As a content marketing agency, naturally we are a bit biased towards the benefits that content marketing brings to just about any business in any industry.
We have worked with dozens of clients in a wide variety of industries to help them generate more organic search traffic, outrank competitors for high converting keywords, generate more leads, and grow their online revenue streams.
However, we decided a few months ago that we wanted to issue ourselves a challenge in order to answer a vital question we are constantly asked by potential clients and leads we speak with, “what is the true power of content marketing?”
Naturally, being the action taking, data-obsessed nerds we are, Cody and I got to researching a few emerging industries that we thought had some serious growth potential over the next few years.
After much deliberation, research, testing, and studying competition, audiences, and content, we decided to build our case study in the budding marijuana industry. More specifically, in the e-commerce space within this industry.
Now you might be asking yourself, “why in the world would you guys go and do that?” Well, first of all, it is set to witness massive growth in the next decade, and Cody and I aren’t exactly the type of guys to start something and not see it through and build it to be the best it possibly can be.
Second, we knew that this space presented an inherent challenge not present in most industries – you cannot run any type of paid advertising on Google, Facebook, YouTube, or just about any other mainstream social media platform. What better stage to show the benefits of content marketing? Thus, BestGiftsForStoners.com was born.
We are about 5 months into this project now, and I am proud to report that this project is excelling, and really starting to build a head of steam, taking on large competitors for high ranking spots in SERPs for high-converting keywords. I’ll shut up now and let the results do the talking from here.
Before we dive into Search Console and Google Analytics data to show the ROI of our content marketing efforts with BGFS, let’s first take a brief refresher of what are really considered as results in content marketing campaigns:
- Average Ranking
- Dwell Time
- Behavior Flow
- Goal Completions
- Website Traffic
I will continue to make an effort to update this post as time goes on, at least on a monthly basis for my own purposes, and to help keep the story alive! Now that we have addressed this, let’s get nerdy.
1. Website Traffic
Below is a snapshot of our website traffic since January 1st, 2019, as of October 24th, 2019. Keep in mind that we did not have the site completely up and running until November 21st, and all traffic prior to that is a result of web development.
Not bad for about 10 months worth of strictly producing high-quality content, eh? Okay, I realize these aren’t the best numbers in the world, but at the same time, when you consider this is a commitment of just 2 blog posts per week, with no paid ads feeding it, on a completely new domain, in a highly competitive space, it becomes a bit more impressive.
2. Impressions & Clicks
Alright, these numbers are great and all, but what about the impressions? What’s the CTR for these SERPs results, and how does it compare to industry averages? Below is a screenshot of our Google Search Console Data for BGFS during the same 6 month period:
As you can see, we have generated over 100,000 impressions in just 6 months using the power of content marketing. What’s even more impressive is the 3.2% CTR we have been able to create. While this number does not seem overly impressive (though it is still higher than the industry average), it is important to keep in mind that because our results in SERPs average a position of 30.7, less of them are being seen, resulting in lower CTR.
With proper time to age and crawl up the SERPs, there is no reason to believe that our CTR will not continue to improve over time.
As you can also see from the snapshot above, we have also garnered over 3,500 clicks from organic search traffic generated by our content in SERPs. But, it is important to note that much like the active users snapshot from the section above, our traffic is growing exponentially. For example, in the last 28 days alone, we have generated over 1,200 (or more than 33%) of our total website clicks since the inception of this project.
Now imagine what the results will look like as time goes on if we continue to consistently create high-quality content for this site? We have seen these types of results before, and things tend to really explode from here.
In our experience, the 3,500 monthly users mark seems to be the ignition point that blows sites over the moon, taking them to 10K+ monthly visitors in just 3-6 more months.
But let’s not speculate, let’s stick to what we can observe now, and report back later to confirm these suspicions.
3. Average Ranking
Alright, now let’s take a look at the average ranking of our articles over the lifetime of this project to get a better understanding of the explosion in growth I just forecasted. Below is a screenshot of our average ranking over the lifetime of this project:
Wait, something doesn’t seem right. How can we be getting more impressions, more clicks, yet not moving up in average position over time?
Well, young Padawan, what this chart fails to account for is the constant publishing of new content at the tune of 2 posts per week. Each time a new post is indexed, it will naturally begin its ascent up the SERPs from a relatively low position after it is initially indexed. This number is typically around 90 in this industry for main keywords, in our experience.
This figure will vary by industry, Domain Authority, quality of content, competition for keywords, main keywords, and many other factors, so do not expect it to reflect your results precisely.
So how do we account for this new content factor? Instead of looking at this aggregate data, let’s take a deeper look into some of our top performing pieces of content, and some of our oldest pieces of content, to show how they are able to continually move up the rankings as they age, and rank for more keywords.
The above snapshot shows Google Search Console Data from our top performing post: Best Bong Brands Guide.
As you can see, this post ranks very high in SERPs for some extremely high traffic, and high-converting keywords.
To give you an idea of just how competitive this keyword is, here is a snapshot of some SERPs data I captured using my Keywords Everywhere plugin for Google Chrome:
If you look very closely, you can see our list poking its head up at the bottom in the #8 spot. As you may also notice, this search gets around 7,800 searches per month. You need to be careful when looking at third-party data, as it is often off to the low side. So, to be safe, let’s estimate about 9,000 monthly searches for this query alone.
Now factor in the other 874 keywords this page ranks for, assuming about 100-250 of them are extremely relevant and important. You can now begin to see where all of these impressions and clicks are coming from.
Now, you will also see the Competition: 0 up top as well, and are probably saying to yourself, “Kyle, who cares if you rank for a keyword with 0 competition?”. This is entirely inaccurate, and I will explain to you why.
Below are some SEMrush data snippets from the top 3 spots in SERPs for this same search term, “best bong brands”, in order:
As you can see, they have massive amounts of monthly traffic, backlinks, and much higher domain authorities than our site, and yet we are right behind them in the rankings after just a few months of our content being shown in the SERPs.
“Big deal Kyle, this shows me nothing, you aren’t outperforming them and you probably won’t in the near future, so what’s your point?” Well, random pessimistic voice, my point is this:
- We are still receiving increasing amounts of impressions and clicks for this piece of content every day
- In a very short period of time, we have ascended to an average position of 14.7 for all keywords we rank for on this page
- We are still outranking some massive sites with much higher traffic and DA than us for multiple main keywords
Don’t believe me? Fine, here is the data to back it up. Below are 3 snippets of SEMrush data for the 9, 10, and 11 spots in SERPs for “best bong brands”:
Sure, while two of them are not that much larger than us in terms of traffic, they have still been around far longer than our 6-month-old domain, and still have 4-9x as much monthly traffic as us, and better backlink profiles, giving them a huge starting advantage for almost anything of decent quality that they post in SERPs.
Not to mention the elephant in the room; High Times, who we are crushing in rankings by 2 whole spots, and who boasts nearly half a million monthly visitors, a very high DA, a massive backlink profile, and arguably one of the most recognizable brand names in the industry.
Needless to say, content marketing works, and it can work very quickly, even in highly competitive industries, when pit against highly regarded sites.
4. Dwell Time, Bounce Rate, & Exit Rate
Sure, that’s great Kyle, you’re getting a lot of visitors to your site, but are they staying, and if so, how long are they staying for? Are they leaving afterward?
Let’s take a look at some of the statistics for the BGFS site in order to shed more light on the answers to these questions:
As you can see in the snapshot above, our site has a lifetime Average On Page Time of 48 seconds, a number that is not as good as we would like it to be but is still very respectable in any industry, and a work in progress.
We also have a bounce rate of just 3.86%. Now that is very impressive. I can personally tell you after looking at hundreds of Search Console datasets for clients, I have never seen a bounce rate this low on a site that had any respectable amount of traffic.
Furthermore, our exit percentage is only 21.12%, which again is not as good as we would like it to be in order to filter more visitors to more blogs and product pages, but it is still very respectable.
These figures are one of the many hidden keys to our content marketing success with this project. By having such a low bounce rate, Google is able to trust that sending users to this site satisfies user intent to a very high degree. That means that it can feel comfortable displaying this page for more search terms over time and display it in a higher SERPs position with confidence that the user will be satisfied, and find what they are looking for without bouncing.
So How Did We Do It?
So just what the heck did we do in order to have such massive growth in such a short period of time? How is it possible that we could begin ranking for such competitive keywords with such a young and inherently low DA site in a space with medium to high competition?
Let me break it down for you to help you understand why it is not just content that is important, but content strategy. Below, I break down or success into 10 main factors, although I can easily think of dozens. However, these are the ones that have had the largest impact on our success thus far.
1. Industry & Competitive Research
Just like when working with clients, the first thing we did was vigorously research the industry and our competition. We found so many holes in their content strategies (or lack thereof) that we knew immediately this would be a slam dunk if executed properly and given a little bit of time to flower.
To summarize how we do this research, we first created a massive spreadsheet which houses all of the data we need. Then, we began analyzing all of our competitors using third-party sources like SEMruch in order to determine:
- What their top performing pages are
- What their top keywords are
- How much traffic they have
- Areas that we can steal traffic from them
- Content topics and ideas
- Backlink opportunities
From here, we took this data and use it to begin formulating our plan of attack and to find ways that we could shine in this industry through high-quality content.
2. Finding A Healthy Mix of High Traffic & Low Competition
Then, it was off to the races to come up with content topic ideas. An easy way to do this is by using our content topic generator tool we have been perfecting for the last few months.
The goal when getting a site like this off the ground (or when starting to work with a new client) is to find a solid combination of high traffic, low competition content opportunities in your niche that drive the right type of traffic – high converting traffic.
A few easy ways to do this are:
- Type things into Google and see what the SERPs data tells you (with the free Keywords Everywhere plugin)
- Look for content ideas that your competition has already published
- Explore third-party data to find high traffic sources for your competition
- Put yourself in the shoes of your audience
For even more great ways to find the perfect content opportunities, we created these super helpful resources:
- What Should I Blog About?
- How to Find Content Topics
If you have the time, I also recommend you check out this awesome video guide that Cody created. It is jam-packed with helpful tips and tricks to make the research and ideation process much easier for you and your team.
3. Employing An Imperfect Action Strategy
I am not sure if you are familiar with Billy Gene, but the guy is a marketing genius and has so aptly named his company Billy Gene Is Marketing, to phonetically sound like “Billy Genius Marketing”.
Well, to be honest, when I first heard of him, he was a bit off-putting with his boisterous confidence in his marketing abilities – as most marketers tend to be.
However, as time went on, I began to realize that he really is a marketing genius, and to this day, not a week goes by that I don’t research him, his company, and learn from his content.
Anyways, he inspired this section and Cody and I with his philosophy of imperfect action. Essentially, his theory behind this is that you are better off taking action, even if it is imperfect, rather than waiting around to get every last detail just right before doing something.
Mark Cuban has a similar philosophy, dubbed by my favorite quote by him, “Perfection is the enemy of profitability”.
Basically, the idea is that if you wait forever to do something so that you get every detail right, you will never accomplish a thing. Instead, you should make something, make mistakes, learn from them, and continue producing without looking back, getting better every time.
Cody and I employed this strategy from the very inception of BGFS, and it has made a world of difference for us. The reason is that if you don’t publish content on your site, you can never get Search Console or Analytics data on it, which means you can only rely on third-party data (if you even have access to it) in order to tell you what people are looking for.
While these sources are usually fairly accurate, you will never really know what makes a difference in your content until you take imperfect action and learn from the mistakes you made. In fact, we used to average a 5.8 position on our Best Bong Brands Guide and fell a few spots from some changes I made.
But you know what? I’d rather make that mistake now than when we are in the #1 spot. And that’s the main idea behind this strategy, and one of the reasons that content has been so effective for us with this project.
4. Upgrading Content Continually
Not a week goes by where we don’t make changes to our existing content. Whether it is:
- Adding pictures
- Removing sections
- Adding FAQ’s
- Changing titles
- Editing introductions
- Changing headers
We are constantly updating our content and monitoring the effects that these changes have on rankings and keywords over time. Over time, this has made a massive impact on our rankings.
For clients, we do the same. It is so easy to create and publish a piece of content and forget about it. But the best in the business constantly scour through data to find opportunities to jump up rankings, generate more traffic, and convert it. Upgrading your old blog content is one of the quickest ways to improve your organic search traffic. Even Neil Patel agrees.
Want to learn how to upgrade your blog content? Check out this comprehensive guide we wrote.
5. Creating Long-Form, Comprehensive Content
Much like all of the content on this site, the content we create on BGFS is all extremely comprehensive, and long.
Sure, some people may not have the attention span to read through it all, and some people may only need a small tidbit of information from the massive guide, but studies have shown that Google prefers long-form content. In fact, Brian Dean from Backlinko ran a massive study of millions of SERPs and found that the top post on Google has an average word count of around 1,800.
So, chances are, if your content is shorter than this, no matter how good your SEO is, no matter how relevant it is to users, it will probably never rank #1, unless you own some bogus news site, or have a ridiculously high domain authority in your space.
6. Answering User Questions
Answering user questions is perhaps one of the biggest ranking hacks we have ever found in order to help improve rankings and really bring high ROI to your content marketing efforts.
In fact, we think it’s so important, we made a question generator tool in order to help people identify questions their audience is asking about their industry or subject.
I won’t go too in depth on this topic, because I already wrote a complete guide on it here. However, one of the easiest ways to find questions to answer with your content is to use the tools Google Search gives you.
For each search you make (at least most of them) a “People also ask” box will appear. Every time you click on one, a few more auto-populate below. Before you know it, you can easily collect 10-15 FAQ about your specific subject matter that people search for on Google regularly, and that you can be sure Google relates to your subject matter and considers important for users.
By taking the time to do this, and answer these key questions in your content, you become a comprehensive resource. This helps not only rank your content for more long tail keywords but also helps you jump up the rankings quickly because you answer all or most of the relevant questions related to your subject matter.
7. Building A Content Calendar
Okay, so one of the keys to our success with both clients and our own sites is the content calendar. I won’t go too in depth on this topic because we already wrote about it here.
But, what you need to know is that this is a comprehensive resource where you should keep all relevant data to your content marketing strategy, including:
- Existing Content
Basically, this is an easy way to stay organized, plan things out in advance, make sure you are using your time effectively, and record and monitor results.
Here is a visual example of a content calendar:
8. Maintaining A Consistent Publishing Schedule (Mostly)
Another huge factor in maintaining an effective content marketing strategy is to maintain consistency. I don’t care if you have 750 blog posts and don’t know what to write about, then upgrade old content, come up with similar content that is still different, or find a creative edge to keep producing it on a regular basis.
I can’t tell you how many leads I talk to who want to make a bandaid solution to their organic search problems. They say things like, “well can we just do 3 months of content?”. Sure, you can, but don’t expect to build any form of momentum, or maintain any results you do see without sending new signals to Google on a consistent basis.
Even Neil Patel talked about it in one podcast I listened to a while back (I can’t remember which one, the guy has hundreds). He said that he took 3 weeks off from posting blog content one time because he got lazy, and it set him back almost 3 weeks in terms of lost traffic, then took him another 3 months to get back to where he was before taking the break.
This is a guy who is literally a content marketing legend who has helped Google, Amazon, and dozens of other Fortune 500 companies generate more organic traffic through content marketing admitting that that consistency is has a huge effect on rankings. So why would you think that if he advocates for consistency and has suffered lost traffic as a result of not being consistent that you would be immune to the same thing?
Cody and I made this mistake with our first experiment Instagram page. We worked for about a year to get it up to almost 80K followers, getting 5,000+ likes and 150+ comments on every photo. Then we took a 2-week break. And guess what? Our results were cut nearly in half. Yikes. Needless to say, that mistake hurt, and it showed us the importance of being consistent when it comes to delivering content on any platform.
9. Creating the Best Titles & Meta Tags
Two of the most important ranking factors for content are titles and meta tags. Put simply, they are the most highly indexed pieces of text on your site by crawl bots. On top of that, they are the first impression people have of your article.
So, naturally, you should put a high priority on learning how to make them as effective as possible in order to make the most of your content marketing efforts. A great article with a poor title and meta will never rank well, even if it is the most comprehensive piece of content on the internet.
How can you learn more about creating effective titles and meta tags for your content? We made these videos to help you become an expert.
You can also learn more by checking out these resources:
10. Maximizing the First 140 Characters
This is somewhat of a less well-known trick to getting the best results from your content marketing efforts. The idea behind this is that people are most likely to read the introduction of your content every single time, whereas they are less likely to read through the entire blog post. As a result, Google slightly prioritizes the first 140 characters or so over the other words in your content.
This means that by focusing on your introductions and maximizing them for the keywords that you are trying to rank for, you can give Google a better idea of what the article is about, and therefore help it rank your content higher, faster.
I forget where I originally heard this idea, I want to say it was either from Rand Fishkin of Moz, or Brian Dean of Backlinko. But either way, it came from a very reputable source, with years of experience and success, and I have personally seen the impact of employing this tactic with both clients and my own sites.
What’s Next for BGFS?
We will continue to publish high-quality content, build our Instagram page, and develop relationships with vendors, influencers, and industry experts until we take over the entire space and become the best online headshop on the market.
Until then, I can promise you a few things:
- Monthly updates to this article
- Constant upgrading of our existing content
- Consistent posting of new content
- Climbing the rankings day by day
- Finding ways to crush our competition
It is a long term project, and we plan on continuing to employ the tactics we listed above by using them to dominate the space and grow rapidly. We are more focused on traffic right now than monetization, operating under the “build it and they will come” mentality.
When the time comes to focus on monetization, we will have hundreds of thousands of monthly visitors who will only need a small push in order to become loyal, repeat customers. Until then, we will remain diligent in our research, content production, and upgrades.
How Can I Develop an Effective Content Marketing Strategy Like this for My Site?
By using the information contained in this blog, you should be able to get started making an effective content marketing strategy for your site. By following the links and watching the videos above, you should easily be able to become effective at creating blog content for any industry.
However, this is a very time-consuming process that takes hours of research, writing, and more just to make a single post that has the potential to rank well.
If you would rather focus on running your business and have an experienced team of expert content marketers handle your content needs from top to bottom, give us a call.
Cody and I will personally work with you to understand your content needs, wants, goals, and budget in order to come up with a custom content marketing strategy for your business. To learn even more about what it is like working with Poofnewsales and our onboarding process, check out this article.