By marie_dm 🌺 11 months ago

Meet Lily Ugbaja, content strategist and marketing expert who specializes in helping brands substantially grow their traffic. In this interview, Lily provides insights into the world of digital marketing, shares common mistakes businesses make, and discusses the future trends of the industry. She also reveals the resources that have shaped her professional growth, and how fellow women founders can benefit from similar paths. For those keen to delve into the details of content marketing or seeking effective strategies for scaling their business's online presence, don't miss the valuable insights from Lily's professional journey.

Can you tell us a bit about your background: where do you come from, what kind of family were you born in, what did you want to become when you were a child, what were you doing before being an entrepreneur?

I come from the Igbo tribe of Nigeria, and grew up in Jos, a cold northern city in Nigeria. One of my earliest memories is standing outside with my three siblings, trying to catch tiny hails whenever there was a hailstorm. Thankfully, we never got big ones. 😆

Growing up, I went through so many career choices [laughs]. A nurse, because who didn’t like the cute little white dresses and caps we saw in the magazines? A teacher: I dropped this idea because teachers didn’t seem well paid. An astronaut: because they looked different, cool, and no other kid chose it.

I think I learned that I wanted to be an entrepreneur at age 10 when I started my first business. I’d saved up money from my allowance to start baking and selling snacks at school. If I made $10 today, I wanted to make $15 the next day. Just seeing that growth gave me all the satisfaction in the world.

I ended up in admin roles after I graduated from high school and couldn’t go to college.

How did you start your career in content marketing and what lessons have you learned along the way that have contributed to your success as a freelancer?

Remember, I said I ended up in admin after high-school? I loathed working as an admin. So when I was about to have my first child (at 21), I found myself wondering whether I’d want to put my child in daycare to come back to a job I disliked. The answer was no. Long story short, I started a blog so I could work from home.

A SaaS brand reached out to me one day after they saw one of the guest posts I’d written to promote my blog. They invited me to write for them and things just snowballed from there.

I’d say what contributed to my success as a freelancer (especially in the beginning) was my curiosity and desire to be seen as excellent. I always over-delivered, and that led to glowing testimonials and repeat work. I also had my own testing environment (my blog). There’s a confidence that comes from ‘doing’, and it’s quite different from just ‘knowing’.

I think it’s also important to always be learning. If you’re not challenging yourself to acquire a new knowledge, or improve your skill, the industry will leave you behind. I’ve been able to grow from a clueless blogger to a Fractional Content Manager and Marketing Advisor because I was always asking ‘what’s next?’.

What are some key elements of a successful content strategy for businesses looking to grow their online presence?

Customer research is the foundation. If you already have data, look at your own data (or survey your audience) to learn who your best customers are, what their pain points are, and where they hang out.

I define ‘best customers’ as people who close the fastest, stay the longest, spend the most, and consume the least customer support resources.

Anchoring strategy on customer research means that you’ll focus on the right topics, and marketing channels that yield the best result. Maybe that’s a blog, or maybe it’s a podcast!

What common mistakes do businesses make in their marketing efforts, and how can they avoid them?

I’d say focusing too much on the competitor, and chasing shiny objects.

Every product is unique, competitor research should be to figure out gaps, not to replicate their strategy.

There’s also an advantage to doubling down on what’s already working and only trying new things when you have the resources or the data to support it.

How do you decide which platforms are best for reaching a particular target audience?

The best way is just to ask them where they spend time the most, and what they often interact with on those platforms.

Another way is to use an audience insights tool like SparkToro to see where your target audience spends the most time.

If they’re on a platform a lot, and interact with brands similar to yours, that’s a platform you want to explore.

In your opinion, what is the most crucial thing to understand about SEO for businesses and creators looking to improve their online visibility and reach their target audience effectively?

SEO is long gone from just keywords. The way to rank and stay ranking is to create content that caters to the audience’s search intent (the reason why they’re searching), and use a tool like Clearscope to optimize with semantic keywords.

Would a business looking to hire a freelance writer be searching for ‘freelance writer’ online, for example? Or are those fellow freelance writers looking for successful freelance writers?

At the most basic level, success with SEO comes from understanding a keyword, and the why behind the keyword.

In a world of AI content generators, brand is going to matter more than content velocity.

I believe that readers will have incredibly high expectations for content, when they find a brand which meets those expectations, they’ll become fans. They’ll click their content first on the SERPs, in their inbox, in social.

There'll also be more [brand name] searches for topics. Buyers will prefer to see content from those high-quality brands first. Communities and user-generated content will also be big drivers of trust and conversions.

Bottom-line: All brands should learn to scale remarkable content for their marketing channels. That way, they can make the right impression at the right time.

What resources or lessons have been instrumental in your professional growth, and how can other women founders benefit from similar resources?

I’ve found communities like this one, Superpath, and The FCDC (The Freelance Coalition for Developing Countries) great for finding mentors and friends who help me grow. I think that’s hands down the most important thing.

It’s a community that tells you which thought leader to follow, which course is worth it and which isn’t, and what your next step should be.

These are people who’ve actually walked the talked or people who are at the same stage as you are. They aren’t motivated by affiliate commissions or to sell a product so they’ll tell it as it is.

Finally, what can readers expect from your Marketing Cyborg newsletter?

I’ll be sharing everything about creating content that’s more specific, memorable, and actionable. My goal is to show how I’ve scaled content production without a significant drop in quality.

I’ll also be exploring what it takes to create a content strategy that maximizes marketing budgets.


Find Lily on Twitter, her website, and subscribe to her newsletter Marketing Cyborg.

This interview is a part of a series in partnership with Ahrefs, a tool that helps with SEO optimization.

Sign up for free to Ahrefs Webmaster Tools to scan your website for 100+ common SEO issues and find out what search queries you already rank for, as well as which websites are linking to you.

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