#40: patience and pumpkin seeds

patience pumpkin seeds

You are reading contentfolks—a fortnightly blend of sticky notes, big content ideas, and small practical examples. Thank you for being here! ~fio

Ciao from Italy 👋

Last Thursday, I helped my dad sow pumpkin seeds in his garden. We prepped the soil, placed the seeds in neat rows, and then gently covered and watered them. He’ll keep tending to the plot throughout the next six months, and we’ll harvest in October. 

🌱 + 💦 + ☀️ + ⏳ = 🎃

Later, I thought of this as a good metaphor for our work in SEO and content marketing: the day you plant the seed is not the day you eat the pumpkin.

Patience vs. frustration: a content marketer’s balancing act

A lot of content proves itself over time and proves itself big time. But it’s not always obvious from job descriptions that an important skill for content marketers is the ability to be patient, hold steady, and persevere.

If you’re lucky, you’ll work with managers who understand the long-term nature of content/SEO and the patience required to see results. If you’re less lucky, you’ll encounter scrutiny and occasional pushback,1 and you’ll have to field many variations on the “So, when is this going to…?” theme. In either scenario, you’ll likely experience the unique frustration of knowing you just shipped something great that would be extremely helpful to your audience—except it will only reach its true potential months from now.

…but while you keep rollercoastering between patience and frustration, your content will start growing like the seeds I just planted: invisibly at first, then a bit more obviously, then faster and faster still, until the fruits (…pumpkins?) of your labour will be very visible to everybody involved.

💡 A practical example 💡

At Hotjar, we chose to focus on educating and upskilling existing and prospective customers with product-led content, using SEO as our primary distribution method. It took about six months before consistent organic traffic growth; after a few more months, we also saw an impact on business metrics like sign-ups and MQLs:

organic traffic growth from 20k to 200k / month ☝️

At Postmark, which is by far the most technical & niche product I’ve worked on, we’re taking a similar product-led approach with SEO as the main distribution method, and seeing the pattern repeat itself. For example, this is a piece we published last autumn that clearly illustrates long-term traffic progression:

In both cases, if you were to look at results after one day, one week, or even one month, you’d have to conclude that the investment in SEO just isn’t worth it. Yet look at what happens if you just hold steady, trust the process, and wait 😉

The pumpkin moves at its own pace. It doesn’t care if you’re hungry or frustrated. You can maybe hope to speed up its growth a bit with irrigation, fertiliser, and sun exposure—but ultimately, the pumpkin takes the time it needs. 

And sometimes, so does our work.2


1: When trying to get buy-in from stakeholders, you’ll likely find yourself on the receiving end of three main objections to content marketing:
1. Paid advertising attracts more traffic and customers, faster
2. It takes too long to see results 
3. The ROI is difficult to measure
I documented my replies in this piece I wrote on Ahrefs a while back → I hope they can be useful starting points for your discussions as well.

2: Speaking of taking the time one needs → I’m on my usual Italian break this month, in which I will dedicate myself entirely to pizza, gelato, and sunshine. I’ll be back on May 11 🇮🇹