Episode
12

Anja Simic

Building Deel’s Content Marketing Team, Creating Multi-language Content, and Leveraging Location-based SEO

August 23, 2023

Join Nate Matherson as he sits down with Anja Simic for the twelfth episode of the Optimize podcast. Anja Simic is currently the Director of Content Marketing at Deel, the all-in-one HR platform for global teams. She’s also a passionate advocate for remote work and leveling the playing field for diverse talents worldwide.

Anja walks us through the process of building an all-star global remote-first content and SEO team. Throughout the conversation, Anja and Nate discuss roles like SEO Managers, Content Ops, Writers, and more. Beyond team formation, Anja gets tactical with strategies and tips for creating multi-language content, leveraging location-based SEO, and creating workflows for remote teams. Closing out the episode is our popular lightning round of questions!

What to Listen For

02:09 Anja’s background 

05:49 How do you know when to invest in content?

07:27 Building an SEO and content marketing team

12:11 When to revisit content, and creating content operations processes

15:23 Creating calls to actions (CTAs) for each stage in the funnel

18:27 How increasing your content library impacts conversion rates for returning traffic

20:10 What does it mean to build authority in 2023?

22:48 Anja’s thoughts on AI and AI-generated content

27:40 Breaking down the role of an SEO content manager 

29:57 How to set KPIs and goals for content and SEO teams

33:36 The importance of cross-functional teams for SEO

36:19 Anja’s strategy for Deel’s location-based SEO and content marketing

38:14 Anja’s tips for creating and managing multiple-language content and SEO

40:24 Lightning question round

Episode Transcript

Anja Simic (Speaking)

00:00

I oversee the global content strategy, right? And I work with regional marketing managers. I don't always advise them to start with the blog, for example. That is usually something that's, you know, is a go-to solution, right? The first thing, when you think about content, you start with the blog itself, because it's important — because if you need to hit a target of mid-market and enterprise leads, you don't have time to build the blog. You need to build resources that can help the decision-makers in mid-market and enterprise companies. So I always give them everything — like, all the playbooks and all the things that we've done in English, but we don't ever copy-paste. They might not have the right readiness for Deel or for any products. So you need to start, you know, at a more beginner level or at a more advanced level, depending on where your market is. So that's why I said, it's not a copy-paste and it's not one-size-fits-all, but the actual strategy is it works every time. I have numbers to prove it. It works in many, many languages.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

01:02

Hi, and welcome to the Optimize Podcast. My name is Nate Matherson, and I'm your host. On this weekly podcast, we sit down with some of the smartest minds in content marketing and SEO. Our goal is to give you perspective and insights on what's moving the needle in organic search. Today I'm thrilled to sit down with Anja Simic. Anja is the Director of Content Marketing at Deel, a hyper-growth startup in the payroll, HR, and compliance space. She's been a core part of the Deel team for about five years now, and she's built an incredible content marketing function at the company. In our episode today, I'm excited to learn more about the work she and her team are doing at Deel, her experience scaling the content function, creating fantastic location-based content, setting KPIs, and more.

Ad Spot

This episode of the Optimize podcast is brought to you by Positional. At Positional, we're building tools for content marketing and SEO teams. We've got a great selection of tools for everything from content optimization to keyword research and technical SEO, and you can visit our website at positional.com. 

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

02:09

Thank you, Anya, for coming on the episode today. 

Anja Simic (Speaking)

Hey Nate, I'm so glad to be here. 

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

Well, the first question I always ask our guests is “How did you get into the world of content marketing and SEO?” Like, how did you get here and into your role at Deel?

Anja Simic (Speaking)

02:21

I have to be honest — it all happened organically, pun unintended. I joined Deel, as you mentioned, in my intro — and by the way, that was such a lovely intro. Thank you. It sounded really nice. I should get you to write my bios from now on. So yeah, five years ago, I started — I joined as, I think, the third or fourth person at Deel, at the company, and definitely first marketing hire. So for the first year and a half, it was, you know, everything, right? So we were, you know, just — it was pre-A Series, so seed money that we had or, like, want to be really frugal about. And I did a little bit of everything. We were still trying to find the perfect product market fit. We were trying to see who our audience is. We also changed our product. We pivoted a little bit. And I found myself in a B2B SaaS space that I, to be very honest, didn't know a lot about. Previously, I held digital marketing roles that were kind of more focused on B2C, more focused on building the community. And I tried to unlearn a lot of that and relearn what I needed to do to try and figure it out, how to operate in this space that's so different and, in my opinion, challenging, because if you're talking about, you know, finance, if you're talking about legal, about compliance, you cannot really just write random blog posts, right? Like, you're building authority and you're trying to sound like, you know, like you what you're doing — even if it's an early stage startup, you usually don't, right? So you have to be really careful to remain the factual side of it, but also try and be as frugal as possible. So the first thing that we did is definitely launch the blog. So it was a lot of testing, a lot of iterations, a lot of, like, very general top-of-the-funnel content that I produced in the beginning. I was a single producer on the team, but I also worked with a lot of freelancers. So we managed to scale that really quickly. And we had a very successful big content campaign around guides on how to set as an independent contractor in different countries. That was like the first big series that we did. And more and more, I found myself in long-form content, which is really strange because back in school, it was really hard for me to write essays and papers. Like, I couldn't write, you know, thousands of words for the life of me, but now I thrive on it. Not sure about school, but I definitely do enjoy blogging, and here I am five years later with a team of total nine people, which I still think is small, but I'm happy to dive into ops and how we scale that in a little bit. But yeah, I would say it pretty much came organically. I found myself there. I got the trust from our co-founders and later on from our head of growth. And they were like, “Yeah, there is no one who knows this space better. It doesn't make any sense to hire someone to start from scratch. So just go ahead and play around.” And that's how it all came to life.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

05:15

That's amazing. You joined Deel at an incredible time as, like, the first marketing hire, like you said, and it sounds like they, the company, prioritized content from the get-go. How did you or how did the team identify, like, content as, like, a really important channel for Deel, like, at the seed stage? Because, like, often our customers will say, like, “Oh, we'll worry about content at, like, the Series A or Series B, and at a later stage.” Although some customers of ours definitely are investing in content at the seed stage. And so how did you make the decision that, like, content would be a great channel for the company that early on in the business?

Anja Simic (Speaking)

05:49

Well, we had faith that it was something that we should do. Content is in the beginning a very expensive practice. And I'm not saying this to scare anyone. I think it's definitely worth the investment, but it takes time. However, content does not equal SEO. So it's very different — like, content marketing is a lot more than just SEO. And I have a feeling that people sometimes make it the same term, but it's very different, right? So when we're talking about SEO, it's a long game. It has been forever. We know that it's just a fact. So I told my team, like, “Look, we can start building the very top of the funnel with SEO. It's going to take six-plus months before we get some true traction. It's going to take investment on other distribution channels. We will need to share this on socials. We'll need to share this on, you know, through our own LinkedIn, our own social media to kind of get it out there. And it started growing exponentially. But then content marketing as such is possibly faster to get that return. Because if you have ads budgets and if you find the right content fits, if you're talking to the right person, right persona, if you're solving their needs through content, it can be massive. The two combined is just a recipe for success.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

07:07

And you mentioned you've got eight people on the content team now. You know, I'll often get asked, like, “What should my content marketing team look like? What are those, like, seats that I need to fill to be, like, effective as a team?” It'd be really interesting to, like, learn more about how your team is structured. What does each person do on the team? Feel free to be as broad or as specific as you'd like.

Anja Simic (Speaking)

07:27

Right. So I can actually share the whole learning journey because it was, you know, definitely something — like, when I started, I did not know how to build a successful team. I had my theories around it. So I started with an army of freelancers. That was, as I mentioned, the first thing that I did. Later on, I hired the content writer — or the content marketing manager; that's how we call the person. And it was a lovely person. He's still on my team. I'll get to what he's doing right now. And his best skill was synthesizing very complex content into something that's readable. And I needed someone who truly enjoys going through regulations and laws and, you know, .gov websites and coming up with content that's easily digestible. So that was my first hire. My second hire was another content marketing manager who had a very different background. Her background was in teaching, and she was actually one of the freelancers that I had worked with before. So it came natural. I offered her a full-time role. She gladly accepted it, and she is still, to date, a part of the team. Later on, we hired more content writers. We hired a content strategist, which proved out to be critical role for scaling in formats because with her experience, with her expertise, we managed to expand from just long-form content. And now we are doing also newsletters. We're doing webinars. We're doing distribution on, like, answering Quora questions, et cetera. So we are doing quite a lot now. And it's much due to her vision and her view of content and how content should be distributed. But then another thing that happened before we hired a strategist: I decided to convert my first person's role into content operations. And I did that while I still had the two of them. So I had one content producer and one content ops person. And that is, I believe, will be my legacy. If I do nothing else until the day I die, it will be making that decision to convert a person to content ops. Now, content ops means a lot of things these days, right? So for us, it was mainly trying to come up with the best possible set of tools and automation to run our content seamlessly. Like, we are producing, on average, a blog post or a content piece per day with eight people in total and four people who are doing the actual writing. And we're — no, we're not using any AI-generated content; the writers still have full involvement. We are using it as an aid, but we're not just, you know, prompting ChatGPTand publishing that article right away. But a lot of our content is, the content process is optimized and automated. We use Jira as our content calendar, as our source of truth, as our to-do list, whatever, however you want to call it. But we don't have a spreadsheet. We don't have a calendar. We use everything — we use Jira for everything, which could be a little bit unorthodox. I know that not having an actual calendar sounds scary to a lot of people, but the way we see this is just, like, my instinct is always to trust people, right? So I really don't want to spend time with my team on one-on-one checking, talking about status updates. That is ridiculous. That is a waste of time. Nobody needs to spend time on that. All I need is just a notification that a Jira ticket has been resolved. That's all I need to do, or an automatic tag if I need to review something. So we have different ticket types for different types of content, for audits, for daily tasks that are not content writing. And then each step and each status change basically triggers an action. So we are able to reduce time copying our brief templates. We are reducing time shifting between people who are reviewing, who are writing, who are strategizing. And our content calendar is basically just a bunch of epics on Jira. So that alone saves hours every week. And for that time, you can write, probably, a couple more articles.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

11:27

Yeah, and I agree with you. I think having a content operations person early on is super important. At our first company, we were in a similar situation. We were creating about, like, 75 pieces of content per month. And we had, like, a director of content ops who — we were managing everything in Airtable, but we'd built kind of what seems like a similar kind of process-oriented factory line. Like, we saw, like, our content production process as, like, a factory line or it's like air traffic control. Like, when one piece of content was taking off, like, maybe another piece was landing, and we had to come back and review it. And so a question I have and that I'm often asked is, how often are you guys going back to, like, previously published content and taking another look at it? Is that something that you also focus on as part of that content ops or content production process? 

Anja Simic (Speaking)

12:11

We do. So we do an annual content pruning exercise. I think it's really important to go back to your content, whatever you're doing; for us, it's particularly important because a lot of, you know, facts around laws and regulations and compliance change annually, right? So we know that we absolutely need to review this annually, but we also look at it from, like, an SEO perspective, right? So I have been doing this every single year since I joined. So we've had now five iterations of content pruning. Luckily, now with an SEO manager who is our latest hire, we were able to create an actual standard operating procedure where we clearly defined criteria on what is it that we want to look at, how do we categorize content — because I don't think that traffic is the only thing that you should look at if you're doing audits, right? Like, just because content, a piece of content, is not performing organically doesn't mean that it's not converting, right? Because it just has a different purpose. So yes, my short answer is yes, you should absolutely audit your content. You should audit for relevance. You should audit for seasonality. You should audit for conversion optimization. And you should just audit for, I don't know, like, a facelift, I guess. But so — we often laugh in our team because we would find, like, we would still find like my early pieces — like, pieces of content that I wrote four years ago. Now that I look at that article, I'm borderline ashamed. I'm like, this is not good. It's like we have evolved so much, both from, like, how our blog looks and how it feels to just, again, the words or how we are talking about it. We have now a lot better product than we had years ago. So we want to highlight the features throughout our content because we're also running a series of very, like, product-led content. So we want to make sure that everything is up to date, the screenshots are up to date, because our Deel platform changes quite fast. So we kind of need to make it super up to date.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

14:09

Yeah. And I love how much time and effort you're putting into actually ensuring that your content is accurate. It's so important in an industry like yours, and will also just give that reader, that person coming to your website, a much better experience. And you mentioned, like, conversion rate optimization and also, like, working, like, the Deel product into the content you're creating. I think a big mistake that I see startups make with their CTAs is they'll use the same exact CTAs across every single piece of content throughout their website, when I like to think about CTAs in a much more, like, surgical way. I try to map, like, my content to the different stages of the funnel. And you know, someone that's very high in the funnel might benefit most from a CTA that might be, like, an email collect, whereas, like, someone kind of very at bottom of the funnel looking for, like, a toolset like yours right now, like, might benefit most from a direct, like, “sign up for our tool today” type call to action. And so I like to first, like, take a step back and think about the stage in which that piece of content falls and then to try to craft a CTA to that specific stage. Does that part of the process fall to your team, or is there, like, a separate person on, like, the growth side of the business that focuses more on conversion rate? Or is that, like, directly part of your function on your team?

Anja Simic (Speaking)

15:23

It's indirectly part. So I fully agree with you. Like, I think it's a big mistake that you put a “book a demo” call to action after every single blog post. I mean, I think putting a CTA at the end of the article is actually just a waste of space. I mean, you can put it, but let's be very honest. Not a lot of people read through the whole of your article. I know it's, like, very scary to admit that, but we are tracking scroll depth, and it seems that people just stop after 50% — on average, of course, like, they stop after 50%. So you need to be very consistent, right? Like, you need to put several call to action banners or highlights — however you're using it on your website — in order to make sure that you're getting the right conversion and only stick to one conversion. So as you said, like, very top of the funnel, you would consider newsletter signups or additional articles, related resources; then as you move slowly towards the middle of it, you would start linking to gated content or to product pages or to, I don't know, webinars, maybe, that are more like go to market product webinars. And then at the very, very end, you would go for demo books. And to answer your question, whether my team takes care of conversion rate optimization, yes and no. So we do have a product marketing team whose main focus is demo conversions, right, and product signups, whereas we handle the upper parts of the funnel. And we try to get them to convert in any way, basically just stay engaged to our website. Like, for us, conversion is anything that gets you what you identified as a desired outcome. Like, in our briefs also, we have desired outcome as — or desired action to be taken — for every single piece of content. And we developed almost a matrix with very simple if-then functions. So if this piece of content is informational, then leads to X, Y, Z. You can of course make it as simple or as complicated as you want. Like, if you have different product verticals, if you have different formats, you can play around with that. But the reality is, you need to understand that people might not be ready for your product after reading a single blog post. I would absolutely love that to happen, but I need to be realistic.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

17:42

Yeah, it really depends on the industry that you're in and that conversation you're having with a customer. At my first company, like, page views directly equaled dollars. Like, people — it was a very transactional business. People would come to our website and we would likely never see them again. Like, they were going to convert at that moment in time or not. But then at other stages of my career, like, it's much more of, like, a conversation. And we actually found that, like, readers were coming back to our website from multiple different searches or topics. But that wasn't the case at our first company. Do you find that, like, given that you've kind of covered a lot of bases and created this amazing portfolio of content, do you find that, like, your users are coming back to your website and reading, like, another piece of content? And then that often might have a more positive impact on conversion rate the second time that they come to the site?

Anja Simic (Speaking)

18:27

I think so. I definitely think so. But I think that the recipe for success here is to have an integrated mix of what you're serving your people and where you're serving it because it's not — like, it's not just a transaction, right? Like, they don't just enter your website or read a blog post, get familiar with the topic in your company, then leave, and then come back to your blog. They could be, I don't know, like, scrolling through their social media and stumble upon an ad or a boosted post, or they might be Googling something or they might, you know, even talk about your company to someone else or, I don't know, asking a question in a Slack community about the industry there. So they're looking for a solution, right? So you need to be everywhere at all times. So we definitely have returning visitors. And in the beginning, when I was trying to kind of create a vision of blog — build Deel’s blog for myself, I told them like I really wanted to be the go-to place for, like, old topics or categories of topics. You know how, like, people are, I don't know, looking to HubSpot, for example, when they're thinking about marketing. So they know that HubSpot has a lot of articles, a lot of courses, a lot of, you know educational content marketing. So they would go to their website to look for this content, or they would even in the search query put, like, “+ HubSpot” and only show me results from HubSpot. So I really want to get Deel to a stage where we get that “+ Deel,” you know, search query. That's my full intention.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

19:54

And you mentioned earlier building authority. Is that really what it means to build authority, almost to become, like, the search engine for all questions or topics within that space that you operate? Or how do you define, like, becoming an authority? Because I know you mentioned that earlier.

Anja Simic (Speaking)

20:10

It's complex. I think, like, yes, definitely. I would love for Deel’s website to become the search engine for anything and everything when it comes to payroll and HR and compliance. But Google is, you know, competing against me. So I do have a very, very big competition. But I think that when it comes to fintech and when it comes to, like, the industry that we're operating in, a lot of trust needs to be built over the years because we're dealing with other people's money. We're dealing with other people's salaries. So it's not like — no fancy design or no cute meme would build that authority. It doesn't mean that we shouldn't include it, but we definitely need to showcase who we are and why we claim that we are, you know, the experts, right? So we, at Deel, we have hundreds of payroll and legal experts in-house who are, you know, the biggest experts for a certain area that they operate in. And we really leverage that knowledge, we leverage their knowledge, we get our content checked. So we really stand behind every single sentence that we write throughout our websites. And I'm not talking about authority when it comes to, like, E-E-A-T or, you know, yes, it's there, but it's not just, you know, the, how do I say, fanciness of it. Like, you really need to stand behind it and be able to prove and make sure that what you're saying is correct and absolutely correct, especially when it comes to, you know, any finance, legal, and compliance matters.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

21:44

Yeah, I started my career in, like, the “your money, your life” space where, like, there was a very strict review process on, you know, everything that we said and sourced, and everything had to be backed up with a, an actual source to, to that claim. And it sounds like you've done a great job from, like, an E-E-A-T standpoint. I know, like, SEOs will debate it all day long on if it matters or not. I do think it's really important, but, like, whether, like, E-E-A-T actually matters, I think by just enforcing those best practices, like, you're creating a higher-quality experience for that person who's coming to your website. And ultimately I think that'll have a positive impact on, like, those user experience metrics, like scroll depth and engagement rate and bounce rate and all of the other positive factors that we know will have a positive impact on the performance of those pages in search. But I wanna take a quick step back, and I wasn't gonna mention it, but you did: AI-generated content. Like, AI-generated content is — I get asked about it every single day. Like, should we be using it? And if we are using it, like, how should we be using it? And so I'm going to ask you, like, should we be using AI generated content? And if we are, like, how should we be using it?

Anja Simic (Speaking)

22:48

So it's going to be a longer answer. I'm not going to lie. My personal stance on it is that AI is a fantastic aid, but it's not going to replace a writer ever. It's getting better. It's getting more accurate. It's becoming a really great enhancement or a really good starting point of your content piece. But I don't think that people should aim for content velocity — like, publishing velocity — using AI-generated content. It's not worth it. It's just going to fire back, and people are just going to realize that it's AI-generated — because you can see it. Like, especially for Deel. I mean, I would never publish something that was written by AI because it, like, it makes stuff up, right? I cannot trust it. And if you're in any business, right, like, you need to make sure that your content is factual. So you're not going to make false claims because AI wrote it. However, we are using AI in our content production. We are using it for — we're actually building a really cool tool internally to kind of streamline keyword research process, to make it easier for the team to go through basically, like, a spreadsheet with a bunch of formulas and scripts, and it's powered by OpenAI. We are using AI — like, we're fighting this, like, blank page syndrome with ChatGPT. We always prompt it automatically whenever we have a topic. We look through the list, see, “OK, this could be a good starting point. Let me try and research on the first point. The second point, I don't like, it doesn't make sense. The third point is just repeating something that someone else has already said.” So we are using it. I'm not going to say, like, “No, never use it. It's horrible.” But it's definitely not a replacement. It's a very good help. It speeds things up, but I wouldn't recommend blindly using it just for the sake of quantity because I was never a fan of, like, big quantity. Quality is always what's a win.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

24:50

Yeah. I totally agree with you. At times, I feel, like, too old school, but, like, I still am, as an SEO and a content marketer, like, paranoid enough that, like, I would be very worried — one, about, like, the statements we're making within our content, knowing that they're accurate or not, if I was to just be blindly publishing content with AI. But also, too, Google has said, like, you should not be using AI-generated content as a means to, like, manipulate search results at scale. I think that's basically what they said, but it seems like most companies that want to use AI-generated content are trying to do exactly that, to manipulate search results at scale and then not to use it as a way to actually improve their processes or the quality of content that they're creating. It seems like most people do want to just copy and paste from a ChatGPT. Like I said, I get asked about it every single day, and I guess my response to this question is like, “You can use it, but you still need to put that content through, like, an editorial process. You still need to make it original, make sure it's uniquely helpful.” I think that's become even more important in search today, is, like, what makes your piece of content uniquely helpful versus everything else. And if we're just copying and pasting from content that already exists, I don't know that that would actually be all that uniquely helpful.

Anja Simic (Speaking)

You know, of course not.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

Sorry to go down a rant there.

Anja Simic (Speaking)

26:07

No, no, it's fine. I appreciate a good AI rant. Yeah, but, like, just to kind of conclude this topic, I think that if you want to use AI for AI-generated content, at least dissect it. Because I think a lot of pieces of what's going to become a finished product can be used or, like, generated through AI. For example, titles. If you write a title that you're not absolutely happy about, you can ChatGPT it and prompt ChatGPT to give you 10 alternatives. I'm sure there will be one word that you're like, “Ah, this is a better word. Let me replace — let me use this word and replace it with another word that I had.” Or meta descriptions, for example. Like, you can — I mean, it's very important to know what you're doing, but if you prompt it well, like, it could definitely automate and speed up your process for meta descriptions. Again, not copy-pasted because it's going to sound like an AI-generated thing, but it can definitely help you or make things faster.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

27:07

Yeah, I totally agree with you on metas and titles and headers. It can be super helpful there. I can always tell, though, when, like, someone creates a piece of AI-generated content based on the title, because ChatGPT loves the word “unleashing.” And so whenever I see, like, an H1 with, like, “unleashing something,” like, I'm like, “OK, this piece was created with AI, or at least the title was.” It just loves the word “unleashing.” But to take a step back on the team before we move on from, like, your team, I know you mentioned you recently hired, like, an SEO content manager. What does this person do? And, like, what's their role on the team?

Anja Simic (Speaking)

27:40

So I hired that person last, right? Because a lot of, well, all of my content producers are well versed in SEO. So they do know how to do their own keyword research, they knew how to optimize content, they know what metrics to look at, and they absolutely enjoy SEO tools. However, I needed help with more technical SEO because we started creating content at scale. We started creating different formats, and it was time for someone to really spend a lot of time cleaning up what we, you know, like, little tweaks here and there, you know — schemas, for example: like, I always wanted to test out schemas, but I didn't have enough knowledge myself to play around. And now my SEO manager does that. Like she, thinks in a different way compared to content writers. And she definitely closes all the gaps when it comes to research, when it comes to really drilling deep into data and truly, like, complements the team. So she helps them move faster. She takes away the keyword research. She takes away this, like, daily data check — because we have, like, daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly metrics that we track. And she just takes care of that. And she absolutely loves it. Like, the passion that I see in her when we, I don't know, gain the new featured snippet or something, like, she immediately writes to the team. She's like, “We've got another featured snippet. Well done.” And it really helps because the writers, well, I hope they know that they're really good writers, but they don't actually go back and check the performance of their article. So before she joined, I used to do that, to be like, “Hey, this, you know, got some traction or increase or doubled in traffic.” But now she is the one that does that, which I think is an incredible mood booster. So for nothing else, hire an SEO person to boost your mood.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

29:33

Yeah. And we talked a little bit about KPIs, but I want to ask a question directly. How do you set KPIs for a content and SEO team? Like, we're, I don't know, about a third into the third quarter. Like, what are those, like, KPIs you set? Is it, like, revenue? Is it leads? Is it, like, an engagement metric like, you know, scroll depth? Like, what are those KPIs we should be focusing on? And then how do you set them?

Anja Simic (Speaking)

29:57

Right. So we have two levels, or sets, of metrics. We have our OKRs, which are objectives and key results that for my team particularly change quarter over quarter, and they're always focused on what's the main thing that we are trying to achieve. Some of them repeat, of course, but it's usually very flexible, which could be, like, you know, an unorthodox way to think about metrics, but I really think it keeps the team focused every single quarter. And then we have metrics that we always track, right? So traffic is always going to be tracked. Organic traffic is always going to be tracked, but it's not always going to become an OKR for that month. And when it comes to how — like, what we track, we, whenever we create a new new format or a new big project, we have a strategy doc, right? So we have this section that's called “metrics to track” and “how we define success.” And I think it's very important for you to define success for every single thing that you're doing or every single format that you’re doing, because to our previous point about not every single organic visit is going to drive a demo, you cannot expect, or you shouldn't expect, that every single piece of content you produce in every format is going to give you all of these results. To answer your question more directly, it's like our OKRs are usually tied to MQLs. I believe that content enhances and familiarizes someone with the product, but it doesn't necessarily directly convert. It definitely helps. It pushes them down the funnel. I was really happy when I heard that our sales team clearly sees when a prospect comes to a demo call after having read a piece of our content or our gated content, our guides — they’re, like, ultimate guides, like, dozens of pages, like, 30-plus pages on, I don't know, employee records or payroll or something. They come prepared. They know and understand the concept of it. They have a better understanding of their pain points and how Deel can help them. And then the sales call becomes less of “what is Deel?” and more “how Deel can help you with its sets of product features.” And to me, that is, like, the biggest and ultimate goal of content, right? Like, that's not something that you can measure, right? It's, like, you know, maybe I don't know, time to close during the demo call, but I cannot really claim that metric, can I? But I think it definitely helps. So my main actionable point is just to find success for every single content format that you create.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

32:27

Yeah, and that's a big reason I love content as a customer acquisition channel, because it's an entirely different conversation with that potential customer. When someone clicks on an ad or gets, like, an outbound email, like, they know that they're being sold something. Whereas, like, if you can start the conversation by just, like, helping answer that person's questions, like, it's a completely different relationship. You're now, like, that helpful resource guiding them, versus, like, that sales rep selling them something. Like, we are, at our company, still very early on in our journey of building out our blog and our content marketing function at Positional. But whenever I talk to, like, a potential customer and they're like, “I've read your blog before,” or in extreme cases, like, “I've read every article on your blog,” like, I know that, like, there's going to be a very high likelihood that we can then convert them as a customer. And so that's great that, like, you've gotten that feedback back from the sales team. And it sounds like to Deel that, like, content is very, like, cross-functional role. It sounds like content touches the sales team. Does, like, content also touch or work with, like, the paid media team or the customer support team? Do you find yourself, like, talking with all parts of the business throughout, like, the week or the month?

Anja Simic (Speaking)

33:36

Yes to all. So I'm working very closely with the paid ads team. That, this is not to say that we put ads behind every single piece of content. Like, of course we pick and choose whatever makes more sense. So we are talking basically daily. Like, we want to make sure that everything that we do is always in sync, is always up to date, and there is always new and fresh content for rotation when it comes to awareness campaigns. We're also in close contact with our product marketing team for any go-to-market product launches because whenever we're launching something new, and luckily we are launching quite a lot and quite fast, we want to make sure that we do have that expertise showcased throughout our content — be it, you know, a glossary term explained if there's something new, or, you know, like, the ultimate guides, PDF type of thing, or blog. And whenever there is, like, a new bigger launch, we always go back to that content vertical, and we audit existing content to make sure that our CTAs are up to date and that we're always highlighting the most relevant feature of our product. We're also in close communication with social team for obvious reasons. A lot of our content gets distilled into, you know, slides or posts or threads. And we're also talking to sales enablement team. So we don't directly talk to the sales team. We do, but it's more like personal and ad hoc, but we do have a sales enablement and revenue enablement team whose main job is to kind of keep them trained and educated and make sure that, you know, everybody knows everything that they need to. So we do include our most recent content during their roundups. So to make sure — and of course, like, we're also in conversations with support teams as well. So yeah, whenever there is something that gets asked a lot, we make sure to include it in the article — not necessarily write an article about it, but definitely include it so that they can share and use our content.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

35:27

Yeah, I think customer support can be, like, a great source of ideas for pieces of content to create. When I look at, like, our blog posts on our site, like, almost every single article I've written, like, directly answers, like, a support question that's been asked multiple times, and it creates a dual use case for the content. Like, one, we can answer a support question with it, but then two, like, there's probably a lot of other people out there on the internet that also have a similar question. So in my career, I found myself talking with customer support a lot to get ideas just outside of, like, the standard keyword research tools that everyone is using. But I want to ask specifically about location-based content. I was on the Deel site earlier today and I saw, like, a handful of new posts around, like, U.S. payroll tax in Oregon, U.S. payroll tax in Arkansas. And I often get asked about, like, location-based pages. Are they effective? Like, do they work? Like, what has your experience been with them so far?

Anja Simic (Speaking)

36:19

I do believe that they're effective. I think you need to prioritize before you say yes to do anything because you cannot cover the whole world, right? You cannot cover every single location. So it has to make sense. We did the state taxes and payroll taxes for every state because we are launching a product that's closely tied to it. So we wanted to, again, demonstrate that authority, but we also did not publish these as — directly as an SEO play. It's more of supporting content that can be shared, that can be linked internally and used in, I don't know, snippets throughout different places. So that's exactly why we created this, or this campaign that you're asking. But talking about location-based, I think it's really challenging for Deel, and has been for me, to make it fair for everybody, because obviously we started as a U.S.-headquartered company. So a lot of our initial content and authority was built for North America. So when we expanded globally, I needed to balance it out so that we cover topics that are not just North America or the States. You know, there are a few countries that are English speaking countries, right? So then somebody would ask, like, “What about the UK? What about Australia and New Zealand?” So we do have regional managers, and we are talking about this internally. We are publishing more and more content on other locations, but it really just comes down to market share, if you will. So I think it's natural to publish more content about a certain country or a certain region if it's purely a bigger region or if it's driving more revenue for your business. So it's not one-size-fits-all, but I think one-all-encompassing strategy-fits-all. It just depends, like, which pieces you take from it.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

38:06

And you bring me to my next question on multi-language content and SEO. Is that something you're focused on at Deel? Is that part of the work that you and your team do?

Anja Simic (Speaking)

38:14

It is. Yeah. So actually, I, on my team, I have English and Spanish content right now. So my team produces Spanish content as well. And how we think about it: so I oversee the global content strategy, right? And I work with regional marketing managers on implementing that content strategy to their own regions. I don't always advise them to start with the blog, for example. That is usually something that, you know, is a go-to solution, right? The first thing when you think about content, you start with the blog itself because it's important or it's, I don't know, like, the first thing that is done. But I advised one marketing manager against launching the blog and instead going for gated content first. Because my main question when I'm talking about regional, talking to regional marketing managers is “What product are you focusing on?” and “What are your goals?” Like, what are your sales and revenue goals? Because if you need to hit a target of X leads and out of these, like, half or more than a half are mid-market and enterprise, you don't have time to build the blog. You need to build resources that can help the decision-makers in mid-market and enterprise companies and convert. You have the sales team. So go give your sales team this content. Go create a lead-nurturing campaign in your own language. I always give them everything that, like, all the playbooks and all the things that we've done in English, but we don't ever copy-paste, right? Because I think it doesn't make sense. Obviously it doesn't make sense for SEO, but it doesn't make sense for any others. However, you can use, or people are using, English content as a basis. What's most important is that not every region or not every — when I say region, I mean, language, right? So for example, I don't know, Germany, Japan, and Costa Rica might not have the same level of understanding of what we're selling, what we're offering. They might not be — they might not have the right readiness for Deel or for any product. So you need to start at a more beginner level or at a more advanced level, depending on where your market is. So that's why I said it's not a copy-paste, and it's not one-size-fits-all. But the actual strategy — it works every time. I have numbers to prove it. It works in many, many languages.

Lightning Round:

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

40:24

I think the work you and your team are doing is amazing. I think you've done such an awesome job and I've really enjoyed doing this episode with you. And if it's OK, like, we could transition to a quick rapid-fire round. I've got, like, five or six questions that I really want to ask you. Does that sound good?

Anja Simic (Speaking)

Of course, yeah.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

My first question is on backlinks. Do they matter? Is it something that we should be focusing on, or is it something you should be focusing on at your stage at Deel?

Anja Simic (Speaking)

Absolutely not. I am — I have a very hot take on backlinks. I have not asked for a single backlink since my time at Deel. And we have a very high, like, 70-plus domain ranking. I've never built — if you make good content, backlinks will come. Don't waste time and money building it and paying for it. They will come.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

I agree. Well, you're starting to sound like Google, too. Maybe that's the right thing to do. And at a minimum, you'll get a backlink from us in the show notes. So you've built at least one backlink this week.

Anja Simic (Speaking)

Oh, thank you.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

And my next question is on internal links. You've got a very large site now, like, and site structure at your scale becomes quite important. How much time does, like, your team or your SEO content manager spend on internal linking? Is it something they spend time working on?

Anja Simic (Speaking)

How my team is split up, how our content managers are split up, in product slash content verticals. So every owner owns a certain topic category, if you will, right? Like payroll, for example. So they know pretty much all the content that has been created around payroll because they either defined it or came up with the idea or actually wrote it. So they know what they need, what internal links they need to include. Of course, you cannot have thousands of internal links in your mind. I think there's a way around it, but we're actually thinking about improving and automating that process as well. Our key people have said.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

And featured snippets, you've mentioned that you try to optimize for them and you've had some success there. Are there, like, one or two, kind of, things to do if I want to earn that featured snippet, if I've already got a piece of content on the first page of search for that keyword?

Anja Simic (Speaking)

Two things:  Look at a competing feature snippet. Don't copy and mirror exactly that, but try to give a more robust answer with less words, because people are impatient and they want the answer to questions that they didn't really ask. So just condense it. And also start writing your content, like, bottom up. So give them the answer right away, and don't be afraid that they will just drop off. They'll continue reading.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

I totally agree. I always try to answer the question in the intro and then expand onto it and convince someone to keep reading. But I think answering that key question right away is so important. And you mentioned schemas too. And it's been something you've been focusing on implementing. Is there a certain type of schema that, like, you've focused on or you've seen work well or increased the click-through rate to the site?

Anja Simic (Speaking)

Since we launched schemas for our glossary, we've seen a spike in traffic. We recently launched job description template hub, and we have different — we're testing; this is more complex because we're tying different sections of a job description with a specific schema. It's too early to tell, but if I can get back to you on that question in like a month or so. I'll be curious to see if it works out.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

Heck yeah, I will follow up, and we will tweet about it. And my next question, my last question is the next 12 to 24 months. Like, where does Deel or where does the content team and the work that you're doing go from here? Like, what are you most focused on for the next year or so?

Anja Simic (Speaking)

Who knows where we'll all be in the next 24 months. We will definitely focus on scaling our existing formats. We are going to expand, you heard it first, our webinar program. We are definitely going to tap into more video content, more webinar content, and we are going to level up our educational content. I cannot share too much, but that is our next big thing: educational content.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

Heck yeah. Well, I've really enjoyed doing this episode. I think it was one of our best yet. So thank you for coming on. For all our listeners, we will, like I said, include a link back to the Deel site as well as to the different social profiles in our show notes. So thank you so much for coming on this podcast. It was a lot of fun.

Anja Simic (Speaking)

Thank you, Nate. It was a pleasure.

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44:45

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More Ways to Listen

Optimize Episode 012: Anja Simic on Building Deel’s Content Marketing Team, Creating Multi-language Content, and Leveraging Location-based SEO

Aug 23, 2023

Join Nate Matherson as he sits down with Anja Simic for the twelfth episode of the Optimize podcast. Anja Simic is currently the Director of Content Marketing at Deel, the all-in-one HR platform for global teams. She’s also a passionate advocate for remote work and leveling the playing field for diverse talents worldwide.

Anja walks us through the process of building an all-star global remote-first content and SEO team. Throughout the conversation, Anja and Nate discuss roles like SEO Managers, Content Ops, Writers, and more. Beyond team formation, Anja gets tactical with strategies and tips for creating multi-language content, leveraging location-based SEO, and creating workflows for remote teams. Closing out the episode is our popular lightning round of questions!

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CEO & Co-Founder at Draft.dev

We used to create outlines for our posts, either by paying a consultant $75+ each, or by spending 1-2 hours researching and creating each one ourselves. With Positional, we can create the best outlines for our target keyword clusters and get alternatives within a couple clicks.

Louis-Victor Jadavji
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Matthew Busel
Co-Founder at Whalesync

Positional's tools are an essential supplement to any search-driven content effort. They help us save time and produce better content for both our company blog and our clients.

Karl Hughes
CEO & Co-Founder at Draft.dev

We used to create outlines for our posts, either by paying a consultant $75+ each, or by spending 1-2 hours researching and creating each one ourselves. With Positional, we can create the best outlines for our target keyword clusters and get alternatives within a couple clicks.

Louis-Victor Jadavji
CEO & Co-Founder at Taloflow

Positional has proven indispensable in our SEO strategy. Its rapid optimization capabilities for our blogs led to noticeable improvements in search rankings within a month. From planning to making our content better, it’s like having a teammate. Our team loves it!

Varun Varma
Co-Founder at Typo

Positional is a must-use tool for any growing startup that cares about SEO. It's simple and easy to use but as powerful as anything out there. Plus their customer support is next level.

Matthew Busel
Co-Founder at Whalesync

Positional has been an amazing addition to our SEO and Content team's workflows, enhancing our overall efficiency. We particularly love using AutoDetect and Internal Linking on a daily basis!

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SEO Manager at Klay Media

Nate and the positional team are the best of the best in SEO, content marketing, and helping you grow your organic traffic. The combination of their expertise and the SEO and content tool they’ve built has allowed us to build a scalable content engine. Reach out to me anytime for a testimony. They are truly phenomenal.

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As an SEO novice, Positional makes it easy. I can quickly go from keyword research, to clustering, to content outlines, then go focus on just making good content. I felt like it helped bridge the gaps between what would’ve taken 3 or more tools in the past.

Kevin Galang
Head of Growth at Definite

The first time we used Positional's toolset was to revamp an older but important piece of content. We used Optimize for optimization, and Internals for internal linking suggestions. We went from position #6 to #1 with the changes and increased our organic search traffic to the page by 400%. Today, Positional is an integral part of our blogging strategy, from topic generation to blog renovation.

Nate Lee
CEO and Co-Founder at Speedscale

Positional has been an amazing addition to our SEO and Content team's workflows, enhancing our overall efficiency. We particularly love using AutoDetect and Internal Linking on a daily basis!

Lindsey Barnes
SEO Manager at Klay Media

Nate and the positional team are the best of the best in SEO, content marketing, and helping you grow your organic traffic. The combination of their expertise and the SEO and content tool they’ve built has allowed us to build a scalable content engine. Reach out to me anytime for a testimony. They are truly phenomenal.

Alan Zhao
Co-Founder & Head of Marketing at Warmly

As an SEO novice, Positional makes it easy. I can quickly go from keyword research, to clustering, to content outlines, then go focus on just making good content. I felt like it helped bridge the gaps between what would’ve taken 3 or more tools in the past.

Kevin Galang
Head of Growth at Definite

The first time we used Positional's toolset was to revamp an older but important piece of content. We used Optimize for optimization, and Internals for internal linking suggestions. We went from position #6 to #1 with the changes and increased our organic search traffic to the page by 400%. Today, Positional is an integral part of our blogging strategy, from topic generation to blog renovation.

Nate Lee
CEO and Co-Founder at Speedscale

“We’ve been moving up the search rankings. When we first started using Positional, we had about 1,000 visitors from organic search per month, and today, we have over 12,000 visitors from organic search per month. And obviously, Positional has played a large role in our growth.

Alex Bass
CEO & Co-Founder

Positional takes the guessing game out of our content and SEO strategy. It allows me to do extremely quick keyword research which I can then turn into detailed instructions for our content writers through their Optimize tool. I love the speed new capabilities are being added!

Phillip Eller
CEO & Co-Founder at AccessOwl

I've been using Positional since its closed beta, and it boosted our SEO results so far! We've published over 80 articles with Positional and it has gained traction very well. The "Optimize" tool is my favorite — it ensures we use the right keywords for better rankings. The "Content Analytics" tool is also great for showing us exactly where we should improve our content.

Yuta Matsuda
COO & Co-Founder at Genomelink

Positional's tools are an essential supplement to any search-driven content effort. They help us save time and produce better content for both our company blog and our clients.

Karl Hughes
CEO & Co-Founder at Draft.dev

“We’ve been moving up the search rankings. When we first started using Positional, we had about 1,000 visitors from organic search per month, and today, we have over 12,000 visitors from organic search per month. And obviously, Positional has played a large role in our growth.

Alex Bass
CEO & Co-Founder

Positional takes the guessing game out of our content and SEO strategy. It allows me to do extremely quick keyword research which I can then turn into detailed instructions for our content writers through their Optimize tool. I love the speed new capabilities are being added!

Phillip Eller
CEO & Co-Founder at AccessOwl

I've been using Positional since its closed beta, and it boosted our SEO results so far! We've published over 80 articles with Positional and it has gained traction very well. The "Optimize" tool is my favorite — it ensures we use the right keywords for better rankings. The "Content Analytics" tool is also great for showing us exactly where we should improve our content.

Yuta Matsuda
COO & Co-Founder at Genomelink

Positional's tools are an essential supplement to any search-driven content effort. They help us save time and produce better content for both our company blog and our clients.

Karl Hughes
CEO & Co-Founder at Draft.dev
Content Strategy