By performing ongoing SEO and content marketing for a UK-based e-commerce site selling products within the auto niche, we made major improvements in six months with a limited budget.
The Ultimate Metric:
There are a lot of numbers one can share with regard to the digital marketing progress, but the number that matters the most is the ROI.
We started working for this company in May 2015.
Their revenue from organic traffic for October 2014 was: £114,940.28 (or $162,580.73)
Their revenue from organic traffic for October 2015 became: £142,050.92 (or $200,928.19)
That’s a 23.85% increase in just six months of SEO work by logging in just 74 hoursof SEO and content marketing work each month!
No SEO discussion is complete without keywords and keywords rankings. So here I go.
We improved the rankings of several of their 1-phrase and 2-phrase keywords from second page to first page (securing them 1-3 position on the first page for several keywords) organically.
These included keywords like:
All in all we improved rankings of thousands of keywords. But all this improved search engine ranking would have been of no value if it had not impacted the ROI positively.
All in all the improvement in ROI can be summed up through this image:
Please note: we are not at liberty to disclose the client’s URL.
How Did We Do It?
Everything starts with the right team. We did so by putting together the right team for the project, and by assigning the right task to each person.
The client’s monthly budget at that time was not very high; we pulled this off in six months by:
- Logging 444.24 hours (or an average of only 74 hours per month) as mentioned earlier
- We used one senior SEO expert (for overall strategy, management etc), two junior SEO experts (for outreach), four writers (for content creation) and one virtual assistant (to find linkreators). Linkreators, a term coined by Brian Dean, are influencers and authority bloggers of your own niche and any shoulder niches who can potentially link out to you. So your competitor can’t be a link creator for you but a blogger who is passionate about cars is a link creator for you if you are in the niches of auto, travel, car safety, ride sharing etc.It should be noted that, we had to use four writers on this project because at times some writers were not available. But the same can be easily done using just one SEO expert, one writer and one VA, as long as they are top notch resources.
The Process: How We Ran a Successful Guest Posting Campaign
Contrary to popular belief, guest posting (or guest blogging) isn’t dead. It is very much alive and kicking. The trick is to do it right, and as I mention later, to do invest in other link earning strategies as well.
Here is how we increased the ROI by over 23% with guest posting alone in the first six months of working with this client.
Step 1: Perform Keyword Research With SEMrush
We first used SEMrush the exact way that Nick Eubanks suggests using in his course “Master Keyword Research in 7 Days.” You can find more about it in the SEMrush article “Keyword Research: The Nuances Between New vs. Existing Websites.”
But simply speaking, here is what it means. Instead of picking any keywords out of the blue, we:
- Mined the keywords the client’s site already had rankings for using SEMrush
- Downloaded that list of keywords in an Excel file
- Sorted and organized the keywords so that it is easier to see, using Nick’s terminology, the ‘low hanging fruits’
So let’s assume you are confused on whether to use ‘cheap types’ vs. ‘car tyres.’ Let’s also assume that both keywords have similar search volume as well as more or less the same SEO competition (or as SEMrush calls it the same ‘Keyword Difficulty’).
So which one should you choose?
According to Nick, you should pick up the one for which you already have medium range rankings.
So if your site is on position 398 for ‘car tyres’ but position 32 for ‘cars online,’ you are better off if you focus on the latter keyword phrase rather than working on the latter keyword.
I would go as far as to say that even if the latter keyword phrase has 5,000 searches, and the former keyword phrase are 20,000 you should still focus on the latter keyword phrase if your rankings for it are better than the other keyword phrase.
Once you get ranked for the low hanging fruits, your website’s overall link portfolio and the DA may increase to a level where you can target more high competition keywords.
Step 2: Create Content on Client's Blog
First off, we created some great informational content pieces around the below topics, and published them in the blog section of the client’s site:
- cars and tyres maintenance
- tyres types
- travel tips
- ride sharing
- luxury cars
- traffic, safety, DUI driving, texting while driving etc
Step 3: Linkreator Research
While we were working on content creation, the VA had put together a list of potential link creators along with their contact details, DA, PA, guest post submission policy (if available) in a Google Sheet. We collected sites which:
- Were relevant to the niches of auto, car safety, travel etc
- Had a DA of 25 or above (we didn’t care much about the PA at that time)
- Have had good design and great content, rather than being one of those low quality SEO/PBN sites that some marketers put up in order to make some quick bucks.
- Is not a competitor (i.e. another e-commerce company selling the same products/services as we do) but has the same audience that would be interested in our products and services
Step 4: Email Outreach
Our outreaches started doing outreach by contacting companies listed on the Google Sheet of Linkreators. In this regard, we had given them a template which they have had to edit for each site to make the outreach email more personalized. Such an email looked something like below:
Dear [First name of the site’s owner/editor], While looking for articles on travel, I came across your beautifully designed site. The recent article on 10 things to consider before embarking on a long journey was pretty informative. I am passionate about travel and writing, and hence I wonder if you would be interested in me sending you a guest post on “10 steps to prepare your car for a long road trip”? I would also be open to writing on a topic of your choice. Would you like to see some of my previous articles published at some good sites?
- We ensured that our emails are not sent to a generic email like firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com but to the email ID of a real person like firstname.lastname@example.org (I mention John Lee Dumas because I love his EOFire podcast, and no our team has not sent him any outreach emails, and no that ain’t his real email ID either).
- We tried to keep the emails as short as possible. My team does it better than me; writing shorter emails takes me more time :(
- We ensured that we mentioned something really great about their site which is very specific so as to make it clear to the recipient that we have actually took the time to review their site. This works much better than a vague compliment on ‘Hey, nice site.’ But, as our senior outreach expert Umair says, keep the compliment short and get straight to the point quickly as these site owners/editors are very busy people. Properly reviewing site also means that we target the right sites and that we pitch them the right topics thereby increasing our chances of scoring more wins in terms of links earned.
- When we mention the target site’s article while complimenting them, we ensure that we don’t use the exact title of the article. We feel if we do so it would make us come across as one of those mass mailers who use a template (that, unlike us, they don’t manually edit/personalize) and a bot of sorts in order to send hundreds of emails. Our emails are personalized and rather than using than the exact article title, we describe it in our own words; just as in the outreach email shared above I wrote, “The recent article on 10 things to consider before embarking on a long journey was pretty informative.” In this case the actual title may have been “Going on a Road Trip? Do Check These 10 Things First,” but I wrote it in my own words.
- We try to end our emails with a question (e.g. Would you like me to suggest a few topics for the guest post?). We started doing this when I realized that whenever someone does this to me, I feel as if I MUST respond to that email.
- We include no URLS in the first outreach email so as to increase the changes our email not being flagged as spam.
- When we get a response, we do an even shorter follow up email and depending on what we are asked for we either share links to our previously published content or we send a draft of the article that is requested. Unless a recipient explicitly requests to attach the draft as an attachment, we never send anything as an attachment as many people are wary of opening attachments due to the risk of getting their computer infected with a malware. Instead we copy-paste the entire draft of the article inside the body of the email.
- This whole process won’t make any sense if the article we sent to the site does not include a link to our site. So if we are writing an article on “10 Steps to Prepare Your Car for a Long Road Trip,” we would make sure that it has a link to a relevant (informational, rather than promotional) content piece that is on the domain of our client (such an article on the choice of types for long distance travel during summers). Such a contextual link is of much more value than a link in the author bio section as you may know already.
- We also made sure that most (i.e. 70-80%) of our anchor texts are to branded terms rather than money keywords, and that there is lot of anchor text diversity.
How Are We Making This Process Even Better?
The results we shared are for the first six months of our SEO campaign. Since then we have made many more improvements to our SEO and content marketing process which has resulted in even more positive gains in terms of SEO rankings and ROI growth.
Some of the changes we have made or in the process of making include:
- Improved benchmarking to track open rate, links generated etc on a more regular basis and make adjustments based on the responses, etc.
- Moving away from email outreach (i.e., sending cold emails to strangers) to social outreach (i.e., first getting on the target linkreators’s radar by giving them social love (retweeting/sharing their content, leaving insightful comments etc.), and then sending them a pitch via Twitter DM or LinkedIn).
- We never ask for a link, or even mention the word link. We just try to come up with a topic that would be of interested to the target site’s readers while staying relevant to our client’s content. That’s it!
- Offering additional incentives to the linkreators like promoting their content pieces to our mailing list or to our social network.
- Bringing more diversification to our links portfolio by reducing guest post links, and gaining links through Sky scraper technique, expert round up posts and infographics etc.
- Bing is getting bigger and has almost one third of the total search market share. So it would make sense for us to invest in Bing SEO so that we are not dependent on Google alone for organic traffic. Check out my Bing SEO guide to get more information about why Bing SEO is important, and how you can benefit from it.
The results for this company have actually increased much more since we started putting these changes in place. More on that in a later post!
How You Can Do the Same?
You have two options in this regard:
- Do It All Yourself
In this case, you need to have the time, expertise and skills to hire the right people, manage them in the right manner and get everything done the right way. This approach is less costly but it is more time and resource intensive.
- Hire an SEO Agency
This is a more expensive option but if you choose the right company, you can save yourself a lot of trouble. Watch out as there a lot of SEO scams out there.
So this is it for now. What do you guys think? I would love to hear what you guys feel. So fire away!
Syed Irfan Ajmal is an award-winning serial entrepreneur, SEO expert and content marketer. He also writes for several publications and speaks at different events about entrepreneurship and marketing. You can find more about him at his blog www.SyedIrfanAjmal.com.