooks vs Quickbooks)
  • Competitor Alternative Posts (Example: Freshbooks alternatives)
  • “Automation” Keywords (Example: Automated Twitter scheduler)
  • “Best” List Posts or product-focused posts (Example: Best CRM Software or just CRM Software)

Pain point keywords can be a little trickier as there isn’t really a set formula, so you’ll really have to rely on customer research.

Specifically, look at what “how to” questions the product helps the user solve. You can also look at specific pain points a certain feature solves.

Here are two examples of pain point related keywords I targeted:

You’ll notice that in all of these posts, I include the product as part of the solution – this is key to driving conversions with that content.

Interviewing an Expert

Most writers are given a keyword, Google around to become an “expert” on that topic, and then create a new curation of the existing ideas.

To make the writers experts on the topic, a key thing that Grow and Convert does is interview experts (either from within the company or a third party expert).

While I don’t think every post requires an expert interview (like product-focused keywords), I still occasionally do expert interviews for some posts.

For example, I was writing a post for the keyword “email formula” for, and I decided to interview an expert that wrote an email that achieved a 78% open rate and thousands of dollars in sales. The post currently ranks first for “email formula”:

How This Email Formula Achieved a 78% Open Rate (Case Study)

Writing The Post

Finally, the copywriting needs to be compelling enough to drive the reader to actually purchase the product.

I already covered in the customer research point that the writing needs to address the customer pain points. So to ensure that the writers accurately describe key customer pain points and correctly position the product, I give them access to the call recordings.

Then, I also ask them to use this general structure when discussing product features:

The (Over)Simplified Feature/Benefit Framework

  • Introduce a specific problem (that our feature solves)
  • Introduce our feature and how it solves that problem (if applicable, show how it’s different from other solutions)
  • If it makes sense, add an example (hypothetical is fine) of how our solution solves the problem
  • Explain the benefits of our feature

Sounds Interesting?

If you’d like to have me do content marketing for you, reach out to me here to see if we’re a good fit.

Pillar #2: Use Original Research to Generate Passive Links and Improve Domain Authority

I thought I was a genius when I figured out Pillar #1 (targeting high purchase intent keywords). However, as I started deploying the program on startups with low domain authorities, I realized that I couldn’t get the posts to rank (and if the posts don’t rank, the entire strategy from Pillar #1 is basically useless). 
This makes sense. Data shows that higher domain authority (which is calculated based on backlinks) is correlated with higher rankings.

In my own experience, I’ve found this to be true. 

I can usually get content to rank in a matter of weeks (sometimes even days) on websites that have strong domain authority and an established presence in their industry. 

For example, this post was published just 12 days ago on a DR 71 website and it is already ranking fourth for the target keyword:

However, I also worked with a startup that has a domain rating of 20. Before coming to me, they didn’t publish any content, and when I started publishing content on their website (using the exact same process), it didn’t rank for months. 

This bothered me because it meant that my strategy is completely useless for websites with a DA of less than 50ish.

You only earn a link when someone responds to your email pitch and agrees. So if you have a 2% acceptance rate, you’re sending at least 50 emails to get one yes. 

Secondly, it’s super expensive. Ahrefs did a study back in 2018 that found the average price of a link is just over $360! If you want to get a link from a DA 50+ website, the average price is just over $600!

So for all of those reasons, I’ve never really liked the idea of manual link building.

However, it still remains true that links significantly impact domain authority, and therefore rankings.

So I wanted to figure out a way to passively increase the overall domain authority of a website.

Fortunately, I found a solution – original research.

Original research and data attracts a lot of links simply because plenty of content marketers are always Googling around to find data to support their claims.

For this post, I just used Ahrefs and some existing internal data to find answers to some questions I had about content refreshing, like:

  • Does the percentage of changed text impact the post’s performance after the refresh?
  • What post formats tend to perform best after an update?
  • Is it likely that I’ll ruin the post if I update it?

At the time of this writing, this post has a total of ten organically earned DR 50+ links. So using the average price per link according to the Ahrefs study ($600 for DR 50+ links) we would have had to pay $7,200 to manually acquire the links this post acquired passively.

  • Here’s another example of an original data post we did:
    The Future of Chatbots (Data from 41,000 Companies)

For this post, I collected the data using various third party tools like Clearbit (it probably cost a few hundred dollars to complete) and you can see that it has also pulled in a substantial number of high quality links.

Just check out a few of the links it has earned organically: 

I also recently discovered Pollfish, which enables you to run surveys to very specific audiences (i.e., coaches that make $50,000+ per year) and the results have been pretty good. I also like that Pollfish tends to be a much more scalable solution as internal data can be limiting depending on the product. 

So I now offer original research to my clients to help them consistently earn high quality links passively.

In addition to original research, I also started leveraging stats style pages – but with a twist.

To maximize the linkability of the post, I swipe Brian Dean’s method of targeting journalistic keywords/phrases. For example, “how many clients do life coaches have” is a frequently asked question.

So I might add that question to my stats page and then answer it.

I actually did this with a coaching statistics post and it’s currently ranking second: 

However, what I’m most excited about is that it also ranks (often in the featured snippet position) for a bunch of journalistic keywords. This is good news as a lot of the people searching these kinds of keywords are probably journalists or content marketers looking for a source to link to:

To obtain the featured snippets and People Also Asked questions for all of these keywords, you can see that I structured the entire article in a question and answer format:

This is also an excellent user experience – you can see how easy it is to immediately see the statistics and swipe it. However, there is just one hitch with this strategy.

I realized that getting these pages into the featured snippets or to rank for the “(industry) stats” keyword can be tricky.

To solve this problem, I now work with an experienced link building partner to earn a handful of high quality manual links to these pages when I initially publish them.

However, once these pages get into the top few spots in the SERPs (or win the featured snippet), we stop manual link building and they naturally attract organic links.

Do you want me to execute this three pillar strategy for your company?

Feel free to reach out here and we can see if it’s a good fit.

Pillar #3: Consistently Refresh Top-Performing Posts​

The final pillar of my content offering is refreshing content – taking content that previously performed well and updating it to boost its rankings once more.

Content does decay over time, so all the work you did three years ago probably generates only a fraction of the value it used to. Content refreshing fixes that problem.

In fact, here’s a screenshot of a single post that I updated at the end of 2019 that went on to generate over 20,000 visitors at peak performance:

Though before I paint a rosy picture about how wonderful content refreshing is, I also want to acknowledge that not every single piece of content performs well after being updated. 

In fact, I noticed that a lot of the content didn’t generate even one more monthly visit after being updated.

I wanted to understand why some updated content improved significantly while others didn’t improve at all, so I did a study of 42 different blog posts that I helped update for an agency called Single Grain.

I found that overall, the total traffic to those 42 posts nearly doubled, even though 17 of the blog posts actually decreased in traffic after the update.

So even though some content didn’t perform well after the update (17 of the 42 posts lost traffic), it’s still very worthwhile to invest in content updating because the results from the posts that do takeoff far outweigh the investment of the posts that failed.

Though back to my original question – why does some content perform very well after being updated while other posts flop after an update?

It turns out that the biggest indicator of how a post will perform after being updated is the traction it has before being refreshed.

In the study, about half the posts had at least 20 monthly visits before being updated, and the other half had less than 20 monthly visits before being updated.

I found that 85.2% of the total traffic increase came from the roughly 50% of posts that already had over 20 monthly visits.

So it makes sense to prioritize updating posts that already have strong traction.

However, I also still believe in the power of high-purchase intent keywords (refer back to Pillar #1).

So today, I update content that has the best combination of these two elements (the post targets a high purchase intent keyword and already has decent traction).

Once I’ve selected the post I want to update, I have a set process for updating each piece of content which I outline in this post on Ahrefs.

Want Me To Do Your Content Marketing?

If you’d rather have me do content marketing for you, feel free to reach out and we can see if it’s a good fit.

Otherwise, you can sign up for my email list and I’ll give you detailed, step-by-step instructions to help you execute the entire content marketing process outlined here yourself.

Reach Out To Us​

If you’d like to work with my team and I, please fill out the form and we’ll be in touch shortly!

Want a step by step guide to execute this strategy yourself?

Sign up for my email list and I’ll send you a mini-course (1 email over the next 8 days) that helps you execute this strategy step by step.