Case Study — 300% Growth in eCommerce Traffic for The Kewl Shop

When The Kewl Shop wanted to increase their organic search traffic, they approached me to manage their Digital Outreach campaign and build high-quality, relevant, merit based links to their website.

Unlike a traditional Link Building Campaign, our Digital Outreach campaign was focused on building relationships with relevant influencers and authorities in their industry, not just ‘blasting’ low-quality, spammy links.

At the end of our work together, we saw The Kewl Shop’s organic search traffic increase by over 300%.

At the start of our engagement, we clarified the outcomes we were targeting in our work together. Specifically, we wanted to:

  • Implement an SEO campaign to increase the organic traffic that The Kewl Shop was receiving
  • Define a Digital Outreach campaign to build relationships with relevant bloggers, writers, influencers, and authorities in The Kewl Shop’s fashion industry
  • Build a repeatable, scalable process for organically generating high-quality, relevant links

Rather than simply ‘blasting’ a bunch of low-quality, spammy links, we wanted to use Digital Outreach to build relationships with relevant communities and then find opportunities to expose The Kewl Shop’s best content and products to those audiences, earning high-quality links for The Kewl Shop.

In our work together, we started by identifying the specific communities (“Link Ecosystems”) of sites that we wanted to earn links from and then outlining the content or assets (“Linkable Assets”) that we’d need to earn those links. We narrowed these Link Ecosystems down to:

  • Fashion and Style Bloggers and Writers
  • Educational Domains like Universities, Colleges, and High Schools

Digital Outreach Campaigns

For each Link Ecosystem, I managed the Digital Outreach campaign to build relationships on The Kewl Shop’s behalf and expose an audience to The Kewl Shop’s products and content.

I outlined and implemented three separate Digital Outreach campaigns for The Kewl Shop:

  • An ‘Influencer Outreach’ campaign to connect us with relevant style bloggers and writers and expose our best products to their audiences.
  • An ‘Authority Interview‘ campaign to connect us with relevant style bloggers and earn links from their website
  • A ‘Scholarship Link Building’ campaign, to earn high-quality, relevant links from educational domains.

For each campaign, I managed the Digital Outreach process to connect The Kewl Shop with relevant sites, build relationships with the influencers and authorities managing those sites, and expose the influencer’s audience to The Kewl Shop’s best products and content.

Product Review & Authority Interview Campaigns

To earn links from Fashion and Style Bloggers, I defined and implemented a Product Review Campaign and Authority Interview Campaign that would allow us to build ongoing relationships with influential fashion and style bloggers, work with them to expose their audience to The Kewl Shop’s Bandage Dresses and Leggings, and earn relevant links back to The Kewl Shop’s website.

Through this Digital Outreach, we were able to build relationships with relevant Fashion and Style Bloggers and find opportunities to earn links and expose their audience to our best products and content through product style posts, giveaway campaigns, and blogger interviews.

Scholarship Link Building Campaign

To earn links from Educational Sites, I outlined and implemented a Scholarship Link Building Campaign, promoting The Kewl Shop’s Fashion Design Scholarships to relevant schools and student organizations.

Through this Digital Outreach, we were able to build relationships with decision makers within targeted Fashion Design programs and earn educational links to The Kewl Shop’s website.

Campaign Results

At the end of our 3-month engagement, The Kewl Shop saw a dramatic 300% increase in Organic Search Traffic, putting The Kewl Shop in a position to hire a full-time internal employee to manage these campaigns.

 

Authority Interviews

When it comes to generating more traffic for your website, the best options help your website accomplish a number of different outcomes:

  • They establish your authority as an expert in your industry with your audience
  • They create linkable assets for your business, assets that help your website continue to generate links with little effort on your part
  • They attract traffic through social media, referrals, and organic search
  • They build relationships with other brands and businesses in your industry

One of my favorite tactics to use to increase traffic to a website? Interviews!

It’s easy to get started with interviews as a link building and traffic generation strategy. There’s three types of interviews that you can create and share:

  • Text Interviews are the easiest to get started with. You send the interviewee a list of questions, collect their answers, and build an interview around their answers.
  • Audio Interviews are slightly more difficult to get started with, but are an easy way to produce longer-form, high-quality content. To do them well, I’d recommend using a headset, Skype, and something to record the call.
  • Video Interviews are very impressive, but take additional equipment (lights, microphone, etc) to do well.

For this article, let’s just riff on Text Interviews for a bit. They’ve easy to get started with, you can systematize most of the pieces, and when you’re ready to graduate up to the next level, the same best practices apply.

For something simple that you can get started with today, text interviews take the cake.

Let’s talk about the outcomes this tactic can produce for you:

  • Establish Your Authority — Who interviews experts, authorities, and business owners? Other experts! By interviewing authorities, you establish your own authority.
  • Build Linkable Assets — Interviews are a great type of high-quality informational, educational, and entertaining evergreen content. The type of content that your audience loves to read, share, and link to.
  • Increase Traffic — By interviewing an authority, you attract traffic from that authority’s audience.
  • Build Relationships — Interviewing a business (or business owner) is a great way to give first in your relationship, establishing and building a relationship.

All valuable outcomes for any individual or business. But out of all of those outcomes, I see the opportunity to build relationships with influencers, authorities, and businesses in your industry as the most valuable outcome.

Those relationships, over the long-term, will pay out in better image, more traffic, more sales, and more revenue for your business.

How can you get started with interviews as a link building and traffic generating tactic today?

First, make a spreadsheet with a list of 10-12 relevant, similar companies, influencers, and authorities in your industry. Include a mix of some big and some small. Make sure to get their basic contact information like email address, name, and phone number.

Then, send a cold email to them, introducing yourself, and asking if they would like to be interviewed in an article on your website.

After that, if they’re interested in working together, send them over a short questionnaire, with the questions you’d like them to answer.1

Next, write up their answers into the article. Send the article over to them for feedback.

Finally, publish the interview on your site. Email the person you interviewed, let them know that the interview is live, and ask if they could share the interview on social media and, if possible, link back to your site from their site.2

And, like that, you’ve built a relationship with an influencer or business in your industry, attracted traffic to your site (from their audience), and built a high-quality link to your website (from their website).

Best of all? This tactic scales very well — and as you scale it, you can expand it in a number of different directions:

  • Once you’ve interviewed 6-8 people, you can put the interviews together in one collection, creating another linkable asset for your website.
  • You can outreach to other influencers and websites in your industry, tell them about the interview, and ask them to share the interview with their audience.
  • You can create transcripts of the interviews and publish them on your site.
  • You can extract relevant topics, quotes, and questions from the interviews and transcripts and turn them into even more articles and resources.

There’s a number of different ways you can take this one tactic — interviewing experts, authorities, and businesses — and repurpose the content into a number of different shapes, create more linkable assets for your website, attract more traffic, and generate more high-value, high-quality content.

Because in the end, that’s your goal, right? To create something that’s so interesting, so engaging, and so excellent that your audience automatically wants to read it, share it, and link to it.

And if it isn’t, it really should be.

______________

    1    I like writing out 3-5 questions in the email for them to answer, it’s more personal than sending them to a form. But if you’re pressed for time, you can use a Google Form to list out the questions for them to answer. Bonus? The form is reusable from interview to interview.

    2    Also? Ask them if they know of anyone else that they recommend that you interview. Hat tip to my friend Kurt Elster for that tip.

Getting Started With Linkable Assets

When you think about investing in Search Engine Optimization, you need to think about the outcome you want Search Engine Optimization to help you achieve.

Typically, your outcome will take the form of:

  • More traffic
  • More sales
  • More revenue
  • Better image

You’ll notice that ‘more links’ isn’t on that list. That’s because links aren’t an outcome for you’re business, they’re a deliverable that help you get to your intended outcome.

But if the outcome you’re targeting is “More Traffic” and links help you achieve that outcome, how do you attract links to your website? And what type of links do you want to attract?

We’re all seen ads for ‘$199/month Link Building Services’ that ‘guarantee’ you first page rankings. Is that enough to increase your traffic? And if not, what do you need? Why do you need it? How do you get it?

The type of links that Discount Joe’s ‘$199/month Link Building Service’ will get you are spammy, low-quality links that will temporarily increase your traffic before your website gets slapped with a Google penalty and your traffic drops overnight.

To help your website generate more traffic for the long-term, you want to focus on attracting links from relevant1, high-quality2 websites.

Just a few links from these types of sites will have more of an impact on your ability to generate traffic than hundreds of the links ‘Discount Joe’ will sell you.

To attract these high-quality links, there’s a number of strategies that you can follow: digital outreach, creating linkable assets, etc.

Today, let’s talk about how you can use linkable assets to attract relevant, high-quality links to your website.


In the words of Heinlein, “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch“.

If you want to attract links to your website, you need something worth linking to.

The easiest way to attract high-quality links to your website? Create the type of high-quality resource that your audience and influencers that belong to your audience will naturally want to read, share, and link to.

This takes work. This takes investment. This takes time. But the value that these types of linkable assets can bring to your website, your business, and your brand make them worth it:

  • You can leverage these linkable assets for links over and over again.
  • These linkable assets add unique value to your website, slowly attract links over time, and feature relevant content for your audience and customers.
  • When you’re publishing high-quality, valuable content related to your industry, you establish yourself as an authority and expert in your industry.

You want to create the type of content that your audience is already looking for.

Linkable assets are content that answers your audience’s questions, educates them, or entertains them.

How do you know what linkable assets to create?

There are two ways to figure out what type of linkable assets to create:

  1. Audience Research — You research your audience to identify the questions that they’re frequently asking or problems they’re frequently encountering. First, you identify where your audience hangs out online. Then, you study them to see what questions they’re asking and write (and promote) answers to their questions or solutions to their problems.
  2. Competitive Analysis — You study your competition to identify the linkable assets they’re creating. Then, you figure out how you can improve on their content and create better, more authoritative content.

Once you’ve identified what content to create, you need to identify what type of linkable asset to create. There are three main types of linkable assets:

  1. Educational — These are focused on teaching your audience a concept. A great example of an educational linkable asset is @nickd‘s guide on How To Self Publish a Book on Kickstarter.
  2. Informational — These are focused on sharing news and information with your audience. An example of an informational linkable asset would be Mailchimp’s article on Subject Lines
  3. Entertaining — These, well, entertain your audience. Snowfall, published in the New York Times, is a high-bar for entertaining linkable assets. This article is a great example of the type of content that both entertains the reader and generates links.

(Note: A linkable asset can belong to one or multiple categories. Episodes of the popular podcasts (like Mixergy) are entertaining, informational, and educational linkable asset.)

How do I get started creating linkable assets?

In the end, you want to attract more links to your site to generate a specific outcome: more traffic, more sales, better image, etc.

Linkable assets help you attract relevant, high-quality links to your site. Linkable assets help establish the perception of your authority and expertise in your industry, improving your image.

If creating and promoting linkable assets isn’t part of your link building and traffic generation strategy already, your next action should be to take 30-minutes and perform a short ‘linkable asset intervention’ to answer the following questions:

  • Who are your top 3 competitors right now?
  • Are they actively creating (and promoting) linkable assets on their websites?
  • What pages3 on their sites have the most incoming links?4 Are any of these pages linkable assets?
  • What pages on your site have the most incoming links? 5 Are any of these pages content that you can optimize, extend, or improve to turn into a high-quality linkable asset?
  • What questions does your audience frequently ask you?
  • How can you answer their questions in the form of content on your website?
  • What are three specific6 ideas for linkable assets that you can create to educate, inform, or entertain your audience?

The answers to these questions will inform the start of your linkable asset strategy.

  • If your competition is already creating linkable assets, you can identify opportunities to improve upon the content they’re creating.
  • If you have content on your website that is already generating a large number of links, you can optimize and extend that content to turn it into a better linkable asset.
  • If your audience is frequently asking you questions, you can use those as inspiration for creating linkable assets.

Your turn: can you email me and ask me one question you have about linkable assets? Anything is fair game:

  • “How do I promote a linkable asset?”
  • “Where can I find examples of linkable assets?”
  • “How do I create a linkable asset?”

Heck, you can copy-and-paste any one of those into your message and hit send.


  1. Relating to your industry and area of focus 
  2. Frequently updated, well designed, not spammy 
  3. Other than the homepage 
  4. You can use the tool Majestic or SEOMoz’s Open Site Explorer to answer this question. 
  5. Ditto. 
    • Good and specific: “Create a how-to guide that teaches our visitors how to {outcome}”
    • Less-good and not-specific: “Update our FAQ”,
    • Bad: “Write a blog post”


Did you enjoy reading this article?

You should read “What should I do to promote a great piece of content?” next.

I write a high-quality, daily newsletter about marketing, growth, and lead generation for indie consultants, freelancers, and service professionals.

Roadmapping Sessions

Three months ago, my dream client came knocking.

They’re an established local business and they were looking to invest in growth for the future. They wanted to work with me on a large, multi-month project — and it was a perfect fit for the services I was offering. I was ecstatic. Everything felt great. The client saw value in my services and I wanted to work with them.

As a first step, I proposed a small kickoff project — a Roadmapping Session — to review the outcomes they were looking to achieve and test working together. We scheduled the meeting for later that week.

Then, on the day of the meeting, less than an hour before we were supposed to start, I received an email from them, telling me that they needed to cancel. They wouldn’t be able to afford the project we were discussing or the fee for the Roadmapping Session. They had, literally, no money in the bank.

Was I disappointed?

No.

Because when they canceled that meeting, I could see how much time I would have invested into their project before I learned that they couldn’t afford to work with me. I mean, think about it:

  • We would have gone through a discovery meeting (1-2 hours, unpaid)
  • I would have reviewed their needs, their website, analyzed their competitors, and put together a proposal (3-6 hours, unpaid)
  • We would have had a second meeting to review the proposal and decide if we wanted to move forward (1-2 hours, unpaid)

And then and only then I would have learned that we wouldn’t be working together.

In that moment I was so glad I had started our relationship off with the Roadmapping Session.

Wait, so what is a Roadmapping Session?

A Roadmapping Session is a short, strategic, outcome focused meeting between you and your client where you review the intended outcomes for the project, set expectations for what success looks like, and identify any potential barriers to achieving success. At a high level, you’re breaking down the parts of the project and identifying the easiest, most graceful way from where the client currently is to where the client wants to be.

As the first part of every project I work on (and as a separate productized service that I sell), the client and I start off with a 60- to 90-minute meeting where we develop a shared understanding of the client’s goals for the project, define what success looks like to them, and identify the different parts of the project.

There are three major benefits to using Roadmapping Sessions early on in your relationship with customers and potential clients:

  • You reclaim the unpaid time that you’re investing into discovering the client’s needs and writing proposals. And as a bonus you turn that time into paying work.
  • Before you formally start the project, you understand the business goals behind the project and what the client envisions as success.
  • If the client’s expectations are out of scope for the investment they’re willing to make, you can recalibrate their expectations to match their investment.

Do you feel defeated after writing yet another proposal — only to have the client turn it down?

For some consultants, the sales funnel leading into a project can look like this:

  • First contact with the lead
  • Needs Assessment / Qualification
  • Discovery
  • Proposal Writing
  • Client’s Go/No-Go Decision
  • Start Paid Work

That can be a lot of time to invest into a project before you start getting paid. Even if you’re qualifying the client at the start of the project, disclosing your rates, and only moving forward with high value prospects, you can be investing 5, 10, or more hours into a project before you start getting paid.

If that feels like a lot of time, what you can do is, once you make contact with a lead or potential client, position a paid Roadmapping Session as the next part of your sales funnel. In that Roadmapping Session, you’ll work with the client to define their needs, identify their outcomes, and establish a shared understanding of success.

From there, if they choose to work with you, great! But if they decide to work with another provider, you’ve been paid for the time you’ve invested working with them so far.

From the client’s side of the table, when you start off the relationship with a Roadmapping Session, the client is able to begin their relationship with you at a much lower price tag. Instead of starting off with, say, a $10,000 project, a more affordable Roadmapping Session gives the client an opportunity to see you demonstrate your expertise and insight, review the quality of your work, and experience your method of communication. All factors that can lower the risk a client perceives in working with you.

As an end product of the Roadmapping Session, the client receives a report that breaks down exactly what they want to achieve, what success looks like for their business, where they currently are, and the steps that they’ll need to take to move forward with this project.

If either you or the client decides, after the Roadmapping Session, that you aren’t the right right fit for each other, the client will have an asset (the Roadmapping Session Report) that they’ll be able to bring to the table with the next consultant they work with to better define the outcomes they’re targeting with the project.

And as a consultant? Instead of investing hours of unpaid time to get to a Go/No-Go decision with the client, you’re able to start your relationship off with a paid project, reclaiming what would otherwise be unpaid work, and turning qualification, discovery, and proposal writing into a paying engagement.

Yeah, but how exactly do you do this? What do you say? When do you say it?

Once you have an initial phone call with a lead to qualify them as someone you might work with, you’ll want to move them forward to a Roadmapping Session. You can do that by outlining the benefits of the Roadmapping Session for the client, positioning it as the next step in getting to know each other and planning out the project, and pricing it at ‘impulse buy’ levels for the client.

Here’s what that can look like:

It’s great to talk with you and learn more about what you’re looking to accomplish with this project. I can tell you, I’m excited at the thought of us working together.

The next step would be for your team and my team to meet for an initial Roadmapping Session. In that meeting, we’ll review the business goals behind this project, discuss the high-level details of this project, confirm what success looks like to you, and plan out the steps necessary to move through this project.

Once we complete the Roadmapping Session, I’ll deliver a report to your team that reviews our shared understanding of what this project looks like and your vision of success. Additionally, my team will contribute their insight and experience towards this project, identifying the different directions that you can take to achieve your business goals.

The roadmapping session is a 90-minute meeting that would include you, me, and any other decision makers on your side that will be involved in this project.

The charge for a Roadmapping Session is $X. To move forward, here are three potential dates for the Roadmapping Session. Can you let me know which of these dates works best for you?

  • Date 1, Time 1
  • Date 2, Time 2
  • Date 3, Time 3

(If another time works better, just let me know, and I’ll work around your schedule).

Thanks!

At the completion of the Roadmapping Session, you’ll have validated that this is a client that you want to work with, you’ll have a deep insight into the inner workings of the client’s business, and you’ll understand the business goals behind the project and the client’s vision of success.

… What other information would you need to write a winning proposal?

“I don’t want to put all this work into writing a proposal… only to have the client have a completely different set of expectations for the project!”

Outside of reclaiming unpaid time and turning it into paying work, what’s valuable about a Roadmapping Session is getting a high-level view of the client’s needs, expectations, and available energy for the project.

If you’ve ever wondered like this:

“How can I, as a consultant, balance the goals of the project with the client’s perception, budget, and energy/level of dedication to the project?”

Then by incorporating a Roadmapping Session early on in your sales pipeline and/or proposal writing process, you’ll be able to specifically identify the goals of the project, know the client’s available budget, understand the client’s vision of success, and see how much energy they’re willing to dedicate to the project.

“What if the client expects…”

During the Roadmapping Session, you should move the client through a specific series of questions to better understand their project. These should be questions that will let you understand the client’s goals, the business outcomes behind the project, and the client’s definition of success for the project.

By asking these questions in the Roadmapping Session, you’re able to specifically understand the client’s expectations before you write the proposal. If their expectations are off (they want to invest $1 and get back $100), you have the opportunity to recalibrate their expectations to what you’re able to deliver for their budget.

Imagine a client that wants to invest in a website redesign, but not search engine optimization or other traffic generation strategies, and expects to see their website traffic increase by 500% in the first month. Once you uncover this expectation, you can educate the client and recalibrate their expectations, saying something like:

“It’s wonderful that you want to increase your website traffic. That’s awesome! But if that’s the expectation and outcome you’re targeting, perhaps a different type of project would be best to produce that result for your business. That could look like…”

It’s about having, at the start of the project, a clear direction of where you’re going. And to get that clear direction, you’ll need to stop and ask the client for directions:

  • Where does the client want to end up?
  • Where is the client right now?
  • What does success look like for this project? For their business?
  • What would failure look like?

“I’m tempted to try this — but I’m scared about what the client would say…”

Let’s look at the potential outcomes of testing a Roadmapping Session on one lead in your sales pipeline. First off, the lead can either say “Yes!” or “No thanks,” right?

Option A: The Client Says “No thanks”

You propose a roadmapping session and, after considering it, the client decides that the Roadmapping Session isn’t a good fit for them or their business.

In that case, that could mean…

  • The client didn’t see enough value present in the roadmapping session to invest in it for their business.
  • The client isn’t a good fit for your services.

For the first option, one of three things could have happened.

  1. The client might not have seen enough value in the outcomes you listed for the Roadmapping Session and, because of that, decided to not invest.
  2. Alternatively, you might have dropped the ball on communicating the value present in the Roadmapping Session.
  3. Finally, the price might not have been right for the client to ‘impulse buy’ the Roadmapping Session.

You can correct these by increasing the value you present in the Roadmapping Session, better communicating the value that’s already present, or adjusting the price to better fit with your market.

For the second option (“The client isn’t a good fit for your services”), that’s a perfectly fine outcome to come to from proposing a Roadmapping Session.

Some percentage of clients who want to work with you just aren’t the right fit for your business. If the client disqualifies themselves by saying “No” to a Roadmapping Session, instead of investing hours of time in discovery, needs assessment, and proposal writing, you’ve been able to eliminate them from your pipeline earlier on.

Option B: The Client Says “Yes! Let’s do it!”

If the client decides to move forward with the Roadmapping Session, woohoo! That’s great!

You’ve reclaimed unpaid time and turned that time into a paying project!

You and the client get to work together on an initial, small project, building up trust, and validating that the two of you can work well together.

You gain a deep understanding of the client’s needs, business goals, and intended outcomes, that you can then wrap into the proposal for the larger project.

… That’s all sounds pretty good, yeah?

How do I get started with this? What’re the next steps?

First, outline what deliverables make sense with your Roadmapping Session. A Roadmapping Report that highlights the outcomes for the project? Wireframes of the website? User stories? Something else? Depending on your industry, try and figure out what would be most valuable to the client.

Then, choose a price for your Roadmapping Session. It doesn’t matter what price you choose, you can always increase that number down the line. I started out charging $250 for my Roadmapping Sessions and, after three sessions, determined that $500 was a better price for the time I was investing, the markets I was working with, and the information I was delivering.

Finally, pick a lead in your sales pipeline and call them up. Tell them that, as a next step, you recommend moving into a Roadmapping Session, to better understand the business goals behind the project. When you pitch the lead, see how they respond. Write down the objections that they raise and incorporate those into your next pitch.

If they’re a client that’s worth working with, they’ll see value in the Roadmapping Session and decide to move forward.

And if they aren’t the right fit for you, you’ll be able to disqualify them as a lead earlier on in the sales process, saving valuable time that you can invest elsewhere in your business.

How to Write a Kick-Ass Cover Letter

Update: My friend Josh Doody wrote Fearless Salary Negotiation, a book and courses like “How to ace your next interview” that I highly recommend! Check it out!

You have 60-seconds to make an impression with your cover letter. Why?

The person reading your cover letter wants to ball it up, throw it away, and get on with their day. They’re burnt out and have a stack of applications on their deck. They’re an expert at reading resumes and they’ve seen all the tricks.

In 30-seconds, they’re going to decide if you’re headed to the shredded or the interview pile. You need to make it easy or them to realize how interesting you are.

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