Multimillion-dollar companies don’t guess.
Timing and luck can often explain a lot in the early days.
But when companies pass a certain threshold, and the people inside them repeat their success at multiple different places, it shows there are proven roadmaps to follow.
Not cheesy checklists or ‘guru’ charlatan soundbites.
But legitimate strategies, principles, and decision-making criteria that more often than not move the needle.
Here’s how several multimillion-dollar companies use SEO content audits to lay that foundation and consistently grow month over month, year over year.
1. Start by Auditing Your Historical Performance to Uncover the Biggest Opportunities
Sales is a lagging indicator.
First, comes content. Keywords and links drive traffic. Some of that turns into leads. And then you’ve got revenue.
In other words, it’s impossible to address the bottom line – the output – until you first start fiddling with the inputs.
Gaetano DiNardi’s first task after joining Nextiva a few months ago was a competitive audit.
And it’s been the first task he’s used at every company before that, too.
In early 2016, DiNardi joined the Pipedrive team as the new SEO manager.
While leading Pipedrive’s SEO strategy and operations, he was tasked with improving everything from rankings to traffic, sales, and their overall bottom line.
“My entire job was based around inbound marketing. SEO, content marketing, inbound lead generation. The goal was simple: grow.”
The first step was figuring out what was already working, what wasn’t, and where the biggest opportunities were buried.
That takes into account:
- Landing pages: Length, content, CTAs, value proposition, user flow.
- Content rankings: Looking at SERP positions, competitors, links needed, and content updates required.
- Keyword research: Analyzing which keywords they were targeting and finding new long-tail variations.
- Ignoring vanity metrics: With SEO data analysis, he focused all of his efforts on improving the cost of acquisition and lifetime value.
- Site structure: How users flow on site and where major drop-offs were occurring.
- Content audit: Looking at content, cutting and deleting content that isn’t valuable, and finding what he could improve based on best practices.
- Brand building campaigns: Getting mentioned in major publications like Fortune, Entrepreneur, Huffington Post, Inc., VentureBeat, and LinkedIn Business to help build Sales Hacker and his personal branding.
He started by focusing on landing pages, improving their calls-to-action and value proposition along with CRO elements to encourage conversions. Doing so increased overall conversions by 12%.
While looking at site structure, DiNardi used Google Analytics reports to analyze and optimize user flow throughout the site:
With these reports, he determined the typical path of unique visitors and how they developed brand awareness, including which posts they viewed and how many steps it took them to convert.
A traffic channel or source, for instance, gives you clues into what each visitor wants and how to help them find it.
Plus, he could then see major drop-off points and which pages were leaking visitors, giving him an easy win to eliminate those content pages or better match search intent to make them stickier.
Diving into the content audit, Gaetano focused on ensuring that each post met the best practices for content length, topic, structure, and quality.
Running skyscraper-style campaigns for content improved the length. Then, DiNardi also honed-in on quality, updating content at scale with semantic keywords and relying on automated grammar tools to reduce redundant points.
This tactic resulted in a 4-5% increase in conversions from organic search, a 20% increase in traffic, and a doubled organic keyword growth.
“Account audits are a must. You can’t know what to attack first if you don’t audit existing strategies and see what type of content you are working with.”
Uncovering these issues and opportunities is only the first step, though. The next one is to figure out when, exactly, to address each.
2. Consistently Re-Prioritize Your Content Audit Opportunities to Do the Right Thing at the Right Time
Advertising used to be cost-prohibitive. So, too, was PR.
Today, however, there are low barriers to entry for almost any channel or medium. Anyone, anywhere, can spin up an ad campaign or fire off a few hundred emails to bloggers.
The problem isn’t having options, then. In fact, it’s the opposite. There are literally too many things you could be doing at any given time.
Content success, then, is dictated by what you choose to do and in what order.
Kevin Jones leads SEO at BigCommerce today. But he learned this lesson firsthand overseeing dozens of sites at a time at an agency called Apogee Results in Austin, Texas.
Client-agency dynamics also played into this issue.
Typically, the most profitable strategies and tactics take a long time to develop. However, clients don’t have time. They want results ASAP.
So you’re constantly dealing with the conflict of delivering instant results to make the client happy, while at the same time building the foundation so that you’ll be able to continue delivering results long into the future.
Kevin’s approach, unsurprisingly, started with an SEO content audit at the beginning. It was in-depth, analyzing the technical set-up first, before the on-site content and optimization, then progressing to link building.
This initial audit was also used to identify potential low-hanging fruit. A simple crawl error preventing indexation, for example, could instantly deliver ROI to the client. If, that is, you knew where to look.
“Sometimes people neglect digging into that data and adjusting existing content a little bit. It’s simple, but it often has a pretty big impact. They should do this before ever starting brand new content creation.”
Jones prioritizes technical SEO, first, because “in a lot of cases it’s going to help the most.” Especially with larger websites that have changed or evolved over the years.
“It’s a slow and steady race for technical improvements. And it’s a pain in the ass to clean an entire house.”
From there, Jones moves to on-site changes, like keyword research and content opportunities.
This approach made clients happy because “they could see quicker traffic increases, but still benefit from a long-term balance for technical SEO.”
Every new website is different, so the order might be unique. But generally, Kevin would divide his time into spending around 40% on link building, 40% on content, and 20% on the technical side after the initial fix-it stage.
The mechanics are actually pretty easy. The tough part is to constantly reassess the leverage points based on where you’re already weak or strong.
For example, let’s say you want to evaluate a keyword opportunity. That decision ultimately comes down to:
- Demand: The number of people searching for this term.
- Competition: The number and strength of people competing for this term.
Yes, there’s more at play in reality. Yes, funnel stage and search intent and lots of other criteria are involved.
But at the end of the day, it can and should be that simple. Take “content marketing”:
Now, compare that site authority and referring domains with your own.
This example is extremely competitive. So unless your site’s been around for a while, your odds of success are slim to none. That means you either need to:
- Identify a new, less competitive search query to go after.
- Work to improve your off-site metrics to mirror the competition.
Either way, you probably want to deprioritize this for now. Topping out at the fifth position might as well be the 50th.
So maybe creating new content isn’t such a good idea after all. Maybe doubling down on your existing stuff will produce a better ROI over the next six months.
It’s a simple cost/benefit analysis of resource allocation at the end of the day.
Which option will provide the best, quickest return on your time and money?
It might take you anywhere from half to a full day to create a single blog post from scratch. Then, it might take another few weeks (or months) to get that page to rank.
Or, you could pick an existing page on your site that shows promise and spend the same three to six hours improving it.
Chances are, you’ll see much better results moving from the 11th position on Google to the 5th. And it’ll usually take less time, too.
SEO today is incredibly complex and nuanced. Search engines use machine learning algorithms to teach themselves new tricks.
Unfortunately, many of the get-rich-quick SEO schemes of the past work less and less with each passing day. Which means success over the long haul requires a constant reprioritization of what to do, when, and why.
Today that means one thing. Six months from now it will probably mean another.
3. Reverse-Engineer Content Distribution Tactics – But Don’t Copy
First edition Pokemon cards can run into the thousands on eBay.
Seriously. Check it out:
Back in high school, David Zheng discovered this lucrative niche market. And it changed everything.
He came up with different ways to collect or barter for the most valuable first editions. Then he’d create the listing, promote it, and dutifully follow through on each order with every buyer.
Despite all the painstaking labor, Zheng started clearing five-figures as a 14-year-old kid.
The only problem?
He was supposed to attend classes during daylight hours. Which meant that packaging and mailing out products had to occur late each night.
Zheng recalls that it wasn’t just the money. Sure, it was nice. But more importantly, it was about “figuring it all out.”
Getting all of the pieces together (so to speak), in the right order, at the exact right time.
The key here is context. Like banner ads. The first one debuted in 1994. Feast your eyes on this beauty:
Probably the worst one you’ve seen, right? Except for one teeny, tiny, detail.
That bad boy pulled in a 78% click-through rate (CTR). 78%!
Take a wild guess at the CTR for the best banner ads today? On Facebook, you’re looking at 0.05%. That’s a 1,500x decrease for you math nerds out there.
Design has little to do with it. Instead, timing does.
Banner ad effectiveness has dropped like a rock for a variety of reasons, including “banner blindness,” ad blocking technology, and an over-saturation of completely irrelevant ads.
But the point is the same.
“Like-gating” used to be one of the best ways to get new Facebook fans. Now, that functionality no longer exists (and goes against their policies).
Borderline spamming your fans used to be one of the best ways to increase Facebook fan engagement. Now, organic reach (or your ability to reach your own fans without spending money on advertising) is nearing zero.
Some principles will always remain relevant. But when it comes to content growth, you can’t rely on blindly copying a tactic or sticking with the tried-and-true. It can only work so long online.
Instead, you have to learn, test, measure, iterate, and come up with your own unique formula.
Content marketing is a system, not a tactic.
Content tactics commonly fail. Systems adapt and evolve.
This experience also helped Zheng discover the formula for growing sites with content which he took and repeatedly used to grow other big sites for people like Noah Kagan, taking OkDork’s (Kagan’s personal site) organic traffic over 200% within six months.
Like most good formulas, there’s no single variable. There are lots that all work together.
For example, it could start with detailed keyword research that considers not just search volume, but also relevancy and intent. It extends to the nitty-gritty details like rich snippets that can significantly increase CTR you see from SERPs and social streams.
Then, collecting all the emails you can possibly get your hands on and building relationships with people who talk to the people you want to buy from you.
Because the stuff that you’re doing over there will affect the results you’re getting over here.
That’s why the fastest growing companies look at the entire distribution system. They’re focused on building their social following through outstanding content and funneling the results into email so they can amplify their message across multiple touchpoints. Layer in retargeting and you’ve got the beginnings of a growth machine.
These content + paid + social + email + SEO strategies that David used proved so effective for Noah that it helped inspire a decent idea, too.
You may have heard of it.
Sumo is now part of an eight-figure business.
Content marketing success doesn’t happen in a vacuum.
And it can’t be learned by following a checklist or blindly following an influencer.
Instead, it comes with the realization that changes on one end create a rippling effect on the other.
Consistently reevaluating your top priorities with SEO content audits is critical. Not annually, but quarterly.
So the best thing you can do is get a front-row seat observing the companies already doing it. And speak with the people behind the scenes who actually perform the work.
Because you’ll quickly realize that marketing success is driven more by the sum of its parts than any one activity, tactic, or campaign.
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Featured Image: Pixabay.com
All screenshots taken by author, June 2019