Would you write one article a week if I said you could make $118,000 in your first year? And $708,000 in revenue in year 2?
Would you do it?
After doing some research, I will write just one article a week, do some content promotion, and let Google do the heavy lifting for me. And just for funsies, I will do very little link building too (more on why in a moment).
Don’t believe me that traffic is worth $708,000?
Let’s do some quick math. The process I’m about to show you is something I use for all my clients.
Because if you know the true value of your work, you will know whether that investment is worth your time.
Here’s how I arrived at an estimated traffic value of $708,000:
- To go from 0 to 50,000/month visitors in year 1, I estimate I will receive 100,000 total visitors.
- If my traffic numbers stay flat at 50,000 visitors-a-month in year 2, I will receive 600,000 visitors.
- The average conversion rate of a website that uses content marketing is 2.9%. The average conversion rate of a site without a content strategy is 0.5%. For this example, let’s be conservative and use 2%. That means in year 1, I will get 2,000 new customers. In year 2, I will get 12,000 new customers.
- According to RJ Metrics, the average lifetime value of a customer in the fashion industry is $108. Again, let’s be conservative and drop that number in half to $59, because I am creating a new business.
- That means in year 1, I would generate $118,000 in revenue. And year 2 I would make $708,000 if no customers from year 1 buy from me again.
You can also use this for non-ecommerce businesses too. For example, Objeqt is an ecommerce conversion optimization agency I consult for. Instead of calculating direct sales from traffic, we estimated their conversion rates from traffic-to-leads, leads-to-clients, and the average lifetime value of a client.
Why do entrepreneurs over-complicate what should be simple?
Here are three possible reasons:
- We are obsessed with what’s new. Thus new is easier to sell to clients. So even though marketing has its challenge, it’s profitable to complicate it even more.
- It’s easy for someone to become an expert when the topic is a black box. Because we don’t know what’s inside the box, it’s hard to prove them right or wrong.
- We get frustrated following simple solutions to fix our problems. This leads us to believe the solution needs to be more complex than it is.
What Should You Include in Your Ecommerce Marketing Plan?
Here’s a 7-step framework to follow.
1. Know Your Main Goal.
The first step to a framework for your marketing plan is to know your goals.
As I said earlier, my goal is to grow traffic from 0 to 50,000 unique visitors a month. This helps me know what I want to do and what to say no to.
But it’s also important to know how you plan to accomplish your goal. That’s why you need to create a simple quant-based marketing plan.
In short, quant-based marketing helps you guess what you need to do to achieve your goal. Noah Kagan used quant-based marketing to launch Mint.com to over 1,000,000 users in six months.
To reach 50,000 visitors a month, I plan to create and promote one article a week.
2. Get Friendly With Your Customers.
Get closer than ever to your customers. So close that you tell them what they need well before they realize it themselves. – Steve Jobs
Now that you know what your goal for content marketing is, you need to get an idea of who are the customers you are serving. This is called a “buyer persona.”
Buyer personas help you to create the right message, to the right person, at the right time.
Some people skip this step because they assume they already know their customers. That may be true. But you may be overlooking some of your audience and what problems they face. And if you don’t know your customers, how will you know that the content you create solves your customer’s problems?
Your customers know the answers to their problems better than you. So ask them.
If you have customers, you should survey them. Offer the last 300 customers who bought a product from you a chance to win a $500 Amazon gift card. Then have them fill out a survey, asking open-ended questions about who they are.
This gives you hard data about your customers. Don’t create personas based on who you think they are or what car they drive. Ask them.
Since I do not have customers, I will make an educated guess at who my customers will be. My target audience is males who are 25 to 35, single, interested in startups, marketing, and entrepreneurship, and either work in marketing agencies or own their own business.
To be clear, your target audience is not your entire audience.
My first customer might be a woman in tech and wants to wear a cool necktie to stand out at her first speaking gig. Or maybe he’s married, and his wife is looking to buy him a fun tie pattern for his first day at work.
Both of these potential buyers are not my target audience. But these buyers are not who I will write my content for because it will water down my message.
3. Find the Competition’s Weaknesses to Build Your Strengths.
[My father] taught me — keep your friends close but your enemies closer. – Michael Corleone, The Godfather Part II
Good research about your competition will help you know where opportunity lies to grow your business faster. Most companies make one critical mistake – they assume the competitors they know are the competitors their customers consider.
I cannot state this enough: Your customers know the answers to their problems better than you.
Read their 2 and 3-star reviews on Amazon, Yelp, or any other review site. What are customers complaining about? Is this a problem you would like to solve with your product or content? Then look at your competition in Google and what they are discussing.
4. Create a Keyword Research Plan to Easily Rank in Google.
Now that you know who your competitors are, learn how to easily out-maneuver and outrank the competition in Google.
Your goal is to find keyword phrases that your customers use and is easy to start getting traffic from Google.
Here’s an example how you can quickly find keywords to write content about. My friend Allen Walton runs Spy Guy Security and competes against Spy Gear Gadget and CheatersSpyShop.com (at the time of writing this business has closed, but it still holds a treasure trove of keywords).
I can use a tool like Ahrefs to look at their organic keywords and remove any keywords with a difficulty score (or “KD”) over 30.
I chose a maximum KD score of 30 for three reasons:
- Multiple sites I’ve studied outside of fiercely competitive B2B niches aim for high traffic keywords with scores of 30 or less.
- Ahrefs suggests this number (this is less valuable to me than #1).
- You gotta make some number a cut off.
Next, go through each keyword directly on Google. If you have a lot of keywords, I recommend looking for how easy it is to get into the top five spots in Google.
You can do this by:
- Comparing how thorough and useful the content is that ranks for your keyword.
- Looking at how established the competition sites are. It’s possible to outrank Forbes, Business Insider, or Entrepreneur, but it’s even easier to outrank Ole Joe Blow’s blog.
- Asking yourself how well do they follow the steps I layout in this article.
You will want to have enough keywords to fill your content calendar. I plan to create one article a week. Thus I will need 52 keywords that fit my criteria. Once you have a list of keywords to target, you should focus on how fast you think you can get the most traffic.
For example, in general, you should target a keyword that gets 5,000 searches a month before a keyword that gets 2,500 searches a month. That is unless you get into the 1st spot of the 2,500/month keyword.
5. Create Truly Useful Content.
Okay. You’ve got the keywords you want to target. Now, what should you write about?
To start, you need to write the best answer to your customers’ questions. Put yourself in a customer’s shoes. What would you want to know if you were doing research on this topic?
For example, when I wrote an article on how to reach out to influencers, I wanted to know what subject lines work best, what to include in an email to increase response rates, and how to follow up effectively without spamming someone.
Second, I asked my fellow peers on what they do. Not only did they backup and enhance my ideas, but I also discovered new topics I had not thought of, like adding value before you make an ask. This step is optional but worth doing if you are writing on competitive topics.
Third, I look at other articles written on this topic. This will help you find gaps in your content, and in your competitor’s content.
Fourth, I want to make my article useful. A solid article should lead potential customers to a solution to their problem. Creating a list of 120 possible solutions isn’t useful if your customer only needs one solution.
That’s not to say you can’t do a list post effectively. Here’s a list post I did on the five types of influencers. It’s helpful because you cannot treat each type of influencer in the same way and expect the same results. Massive list posts can work too. If someone wanted to get creative with their tie know-how, they would find this list of 50 cool neckties to master helpful.
Finally, you should find out what content is already working and use parts of it to make your content shine. As Aaron and I have talked about before, part of the 80-20 of content marketing is to use proven content.
Here are four easy ways to find proven content:
- Buzzsumo is a great tool to find the most shared content on any topic.
- Reddit is a forum of forums, called subreddits. You can look at each subreddit to see what topics get the most votes and comments.
- Like a Q&A (and “PG”) version of Reddit, Quora allows users to ask the community questions based on many topics. Simply look for questions with 50 or more followers.
- Stack Exchange began as a Q&A platform for programmers. Since then, it has expanded to over 160 communities, with topics ranging from personal finance to martial arts.
If for some reason you still need more ideas, check out this guide with 11 free ways to find proven content.
Once you’ve completed those five steps to creating great content, now you will need to promote it.
6. Promote the Content.
You pour your heart into creating the best content on the web, but if you write an article in a forest and nobody’s around to read it, was it ever written?
Look. The traffic fairies (or Google) will not bless you with a massive audience simply because you hit publish. Some bloggers spend as much time promoting content as they do writing it. Others, like Derek Halpern, suggest you need to spend 80% of your time promoting content, and 20% writing it.
But when it comes to promoting content, SEO is the most effective traffic source to scale. There are five ways people come to your site:
- Direct (a visitor types in your URL).
- Email (a click from an email).
- Referral (a click from another site).
- Social (a click from a social media site).
- Organic Search (a click from a search engine).
Direct traffic is rare. I occasionally type in a URL into a search, and I assume the same is true with you. Most direct traffic is thought to be search traffic.
Email traffic is often a secondary traffic source. In other words, 90% of the time email traffic comes as a result of other traffic. What’s worse, even at a 5% click-through rate (which is high) sent to 10,000 emails, that’s only 500 clicks.
Referral traffic is also crap. Most articles tend to get a 2% click rate. Even on a popular article with 5,000 views, that’s 100 clicks. Do you spell what I’m steppin’ in?
Social traffic is great… if you know how to create content that can truly ‘go viral.’ In other words, if you plan on becoming the next Buzzfeed, then go for it. But while social traffic is a good starter, it’s hard to scale it without doing a pay-to-play model.
But organic traffic is where the big boys play. When done right, Google sends you traffic for months after you’ve finished the work.
There are also five scalable ways to get new customers. Scaling sales is rare in ecommerce. Virality is only possible with a high Net Promoter Score, which is hard to do without initial traffic and almost impossible without a stellar product. There’s also the random mega partnership, but that’s extremely rare.
That leaves us with PPC and SEO. Many ecommerce stores do PPC. And while some ecommerce stores do content marketing, most solid content marketing for ecommerce has been in the form of product pages or a YouTube channel. And when everyone zigs, I zag. So that’s why I will spend my time on SEO.
Now here’s where things get spicy. Rather than focusing on the 200 (supposed) ranking factors Google uses, I am going to ignore almost all of them.
Instead, after creating the best content on a topic, I will mainly focus on three things for SEO:
- Solid keyword research.
- A burst of traffic.
- Internal links.
Don’t believe me that this will work? Dan Shure of Evolving SEO wrote an article targeting a keyword with the largest keyword search volume was 70. The article got 2,284 clicks in less than 90 days:
Hey i think this SEO thing works. 2,000+ clicks to one piece of content in a *very* niche market in less than 90 days (no link building) pic.twitter.com/MAE8vAWvhc
— Dan Shure (@dan_shure) May 17, 2017
Even still, I was skeptical, so I grilled Dan for more information. Here’s what I found out in our email conversation:
- Was the keyword you targeted trending at all? No, fairly flat, non-seasonal keyword.
- Did you do any internal linking? Nothing beyond the normal/standard WordPress blog links.
- What’s the Ahrefs keyword difficulty score? 0. The SEMrush difficulty is 60.
- Did you get any nofollow links such as reddit, Growth Hackers, or Inbound? Moz does not show any links at all (old or fresh), just internal links.
- Were there any other things that you attribute to the success outside of solid keyword research? Just coaching the writer on creating the best piece of content to answer the query! In this case, creating the most complete list ever compiled.
(BTW, Dan talks about the 80-20 of SEO in this interview here).
This further supports my hypothesis. If your keyword research game is strong, it’s a lot easier to grow search traffic fast. I do this by climbing up the SEO chain. I start by targeting 3-5 low competition keyword terms. After getting some traffic from those terms, after 90 days, I optimize the article for a more competitive keyword that gets more traffic.
The burst of traffic helps Google to know to crawl your site. To do this, I plan on promoting the article in a few communities, such as Reddit, LinkedIn groups, and Facebook groups.
I believe internal links are important for three reasons:
- Internal links allow customers to click to other relevant articles. Even at a 1% click through rate, if 1,000 people visit one article a month, that’s 100 free clicks per month. More importantly, the longer a potential customer stays on your site, the more they grow to know, like, and trust you to do business. Money!
- By creating a category page, I can compete on a more competitive term with internal links and a brief summary of each post. It might not work, which is why you should test things for yourself. Here’s what I did on my category page influencer marketing.
- Internal links help Google learn what topics you cover on your website and index it accordingly.
After finishing all of my research, it’s time to pick my platform.
7. Bigcommerce vs. Shopify vs. WooCommerce: How I Chose My Ecommerce Platform.
When choosing an ecommerce platform, there are many things to consider, such as:
- How will the platform help or hurt SEO?
- How easy will it be to scale the site as the business grows?
- How secure is the site?
- What tools can help scale growth?
- What is the support like?
I know some of the marketers at BigCommerce (Nigel Stevens, Tracey Wallace, and Casey Armstrong, whom I’ve interviewed) and Shopify (Tommy Walker, Hana Abaza, Shanelle Mullin, and Aaron Orendorff, whom I’ve also interviewed). As for WooCommerce, I know no one.
Each of their reputations as marketers says something about the company. Because smart marketers also invest into their products, knowing that while growth is good, retention is forever.
As an influencer marketer, I also value the relationships. While I do not expect any of them to help me, there is a greater chance to help each other out if I know them. This may be a guest post, a case study, or many other possibilities. Since I know no one at WooCommerce, I removed them from the list.
After trying Shopify and BigCommerce, BigCommerce does a better job helping you with SEO. It’s a lot easier to create categories, subcategories, modify the URL, and create a great user experience for your customers. I also enjoyed the user experience of BigCommerce setting up the store over Shopify.
This is not an in-depth comparison between each of the platforms. Rather it’s something I spent some time on and will now move on.
Although BigCommerce has a built-in blog, I plan to use WordPress because I know what I need to make a WordPress blog successful. If you plan on doing the same, here’s how to setup a WordPress blog on BigCommerce.
My Ecommerce Content Marketing Plan Checklist
There’s a lot of information to process in this guide, so here’s a quick checklist you can go through:
- What is the ROI of my work?
- What do I need to do to achieve that goal?
- Buyer Personas
- Can I survey my customers to know the questions I need to answer?
- Since I don’t have customers, what questions do I assume they would like answered?
- Competitor Research
- If you have customers, who do they say are your competitors?
- If you don’t have customers, who are five competitors you know about?
- Keyword Research
- Look for keywords that are easy to rank.
- Prioritize them by which words you think will get you more traffic faster.
- Creating Content
- Offer the best answer to your customers’ questions.
- Ask other industry experts.
- Look at other articles written on the topic to find gaps in your content, and in their content.
- Make your article thorough and useful.
- Find proven content to borrow ideas from.
- Stack Exchange
- Content Promotion
- Solid keyword research.
- A burst of traffic.
- Internal links.
- Optional: Partner with influencers
Creating an effective marketing plan takes time but once complete, you should not need to revisit your plan often. If you decide to copy this strategy to start your own ecommerce store, I encourage you to do so!
But know this: my goal is not to take a brand new site to go from 0 to 50,000 visitors a month. My goal is to simulate what it would be like growing an established ecommerce website using blog content to grow from 0 to 50,000 visitors a month.
So in the interest of transparency, here are three things to keep in mind:
- My ecommerce website is not brand new. There is a theory that domain age plays a role in SEO. It’s not proven, but it may play a small role.
- At the time of this writing, Cofounders With Class’ domain authority is 23. Although that is small for a blog-based website, this is typical for established ecommerce sites I’ve seen.
- I have relationships with many marketers and entrepreneurs, but no known relationships in the style industry. I do not plan to use my network to actively build new relationships but the marketers I know may help me. If so, I will fully disclose that to you.
I’m curious to learn from you: What strategies and tactics do you use to increase site traffic? In what ways have you seen people over-complicate marketing?