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An Interview with A.J. Ghergich: the Importance of Content in Digital Marketing

A.J. Ghergich is the founder of Ghergich & Co., a marketing agency that focuses on integrating SEO, social media and content marketing. His past experiences include running his own consulting agency and an ecommerce enterprise.

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In this interview with Powered by Search, A.J. talks about his @SEO Twitter handle, shares his approach to visual content creation, and gives advice on how to make a successful infographic.

On his Twitter handle:

1. In your recent Reddit AMA you mentioned that you got your awesome @SEO Twitter handle just by asking the Twitter team. They gave it to you because it was inactive for a certain period of time. Have you ever been approached with an offer to purchase it from you? If so, can you talk about the offer?

I was in the Twitter ad beta pretty early on and just straight up asked them for it. Sometimes not being afraid to ask pays off! Honestly I get asked about selling it a handful of times per year. Mostly that is from non-serious people but a few times they have been large corporations who shall remain nameless. Lately people have been trying to see if they could pay me to post content through my @SEO handle, lol.

I have no interest in selling it though, and there is no need to pay me to post for you (not that I ever would). If you make something awesome around SEO or Content Marketing, hit me up and I will probably tweet it out for the low low price of free.

If you hit me up all the time with crappy content I will hit you with the Ban Hammer instead.

On SEO, Link building:

2. When you were learning SEO, what was the best advice you’ve been given about this industry?

“Trust, but verify!”

When you are learning SEO it can be easy to just get into the habit of reading best practices and assuming they are true. The best knowledge you can give yourself is by doing.

Go out and challenge your assumptions. Get from behind the eBook and put what you are learning into action. You will find that there is no substitute for real world testing.

3. In your recent Reddit AMA you emphasize the importance of finding the right launch partners once the visual content is created. How do you usually approach finding such partners for content promotion?

I find that having an asset in hand usually works really well when reaching out to launch partners. However, sometimes we go to a launch partner at the concept creation phase and get their feedback and input on the piece. This becomes more of a collaboration, and when you create the asset you already know you have their stamp of approval.

A launch partner should be a leader and a respected publication in your niche. You will not have much luck hitting up these larger publications through their “submit news” email. Some publishers are of course an exception to that rule.

You are going to have the best luck with reaching out to individuals who write for the publication. Want to get on Forbes? Don’t email Forbes directly, connect with people who already regularly contribute to the publication.

Find a journalist or a contributor who regularly publishes to your potential launch partner. Prove to them that you can make great content and offer them first dibs. If they have 6 pieces to do that month and you can help them knock one of them out of the park, it is a win-win for both of you.

These kinds of relationships take time and you should constantly be trying to foster them.

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On visual content (infographics):

4. Where do you get inspiration for your infographic designs?

There are tons of great design blogs/communities like Abduzeedo out there. I am not too wild about all the content on Visual.ly, but if you sort by Staff Picks they are usually quite good. I love looking at design work on Behance and Dribbble. I usually sort by illustration as I find that illustrators tend to be the best designers for infographics.

5. A lot of people seem to think that infographics are not as effective as they used to be. What should an infographic designer avoid to create a successful and effective visual piece?

Crappy infographics are dead but quality infographics still seem to perform quite well.

  • Avoid talking about your product
  • Avoid large blocks of text. This is not an article, it’s an infographic.
  • Avoid shoddy research. Spend 10 hours or more on research/concept alone.
  • Avoid a topic that has no real audience so your outreach won’t fail.
  • Avoid saying too much. Stay on point and don’t try and cram it all into one graphic.
  • Avoid useless information. Collect 50 factoids, charts and graphs but only go with the best 5 – 10.
  • Avoid bad/rushed design. Spend 30 to 40 hours of design time on an infographic.
  • Avoid bad outreach. Just posting it on your blog & social channels is not going to cut it.

6. What is the future of infographic design in your opinion? Where is the industry headed?

I think you will see more interactive and motion design in the future. Interactive/animated graphics are great but they also have their pitfalls. If you can create 3 or 4 static pieces for the price of one interactive piece you need to take that into account when measuring success.

Because of this there will always be a market for static visual assets.

7. How do you measure the success of an infographic?

I tend to look at traffic, social engagement & links/media mentions. Once an infographic has been around for a while you can pull the organic rankings it received and measure ongoing traffic.

8. What was the most successful infographic you ever created?

You can view a small selection of our Infographic Examples here. A lot of our work is under NDA but I do have a recent example I can share with you.

We recently did two graphics for Democracy for America. They had created this graphic (in-house) on student debt and it really did not go anywhere. I pointed out some issues I had with it and the client decided to have Ghergich & Co. create a new Student Debt piece.

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What I love about this piece is that the client released two student debt pieces to the same exact audience. We were able to increase social shares from non-existent to around 7,000. We got some great links and exposure as well from sites like Upworthy. Same audience, different outcome.

Our next infographic with them went over 23,000 social shares and received wide media coverage.

The lesson here is just because an infographic did not work for you, does not mean infographics can’t work for you.

On industry resources:

9. What are the three digital marketing industry resources that you don’t start your day without?

1. Inbound.org
2. Buzzsumo
3. Private Twitter Lists

10. What is your favorite font to use?

I have way too much A.D.D. to have a favorite font. I will suggest everyone head over to http://losttype.com/browse/ and snag their font collection. You can pay whatever you think is fair.

11. What are the three people you would recommend following on Twitter?

Only 3! Ok I will suggest some people that talk about link building a lot: Jason AcidreJon Cooper, & Brian Dean.

On client work

12. You have started your own content marketing agency Ghergich & Co. about 2 years ago. What would you say is the major difference between promoting your own agency/ecommerce projects and marketing clients’ work?

It sounds silly but it is hard to prioritize your own work because you are so focused on client work. We create visual assets for link building and content marketing for our clients.

We do not have to do much self promotion because the quality of our client work does the promotion for us. So in short, our work gets us more work. This is the reason I stress quality after every turn. You need to be proud of the work you do.

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13. How much research do you typically do on your client before you begin the infographic design process? What type of information do you tend to focus on? What information is most crucial for conveying the right message about your client?

I have to be dragged kicking and screaming to do an infographic that only focuses on a client or their products. I prefer to make interesting content vs. ads. However, with that said, you need to understand your client’s niche and what types of content they are comfortable with.

One question I usually start with is, “What can’t I do, what topics are out of bounds?” This simple line of questioning will save you a ton of time.

We usually do at least 10 hours of research and concept development, and sometimes much more. You really need to nail the research and concept or you are doomed from the start. When the client signs off on a concept they need to know this is exactly the text and order the information will be in for the graphic.

You have to get the client to make edits in the concept phase or it will lead to costly overruns in the design phase.

Lastly, your client must understand the design style you plan to go in artistically before any work begins.

Tip: Ask them if they have a brand book so you can look that over before you start design.

14. What is a priority to you, staying true to your own aesthetic as an infographic creator or having your design reflect your client’s aesthetic? How do you find balance?

Our own design aesthetic is a priority to me. You need to have a vision and voice in your design work. This is not to say you can’t bend and flex a little. However, if you have an illustrative style and a client requests photorealistic work, pass on the project.

Remember, the client hired you and I assume they saw your work first. Stay true to yourself and make sure your client respects your creative vision. If they want to play designer, let them do it in-house.

15. What is the best advice you can give to somebody who wants to start creating visual content for digital marketing purposes?

This will sound backwards but start with the outreach. Outsource your design work (to a pro) and focus solely on becoming great at outreach. You can make a beautiful piece but if you have a small audience your entire success will hinge out outreach.

Once you nail the outreach (this will take time) move to concept creation. Once you nail that start doing your own design work.

Check out A.J.’s infographic examples and Ghergich & Co. Blog. Connect with him on Twitter.

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About the Author

Katya Bovykina is a Marketing Assistant at Powered by Search. She likes exploring new and creative ideas and has a passion for digital marketing. Connect with Katya on LinkedIn and Google+.
  • http://www.pimediaservices.com/ Henry Smith

    It is indeed a nice read for all digital marketers. I am really overwhelmed by reading it. So many things to learn and apply in promoting business online. Thank you for sharing.

    • AJ Ghergich

      Thank you Henry. I am glad you found it useful :)

  • http://www.acewebacademy.com/blog/ Kate Hudson

    Q number 2 keeps lingering in most heads that work on SEO – response makes a lot of sense. Valuable information on infographics as well .thanks

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  • Spook SEO

    Hi Katya!

    Thank you for having AJ Ghergich here. I believe that infographics are still very effective. I think infographic designers must create an effective visual piece and one of the best way they can do this, is by avoiding large blocks of text and avoid talking about a certain product.

    • Katya Bovykina

      I agree with you, Spook SEO, in order to be effective, infographics definitely need to be visually interesting. Also, they work much better when their style reflects the topic and doesn’t just follow the standard “infographic template”.