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)
In this post, we’ll take you through the exact steps we took to jumpstart our organic performance at Tuff.
- Wrote down all the questions we get from prospects and clients
- Mapped these questions to each stage of the user journey
- Did an SEO audit on other growth marketing agencies to see where they “won” with SEO
- Identified the keywords we were already ranking for on Google
- Listed the keywords we wanted to rank for on Google
- Made significant improvements to the content and internal linking on the Tuff website with landing pages
- Developed an editorial calendar with content clusters for our target keyword list
- 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:
- Search volume – how many professionals have this exact or similar question.
- Keyword difficulty – do we have a chance of ranking for this keyword
- 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.
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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
Derek is a digital marketer based in Boston, Massachusetts with almost a decade of hands-on SEO experience. He finds it meaningful, challenging, and exciting to develop, test, and implement new SEO strategies. When he’s not auditing websites and optimizing content he’s usually backpacking and exploring new cultures.