Oli Gardner on Brand Building and Writing Compelling Content

Oli Gardner on Brand Building and Writing Compelling Content

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When landing page expert Oli Gardner opened up his inbox one morning and spotted an email from Dharmesh Shah, he knew it was going to be a good day. \”Waking up to that is way better than a cup of Folgers. When the message is an invitation to do an “Ask Me Anything” on Inbound.org, it\’s even sweeter,\” Oli tells me.

A self-proclaimed potty mouth who has seen more landing pages than anyone on the planet, Oli is well known in the conversion space for his dry humour and innovative concepts (search Conversion Centered Design).

As the co-founder and Creative Director at Unbounce (where I work), Oli is also generous with his knowledge. So when the chance came up to do the AMA, he naturally accepted. Oli opened up the floor to any and all questions—nothing was off limits (except being mean). He provided insight into conversion rate optimization, content marketing, A/B testing, his battle with public speaking and what it’s like to be a startup founder.

Questions ranged from \”What is the single most impactful change to a landing page you\’ve tested?” to “How have you scaled content and inbound marketing?\”

Rand Fishkin even popped by to solicit some testing advice. Oli obliged with some suggestions that Rand quickly took back to his marketing team at Moz:

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Here are Oli’s favourites from the day:

\”If you were starting Unbounce again from scratch today, would you do something similar? Do you feel the \’epic guest post\’ is effective in terms of calories-in, KPIs-out?\”

Referencing his first piece of \”epic\” content—The Noob Guide to Online Marketing—Oli singled out what he believes was in large part responsible for Unbounce’s initial brand acceleration. The guide was born out of the early stages of his own development as a marketer and by leveraging the Moz blog’s audience, Oli was able to get amazing exposure for the Unbounce brand.

And to quote myself from a recent tweet: \’If I could go back in time 4.5 years to when we started Unbounce, I\’d kiss myself on the mouth and change nothing…\’

The best discussion that came out of the AMA was from an eager 16-year-old, who wanted to know what makes for compelling content, and how to make content marketing actually work.

Oli ultimately came back with five things an incredible post needs:

  1. A strong opinion. Readers should feel like the author is taking a stand, and is actually daring to lead their thoughts.
  2. Entertainment. If an author is boring, why would anyone ever come back to read their posts again?
  3. Original visuals. If someone cares enough about a piece of content to create beyond the copy—\”that\’s a big signal of someone who gives a s***.\”
  4. A single overarching takeaway. By reading the post, you\’ll learn exactly “this.”
  5. Love.

After the AMA, Oli was exhausted but exhilarated from being \”on the spot\” for such a long time. There were 8,600 words on that page—(but who’s counting?)—most of them his.

I asked Oli what he learned from doing the AMA. His response:

I learned how to consider my answers carefully enough to make every word valuable to participants, while typing at 100 miles per hour. By the end of the day I\’d come to the conclusion that I should have directed the topic more by letting people know that I\’d do live landing page critiques. That would have been amazing.

A few more tips and takeaways from Oli based on what was said:

  1. Sometimes you learn best by doing. Before Unbounce, Oli was not a marketer \”on paper.\” It was through experimenting and making mistakes that he gained most of his knowledge.
  2. Painful lessons are often the best. We’ve seen studies before—a failed test is not necessarily a bad thing. It teaches you what to do better next time.
  3. Know what you’re not as much as what you are. It\’s a balancing act between acquiring your \”ideal\” customer and just acquiring more, but it pays off in the end to have loyal customers who will give the most lifetime value.
  4. One page. One purpose. Don’t let your visitors get distracted by \”leaks\” on your landing pages.

And what did Oli think was the cherry on top of the whole experience?

Being up late at night, brainstorming new ideas for future AMAs with Dharmesh over email.

In case you missed it, read up on what other advice he gave here.

Have your own questions for Oli? Let me know in the comments and I’ll get him to chime in.

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About Tia Kelly

Tia Kelly is the Social Strategist at Unbounce. A digital marketer specializing in social media, she has a love of creative advertising, good design and hot drinks. Active in many online communities, Tia's always up for making new friends and sharing what she knows.
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