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Using SEO-Driven Content to Land A $400k Contract For A Corporate Training Company

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This is a great fit for consulting companies or similar who are looking to build an SEO strategy to reach high-value, high-quality prospects
I'm an SEO and content consultant who's worked with Forbes 100 companies to build winning lead generation campaigns. In this case study, you'll learn how I leveraged my skills to help InitiativeOne, a corporate training consulting company, build 10 SEO-optimised articles and infographics resulting in a 145% increase in traffic, a feature in Entrepreneur magazine, and a $400k contract.
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Signed a multiyear leadership development contract worth over $400,000
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Created 10+ long-form articles and 4 infographics
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145% increase in organic search engine traffic
Background

A Leadership Development Consulting Company Looking To Stand Out In A Crowded Market

InitiativeOne is a leadership development company based in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

While they have a track record of over 20 years in the market, there are thousands of leadership development companies and consultants in the US. That's a lot of noise - meaning it really needed to set itself apart.

The challenge was to be heard above their competition, to separate and position themselves differently from everybody else in the marketplace, and ultimately get new business - not just in their home state but nationally across the US.

Having worked with other agencies that delivered activity but no concrete impact, I was a great fit because of my ability to leverage fresh thinking to get results.

I came in with some solutions that were radically different to what they were used to - specifically with a strategy for long-form content aimed at driving relevant SEO traffic.

Most people think that prospects have short attention spans and thus won't read long-form content. However, if you do the research and set the articles up correctly, the data science shows the opposite: that it will get you jmore engagement, more SEO links/traffic, more email subscribers, and more sales.

Execution

Systematically Unearthing & Exploiting Opportunities To Build SEO Content In Relevant Niches

SEO, keyword, & competitor research

There were four primary things that I looked for in the research phase.

In each of these steps, we examined topics that the company believed its prospects were searching for and what topics their direct and indirect competitors are getting SEO traffic from.

The first step was to find keywords with enough search volume, meaning it's a popular enough topic that lots of people are searching for it. We want to know that, if we rank for a term on Google, it will turn into significant traffic. You have to use tools to get how many people are actually searching those words every month.

The second factor is how competitive each topic is - how hard is it going to be to rank for this? So it isn't just which keywords do they WANT to rank for, but which keywords aren't so competitive that they can rank for them.

The third is search intent. We looked at the Google search results for those keywords and analyzed whether most results were for content vs. product/service pages. It's very unlikely your content articles will rank highly if results are mostly for product or service pages, and vice versa.

The fourth is the funnel stage. We want to assign each topic to one of three funnel stages (top, middle, bottom), where a prospect at the bottom is closer to purchasing and the top being more at an information-gathering stage.

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Content strategy, research & outlining

Based on this research, we then created the content calendar. We mapped which posts we were going to do and got the client to agree to it. This included a timeline of what specific months we were going to post each piece of content.

Thanks to the research, we knew the topics we were going to go after, so we came up with strategies and recommendations for creating long-form articles (2-4,000 words) on those topics.

We wanted to make sure we infused the company's unique philosophy and how they viewed that topic because it might be different from what other people are saying. In order to achieve this, we did research to marry their positioning to the content. This included the unique way that they looked at that each topic.

In order to inform the content, we also dug into the top 20 ranking articles for clues as to why they're ranking highly. We looked at those to see how they were structured, what are their common headline, what were the common sections, etc.

We didn't want to simply regurgitate what those articles were saying, but we wanted to take that into strong consideration because there's no need to reinvent the wheel.

We repurposed ideas from these articles and used them to make our post that much more in-depth. Based on this, we then put together as an outline as direction for a writer.

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Long-form content creation

I then gave that outline to my writers. I personally have quite a few contract writers that I work with for various clients and projects, whether it's B2C or B2B.

For our work, 9 times out of 10, we don't need a subject matter expert because a great writer can learn the client/industry as long as they know the process that will be successful in SEO.

It always comes down to having good writers.

In this case, good means 2 things: knowing how to write persuasively and knowing how to increase engagement in a super-competitive SEO space.

The latter includes implementing visual elements that would increase time on page, number of backlinks, social shares, media mentions, email subscribers, etc.

Some examples are embedded videos, images, bold/italics, internal links, external links, callout boxes, table of contents/quick guide, etc.

Writing these articles also involves using the primary keyword and the secondary keywords in strategic and intentional ways. This can't be to the detriment of quality content - it does us no good to get these articles to rank on Google, if everybody leaves quickly without finding the content interesting.

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Long-form infographic creation

We also created long-form infographics on top of the articles.

These are larger, more detailed infographics than is typical for infographics - eight to ten panels with high-quality, in-depth information.

This takes quite a bit of work to do - from a conceptual and design perspective - but is necessary if they're to be something that media sites are going to use - they get pitched infographics all day long, so they have to be super high quality and in-depth.

This takes a fair amount of thought and direction. You need a good designer, but you also need another really good person who understands how to structure an infographic (how to come up with the sections, where to source the data from, etc.) to devise the points in each section and give ideas for the visual design.

I used an outline that includes eight to ten sections, usually an intro and a closing and a selection of different types of visuals, including graphics, maps, roadmaps, checklists, bar charts, and other visually interesting representations of data, facts, and ideas.

We then gave the designer all of the copy they would need, and a well thought out and well-structured list of sections with a design idea for each.

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Backlinking strategy & implementation

Once we published the article on the company's website, we implemented a backlinking strategy.

This is something that many other consultants don't typically do but is a key part of success with SEO.

We used a number of quality backlinking strategies. Typically, many backlinking strategies are shady or downright counterproductive.

However, one legitimate approach is called the skyscraper technique.

With that, we try to reverse engineer some of the links from the top-performing articles on page one or two of the search results. To do this, you need to have a really high-quality article, something that is dramatically better than those top 10 articles.

It should include some of the same things, but also some unique things and expand on some of the points.

So we used software and some manual list building work and ran email outreach to people link to those top 10 articles to include links to our article and thus building the backlinks and getting some industry exposure as well.

We also added an additional backlinking outreach, where we identified media sites that had shared an infographic on the same topic before. This was a very small audience, but really high quality and we got some very high-quality links like Entrepreneur.com.

Depending on how much domain authority you have, it can be tough to rank. There's a lot of stiff competition and most companies don't realize the competition is much stiffer than their website can go up against. Building up backlinks is necessary to get Google to recognize that and the quality content and get the traffic.

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Email opt-in strategy

The final step was to build out an email opt-in strategy. Once you have a lot of people coming from Google to your articles, 80+% of them are going to leave and never come back to your site.

So we added an email opt-in for the long-form posts using lightboxes. We used an e-book as an enticement, not just the "sign up for our newsletter" as It needed to be something of value.

Email is now a currency... people expect to get something of real value in return for giving up their email address.

We then did a 10-week email automation welcome series as well for each of those specific ebooks that they're opting into and then nurtured those. We then later added them to the newsletter and general email list.

SEO + content + email marketing = magical success. People who find you in search engines land on your article, you get them to opt into an email and put them on a welcome drip series. After that, they drop on to the normal newsletter list. It's a process to build that but that builds on itself and creates a flywheel of success. So over time, you have a lower cost per lead acquisition than you do on paid media.

If you stick with it long enough, you'll have a competitive advantage against your competitors' content. The more you do it, the more, the more content you create and traffic you bring, the more email addresses you have, the more you can nurture them and try to close them.

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Results

10+ Articles, 4 Infographics & A New Major Client

In total, we created 10+ long-form articles and 4 infographics.

These articles resulted in a 145% increase in organic search engine traffic to the website.

They also Increased their email subscribers by 110% thanks to the new ebook opt-in strategy.

The biggest single result we got was a long-form article and two long-form infographics which got 2 backlinks from entrepreneur.com

As a direct result of this, somebody came to their website, called them, signed a multiyear leadership development contract worth over $400,000.

What I tell all prospects, including InitiativeOne, who are thinking about investing in SEO and content is to commit to the long term. If you're thinking about a short term, quick hit, then you won't get the full, maximum benefit you can from SEO.

Miles is a keynote speaker, author, and SEO consultant who helps organizations generate and nurture leads with SEO-fueled inbound marketing strategies.