Naked Brands are a new kind of brand — enabled by social media, powered by personality, and built for the digital age:
Naked Brands are transparent.
Naked Brands are founded by social media influencers.
Naked Brands prize on-going communication with fans and customers.
This book project requires an extensive research process. I plan to conduct many interviews with writers, influencers, and entrepreneurs. The interviews will all be public and will live right here on my website. We'll go on this journey together — you and me. Together, we'll cross industries, speak with experts around the world, and explore the past, present, and future of Naked Brands.
Note: You can keep up with the series by subscribing to my “Monday Musings” newsletter.
One of my favorite articles of yours is Decomplication: How to Find Simple Solutions to “Hard” Problems. Here’s the premise: the core solution to many problems are extremely simple. However, businesses create "artificial complexity,” and use it as a sales tactic. They take advantage of our desire for complex solutions to simple problems.
In similar fashion, professionals use jargon to simplify the mundane. Nevertheless, there is a simple solution to most problems, and we should strive to do what’s simple — not what’s easy. In an effort to leverage Google and earn attention, how can Naked Brands de-complicate the SEO process? Break it down for me.
SEO is really just about knowing what questions your customers or fans are asking, and providing good answers to those questions. As long as you can explain something in a useful, understandable, and actionable way, you can succeed with SEO. It’s really that simple.
Where most people go wrong is they don’t do a good job of answering people’s questions, or they provide content that answers questions no one is asking. There’s a place for non-SEO content, like your blog and most of my blog, but if you want your articles to drive business goals then you almost always want to focus on figuring out all the questions your potential customers are asking and provide the best answer to those questions that you can.
Being a Naked Brand usually means working for yourself. It means being responsible for your growth, your learning and your reputation. You’ve used the internet to learn SEO from scratch and start a lifestyle business. What strategies have you developed to learn consistently and identify high-quality educational material?
My core principle for self-education (which I outline more here) is getting to application as fast as possible. You can’t really learn something by watching videos, reading books, listening to lectures, you have to do it, but we don’t grasp that as well in some areas (like entrepreneurship) the way we do in others (like riding a bicycle).
So whenever I’m trying to learn something, I try to actually start doing it as soon as possible, and then primarily use educational resources to troubleshoot problems I run into. It’s too easy to get stuck in the research phase forever without really knowing what you need to know, so I prefer to jump in and get my hands dirty and build the parachute on the way down, so to speak.
Many of your clients are trust Growth Machine because they trust you. They follow you on Twitter and they’re fans of your writing. From a marketing perspective, how do you think about the distinction between your personal brand and the Growth Machine brand?
Growth Machine grew entirely out of my personal brand. I had a few marketing articles, in particular the one on the Wiki Strategy that people really liked, and so they started asking me to help them with their site’s content and SEO. That soon led to hiring other people to help me implement the processes, and now a year later it’s really its own thing, separate from my personal brand.
But at the same time, I think my content still helps people find the business. There’s no way we could have grown so quickly if I didn’t already have an audience of people interested in my marketing advice. And as more people find me through my content, more people make it to the Growth Machine site.
The other way, and I think it’s kind of silly but it probably helps, is that I brag about our results a lot on twitter. I’ll post screenshots of traffic results (with the client names removed) showing what we’re doing for our clients, and I think that builds trust since they would be extremely hard to fake. It takes no work for me to take a photo of a spreadsheet or Google Analytics dashboard, but it shows that we actually know what we’re doing.
One of my favorite writers, Venkatesh Rao says that readers must discover his website Ribbonfarm at least twice in two different ways before turning into regular readers. SEO is great because when it’s executed properly, it drives a ton of web views. However, readers may not remember the website. How do you make sure that readers connect and remember you when they visit the website?
Honestly, for SEO, that’s not a huge concern. You’re usually using SEO to get someone to buy something, or convert to an email subscriber, not necessarily to turn them into “regular readers.” If you look at the Cup & Leaf blog, for example, no one would read it from one article to the next, because that’s not the goal. The goal is to rank for everything related to tea, have people find those articles, then buy our tea. It’s a very different strategy from building a naked brand.
That said, there are ways you can blend the two. I worked with the Jump Rope Dudes on their SEO and content strategy, but they’re primarily YouTubers. They create great videos on jumping rope and getting in shape, and some of them are targeted at ranking for specific keywords on YouTube like “are rest days necessary” and “beginner jump rope.” They’re a Naked Brand with a very personal channel, but they also take advantage of SEO as they can.
Your website receives almost 400,000 views per month. You’re also a voracious blogger and publish a podcast once a week. What have been the keys to your success as a Naked Brand? What’s helped you build such a large audience?
I think it’s just been to focus on whatever I’m interested in, and not worry too much about doing what people want, or trying to be some sort of Internet personality. I use SEO to amplify my content, but I’ll only write something if I’m interested in it.
The podcast just came from me and Neil reading a lot and wanting an excuse to hang out and talk about books. And then my book notes rank for a ton of keywords related to the different books, and get around 45,000 visitors a month, which brings more people to the blog and podcast. Some people just want to read my marketing articles, or psychology articles, or sex articles, and that’s fine. I don’t need every reader to like every topic I want to cover.
The biggest element is probably that I don’t try to emulate what other people are doing in their brands. You see a ton of bloggers trying to be like Tim Ferriss, and it comes off lazy and repetitive. We don’t need more people living on a beach trying to be Tony Robbins talking about how you can “take control of your life.” Most of those people are trying to copy someone else’s formula, but that never really works. Or if it does, it’s not really your brand since you just copied someone else’s.
Most Naked Brands use video to build an audience and generate trust. You’ve done mostly through writing, which tends to extract emotion from the content. In contrast, video is almost all emotion which is part of the reason why it leads to such strong bonds between creators and their audiences. What strategies do you use to build trust with words on a page?
I don’t think about it too much. I think the biggest thing is how I argue and cite my sources. I’ll try to always link to research articles and reliable sources, never to questionable blogs or dubious sources. And I’m fairly apolitical, in that I try to stay outside of any political party or tribal ideology, which I think helps me engender more trust from readers by trying to look at things more impartially.
Consistent content is like oxygen for Naked Brands. By publishing consistently, they stay fresh in consumers’ minds and develop relationships with their audiences. What strategies do you use to maintain a regular publishing schedule?
None! I just write when I feel like it, and that turns into one post every two or three weeks. I think I’m only able to do that, though, because I’m genuinely interested in what I’m writing about. Nassim Taleb has this great line in one of his books that says something like “writers who struggle to write should stop writing,” I like that idea. If writing is a huge slog, it’s not fun, and it won’t read as good, so I don’t try to force it. I use my excitement about an idea drive what I write about, and that tends to lead to things my audience is interested in as well.
Now, granted, some guidelines help. My newsletter has to go out every Monday. And I want to get up at least one post a month. But beyond that… I’m fairly unstructured. I have dozens of half-finished drafts lying around. I almost never end up writing the post I “plan” to write next. I try not to fight it too much.
I’m a bit better about Made You Think. Neil and I have a fixed release schedule of 1 per week so we have to meet up most weeks to record, which is helpful for staying accountable. It also means I have to keep an aggressive reading schedule, because if I don’t, then I’ll end up spending all day Thursday trying to catch up before our recording on Friday.
Note: You can keep up with the series by subscribing to my “Monday Musings” newsletter.