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This post is about how you can leverage the writing of others through interviews to grow your audience - for free!
Who am I? My name is Pat Walls and I am the founder of StarterStory.com and I have built a successful business interviewing others. This blog attracts 800k monthly visitors and generates $30K/month in revenue.
A lot of people have asked me for advice on this, so I figured I would write a series about how you get started and use these tactics to grow your blog, business or side project.
A little about my journey...
Just over 3 years ago, I purchased the domain name starterstory.com - with the bright hopes of interviewing founders and sharing their stories.
I had no experience in blogging or content marketing, my website looked like crap, and I had no idea what I was doing.
But one thing led to another, and things just kept growing month over month.
In my first year, I somehow managed to interview over 350 founders , and these interviews have been read by millions of people.
The blog generated enough income in its first year to allow me to quit my full-time job.
Let’s first get familiar with interviews and break down some of the basics:
What Are Interviews?
Interviews are a great way to get user generated content for your site - and oftentimes, they will generate quality traffic and interest.
Not only will your audience read this content, but the audience of your interviewee will also read and share this content.
Interviews are a great way to add value to your business while mixing up your blogging style.
Real World Examples: Conduct Interviews For Your Blog
Alright, back to the strategy.
Interviews are at the core of what we do at Starter Story.
In the early days, we would actually interview founders over the phone and transcribe it into a text article. This turned out to be a really challenging and time consuming process. It took us a full month to get three interviews.
Interviewing people is obviously not a new concept. You see it in just about every facet of business - because it works.
- YouTube influencers interview other influencers to grow their audiences.
- Magazines interview celebrities, which helps sell issues and acquire new readers.
- Companies do case studies. Shopify has interviewed over 1,000 of their own customers in a success story series. Their SEO on that is surely impressive.
Interviews apply to just about every single industry.
We specialize in written interviews, but this can also apply to video interviews, podcasts, etc.
This guide is about written interviews, but this can also apply to video interviews, podcasts, etc.
I personally have found written interviews to be the most scalable approach, but the tactics here should work for any type of interviews you wish to do.
- Interviews are easy
- Interviews are free
- Interviews are scalable
Before getting started, I want to first note that interviews are not necessarily a replacement for other content.
My content is 90% interviews, and that works great for me, but interviews can also be used a supplementary source of content for your readers as well.
For example, maybe you’re currently writing your own blog posts but want to scale up your content production with a couple of interviews per month.
Interviews are easy
Interviewing others is a simple, easy way to get really good content - with much less effort than creating original content.
Because interviews are written, they require little work on your end, as the interviewee will spend their time to write the content for you.
Interviews are free
To me, this is amazing because it’s 100% free content.
Unlike blog posts, you don’t need to pay for someone to write it and you don’t need to spend hours writing it yourself.
Interviews are scalable
With the time and energy that it would take you to research, write, edit and publish 1 epic “How To” blog post, you can conduct and publish 10 interviews.
I know this because I track the time it takes me now to publish interviews.
All things considered (outreach, email back and forth, revisions, publishing, etc) it takes me about 30 minutes of my time to have a published interview on my site.
It’s also scalable because interviews mainly consist of the same questions, so by creating just one template you can publish hundreds of diverse pieces of content.
- Grow your business
- Grow your network
- Gain market share in your industry
Grow your business
Interviews are great because they will help grow your business.
Whether you are trying to grow your blog, gain users for your product, or grow your agency, interviews are an excellent way to get targeted readers interested in what you have to offer.
Here’s a screenshot of my organic search impressions over the last year.
This is the result of interviewing tons of founders and it will continue to only grow over time.
I want to show this image to prove that interviews can be an awesome source of consistent organic traffic, contrary to some opinions that they don’t perform well in google search.
Grow your network
Interviews are also an amazing way to grow your network.
I have made so many awesome connections with founders after doing all of these interviews, and I’ve also felt like I’ve given back by bringing exposure to their businesses.
For example, one of my interviews went viral and their business sold $6K of product in one day. Or another company got over 100 job applicants from their interview (they were hiring).
I’ve also grown my own Twitter following to over 5K.
Become a dominant force in your industry
Not only will interviews perform well in search, but they will also perform very well on social media.
Here’s how one of my recent interviews was shared on social media.
Now, you might be thinking that 30 likes aren’t a whole lot, but remember that Tracey’s audience is extremely targeted for me, and her followers are all likely to see this.
So if you want to become more known in your industry, or gain “social” market share, interviews and features are a great way to do that.
How to get started
Ok, so if you’re still reading by this point you’re probably somewhat interested in doing interviews.
But where to start?
This is where most people get caught up, or give up early. It might sound easy to do interviews, but there are many things that will throw you off your path.
Here are the 3 main steps to getting interviews:
- Finding subjects to interview
- Pitching these subjects to interview
- Find a way to scale this process
1. Finding subjects to interview
So how do you find people to interview?
First, get a website up
Before you go around asking random strangers on the internet if they’d like to be interviewed, you need to have a website or something to show them you’re legit.
Once you have a website, think about seeding it with a couple of interviews with friends or write your own interviews. You should have some content before showing it to randoms.
For me, I started with friends and friends of friends. This helped me seed the site with a couple of interviews.
Go to where the people are
The first thing you should be thinking about is where you can find people to interview.
I can’t really answer that for you because it’s different for every industry.
But for me, I sourced “leads” from online directories, podcast episode listings, and various databases around the web. For example, I scraped the Mixergy podcast directory, which has over 1000 interviews with founders.
Podcasts are great because the interview subjects are already doing interviews, so they’re more likely to agree to do one with you.
Still don’t know where to find these people?
Ok, let’s do an example and get creative.
Let’s say you are a company that sells dog treats and you want to grow your traffic by doing interviews with pet owners about their dogs (this is a great idea because you could rank for search terms down to the breed of the dog)
But where to find dog owners?
How about r/dogs, which has almost 1 million members?
Looking more specifically for pug owners? How about r/pugs which has 70k members?
The members of r/pugs are certainly pug enthusiasts, and I’m sure they would be stoked to be featured on your blog.
Or maybe troll the comments of a popular pug Instagram account and DM users. Or find people through pug related Facebook groups.
The possibilities are endless.
2. Properly pitching your interviewees
Now you need to reach out to these people. If you’re finding people on Reddit, you should be DMing them at first and then taking it to email. Same with Instagram.
I’ve done my fair share of cold emails and cold pitches.
My general advice on this is to:
- Keep it short
- Use social proof
- Leave them curious
Keep it short
Here is what my current cold email looks like:
It’s a relatively short email. I don’t overexplain what I’m doing and I briefly share some of the benefits of being featured.
With Pigeon, I’m able to schedule bulk emails and include automated follow ups, right inside Gmail.
Here’s how simple that is:
To find emails, check out Hunter.
Here’s a screenshot of how I would pitch someone on Reddit DM:
Use social proof
I link to other features we have done. These are some of our “biggest” / most notable features in the industry.
This helps show the reader that we are legit and if other successful companies are doing it, that they should be as well.
Leave them curious
This is the most important part:
“If you’re interested I could send more details.”
Don’t jump right into the details of how it works. Pique their interest - it helps a lot.
3. Find a way to scale this process
Now that you know where to find people and how to pitch them, you will want to scale this process.
The best results will come when you start automating a lot of this process and publishing interviews on a consistent, regular basis.
Don’t feel compelled to automate your process right away though, do stuff manually and see what works!
As time goes by, it will take you less and less time to get interviews published.
If you’re interested in using Pigeon to automate the process of publishing interviews, please reach out. I’m currently publishing around 50 interviews per month.
It’s a numbers game
You need to assume that only 10% of your “leads” will turn into published interviews. So if you want to publish one interview per week, you need to reach out to 10 people per week.
Think about what you personally need to do to get 5 leads per week. If this is something you can outsource or “hack” (I used my coding skills to scrape websites).
I will talk more about automation in later posts!
Coming up next
As stated, this is just Part 1 of my four-part series.
In the next blog post, I’ll talk more about the email back and forth, how to put together an awesome interview template and have a revisions process that gets interviewees to write amazing, long-form content (3000+ words) for you.
And in later sections, I’ll talk more about automation, and how to publish and share your content.
If you’re eager to get the next part of the series, sign up for our mailing list.
Contributors to this article:
- Pat Walls, Founder @ Starter Story
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