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Mischa Vaughn on the Expanding Role of Content—and How to Get it Right

By February 2, 2022March 10th, 2022No Comments
Mischa Vaughn on the Expanding Role of Content—and How to Get it Right

When people think of content, they usually think of blogs and social media channels. 

But today, content also includes branding, video, growth, and strategy.

Mischa Vaughn, Director of Content at Webflow, thinks that we need a better word for what content now encapsulates. 

He sat down with me to discuss the role of SEO in distribution, how PR and content overlap, and why video content is king.

View SEO as a distribution channel

Whether your content is SEO driven or not, Mischa believes there is still a big benefit to including it in your strategy.

Regardless of what type of content you’re writing, SEO is a way to get it in front of more readers. 

“We have agencies and stuff, but we also think of SEO really as just another distribution mechanism,” Mischa said about his team at Webflow. “So any piece you’re writing, whether it’s a thought leadership piece, there’s probably something that it can be SEO optimized around.” 

That doesn’t mean rewriting half of your piece to fit a keyword. But when you’re coming up with a piece, consider what keyword fits and how you could incorporate it.

“Are there some things we can do?” he said. “Some ways we can title things to make sure that it will actually rank for something?”

That’s the key to optimizing content from the ground up. 

Have clear goals for SEO content

Before you choose a keyword, think about the content you’re creating, who it’s going to serve, and what goals you have for that content. 

Even before his team determines what keyword they’ll target, they take a step back and ask:

  • Who is the audience?
  • What are the goals?
  • Is there a clear CTA at the end?
  • What should someone read, watch, or do next?

They build pillar pages to direct the reader to a certain action. 

For example, for portfolio websites there is one central page they all link back to, like a hub and spoke format.

It may not even be a blog page that you’re sending people to. Webflow has a portfolio course that they created last year that they direct people to.

“That’s the clear bottom of the funnel CTA that we need to send people to,” he said. “So that is a key part of our portfolio pillar.”

Thinking through these questions lets them deliver the right thing to the customer at the right time. 

Then, they add in whatever details and steps are necessary to make sure it succeeds, like images, CTAs, and a clear distribution strategy. 

Don’t get bogged down by terms

Webflow is a platform that champions no code and low code website building. But the Webflow team isn’t just creating content to boost the term “no code.” 

They’re thinking about the future of their audience.

“At Webflow, we’re trying to just get known for if you want to build really powerful websites, we’re the best place to do it,” Mischa said.

They’re trying to communicate that whether you want to do it with no code or not, Webflow is where your designers and developers will be happiest.

It’s best not to get too focused on a term. Not only is there not going to be a lot of search volume for it initially, but you also need to hedge your bets between the present and the future.

“I think that’s what’s the fun challenge of creating content, is you’re not just creating content for right now. You’re trying to anticipate what is your audience going to be thinking about in six months, in a year?” he said.

SEO can take months to work and deliver a higher ranking. Webflow has the benefit of a high domain authority site, but even so they don’t focus only on the “no code” term.

“There are some big ambitious things that we want to tackle. And by and large, those have pretty much nothing to do with no code,” he said.

PR and content should collaborate

People think of PR and content as totally separate, but they should actually work in tandem. 

When hiring people, Mischa looks for those who can “read the room.” His ideal candidates have an understanding of all the current factors affecting their company, and how their content should reflect that.

“Do you understand all the macro factors that are going in, whether it’s economical factors, whether it’s cultural factors?” he asked. 

“With no code, for example, you’re democratizing code and stuff. Do you also understand the history of visual development, where that comes from? Do you understand the interplay between designers and developers?”

There’s also the issue that the term no code implies to some people that they’re anti-developer, which isn’t the truth. No code platforms are built on code.

“That’s I think where PR or just having a sense of that mentality is really helpful,” he said.

Your blog is owned content and PR is earned content. They should help inform each other. If there’s a piece you’re creating for your blog, it may be something that could be pitched to get more earned content.

Double down on video

Webflow is starting their own streaming platform to connect with a broader audience. And there’s a good reason they’re putting so much energy into video.

“I think video’s the most impactful place for almost any brand,” Mischa said of the current content climate.

Text content results in better search rankings, but it’s not just about the SERP.

“I just think video is the most impactful medium,” he said. “You get visuals and you get sound. So you’re affecting two senses in the human body. And you can really affect people.”

A good photo or writing can affect your emotions, but not nearly as strongly as a good film or even a commercial. 

It makes sense to pivot to more video production as social media platforms become more video-centric.

TikTok is a video-only social channel, and Instagram and even LinkedIn are both positioning themselves as video-first.

“They’re all so video-centric now, and videos are given a premium in their algorithm,” MIscha said.

Create shareable headlines

In the early 2010s, Mischa worked in content for UpWorthy, the site whose shareable posts took over Facebook for a few years.

UpWorthy is famous for having writers write 25 headlines to come up with the best one. Mischa said the practice taught him that crafting a good headline is a mechanism for distribution. 

“It’s not just about headlines,” Mischa said. “You can write the most incredible blog post out there, and most incredible article out there. And if you don’t focus on distribution, it’s not going to get read.”

A great headline is not about the headline itself but how it will be distributed.

Mischa no longer writes 25 headlines to get to a good one, but he will often write four or five. It helps him to think about which pattern works for the specific piece.

“I’m not thinking necessarily about sharing,” he said. “It’s more about, does this help explain things better?”

A clear headline with a hook is the icing on the cake that makes sharing and distributing it come naturally. It’s part of optimizing it for SEO and giving your content its best shot.

Alex Birkett

Alex is a co-founder of Omniscient Digital. He loves experimentation, building things, and adventurous sports (scuba diving, skiing, and jiu jitsu primarily). He lives in Austin, Texas with his dog Biscuit.