The anatomy of a $100k/month ecommerce content marketing campaign
I talk to a lot of ecom founders and VPs who want to get started with content marketing, but don’t know where to begin. Most want to go from zero organic presence to “Content marketing is providing a better return than our other acquisition channels.”
In this post I’ll show you the “how-to”/process I use to get great returns for my clients. Specifically, I’ll show you the principles and process I used to help a DTC ecommerce client go from no organic presence to consistently hitting $100k per month from content marketing in under 10 months.
By the way, if you want help getting results like this for your brand, let's chat. I'd be happy to see if we can help your brand grow with content and SEO.
Part 1: Target bottom of the funnel keywords from day 1
The best case scenario for any e-commerce business is to jump straight to ranking for high intent keywords.
Classic examples are “best [product]” or “best [product] for [use case]”
- Best fishing rod
- Equipment for bass fishing
- Best fly fishing rod
A lot of people think these terms are too competitive to rank for, but, but there’s often way more opportunity than you’d think, especially for long-tail variations. Plus, I’ll share some tricks and non-obvious keyword angles that bring in high intent traffic later in this piece.
Sometimes just ranking for a handful of these terms is enough to get your SEO paying for itself. For example, ranking for a handful of key terms was enough to take my client from zero to $15k/mo from SEO by month 3. At that point it was a lot easier to scale to $100k and beyond.
Picking and prioritizing keywords is a whole post alone, so I won’t go deep into that here. If you want more resources on that specifically, sign up for my email list and I’ll send you a cheatsheet of keywords that I use for all my SEO campaigns. I’ll also send you a quick video showing you how to use it.
Part 2: The three most profitable types of content
If you want to bring in conversions, there are basically three kinds of content you should focus on:
- List posts
- Comparison posts
- Store collection pages
Let's go over each in a little more detail:
→ List posts
First let’s talk about the importance of lists. (diving into the weeds for a sec because this is important)
Most people want their product pages to rank on the first page for THE category keyword. E.g. rank their “Puppy Pain Releaf 1000” product page for “CBD for dogs”
But it’s pretty rare that this actually works. In fact, over the last year I’ve watched many product pages that were ranking #1 for months get phased out in favor of category and list posts. And this will only happen more as time goes on.
Because lists do a better job of meeting most searchers’ needs.
Think about how people research products. They don't want to be pitched a single product right off the bat (unless they get a rec from a trusted resource, in which case they'll just search for that resource, e.g. "Best [product] Wirecutter").
Instead, they want to:
See a variety of options
Make their own decision, often with expert guidance
List posts effectively meet both needs. Single product pages don’t. (Category pages work too, but more on that later).
Also, Google's algorithm is increasingly using UX factors like time-on-page and CTR to decide which pages should rank. Lists offer more material for readers to engage with, which boosts those UX indicators.
It’s important to realize that lists and category pages aren’t just “in'' for SEO right now. They’re what people want, and are only going to become more popular.
That’s why writing great list posts and getting them to rank is like an SEO super-power.
I have literally been the weakest domain/website in an industry, and catapulted to the first position for THE category keyword simply because I wrote a list when no one else would.
The problem with list posts
The only problem with lists is you have to write about competitors to make ‘em rank. Google will know if you only include your own products. (I’ve tried it multiple times and it’s only worked once in a low-competition niche)
Even with competitor mentions, these pages still convert really well. You just have to write in a way that doesn’t promote OR bash your competitors, while still guiding readers to buy your product.
→ Collection pages
Collection pages aren’t what most people think of when they think “content marketing.” But they’re crucially important in any organic ecommerce efforts, so I’m including them anyway.
Plus, adding content to your collections can often help them rank, so the lines between “content marketing” and “SEO” can start to blur.
As mentioned earlier, collection pages also meet the needs of people who are researching new products. One collection page essentially gives a user the same selection as 2-3 pages of Google results.
Typically these work a bit better for high-level terms. E.g. “hiking boots,” rather than “best hiking boots”
If you don’t know if you should use a category or list post just look at the top search results for your target term. If there’s a mix of page types, default to whatever is ranking higher.
The only problem with collection pages is you can only optimize each collection for one or two keywords, while you can write almost endless variations of a list post.
→ Comparison posts
Finally, you can write comparisons. Think “danner vs redwing.” You don’t even have to be one of the brands mentioned to rank and bring in sales. A startup boot brand could write “danner vs redwing vs mybootbrand” and crush it, for example.
I’ve written three-way comparisons like this that convert at 8% (“good” for a blog is somewhere around 0.5%). These are even better than list posts at converting customers, but typically have low search volume and fewer variations you can rank for.
Part 3: How to write content that ranks and makes sales
A.k.a. The “Sales Letters at Scale” Approach to Content Marketing
Once you know what keywords to target and what KIND of content to create, you have to do the work of writing content that ranks and converts.
The MOST important part of writing at this point is optimizing each piece for SALES. Remember that we’re targeting BOFU traffic here, so readers are ready to buy if you can make a case for your product. In this instance, writing content is like writing SEO-optimized sales letters, because you have to make the sale IN the content.
A good rule of thumb is to have some sort of pitch for your product in the first third of the post.
That means if you’re writing for “best fishing rods,” you don’t start the post with “what is a fishing rod?” or “best materials for fishing rods.”
Instead, you write a pitch for your product, THEN include whatever else is required to rank, educate the reader, etc.
Part 4: Technical SEO and PR/link-building
The two supporting characters that make your content rank are technical SEO and link-building.
→ Technical SEO
Technical SEO is massively overrated by most SEO agencies, especially in the DTC space.
You only need to focus on technical SEO on an ongoing basis if you have thousands of products or a massive library of content (e.g. Healthline or NY Times).
For DTC stores with a catalog of <10 top-level SKUs, technical SEO should be a one-time investment that’s part of your site build, and relatively easy to maintain.
Link-building essentially tells Google your site is legit/an authority on a set of topics. Each link from an outside site to yours acts as a “vote” that says “Hey, this site is helpful and legit”
In some industries, link-building is table stakes to rank at all. In others, it’s more like a turbocharger for your existing efforts. It’ll make everything work WAY faster, which is important if you want to see real revenue results right away.
This IS something you’ll need to invest in on an ongoing basis, though it’s usually pretty passive.
You can basically just hire an agency to build links, meet with them once a month to decide where to point the links, then they go away and get the link placements and meet a month later to review.
→ PR and ecommerce
Many ecom stores actually have a leg up with SEO because they do PR independent of their SEO efforts. I recently talked to an ecom owner who wasn’t sure if SEO was even an option for him, until I showed him that he basically had the strongest backlink profile in his industry. He’s getting started now and I have no doubt he’ll crush it.
If you’ve done PR or received solid media coverage, you’re probably in a great place to kickstart an SEO campaign.
Part 5: Putting it all together
Let’s talk about logistics. Here’s what I typically shoot for when starting up content marketing with a new client:
Write less content, at a higher quality: 3-5 posts per month is a solid starting point (shoot for one per week). As you scale, you can go as high as one post per day, but I've only seen that done well by brands that do SEO in-house.
Create in-depth content: My average word count per post is 2250, but trending towards 2500
Send one link to each piece of content you create, plus a few to your homepage or collections pages. I typically shoot for 10-20 links per month, depending on industry.
This is the exact process I followed to help my client go from zero to profitable by month 3, and from zero to $100k in ten months.
If you'd like help getting the same results for your brand, let's chat.