My $1M content marketing framework

PLUS: How gets 776k/yr visitors from a single page

Good morning content connoisseurs. 🌞

It’s your friendly neighborhood content guy (FNCG).

Today, I want to share a content marketing framework that has made me over $1M in my own businesses. It’s made my clients a lot more than that. And, I want to look at potentially the best long-form content on the internet.

Get some coffee; here’s what’s in this week’s issue:

  • Main Course: My $1M content marketing framework (with a terrible acronym)

  • Snack: How makes $2M with long-form research

  • Morsels: Links from HubSpot, Quick Sprout, CMI and more

Let’s dig in.

P.S. I read and respond to every email, so feel free to hmu with questions, ideas, etc.

P.P.S. Bit of a long email today, so get a snack!

Important note: I want to shout a resource I can’t get enough of lately: Marketing Max.

Max has three newsletters, and they’re all good, but the weekly growth one is particularly great.

This is not an ad.

Just want to share the resource. Check it out.

Main Course: The $1M content marketing framework with a terrible acronym… F.U.C.D. 😬

This is mostly about finding external audiences to promote to… and then serving them hot ‘n spicy content.

There are lots of content marketing frameworks.

Most of them are tremendously overcomplicated. I do not like complicated things. I like simple things that empower me to take action.

I also like frameworks that leave me enough room to innovate and be creative, which usually means they need to be broken down into their most simple components.

After 15 years of content marketing, I came up with the F.U.C.D content marketing framework. To save you the suspense, this is what it stands for:

  • Find

  • Understand

  • Create

  • Distribute

YO—If you’re one of those people who scans for the definition of the acronym and then closes the email…  give like 90 more seconds of your time.

There’s some very important nuance here, and I don’t want you rolling out the F.U.C.D. framework guns-blazing without knowing its safety features. I’m also going to show you a little bit of how to do these.

So lets go through these.

F is for “Find”

Before our pen ever touches paper, we have to have audiences.

Sometimes we’ll have already captured an audience; we might have a website or an email list or some social accounts. Ideally, we’ve got a strong book a customers, and we’ve gotten to know them.

And we do need to feed content to those people.

But we also need to go find new potential customers who have not yet heard about us — and we need to get some good stuff in front of their eyeballs.

In other words, we’re looking for external audiences: pools of potential customers that we do not own.

These can be literally anywhere, but here are some examples:

  • In niche forums

  • In subreddits

  • In Facebook groups

  • In LinkedIn groups

  • On other people’s email lists

  • At industry events

  • On other websites

  • In Discord and Slack channels

…and literally anywhere else.

You’ll know better than I will, but the point is they can be anywhere, and we gotta go find them.

I’m going to show you an example, but FIRST something to help…

If you want to just follow along, I built a free spreadsheet you can use to do this research (it’s set to view-only, so head to File > Make a Copy).

Feel free to download if you’d rather have a pre-built framework.

Because audiences can live in a bajillion different places, there’s no way to show you how to find all of them.

But I do want to show you one example.

Suppose we’re doing marketing for a cybersecurity company, and we want to build a list of audience pools to potentially tap into.

We might suspect these folks are forum-dwellers. Most niches have some kind of forum, but cybersecurity peeps tend to really love relics of the internet. So forums is where we start.

To find forums, we can use some simple advanced Google search operators. In cybersecurity, that might look something like:

  • cybersecurity inurl:/forum/

  • cybersecurity inurl:/forums/

  • cybersecurity inurl:”showtopic.php”

  • cybersecurity + “discussion board”

We could also just Google “cybersecurity forums", which will likely help us find pre-curated lists but might miss the deeper, nichier forums, which can sometimes be the most ripe for content marketing (…because there are usually fewer marketers).

Here’s the results of “cyber security inurl:/forum/” (I ended up splitting the words and getting better results, no idea why lol):

Only one of the results on this page is an actual forum.

It’s a forum called Hacker Combat.

At first glance, it looks fine, but digging a bit deeper, it seems like the newest post is 10 months old.

There is a way to promote on dead forums as long as they still have website traffic, but it’s usually not worth it.

So… I dug around a bit more and found a security forum hosted by Spiceworks:

It’s much more active.

Some of the posts are only a couple hours old, and even the new posts have replies.

More good news: we can see some very content-marketing-esque threads being posted without trouble, like the 5th one down in the screenshot above: “3 Easy Steps Businesses Can Take for Better Cybersecurity.”

Hooo doggy. Not only is this an active forum, but people seem to be promoting here every once in a while.

Now, let’s look at the size of the audience.

I plugged the URL path into Ahrefs and found that just the forum portion of the Spiceworks website generates an estimated 273,000 readers per month.

It’s big. It’s active. And marketers are welcome.

Bingo. This one would for sure go in my spreadsheet.

Again, this is just one example found — and I’m certainly NOT trying to make this an advertisement for niche forums or something.

If this were a real campaign, we’d just need to go find a bunch more of several different types.

That’s why F is for “find.”

U is for “Understand”

Now that we’ve found these goobers, we need to understand them.

Please be advised: I do not mean that in a qualitative sense. I mean that in a quantitative, quantifiable sense.

We do that by surveying the audience for problems and desires.

For whatever audience we’ve found, we want to look at the body of stuff there and try to suss out:

  • The biggest topics

  • The topics with the most engagement

  • The most pressing problems

  • The moments of celebration

  • The hottest and most timely trends

  • The aspirations

Ideally, we want to find evidence of that stuff. The best version of that is to track all the content, popularly and engagement, but that’s probably more work than it’s worth.

So, I think it’s enough to just skim and pull out topics based on feel. The important part is that we’re looking at actual engagement data — shares, comments, organic traffic — anything that backs up our notes.

Using the same example from above (the cybersecurity forum), I sorted the posts by “Popular” — a function that was actually broken on their site, lol, but I was still able to skim and find topics like this:

It’s a question about how companies should handle hardware assigned to people who aren’t technically part of the company.

I don’t actually know anything about cybersecurity, but it seems like something that would be a really common problem.

I’d write that down.

After leafing through the forum a bit more, I took down a couple more topics and content types:

  • Cloud-based security systems

  • Memes / hacker “holidays”

  • Foreign Google accounts

  • Hacking printers

  • Risk assessments

  • Phishing emails

If we were sitting down to do this in earnest, this list would be a lot longer, and I’d try to attach some kind of emotional motivation to each, along with specific thread/content examples, engagement, etc.

I’d also be searching for content that happens to be close to my business. The overlap, if it exists.

And look: it’s not always going to be as easy as sorting by “popular” and and skimming. If it’s someone else’s email list, for example, you might just have to ask that person what their people are talking about. And so on.

But here’s the point… the audiences you find are talking about the things that are most important to them, and some things are more important than others.

Figuring out what those things are is how you understand them.

That’s why U is for “understand”.

C is for “Create”

Now, of course, we have to create content for this audience.

These last two are going to be shorter, because by the time you get here, you’ll be pretty stinkin’ deep in the rabbit hole, and everything will be very specific.

So let me just give you some basic rules for creating content:

  • Follow the rules of the audience. Ask the owner of the audience what flies and what does, and try not to break the rules. Worst case scenario is spending a bunch of time on some content just to get yourself banned or something.

  • Create the types of content that this audience consumes. If it’s on Reddit, for example, you might write a long, native post. If it’s a FB group that shares video, you might record a video. You get the idea.

  • Add value. If you’re going to enter an external audience, the impetus to add value is so much higher than it normally is. People don’t know you, and they’re going to be skeptical.

And remember: it’s more important to fit in than be long, and content doesn’t have to be long to be good.

But you do have to fit in. And you do have to be good.

D is for “Distribute”

And finally, we push the bird out of the nest.

This, too, will depend on the audience, topic, and medium. So you’ll likely have to play it by ear.

But the point is to get your content in front of the audience you found in the way that feels best and most impactful for them.

There are only a couple of rules:

  • Distribute in a way that feels natural to that audience. If the audience has a habit of posting content, don’t be afraid to just post it, but if it’s a weekly promotion or something, sign yourself up and get on the schedule. You get the idea.

  • Ask for engagement and then engage. Ask a question. Take a poll. Ask for examples. And then talk to the people who engage.

  • If it flops, revise & redistribute later. If you’re confident the audience is valuable, it’s almost always okay to just try again later, whether it’s with the same content or something new.

How to do this RIGHT NOW.

  • Use the spreadsheet I made for you to research at least a handful of external audiences you could tap into (Find)

  • Pick one audience you found, and make a list of problems, pain points, ambitions, desires, etc. (Understand)

  • Create content around that thing that people like to consume (Create)

  • Get it in front of that audience in a way they seem to like (Distribute)

  • Test, rinse, repeat

IMPORANT NOTE: As always, this is going to work, way way better if you have conversion, funnels, etc. in place.

Snack: How gets 776k visitors/yr from a single page

Having cut my content marketing teeth primarily in the SEO world, is one of my favorite case studies.

In fact, I’m working on a larger case study deep-diving their whole biznaz.

But for now, I want to look at their best page, because it’s an absolute hooter.

It also defies a long-standing golden rule of SEO (more below).

If you don’t know about, it’s worth learning about. Long story short, it was started by one guy named Sol Orwell, and from Day 1 they’ve published exclusively long-form, research-heavy content. They do not have ads on the site; instead, they monetize with subscriptions to more of their content.

They live and die by SEO (or did for a long time). Which is why this is so interesting…

This is the page in question:

It’s their best page, but it’s also a typical page for them.

It’s miles long. It’s extremely well cited. It’s written by an super-qualified expert. It’s astoundingly authoritative.

And it works.

This single page generates 64,700 organic visits per month, or about 776,400 organic visits per year.

Bonkers. Awesome. Yada yada.

But here’s the wild part…

A fairly good chunk of this content is gated.

Not all of it, of course.

But a sizeable portion.

This is interesting because:

  • Gated content has a rather touchy history with Google, and gating content is always a risk, making it somewhat surprising to appear so heavily in such a strongly SEO-driven site — but the page still manages to generate three quarters of a million visitors per year

  • It probably converts like crazy

Here’s some napkin math.

The gated content converts people into free subscribers (mostly; there’s also some content on the page that is gated unless you’re a premium member).

Let’s suppose that happens at 5%.

5% of 776,000 is 38,800.

Let’s suppose 10% of those people eventually convert because they’re super targeted, highly interested people who are looking for deep information.

That’s 3,880 people converting to a paid subscription. sells its subscription for $144/yr.

…which means that this ONE page could be generating somewhere in the ballpark of $558,000 in ARR.

EVERY year. Nuts.

How to put this into play for yourself.

  • Pick your best performing content

  • Cautiously put some juicy bits behind a gate in exchange for an email

  • Put these people into a strong conversion funnel

  • See how it performs

  • Reverse the changes if traffic drops (a possibility)

  • Marketing Letter by Indexy (great marketing newsletter)

  • Instagram Updates Marketers Need to Know (link)

  • 38 Tweaks that Will Turn You Into a Copywriting Master (link)

  • Discrepancies Experienced by Black Content Creators (link)

  • The Ultimate Guide to Online Branding and Building Authority (link)

  • Unlock Audience Personas With the Power of LinkedIn Profiles (link)

That’s the issue.

Go forth & conquer.



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