AionHill, a European company aiming at the US market. They were a mid-sized Magento developer company with decent projects – however, they were struggling to step up their game.
We started working with them in early 2016. The first thing we did was look at their current marketing strategy – which was practically non-existent. Their sales were active and experienced, but not effective enough to kickstart growth in the relevant US niche.
They could have turned to cold prospecting, but as their service was eCommerce development and sales needed sales qualified leads (because even the initial assessment of needs and possible solutions is quite a lengthy and complicated process, so it also came down to a question of available resources).
There was also a major deficiency: there was virtually no inbound strategy of any kind implemented.
A good offer - without reputation.
We looked into the previous and current methods, strategies, and tools the company utilized to gain leads. We concluded that their work, their services were good. Clients were satisfied with the finished development projects so we knew that neither the product nor bad reputation could be the problem.
The sales process also had no apparent errors. However, there were very few leads with the expected size and most of these were not closed. We had to figure out a reason why attracting and closing larger deals meant a problem.
We knew from follow-ups and market research that most of these leads ended up hiring developer companies with an established reputation and active content development. This was also something that was clearly missing at AionHill.
And this missing element was responsible for two things:
- Sales could only work through outreach or recommendations. Potential clients did not find the company organically, because they were not ranking for any important, relevant keywords or phrases in the niche.
- Clients were not convinced about the expertise of the company. Larger clients chose those who visibly communicated their projects, their results and work processes.
So we arrived at the theory that the internal processes or the product were not to blame, but strategic content creation, distribution and outreach were something that competitors were doing much better. As the hypothesis was given, we needed a strategy to overcome the problem.
Spying on the top players
First, we did an in-depth competitor analysis to reinforce our idea.
The analysis revealed that competitors getting the clients AionHill wanted a shot at were all creating expert content and ranking in the top for important keywords – and bringing in valuable organic search traffic with it.
We also found out that despite the outstanding rakings of competitors, many of the truly valuable target keywords would have been easy to overtake – as most companies were not consciously targeting them, their content wasn’t highly optimized, only ranked good because it was relevant (and of course, high-quality).
We settled on the strategy of creating top-ranking, in-depth articles: guides, detailed processes about development, actually valuable advice for those considering Magento or other platforms and so on.
We considered the idea of creating videos but dropped it eventually. Although decision makers usually like video more than reading copy, in-depth articles communicate expertise better, and that is what we needed. (Also, creating videos would have been a more complex, more expensive process, so in the first stage articles served our goals better.)
This is the exact process we used
In content creation, the first step was identifying where we had a real shot at achieving good rankings.
- We did keyword analysis and carefully selected a few keywords from thousands. As a rule these had to be queries with a high monthly search volume, high relevancy and relatively low difficulty.
- With this, we have found the needed content gap: topics where we could outrank competitors because they were not targeting for them or we could create better articles.
- Based on these we settled on the first few topics. We had 3 basic categories: comparisons between Magento and other platforms (advising those who are hesitant which one to choose), general advice for online merchants (to bring in more search traffic) and in-depth articles about Magento development (to build the brand of experts).
- Finally, we created the outlines for each article with its own keywords and table of contents, and we were ready to start creating.
Content creation needed a team of only 3: an SEO expert responsible for the strategy and research, a copywriter responsible for actually writing the articles, and a developer from the client side who provided the expertise on Magento.
Using the outlines we created skyscraper articles: in-depth, 5000+ word guides that were perfectly optimized – with the right title, subtitles, answering the right questions.
(You can find more details about how this exact process works in our guide, What is SEO and How it Works?)
In the weeks after publishing the articles, organic traffic started to grow and rankings started to slowly improve. On the long-term, this strategy by itself would have been efficient to achieve better rankings – but we wanted to shorten the timeline and put a greater emphasis on building the expert brand.
(Our method is also proven to be capable of supporting ecommerce strategies, read our guide if you want to know how!)
Time to step it up...
We wanted to reach those who needed the services more directly, but without sending out cold emails or messages. So we looked at some of the most relevant questions and where they were asking them.
Finding more platforms
It turned out, most of the traffic went to Quora. As we had articles answering many questions that were asked by potential clients, we had one of the AionHill employees create a profile and begin answering them ourselves by linking the article.
This not only brought in extra traffic but also made the brand more visible as they were answering the right questions by the right people and at the time they were needed to be answered. And what is also important: the rand had a face, a human being doing that.
Reaching out the right way
We also knew we could reach faster improvement on rankings if we had backlinks from relevant, high-authority sites.
As many Magento experts and companies had sites sufficiently strong, we came up with the idea of expert roundups. We included dozens of Magento influencers in the first article and sent the link to all of them – just telling them about it, not asking for anything.
As a result, we got backlinks or at least mentions from about a third of them.
Repurpose the value you have
One other thing we experimented with was creating infographics for the articles, including the numbers, statistics and processes, making them more comprehensible, enhancing user experience.
Let’s look at the results...
After a few months more and more clients started to find the company – and without spending more on sales, via organic search or the presence on Quora.
Organic traffic directed to the site grew by 1207% in the first 5 months.
In January 2016 the site had 38 backlinks. 12 months later 386, many of those from high-authority sites.
We even managed to land backlinks from sites like Forbes.com…
By this time the site also ranked in the top 10 with 27 pages, and for very important queries like “magento pricing”.
And after 12 months (and many more closed deals) the first enterprise-level client found the company organically. Sales basically just had to make it official, because they already knew the brand, trusted it as experts and were familiar with their processes, all thanks to the content and processes supporting it.
That one deal brought the company $211,000 in the 8th month.
Overall this consistent strategy resulted in 242 high-ticket leads in just 12 months.
This is Growth Hacking in practice.
Achieving these results was only possible because we used growth hacking from the very start:
- We had a look at all possible aspects and searched for errors and deficiencies – or in other words, growth opportunities.
- We had multiple theories, so we did the analysis and let the data decide.
- We started testing and fine-tuning our strategy according to the results.
- We implemented new techniques to step up the performance of the strategy.
This is the core of growth hacking: continuous testing, implementation and fine-tuning strategies, tools and techniques to achieve the best possible results.