How (& why) I built a directory of SEO spreadsheets

Marketers love spreadsheets.

And directories have been part of the internet (and SEO) for ages.

What do you get when you combine spreadsheets, SEO and directories?

This:

Sheets for Marketers – a hand-curated database of Google Sheets templates & tools to help you with loads of marketing and SEO tasks.

It currently features over 100 templates in 15 categories, covering all the different areas of marketing (hopefully).

What are curated directories?

Chances are you probably know what a curated directory is, but in case you don’t:

A curated directory is a list of websites that have been hand-picked for a specific target user/demographic.

Examples of curated directories:

Why build one?

Curated directories are useful for a couple of reasons:

  • They make content discovery easy (vs trawling Google for each resource).
  • Categorisation means it’s easier to explore and see what’s on offer.
  • Hate this phrase but: it adds value ๐Ÿคฎ
  • It’s a good entry-level side project to build. You don’t need to know how to code. The only cost is hosting & time. And it gives you the chance to improve your current skills.

Building a directory

My motive behind building a curated directory was to add something to the SEO community by gathering the best spreadsheets in one place. After all, without the generosity and ingenuity of the community, there would be no Sheets to share.

But more importantly (for me) was to just build something, launch it and see it through fully.

Here’s how I curated, built and launched a curated directory:

Collecting the resources

Before you can crack on with building a directory, you need to have some resources to put in it.

This is going to be very dependent on what you are going to put in your directory.

For me, collecting the Sheets templates was just something I started doing on autopilot. With so many people creating templates, it was awkward navigating to each place every time you wanted to use one.

So I began copying the links and storing them in a spreadsheet. After a while, the spreadsheet grew. So I categorised them just so I could find them easier myself.

It wasn’t for a painfully long time that I realised that this would useful to other marketers.

Building a curated directory in wordpress

I built the site over the Christmas holidays 2018, but I had been gathering the sheets templates for a while.

Use what you know would be my advice here (+ what you have access to),

I’ve worked with the Genesis framework for WordPress before so it was no-brainer to go that way again (hosted on Siteground).

Sure, I could of used a dedicated directory theme or something like Webflow or even something like Sheet2Site (which would of been very on brand in hindsight). But choosing one of these unfamiliar platforms would of added additional learning time.

Learning time is good but I needed doing time more.

Tools I used

I applied the same logic here: use what you know and what you have at hand.

For me, that included:

  • Google Sheets – obvious one, but that’s where I kept all my ‘listings’ for the directory. I could of probably imported the content from CSV to speed things up, but I did it by hand in the end to have more control over the look of the site.
  • Stencil – used this image creation tool for simple graphics. I’m no designer but I think they turned out alright.
  • Grid Kit – I used this to make the browse templates tiles on the directory homepage. Shout out to support team, they were awesome.
  • Mailchimp – email marketing & monkeys. Always my go-to choice.
  • Google Analytics – everyone knows about GA right.

The launch

In the first week of January 2019 I launched the site. I would of been happy with just a few hundred users but I hit a couple of thousand:

The goal was more to just actually launch something instead of thinking about launching or spending time planning. Sometimes ideas without execution are useless.

There’s not too much to say about the actual launch. I put the finishing touches to the site, tweeted out a link, put it up on Growthhackers and hey presto, Sheets for Marketers was live.

Here’s a rundown of some of the things that did work, and some of the things that didn’t:

What worked

๐Ÿ‘ Got in front of some big SEO twitter influencers which brought a good chunk of people to the site.

๐Ÿ‘ People seemed to like the idea

๐Ÿ‘ Made some good connections

๐Ÿ‘ I actually launched something! This was the biggest thing for me. I had an idea and followed it through to completion without falling victim to shiny object syndrome.

What didn’t work

๐Ÿ‘Ž Could of done better at letting everyone included in the directory that they wereโ€ฆ well in the directory

๐Ÿ‘Ž My Product Hunt was a bit rubbish. This was entirely my fault. I didn’t read up on how to do a good launch I just jumped in and lost momentum. You live and you learn.

๐Ÿ‘Ž Twitter automation (and social media in general). I set up some automated twitter postings for the first month to seed my new-ish account with some related content. They lead to very little engagement.

Future plans

The future of Sheets for Marketers is pretty simple: write more useful content, create more tools marketers want to use and get better at spreadsheet wrangling.

The hard bit is doing the work. But thankfully, it’s also the most fun.