If you’ve spent any amount of time on the internet, you’ve probably heard terms like “hack” and “hacking.”
In the blog-o-sphere, these terms have been used to mean “clever solutions to tricky problems” or “tricks to make your life easier.” If you Google “hacks,” you can see this clearly – the results are all about clever, interesting, or creative solutions to life’s dilemmas. 💡
Hacking is typically a good thing.
Now, what about hacking for marketing? Scary and bad – or good and effective?
The term ‘hacking’ was used in the marketing industry in 2010, when Sean Ellis, co-author of Hacking Growth and CEO of GrowthHackers, coined the term growth hacking in his blog, Find a Growth Hacker for Your Startup. Ellis says: “A growth hacker is a person whose true north is growth. Everything they do is scrutinized by its potential impact on scalable growth.”
With content hacking, the definition is just this – hands-on creativity and can-do, growth-focused attitude – but applied to content creation.
True content hacking is about getting tough, heavy content marketing tasks done in a smart way.
Making life easier.
Getting to the rewards faster, without sacrificing quality or principles along the way.
When applied to content, content hacking is about making your content marketing better, using BETTER, smarter methods.
Growth-focused methods.
Join me on an adventure where we dive into the traits, skillsets and brain of a modern-day content hacker. You might relate to a large percentage of these traits yourself. (Let me know in the comments if you do.) Ready?
content hacking

The Content Hacker: Origins of Content Hacking

Full disclosure: I didn’t come up with the term “content hacker” itself.
The hat-tip for that goes to Garrett Moon of CoSchedule.
He coined the phrase by smashing together the concepts of growth hacking and content marketing.

  • As we already mentioned above, growth hacking is a term Sean Ellis, the CEO of GrowthHackers, originated. It’s the process of driving breakout business growth using “a high-velocity testing/learning process.”
  • It’s about being quick, agile, and nimble on your feet. If a process doesn’t work, you need to be able to pivot, adapt, and try something else.
  • At the end of the day, sustainable growth is the bottom line, not quick fixes. You have to learn what works and what doesn’t — fast.

As for content marketing, we all know and love it.

  • Content marketing is the process of creating useful content that builds trust and turns traffic into leads and customers.

Thus, growth hacking + content marketing = content hacker (noun): a growth-focused content marketer.
(No, that doesn’t mean cheap or overnight fast-track tricks.)
Content hackers climb over roadblocks to reach our goals on the content marketing horizon. They don’t add to the noise. They create beauty online. A real brand reputation that relies on content that works.
If you’re on-board for all of the above, then congratulations: You’re a content hacker, too. 👋

Growth hacking + content marketing = content hacker (noun): a growth-focused content marketer. Learn more about a #contenthacker Click To Tweet
The term content hacker takes inspiration from the original creator of 'growth hacking', @SeanEllis. #contenthacking 💡 Click To Tweet
'A growth hacker is a person whose true north is growth. Everything they do is scrutinized by its potential impact on scalable growth.' - @SeanEllis #contenthacking Click To Tweet
Content hackers climb over roadblocks to reach our goals on the content marketing horizon. This is white-hat hacking or growth hacking for content. @JuliaEMcCoy Click To Tweet
True 'content hacking' is about getting tough, heavy content marketing tasks done in a smart way. @JuliaEMcCoy 🧠💡 #contenthacking Click To Tweet

What a Content Hacker is NOT

Let’s be clear: Content hacking is NOT about “overnight success” or “scary-quick results.”
It’s NOT about fast fixes or putting band-aids on content marketing problems.
Instead, a content hacker is laser-focused on growth – any kind of growth, whether that means converting three new leads to customers, getting 100 more people to visit your blog, or earning 1,000 new email subscribers.
No matter how small, growth is something you can build on. Growth is something you can leverage.
As long as it’s consistent and sustainable…
As long as the process to get there is repeatable…
As long as the content serves the user’s wants/needs/pain points, that’s the kind of growth a content hacker is all about.
Content hacking is NOT about fast fixes or putting band-aids on content marketing problems. More about a growth-driven #contentmarketer Click To Tweet

Why Does Content Hacking Matter Now and in The Future of Content Marketing?

In 2019, content by itself won’t do much. I hate to break it to you.
There’s too much noise out there on the web. You won’t stand out unless you approach content in a radically different way.
Nearly 4 million blog posts are written every day. That means, in a single year, over 1.46 billion individual posts are published.

The internet is bursting at the seams with content. Even worse, much of it is useless.
Worse than that?
Most of the content that IS useful is same-old, same-old. (How many times have you seen this headline: ‘# Ways to Start a Blog’?)
So, we’re left looking at a big, stinking pile of crap content. Let’s call it “Crap Content Mountain.”

If this scenario makes you feel bleak, here’s a ray of light.
Crappy, same-old, ugly content is exactly what a content hacker rails against.
Content hackers don’t create useless content. They don’t create content because it’s the “thing to do.”
Instead, they are always locked-in on their audience and hell-bent on producing content that those people will gobble up.
They’re constantly researching their audience, researching topics and keywords, testing new ideas, updating their knowledge, and trying new content marketing tactics.
Content hackers are the future of content marketing because, in the end, they are the ones working to make the internet better. Content hackers STOP producing more crap to add to the content trash pile.
We’re on a mission to create content that matters to users, and builds trust and connections between audiences and brands.
💥Content hackers are the ones AGAINST adding more crap to add to the content trash pile. They're on a mission to create content that matters to users and builds trust and connection. @JuliaEMcCoy Click To Tweet
In fact, this has been my goal with content from the very beginning, back in 2011 when I started Express Writers. Needless to say, it works. Our numbers prove that: 90,000 visitors/month in organic traffic, and 14-16% of those visitors convert through our content.

Analysis of a Modern-Day Content Hacker

To be called a true content hacker, you need a certain set of skills. You don’t necessarily have to be the James Bond of content marketing, but a little creativity, agility, and ingenuity in your wheelhouse won’t hurt.
If we must whittle down the ideal content hacker to a few traits, we think these are the most important ones. If you want to hack your way to mega-growth with content, take note – here we see the average specimen as they might look in the wild.
content hacker
See an analysis and the leading traits of of today's smart, growth-focused content marketer in @JuliaEMcCoy's #contenthacker guide 👨🏼‍🎤👩‍🎤 Click To Tweet
Mind: Tactical, Growth-Minded Thinker
A content hacker intrinsically understands content marketing’s worth. By 2021, the industry is expected to reach $412.88 billion. The content hacker is at the forefront of this valuable industry, the one brainstorming ways to tap into that growth for their own niche, and searching for new tactics to make it happen.
Ears: Constantly Listening/Learning
A good content hacker always has their ears open. They’re constantly listening, measuring results, learning what works and what doesn’t, and pivoting as needed to stay on the path of content marketing growth.
Mouth: Clever Communicator
Communication is key for the content hacker. They use every form of it – words, videos, social media, email, and more – on the right platforms, from Instagram Stories to Facebook Live and beyond, to speak to the heart of the matter. They customize communication to the brand they’re creating content for, and exist where their audience lives.
Feet: Agile and Flexible
Watch out – a content hacker is fast. They learn quickly, rebound from mistakes, and are ready to try another strategy, tactic, or idea within the next minute. If one road or method isn’t working, they’ll cut through the brush to find another path that will help their brand grow.
Heart: Audience-Focused
Above all, the users matter most to a content hacker. Understanding the user’s needs, wants, desires, and problems (not the brand or client’s) is pivotal to producing useful content that converts.
Cardiovascular: Patience & Strong Work Ethic
Patience is a must for the content hacker. Most content marketing ROI doesn’t come in until 12-24 months after as a matter of fact. Without a strong work ethic and the patience to see their content tactics and growth hacks through to the finish line, a content hacker would never get anywhere.
Veins: Storytelling and Writing Chops
Most content hackers find their way to the field through their love of storytelling. The ideal content hacker understands the value of stories and knows how to write. They spend much of their time telling them through amazing content creation. Plenty of marketers are catching on, too. Content creation spend has seen the highest increase over the last 12 months over any other content marketing area, according to CMI’s Budgets, Benchmarks, and Trends report.
Blood: Caffeinated
Let’s face it: The content hacker needs a daily dose of joe (or tea) to fuel those early mornings and late nights of content hacking – or to power through the dreaded 3 p.m. slump.
Tools: Skilled Researcher
Researching is an essential skill for the content hacker. They’re always researching and looking for useful data, whether that means finding out everything they can about their audience or discovering profitable keywords that tie to user search intent. Tools today’s content hacker uses include Moz, Ahrefs, SEMrush, Mangools’ KWFinder, and BuzzSumo.
To sum up the skillsets and traits of a successful content hacker…

  • They’re agile, independent thinkers whose major focus is brand growth through the creation of user-satisfying content.
  • They’re ready to hack through the internet jungle at moment’s notice to reach the growth and results they crave.
  • If one way is blocked, they’re experts at finding a clear path to ROI.

These smart, strategic content marketers have a wide playing field open to them.
Question: Why put all the trouble into making sure you learn the skill sets involved in content hacking?
Well, according to a study by Fractl and Moz, content marketing job growth increased by nearly 350% between 2011 – 2015.
content strategy job growth
This is a trend that has continued into 2019. That’s pretty epic.
And I think we can continue to see this increasing in the future, as the industry of content marketing rises as a whole.

ContentHacker.com – Launching Soon!

As you can tell, my heart is invested in this topic 1000%.
That’s why I’m moving forward and launching a brand this June that is wholly dedicated to growth-focused content marketers. You guessed it — it’s called Content Hacker.
content hacker
This will be my personal brand, but it will also serve as a resource center, education platform, and publication for every single person who believes in the content hacker way of life.
Because anything short of growth and results (both for us AND our real, living, human audience) would be cruddy, am I right?
I’m super excited to share this new venture with you.
And, chances are, if you’ve read this far, you’re interested in joining me as this new launch happens. To stay up-to-date on all things content hacking, sign up for the list.
See you soon, fellow content hackers!
content shop