How to Learn What Digital Marketing Tactics are Working for Other Startups

In this article, I’m going to teach you an easy way you can learn more about what sort of digital marketing tactics are working for different companies. The way that we’re going to do this today is we’re going to dig into the Y Combinator directory and take a look at what some YC companies are doing in order to expand their digital presence.

By the end of this article, you’re going to have a much more clear idea of how YouTube can take this tactic in order to survey the market and, or just learn some new digital marketing strategies.

Digging into ycombinator.com

The first thing we’re going to do is we’re going to navigate to ycombinator.com. YC is a startup accelerator that essentially funds a ton of unicorn companies while also expanding out and funding pretty much everything under the sun these days. It’s a gold standard when it comes to some quality startups.

What we’re going to do is we’re going to navigate to the company section in the top navigation. And then from here, you’re going to see a list of thousands of companies, including some of their most successful companies. You can see how Y Combinator was where Airbnb, Coinbase, DoorDash as well as Getlabs started.

On the left-hand side panel, you’re going to want to select a batch that was a few years ago. The reason why is because at this point, this means that this company has still been operating after several years of going through the Y Combinator experience and that they’re still doing pretty well probably, or just that they have more of a history pattern that you can actually study when you’re looking into their digital marketing strategies.

So taking a look at the left-hand side here, I’m just going to go ahead and show more options. And then I’m going to maybe go by the summer batches, because typically speaking the summer batches from Y Combinator are typically a little bit more well-known than the winter back is at least from my past experiences of searching through this. And then what you’re gonna want to do is you’re going to want to go ahead and see if you want to filter this down by industry.

Why is this helpful

So why would this be really helpful? What’d be really helpful in the case where, for example, maybe you are also part of an education company or maybe you’re part of a FinTech company, and you just want to actually conduct some more in depth market research into what these companies are doing.

So in this case, let’s take the example that we are selling B2B software. I’m going to go ahead and filter down for that. And now you can essentially see how these are the different B2B companies that came out of the Y Combinator batch in the summer of 2017. Gem is a really big one right now, so let’s go ahead and take a look at Gem because I think they’re going to be a great case study example of what we can do to start digging in.

Digging into Gem’s website

From here, what you can do is you can usually navigate straight to their website and you can first see whether or not they’re still an active company. They are, and so in this situation, I’m going to navigate to Gem’s website. The goal when I’m getting onto Gem’s website is I’m trying to take a look at what might be going on in terms of their blog, their core marketing pages, or anything else that catches my eye.

As I land on Gem’s homepage, the first thing I’m going to do is I’m going to take a look at what SimilarWeb, a Chrome extension tool is telling me. And in this situation, what you can tell is that Gem is getting 117,000 monthly visits estimated. A lot of people are spending about, close to seven minutes on their website.

But if I go to SimilarWeb, what you can see is that when I break down the breakdown of how the people are getting to this site 20% of their traffic is coming from search. In case you want to learn a little bit more about how to use SimilarWeb’s Chrome extension in order to learn really quickly about your competitors, check out this article where I dig into that topic. But essentially the main thing I take away from this is that Gem is probably getting a lot of eyeballs to their website directly from just word of mouth. And or search coupled with some outbound email or some sort of mail efforts. And you can tell that right here. From here, what do we do?

Digging into Gem’s top navigations section

Always start by looking at the top navigation, because this is what the company wants you to look at first. This likely means it’s where some of the bandwidth of the company has been oriented.

In this situation, I can tell that they have some product pages. These are probably some nice long-tail landing pages that are essentially targeting these particular sorts of software solutions. So things like product overview, talent, sourcing, talent CRM, you can also see things like talent compass, but what I’m also going to look into is what’s in their resources section.

In this situation, you can see that they are prioritizing things like their resource center, their blog events and webinars, customers, and things like that.

What does this tell you?

Well, right off the bat, just by looking at this core navigation, what I can tell is that Gem really cares about educating their potential user on the different ways that they can use their product. And that’s why they have so many different products. If we go ahead and take a look at some of these product pages, you can see what they’re trying to do is they’re trying to educate the user on the different ways that they may be using Gems. This is right off the bat, what I’m finding as I’m going through these pages, I’m seeing that they are trying to really identify the ideal customer profiles that they’re going after as a business.

As I continue further though, and look at the resources section, what I can see is what they are trying to develop from a content marketing standpoint. In other words of digital marketing site. So in this case, what I can see is that this resource center is all about positioning Gem as a central authoritative source for white papers, solution briefs, webinars, reports, and more. The reason why this is really cool is because what Gem is doing is they’re taking the data that they have about their users.

And they’re creating, industry-wide known reports, or at least trying to, in order to gain attention for their overall company as well. So there’s a really clever way for a B2B company to be taking on digital marketing efforts. And what you can see is as I go through this, this are webinars in which what Gem is doing is they’re not just working within their own team, but they’re also collaborating with other teams.

So you can see here in this one on optimizing the relationship between recruiters and hiring managers, that they are bringing in recruiters from Coinbase, Pendo and Drift, and Gem. So these are some of the most prominent tech startups right now. And so what they’re doing is they’re going ahead and creating these landing pages in which each one of this is a conversion page for gem.

So in other words, you would want to land on this page. You would want to learn a little bit more about optimizing the relationship between recruiters and hiring managers, submit your information here, and then save your seat. So the reason why this is a really powerful digital marketing effort, taking a step back is because it’s not only giving an opportunity for Gem to promote themselves.

But it’s also giving an opportunity for Coinbase, Drift and Pendo to also promote themselves. And so these sorts of cross collaboration partnerships that are non-competitive can be a great way for Gem to expand out their funnel because it’s giving the stage for other people that are in surrounding areas as well.

All right, so just to recap where we’ve gone so far, the very first thing we did was we went through the Y Combinator startup directory and we pulled for some companies that have been in operation for a few years. From there, what we did was explore their top navigation. We asked ourselves, what sort of pages are they emphasizing?

And then we tried to figure out why exactly they are emphasizing those pages. In the case of Gem, you can see that in these product pages, they’re trying to target the ideal customer profile of who they are trying to make customers. And then we started to go into the resources section. We found that Gem is trying to position themselves as an authoritative source for all these different topics around the recruiting space, which is what their product does. But beyond that, what you can also see is that Gem also has a blog.

Digging into Gem’s blog section

So let’s go ahead and take a look at Gem’s blog and see how they might be positioning their blog in order to further their digital marketing reach. So in this situation, when I go into the Gem blog, you can see that most of their materials are actually around things like product updates, as well as company news and things like that. So it seems like just based off of the right hand side, as I look at the category section, that what they’re focused on is positioning themselves as an authoritative posts, talking about what it’s like to work at their company, and then potentially sometimes releasing some thought leadership pieces as well.

A big piece of advice I’d give you in terms of, if you are positioning your company’s blog for the first time is try to isolate for exactly what you want to cover. Sometimes I see this exact approach in which companies are trying to cover everything under the sun, in their blog when it might actually be better to find a different place for putting these different things.

So in this situation, Gem’s kind of taking a broad based approach towards their blog. But if I were to imagine this blog is not necessarily a major traffic driver for their website. Right off the bat, what I can tell from looking at the Gem blog is that that’s more of a authoritative positioning piece in which they’re not necessarily going for long to SEO phrases, like some other blogs that might be going after, if you were to look at examples like Zapier or other companies, I’ve covered on this channel and past.

As I start digging in a little bit further, I can also see this forecast calculator in which what they’re doing is they’re creating tools and widgets for their ideal customer profile. So this is a really great tactic that I’ve gone over a few times on my channel. So be be sure to check that out. This is just a helpful tool that the Gem team is coming up with, that they can then share with their customers or with prospects or anybody that might be looking for a forecast calculator when it comes to their recruiting and hiring.

So, typically speaking, if you’re going to apply this sort of digital marketing approach, what I would think about is I would think about specifically what sort of tools, calculators or templates can you come up with that would be super useful for your customers. All right, so now that we’ve gone over Gem’s high-level pages and the key initiatives that their team seems to be focused on, I want to take a look at the digital marketing end of things, from a SEMRush standpoint, which is going to be an SEO tool that’s going to let us actually see whether or not our assumptions or hypotheses around what Gem’s focusing on are actually true.

Jumping into Gem’s SEMRush profile

Let’s go ahead and jump into SEMRush and type in gem.com to see what comes out. And what you can see is that right off the bat they actually are getting a lot of new organic traffic. And it looks like they actually may have had a penalty that happened in about February or so, but for the most part, organic has played a role in Gem’s rankings. You also see that they’re putting a lot of emphasis in terms of paid search traffic as well. And that’s something that I may not have picked up on when I just went on Gem’s website.

So as I go into the organic research section, what I can do is I can take a look at what sort of keywords that Gem is ranking for. You can tell that a lot of the initial keywords that they’re ranking really well for that are giving them a lot of their organic traffic are actually just things around there product. So let’s try to, to exclude keywords that contain Gem, just so that we can potentially isolate from more of the long tail keywords that they might actually be ranking for.

Okay, so what I’m doing here is I’m going ahead and excluding some common Gem keywords. That way we don’t have as many of the branded phrases. And what you can tell is that they’re actually not doing all that great in terms of long tail organic searches, it’s not a big part of their SEO strategy, or just in general, their lead gen strategy So, what you can tell is that they are ring for just a couple long-tail phrases. It’s doesn’t amount for much though, the traffic here is 2.1K and it still includes some Gem general traffic. And so what you can see is that there are things around, like, what is the pipeline problem values, interviews, tracking diversity and things like that.

So what this tells me, when I dig into a SEMRush and I isolate for the blog pages or for just in general, what pages are giving them the most traffic. And I see that there isn’t all that much traffic. It means that they’re not relying all that much on a long tail SEO strategy in order to focus their digital marketing efforts.

What this really does is it affirms for me that most people likely are figuring out Gem from another channel where it’s probably more direct marketing or some sort of other method to getting people to their website. What’s also really telling to me, is that so much of the traffic came from long-tail phrases around there brand. So, if I were to guess what’s happening is Gem is using a lot more of a boots on the ground approach, or they’re taking some sort of approach where they are doing outbound emails in order to get initial traction around people that are interested in their potential product.

That said, though it doesn’t hurt to go into the paid side of things, so I’m going to go back into the domain overview section and then I’m going to go into the paid search to figure out exactly what is Gem bidding on when it comes to their paid strategy. So in this situation, you can tell that they are bidding on their own term, but you’ll also see that they are bidding on some recruiter terms.

Digging into Gem’s competitor’s website

So SimplyHired I believe is a competitor. I can double check this, but you can see that SimplyHired is a job search engine. They’re clearly going after people that are looking for, either posting jobs or listing jobs and things like that. And that makes sense because they are a recruiting platform and you can also see that they’re going after things like jobs online, recruiting, CRM, talent agent near me.

Because if you think about it, if somebody is going on Google and searching for talent agent near me, it probably means they’re looking for help around the recruiting. So these are the sorts of ways that Gem is approaching things. It’s both from a defensive standpoint in which they’re bidding on a lot of their own keyword terms while they’re also going over some of the auxiliary phrases that might relate to somebody who might be having recruiting problems.

So what can we do from here? Well, at this point, we have a general understanding of how Gem is approaching their strategy. And if we were in a comparable space to Gem, what we might realize is that content marketing in the traditional sense of creating a blog creating long form posts and things like that may not necessarily be a great use of our time as opposed to a more direct strategy.

What we’ve also learned is that in this particular space, it seems like it’s really important for us to have some product pages as well as a resource center or some sort of way to position ourselves as an authoritative source of white papers and, or of data. You also saw that there were some helpful tools and templates as well as calculators that the Gem team has created all around that idea of building themselves up as the authority in their space around recruiting.

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