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A screen capture of the homepage of Sabio Coding Bootcamp

From Google Ads to Reddit: How We Tested 7 Different Acquisition Channels to Get Better Applicants for Sabio

A screen capture of the homepage of Sabio Coding Bootcamp

If you’re a founder, you face two major obstacles: 

  1. Finding traction: proving that there’s a sustainable hunger for your product or service.
  2. Scaling: taking your proven concept and bringing it to the masses.  

Together, these two obstacles are an impressive challenge. One we’ve built our business to help founders overcome. Over the past few years we’ve worked with all kinds of different businesses across a range of industries to help them figure this out. 

In this post, we share our experimentation process and the original channels we chose to help an early-stage company acquire new users online. 

The scenario: 

Liliana, CEO of Sabio, approached Tuff in November 2020 with one goal: 

“Can you help us acquire new students for our online coding bootcamp?” 

Sabio has strong product market fit, growing revenue, consistent enrollments, and regularly gets feedback from graduates to refine their course curriculum. For a company at this stage, we knew our biggest opportunity was to test a variety of different channels to see which would bring us the best students (high quality leads) at the most efficient cost. 

 

The entire Tuff Team is amazing, which is no surprise because their leadership is exceptional. Ellen has put together one of the most amazing firms out there, and we are so happy to be working with TUFF.“  – Liliana Monge, CEO, Sabio (Read all Reviews on Google)

 

How to Find the Best Acquisition Channels for Your Business

Acquisition channels are diverse and plenty. With so many options, how can you create a channel strategy that will really accomplish your goals?

The first thing you need to do is focus on your users, not your channels. Who are you trying to get in front of and who is your target audience? Once you have this down on paper, channel selection becomes significantly easier. 

In general, there are two types of targeting options — behavioral based and intent based. When it comes to behavioral targeting, think channels like Facebook and Instagram or TikTok. For these channels, you can get very specific with who you are targeting based on things like age, income, job titles, and interests. Clicks can be cheap and reach can be wide. 

On the flip side, you also have intent based targeting. This could be a channel like Bing, Google, or YouTube. Intent based targeting means you can target based on search terms or people who express some intent to purchase or learn more about a service you might offer. Clicks can be expensive and conversion rates can be extremely high. 

A screen capture of a Sabio alumni testimonial

Our target audience: Post-graduate students between the ages of 21-27 who are looking for a career change. 

Using the above, we looked at 30 different channels and ultimately decided on the below because we knew we’d be able to get in front of this group on each. We also had enough video creative to explore both YouTube and TikTok. 

  • Google 
  • Bing
  • Reddit 
  • Quora 
  • YouTube 
  • Facebook & Instagram
  • TikTok 

Budget and Goals 

We had two options on this account: 

  • Test all seven channels at once 
  • Test one channel at a time 

We decided to test all channels at once for three reasons: 

  1. We have a stacked team of experts. Among our full team of growth marketers we divided the work and put our best strategy and execution into each channel. A smaller team would run into trouble investing enough time and resources into all six channels without dividing resources and diluting focus.
  2. We had a healthy budget. Not every company can afford to actively use more than a handful of channels and, even so, it’s tough to figure out which ones are delivering the right customers. Because we had more than $25,000 a month to allocate to our paid efforts, we decided to test each channel, eliminate under performers, and scale up winners as we learned. 
  3. We had an existing library of strong creative assets. For some intent-based channels like Bing or Google where ads are text-based, you don’t need a big inventory of graphics and videos. But for channels like YouTube, TikTok, and Facebook, you definitely want a library of creative assets to test and optimize. For Sabio, we had at least 15 different videos to support our efforts and knew we were unlikely to see creative fatigue right away. 

TikTok 

TikTok is new and growing fast. Because Sabio had such strong video creative and an active organic audience on TikTok already, we carved out $4,000/month for this channel for initial testing. Here were the initial videos we tested: 

Video 1  |  Video 2   |  Video 3  |  Video 4  |  Video 5

TikTok brought us the most student applications for the lowest CPA. The volume was high but the quality of applicants was average. 

As we continued to optimize on TikTok, three things became extremely important: 

Dayparting 

When we first launched ads on TikTok, all of our daily budget was being spent before 2 p.m. Our hunch was that our audience was most active on TikTok in the evenings, and we were missing valuable impressions. 

We scheduled our ads to be served from 12 p.m. to 12 a.m., and our CPA dropped 34% because of this simple switch. 

Approvals

TikTok’s ad policies are strict, and getting ads approved was definitely a challenge for Sabio, a brand that really exists to help people advance their careers. Sabio’s strongest value props are around potential salary, their tuition program, and job opportunities post-bootcamp. We had to be really strategic with our copy and video to get around some of TikTok’s ad policies. 

Additionally, there are also strict guidelines for the landing page your TikTok ad drives to. Be sure to to study TikTok’s ad policies before launching campaigns to avoid potential disapprovals. 

Pre-Paid  

TikTok requires that advertisers pre pay a balance on their account, instead of retroactively billing the advertiser like other social channels. We quickly learned that it’s important to stay on top of the ad account balance making sure there were plenty of pre-paid funds. 

Every time your account runs out of balance, your campaigns reset and results tend to dip for a day or two as the algorithm re-optimizes. To maintain consistent results, we recommend adding the entire monthly budget to your account at a time instead of small increments.

Twitter 

A screen capture of a Twitter ad "what is the difference between HTML and CSS?"

While only about 5% of all Tuff clients explore Twitter as a paid acquisition channel, because of the handle and hashtag targeting capabilities, we knew we needed to test this out and see if we could find potential developers and engineers. Here’s what this setup looked like: 

  • Optimized the campaigns for traffic 
  • Daily Budget: $95
  • Audiences: 
    • Career Switch
    • Women in STEM
    • Coding Interests
    • Gaming Interests
  • CPC: $1.51 

We tested several ad creatives on Twitter to see what would perform the best and we found that video ads had a 58% lower CPC but yielded lower quality site traffic compared to images and graphics. We optimized our campaigns so that the majority of our Twitter spend went to the top performing image ads. 

While we had a few applicants come in during the first four weeks, we ultimately decided to kill this channel after six weeks of testing. The CPA was high, bounce rate high, and time on site was extremely low. We ditched it and reallocated the funds to Google and Bing.

Google Ads 

a screen capture of a Google Search Ad "Pay $0 until you get a job"

For almost any business that gets searched online, Google Ads is a no brainer. For this channel, Sabio was already running campaigns and our big focus as a team was to get into the account and clean it up so that we could more efficiently drive scale. Almost immediately, we were able to find some quick wins. 

We quickly noticed that over 75% of the conversions from Google Search campaigns in the previous three months had come from branded terms. Although branded search is a critical component to most brand’s search campaign structure, we knew that we needed to expand into non-branded campaigns to increase the volume of applications for Sabio. 

Our initial keyword research also uncovered significant opportunities to add highly-targeted, long tail keywords into our campaigns. With high volume projected on these long tail keywords, we were able to stick primarily to exact-match targeting while also removing previous non-branded broad match keywords that were wasting a significant portion of the search campaign budget. 

Over time, our keyword list has shrunk as we have gathered data, reviewed the search terms reports, and honed in on the exact terms we need to focus on as exact-match keywords.

A table showcasing cost, clicks, CPC, and more data for Sabio Google Ads performance

Overall, our strategy on Google has been simple but effective:

  • Avoid wasteful broad-match terms and general search queries by targeting long tail keywords
  • Break out campaigns by location-focused KWs vs. remote to match the structure of the search and the website 
  • Create and break out a branded search campaign to capture all Sabio searches optimized for impression share

Within three months, we’ve been able to decrease the CPA by 36% while almost doubling the total amount of leads just by finding ways to eliminate waste. 

Bing Ads 

We think about Bing ads in a very similar way to Google. The intent is high and the searchers are already looking for a solution similar to Sabio. 

The interesting thing about Bing is that it can be cheaper and less crowded. If we can get results on Google, we can almost guarantee that we’ll see the same results on Bing

For Sabio, not the case. Bing was expensive and low scale. We tested for three months and ended up reallocating the spend elsewhere for Q2 based on initial learnings. In comparison, here’s what the costs looked like across both channels for the final two months of testing: 

A chart showcasing how Google Ads was a stronger performer than Bing for Sabio

Although CPCs were slightly cheaper on Bing for the same keywords, the traffic quality was not nearly as strong as Google, resulting in Cost Per Application over 2x that of Google Search, and a conversion rate less than half.

With these results and sufficient testing spend already having been allocated to Bing, moving future funds over to other channels with lower conversion costs made sense. 

Reddit 

A screen capture of a Reddit ad "Score a $100k job, then pay tuition"

Reddit is a smart strategy for very select, specific, and niche companies. It’s not a channel for everyone. 

While we ended up killing Reddit after two months, we wanted to try this channel because we knew we could get ads (for a very low cost) in front of a specific audience and relevant subreddits. 

Our big focus on Reddit was to get our campaign structure right. To do this, we started by split testing two different objectives: Traffic and Brand Awareness/Reach. 

Like other social platforms, we wanted to test both campaign objectives to analyze how the metrics would truly shake out. For example, would the Traffic objective yield more clicks and lower CPCs as it is intended to? Or would our testing show that Brand Awareness was actually a better option for getting traffic from Reddit?

Interestingly, in our final month of testing, the Brand Awareness objective campaign outperformed the Traffic objective campaign in both of these top level metrics, yielding lower CPCs at about half the cost of the Traffic objective campaign, as well as a higher CTR. Without testing, we could very easily have assumed that the Traffic objective campaign would have been more effective at driving traffic, although the results tell a different story in this case.

A chart showcasing Reddit performance for Sabio

We also decided to target four different subreddits: r/earnprogramming, r/coding, r/codinghelp, r/codingbootcamp. Over time we dropped the low performers and added in new subreddits for testing. 

We also got specific with our creative. We didn’t want the ads to stand out on Reddit. We were constantly rotating in new creative ways depending on success from other channels. 

Ultimately, we killed the channel due to low performance but here’s a look at the data to get an idea on how this might compare to a more traditional channel like Facebook or Google: 

  • Spend: $1,707
  • Traffic: 1,839
  • CPC: $0.82
  • Applications: 10 
  • CPA: $170
  • CVR: 0.54% 

Facebook & Instagram

A screen capture of a Facebook ad for Sabio "Hesitant to invest in your future?" A screen capture of an Instagram ad for Sabio "Your six-figure career in tech begins now"

While we originally thought Facebook and Instagram ads would be an incredible channel for retargeting, it proved successful for both prospecting and retargeting, bringing us some our lowest CPAs. 

Similar to other channels, our success was dependent on our optimization strategy. When we took over the account, the majority of the campaigns were being optimized for traffic. Within the first week, after configuring conversion goals and events within Facebook, we started testing out campaigns optimized for conversions. For Sabio, this meant a user clicking on an ad and filling out a form on the website. The results were drastic. Not only did the conversion-optimized campaigns drive more leads but the traffic was significantly higher quality when we analyzed the performance of each ad creative in Google Analytics. 

Here’s how this works: 

Your optimization strategy plays a significant role in performance on Facebook and Instagram. Audiences on the channel are typically millions of users in size, and it’s the algorithm’s job to prioritize who out of that audience will see your ad. By choosing certain optimizations (like conversions for example), you’re essentially telling the algorithm to go out and find users most likely to take that action (like filling out a Sabio application).

But in order for that to work properly, the conversion event has to have enough data to help the algorithm prioritize users in your audience. For some brands, there just isn’t enough conversion data available on their Facebook pixel to optimize for lower funnel events, and it’s better to optimize for traffic instead. 

Facebook—along with TikTok—is now fueling two areas of our marketing funnel for Sabio. We’ve allocated spend to prospecting audiences on both channels to drive new traffic to the website as well as spend around 30% of the budget on retargeting campaigns to drive traffic back to the site to convert. These social channels sandwich our PPC campaigns on Google, YouTube, and Bing. 

YouTube Ads

A YouTube Ad for Sabio on mobile A YouTube ad for Sabio: "Learn to code."

Last but not least, YouTube ads. This is one of the fastest growing channels and a personal favorite at Tuff. 

For context, a few years ago (2019ish) maybe 10% of our clients were advertising on YouTube. Fast forward to today, almost every client we work with is actively running YouTube campaigns or has tested out the channel. 

YouTube is great for so many reasons but in particular it can supercharge results for brands that have solid video assets because of the targeting capabilities. YouTube is like a hybrid of Google Ads (intent-based targeting) and Facebook Ads (behavioral-based targeting). You can get extremely specific with who you serve your ads to based on their actual search history and you can also leverage high-converting visual creative assets to reach them. It’s the best of both worlds. 

For YouTube, we tested Video Action Campaigns and YouTube In-Stream Prospecting – the In-Stream tanked and we killed it quick. The Video Action campaigns were, and have continued to be, super effective. 

We tested multiple videos and quickly isolated top performers in order to lower cost and drive up quality. Here’s an example of a two-week creative test in which we sought to understand which video would resonate the most (and drive conversions): 

A chart showcasing how different video creative assets drive very different results on YouTube

After isolating creative and campaign type, we then shifted our focus to additional targeting optimizations. Within a few weeks, we were able to test targeting placements and channel placements, discovering that for this unique account, topics are significantly more effective than channels. Here’s a peek: 

  • Topics = $46.24 CPA
  • Channels = $281 CPA

After this, we layered on retargeting and have continue to optimize the follow areas to improve performance: 

  • Campaign Type 
  • Audience Targeting 
  • Creative 

What’s next? Strategy for Q2 

We started our partnership with Sabio at the end of 2020 and we’re actively building on our strategy for Q2. Our mission stays the same: Can we drive more applications on the Sabio website at an efficient cost? 

Based on our learnings from the last three months, here our some of the initial optimizations we plan to apply to our next round of campaigns as a team: 

  • Allocate at least 50-60% to the intent-based channels (they’re higher cost but higher quality)
  • Kill Reddit, Bing, and Twitter. Move forward with TikTok, Google Ads, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube
  • Continue to work on attribution so we can get an even better understanding of quality (vs quantity) 
  • Test two new channels: LinkedIn and Snapchat (stay tuned!) 

As we’ve outlined above, the first step is defining the user acquisition channels that will or have the biggest impact on growth, and working tirelessly to test and validate the combination that will have the biggest impact on your business. It can seem overwhelming at the start, but testing and optimization should become part of your growth DNA. What might seem like a steep learning curve will turn into a path with long-term payoff when you get it right.

 

How We Outranked Home Depot for the #1 Position

Early in 2020, Renogy approached Tuff to handle all of their SEO needs for their US and international websites. 

Tuff had previously been creating blog content for Renogy’s US website but was not managing technical SEO or anything else.

We analyzed all of their existing websites and put together a comprehensive SEO strategy to increase organic traffic and revenue. This is how we did it.

Technical SEO

When we first took over SEO implementation for all of Renogy’s international sites nobody had previously been maintaining their technical SEO. With that being said, it’s no surprise that there were quite a few errors that needed to be addressed.

This isn’t to say that the websites were in bad shape, they just weren’t SEO-optimized and there’s a big difference. So our first step was to make sure that all the international websites were SEO-optimized. This is how we did it…

International SEO (hreflang tags)

The first issue to tackle was the hreflang tags, and Renogy had about 16,000 of them. 

If you have multiple versions of a page for different languages or regions, hreflang tags are a way to tell Google about these variations. 

For instance, you may have a US and UK website and they’re both in English but one is in US English and one is in British English. Aside from having two different URLs – either uk.domain, domain.uk, or domain.com/uk – we need to specifically tell Google about the language differences.

The same goes for international versions with completely different languages such as German, French, or Chinese, etc.,

Some of the most common hreflang tag errors are:

  1. Not having any hreflang tags
  2. Having incorrect hreflang tags (Ex. having your French tags on your German site)
  3. Hreflang tags being incorrectly coded
  4. No self-referencing hreflang tags

The most common issue is not having any self-referencing hreflang tags, and that’s the issue that we were dealing with on Renogy’s websites. Fortunately, this can be solved programmatically so it’s not extremely time-consuming to fix all 16,000+ errors.

Meta Descriptions

Once the hreflang tags were fixed, one of the most common technical SEO errors across all websites has to do with meta descriptions. Whether it be missing or duplicate meta descriptions, this is something that commonly goes unnoticed.

Sometimes these fixes can be done programmatically by pulling the first sentence on the page and setting it as the meta description but for a variety of reasons, this wasn’t possible for Renogy. One of those reasons is that their website is hosted on Big Commerce and this makes it more difficult. Another reason is that the first sentence wasn’t ideal for a meta description.

So long story short, I began manually fixing and creating hundreds of meta descriptions so that there weren’t duplicate or missing meta descriptions across all of their international websites. 

Internal Linking & Broken Internal Links

Internal links are a very important part of technical SEO, whether it be improving the internal linking throughout the website or fixing the broken links. We did both, starting with the broken links. 

Having broken internal links on your website is another common SEO issue that can not only harm your organic performance but also your user experience and revenue. 

When fixing the broken links, my initial focus was on top-performing product pages to make sure we weren’t losing revenue due to users not being able to purchase the product. 

This is another manual fix so some of it was done in unison with the meta description fixes since I was already going through the pages manually.

No-indexing Pages

It’s important to remove low-quality pages from Google’s search engine. 

Most of us have a habit of wanting all pages to be indexed in Google and I understand it. But when we think about how Google ranks a website, it doesn’t make sense to have our blog tag archives, author archive pages, and other similar pages indexed in Google, for a few reasons. 

  1. When you search for something in Google, you are presented with its search engine results page (SERP) and for that reason, Google doesn’t like to direct traffic to another SERP, even if it’s your own website’s SERP. 
  2. This typically isn’t a good user experience. If someone is searching for 
  3. For these reasons, Google won’t rank these pages very well and if you have a lot of low-quality pages, it will eventually harm your whole website.

For these reasons, we no-indexed any low-quality archive pages that were on the Renogy website. 

Content Creation

Now that the technical SEO is all done, let’s talk about the SEO content strategy and content creation that we executed. 

We began by creating a few pillar pieces of content that we could build a cluster strategy around. We defined a few high-traffic keywords that were essential to the business and created high-quality content around those topics. These pieces of content live at the top of the Renogy blog. 

We then created 3 to 4 pieces of related content that we used to link to these hub pages as well as internally linked dozens of existing content.

Aside from the hub pages, we consistently produce one new blog post each week for each of Renogy’s website properties. 

The other main piece of content that we created was what we refer to as customer service content.

E-commerce Customer Service Content

E-commerce Customer Service Content is essentially FAQ data that is specific to the page that it is on. Not only is it helpful for SEO, but it’s also helpful for the user experience. 

You can find this content on all the major ecommerce websites. 

Ex. Amazon

Ex. Best Buy

Renogy was missing this content on their core category solar panel listing pages, including their solar panel kits listing page, and by adding it, it helped us increase organic rankings of these pages and in return, drive more sales.

We’ve seen the most significant organic improvements to the pages that we added this customer service content to.

Results

After all of these improvements and about 6 months’ time, we are ranking #1 in Google for ‘solar panel kits’ – outranking Amazon and Home Depot when we previously weren’t ranking in the top 100. We also rank #4 for ‘solar kit’ when we previously weren’t ranking in the top 100.

In addition to that, we increased our ranking for ‘solar panels for sale’ from position 12 to position 5.

We’ve also seen significant improvements in tons of other organic keywords that are essential to Renogy’s business and bottom line. 

As I write this, organic traffic is up over 32% from when we finished our implementations and organic revenue is steadily increasing and growing about 37% quarter over quarter.

 

tuff seo chsrt

How We Increased Our Organic Traffic by 630% in 12 months (And as a result, increased our monthly revenue by over 60%)

tuff seo chsrt

As a growth marketing agency, we work hard to balance quick wins with long-term strategy. Our process helps us identify which channels to test first based on our target audience and what combination of tactics will help us hit our goals. We’ve done this for over 35 different businesses in the last 3 years. 

Last year, though, we decided to get serious about our own growth strategy at Tuff. We help companies grow every day with a combination of different marketing tactics, what will happen if we test some of those out for our own growth? 

Up until this year, we had grown steadily through referrals – either from an existing client or from someone finding our Google Reviews and reaching out. Then, in November 2019, we did three things: 

  • Identified our USP (value props!)
  • Did a deep dive on our competitors
  • Fleshed out our ICP (target client!) 

With this research, we then put together a full growth marketing strategy for Tuff, with the primary focus on organic growth. While organic is tough, takes patience, consistency, and time, we knew it was the one channel that could bring us compounding growth if done right. 

For us, SEO has turned out to be a game-changer…

  • We rank for top keywords
  • Leads come knocking on our door 
  • Sales are steady and consistent (we don’t spend any money on lead gen) 

tuff seo chsrt

tuff keywords

In this post, we’ll take you through the exact steps we took to jumpstart our organic performance at Tuff. 

  1. Wrote down all the questions we get from prospects and clients 
  2. Mapped these questions to each stage of the user journey 
  3. Did an SEO audit on other growth marketing agencies to see where they “won” with SEO
  4. Identified the keywords we were already ranking for on Google 
  5. Listed the keywords we wanted to rank for on Google
  6. Made significant improvements to the content and internal linking on the Tuff website with landing pages 
  7. Developed an editorial calendar with content clusters for our target keyword list 
  8. Committed to consistently publishing 5-7 articles a month on the Tuff blog (internal team and freelancers) 

Let’s dive in! 

Wrote down all the questions we get from prospects and clients 

High-quality content is all about providing value to your customers and you can’t do that if you don’t know what your customers are looking for. 

The first step in building an SEO strategy for a B2B company is to understand who the target audience is and what they’re looking for. The best way to know what your customers want is to ask them, or to build a list of all the questions they ask you, which is what we did.

If you’re just getting started and don’t have a list of customer questions then the next best step is to build a buyer persona.

These were questions like: 

  • I’m trying to figure out if I should hire an agency or bring it in-house – what do you think?
  • How much money do we need to set aside for a testing budget? 
  • How do we decide what budget is enough? 
  • Do you offer a performance-based pricing structure? 
  • What should we expect from hiring an agency? 
  • Do you do any YouTube ads? 
  • How long does it take to see results? 

We paired the above list, and others, with more qualitative research as well. We read blogs, we chatted with other business owners, and we studied all our existing and previous clients. 

Mapped these questions to each stage of the user journey 

Once we had our list of questions, we began to conduct keyword research and map out the buyer journey. This is how we did it. 

We cross-referenced the list of questions with target keyword research to find the questions with the most value to our customers. We did this by focusing on a few different metrics, amongst others: 

  1. Search volume – how many professionals have this exact or similar question.  
  2. Keyword difficulty – do we have a chance of ranking for this keyword
  3. Keyword cannibalization – do we already have content around this keyword that we can improve

Once we finished cross-referencing our list of questions with our keyword research and narrowed it down to a dozen or so keywords, we had to figure out where these keywords fit in the buyer journey. 

tuff buyer journey

We wanted to make sure that we weren’t targeting a ton of top-of-funnel or bottom-of-funnel keywords. The goal is to use high-quality content to properly guide the customer through the sales funnel.

Did an SEO audit on other growth marketing agencies to see where they “won” with SEO 

After doing an initial technical SEO audit on our own website, we conducted competitive analysis on other growth marketing agencies to see where they “won” with SEO. What we found was rather interesting and helped us create additional pieces of content.

We found that some agencies were utilizing list posts to drive organic traffic to their website. We took this with a grain of salt as these articles definitely helped to drive organic traffic but were very top-of-funnel. Taking that into consideration, we included a few of these list posts into our SEO content strategy wherever we had additional content to follow it up with. 

I recorded a short video explaining this SEO competitive analysis more in-depth if you’re interested in watching it.

Identified the keywords we were already ranking for on Google 

On top of the initial keyword research that was done, we looked for “quick wins” where we were ranking on page 2 or 3 and thought we had a good chance to move up to page 1. We looked at the keyword volume, difficulty, and top-10 ranking pages to decide if we had a good chance of ranking for that keyword or not. In regards to the keyword difficulty, we typically try to focus on keywords that have a difficulty of less than 70% but this isn’t a hard rule.

We also take into consideration whether or not this is a valuable keyword for our business and if it’s going to drive not just organic traffic but sales leads.

For Q4 2020, these are a few of the keywords that we’ve identified and are strengthening:

tuff q4 keywords

We also took a look at what page we currently had ranking and how we could improve it and support it with additional content. 

Seeing what’s currently ranking in the top-10 and analyzing those pages is one of the best ways to figure out what Google is looking for. Some important things to look for are word count, the quality of the content, rich media, the authoritativeness of the brand, and how unique the content is compared to the other rankings. Then the ultimate question becomes, can we produce better content than what is currently ranking in the top-10?

In regards to the authoritativeness of the brand, if you’re unsure about the particular brand, you can check their domain authority in SEMrush, ahrefs, Moz, or several other tools. 

Listed the keywords we wanted to rank for on Google

After all of that research, we adjusted and narrowed our focus down to about 10 primary keywords that are vital to our business. We work on quarterly SEO sprints because SEO is not a quick solution and in order to rank on page 1 for 10 keywords we need to consistently produce high-quality comprehensive content, which takes a while. 

Comprehensive coverage is typically at least 4 pieces of content and includes a high-quality landing page and 3 corresponding blog posts that internally link to that landing page. This is often referred to as a cluster strategy or a pillar page with supporting content.

At the end of the quarter, we review all of our content efforts to see where we won and lost. We also review our keyword rankings in SEMrush and Google Search Console to determine which keywords we want to focus on for the next quarter. A few of the keywords will be chosen based on where we’re currently ranking and what probability we have of ranking on the first page.

Made significant improvements to the content and internal linking on the Tuff website with landing pages 

As mentioned earlier, whenever creating content we want to make sure that we have comprehensive coverage on that topic. We want to be seen as an authoritative voice in the industry and you can’t do that by creating just 1 or 2 pieces of content. 

One way to stand out from the competition and let customers know that this is one of your core services is to create a landing page or pillar page, which is exactly what we did.

We rolled out a 12-page landing page strategy that was backed by blog posts, case studies, and more. 

tuff footer

Some of these landing pages are focused on our core services while others are focused on our culture, the industries we serve, and the processes we follow when working with clients. All of these pages have not only helped with organic traffic but also with leading customers through the sales funnel. 

Developed an editorial calendar with content clusters for our target keyword list 

We wanted to tackle the website content first because we knew it would have the biggest impact on our organic growth. This isn’t always the case but our website, at the time, was pretty thin. The content was generic, duplicated in some areas, and in need of a revamp.

Once we got through the website content updates, we went back to our target keyword list, reviewed our target audience information one more time, and then built out an editorial calendar. Here were the details: 

  • Dates: April – September 
  • Target Number of Articles: 42
  • Actual Number of Articles Published: 25  

At first, we built this out in excel, using tabs to differentiate between content priorities. For us, we have the below categories: 

tuff content categories

Over time, we moved this over to Trello so we could. The idea was to get moving on articles (balance the quality and quantity conundrum) with an easy-to-use spreadsheet. Once we started getting traction, we upgraded to a project management tool to help us streamline the process and give the internal team more visibility on the content queue. 

Here’s what it looks like now: 

Committed to consistently publishing 5-7 articles a month on the Tuff blog (internal team and freelancers) 

We had the editorial calendar, the target keywords, and the due dates. But who the heck was going to write all the content? 

Our industry isn’t overly complex but we wanted to make sure the articles we published reflected real results, accurate analysis, and our experience working with almost every type of client on 20+ marketing channels. 

We decided to produce 70% of the content in-house and outsource 30%.

For the in-house articles, we leaned on the internal team to help support. Each team member was asked to write 1 to 2 articles a month, based on their area of expertise. These could include case studies, channel deep dives, campaign results, and strategy – but needed to map back to our editorial calendar and keyword list. 

For the out-source articles, we found a combination of freelancers who we could onboard to the Tuff voice. We identified 5-6 posts, wrote outlines, and gave to a freelancer to help us bulk up content efforts on a particular keyword. 

While we would like to (one day) write all the Tuff content in-house, this was a helpful split to offset the workload. The content was primarily written by the team, we had oversight on strategic direction for anything we outsourced and were able to push out high-value articles on a variety of topics. We couldn’t have done this without the internal team willing to contribute or freelancers to help fill gaps. 

Next Up 

For the next couple of months, our focus is still on feeding our content process with high-quality, diverse content for the Tuff blog.  Here’s what we have on the roadmap to keep improving our organic performance: 

  • Implement UX fixes on the blog to make it easier to navigate 
  • Add author pages to the blog so users can filter by each team member at Tuff 
  • Implement a remediation plan to make sure we remove any content that is outdated, irrelevant, and not bringing value 
  • Launch two new core playlists on the blog – SEO and LinkedIn Ads 

If you’re curious about what we did to get these results, have feedback on our process, or simply want to chat about organic performance, shoot us a note. We can chat in more detail about the content plan and SEO strategy we used that might work for your businesses in a similar way.