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Define and manage growth on your own terms

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Welcome to this edition of The Operators, a recurring Extra Crunch column, podcast, and YouTube show that brings you insights and information from inside top tech companies. Our guests are execs with operational experience at fast-rising startups, like Brex, Calm, DocSend, and Zeus Living, and more established companies, like AirBnB, Facebook, Google, and Uber. Here, they share strategies and tactics for building your first company and charting your career in tech.

In this episode, we’re talking about growth. Growth means different things inside different organizations, but correctly identifying avenues for sustainable and scalable growth is a priority for almost all companies. We’ll cover:

  1. Defining growth and being good at it
  2. Managing growth without losing sight of the big picture
  3. How companies should approach growth

To learn more, we spoke with two experts:

Isaac Silverman began his career as an entrepreneur before joining Zynga to work on growth development. At Zynga, he focused on some of the most cutting-edge approaches to growth and development. He then moved to Postmates, where he focused on growth product and is now the head of rider growth at Uber.

Matias Honorato is a senior manager on the growth team at Tally, a growth-stage tech company, and also brings his own entrepreneurial roots and experience at companies like Earnest and Tradecraft.

Below is a summary of our conversation; check out The Operators for the full episode.

Defining growth and being good at it

Growth as a concept and discipline originates from the term “growth hacking.” It can be hard to grasp as distinct from functions and goals that usually sit with the marketing team or product development team and may be best thought of as a combination of both. We think of it as the domain responsible for designing, implementing, and measuring approaches to acquiring and retaining customers. It’s a mix of marketing and product, but also sales and data analytics, and sometimes even operations.

Great growth professionals can be successful with a wide variety of work or educational backgrounds, and are most often curious, persistent, and adept at thinking holistically, creatively, quantitatively, and interdisciplinarily.

“There’s definitely a lot of deep analysis and how all the pieces fit together and there’s a lot of product work, and there’s a lot of marketing work,” said Silverman. “I think part of what I find so deeply interesting and engaging about it is it brings together everything. It’s really the exercise we go through, and I don’t want to overstate our role, but the exercise we go through is, ‘let’s imagine that we’re the CEO and what are the things that we think are really important. Let’s see the whole picture and then figure out what are the areas that we should ultimately focus on within it.’ So that is ultimately deeply, deeply, stimulating and dynamic and changes on a day to day basis. And sometimes it’s more product manager-y, sometimes it’s more something else.”

Honorato said that to be a great growth professional, “you have to have a really good understanding of your business, what are your goals, how the product works, how their financial side of the business works.”

The responsibilities of growth teams range from simple tasks like split-testing marketing copy and landing pages to more complex strategies like enabling the integration of a file storage and management solution into workflow applications and then subsequently partnering with those workflow applications to acquire users and become a default solution. Being cross-functional in nature, growth initiatives often require resources and contributions from other teams like marketing, design, and engineering. This can create conflict due to resource constraints and company politics, regardless of how small or large a company is. These are meaningful challenges before even evaluating the effectiveness of growth initiatives! Great growth teams must know how to navigate these types of issues as well, making effective growth teams hard to build, but very valuable if you can build an effective one.

“I tend to believe teams exist on spectrum,” said Silverman. “You got that sort of optimizer or specific functionality or specific parts of the funnel or whatever growth themes and then in the spectrum you have, the entire purpose of the company after you’ve achieved product market fit is to grow. I tend to believe that a lot of companies think they need the former and actually need the latter… One thing that I want to make sure is absolutely clear, the growth at Uber is the product of a very high number of very, very competent people, very diligently thinking about their part of the business, and [growth is] a portion of that much, much larger equation.”

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MARKETING

Boost Your Traffic in Google Discover

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Boost Your Traffic in Google Discover

2. Understand topical authority: Keywords vs. entities

Google has been talking about topical authority for a long time, and in Discover, it is completely relevant. Traditional SEO includes the use of keywords to position your web pages for a specific search, but the content strategy in Discover should be based on entities, i.e., concepts, characters, places, topics… everything that a Knowledge Panel can have. It is necessary to know in which topics Google considers we have more authority and relevance in order to talk about them.

3. Avoid clickbait in titles

“Use page titles that capture the essence of the content, but in a non-clickbait fashion.” This is the opening sentence that describes how headlines should be in Google’s documentation. I always say that it is not about using clickbait but a bit of creativity from the journalist. Generating a good H1 is also part of the job of content creation.

Google also adds:

“Avoid tactics to artificially inflate engagement by using misleading or exaggerated details in preview content (title, snippets, or images) to increase appeal, or by withholding crucial information required to understand what the content is about.”

“Avoid tactics that manipulate appeal by catering to morbid curiosity, titillation, or outrage.

Provide content that’s timely for current interests, tells a story well, or provides unique insights.”

Do you think this information fits with what you see every day on Google Discover? I would reckon there were many sites that did not comply with this and received a lot of traffic from Discover.

With the last core updates in 2023, Google was extremely hard on news sites and some niches with content focused on Discover, directly affecting E-E-A-T. The impact was so severe that many publishers shared drastic drops in Search Console with expert Lily Ray, who wrote an article with data from more than 150 publishers.

4. Images are important

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. If you look at your Discover feed, you’ll see most of the images catch your attention. They are detailed shots of delicious food, close-ups of a person’s face showing emotions, or even images where the character in question does not appear, such as “the new manicure that will be a trend in 2024,” persuading you to click.

Google’s documentation recommends adding “high-quality images in your content, especially large images that are more likely to generate visits from Discover” and notes important technical requirements such as images needing to be “at least 1200 px wide and enabled by the max-image-preview:large setting.” You may also have found that media outlets create their own collages in order to have images that stand out from competitors.

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MARKETING

Everything You Need to Know About Google Search Essentials (formerly Google Webmaster Guidelines)

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Everything You Need to Know About Google Search Essentials (formerly Google Webmaster Guidelines)

One of the most important parts of having a website is making sure your audience can find your site (and find what they’re looking for).

The good news is that Google Search Essentials, formerly called Google Webmaster Guidelines, simplifies the process of optimizing your site for search performance.

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MARKETING

Salesforce rolls out new edition of Marketing Cloud for small businesses

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Salesforce summer 2023 release: The business executive's guide

Today Salesforce announced Marketing Cloud Growth, an edition of Marketing Cloud designed specifically for small businesses.

With help from AI, this edition makes it easy for marketers to segment audiences, create and execute email campaigns from text to image, optimize campaign performance and create unified customer profiles. It also has a prompt builder that can store and manage known reliable prompts for organizations.

Dig deeper: 70% of SMB marketers willing to pay more for tools with AI or automation

Salesforce developed the new edition by looking at the most common use cases for which small businesses frequenty don’t have the people or resources. This includes things like personalizing campaigns and advanced testing.

The company is also letting small businesses (those with fewer than 200 employees) that have Sales or Service Enterprise Edition “get started with Data Cloud at no cost.” Marketing Cloud Growth will initially be available in the U.S. and Canada and is expected to roll out to Europe, the Middle East and Asia by the end of the year.

Why we care. First of all, small businesses need all the help they can get. This creates an opportunity to start using AI within a centralized marketing workflow rather than importing content from independent generative AI tools. Perhaps it’s also a sign of Salesforce moving to compete with platforms (can we say HubSpot?) that more overtly court SMB clients.

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