#13. Why Louis Grenier of Hotjar Hates Marketers (And Why That Matters)

Louis Grenier is the content lead at Hotjar, and the brains behind the Everyone Hates Marketers podcast.

Here’s how Louis has been able to humanize cold, nameless, and faceless web analytics at Hotjar with customer insight.

And why he doesn’t prepare a single question for guests before each podcast.

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Brad: (00:00)

Louis, thank you so much for joining me. Uh could you, please explain a little bit about yourself and kind of where you’re at now.

Louis: (00:08)

Bonjour, Bonjour. Thanks for having me. Appreciate it. Appreciate your time. Uh, so my name is Louis Grenier. I hate marketers. I mean most of them. I’m the content lead at Hotjar. Uh, so making sure that we publish stuff that helps people to improve their experience. I also have a podcast called everyone hates marketers that talk about the real way the, no fluff, actionable ways to do marketing. And I live in Ireland, and as you can hear from my accent, I’m French and that’s about it.

Brad: (00:40)

Do you ever do any like funny joke? Like as you can tell from my accent, I’m from Brazil.

Louis: (00:45)

I actually wanted to say that and there was like, no, let’s not joke straight away. Let’s wait.

Brad: (00:50)

No, we just, there’s no hold bar on this one. Um, well thank you again for joining me. I really appreciate it. One of the, we’ll get to the Everyone Hates Marketer stuff cause I love that and I can’t wait to like dive deeper. But one of the first things I saw when I was kind of creeping around on your Linkedin was um, you actually have some, some real experience outside of marketing, which I think is always helpful. Kind of to your point or, or the point that we’ll make towards the end. So you just to kind of like give the cliff notes, you, you led some like coordination of like sales activities, customer support type activities. How does that impact what you do now or how you do marketing now? Or does it?

Louis: (01:25)

It’s an excellent question. So I joined this company, car manufacturer company as an intern right after business school. But originally I was supposed to become an engineer and build wind turbines. I stopped that before I graduated. I moved on to business and the reason why I joined this  car manufacturing company was because I had both engineering experience and some business experience and they were like, oh, he understands cars, so therefore he must be a good, I had no clue about cars. I hate cars. I still don’t, you know, I drive one if I need to, but I’m not going to look at a car and say, wow this is a good car. I really don’t care about it. But yet I was hired there. So yeah, I turn from being an intern to being hired full time there and I was basically in charge of making sure that the car leaderships around the country, uh, were up to standards when it comes to the brand and stuff.

Louis: (02:21)

So I guess to answer your question, what did I learn from that is everything I should, I didn’t like, right. So I learned a lot about myself in terms of the stuff I didn’t want to do. So working for a company, that sort of product that I didn’t care about, that’s definitely. I was working with people that we are not passionate about what they were doing, working with people that didn’t fit a culture. Um, and also the marketing that we were doing was very basic offer, offer, offer, send an offer, send an offer and killing their brands every time they were doing it. And that drove me insane because at the time I was still reading, I was reading a lot about marketing even though I didn’t practice it. I could recognize the stuff that shouldn’t really be done. But anyway, I’m thankful for this experience because it taught me a lot about myself from standpoint of what I didn’t like- not really what I did like though.

Brad: (03:13)

Gotcha. That makes sense. I mean it’s funny like I’ve had a lot of years of school and I, I feel like my marketing classes were always the worst ones I had for whatever reason. I feel like it’s not until you work on kind of on the front lines of some companies and you’re dealing with angry customers and other shit, cause I don’t know why but in marketing you don’t really deal with customers directly. Like you see some stuff on Twitter but you’re not actually talking to them. Uh, but when you do that either on the sales side or service side, you start to learn like, oh, oh this is how it should work. You know, like this is how I should talk to customers. Or this is what they actually want versus this 10% coupon code in front of shoved down there.

Louis: (03:45)

And this is one of the same I believe. I say I I believe-  people I interviewed who are much smarter than me believe is good marketing is actually talking to people. It starts with that. And I know it sounds cliche, I know you heard that in the past. I know most people you’re probably talking to will say the same stuff, but it’s true. Um, the way you connect with people one to one like conversation like we’re having right now looking at your body language, listening to, you’re talking about problems and challenges in your business that can’t be replaced by even sending surveys or looking at your web analytics tools, right? And so one must take the time to talk to people even if it’s once or twice a month to real customers. Because as you said, as marketers, we tend to be removed from the real life of people.

Louis: (04:33)

We must do that to keep, to keep us in check because numbers kill empathy, right? There’s something called statistical numbing, which is the same like in charity and that kind of stuff, which is if you tell someone 20,000 people are starving right now in one part of the world, they won’t care. But if you tell them this particular child whose name is whatever is in the range of starvation and then you’re going to care way more. So looking at numbers, looking at your screen, especially as digital marketer, even more than marketers, you tend to forget that there’s people behind it. So that’s the number one rule of good marketing I will say is actually talking to the real people.

Brad: (05:14)

Yeah, I think it develops like empathy and like your point about a specific person starving in wherever. Um, even when relate that back to like a campaign advertisement, the testimonial, a piece of content, a blog posts like those, those blog posts that are like trends and graphs and charts and big data points, uh, you just kind of get numb to a lot of that shit or most people do if you’re kind of in this day to day. Uh, whereas the one, it’s those individual stories that usually like speak and kind of cut through a lot of that clutter.

Louis: (05:44)

Yep.

Brad: (05:46)

So, uh, so at Hotjar, Hotjar is one of the best examples I can think of that is more like the product is the marketing. And so a lot of a lot of companies like think that they’re doing that, but they’re not. So it’s one of those like rare examples where I think that, um, it does actually do, uh, it’s, it’s, it’s kind of like blend of quantitative and qualitative analysis, kind of like the beginning of the starting point. We’re talking about two to start collecting that feedback, actually get into one to one stuff. Um, it’s one of the best examples, but how does that, how does kind of like the product strategy, the brand strategy, float through into the content that you’re kind of leading now?

Louis: (06:24)

The first thing is, well, I think we’re very lucky to be working for Hotjar and like the five co founders at the start had this vision um, that led to an incredible data launch where we had 20,000 people who joined before the product was live. Uh, giving us feedback and that is still fueling our growth today. I think those 20,000 people really is still the core of what Hotjar is today, you know, there is luck involved, there is timing. There is good karma, there is whatever else you want. Um, and so the way we are trying to think about it from like product being the center of, of the, of the brand and the contents is in terms of making sure that we help people who are using the product as well as people who are not using it with the same type of content. And this is something we discovered recently. Um, I don’t want to sound patronizing or someone like, uh, who knows everything cause I really don’t.

Louis: (07:23)

And I made a lot of mistakes. Um, and so this is what we learned recently. We used to create content in silos. So we used to try to do like courses for users. Uh, then having a blog, then having your podcasts and all the different kind of purpose and vision and realized pretty quickly that everything was disconnected and there was a silo. There was no, there was no flyway being created. We just, we just created silos artificially just because we thought that was the right thing to do. And recently realized that and we stopped everything and decided to go after one thing, um, and help people to improve their experience basically, uh, on their websites. That’s it. People can mean users of Hotjar as well as non users. So example of that would be teaching people to create a quick user of persona from their website, from real data, not from data that they make up with their boss in the meeting room. And we teach them to do that with a small website survey and now obviously we’re more than happy for you to use Hotjar but are plenty of artists to do that. And so you see we are trying to merge the two always. So the products is helping us to find real use cases to solve your problems but they’re more than happy to go with someone else and it also, the content in return helps users and non users to reach their goals.

Brad: (08:44)

That makes sense. I think too, what’s interesting is like a lot of times we work with a lot of big tech sites, uh, and they might have like a content manager or a content editor. Um, so walk me through like if you’re breaking down silos in terms of the content you’re producing, a lot of times that means your own workflow has to change or adjust. So what does your team look like? Because a lot of times are going to have to rope in like different types of people at different stages to be able to produce this like fully fledged idea.

Louis: (09:11)

Yeah. So we are always evolving on that design. And once again, this isn’t, this is not the ultimate scan of organization or process we’re still discovering stuff. We made a lot of mistakes, but as of today, uh, so they is me, uh, overseeing stuff and removing blockers for the team. I am involved in creation. Uh, I’m also involved in the promotion. I’m involved in strategy. I mean like we all small team so I’m involved in a lot of stuff. Then we have our, an editor, um, Cleo, who is really smart, really good at what she does. And she, her role is to make sure that we are on schedule to publish stuff. She also owns the calendar she owns, was going to go next. She also owns the words that we put out. So every, everything that we would publish would be reviewed and edited by herself every time.

Louis: (10:05)

And now she’s also a very good writer, so sometimes she does have the time to write herself. But now what happens is we use, uh, experts in different areas like copywriting and writers and guest bloggers and all of that. And she will take all of them in and making sure that it fits the point of view of Hotjar, making sure it fits the tone of voice, making sure that the sentences make sense, and then making sure that they are being promoted and being published, uh, when they should be. And then, um, the third member is David and he’s a more of a full stack kind of content marketer. So he, he can write, he can promote stuff. He gets the strategy, he can interview people as well. So he’s basically filling the gaps when it comes to that and he’s owning and the promotion side more and more.

Louis: (10:54)

So the ability to know, okay, this piece is published now. How, how are we going to promote? Who are we going to outreach to and all of that. So only three people internally. And then we have a few freelancers, freelance writers we work with. Uh, we also have an SEO agency we’re working with. I mean initial consultants who advise us in outlines and what type of topic we should be writing about. And then we also have a creative services team, uh, within hotjar helps us but help sort of teams as well when it comes to designing images, uh, making sure that there is the right type of media for each articles and all of that. Uh, so basically that’s the overall world of content and Hotjar.

Brad: (11:41)

I think the production design, especially in the last most recent stuff is really, really good. Dude. Do you find that the creative team, are they spread too thin? Like, I always find that the challenge is to actually get people to kind of help you out, especially when it’s like a blog post ranks like down here for most people on priority and then like up here is like something on the website and then up here like the ad campaign. Um, so is it tough to actually get the resources or, or is there a way you organize the team or how that credit credit team is structured internally to like, you know, help you guys out on a consistent basis?

Louis: (12:11)

So we are lucky to work with people who are, who get it right, they know that blog blogging and writing content and publishing  regularly, is gonna have a massive impact in the long term. And never did we have to fight for, you know, having an image being designed on time because they didn’t want to do it or they want you to do something else. They completely get it. And we’re lucky to have a team like that. And now having said that, we need to give them enough notice every time. So it’s not like the week of the article is going to be published. We tell them, can you find images? No, we tell them well in advance. We give them a brief, we tell them exactly how many images we need, what type of images we need, what style, and then they deliver always be on expectations. Um, because they are truly talented people and I genuinely mean it. We’re very lucky to work with them. Um, but they also use freelancers themselves. Right. And they use designers debrief them, they use a vetted  kind of pool of, of people who help them out. So even though they’re only three in this team as well, they are like really able to, to split the loads, uh, amongst a lot of people to make sure that things happen when they should happen.

Brad: (13:21)

Gotcha. That makes sense. So I think it’s you as the person who’s kind of overseeing this and setting the ultimate kind of objectives and timelines. So, so how do you, how do you organize? Do you reverse engineer? Like, okay, here are the publish days. We want to go live. Here’s how much time the designer is going to need, here’s how much time we need to actually produce. The thing and here’s how much time we need to actually interview people and, and, and analyze the results. Here’s how much time we need to like actually do the keyword research and like how do you kind of juggle all that stuff?

Louis: (13:51)

So I’m lucky to have my colleague Cleo as well who is our editor who does that. So I’m more behind the scenes when it comes to identifying the core topics we need to write about that. I’ve done recently. Uh, but she would be responsible for making sure that okay if we want that to be published by this date and we need to do all of that before. So we have a process in our project management tool, asna that is basically a template, we reuse every time so we know what we need to do with in advance and we just agree on what days and who owns what. But I can’t take credit for that. She, she, she is owning this process and thanks to her it’s working out cause I’m not sure I would be very good at it.

Brad: (14:33)

How do you manage, I feel like there’s always this push and pull. So one of the things we’ve talked about privately before is like the Hotjar dna of, of your content. So how do you kind of the differentiation of your content versus the classic kind of blocking and tackling SEO basic keyword research for you to go after. How do you, how do you kind of blend the two?

Louis: (14:51)

So before I answer this question, tell me, do you feel the last articles you read, I don’t know if you went on the blog recently, do you feel that they were SEO oriented? Do you feel they were more something else? What was your sense?

Brad: (15:08)

So from reading them I feel like they were more narrative driven and more interesting. But knowing what you were doing and looking at URL structure and the keywords you’re going after, I can tell that it’s SEO driven. So what I’m saying, cause you do a good job of like a, of hiding or masking that back. Um, so that’s, I think there’s a few ways you do it, but I was kind of wondering from your side like are there specific things you’re looking at or or other, is there a certain way you go about it? So you’re like, it’s not just another shitty 2000 word, like whatever bullshit, you know, top of the funnel has posts or content or whatever.

Louis: (15:44)

I’m glad you cursing by the way cause I’m forcing myself not to but I’m going to go full on now. Yeah. And so this is also something we learned the hard way. We’ve really tried a few things and as of today, this is also the kind of results of all of this learning. My colleague David, is part of the team, worked used to work for another content marketing agency and one of their ethos was and still is about specificity. And that really struck a chord with a lot of us, which is like the concept of if you write about something, you know, make sure you deep dive into it so that you answer all the questions possible about this topic and you don’t leave, you don’t be left wondering, okay, that’s all well and good. I understand it, but how do I actually do it?

Louis: (16:30)

How do I actually implement that? So for creating user persona, we could have written an article about this is what, what is a user persona? This is why it’s important. This is a question you can ask, ciao, you know. But we didn’t, we went specific into this is how you can create a user persona from your website without leaving your desk. And this is exactly how you do it. So this is what is the user persona. Here’s an actual example of someone who did that. And here is exactly how you can do it yourself. So that’s what specificity means. So in essence the bigger topic, the longer the pieces are going to have to be, cause you can’t be very specific about customer experience with 1000 words. Like it just doesn’t work. You can not do that. So you either choose to write long form to be specific because you need to cover all aspects or you go longtail and shorter, you know, less volume but not specific where you can really dive into that.

Louis: (17:26)

So that’s the first aspect. The second aspect is a big thing to that is the actionable. So we always said every time we write a piece that needs to be actionable, someone needs to be able to write a to read this article and say I knew what to do now. Like I actually have the first pointers to actually me starting now do something from this article. And that also requires us to think what is the purpose of this article really like? Do we really want them to, what do we want them to do? So for the user persona one,  once again, we actually want you to create this onpage survey right now. Set it out on your website and you’ll see it gets you start getting real persona. Um, so that’s the second one. And the third one is really linked to the values of Hotjar.

Louis: (18:12)

And to be honest, this is something I kind of struggled to understand at the start when my CEO in particular was sharing that is to be a non prescriptive. So it’s easy to write a blog post and say, this is what you need to do from my perspective. Like who am I to say this is how you should create a user persona. And so the rule is whenever we publish something, it has to be either driven by a story from someone else. A story from our side a particular mistake we made lesson we learned or data from our users or third parties, right? So user persona, we didn’t write it from just as at a, uh, a nonspecific level non-actionable level. We wrote it from the perspective of an actual company, an actual company using hotjar. We teach this exact thing and we extracted the process for this to use for the customer experience piece where we surveyed 2000 people to sales and customer experience professionals. Well we did survey 2000 professionals to get the data. So being non prescriptive is, uh, is, uh, is, is, is, is a thing we are always trying to do as well. So those are the three components. And so far I feel we have been pretty much on point for the three of them. And now it’s becoming a second nature in a sense. Like we know we can feel when it’s not done, we don’t really have to question it.

Brad: (19:35)

Yeah. I think the last one especially, it’s interesting because we work again, we work in a lot of companies in the same space and they want the opposite. They want it more prescriptive. And in another example, I’ve had these interview pieces that I’ve done that are a little more somewhat biographical, but also somewhat,um I don’t know, if. It’s a lot less tactical and less prescriptive than usual. And , I’ve tried to submit so many for guest posts and nobody wants them. Like most, a lot of big sites don’t want them. So, so why? I don’t know. The question is why don’t more companies in the marketing space especially, and I think this is going to tie into the stuff kind of at the end about, um, about the fluffy marketing bullshit, but, but why don’t more technology companies want like user stories and third party kind of validation versus, them just like espousing bullshit?

Louis: (20:34)

Okay. Because that would imply for them to be vulnerable human open transparent, which is something that companies really struggle to do. It’s tough to do. And who am I also to say that from my perspective? I didn’t create successful company. Uh, and, and I’m barely repeating what the CEO of Hotjar told me two years ago when I interviewed him for the first time. But I think I, I think I understand it well enough to be, to be able to explain it. And from the guests I interviewed on my podcast as well, the fact that yes, companies do struggle to, to be vulnerable, to share their true side. And one of the symptoms of that is to try to be seen as the experts of everything. And so you write, when you write an article about some experience you need to really write about from your perspective. And this is what you should do.

Louis: (21:21)

And we are experts on that. So listen to us. For us, this is a muscle we try to flex as often as we can instead of saying this is what you should be doing. We love to share mistakes we made and the lessons we learned and that strike, uh, called, uh, with people almost always. Um, and it’s a much better way to carry on and explain, uh, your concept because you, you share from the, you’re open and transparent and people are more likely to trust you in return. There is a psychological bias around this and I’m not remembering the name of it. But basically the more you are willing to admit your fuck ups and your mistakes, the more people are willing to trust you. Um, that’s the same reason why people don’t really trust reviews that are five out of five different fair reviews that are like on average, 4.4, 4.5 cause they know it can be perfect.

Louis: (22:13)

And so if you’re willing to share to the world that you’re not perfect, you will have more people to trust you. I think this is kind of the reason why, Hotjar the brand is so strong from day one is because from day one, they share the products, a beta product that wasn’t perfect, but they were willing to say it’s not perfect. We’re just putting it out there. Tell us what you think, give us your feedback and we’ll listen and we’ll improve. And I believe that if more companies would do that, they would find more success in the, in their content marketing, in the marketing, their brand. But that takes some guts and that’s risky. Um, but I think it’s worth the shot. 

Brad: (22:52)

Do you think it attracts a different type of reader, a different type of buyer. And what I mean by that is my personal belief is that like a lot of this bullshit like here’s why you need a chat Bot and here’s how to set up a chat bot. I like that type of stuff for me is like good for a photographer who doesn’t know shit about marketing. It doesn’t work with like really smart people who are doing it as a high level. And so that’s what I’m wondering is, is does vulnerability in a sense of using other people’s examples and lessons and internal mistakes or whatever, does that attract a different type of person or, or you know, a more educated person or a more profitable person or is that all just, you know, my pipe dream?

Louis: (23:33)

 I don’t know. I don’t know. Al I know is that it seems to work when it comes to keeping our brand on point. Uh, when it comes people who, uh, I know this is a question you would like to ask later, but we have a little on page survey or poll on our, on our blog asking people what they think of the blog and how we can be improved, how it can be improved. And we regularly see people saying that they love the transparency or the honesty and this is something that keeps being repeated. But when you think of first principles beyond the numbers I don’t have, I do not know whether our readers are more expert than others. Uh, but looking at first principles and how people think and how humans think, I’m fairly certain that this way of, of sharing mistakes and being  more transparent and be more specific is something that works because it’s just what people crave at the end of the day. They want to be able to do stuff right now they feel frustrated when they just read an article that doesn’t tell them at the answer. So it’s just, it’s a bet for the future. But it’s also based on the past of the company, knowing that this worked on the data, this works, uh, in the past. And that should work again in the future.

Brad: (24:49)

That makes sense. So let’s, let’s pause that there and we’ll come back to in a second. But before we go there, I want to dive into a little bit more of the original research that you guys are doing. Um, specifically we can use that, that two thousand person survey, uh, around like customer experience. Um, I recently I interviewed Andy Crestodina and we talked about in his latest blogging trends reporter survey, I should know what it’s called, but I don’t. The average, the average person creating a blog posts, creating content is like three hours. Uh, the people producing the best results do six hours plus. Um, he reported doing like 150 hours, you know, on that report alone, we just talked a little bit about how like workflow and to produce something like this, this customer experience piece, it’s probably taking, I don’t know, 20, 30 hours minimum. So how do you, how do you internally budget or manage resources to say, yes, it’s worth sinking two weeks of, of our team’s time on that versus, you know, 10 mediocre blog posts?

Louis: (25:52)

We’ve learned from the past when we launched a human strike back as the podcast season one. We’ve made the mistake of spending way too much time planning for it, way too much time launching it, way too much time for each episode. Like we spend a lot of time on it without thinking about the business goals at the end of the day. And I think we’ve learned our lesson. One of the values of, of Hotjar is to be bold and move fast and we didn’t do either. We were, we were bold when it comes to the, the ethos of the human strike back. But we were not moving fast. And, um, it’s always a balance. It’s always a balance. Like in the team inside, there’s always this debate about, come on, should we write something shorter? Uh, it would take less time, but then we still need to promote it and take the time to do it.

Louis: (26:40)

So we always try to have the balance between the two, but when it comes to resources, it’s we know from research on SEO in particular for demand and difficulty and all of that, we know the type of topics we must write about. So then it, it, it’s not a question of what to write about is how do we cover it. And if we find that there is a keyword or topic that must be written and we know that the intent is quite broad, then we know we’re going to have to go into specifics and have to write something long from Elsie just going to become yet another shitty, a mediocre blog posts as you mentioned. So we are driven this way and so for the customer experience piece, so then in 2013 some customer experience professionals, I can tell you that we spend way more than six hours on this one.

Louis: (27:27)

Um, and whether or not it works, it’s going to work is a, is a question that I still don’t know the answer to. All I know is that this was, this was an experiment we spent, I think it took us around a month and a half from start to finish. And we outsourced a lot of it when it comes to the survey, the panel, uh, when it comes to the design of it, like the images and all of that. And we did a lot of stuff ourselves. We did a lot of outreach ourselves, but we treat it as an experiment. Can we rank in the first page of Google for this big keyword that is customer experience and can we generate leads from it? And time will tell because it’s going to take a word. Um, but yeah, we’re always trying to challenge ourselves to shorten the process from start to finish, but there’s a minimum that we can’t go beyond, you know, or else it’s not Hotjar anymore or else  we just work for entrepreneur.com and just churn articles.

Brad: (28:29)

Yes. Well, I love those content farms. Uh, so do you ever do like a, like a SERP analysis? So you mentioned like looking at search intent and determining what people are actually trying to figure out. Do you also do like a brief SERP analysis just to see like how are other people framing this argument for lack of a better word.

Louis: (28:52)

So we used to not look at that whatsoever. Blog posts from two years ago, a year ago were just based on just like, Oh let’s write about this. And we just wrote about it and there was absolutely no, not trying to optimize anything. The title, the meta description, the content, nothing. So now we understood that SEO is not like hacking google so you can be on the first page. SEO is window to people’s brain. SEO is just a way to understand what people search for, the type of problems they struggled with and whether there’s a lot of people sharing the same problem, right? So when you think about it this way, then it’s much easier. So now nowadays our process is driven by that. So we know what topics we need to write about. And when it comes to looking at what other people are doing, we don’t really, so every topic we, let’s take an example, customer experience.

Louis: (29:43)

We look at what others are doing, but very rarely do we look at what they are doing and say ah they are doing something interesting let’s to the same. It’s more about looking at their weaknesses, the stuff they don’t cover and making sure that, yeah, okay if we cover that we are writing a good post. The other thing we look at, which is something that worked for us quite a lot, is to identify people who link to those articles that we feel are quite poor and reaching out to them to say, hey, you know, you’re linking to this. So it’s good, but it’s like three year old, uh, it doesn’t cover that and that and that we’ve written that recently. I think it’s much more thorough. And maybe next time we wrote a blog post maybe, you know, you can share it as well linked to it. And so we do look into that a lot when it comes to identifying people to reach out to. Um, but to answer your question and summarize what we do in terms of SEO and SERP analysis Every blog post we right now has the title, the meta description, the H2. So the smaller headlines, everything we know this is driven by what people search for.

Brad: (30:56)

Yeah. I mean I feel the bar, the bar is raising too much too quickly. Especially if you look at like hyper competitive spaces like technology where there’s not a whole lot of demand actually the volume is pretty low when you compare it to like actual stuff out there in the world like gardening or whatever. Um, so you really, there’s no point in being like 6 through 10, right? Like it really pays to invest 30% more time to be number one or two verses, you know, sixth and never see the light of day.

Louis: (31:25)

But we are lucky, very lucky to have a company that understands that, understands the long term benefits of doing it and who doesn’t look at our numbers every week and say why doesn’t it rank first yet? Like you know, so we are, we are lucky to have that. And we truly are. On the other hand, we also have like short term stuff like paid campaigns that drive a lot of traffic. That the content team is going to start looking into it to write landing pages and, and to have a shorter impact, a shorter frame type of impact. But yeah, it’s, it’s true when you think about it, the topics we read about like for us it’s like surveys, heat maps, session recordings. Um, there’s a lot of topics around the features we offer on user experience, customer experience. And you’re right, I think if you search for gardening, uh, you probably have more volume than any of those, um, combined almost.

Louis: (32:19)

But this is why this is the next step for us. Uh, once I feel we’ve reached, we’ve written everything about the foundations of the business to things that are very close to Hotjar  uh, the, the features of the problem that are directly related to what hotjar offers. It’s probably going to be time to think about the bigger picture, which is the other problems people suffer from during the day that our community, outside of Hotjar and what it offers. And so we basically anticipated that last year with the Humans Strike Back, this podcast about how to be a better human how to be, how to do meditation and all of that. But it was too soon. So I think we’ve learned that, but we know what strikes a chord with people. We know that, you know, they are anxious, we know they are stress, we know they, we know there’s a lot of stuff we could be writing about, um, to open up the funnel so that it really opens a new world of possibility for us. But for now it feels like we must put our, I don’t know if, I don’t know if this is an expression, I’m just translating French English, but we need to put our eggs in a row, you know, like whatever in a row for us before like trying new stuff.

Brad: (33:30)

I think that makes sense. Yeah. Especially your point about kind of like short term long term value. I feel like people need to divorce the idea of like content quality equals traffic, like page views. Because there are complete different things. Um, one leads to the other, but traffic is like a lagging indicator. It’s, it’s more heavily dependent on promotion and distribution and a bunch of other things. Um, it’s going to take the best form of it is actually got to take a lot longer. Like I can, I can send you like a thousand bucks for the Outbrain tropic and it’s not gonna matter. Like it’s all gonna bounce and no one’s going to care at the end of the day. Um, but so one of the things you did mention though on the distribution side, you  have paid distribution, especially like original research, I feel like that stuff works super well. You mentioned linking out or reaching out to people who link to other resources. Uh, another thing that I saw, especially with the 2000 people survey is, um, it looks like you guys did a,not to give away everything, but it looks like you guys use like kind of tweet prompts and send that to a lot of people who took it, took the survey to kind of help them, you know, one click and share it. Um, anything else you’ve seen with success, especially around original research content?

Louis: (34:42)

So these click to tweet type of thing,  we reached out to experts as well as, uh, the CX professionals who surveyed and asking them to tweet and all of that. And it’s fine. We got some traffic from it. But to be honest, it’s just, it’s just, it’s not gonna make or break this piece. Again, I think, you know, there’s a lot of stuff that are unsaid in this, in the, in the content marketing space I can feel, and I’m more than happy to share them right now cause I feel this isn’t something a lot of people are willing to talk about. I know teams from HREF talk about his openly, but it’s about outreach. Right? And building a relationship with people. I think by far we’re only seeing the start of it, like the very, very short term effects. But the thing that we keep doing that, see that seems to keep working is reaching out to the people, uh, that we know who all we have connection with and asking them to link back to this article if they liked it or to share it or potentially write a new article about it’s or potentially once they’ve done that to uh, to write a guest post on our site.

Louis: (35:49)

Basically being a human one to one, like building relationships with people. Right. And so because most of the time, and Google still looks at backlinks as one of the leading indicators that a piece is good. And why? It’s  because if you link to someone else, it means that you consider this piece of value and if many people from different angles linked to that it means they find it valuable. It’s when you think about it, it’s one of the only way for them to know, right? So backlinks and other people linking to you is still very important, especially when it comes to long term growth. Yeah. Organic traffic. And so we have a list of what we call, we call them homies, people that, uh, that we know who are more than happy to really read our stuff to link when it’s relevance. Um, you’re in this, in this list by the way, so I think should be proud.

Brad: I’m a homie.

Louis: (36:38)

Yeah, your homie man. Um, so we do that and it’s almost guaranteed for us to have a link. And then obviously in return this is something for them to share something we link back. We just build relationships. We invite them on, we get invited them on webinars, they invite us on Webinars, just relationships. And the second thing I mentioned that worked quite well is to build relationships with people who you don’t know is literally to say, “Hey, you’re linking to this article or you’re writing about this article that is quite outdated or that isn’t really covering the topic very well or that is very prescriptive. There is no example. We wrote something that is much better. Uh, take a look and let us know what you think.” And a funny thing happens when you do that. People first of all are thankful to receive that because they want to provide more value to their readers.

Louis: (37:27)

And two, they are more than happy to lean back when they know that you can do something in return. So we are building relationships with people I didn’t know months ago through that. They just answer and we get, we get talking on email and then sometimes I have them on the phone and we just, you know, build relationship this way. And I don’t think this is spoken enough. I think there’s a lot of unsaid rules about this, but I think it should be shared openly. That yeah, building relationship works and this is probably the only way to make it work in the long term. Um, and there is a good resource for that if you don’t, don’t know about this process. It’s the, uh, the SEO course by Tim Soulo, uh, at HREF actually very, very good course about this exact topic.

Brad: (38:08)

That’s funny. I think it’s, I think it’s a good segue as well into  um, your podcast, Everyone Hates Marketers, but a lot of stuff we’re talking about is like, or should be basic, right? And should be, is like don’t be an asshole, be like somewhat valuable and useful. Uh, try to help each other where you can when it makes sense. Uh, and there’ll be like high maintenance, right? It’s like, it’s like fairly, it’s a fairly simple value proposition and yet like most people screw it up. So, so why do, why do everyone hate marketers?

Louis: (38:36)

So I don’t want to blame people for doing that, right? And I, because I get them, I understand that there is pressure to deliver results. I understand that they might be working for a company that they don’t necessarily like, or that boss is a tyrant who wants results, uh, yesterday. So I understand that a lot of marketers are under pressure to deliver. And when you look at other so called experts and influencers in the field who teach them this bullshit day in and day out of hacking everything and hacking your funnel and whatever. Um, I don’t blame them for, for trying that out because that’s pretty much the only thing that you hear these days. So to cut through the noise and actually go back to principles, the first principles of marketing it deserves. You need to think about it a little bit more.

Louis: (39:27)

But I want to, I don’t want to be seen like, you know, giving out or complaining about them or whatever because I think no one really wants to do bad or no one really wants to manipulate people. They just feel that they have to because there’s pressure and life is getting tougher, right? I mean the career and the competition and all of that. So I think that’s because of the pressure that this happens. But I think that’s why everyone hates marketers is that we are so much under pressure to deliver results that we forget the basics.

Brad: (39:58)

And why, looking at the other side of that coin, why, why do content farms work like, or why do glorified spammer influencers work? Like, why do, why does the entrepreneur, why does Forbes, why does the ink like the garbage that they spew daily, we could talk about half the number or more than half a dozen different people in industry who are tweeting bullshit about Wednesday wisdom hashtags and other stuff. Like why, why does that work?

Louis: (40:27)

Okay.

Brad: (40:27)

To a certain degree.

Louis: (40:29)

To a certain degree. I think it’s also we, which we need to do is take a step back and consider, okay, it’s working now. 10 years ago, was it working? In 10 years is it going to work? I think even grand scheme of things, I have a hundred percent confidence that all the shitty stuff you’re talking about that you don’t like that don’t add any value to people’s lives are going to disappear someday. I mean journalism is under crisis right now because there was too much of that. Um, it’s, it’s, I think that the universe has a way to clean those self, clean those stuff out on a regular basis. Some things take longer to disappear, but there’s always, there is,

Louis: (41:14)

will always be new stuff, a new way for people to hack their way into success or trying to manipulate people. But at the end of the day, I think the first principles behind marketing, will always prevail and um, and I much rather focus on them, um, and the long term rather than trying to run sprints, uh, all the time, getting tired and having to change tactics every six months because there’s something new on the block. So yeah, I actually don’t care about those link farming. I mean, content farms and link farms used to be very popular. I think you could, you could get very good backlinks from communities and forums, right? Like five years ago, four years ago, three years ago. It doesn’t work anymore. Right? So, I think it’s going quite fast. Google is getting smarter and they have millions, not millions of people, but tens of thousands of people working on this stuff every day. It’s, you know, people, people are getting smarter. I’m not too worried about this.

Brad: (42:09)

Um, you describe is this kind of like the in your face marketing that you described?

Louis: (42:14)

so, I mean  in your face, marketing could be anything that is truly about trying to, how to sell you something before you already not taking the time to understand who you are as a person, treating you as a number, um, manipulating you. Basically trying to do something that you wouldn’t do to others, treating people like you’d like to be treated. Um, would you, would you actually, let’s take a copy of a landing page. It’s trying to convince you to buy something. Would you actually read those out loud to your  mom, you know, would you be proud of doing that? But if not, then it’s where it is. Like that’s really in your face marketing. You know, would you actually use the product you’re selling ? Well, if not, then I understand that you need a job and need money and I don’t blame you for that. But perhaps there is a better company out there that where your skills can be used better. So it’s all about that. Treat people the way you’d like to be treated.

Brad: (43:08)

That makes sense. This is kind of related but to a few of the things we talked about, but I feel like there’s another, this like another narrative in the tech space where like, oh yeah, you should always hire journalists to do your content stuff. And I sit on the other fence where I’m like, I don’t want journalists because I feel like a lot of times they don’t know what they’re talking about. But they do you have some skills.

Louis: (43:31)

Yeah.

Brad: (43:31)

So here’s the difference. Like really, really good journalists are amazing. There’s not many of those though. And there’s not many of those like breaking through and, and, and actually making it to a point where you’d want to hire them, uh, where they’re actually going to like, be able to deliver some value in a sense of, yes, they might be good at like interviewing someone and putting it all together. But I’ve been to the day going back to the Hotjar DNA, going back to, um, not being prescriptive, but at the same time being actionable. Um, like, what is the type of person that you look for or what does the type of person that you think makes a good fit for? Who can balance the two things? That make sense?

Louis: (44:10)

That makes sense. Yeah, it does. I don’t have experience working with people who use speech on this, but I think  in journalism, there’s one, one of the key stuff they learn is the specificity rule. He’s like, you can’t write a story about plastic. You know, you need to write about a specific company that did that with plastic and whatever. So there’s a lot of concept I think in good journalism, and I think this is the point, right? Good journalism is like with marketing is pretty much the same stuff. It’s understanding people so well that you can give them what they need. And so in terms of what, who we are hiring for, I have a soft spot for people who go above and beyond the traditional CV and cover letter and all this bullshit. I have a soft spot, a soft spot for people who really go beyond that and try to find original way to put, um, to show that passion and what they care about the most.

Louis: (45:03)

And so in Hotjar in general, our hiring processes, super well documented, uh, we have an amazing process starting from, you know, submit an application on your own, the website. Um, we review that, you answer a few questions, uh, we get you on a first call. Um, if, if that goes well, we give you a task that you’re being paid to do, you work with us for two days, three days, and then you present your tasks and that at the end we decide whether you are a good fit or not. And so like, we always look for the same stuff. Are you able to execute? Have, do you have a proven record of doing stuff, uh, quickly learning from your mistakes? Do you need your mistakes? Is it something that you, that you do? Uh, are you willing to say, yeah, I fucked up so many times.

Louis: (45:50)

I don’t even remember how many times I fucked up. And, but I’ve learned a lot from it. Um, are you respectful? You know, do you  respect people? My CEO has a very, very smart way to know that. When he hires VPs and C levels and people who are quite high in the leadership, uh, or even people he meets at conferences before they, uh, they are hired, he would look at the way they talk to waiters for example, and subtle details give you personalities that you wouldn’t really be able to get in intelligence. Like how do you actually treat someone that you, you just could treat this person like shit if you wanted to. There’s no impact. How do you treat this person? Do you respect them. Do you have, do you work with respects basically? Um, and the last that would be like the obsession of our, of our people and the humans and obsessing about users.

Louis: (46:41)

You know, do you have a proven record of showing that you care for, for people showing that you care in your work, but also outside like you are you involved in, in charities and other projects that that means that you truly have empathy for people. So those are like a lot of soft skills I share, um, because soft skills can’t be taught, right? So you either have them or you really don’t, but the rest you can, you know, that can be taught. I’m not too worried about that. We have experts in house. We can hire experts to help. So we can always coach you to be better.

Brad: (47:16)

I think that’s funny you bring up soft skills because again, that’s something that no college ever focuses on. Most companies don’t ever focus on, but it’s also the underpinning of a lot of the stuff we’ve talked about. So it’s more about filtering, right? Like you said, it’s hard to train that part. So it’s more about filtering for already or who are, how’s that? And then going back and teaching the hard skills.

Louis: (47:41)

Yeah. We don’t hire junior people, you know, Hotjar. So we always have like what we call level two so that you have proven track record of turning ideas into projects that make results and all of that. So, uh, we wouldn’t really teach you stuff from scratch. You do require some experience, but we have many,  two instances in Hotjar of people who joined another department, another team that is completely different. Someone who used to be an engineer who moved into our operations team, uh, because of his skills, his skills and his interests into it. So it’s really not about the hard skills. You need to have some, obviously we can’t teach you everything but soft skills. This is a personal belief of mine as well. I think if you’re able to create, to be trusted by people and  have genuine conversations and build relationships in either in all the careers and any careers possible, I think you’ll do great. Um, I think there are studies about this and I’m not an expert, but I, this is something that I see time and time again, you know, these soft skills. Being able to be nice to people and create relationships.

Brad: (48:50)

Yeah, definitely. Before we take off, let’s talk a little bit about Everyone Hates Marketers, the podcast, how long is it going on?

Louis: (48:57)

Uh, I think it’s a year and a half.

Brad: (49:01)

And you’ve interviewed some amazing people in that time. Are there any that stick out?

Louis: (49:06)

It sounds a bit cliche and I don’t want to sound like I’m over myself, but yeah Seth Godin was the interview that stuck out for me because I didn’t expect him to go into specifics and actionable stuff. I really expected to be fluffy as fuck. The generic of what good marketing is and the type of stuff you need to do. And I really got surprised because the first question asked him was, you know, let’s say you have $1,000, you can’t use your name, you can use your knowledge if you want to. You have to launch a business in six months or six weeks or less. And I was expecting him to say something like, you know, uh, you know, it depends. I can’t really comment on that as a fictional example, whatever. No, he actually says, yeah, let’s do it. And he gave so many good examples and, and was able to weave in the principles behind it. So I was very surprised by that in a very good way. And that’s, yeah, I’m still, yeah, I’m, sometimes I do listen back to it. I will admit- not to admire my interviews because I don’t even speak, but he’s the way he explains that so clearly and simply just, uh, I really enjoyed it.

Brad: (50:13)

How have you got someone like that give you an hour?

Louis: (50:17)

He made me, he sent me an email to say please do not share that publicly because I don’t want to get too many contacts and I’m serious.

Brad: (50:27)

 It was blackmail wasn’t it.

Louis: (50:28)

I’m good at, I’m going to respect his wish and I would just say much, much simpler than you think. And it’s just once again about building relationships and understand them. They are busy. Right? Digress,

Brad: (50:40)

right? Yeah. So you grabbed his Google search history, turn it around and

Louis: (50:46)

No I didn’t do any of this bullshit. Like the main thing is like it just to review. I think the reason why I’m, I managed to get good guests onboard is purely about the concept behind the book. Just the fact that it’s a name that you remember a concept that is quite contrarian, that people will either love or hate and I think maybe 70% of it is due to that only. And then, yeah, when someone is super busy, I sent a very snappy email line, one line email and that’s it you know, I don’t, you know, just one line. Simple. Straight to the point.

Brad: (51:20)

Yeah. Perfect. I think your point about contrarian, it sticks out, especially in, in, in a space where everything’s always like tried to, tried to spoon feed people. Um, like one of my favorite examples is the A/B testing where it’s like, you read anything, you read any piece of content, to kind of bring this full circle. You’re getting a piece of content on A/B testing and it’s always like, oh, like you definitely should do it. It’s so good when in reality it’s like usually a waste of time. It’s usually a waste of resources. Usually you’re not seeing like the results are going to see you’re going to last for a week or two, then they’re gonna go back to normal. So taking that contrarian angle. So bringing this back to like kind of blending narrative and a story with SEO and how do you kind of like make it all work. I feel like content needs nuance, like you need that subtlety. You need to be able to say here’s why buyer personas or customer personas, one of the things you brought up at the beginning. Here’s why, you know your customer personas commonly fail or are there commonly useless for these reasons? And then here’s how to like kind of get around that.

Louis: (52:17)

Can I give you an example on this because that actually was a something We wrote a guide about how to increase conversion rates recently, right? And one of the things we noticed looking at the secondary keywords we needed to write about was one of the thing that came up a lot  was conversion rate optimization tools, and with my writer, with my editor, we were like, okay, we need to write about the people actually want to know that those tools, but how do we merge these intents with our point of view, what we believe in. The fact that basically the best conversion rate optimization tools out there are your mouth, your ears, your brain. I just talking to fucking people, right? And so we actually did that. So exactly like you said we added nuance to say, um, yes you could use heat maps, session recordings, whatever. But the best tools out there, are you know- you. And they are free forever.

Louis: (53:19)

And so this is kind of the example of companies really should take more of a stand for this kind of things. And really in that point of view, it’s not because SEO analysis tells you you need to write about it, that you need to write a very in a very basic way. Just share what you believe in and people will either  love you for it or hate you. But it’s fine cause you only need the people who love you. You only need a small subset of people to make a successful business. You don’t need to be loved by everyone and you shouldn’t. If you are, then you’re doing something completely wrong.

Brad: (53:50)

Yeah. But I think the whole point of Hotjar for example is to help you prioritize finding those people or help you find those people. Right? Like it’s not, it’s not about like moving your, your landing page conversion from 0.10 to .30.

Louis: (54:08)

It’s about understanding your best people. Exactly. And this is how we believe. This is how the best way to, um, to improve conversion rates as well is instead of obsessing over the 95% who don’t convert, focus on the 5% who do cause those are the ones will  give you- those are the ones who fit your ideal profile. Those are the ones who will give you the best feedback who say, well I went through the full funnel but I didn’t really enjoy step three because x, y, and z, you need to listen to them. If you start listening to the 95%, you will struggle because a lot of them might not fit at all your profile and they will throw you off course.

Brad: (54:43)

I think that’s such a good point cause I feel like, especially, I don’t know, maybe I’m a pessimist or something, but like I feel like if you, if you’re looking at what people are like commenting on Twitter and saying they want, or if you’re looking at like comments on youtube, like they’re all worthless. Like 95% of them, uh, are just garbage. And so that’s what you’re looking for is a signal if that’s what you’re following like you’re in trouble because you’re going to just run around in circles. Louis: Yup.  Brad: All right. Perfect. Well, thank you again Louis. I really appreciate it. Is there anything you want to leave people with? Um, should they go find you anywhere besides Everyone Hate Marketers, which  we’ll link to in the show notes.

Louis: (55:19)

No, don’t. If you disagree with

Louis: (55:21)

anything I said, please do not go to Everyone Hates Marketers, it’s not for you. If you, if you did enjoy the conversation, then absolutely go to everyonehatesmarketers.com and obviously to the Hotjar blog as well. And to be clear, Hotjar and Everyone Hates Marketers we believe in the same stuff. It’s really about the same stuff. So the HotJar blog, it’s hotjar.com/blog. You can email me at Louis@hotjar.com. L-O-U-I-S at hotjar.com. If  you have any questions I am more than happy to answer. 

Brad: (55:50)  Cool. Thanks again. 

Louis: (55:52) Thank you.

Highlights

5:00 A key lesson to keep in mind that many marketers (Especially in the digital space) forget.   So looking at numbers, looking at your screen, especially as digital marketer, even more than marketers, you tend to forget that there’s people behind it. So that’s the number one rule of good marketing I will say is actually talking to the real people.

22:19  Why being imperfect and vulnerable can help your company’s credibility.  … from day one, they share the products, a beta product that wasn’t perfect, but they were willing to say it’s not perfect. We’re just putting it out there. Tell us what you think, give us your feedback and we’ll listen and we’ll improve. And I believe that if more companies would do that, they would find more success in the, in their content marketing, in the marketing, their brand. 

29:10 Louis shatters this common misconception about SEO and reveals this key truth. So now we understood that SEO is not like hacking google so you can be on the first page. SEO is window to people’s brain. SEO is just a way to understand what people search for, the type of problems they struggled with and whether there’s a lot of people sharing the same problem, right? So when you think about it this way, then it’s much easier. So now nowadays our process is driven by that.

35:58 This important metric Google tracks  is often overlooked. … and Google still looks at backlinks as one of the leading indicators that a piece is good. And why? It’s because if you link to someone else, it means that you consider this piece of value and if many people from different angles linked to that it means they find it valuable. It’s when you think about it, it’s one of the only way for them to know, right?

44: 20 Good, authentic marketing is a marathon- not a sprint. But at the end of the day, I think the first principles behind marketing, will always prevail and um, and I much rather focus on them, um, and the long term rather than trying to run sprints, uh, all the time, getting tired and having to change tactics every six months because there’s something new on the block.