Expert eCommerce SEO tips from Kevin at GR0
SEO tips from the person behind many of our favorite D2Cs' SEO strategies
Hey Kevin! So why did you start GR0? And what exactly do you offer?
I started GR0 with my partner on April 2nd, 2020. So we're fairly new, about two years old. We felt like there was a gap in the market for a trustworthy and effective SEO agency. We saw numerous paid media and creative agencies but a dearth of high quality search engine optimization, focused groups.
So we started to do freelancing consulting for a company called Ritual - which became our first client. I got to know their founding team very well, and they gave me the initial confidence to start GR0.
So what are the most important parts of SEO?
It's 3 things, and really split evenly.
33% of your equation is content writing. So to make it very simple, that just means writing blog posts that answer questions about the eCommerce products that are being sold by our clients. So for example, if you're selling protein powder, we might want to write an article that explains how much protein you need per day? What are the benefits of protein? What are the side effects? etc. That helps you gain share of voice and become a domain expert in the broader protein market.
We do this in high volume, publishing about 10 blog posts per month per client. And that's what really moves the needle in SEO. The writer needs to be very well versed in fitness and protein powder in this specific example, and ideally they would also be a registered dietician.
The next 33% is getting our clients written up in the news. The more backlinks that you get, the more trustworthy you are in the eyes of Google and the higher you will rank across all of the keywords that you want to rank for.
The last 33% is on-page optimization. So we crawl your website, which is a technical term to say we look underneath the hood and look at your title tags, headings, and meta descriptions of every single page. We make sure that they are unique and that they offer distinct value. We also make sure the website is blazing fast, with images compressed and a strong mobile experience.
Those are the three pillars of our strategy that we think go into every sound SEO campaign.
Tell me about the keyword research process. How many do you seek out?
Great question. So in the case of protein powder, if you're a new player - you’re not going to get on top of page one. There are too many other websites that rank for it that are really well established. So we go a layer deeper.
Protein powder gets 150,000 people per month and their keyword difficulty score is a 74/100 according to Ahrefs. So what do we do? We go into Ahrefs or SEMRush to identify the questions that are related to that parent topic. So for example, “how long does protein powder last?” 1,500 people a month search for that - but it's only a 15/100 on the keyword difficulty scale. The next best opportunity is “when to take protein powder?” 1,200 people search for that - and it’s only a 22/100 on the keyword difficulty scale.
You also have to understand that a lot of these long tail phrases are relatively easy to rank for, but they won’t have a lot of commercial intent. So you have to make sure you’re set up to capture emails or phone numbers on that traffic to drive your top of the funnel awareness.
One follow-up question on the keyword research bit: Do you also identify root keywords and pepper them around your site?
Great question. So for our example: The homepage title tag should have “protein powder” in it. One of our clients is Gainful and they sell personalized protein powder, so that’s what they emphasize. That allows them to rank for that long tail phrase, but also be in the running for “protein powder”.
For each of the blog posts, the title tag is an exact match of the question that we are answering. And the heading one is a very close variation to that. They're not identical, but they're very close. For product pages, we explain the type of protein powder it is: “vanilla protein powder”, “chocolate protein powder” etc etc. We don't do any keyword stuffing. That's an art that doesn't work anymore. We want to very clearly describe what the product is to consumers and Google. That's it.
I want to dive into some case studies. Which big consumer businesses have you seen great results for?
One of the best success stories we have is with a company called Pumpkin. They sell pet insurance. They were at 10,000 visitors a month when they started with us 2 years ago, and now do > 1million unique visitors a month, all from organic search. That’s because they rank for every question you could imagine about your pet. “What can my dog eat?” “My dog is coughing. What do I do?” etc.
We've also had a lot of success with Theragun, helping them rank on page 1 for the term “massage gun” and other related terms around their core competency. We also helped them migrate from theragun.com to Therabody - their new brand focused on full body holistic health.
Let's talk about the backlinking portion of SEO. How important is it?
It totally depends on where they are on their journey as a company. How well they've done with press previously. Some companies come to us and they've never done any SEO, but they've been written up in the news everywhere because they're a popular brand. So they may need to do less backlinking than other people would. But the answer is yes, you need to be doing backlink building at all times.
The other thing to note is that recency is a very important factor in SEO. If you don't have any new links in the past year that tells Google that you're not that relevant anymore.
So we act as a mini PR firm and we use services like HARO and other related marketplaces that aggregate journalists and we have 30 writers ghost write on behalf of founders, CEOs, heads of marketing, heads of designs - and we get them quoted in the news on a monthly basis. Our competitive advantage is speed. We spend all day and night responding to journalists.
From that, we typically get about 6-7 backlinks per month per client from really great publications.
Out of curiosity: What’s the acceptance rate? If you submit one article to a journalist - what’s the likelihood it will get picked up?
Our percentage acceptance rate is 12% and when we first started, it was 4%. 12% is the theoretical max at high volume. And that’s predicated on response time, quality of response and authoritativeness of the author. It's really difficult.
One last question: Tell me about programmatic SEO - Can D2Cs leverage that?
The one aspect we haven’t explicitly talked about is increasing the number of keyword rich pages. It's very logical because if you think about a business like Zillow or Redfin or Opendoor - they have millions of different homes that are listed on their website, which means millions of different chances every day to show up in Google search. Right? So if you're a D2C brand, you're limited on the number of pages that you're able to launch, but sometimes there's a way to find scalable pages to launch.
We work with Reformation - and they've got 6,000 different pages of women's dresses and things like that. What they didn't have though were landing pages for collections based on attributes like “black dress”, “summer dress” or “long dress”. So we got specific and are creating thousands of unique pages based on those long-tail terms.
Thanks Kevin! Appreciate your insights - Extremely useful!