I'm back! Two years of The Content Technologist and a review of all the software in my current stack.
Happy birthday, The Content Technologist!
As of July 25, The Content Technologist has been publishing for two years, and hey! That's longer than most newsletters launched in the past two years will ever publish! Maybe I didn't publish every week like I did last year, but 36 new issues is nothing to sneeze at.
Anyway, The Content Technologist is officially a toddler, trying to find its way as a brand on wobbly legs. Growth is inevitable. Options are abundant. But none of it happens without creating more content.
To be perfectly honest, I'm still super deep in client projects and am not prepared for the data-driven insights I'd dreamt of compiling for my two-year wrap-up, but here's a brief summary of the past year without any schmancy stats:
- Client work fell off at the end of 2020 because, y'know, very few businesses were able to invest in website redesigns or strategic long-term SEO strategies during a pandemic.
- I quit Substack and moved this newsletter 100% to Ghost in December, publishing what is now the second most popular post on my website. I also redesigned my website, and my awesome partner Will Dinski redid my logo and branding.
- I tried and failed to post daily links as a Content Technologist website feature. I'm never going succeed at daily content, and that's ok!
- In the middle of the client work drought, I launched paid subscriptions and began working on an Intro to SEO course and a couple of other projects in an attempt to diversify revenue streams.
- During spring both client work and existential anxiety hit hard and I totally failed to make progress on the Intro to SEO course beyond the first five lessons but kept my sanity and business in tact, so overall a success.
- Recently I've been focusing on some badass client projects, making up for last year's work drought and gradually carving a more sustainable future for The Content Technologist amid the "creator economy," which is simultaneously a boon and a giant WTF for an independent digital freelancer.
I'm hella proud of everything I wrote over the past year, but these are my most faves, most of which are for paying members only. Goes to show that if you're a supporter, you get the best of the bunch:
- Why AI alone won't solve your content problem (free) explores the challenges of creating pure "SEO content" without, y'know, an editorial voice. The post summarizes the central argument of this newsletter: automation supports content but human originality is required for success.
- How to rank for "butt rock," which, btw, now ranks on the second SERP for "butt rock" – not my intention, but also hilarious, considering the post is paywalled and isn't actually about butt rock. (It was ranking in the 8-10 range for a bit before the most recent core update rightfully knocked it lower than more relevant results. Goes to show: with the right schema markup and content mix, you too can rank in organic results for subscriber-first content. Brave new world we're living in.)
- Killing the Big Stat Monsters of business, media and polling, or why big stats are usually wrong and shouldn't be just casually dropped in important conversations. I will likely pull this out more than a few times before Minneapolis votes on the future of its public safety system this November because hoo boy! People in power misuse survey and polling data all the time.
- How to measure brand lift using Google Search Console and 4 common content engagement analytics patterns that shed light on the lurkers are overviews of my most-used content analytics tactics. As far as practical and actionable posts, they're stars of the past year.
Thanks so much to readers and supporters for joining me on this journey. Thanks to my clients for bringing rad projects to my attention. The future's looking bright for The Content Technologist, so stay tuned.
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My 2021 tech stack: Robust audience research and a slick SEO toolkit
In previous years I published this review of all the tools in my stack in August (read the 2019 and 2020 tech stacks). With big plans for next month, I've decided to shift and publish my third-annual tech stack overview in the anniversary issue.
I've made some big changes in my stack across the board, especially as I'm aligning my business with my values and making the most out of software investments. I also tried some flashy new tools—looking at you, Superhuman—which messed up my workflow for weeks. It wasn't the tool; it was me. (Or was it?)
Here's where I've landed. I've linked all the reviews I've written for these tools... and I've reviewed almost all of them! Mostly this means my last-minute review reserves are depleted.
New additions are marked with a *.
Audience and social listening
All new additions! Definitely upped my organic audience intelligence ante this year. Expect more on audience intelligence data this fall. (And if you want me to build you an audience profile from this killer data, hit me up.)
- SparkToro* - Influencer identification and audience analysis
- Brand24* - Perfect for media monitoring, social listening and content research, I'm glad to have this one back in my stack.
- BuzzSumo* - Combing through the most shared content on the internet is much easier with BuzzSumo (although TBH, my new outlook on social platforms makes this tool less useful than it used to be).
- Google Analytics - So I wrote excitedly about Google Analytics 4! And then I spent hours upon hours deeply using it, and it's never been exciting. Mostly it's been frustrating. But they've added lots of features recently so... grumble grumble... I'll keep learning.
Proud of this set: Inexpensive, professional and high-quality data and the data's good.
- Screaming Frog: Show me a better crawler.
- Mangools*: Keyword and light competitive research. High-quality data without the cost of extra features I don't need.
- Ahrefs site audit*: Just the free site audit, not the whole thing. Their rank tracking is tooo much, but the free site audit is quality.
- Google Search Console: A necessity for a business based on organic equity. In here at least 3x weekly during slow months.
- Moz Link Explorer and Toolbar - Backlinks and their liasions. It's free, it's consistent, and Moz's domain authority metric is a lynchpin of SEO KPIs.
Editorial, email and website management
- Ghost is my CMS/ESP of choice. Really loving the experience and the direction it's heading. Enjoying a CMS is a pleasure I've missed. (If you're interested in using Ghost and want to help me out, use my referral code! It's the only referral code I use on this site.)
- Markup.io*. Excellent on-site markup software for corrections and suggestions. And somehow it's still free when will the venture capital run out.
- Typeform. Surprised there aren't more competitors in the "pretty, functional forms" space.
- Canva. Surprised there aren't more competitors in the "decent templated images without Photoshop" space.
- Google Drive - Of course. Recently adopted a policy that I'm no longer working with docs that aren't cloud-based. No more emailing Microsoft Word files back and forth like it's 2001. If you aren't into cloud-based editing, I'm probably not a good fit to work with you!
- Ulysses - I enjoy writing in Ulysses, even if I'm not using it the way it's designed.
Information architecture and UX
- Mural - Still absolutely baller for client working sessions. I've been peeping at Miro because clients are into it, but for now I'm still a Mural stan.
- Figma - Comforting in a way that Adobe products could never achieve,
- Flowmapp - Necessary for website IA management.
Business and project management
- Bonsai - contracting, pipeline, payment and proposal management
- Quickbooks - my accountant's favorite accounting software, so it's mine as well
- Calendly - Are you even an online businessperson if you don't write "find some time in my Calendly" at least twice a week?
- Bella Scena - Still my to-do app of choice
- Toggl Track - I export the data to Bonsai to figure out where I'm profitable, where I'm spending too much time, etc.
- Airtable - I have a number of half-finished databases in Airtable and should really make better use of this excellent software if I'm going to continue paying for it.
- Pocket - Links, collected.
- Otter.ai - Transcribes my calls and makes my life better.
Connection, coworking and community
- Slack - I'm in too many gd Slack channels but I also can't imagine my worklife without it.
- Discord* - Slowly adapting to the idea of using Discord for work, instead of just game nights with friends.
- Google Meet and Zoom. Of course.
Deletes from the past year
- SEMRush. It's now loaded with far more features than I need and during the great work drought of Q4 2020, it became clear that it was out of my budget. I found another few lower cost reliable sources for the same types of data—lower cost because they have far fewer functions, not because the data is any better or worse.
- Substack. I chronicled this well enough, and it was my most popular post published in the past year, next to that damn Netflix KPI post from January 2020.
- Wave. During this year's extremely confusing tax season, with PPP and EIDL and quarterly estimates gone wrong, I switched to QuickBooks.
And there you have it: My digital business partners.
Next week's issue is for paid members only. Want access?Upgrade your membership
Content tech links of the week
- I was admittedly curious when I first visited OpenWeb. It looked like a nonprofit news tech site and promised to promote meaningful conversations. However, I didn't go much further since I'm not a big fan of commenting systems because of their shady data practices and also I hate comments sections. Turns out I was right to be skeptical since OpenWeb is funding right-wing hate sites, as Nandini Jammi argues in the most recent BRANDED.
- How do we save print media? Look at how people actually use print media in the 2020s, argues Ernest Wilkins in the most recent Office Hours (it's this week's free issue).
- Compare Google search results from around the world, from Wired.
- Robert Rose kindof argues that maybe you should stop using PDFs in B2B content marketing, but goes out of his way not to offend any of Content Marketing Institute's many supporters who probably still use PDFs. Anyway, good info about B2B marketing and change in his piece, without noting that PDFs ultimately are downloaded, never read, and trashed on the next desktop cleanup.
- Jack White's Wordpress design portfolio is tons of fun, even if some of the breakpoints are awkward on my (admittedly old) iPhone. Something I didn't know: Jack White ran an upholstery business in Detroit before he got famous. The portfolio highlights some small biz gems: "A customer at Jacks’ [sic] upholstery shop refused to pay a bill at a crucial time for White, so he hung up the phone and took an axe and a worm gear saw to the original piece and formed a new sculpture." Lots of photos of White hanging around his art lookin' like a vampire, too.
Want to work together parsing out content analytics, SEO, design and strategy or any of the other topics covered in this newsletter? Get in touch or just reply to this email.