Tag Archive | "Grew"

How We Grew Blog Traffic by 650% in Two Years — Organically

Posted by DaisyQ

As a digital content marketer, your job is to grow traffic that converts into leads and sales. Some of us in this field are lucky to work with companies that sell sexy products. It makes it a little easier. But that’s not always the case. This post is for the other marketers that work in the not-so-sexy fields. I can speak to this audience because up until the spring of this year, I was the Digital Content and Marketing Manager at a synthetic oil company. I won’t fault you if you don’t know what that is — we’ll get to it shortly.

Grow blog traffic, stat

In 2016, I joined a company that sold synthetic oil (the stuff in your engine that you change once every couple of months). One of my tasks was to grow website traffic, and the best channel I landed on was the company blog.

The corporate e-commerce website (yep, we sold engine oil online at a premium) was a political minefield, so I had very limited sway. The blog was not. A group of three contributors would meet weekly and throw spur-of-the-moment posts together. It had a sporadic publishing schedule. The topics were dry (it was a blog about motor oil, after all) and blog traffic was correspondingly sluggish. The blog at the time had averaged under 5,000 sessions a month. Within a year, we doubled it. Within two years, we scaled it up seven times. By the time I left, we had surpassed 100,000 sessions within a month threshold.

How we operationalized our blog for triple-digit growth

Within a few months of assuming leadership of the blog, we overhauled the entire publishing process, doubled the team of volunteer contributors, implemented a quarterly editorial calendar, and search-optimized the heck out of our blog posts.

These are the tactics I used to increase our sessions, search visibility, and subscribers in two years.

1. No man is an island — neither is your blog

Our company had a communications team of great writers. Correction: great-but-swamped writers. So we had to look elsewhere. I reached out to departments across the company in hopes of finding people that liked writing enough to publish something once or twice a month. The writer assigned to help manage the blog would proof and edit posts before they were published, so that these contributors wouldn’t have to worry about writing perfectly.

Our efforts paid off; we grew the team from three contributors to a group of eight.

2. Build a flexible calendar, yo

We cut back on the spur-of-the-moment publishing process and focused on getting content out three times a week. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays were our days, initially.

I created a shared doc where contributors could add post topics. Each quarter, we went through the ideas and picked topics that we would publish. Then I ran each idea through keyword research (via Moz Keyword Explorer and Keyword Planner) and social research (Buzzsumo). This process gave us direction on which messaging resonated with different audiences and how we would distribute our content. Sometimes we wrote posts to answer search queries. Other times, we had a customer group in mind, or an event our marketing team was sponsoring.

One of the events we sponsored was the Sturgis Rally. In this case, the post we created was purely for our social media and events support. Luckily, the rally promoted it, which brought an influx of their fans to our blog. An audience we were targeting with our event sponsorship, because they were likely to know and care about which brand of oil they used on their bikes.

3. Ditch the corporate speak — write like you

We weren’t corporate mouthpieces. We were a team of individuals, each with our own personalities. One contributor was a handyman and liked to fix things; I encouraged him to write from that perspective. Another writer, Andy, was known for his colorful commentary (“Quaker, it takes more than one goose flying north to make a summer!”) so he infused his posts with some of it, as well. Our racing and events writer became a mom, and her son made an appearance in some of her posts. Our approach did not always align with our brand’s masculine tone. Not a best practice (shrug) but it made our posts a lot more genuine. Each piece we wrote had a distinct voice.

Did this have a direct correlation to traffic growth? Probably not. However, it did encourage people to write more often, because the writing was a more natural process. This helped us churn out new content several times a week, which did have an impact.

4. Not all posts shall be optimized equally — that’s ok

Despite our best efforts, the blog was a volunteer project slated among a slew of tasks we all had. Thus, not all posts were created equal. Some posts pulled more than their fair share of traffic. We focused on on-page optimization for those each summer with the help of our interns. On a given blog post, we might have:

  • Tweaked the blog post title
  • Added a table of contents (with anchor links and bonus points for voice search phrases)
  • Changed the URL (with a redirect, of course)
  • Implemented alt tags
  • Added crawl/human/voice search-friendly sub-heads
  • Added videos (where relevant)
  • Lengthened the post with relevant additional content

By implementing these tactics, several of our posts were able to gain Position 0 or 1 and garnered pretty significant spikes in traffic.

An example of a post that benefitted from some extra love was our engine flush blog post. It became our hallmark for how we could optimize good writing on a relevant topic into a high-ranking and ultra-SERP-friendly post.

5. Invest in AMP (if you haven’t already)

Not judging. Sometimes it takes months for larger organizations to adapt to changes that are for their benefit. When we implemented Accelerated Mobile Pages, it blew our search traffic through the roof.

But driving AMP traffic is not enough. We learned through the process that the standard AMP implementation strips out most aspects of the blog interface. As a result, we lost links to sign up for our blog emails or shop our e-commerce website (egad!). Even though our mobile traffic was up considerably, traffic to the website suffered or lagged.

Unfortunately, we had a custom-built design. Changes would have to be manual, and we didn’t have a budget or the resources for that. So we focused on doing a better job of highlighting our website and products within our posts.

6. Use social media to gather ideas

Yes, we promoted our posts on social, but we also used social media to curate ideas. Some ideas were published. As a thank you, we embedded shout-outs in the post and on social media to the source. It was a way of making our posts feel personal to our audience.

7. Add more pep to your blog email newsletter

Consistency is cool, but we tried to throw an element of surprise and delight into our blog emails. This meant taking time to create a clear and compelling reason why the recipient should open the email — not just listing new posts. Since there isn’t a lot of change month-to-month in the industry, we got creative. Each week I played with subject lines that were timely, relevant, fun, or attention-grabbing. I backed those up with a standard pre-header/teaser for consistency. Some subject lines we used included:

  • Spit into this tube, we’ll build a car for you.
  • Remember this classic SNL skit?
  • Cruisers, Firearms, and Cash
  • Can your truck go 500,000 miles?

I also used the blog newsletter as a channel to curate and promote older, evergreen posts when relevant, which helped bring fresh eyes to existing material.

8. Do one thing at a time

We split our goals into our top priorities each year, and focused on that. Once we achieved the first goal, we shifted focus to the next priority.

Year one, our focus was growing traffic from search engine results pages and social. To drive traffic, we created search-optimized, evergreen posts and chose relevant topics with significant search volume. We also held team sessions on beginner SEO where we went over best practices and gave the team access to easy keywording tools (I used Spyfu). We propelled our organic search traffic after a year of consistently following this protocol.

In year two, our goal was driving sign-ups. We created premium content and leveraged social to capture some of our fans through lead ads tied to blog content. These tactics drove our blog subscriber list up by 44%.

The third year, we focused on increasing the blog’s contribution to sales. We put our efforts into highlighting products in the blog email, publishing product-centric posts, and including very clear and compelling calls-to-action to shop our e-commerce website.

We gamified our team’s participation by establishing a blogger leaderboard and highlighting up-and-coming creators, or those whose posts were doing well across different metrics.

Could we have done this all concurrently? Probably. But that would have required more time and resources than what we had.

“Sexy” is what you make of it

For us, creating blog posts was something a team of volunteers contributed to between a myriad of other tasks that were actually on our job descriptions. But we grew the channel into a source of considerable traffic for the company. We rallied around an unsexy topic — synthetic oil — and turned it into a creative outlet that moved product. The project also sparked a team of empowered creators, stakeholders, and in-house champions across departments who were fired up by the results of a motley crew of writers, DIY-ers, and tinkerers.

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Case Study: How a Media Company Grew 400% and Used SEO to Get Acquired

Posted by Gaetano-DiNardi-NYC

Disclaimer: I’m currently the Director of Demand Generation at Nextiva, and writing this case study post-mortem as the former VP of Marketing at Sales Hacker (Jan. 2017 – Sept. 2018).



Every B2B company is investing in content marketing right now. Why? Because they all want the same thing: Search traffic that leads to website conversions, which leads to money.

But here’s the challenge: Companies are struggling to get traction because competition has reached an all-time high. Keyword difficulty (and CPC) has skyrocketed in most verticals. In my current space, Unified Communication as a Service (UCaaS), some of the CPCs have nearly doubled since 2017, with many keywords hovering close to $ 300 per click.

Not to mention, organic CTRs are declining, and zero-click queries are rising.

Bottom line: If you’re not creating 10x quality content based on strategic keyword research that satisfies searcher intent and aligns back to business goals, you’re completely wasting your time.

So, that’s exactly what we did. The outcome? We grew from 19k monthly organic sessions to over 100k monthly organic sessions in approximately 14 months, leading to an acquisition by Outreach.io

We validated our hard work by measuring organic growth (traffic and keywords) against our email list growth and revenue, which correlated positively, as we expected. 

Organic Growth Highlights

January 2017–June 2018

As soon as I was hired at Sales Hacker as Director of Marketing, I began making SEO improvements from day one. While I didn’t waste any time, you’ll also notice that there was no silver bullet.

This was the result of daily blocking and tackling. Pure execution and no growth hacks or gimmicks. However, I firmly believe that the homepage redesign (in July 2017) was a tremendous enabler of growth.

Organic Growth to Present Day

I officially left Sales Hacker in August of 2018, when the company was acquired by Outreach.io. However, I thought it would be interesting to see the lasting impact of my work by sharing a present-day screenshot of the organic traffic trend, via Google Analytics. There appears to be a dip immediately following my departure, however, it looks like my predecessor, Colin Campbell, has picked up the slack and got the train back on the rails. Well done!

Unique considerations — Some context behind Sales Hacker’s growth

Before I dive into our findings, here’s a little context behind Sales Hacker’s growth:

  • Sales Hacker’s blog is 100 percent community-generated — This means we didn’t pay “content marketers” to write for us. Sales Hacker is a publishing hub led by B2B sales, marketing, and customer success contributors. This can be a blessing and a curse at the same time — on one hand, the site gets loads of amazing free content. On the other hand, the posts are not even close to being optimized upon receiving the first draft. That means, the editorial process is intense and laborious.
  • Aggressive publishing cadence (4–5x per week) — Sales Hacker built an incredible reputation in the B2B Sales Tech niche — we became known as the go-to destination for unbiased thought leadership for practitioners in the space (think of Sales Hacker as the sales equivalent to Growth Hackers). Due to high demand and popularity, we had more content available than we could handle. While it’s a good problem to have, we realized we needed to keep shipping content in order to avoid a content pipeline blockage and a backlog of unhappy contributors.
  • We had to “reverse engineer” SEO — In short, we got free community-generated and sponsored content from top sales and marketing leaders at SaaS companies like Intercom, HubSpot, Pipedrive, LinkedIn, Adobe and many others, but none of it was strategically built for SEO out of the box. We also had contributors like John Barrows, Richard Harris, Lauren Bailey, Tito Bohrt, and Trish Bertuzzi giving us a treasure trove of amazing content to work with. However, we had to collaborate with each contributor from beginning to end and guide them through the entire process. Topical ideation (based on what they were qualified to write about), keyword research, content structure, content type, etc. So, the real secret sauce was in our editorial process. Shout out to my teammate Alina Benny for learning and inheriting my SEO process after we hired her to run content marketing. She crushed it for us!
  • Almost all content was evergreen and highly tactical — I made it a rule that we’d never agree to publish fluffy pieces, whether it was sponsored or not. Plain and simple. Because we didn’t allow “content marketers” to publish with us, our content had a positive reputation, since it was coming from highly respected practitioners. We focused on evergreen content strategies in order to fuel our organic growth. Salespeople don’t want fluff. They want actionable and tactical advice they can implement immediately. I firmly believe that achieving audience satisfaction with our content was a major factor in our SEO success.
    • Outranking the “big guys” — If you look at the highest-ranking sales content, it’s the usual suspects. HubSpot, Salesforce, Forbes, Inc, and many other sites that were far more powerful than Sales Hacker. But it didn’t matter as much as traditional SEO wisdom tells us, largely due to the fact that we had authenticity and rawness to our content. We realized most sales practitioners would rather read insights from their peers in their community, above the traditional “Ultimate Guides,” which tended to be a tad dry.
    • We did VERY little manual link building — Our link building was literally an email from me, or our CEO, to a site we had a great relationship with. “Yo, can we get a link?” It was that simple. We never did large-scale outreach to build links. We were a very lean, remote digital marketing team, and therefore lacked the bandwidth to allocate resources to link building. However, we knew that we would acquire links naturally due to the popularity of our brand and the highly tactical nature of our content.
    • Our social media and brand firepower helped us to naturally acquire links — It helps A LOT when you have a popular brand on social media and a well-known CEO who authored an essential book called “Hacking Sales”. Most of Sales Hacker’s articles would get widely circulated by over 50+ SaaS partners which would help drive natural links.
    • Updating stale content was the lowest hanging fruit — The biggest chunk of our new-found organic traffic came from updating / refreshing old posts. We have specific examples of this coming up later in the post.
    • Email list growth was the “north star” metric — Because Sales Hacker is not a SaaS company, and the “product” is the audience, there was no need for aggressive website CTAs like “book a demo.” Instead, we built a very relationship heavy, referral-based sales cadence that was supported by marketing automation, so list growth was the metric to pay attention to. This was also a key component to positioning Sales Hacker for acquisition. Here’s how the email growth progression was trending.

    So, now that I’ve set the stage, let’s dive into exactly how I built this SEO strategy.

    Bonus: You can also watch the interview I had with Dan Shure on the Evolving SEO Podcast, where I breakdown this strategy in great detail.

    1) Audience research

    Imagine you are the new head of marketing for a well-known startup brand. You are tasked with tackling growth and need to show fast results — where do you start?

    That’s the exact position I was in. There were a million things I could have done, but I decided to start by surveying and interviewing our audience and customers.

    Because Sales Hacker is a business built on content, I knew this was the right choice.

    I also knew that I would be able to stand out in an unglamorous industry by talking to customers about their content interests.

    Think about it: B2B tech sales is all about numbers and selling stuff. Very few brands are really taking the time to learn about the types of content their audiences would like to consume.

    When I was asking people if I could talk to them about their media and content interests, their response was: “So, wait, you’re actually not trying to sell me something? Sure! Let’s talk!”

    Here’s what I set out to learn:

    • Goal 1 — Find one major brand messaging insight.
    • Goal 2 — Find one major audience development insight.
    • Goal 3 — Find one major content strategy insight.
    • Goal 4 — Find one major UX / website navigation insight.
    • Goal 5 — Find one major email marketing insight.

    In short, I accomplished all of these learning goals and implemented changes based on what the audience told me.

    If you’re curious, you can check out my entire UX research process for yourself, but here are some of the key learnings:

    Based on these outcomes, I was able to determine the following:

    • Topical “buckets” to focus on — Based on the most common daily tasks, the data told us to build content on sales prospecting, building partnerships and referral programs, outbound sales, sales management, sales leadership, sales training, and sales ops.
    • Thought leadership — 62 percent of site visitors said they kept coming back purely due to thought leadership content, so we had to double down on that.
    • Content Types — Step by step guides, checklists, and templates were highly desired. This told me that fluffy BS content had to be ruthlessly eliminated at all costs.
    • Sales Hacker Podcast — 76 percent of respondents said they would listen to the Sales Hacker Podcast (if it existed), so we had to launch it!

    2) SEO site audit — Key findings

    I can’t fully break down how to do an SEO site audit step by step in this post (because it would be way too much information), but I will share the key findings and takeaways from our own Site Audit that led to some major improvements in our website performance.

    Lack of referring domain growth

    Sales Hacker was not able to acquire referring domains at the same rate as competitors. I knew this wasn’t because of a link building acquisition problem, but due to a content quality problem.

    Lack of organic keyword growth

    Sales Hacker had been publishing blog content for years (before I joined) and there wasn’t much to show for it from an organic traffic standpoint. However, I do feel the brand experienced a remarkable social media uplift by building content that was helpful and engaging. 

    Sales Hacker did happen to get lucky and rank for some non-branded keywords by accident, but the amount of content published versus the amount of traffic they were getting wasn’t making sense. 

    To me, this immediately screamed that there was an issue with on-page optimization and keyword targeting. It wasn’t anyone’s fault – this was largely due to a startup founder thinking about building a community first, and then bringing SEO into the picture later. 

    At the end of the day, Sales Hacker was only ranking for 6k keywords at an estimated organic traffic cost of $ 8.9k — which is nothing. By the time Sales Hacker got acquired, the site had an organic traffic cost of $ 122k.

    Non-optimized URLs

    This is common among startups that are just looking to get content out. This is just one example, but truth be told, there was a whole mess of non-descriptive URLs that had to get cleaned up.

    Poor internal linking structure

    The internal linking concentration was poorly distributed. Most of the equity was pointing to some of the lowest value pages on the site.

    Poor taxonomy, site structure, and navigation

    I created a mind-map of how I envisioned the new site structure and internal linking scheme. I wanted all the content pages to be organized into categories and subcategories.

    My goals with the new proposed taxonomy would accomplish the following:

    • Increase engagement from natural site visitor exploration
    • Allow users to navigate to the most important content on the site
    • Improve landing page visibility from an increase in relevant internal links pointing to them.

    Topical directories and category pages eliminated with redirects

    Topical landing pages used to exist on SalesHacker.com, but they were eliminated with 301 redirects and disallowed in robots.txt. I didn’t agree with this configuration. Example: /social-selling/

    Trailing slash vs. non-trailing slash duplicate content with canonical errors

    Multiple pages for the same exact intent. Failing to specify the canonical version.

    Branded search problems — “Sales Hacker Webinar”

    Some of the site’s most important content is not discoverable from search due to technical problems. For example, a search for “Sales Hacker Webinar” returns irrelevant results in Google because there isn’t an optimized indexable hub page for webinar content. It doesn’t get that much search volume (0–10 monthly volume according to Keyword Explorer), but still, that’s 10 potential customers you are pissing off every month by not fixing this.

    3) Homepage — Before and after

    Sooooo, this beauty right here (screenshot below) was the homepage I inherited in early 2017 when I took over the site.

    Fast forward six months later, and this was the new homepage we built after doing audience and customer research…

    New homepage goals

    • Tell people EXACTLY what Sales Hacker is and what we do.
    • Make it stupidly simple to sign up for the email list.
    • Allow visitors to easily and quickly find the content they want.
    • Add social proof.
    • Improve internal linking.

    I’m proud to say, that it all went according to plan. I’m also proud to say that as a result, organic traffic skyrocketed shortly after.

    Special Note: Major shout out to Joshua Giardino, the lead developer who worked with me on the homepage redesign. Josh is one of my closest friends and my marketing mentor. I would not be writing this case study today without him!

    There wasn’t one super measurable thing we isolated in order to prove this. We just knew intuitively that there was a positive correlation with organic traffic growth, and figured it was due to the internal linking improvements and increased average session duration from improving the UX.

    4) Updating and optimizing existing content

    Special note: We enforced “Ditch the Pitch”

    Before I get into the nitty-gritty SEO stuff, I’ll tell you right now that one of the most important things we did was blockade contributors and sponsors from linking to product pages and injecting screenshots of product features into blog articles, webinars, etc.

    Side note: One thing we also had to do was add a nofollow attribute to all outbound links within sponsored content that sent referral traffic back to partner websites (which is no longer applicable due to the acquisition).

    The #1 complaint we discovered in our audience research was that people were getting irritated with content that was “too salesy” or “too pitchy” — and rightfully so, because who wants to get pitched at all day?

    So we made it all about value. Pure education. School of hard knocks style insights. Actionable and tactical. No fluff. No nonsense. To the point.

    And that’s where things really started to take off.

    Before and after: “Best sales books”

    What you are about to see is classic SEO on-page optimization at its finest.

    This is what the post originally looked like (and it didn’t rank well for “best sales books).

    And then after…

    And the result…

    Before and after: “Sales operations”

    What we noticed here was a crappy article attempting to explain the role of sales operations.

    Here are the steps we took to rank #1 for “Sales Operations:”

    • Built a super optimized mega guide on the topic.
    • Since the old crappy article had some decent links, we figured let’s 301 redirect it to the new mega guide.
    • Promote it on social, email and normal channels.

    Here’s what the new guide on Sales Ops looks like…

    And the result…

    5) New content opportunities

    One thing I quickly realized Sales Hacker had to its advantage was topical authority. Exploiting this was going to be our secret weapon, and boy, did we do it well: 

    “Cold calling”

    We knew we could win this SERP by creating content that was super actionable and tactical with examples.

    Most of the competing articles in the SERP were definition style and theory-based, or low-value roundups from domains with high authority.

    In this case, DA doesn’t really matter. The better man wins.

    “Best sales tools”

    Because Sales Hacker is an aggregator website, we had the advantage of easily out-ranking vendor websites for best and top queries.

    Of course, it also helps when you build a super helpful mega list of tools. We included over 150+ options to choose from in the list. Whereas SERP competitors did not even come close.

    “Channel sales”

    Notice how Sales Hacker’s article is from 2017 still beats HubSpot’s 2019 version. Why? Because we probably satisfied user intent better than them.

    For this query, we figured out that users really want to know about Direct Sales vs Channel Sales, and how they intersect.

    HubSpot went for the generic, “factory style” Ultimate Guide tactic.

    Don’t get me wrong, it works very well for them (especially with their 91 DA), but here is another example where nailing the user intent wins.

    “Sales excel templates”

    This was pure lead gen gold for us. Everyone loves templates, especially sales excel templates.

    The SERP was easily winnable because the competition was so BORING in their copy. Not only did we build a better content experience, but we used numbers, lists, and power words that salespeople like to see, such as FAST and Pipeline Growth.

    Special note: We never used long intros

    The one trend you’ll notice is that all of our content gets RIGHT TO THE POINT. This is inherently obvious, but we also uncovered it during audience surveying. Salespeople don’t have time for fluff. They need to cut to the chase ASAP, get what they came for, and get back to selling. It’s really that straightforward.

    When you figure out something THAT important to your audience, (like keeping intros short and sweet), and then you continuously leverage it to your advantage, it’s really powerful.

    6) Featured Snippets

    Featured snippets became a huge part of our quest for SERP dominance. Even for SERPs where organic clicks have reduced, we didn’t mind as much because we knew we were getting the snippet and free brand exposure.

    Here are some of the best-featured snippets we got!

    Featured snippet: “Channel sales”

    Featured snippet: “Sales pipeline management”

    Featured snippet: “BANT”

    Featured snippet: “Customer success manager”

    Featured snippet: “How to manage a sales team”

    Featured snippet: “How to get past the gatekeeper”

    Featured snippet: “Sales forecast modeling”

    Featured snippet: “How to build a sales pipeline”

    7) So, why did Sales Hacker get acquired?

    At first, it seems weird. Why would a SaaS company buy a blog? It really comes down to one thing — community (and the leverage you get with it).

    Two learnings from this acquisition are:

    1. It may be worth acquiring a niche media brand in your space

    2. It may be worth starting your own niche media brand in your space

    I feel like most B2B companies (not all, but most) come across as only trying to sell a product — because most of them are. You don’t see the majority of B2B brands doing a good job on social. They don’t know how to market to emotion. They completely ignore top-funnel in many cases and, as a result, get minimal engagement with their content.

    There’s really so many areas of opportunity to exploit in B2B marketing if you know how to leverage that human emotion — it’s easy to stand out if you have a soul. Sales Hacker became that “soul” for Outreach — that voice and community.

    But one final reason why a SaaS company would buy a media brand is to get the edge over a rival competitor. Especially in a niche where two giants are battling over the top spot.

    In this case, it’s Outreach’s good old arch-nemesis, Salesloft. You see, both Outreach and Salesloft are fighting tooth and nail to win a new category called “Sales Engagement”.

    As part of the acquisition process, I prepared a deck that highlighted how beneficial it would be for Outreach to acquire Sales Hacker, purely based on the traffic advantage it would give them over Salesloft.

    Sales Hacker vs. Salesloft vs Outreach — Total organic keywords

    This chart from 2018 (data exported via SEMrush), displays that Sales Hacker is ranking for more total organic keywords than Salesloft and Outreach combined.

    Sales Hacker vs. Salesloft vs Outreach — Estimated traffic cost

    This chart from 2018 (data exported via SEMrush), displays the cost of the organic traffic compared by domain. Sales Hacker ranks for more commercial terms due to having the highest traffic cost.

    Sales Hacker vs. Salesloft vs Outreach — Rank zone distributions

    This chart from 2018 (data exported via SEMrush), displays the rank zone distribution by domain. Sales Hacker ranked for more organic keywords across all search positions.

    Sales Hacker vs. Salesloft vs Outreach — Support vs. demand keywords

    This chart from 2018 (data exported via SEMrush), displays support vs demand keywords by domain. Because Sales Hacker did not have a support portal, all its keywords were inherently demand focused.

    Meanwhile, Outreach was mostly ranking for support keywords at the time. Compared to Salesloft, they were at a massive disadvantage.

    Conclusion

    I wouldn’t be writing this right now without the help, support, and trust that I got from so many people along the way.

    • Joshua Giardino — Lead developer at Sales Hacker, my marketing mentor and older brother I never had. Couldn’t have done this without you!
    • Max Altschuler — Founder of Sales Hacker, and the man who gave me a shot at the big leagues. You built an incredible platform and I am eternally grateful to have been a part of it.
    • Scott Barker — Head of Partnerships at Sales Hacker. Thanks for being in the trenches with me! It’s a pleasure to look back on this wild ride, and wonder how we pulled this off.
    • Alina Benny — My marketing protege. Super proud of your growth! You came into Sales Hacker with no fear and seized the opportunity.
    • Mike King — Founder of iPullRank, and the man who gave me my very first shot in SEO. Thanks for taking a chance on an unproven kid from the Bronx who was always late to work.
    • Yaniv Masjedi — Our phenomenal CMO at Nextiva. Thank you for always believing in me and encouraging me to flex my thought leadership muscle. Your support has enabled me to truly become a high-impact growth marketer.

    Thanks for reading — tell me what you think below in the comments!

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    How Amazon Grew My Audience By More Than 24,000 Readers in Three Days

    image of amazon kindle logo

    It’s every writer’s dream. Every entrepreneur’s struggle. Every marketer’s goal.

    The promise of more. More readers, more revenue, and more exposure.

    What if I told you there was a way that you could find all three — but that it required you give something truly valuable away? Would you listen to me?

    If you’re a Copyblogger reader, you understand the power of smart marketing that benefits your audience. In fact, you’re probably doing this in some form already: a free eBook, or a valuable email autoresponder series for new subscribers to your content.

    But what if I told you that thousands of fans and potential customers were also waiting for you … on Amazon?

    Well, that’s exactly what I found and couldn’t believe the results. In three days, I gave away a Kindle eBook on Amazon, and it was one of the best things I’ve done for my business and brand.

    Here’s what I did (and how you can do the same) with some of the best material I’ve ever written …

    The preparation

    1. Sign up for the Kindle Direct Publishing program. This is Amazon’s self-publishing arm, and it’s super easy to get started. In fact, there’s an extensive how-to post here on Copyblogger that will walk you through it.
    2. Use an already-published eBook. In my case, it was my eBook, You Are a Writer, which had done really well in PDF sales but had recently plateaued. I had already converted it to the .mobi Kindle format, but if you don’t have an eBook in that format, you’ll need to do that. Scrivener is a powerful word processing app that also does a great job of formatting for the Kindle.
    3. Upload your book. When you’re going through the simple, two-page process to upload your book, you’ll need to click the “Enroll in KDP Select Program” box. There are several perks to this program, but the main one is that it allows you to give away your book for any five days over a 90-day period. Once you do that, Amazon will notify you within 24–48 hours, letting you know your book is live.

    The promotion

    1. Create an event. Once your book is live, you’ll need to log back into Amazon KDP and select which dates you’d like the book to be available for free. Since it takes time for this request to process, you’ll want to choose a time period that is at least 24–48 hours in the future. I did this kind of on a whim, choosing the next day, and Amazon didn’t process it for about 12 hours.
    2. Tell people about it. One of the reasons why you want to use an old eBook is so that you choose a product that already has an existing fanbase. These are your evangelists, and you want to empower them to tell their friends where they can get this great book for free. I blogged about it, emailed my list, and direct messaged a handful of influencers on Twitter, asking them to share it. (Note: It’s hard to be annoying when you’re asking people to share something that’s free.)
    3. Remind people before it expires. I emailed my list three times over the weekend that I ran my promotion, encouraging them not to miss this great opportunity. What’s interesting is not one person complained about getting too much email, and several told me they missed it and regretted it. Again, it’s hard to be annoying when you’re trying to give something away to people.

    The results

    So here’s what happened as a result of this promotion … which was really just an experiment:

    1. My eBook was downloaded over 24,000 times. This happened over a three-day period. I didn’t do the full five days, because I wasn’t sure how it would turn out and wanted to have the opportunity to run the promo again, if it failed.
    2. My email list grew. I didn’t ask for people’s emails in exchange for the eBook, but I linked to my blog at the end of the book and hundreds of new people found me that following week. I know this, because they all start emailing me, thanking me and saying they just found out about me through the eBook.
    3. My reputation increased. Towards the end of the promotion, my book was ranking #3 amongst all books in the Kindle Store (and #1 in all of its categories). Once you break the Top 100 on Amazon, this can earn you a lot of attention on book forums, blogs, and other websites. That’s exactly what happened. Plus, it’s great social proof for future sales (“An Amazon Best Seller!”).
    4. My sales increased. This is the really crazy part. I was a little worried that doing the giveaway would lead to cannibalizing my own market and ultimately hurt sales. But that’s not what happened at all. The week after the promotion, I sold 50% more books than the one before. Sales now average around 1000 per month (that’s about $ 3500 in net profit off of a book: not too shabby.)

    The takeaways

    All in all, the experiment was a success: my influence increased and sales didn’t suffer as a result. However, I did learn some valuable lessons:

    • Amazon is a great marketing platform. Roughly 90% of my eBook sales were already coming from Amazon, so I wanted to see how I could leverage a freebie to increase buzz about the book (through reviews and the like). At over 150 reviews, it’s not doing too bad.
    • There’s an opportunity cost. In order to be eligible for KDP Select, I contractually had to stop selling the book via PDF and Barnes & Noble. Like I said, I wasn’t getting a ton of sales through these outlets anymore, but it was still an opportunity cost.
    • Selling books isn’t a great revenue strategy. As they say, the book is the business card. It’s a brochure, an introduction to your brand. That’s why I used the last few pages of my eBook to encourage people to check out my blog and to promote my upcoming online writing course.

    If you’ve tapped your resources and are looking for a new way to get discovered, this is it. One friend recently finished a promotion in which he had over 50,000 downloads in five days. He doesn’t have a huge blog or a ton of Twitter followers; it’s all the power of Amazon.

    Have you tried using Amazon’s KDP Select Program as a marketing tool?

    If so, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

    If not, what do you have to lose?

    About the Author: Jeff Goins is a writer who lives in Nashville. You can find him on his blog or follow him on Twitter. His new book, Wrecked, just came out, and is available in a number of formats (the eBook is available for $ 0.99 this week only!)

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