Joshua Hardwick and the Content Hustle

joshua hardwick

It’s that time – time for another Content Hacker Spotlight!

Today, we’re featuring a content hacker who’s behind a big-time trending blog in the content marketing world. (Hint: Almost ALL of our other featured content hackers mentioned the brand he works for as one of their favorite blogs to follow.)

He’s the Head of Content at Ahrefs: Joshua Hardwick! 📝

Needless to say, Joshua’s reputation precedes him. Along with his role crafting much of the amazing, data-heavy, researched-to-the-nines content they produce over at the Ahrefs blog, he’s also the founder of The SEO Project.

Incredibly, The SEO Project is a free, 400-page guide to link building (more on that in our interview) that served as the impetus for Tim Soulo hiring him for his current gig at Ahrefs.

It’s a great story about the power of incredible content. Keep reading to hear about it in Joshua’s own words, as well as his quality-focused content writing habits, and why giving a crap matters in our industry.

Go, go, go! 👇

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Content Hacker Spotlight Interview: with Joshua Hardwick

Q: When did you get started in marketing, and why?

A: Strangely, this was all a happy little accident. (#bobross)

When I was around 16/17, I realised that you could make money writing articles for folks over at forums like DigitalPoint and WarriorForum. They weren’t very well paid at all. People generally wanted reviews of washing machines or something boring as heck like that, and would pay maybe $10 for the result—if you were lucky.

I did this for a while and found myself wondering why people were willing to pay for such articles in the first place. What were they using them for? That’s when I came across SEO. I realised that most people wanted the content for their websites, guest posts, etc. So I started to learn everything I could about SEO.

I built a couple of my own websites and tried to get them ranked. It worked! I ranked number one for a 50k/month semi-commercial keyword in < 6 months, and I had a website making around £500/month. (Not a huge amount of money for most people, but I couldn’t believe I was making money from my bedroom!)

From there, I started to do client work, specialising in link building. Then, after a few years of that, I started The SEO Project.

Basically, I spent 5 months putting together a list of every link building strategy under the sun, plus exactly how to execute each strategy. It ended up as a 60,000-word monster, and I published it for free online. That’s when Tim Soulo (Ahrefs) contacted me about writing for the Ahrefs blog. I accepted. I’m now their Head of Content.

Q: What’s your favorite part of what you do today?

A: Writing. That’s 99% of what I do these days, which is great.

I’ve always loved creating things, so nothing is more rewarding for me than having the freedom to create top-notch content from scratch on a regular basis. Ahrefs are super-focused on quality, so each post probably takes me 10-20 hours on average. Sounds crazy, but it works for me.

Q: What’s one of the biggest challenges you have overcome in your work as a marketer?

A: Listening to feedback. I usually have a very clear idea of how I want something to be so when others chime in with contradicting opinions, I can’t help but feel a little defensive.

However, I’ve learned that as long as you’re working with the right people, taking on feedback usually results in a better end product, so it’s something I force myself to do.

Q: How has the industry landscape changed since you started?

A: I’d like to say less spam, but I’m not sure that would be true. Perhaps less spam that works is more accurate?

In other words, it used to be much easier to game Google and force mediocre content and websites to rank high. It’s still possible, but it’s getting harder and harder. Most people see that as a negative but I see it as a huge positive. I’m very white-hat…

Q: What does the future of marketing look like to you?

A: Not sure. I’d like to hope that content marketing becomes more prevalent.

Of course, it’s something a lot of companies do already, but not many do it particularly well. I think most see it as just something that they’re expected to do because others in their industry are doing it, but have no real passion for doing it properly. That’s also probably what leads them to believe that it doesn’t work—nobody cares about mediocre content.

6. What key traits or skills does it take to be a marketing leader?

A: I’m not sure I’d class myself as a marketing leader. However, I think actually giving a crap is underrated. 😉

7. What are some of your favorite tools or hacks for marketers?

A: Google Sheets (<3), Airtable, and of course, Ahrefs. 😊

8. Do you have any daily habits, hobbies, or rituals you couldn’t survive without?

A: My answer to this is the same as my answer to the next question: Tea! I drink gallons of the stuff… literally.

9. Coffee or tea?

A: Tea!!!!

10. What are some great blogs we should be reading or people we should be following on social media?

A: Well, I have to say the Ahrefs blog for a start! But, aside from that, if we’re talking about SEO specifically, I personally love Glen Allsopp’s stuff, and Ryan Stewart (if you like processes, SOPs, etc).

Follow Joshua Hardwick for More Content Inspiration

Thanks so much to Joshua Hardwick for taking the time to contribute to our Content Hacker Spotlights.

Definitely follow him for more SEO insights and great content writing: on the Ahrefs blog (check out all the blogs he has authored, they’re super-interesting reads) and on Twitter, @JoshuaCHardwick.

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