Case Study: How Typeform Used Beacon Content to Drive 500k+ Views and 2k+ Backlinks

Case Study: How Typeform Used Beacon Content to Drive 500k+ Views and 2k+ Backlinks

04 September 2020

Write. Publish. Beg for shares and backlinks.

It’s become a well-worn playbook for marketers promoting their 500-word, SEO-optimized pieces

The hope?

That a few influencers will like, share, or link to your content.

In theory, it’s a great approach.

In practice? It can be incredibly demoralizing.

Unless your content is truly noteworthy, most influencers just ignore you.

According to Sancar Sahin—Typeform’s Director of Marketing—this now “classic” approach to content marketing is far from the best way to do content marketing.

Instead, he and his team implemented a straightforward system to produce “true 10X” content—before 10X content was even a thing (in case you haven’t seen it, here’s Rand Fishkin’s famous Whiteboard Friday video on 10x content from 2016).

In fact, Sancar has another name for it: beacon content.

What is beacon content?

It’s content so good you don’t have to promote it to drive traffic.

For example, with one blog post, Sancar’s team drove 475k visitors to Typeform’s site, earned over 2,000 quality backlinks, and got over 10,000 shares on social media.

Beacon Content Typeform

Typeform’s Susan Bennett article attracted 100k+ views and 2k+ backlinks—with zero promotion.

The kicker? They barely promoted the piece.

They certainly didn’t beg for links, likes, or shares.

Instead, they focused on making content so creative, so useful—it marketed itself.

One year later, it’s still generating traffic, shares, and backlinks for the site.

Note: If you want to see which companies are reading your content, try Leadfeeder free.

How a Chat With Susan Bennett (the Voice of Siri) Drove 500k+ Views

Sancar wants Typeform to be associated with two words: -Conversation -Innovation

To create those associations, Typeform’s blog is designed to boost the company’s brand rather than just generate traffic.

Since Susan Bennett had a history of bringing mechanical personas to life (from ATMs to Apple’s “personal assistant”), she seemed like a good person to interview for a story.

How Typeform’s Team Created the Article

Sancar’s writers could have done some quick Google research, compiled some common knowledge about her career, and called it a day.

Instead, they interviewed Susan in a studio setting, then created an interactive post, complete with audio clips, pictures, and a clickable timeline.

Beacon Content Typeform 2

It was a true collaboration between the dev team and the writing team.

The Post That Promoted Itself

Once the article was complete, Sancar posted it to the Typeform website. Then, the team sent a link to their email subscribers and internal staff. At the time, Typeform had fewer than 150 employees.

For the first few days, not much happened. A “share” here and there appeared, but nothing magnificent.

Then, the media found the article.

High domain authority sites like Entrepreneur started summarizing and referencing their work. Apple fans gobbled it up.

Beacon Content Typeform 4

Next, the article trended in Reddit’s Top 10, driving 150,000+ views in just a few days.

Today, the article has been seen by over 475k people, shared over 10,000 times, and earned over 2,000 backlinks.

By the way…the average domain authority of those backlinks is 50+, in case you were wondering.

You just can’t beg for numbers like those.

Sancar estimates the Siri article cost them between ten and fifteen thousand dollars to produce, much more than you might expect to pay for a normal blog post.

Still, $10-15k is far less than many companies spend on branding campaigns that don’t generate anywhere near this level of exposure.

A content piece that has 2,000 backlinks? For it, the traffic keeps coming.

For all these reasons, Sancar believes the cost is more than justified.

“We’ve spent way more on ad campaigns that don’t get anywhere near the kind of response this did,” he explained.

And it certainly outperformed the pre-beacon content he used to write.

Siri, What’s Wrong With Traditional Content Marketing?

Even before joining Typeform, Sancar chafed against the old ways of content marketing.

“You’d spend half a day at most writing a post, then the rest of your life begging for backlinks,” he recalled.

“Imagine you have 10 credits and each credit is a currency that you can spend on content creation or promotion. So, you can invest in design, writing, research—everything goes into that piece of content. Or, you can spend it on outreach: trying to get people to talk about, write about, and link to that piece of content. How will you spend your credits?”

In Sancar’s experience, most marketers favor promotion over content. Others follow a 50/50 rule of thumb.

But Sancar noticed that it took hundreds and hundreds of those infamous 500-word articles to move the needle on any of their KPIs. And his team hated every second of it.

Mediocre content is just hard to promote.

“If you want to generate links, create a beacon piece of content. Create something that people want to link to.”

When he joined Typeform, Sancar got the green light to test the beacon content he always wanted to create.

Beacon Content Typeform 5

Their first big success was the article on Siri’s voice, Susan Bennett. During its development (and future endeavors), the Typeform team adhered to a simple guideline: SURF.

Create Beacon Content Using the SURF Method

Even before publishing their first post or sending their first email, the Typeform marketing team hammered out a set of rules for their work.

Typeform’s gold standard for any communication is SURF:

  • Simple

  • Useful

  • Remarkable

  • Friendly

You’ll notice he didn’t mention length. It doesn’t take 5,000 words to make beacon content. Sometimes, shorter is better.

It’s more important to write something truly insightful that someone will want to share.

For Sancar, a true piece of beacon content is something that “you reference in a conversation the same way you do a good book or a good movie.

If he enjoys it—or learns from it—so much that he’ll talk about it with coworkers or casual friends, then it deserves a beacon title.

He also thinks beacon content should…

  • Inspire you to interact with it

  • Be super well researched

  • Be well crafted

And of course, it needs to pass SURF. Readers should learn something useful or remarkable while enjoying the friendly tone and accessible style.

How to Get A Slice of the Budget Pie

Sancar admits that, if his CEOs had known up front how expensive the Siri article would be, they might never have approved it.

Now that they’ve seen the numbers, Sancar has free reign to continue producing them.

When considering costs, Sancar says, “Think about the cost of demotivation.”

How is your current strategy holding back the talented marketers and writers on your team? What kind of viral content could they produce if they worked on a beacon piece?

beacon content

If you have receptive CEOs, then sit down with them to confirm budget numbers and set up initial goals. “Make sure they understand you’ll be spending money and time.”

If they’re skeptical, start by asking them for one project. Have an idea ready and come with examples of what other companies achieved. If they do approve it, make sure you collect data carefully so you can show them how successful it was.

Ultimately, Sancar said, “Be clear about what you want to achieve.”

If you surround yourself with creative people who know what your goals are, you’re more likely to make your beacon content come alive…without begging for backlinks.

Note: Ready to create some beacon content of your own? Try Leadfeeder Free to see which companies visit your site when you press ‘post.’

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