Case Study: How a Media Company Grew 400% and Used SEO to Get Acquired
Every B2B company is purchasing content marketing right now. Why? Because each of them want a similar thing: Search traffic that contributes to website conversions, that leads to money.
But here’s the task: Companies are struggling to get traction because competition has reached an all-time high. Keyword difficulty (and CPC) has skyrocketed generally in most verticals. In my current space, Unified Communication as a Service (UCaaS), a few of the CPCs have nearly doubled since 2017, with many keywords hovering near $300 per click.
Not forgetting, organic CTRs are declining, and zero-click queries are rising.
Bottom line: If you’re not creating 10x quality content based on strategic keyword research that satisfies searcher intent and aligns back once again to business goals, you’re completely wasting your time.
So, that’s precisely what we did. The end result? We grew from 19k monthly organic sessions to over 100k monthly organic sessions in approximately 14 months, leading to an acquisition by Outreach.io
We validated our work by measuring organic growth (traffic and keywords) against our email list growth and revenue, which correlated positively, even as we expected.
Organic Growth Highlights
January 2017–June 2018
As soon as I was hired at Sales Hacker as Director of Marketing, I began making SEO improvements from day one. While I didn’t waste any moment, additionally you will observe that there clearly was no silver bullet.
This is the consequence of daily blocking and tackling. Pure execution and no growth hacks or gimmicks. However, I firmly think that the homepage redesign (in July 2017) was a tremendous enabler of growth.
Organic Growth to Present Day
I officially left Sales Hacker in August of 2018, when the company was acquired by Outreach.io. However, I thought it would be interesting to see the lasting impact of could work by sharing a present-day screenshot of the organic traffic trend, via Google Analytics. There appears to be always a dip immediately following my departure, however, it looks like my predecessor, Colin Campbell, has found the slack and got the train back on the rails. Well done!
Unique considerations — Some context behind Sales Hacker’s growth
Before I dive into our findings, here’s a little context behind Sales Hacker’s growth:
- Sales Hacker’s blog is 100 percent community-generated — What this means is we didn’t pay “content marketers” to write for us. Sales Hacker is a publishing hub led by B2B sales, marketing, and customer success contributors. This can be quite a blessing and a curse at the same time frame — using one hand, the site gets plenty of amazing free content. On one other hand, the posts are not even near being optimized upon receiving the first draft. Which means, the editorial process is intense and laborious.
- Aggressive publishing cadence (4–5x per week) — Sales Hacker built an incredible reputation in the B2B Sales Tech niche — we became referred to as the go-to destination for unbiased thought leadership for practitioners in the space (think of Sales Hacker because the sales equivalent to Growth Hackers). As a result of high demand and popularity, we had more content available than we could handle. While it’s a good problem to have, we realized we needed to keep shipping content in order to avoid a content pipeline blockage and a backlog of unhappy contributors.
- We’d to “reverse engineer” SEO — Simply speaking, we got free community-generated and sponsored content from top sales and marketing leaders at SaaS companies like Intercom, HubSpot, Pipedrive, LinkedIn, Adobe and many more, but none of it absolutely was strategically built for SEO out of the box. We also had contributors like John Barrows, Richard Harris, Lauren Bailey, Tito Bohrt, and Trish Bertuzzi giving us a treasure trove of amazing content to work with. However, we had to collaborate with each contributor from beginning to finish and guide them through the entire process. Topical ideation (based about what they were qualified to write about), keyword research, content structure, content type, etc. So, the true secret sauce was within our editorial process. Shout out to my teammate Alina Benny for learning and inheriting my SEO process after we hired her to operate content marketing. She crushed it for all of us!
- Nearly all content was evergreen and highly tactical — I caused it to be a rule that we’d never agree to publish fluffy pieces, whether it was sponsored or not. Plain and simple. Because we didn’t allow “content marketers” to publish with us, our content had an optimistic reputation, since it absolutely was coming from highly respected practitioners. We dedicated to evergreen content strategies in order to fuel our organic growth. Salespeople don’t want fluff. They want actionable and tactical advice they could implement immediately. I firmly think that achieving audience satisfaction with your content was a significant factor within our SEO success.
- Outranking the “big guys” — If you consider the highest-ranking sales content, it’s the usual suspects. HubSpot, Salesforce, Forbes, Inc, and many other sites that have been far stronger than Sales Hacker. Nonetheless it didn’t matter around traditional SEO wisdom tells us, largely due to the fact that people had authenticity and rawness to our content. We realized most sales practitioners would rather read insights from their peers in their community, above the original “Ultimate Guides,” which tended to be always a tad dry.