Would you write one article a week if I said you could make
$118,000 in your first year? And $708,000 in revenue in year 2?
Would you do it?
I know I would. And I will. In this article, I’m going to
show you a simple marketing plan that I will use to
grow a men’s style ecommerce site from 0 to
50,000 visitors/month in 12 months.
After doing some research, I will write just one article a
week, do some content promotion, and let Google do the heavy
lifting for me. And just for funsies, I will do very little
link building too
(more on why in a moment).
Would you write one
article a week if I said you could make $118,000 in your first
Don’t believe me that traffic is worth
Let’s do some quick math. The process I’m about to show
you is something I use for all my clients.
Because if you know the true value of your work, you will know
whether that investment is worth your time.
Here’s how I arrived at an estimated traffic value of $708,000:
To go from 0 to 50,000/month visitors in year 1, I estimate
I will receive 100,000 total visitors.
If my traffic numbers stay flat at 50,000
visitors-a-month in year 2, I will receive 600,000 visitors.
The average conversion
rate of a website that uses content marketing is 2.9%.
The average conversion rate of a site without a content
strategy is 0.5%. For this example, let’s be conservative and
use 2%. That means in year 1, I will get 2,000 new customers.
In year 2, I will get 12,000 new customers.
According to RJ
Metrics, the average lifetime value of a customer in the
fashion industry is $108. Again, let’s be conservative and
drop that number in half to $59, because I am creating a new
That means in year 1, I would generate $118,000 in revenue.
And year 2 I would make $708,000 if no customers
from year 1 buy from me again.
You can also use this for non-ecommerce businesses too. For
example, Objeqt is an ecommerce
conversion optimization agency I consult for. Instead of
calculating direct sales from traffic, we estimated their
conversion rates from traffic-to-leads, leads-to-clients, and
the average lifetime value of a client.
Why do entrepreneurs over-complicate what should
Here are three possible reasons:
We are obsessed
with what’s new. Thus new is easier to sell to clients.
So even though marketing has its challenge, it’s profitable
to complicate it even more.
It’s easy for someone to become an expert when the topic is
a black box. Because we
don’t know what’s inside the box, it’s hard to prove them right
We get frustrated following simple solutions to fix our
problems. This leads us to believe the solution needs to be
more complex than it is.
What Should You Include in Your
Ecommerce Marketing Plan?
Here’s a 7-step framework to follow.
1. Know Your Main Goal.
The first step to a framework for your marketing plan is
to know your goals.
As I said earlier, my goal is to grow traffic from 0 to 50,000
unique visitors a month. This helps me know what I want to do
and what to say no to.
But it’s also important to know how you plan to
accomplish your goal. That’s why you need to create a
simple quant-based marketing plan.
In short, quant-based marketing helps you guess what you need
to do to achieve your goal. Noah Kagan used
quant-based marketing to launch Mint.com to over
1,000,000 users in six months.
To reach 50,000 visitors a month, I plan to create and promote
one article a week.
2. Get Friendly With Your Customers.
Get closer than ever to your customers. So close that you
tell them what they need well before they realize it
themselves. – Steve Jobs
Now that you know what your goal for content marketing is, you
need to get an idea of who are the customers you are serving.
This is called a “buyer persona.”
Buyer personas help you to create the right message, to
the right person, at the right time.
Some people skip this step because they assume they already
know their customers. That may be true. But you may be
overlooking some of your audience and what problems they face.
And if you don’t know your customers, how will you know that
the content you create solves your customer’s problems?
Your customers know the answers to their problems better than
you. So ask them.
If you have customers, you should survey
them. Offer the last 300 customers who bought a
product from you a chance to win a $500 Amazon gift card. Then
have them fill out a survey, asking open-ended questions about
who they are.
This gives you hard data about your customers. Don’t create
personas based on who you think they are or
what car they
drive. Ask them.
Since I do not have customers, I will make an
educated guess at who my customers will be. My target
audience is males who are 25 to 35, single, interested in
startups, marketing, and entrepreneurship, and either work in
marketing agencies or own their own business.
To be clear, your target audience is
not your entire audience.
My first customer might be a woman in tech and wants to wear a
cool necktie to stand out at her first speaking gig. Or
maybe he’s married, and his wife is looking to buy him a fun
tie pattern for his first day at work.
Both of these potential buyers are not my target audience. But
these buyers are not who I will write my content for because it
will water down my message.
3. Find the Competition’s Weaknesses to Build Your
[My father] taught me — keep your friends close but your
enemies closer. – Michael Corleone, The Godfather Part
Good research about your competition will help you know where
opportunity lies to grow your business faster. Most companies
make one critical mistake – they assume the competitors they
know are the competitors their customers consider.
I cannot state this enough: Your customers know the answers to
their problems better than you.
Read their 2 and 3-star reviews on Amazon, Yelp, or any other
review site. What are customers complaining about? Is this a
problem you would like to solve with your product or content?
Then look at your competition in Google and what they are
4. Create a Keyword Research Plan to Easily Rank in
Now that you know who your competitors are, learn how to easily
out-maneuver and outrank the competition in Google.
Your goal is to find keyword phrases that your customers
use and is easy to start getting traffic from Google.
Here’s an example how you can quickly find keywords to write
content about. My friend Allen Walton runs Spy Guy Security and competes
against Spy Gear Gadget and
CheatersSpyShop.com (at the time of writing this business has
closed, but it still holds a treasure trove of keywords).
I can use a tool like Ahrefs to look at
their organic keywords and remove any keywords with a
difficulty score (or “KD”) over 30.
I chose a maximum KD score of 30 for three reasons:
Multiple sites I’ve studied outside of fiercely competitive
B2B niches aim for high traffic keywords with scores of 30 or
Ahrefs suggests this
number (this is less valuable to me than #1).
You gotta make some number a cut off.
Next, go through each keyword directly on Google. If you have a
lot of keywords, I recommend looking for how easy it is to get
into the top five spots in Google.
You can do this by:
Comparing how thorough and useful the content
is that ranks for your keyword.
Looking at how established the competition sites are. It’s
possible to outrank Forbes, Business Insider, or Entrepreneur,
but it’s even easier to outrank Ole Joe Blow’s blog.
Asking yourself how well do they follow the steps I layout
in this article.
You will want to have enough keywords to fill your content
calendar. I plan to create one article a week. Thus I will need
52 keywords that fit my criteria. Once you have a list of
keywords to target, you should focus on how fast you think you
can get the most traffic.
For example, in general, you should target a keyword that gets
5,000 searches a month before a keyword that gets 2,500
searches a month. That is unless you get into the 1st spot of
the 2,500/month keyword.
5. Create Truly Useful Content.
Okay. You’ve got the keywords you want to target. Now, what
should you write about?
To start, you need to write the best answer to your
customers’ questions. Put yourself in a customer’s shoes. What
would you want to know if you were doing research on this
For example, when I wrote an article on how to reach out to
influencers, I wanted to know what subject lines
work best, what to include in an email to increase response
rates, and how to follow up
effectively without spamming someone.
Second, I asked my fellow peers on what they do. Not only
did they backup and enhance my ideas, but I also discovered new
topics I had not thought of, like adding value
before you make an
ask. This step is optional but worth doing if you are
writing on competitive topics.
Third, I look at other articles written on this topic.
This will help you find gaps in your content, and in your
Fourth, I want to make my article useful. A solid article
should lead potential customers to a solution to their problem.
Creating a list of 120 possible solutions isn’t useful if your
customer only needs one solution.
That’s not to say you can’t do a list post effectively. Here’s
a list post I did on
the five types of influencers. It’s helpful because you
cannot treat each type of influencer in the same way and expect
the same results. Massive list posts can work too. If
someone wanted to get creative with their tie know-how, they
would find this list of 50 cool
neckties to master helpful.
Finally, you should find out what content is already
working and use parts of it to make your content shine.
As Aaron and I have
talked about before, part of the 80-20 of content marketing
is to use proven content.
Here are four easy ways to find proven content:
Buzzsumo is a great tool to
find the most shared content on any topic.
Reddit is a forum of forums,
called subreddits. You can look at each subreddit to see what
topics get the most votes and comments.
Like a Q&A (and “PG”) version of Reddit, Quora allows users to ask the
community questions based on many topics. Simply look for
questions with 50 or more followers.
Stack Exchange began as a
Q&A platform for programmers. Since then, it has expanded
to over 160 communities, with
topics ranging from personal finance to martial arts.
If for some reason you still need more ideas, check out this guide
with 11 free ways to find proven content.
Pro-tip: Be sure to add your keyword phrase in
your headline. It’s assumed keywords closer to the beginning of
the title are considered higher.
Once you’ve completed those five steps to creating great
content, now you will need to promote it.
6. Promote the Content.
You pour your heart into creating the best content on the web,
but if you write an article in a forest and nobody’s around to
read it, was it ever written?
Look. The traffic fairies (or Google) will not bless you with a
massive audience simply because you hit publish. Some
bloggers spend as much time
promoting content as they do writing it. Others, like Derek
Halpern, suggest you need to spend 80% of your time
promoting content, and 20% writing it.
But when it comes to promoting content, SEO is the most
effective traffic source to scale. There are five ways people
come to your site:
Direct (a visitor types in your URL).
Email (a click from an email).
Referral (a click from another site).
Social (a click from a social media site).
Organic Search (a click from a search
Direct traffic is rare. I occasionally
type in a URL into a search, and I assume the same is true with
you. Most direct traffic is thought to be search
Email traffic is often a secondary
traffic source. In other words, 90% of the time email traffic
comes as a result of other traffic. What’s worse, even at a 5%
click-through rate (which is high) sent to 10,000 emails,
that’s only 500 clicks.
Referral traffic is also crap. Most
articles tend to get a 2% click rate. Even on a popular article
with 5,000 views, that’s 100 clicks. Do you spell what I’m
Social traffic is great…
if you know how to create content that can truly
‘go viral.’ In other words, if you plan on becoming the next
Buzzfeed, then go for it. But while social traffic is a good
starter, it’s hard to scale it without doing a pay-to-play
But organic traffic is where the big boys
play. When done right, Google sends you traffic for months
after you’ve finished the work.
There are also five scalable ways to
get new customers. Scaling sales is rare in ecommerce.
Virality is only possible with a high Net Promoter Score, which
is hard to do without initial traffic and almost impossible
without a stellar product. There’s also the random mega
partnership, but that’s extremely rare.
That leaves us with PPC and SEO. Many ecommerce stores do PPC.
And while some ecommerce stores do content marketing, most
solid content marketing for ecommerce has been in
the form of product pages or a YouTube channel. And
when everyone zigs, I zag. So that’s why I will spend my time
Google will not
bless you with a massive audience simply because you hit publish.
Promote your content.Click To
Now here’s where things get spicy. Rather
than focusing on the 200 (supposed)
ranking factors Google uses, I am going to ignore almost
all of them.
Instead, after creating the best content on a topic, I will
mainly focus on three things for SEO:
Solid keyword research.
A burst of traffic.
Don’t believe me that this will work? Dan Shure of Evolving SEO wrote
an article targeting a keyword with the largest keyword search
volume was 70. The article got 2,284 clicks in less than 90
Hey i think this SEO thing works. 2,000+ clicks to one piece
of content in a *very* niche market in less than 90 days (no
link building) pic.twitter.com/MAE8vAWvhc
— Dan Shure (@dan_shure) May
Even still, I was skeptical, so I grilled Dan for more
information. Here’s what I found out in our email
Was the keyword you targeted trending at
all? No, fairly flat, non-seasonal keyword.
Did you do any internal
linking? Nothing beyond the normal/standard
WordPress blog links.
What’s the Ahrefs keyword difficulty
score? 0. The SEMrush difficulty is 60.
Did you get any nofollow links such as reddit, Growth
Hackers, or Inbound? Moz does not show any
links at all (old or fresh), just internal links.
Were there any other things that you attribute to the
success outside of solid keyword research? Just
coaching the writer on creating the best piece of content to
answer the query! In this case, creating the most complete
list ever compiled.
(BTW, Dan talks about the 80-20 of SEO in this interview
This further supports my hypothesis. If your keyword
research game is strong, it’s a lot easier to grow search
traffic fast. I do this by climbing up the SEO chain. I
start by targeting 3-5 low competition keyword terms. After
getting some traffic from those terms, after 90 days, I
optimize the article for a more competitive keyword that gets
The burst of traffic helps Google to know to crawl your site.
To do this, I plan on promoting the article in a few
communities, such as Reddit, LinkedIn groups, and Facebook
I believe internal links are important for three reasons:
Internal links allow customers to click to other
relevant articles. Even at a 1% click through rate,
if 1,000 people visit one article a month, that’s 100 free
clicks per month. More importantly, the longer a potential
customer stays on your site, the more they grow to know,
like, and trust you to do business. Money!
By creating a category page, I can compete on a more
competitive term with internal links and a brief
summary of each post. It might not work, which is why you
should test things for yourself. Here’s what I did on my
category page influencer marketing.
Internal links help Google learn what topics you
cover on your website and index it accordingly.
After finishing all of my research, it’s time to pick my
7. Bigcommerce vs. Shopify vs. WooCommerce: How I Chose
My Ecommerce Platform.
When choosing an ecommerce platform, there are many things to
consider, such as:
How will the platform help or hurt SEO?
How easy will it be to scale the site as the business
How secure is the site?
What tools can help scale growth?
What is the support like?
My decision was between Shopify, Bigcommerce, Magento, and WooCommerce.
Will Harris wrote a great guide why he moved Dollar Hobbyz from Magento to
Shopify. So that nixed Magento for me.
I know some of the marketers at BigCommerce (Nigel Stevens, Tracey Wallace, and Casey Armstrong, whom I’ve interviewed) and Shopify
(Tommy Walker, Hana Abaza, Shanelle Mullin, and Aaron Orendorff, whom I’ve also
interviewed). As for WooCommerce, I know no one.
Each of their reputations as marketers says something about the
company. Because smart marketers also invest into their
products, knowing that while growth is good, retention is
As an influencer
marketer, I also value the relationships. While I do not
expect any of them to help me, there is a greater chance
to help each other out if I know them. This may be a guest
post, a case study, or many other possibilities. Since I know
no one at WooCommerce, I removed them from the list.
After trying Shopify and BigCommerce, BigCommerce does
a better job helping you with SEO. It’s a lot easier
to create categories, subcategories, modify the URL, and create
a great user experience for your customers. I also enjoyed the
user experience of BigCommerce setting up the store over
This is not an in-depth comparison between each of the
platforms. Rather it’s something I spent some time on and will
now move on.
Although BigCommerce has a built-in blog, I plan to use
WordPress because I know what I need to make a WordPress blog
successful. If you plan on doing the same, here’s how to setup a
WordPress blog on BigCommerce.
My Ecommerce Content Marketing
There’s a lot of information to process in this guide, so
here’s a quick checklist you can go through:
What is the ROI of my work?
What do I need to do to achieve that goal?
Can I survey my customers to know the questions I need
Since I don’t have customers, what questions do I
assume they would like answered?
If you have customers, who do they say are your
If you don’t have customers, who are five competitors
you know about?
Look for keywords that are easy to rank.
Prioritize them by which words you think will get you
more traffic faster.
Offer the best answer to your customers’ questions.
Ask other industry experts.
Look at other articles written on the topic to find
gaps in your content, and in their content.
Make your article thorough and useful.
Find proven content to borrow ideas from.
Solid keyword research.
A burst of traffic.
Optional: Partner with influencers
Creating an effective marketing plan takes time but once
complete, you should not need to revisit your plan often.
If you decide to copy this strategy to start your own ecommerce
store, I encourage you to do so!
But know this: my goal is not to take a brand new site to
go from 0 to 50,000 visitors a month. My goal is to
simulate what it would be like growing an
established ecommerce website using blog content to grow from 0
to 50,000 visitors a month.
So in the interest of transparency, here are three things to
keep in mind:
My ecommerce website is not brand new. There is a
theory that domain age plays a role in SEO. It’s
not proven, but it may play a small role.
At the time of this writing, Cofounders With
Class’ domain authority is 23.
Although that is small for a blog-based website, this is
typical for established ecommerce sites I’ve seen.
I have relationships with many marketers and entrepreneurs,
but no known relationships in the style industry. I do not plan
to use my network to actively build new relationships but the
marketers I know may help me. If so, I will fully disclose that
I’m curious to learn from you: What strategies and tactics
do you use to increase site traffic? In what ways have you seen
people over-complicate marketing?
Special thanks to Dennis of
his input and critiques of my article. This article originally
appeared on The Storyteller Marketer.