Content Strategy Case Study: 36k Readers + 1k Email Subscribers

content strategy blog post bannerA few weeks ago I get this email out of the blue from Jimmy…

The email said:

“The first time I used your Skyscraper Technique I got 30k pageviews, 1k email subscribers, and currently rank #2 for my target term.”

Needless to say, I was intrigued.

So I pressed him for more info.

Turns out Jimmy was happy to spill the beans on his entire content strategy (step-by-step).

Let’s jump right in.

Free PDF Checklist: Download a PDF checklist that will walk you through the exact Skyscraper Technique process from this post.

This 3-Step Content Strategy=More Traffic, Backlinks and Sales From Your Content

Here’s the deal:

If you’re serious about getting results from your content, there are 3-steps you need to know:

Step #1: Find content with a proven track record of attracting backlinks, social shares and first page rankings.

Step#2: Make strategic improvements to that content.

Step #3: Promote that content via email outreach (today’s post has A LOT of info on this step).

And BAM. You’re done.

As you may know, these 3-steps make up The Skyscraper Technique…

…an SEO and content strategy that’s changing the way marketers create and promote their content.

Not familiar with The Skyscraper Technique?

No worries.

I filmed a video that walks you through the entire process.

Now that you understand how The Skyscraper Technique works, it’s time to dive into today’s step-by-step case study.

Jimmy’s Post Went Live on September 28th…

…and here’s what happened:

The post generated 4,865 Pageviews in its first week.

first week pageviews

It also attracted over 5,600 social shares (that’s not a typo).

social share count

Including tweets from ballers like Neil Patel (118k followers)…

neil patel tweet

…and the official Eventbrite Twitter account (189k followers):

eventbrite tweet

Because Jimmy got so many eyeballs on his content, bloggers started linking to it pretty much from day 1.

referring backlinks

And these aren’t your average, run-of-the-mill backlinks either.

We’re talking about mentions from the authority news sites, like Entrepreneur…

entrepreneur backlink

…and Inc.com:

inc backlink

But that was just the beginning…

“But Wait, There’s More”

What happens when a page attracts a bunch of high-quality backlinks?

That’s right: the page ranks higher in Google!

And that’s exactly what happened to Jimmy’s post.

The post currently ranks #2 for its target keyword, “email marketing best practices” (1,600 searches/month).

get vero rankingsKeep in mind that the keyword “email marketing best practices” is no joke.

With a CPC in the $26 range, the first page for this keyword is an eye-gouging, hair-pulling dogfight.

Despite the fact that Jimmy’s site is relatively new, his post ranks above big brand sites like MailChimp, HubSpot and Econsultancy.

Because he ranks #2 for that target keyword — and dozens of long tail keywords — organic traffic to that page continues to roll in day after day.

When you combine the surge of viral traffic in September with the slow drip of organic traffic, you have a page that’s brought in 36,282 total pageviews.

total pageviews

But as you know, no one ever went out of business because they didn’t get enough website pageviews or tweets.

That’s why I want to point out that the traffic that lands on this page converts like a champ.

In fact, this single post has generated 953 new email subscribers and 256 free trial signups.Β 

Want to know how Jimmy did it…and how you can do the same thing?

Keep reading.

How Jimmy Daly Generated 36,292 Pageviews from One Piece of Content

Now it’s time to learn how Jimmy had so much success so you can emulate it.

But first:

Who is Jimmy…and why did he create this guide in the first place?

Jimmy Daly heads up content marketing at Vero, a small (but growing) email marketing company.

jimmy daly

Here’s something you may or may not know the email marketing industry:

It’s INSANELY competitive.

But get this:

The entire Vero team is only 5 guys (including Jimmy).

5 guys!

And these 5 guys are going head-to-head with giants like GetResponse, MailChimp and Constant Contact.

Can you say David vs. Goliath?

Fortunately for Jimmy, the Vero team have an ace up their sleeve.

An ace that gives them a puncher’s chance against the big brands.

And that ace is:

SEO and content marketing.

Or as Jimmy puts it:

We looked around at the big guys β€” MailChimp, Constant Contact etc. β€” and their blogs were boring. The content was really generic and uninspiring, leaving a massive opportunity for us.

Jimmy Daly

Before Jimmy came on board as the head of content marketing, Vero’s CEO (Chris Hexton) ran the blog.

And because Chris focused on banging out super-actionable content, he grew the Vero blog from 0 to 15k monthly visitors. Not too shabby if you ask me.

But to take the Vero blog to the next level, they needed someone who had time to eat, sleep and breathe SEO.

In other words, Jimmy πŸ™‚

But to compete against the big players in the email marketing space, they needed something else:

A proven content marketing strategy they could leverage for SEO success.

In other words, The Skyscraper Technique πŸ™‚

Let’s dive into the step-by-step process Jimmy followed.

Step #1: Discover Awesome Content

Before you put pen to paper, you need to find content that’s already done well.

You have two options here:

1. Super-Relevant Content – This is content that’s directly related to your industry. For example, if you run a dog blog, you’d want to look for popular content about dogs. Simple.

2. Semi-Relevant Content – This type of content isn’t 100% related to what your blog tends to cover. However, there’s something about it (like the format, writing style, or visual design) that you can incorporate into your Skyscraper Content. For example, a blog post titled “50 Ways to Improve the Health of Your Cat” could easily be turned into a piece of Skyscraper content: “75 Tips to Boost The Health of Your Dog”.

Jimmy decided to go with option 1: find super-relevant content in the email marketing space.

In Jimmy’s own words:

After we discovered the Skyscraper Technique, we did some keyword research to identify keywords that we wanted to rank for. “Email marketing best practices” was a search query that no one had really conquered. There were some link roundups and a few short posts, but nothing that soared high and above everything else. Inferior content was not hard to find.

Jimmy Daly

Here’s how you can follow the same content discovery process Jimmy used:

First, use the Google Keyword Planner to find keywords with a) high search volume and b) lots of commercial intent.

(Need help coming up with keyword ideas? Then check out Keyword Research: The Definitive Guide).

When Jimmy used the GKP, he noticed that the keyword “email marketing best practices” had a search volume of 1,600 searches/month.

google keyword planner results

1,600 monthly searches ain’t bad.

But what really got Jimmy excited was the commercial intent behind this keyword.

(In case you’re not familiar with it, commercial intent=the likelihood that someone will buy something)

How do you measure commercial intent? Check out the Adwords cost per click (also known as “Suggested bid”).

In the case of the keyword “email marketing best practices”, the average CPC is more than $26.

adwords suggested bid

Here’s the thing:

Despite the fact that people were shelling out 26 bucks per click, the content on the first page was surprisingly weak.

When Jimmy sized up the top 20 results in Google, he saw content that…

Lacked depth (this page has only 250 words on it):

low word count page

Was hard to use (this is a category page):

category page

Or didn’t have any actionable information (this page is a list of links to other articles):

roundup post

That’s when Jimmy realized he could use The Skyscraper Technique to outdo the content that currently ranked on page 1.

Here’s how he did it:

Step #2: Improve The Content You Found In Step 1

Now that you found content that’s performed well, you need to execute the most important element of any content strategy:

Create something MUCH better.

Jimmy used 5 techniques to push his content to the next level:

1. He published ONLY actionable tips.

This is important.

No matter what industry you’re in, people want information they can use right away.

That’s why Jimmy packed his post with 100% meaty advice.

Or as Jimmy puts it:

We’ve made a huge effort to keep our content detailed, educational and super actionable. If you can’t read a Vero post and immediately implement the content into an email campaign, we’ve failed.

Jimmy Daly

Jimmy walks the walk. All of his tips are insanely actionable:

actionable tip

2. The post is loaded with real world examples.

When it comes to content, there’s one thing I’ve found to be true almost 100% of the time:

People looooove examples.

When you hear the words “for example” your brain breathes a sigh of relief. That’s because research shows that examples make learning easier.

For example (see what I did there πŸ˜€ ):

Jimmy includes at least 1 real world example for every tip in his post.

example email

Does adding examples take more work than simply saying, “do this”?

Sure.

Is it worth it?

You better believe it.

3. He curated quotes and insights from experts.

To pile another layer of value on top of his content, Jimmy included original quotes from industry experts.

How?

For every tip in the post, Jimmy found an expert that knew a lot about that topic…

…and he emailed them for a quote.

For example, Jimmy’s first email marketing tip is: “Create an Exclusive Club”.

email marketing tip

He realized that Alex Turnbull of GrooveHQ uses this exact strategy with his email newsletter.

So he emailed Alex for a quote.

alex outreach email

Because the outreach email was short, sweet, and to-the-point, Alex took time out of his day to reply:

alex reply

And Alex’s insight was added to the post:

expert insight in a post

Note: These expert quotes will come in handy when you’re ready to promote your content. You’ll see why in a minute.

4. Next, Jimmy cranked up the post’s UX

As I mentioned before, most of the “email marketing best practices” content out there was hard to use.

For example, a good chunk the top 10 results in Google were category pages or roundups that had links to other articles.

To make his content stand out, Jimmy created a very cool table of contents:

table of contents

Not only does this look cool, but it makes the post much easier to use.

Instead of sifting through 5,000 words to find what you want, you can simply click on any tip from the table of contents…

clicking table of contents

…And you’re magically teleported to that tip.

blog post tip

5. The design looks awesome.

There’s no way around this:

If you want people to read and share your content, it needs to look GREAT.

And that’s exactly why Jimmy worked day and night to make his guide easy on the eyes.

Not only was the guide jam-packed with high-res screenshots…

screenshot example

…but he created that colorful table of contents you saw earlier.

Keep this in mind:

Jimmy COULD have simply used a boring, plain-text table of contents.

And that would have worked OK.

But he knew that he’d get more “ummph” from a table of contents that stood out.

It took countless rounds of revisions, but over time, his design went from this:

epic guide first draft

To this:

mockup draft 1

To this:

mockup draft 2

To this (the final design):

final design

The end result of all this hard work?

An Epic Guide To Email Marketing Best Practices: 20 Tips for Dramatically Better Emails.

email marketing best practices post

Now that Jimmy’s epic guide was live, it was time to move on to the most important step:

Content promotion.

Β Step #3: Promote Your Content

There’s no two ways around it:

If you’re serious about squeezing every last drop of value from your content, you need to actively promote it.

And when I say “promote”, I don’t mean sharing your content on social media platforms Facebook or Twitter.

I’m talking about strategically sharing your content in a way that maximizes traffic, backlinks and social shares.

How?

Let’s take a look at the 7 strategies Jimmy used to promote his guide.

1. He announced the post to his email list.

This is HUGE.

Your email list is the #1 content promotion tool you have. Period.

In fact, there isn’t even a close second.

Remember:

Your subscribers are made up of people that LOVE what you’re about.

In other words, they’re a group that’s very likely to spread the word about your content.

That’s why Jimmy sent out a blog post announcement email to Vero’s 8,000 email subscribers:

vero email

As you can see, his email doesn’t look like a stuffed shirt corporate newsletter.

In fact (besides the big green button) the email looks like it could be from a friend. This is exactly how you want your emails to look.

How did it do?

Well that single email attracted 733 visitors in 48-hours.

(Try getting that from Facebook)

Side note: If you’re struggling to build your email list, then you definitely want to check out this post.

2. Jimmy pinged his expert contributors.

Remember how Jimmy collected quotes from a bunch of email marketing experts?

Well, after his post went live, he sent his experts a quick heads up to let them know.

outreach email

Because the experts felt like they were part of the guide, they happily shared it with their audience.

outreach reply

3. He pitched his guide to link roundups.

Next, Jimmy promoted his guide to people that run link roundups.

In case you’re not familiar with them, link roundups are posts that curate (or “roundup”) awesome content from the week.

The best part? There are roundups in almost every niche.

For example, this is a roundup from the parenting niche:

link roundup example

Here’s why promoting your content to link roundups works so well:

Your pitch actually makes their life easier (yes, really).

I’ll explain.

Roundup curators struggle to find content to include in their roundup. But when you suggest your new post, you deliver content for them on a silver platter.

In other words, there’s no arm twisting required to get your link.

Here’s the search string Jimmy used to find active link roundups:

link roundup screenshot

When he found a roundup that looked like a good fit, he reached out and suggested his guide.

Here’s an actual email Jimmy sent that resulted in a link from Marketing Land’s daily roundup:

marketing land outreach email

(And here’s the link from Marketing Land):

marketing land link

If he wasn’t able to find an email address, he used Twitter.

content promo tweet 1 content promo tweet 2

(Both of these tweets resulted in links)

4. He internally linked to his new guide from older posts.

I probably don’t need to tell you that internal linking can add some juice to your on-page SEO.

But that’s not the only reason to do it…

Internal links also get more eyeballs on your new content.

That’s why Jimmy added a bunch of internal links to his new Email Marketing Best Practices Guide.

Here’s an example:

internal link example

Internal linking is one of those things that takes 7-minutes but can make a HUGE difference in how your content performs.

5. He included “Click to Tweet” buttons for every single tip.

This happens to me at least once a week:

I read an article, think it’s cool, so I decide to tweet it…

…only I can’t find a tweet button.

So I say “oh well” and close the tab.

Bottom line: You want to make sharing your content on social media extremely easy.

Jimmy’s took this to the extreme. His guide contains a “Tweet this tip” button to go along with every tip.

For example, when you’re reading tip #3 (“Ask for feedback”), a “Tweet tip 3” button appears on the page:

click to tweet button

When you click on that button, a filled-out tweet appears that’s specific to that tip.

pre filled out button

Because that “click to tweet” button makes tweeting the guide so darn easy, lots of people used it:

example tweet

6. He scheduled tweets to promote each tip.

As you know, you should always (as in every single time) tweet your content multiple times…

…even if it’s the exact same tweet.

That way you get your content in front of people that are on Twitter at different times.

Makes sense, right? Right.

But here’s the thing:

SEEING your tweet is only half the battle.

For your tweet to work, people need to click on it.

That’s why — to maximize clicks — you want to mix up the format of your tweets.

For example, Sally may like the copied-and-pasted blog post title…

…but Mark might like a big ol’ information gap.

Here’s how Jimmy applied this approach to his campaign:

I wrote 20 tweets, one for each tip, and cycled each one through our Buffer feed. I made sure to @mention people and businesses in the tweets.

Jimmy Daly

Here are two examples:

twitter tip tweet twitter tip tweet 2

7. Jimmy reached out to .edu sites (this didn’t go so well)

Like any content marketing campaign, Jimmy’s content promotion wasn’t all puppies and rainbows.

Unfortunately, despite a solid approach, Jimmy wasn’t able to get any backlinks from .edu sites.

Here’s what he tried:

Jimmy found 25 .edu sites that had a page about email marketing. For example, here’s a page he found on Kent.edu:

email marketing edu guide

And here’s the email he sent to the person that ran that page:

edu outreach email

Unfortunately, Jimmy hasn’t received a response so far.

Most people wouldn’t have mentioned this. But I did.

Why?

To show you that your content promotion doesn’t have to be perfect.

As you saw, Jimmy’s guide performed GREAT…even though this particular technique didn’t happen to work out.

8. Jimmy reached out to people he mentioned in the guide (this worked great).

Here’s a mistake I see a lot of people make:

They mention an influential person in their content…

…but they don’t give that influencer a heads up to let them know about it.

Biiiiiig mistake.

Jimmy knew that influential people are busy. Too busy to notice they’ve been mentioned in a blog post (crazy, I know).

So he sent emails to all of the people and companies that he mentioned in his guide:

heads up outreach email

Most of which were happy to share his guide with their social media followers:

outreach email response

Now It’s Your Turn

Ready to rock with The Skyscraper Technique content strategy?

Then click on the image below and enter your email.

When you do, you’ll get access to a free downloadable PDF Skyscraper Technique checklist.

Skyscraper Technique Checklist

240 Comments

Richard

Wow – way to go Jimmy. Really goes to show exactly what can happen when you combine epic content and some effective blog post promotion. Hopefully we’ll be seeing more case studies like this – this is the reason I read Backlinko πŸ™‚

Reply
Brian Dean

Yup, Jimmy crushed it with his post and outreach. No need to hope for more stuff like this, Richard. I’ve got more step-by-step case studies lined up πŸ™‚

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Jimmy

Thanks Richard! The Skyscraper Method is for real. Yes – it’s a good strategy – but it really got me thinking BIG about our content. Someone is going to rank #1 for these keywords … why not us?

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Danny Donchev

I am really happy to hear for success stories like yours Jimmy πŸ™‚ Skyscraper technique drives amazing results.

Reply
Hammad

Go jimmy! now it’s time to rank “email marketing”!

Reply
Alan

Your content over the last few months has been insane. What a meaty, awesome, actionable post. Trying this on my new site, uavcoach.com – Brian (and Jimmy), keep up the great work! Really setting the bar high when it comes to blogging πŸ™‚

Reply
Brian Dean

Thanks Alan. Let me know how The Skyscraper Technique works out for you.

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Alan

Been working really well, Brian. Launched site in October last year, and already up to about 10,000 visits/mo. A huge chunk of that traffic can be directly attributed to the Skyscraper Technique πŸ™‚

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Jimmy

Alan – uavcoach.com looks great. And talk about an industry loaded with opportunity. Very cool stuff.

Reply
Julia

Great summary to make your content stand out and reach the right audience. We will take a notice and use for our website. Thank you!

Reply
Brian Dean

Sounds like a plan, Julia. Let me know how it goes and you might be the star of the next Backlinko case study πŸ™‚

Reply
Jake

Brian – you’ve done it again! As you say, everybody loves examples and this case study is a great one. I really appreciate all the time you spent putting this together.

Reply
Brian Dean

You’re welcome, Jake. Case studies and examples rock πŸ™‚

Reply
Jimmy

Me too! It’s just this kind of case study that inspired me to do this.

Reply
Exequiel

Great article Brian, I just happened to read that guide on saturday by chance and I thought it was marvelous as the entire Vero blog, it’s kinda surprising to find out they’re only 5 people, they sure don’t seem like 5 people working.

Reply
Brian Dean

Thanks man. They’re a great team of sharp dudes. Together they do the work of 25 normal people.

Reply
Jimmy

Thanks so much for the compliment! We’re big on working “lean” – this project was pretty much the only thing I did for a solid month. Stay tuned – lots more cool stuff in the pipeline.

Reply
Federico

Great Article!
I hope I can do the same strategy with investment related articles, I will surely focus on that. Do you know which website can tell me the most viral content in my niche ?

Thanks!

Reply
Brian Dean

Thanks Federico. This could definitely do well with investment related articles. BuzzSumo is the tool you’re looking for. It shows you content that’s done well in your industry already (which is PERFECT for step #1 of The Skyscraper Technique).

Reply
Jimmy

Federico – BuzzSumo is where it’s at – I used that tool all the time.

Another tool I’m using lately is Authority Labs – SO much good keyword data.

Reply
Uwe

All these tools work very well for US-based markets.

In my experience they unfortunately really suck for non-US-based markets like e.g. here in Germany.

Reply
Brian Dean

Uwe, what tools do you mean? The only tool Jimmy used was the GKP.

Besides tools are overrated. The approach and strategy is 10x more important than any tool.

Reply
Uwe

I did play a lot with BuzzSumo. I do agree that it works quite good for the US. I’ve never managed to make _any_ good results at all for German keywords.

Brian

Awesome article Brian. I connected with Jimmy a while back on social and didn’t realize he was such a rock star πŸ™‚ I have had the Vero blog in my feedly rotation for a while now. Jimmy is definitely pushing out killer content. Just goes to show you content marketing is alive and well, as long as you know how to promote it.
Keep up the great case studies Brian. Whenever I get that email from backlinko I stop whatever I am doing and read… then I re-read one more time lol.

Reply
Brian Dean

Thanks Brian. Yup, Jimmy is a rock start for sure. I mean, 1k subscribers from 1 post? That’s bigger than most people’s entire email list.

You’re 100% right: even though content marketing isn’t as easy as hitting “publish”, it’s doable if you hustle to get the word out.

Reply
Jimmy

Thanks Brian – See you on Twitter πŸ™‚

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Jan

I love these case studies as they are truly inspiring. I’ve done a bit the same for a post on ‘Things to do in Amsterdam’ on my site ( http://www.netherlands-tourism.com/things-amsterdam-ultimate-top-50/ ) and it’s really working out well. At the moment it’s already got thousands of shares and went really viral on stumbleupon with over 6000 shares.

Also reactions on my email outreach are very positive and have already gotten me some strong backlinks. I’m currently on the top of page 5 and climbing. I’m sure it will get to page 1. Not bad for such a phrase.

I actually did the same for ‘Things to do in the Netherlands’ and am currently at number for 1 this term:)

Reply
Brian Dean

Thanks for the insights, Jan. It’s always good to see The Skyscraper Technique in action. I’m actually going to Amsterdam in March so your guide will come in handy πŸ™‚

Reply
Jimmy

Jan – This is a great post. I love that each tip has a photo and a link for more information. Keep up the good work. πŸ™‚

Reply
Philip Kleudgen

Hey Brian,

Great insights like always. I love the fast that you included the failures also.

Just tweeted it πŸ˜‰

Reply
Brian Dean

Thanks Philip. Glad you appreciated that. I’m thinking of including that in more of my case studies. I’d say at least 50% of the stuff I try doesn’t end up working. So it makes sense to point those techniques out so that people can avoid making the same mistake.

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Jimmy

There were a LOT of failures in this process. We reached out to a ton of people that never responded, tried to get links from dozens of sites that weren’t interested and wrote 10 headlines that we later trashed. As William Zinsser said, if it looks easy, it’s because it was really hard.

Reply
Akshit Wadhwa

Hey Brian,
Nice Tips share with the new strategy. Nothing to say now Just have to try this strategy.

-Akshit Wadhwa

Reply
Brian Dean

Definitely try it Akshit. And let me know how it goes. No matter how busy I get I’m always pumped to hear from members of the Backlinko community that have used my strategies to get results.

Reply

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