How I Turned a 40,000 Word Guide into 361,494 Visitors and 8421 Email Opt-ins

advanced guide to content marketing

Over the last few months, I published two advance guides. The first one was The Advanced Guide to SEO, and the second was The Advanced Guide to Content Marketing.

Many of you assumed that the guides did well because you enjoyed the content, but I never really broke down how successful they were and how you can replicate the process.

People want more

I got the concept for advanced guides from Moz. Years ago, they published The Beginner’s Guide to SEO, and they mentioned how over a million visitors read the guide. Over the years, I was getting emails from marketers asking me to blog about more advanced content.

So I decided to take this idea and create a more detailed guide with advanced content. It took me around 6 months to complete the first guide and get it published.

The moment I released it, it was a hit. Within an hour of publishing the guide, my Dropbox account got suspended because the PDF was downloaded so many times that I used up the 20 GB file transfer limit. I upgraded my account so that I could get a 200 GB daily file transfer limit… but I also used that up within a few hours.

Overall, the guide did well: it received 1,371 tweets, 1,052 likes and 120 comments on Facebook. To top it off, over 212,584 people read it.

Based on the numbers, you could assume that the guide did well, but it didn’t do as well as it could. Once I published it, I realized a few things:

  • Coding matters – I already knew from a SEO standpoint that code is important, but it didn’t hit me to tell the coder to make it compatible with mobile devices until after the guide was complete.
  • People love PDFs – people had a tough time downloading and viewing the PDF because it wasn’t properly formatted. The guide wasn’t designed to be put into a PDF format, so there were issues when I converted it into one.
  • Don’t forget to link out – the guide was designed as one big infographic, and it was coded as a big infographic that contained no outbound links. When I announced the guide in a blog post, I happened to link out to Moz, and they decided to do an email blast about it, which drove 25,049 visitors.
  • Collect emails – I collect emails on Quick Sprout because it drives a large percentage of the site’s traffic. I didn’t have any email opt-in boxes on the SEO guide.

Second time is a charm

Once I learned what I should and shouldn’t do, I decided to make a second attempt to release a guide by creating The Advanced Guide to Content Marketing. I followed the same process as above when it came to creating the guide, but I did a few things differently:

  • Coding matters – I coded the guide so that it was mobile, tablet and web compatible. This ensured that anyone who wanted to read it could.
  • People love PDFs – I used Uberflip to create a PDF that was compatible with all tablets and ebook readers such as Kindle. With their software, I was also able to tie PDF views with my Google Analytics account.
  • Don’t forget to link out – although this guide was also designed as a large infographic, I found a better coder who was able to add links to external sites. I was then able to email each site I linked out to and ask them to share the guide with their readers.
  • Collect emails – I created a few opt-in methods in the guide, which helped me collect 8,421 emails. I then added these emails to my newsletter list so that those people could be notified every time I publish a new blog post, which helps increase future traffic to my blog.
  • Focus on what matters – with the first guide, I focused my time and effort on getting more social shares and tweets, but when Moz emailed its user base about the guide, it drove more traffic than Twitter and Facebook did combined. Because of that, with this guide, I partnered with a few popular blogs that had big email lists and had them email their base about the guide. In exchange, I provided them with free SEO consulting.

In the end, this guide had fewer social shares… 677 likes and 871 tweets, but it did have more visitors. 361,494 people read The Advanced Guide to Content Marketing, while 212,584 people read the SEO guide. The reason for the big difference is that I focused on the marketing channel I knew would provide the most amount of traffic… which was partnerships with other blogs.


If you want to increase your traffic, don’t focus on the same tactics everyone else is using. Spend time to go above and beyond by creating exceptionally good content.

It worked so well for me that on a bad day, both of those guides get at least 2,000 visitors combined, which isn’t too bad.

Before you start the process of creating a guide, I recommend you do a few things:

  1. Survey your audience – find out what they want to learn and give it to them. Make sure you go above and beyond by giving them more than what they want. You can use Survey Monkey or Qualaroo to survey your readers.
  2. Write exceptionally good content – you need to make sure that you are writing great content. If you aren’t a great writer, you can try to improve your skills by reading this blog post. If you don’t have time to write, place an ad on Craigslist or Problogger. I just hired someone to write a 40,000 word guide for Crazy Egg, and it is costing me $4,000. I paid a bit more than I would have liked, but you can probably get away with paying someone $500 to $1,000 for every 10,000 words they write.
  3. Don’t skimp on the design – one of the big reasons my guides were so successful is because they look so pretty. Through Dribbble, you can find an illustrator that typically costs $1,000 if they are located outside of the U.S. If you hire someone within the U.S., it will cost you anywhere from $5,000 to $20,000.
  4. Leverage existing technologies – by using tools like Uberflip, you can turn your guide into a PDF for any device. From iPads to Kindles to any new device that comes out in the future, Uberflip will automatically make sure your PDF is compatible with it.
  5. Don’t forget to collect emails – I made this mistake with my first guide, and I wish I collected emails as I would have collected at least 4,000 new emails. Don’t make this mistake as you can remarket to these users. You can even do something unique with Uberflip in which people have to put in their name and email to download the PDF version of your guide. Or you can use a simple plugin like Popup Domination to collect more emails.
  6. Don’t forget to market your guide – you should spend as much time marketing your guide as you do creating it. From creating a list of all the potential Twitter users who might want to promote it to creating partnerships with other blogs who might be interested in blogging about it, you need to focus on the marketing aspect.

So what are you waiting for? Go out there and create a guide. 😉