Note from Devesh: Brandon is a member of our content marketing course (and community). He applied the process we teach to one of his clients, showed up to our monthly Live Q&As, shared his plans, got our feedback, applied it, and got amazing results. So we asked him to write about them in this post. Enjoy and ask us any questions below in the comments and we (and Brandon) would be happy to answer. You learn more about our course here.
Earlier this year, Keeper Tax reached out to me to run SEO for their company. Keeper Tax is an automatic expense tracking start-up in San Francisco that helps independent contractors save money on their taxes.
I was confident in my SEO abilities when it came to improving rankings and driving traffic to the site. However, the purpose of SEO is more than just getting visitors. It is ultimately about driving revenue and getting customers.
So I knew if I wanted to increase conversions for Keeper Tax, add more dollars to their bottom line, and help scale their business, I had to learn how to properly do content marketing that generates business, not just getting rankings and traffic. If I could do this, I knew it would really show them how imperative SEO and content marketing was for their business and make my service look even more valuable.
I was a big fan of Grow and Convert’s blog and I saw they had launched a content marketing course.
So, I purchased it.
After going through the course, in 3.5 months, I’ve been able to grow Keeper Tax’s site from ~10,000 unique visitors a month by 400% through content marketing and SEO.
Devesh mentioned to me that my results were some of the most impressive they’ve seen, so we decided it’d be useful to share my story of growing Keeper Tax’s traffic and how the course helped me do all of this.
We wanted to make this article useful to anyone wanting to learn advanced content marketing and SEO strategies, not just those looking into the course, so I’ll go over:
- My three pronged content strategy for Keeper Tax consisting of: competitor keywords, use cases, and pain-point keywords
- How I updated the old posts to match my new content strategy
- How I wrote new posts to fit the strategy
- How I optimized on-site SEO to rank faster
- The rankings, sign-ups, and traffic results I achieved (so far)
Setting The Right Content Marketing Goals For Keeper Tax
Keeper Tax’s main priority was to improve the site’s visibility. So naturally, when I was brought on board, my primary focus was on increasing traffic to the site.
In fact, the number of visitors to the site was the main metric of success that the client and I agreed upon for my engagement.
But as I mentioned above, after taking the Grow and Convert course, I learned to view content marketing in a much more conversion-focused lense.
As they talk about throughout the blog, Devesh and Benji heavily emphasize doing content marketing for conversions because that has actual business value. I knew if I could show the client that I increased signups as well as traffic, that would be a big win, so the challenge I gave myself was to not only increase the traffic to the site but also boost the monthly signups.
When I started, their monthly traffic was close to 10,000 unique visitors. They already had some authoritative backlinks from sites like Entrepreneur, Product Hunt, YCombinator, and American Express so the site had a decent domain authority. So, I was confident I could get my pages ranking much faster than a newer website without a decent backlink profile.
I just needed to develop a content strategy that defined which keywords I should rank for that are most likely to bring in qualified customers, which is where the Grow and Convert course came in.
Defining The Target Audience
As Devesh and Benji talk about, the first step is to understand your customers deeply so you can write on topics they actually care about and do Pain Point SEO properly. This lets you bottom of the funnel topics to write on that will actually bring in traffic that’s likely to convert, instead of just top of the funnel “awareness” style content that doesn’t convert as well.
Keeper Tax helps independent contractors automatically find, track, and organize tax write-offs by scanning their bank account or credit card statements.
We did extensive research on the current customers Keeper Tax served by interviewing their current users.
After we conducted the interviews, we found out their customers were a mix of independent contractors who were just starting out and more experienced freelancers i.e. consultants, part-time marketers, and small Etsy sellers.
According to the research, their best customer who stays with them the longest and spends the most money on their subscription-based service were more established contractors. Veteran marketers, consultants, and developers fell into this category.
After I understood who I was targeting, I started to go deeper into the pain points to get content ideas.
Discovering Pain Points And Keywords
Grow and Convert’s course is built around case studies of Benji and Devesh developing a content strategy with real companies as examples.
The recorded videos showed how they do interviews with the companies to uncover their best clients as well as live breakdowns of Benji and Devesh selecting keywords to target, strategies they use to find those keywords, and how they prioritize content creation.
I used this process for Keeper Tax. Their ideal audience believes tax stuff is time-consuming and they want to outsource their deductions or handling of their taxes. They need to be able to focus more on their business and not on the complicated tax logistics.
The freelancers that are their customers also think Quickbooks Self-Employed as well as the other tax software that is far too complex and has a steep learning curve.
The course showed me how to organize my keywords or content ideas based on where the customers were in the sales funnel. This meant I could identify which keywords were for generating top level awareness, mid-funnel, and bottom of the funnel likely-to-buy stages.
So I created a list of keywords to target. I prioritized content based on Benji and Devesh’s Pain Point SEO method, which heavily emphasizes prioritizing the highest conversion intent keywords first, instead of chasing traffic as most content marketers do.
Although the course taught me to target higher intent-focused keywords, due to my client’s requirements, I chose to pick keywords with a balance of high search volume and buyer intent.
Note from Devesh: What Brandon did — mixing in keywords meant to generate traffic, not just conversions — due to his clients demands and requests is totally fine. While we emphasize prioritizing high converting keywords, we understand there are situations where you have to violate that rule in real life (like satisfying a client who wants to see traffic increase).
Developing The Content Strategy
The content strategy that I developed for them consisted of 3 main content frameworks.
- Use Cases
- Pain-Related Tax Training
Here’s part of a spreadsheet with target keywords in each of those topics.
I’ll quickly go over each of these frameworks and give examples with my thought process.
In terms of content frameworks, Benji and Devesh highly stress going after the bottom of the funnel keywords first, which produce a lot of conversions and most of the time, and have less competition than high search volume keywords.
One of these is competitor-based keywords.
For example, if someone is looking for an alternative to a competitor’s app, they have higher buyer-intent than someone searching for a general term for a given niche (“tax accounting”). In addition, most companies rarely systematically target these direct buying keywords, so ranking is easier.
So we added these competitor comparison keywords to our content backlog:
- “alternatives to QuickBooks self-employed”
- “expensify alternatives”
- “QuickBooks self-employed alternative”
We published a page comparing the top 15 alternatives to Expensify, best QuickBooks self-employed alternatives as well as a 1 to 1 comparison of Keeper Tax as an alternative to QuickBooks self-employed.
I’ll discuss the results from these (and all of my work on this project) below.
Use case keywords are search queries that match the services to what Keeper Tax provides.
Our use case keywords were:
- “App to track receipts for taxes”
- “Keeper Tax review”
- “Best app to track receipts”
Because Keeper Tax wanted to increase traffic, before we implemented pain point SEO and prioritized conversions, we tried to go after the closest relevant keyword with a lot of traffic, and we settled on“business expense tracker”.
The keyword has 1,100 searches but the problem was people searching for “business expense tracker” were not exactly looking for a 1099 expense tracker.
Business owners searching for “business expense tracker” are looking for more complex accounting software than Keeper Tax.
Grow and Convert’s course has an active forum and monthly Q&A calls where I can get feedback on the strategies I plan on implementing or keywords I want to target. Being able to ask questions whenever I needed help and getting that 1 on 1 feedback on the calls was worth the cost of the course alone, and I wanted to ask them about this “Use Case” keyword group that I was going to target.
On one of the monthly live Q&A sessions, Benji and Devesh recommended that I changed my homerun keyword to “1099 expense tracker” which had way less search traffic but a lot higher buyer-intent.
The idea was that showing up as the first result for this keyword would produce more conversions because we would be exactly what the person making the search query was looking for.
I discussed this with my client and they agreed to pivot our homepage target keyword. Our homepage was not ranking well for any keyword before I made the change.
After I changed the homepage to target that keyword, we jumped immediately to position one on Google. Although the new keyword had low search volume, because the intent of that keyword — for a product like ours — is so high, our conversions went up (I share results at the end of this article).
Pain-Related Tax Training
For my third category, I prioritized pain-related keywords related to saving money on taxes and handling write-offs.
These types of keywords fell into this category:
- How much should I set aside for 1099 taxes
- What can I write off on my taxes 1099
- Deductions for independent contractors
- 1099 deductions
- Tax write offs for self-employed
And this is how I found the exact keywords and pain points.
After we interviewed Keeper Tax’s current customers, we discovered the common thread or pain point was they did not have a good grasp of how to handle their taxes.
They had questions about tax stuff like:
- If they should form an LLC or corporation as a freelancer
- How to track miles for taxes
- If they should file quarterly taxes
- What if I didn’t get a 1099
This seemed to be the case no matter how much money they were making. The 1099 workers wanted to feel confident in knowing that what they were doing was correct and all of the bases were touched in regards to their taxes.
A really helpful tool that Benji and Devesh recommend using for on-page optimizations and content creation is Clearscope. After uncovering the pain points in the interviews, I used both Clearscope’s and Ahrefs’ tools to find keywords with high intent as well as search volume to match the pain point.
Ahrefs can give you a much broader view of keywords to target whereas Clearscope shows you keywords based on Google’s autocomplete feature.
I would use Clearscope to see what relevant keywords people were searching for, then I would use Ahrefs to find keywords that matched the intent and had high search volume.
I’d use these tools to browse around and find the best keywords that met my requirements.
The strategy for my client’s campaign was to focus on the bottom of the funnel content and then work my way up.
After running optimizations to the page and PR promotions, I was able to get a lot of my pages on the first page of Google. I even beat out a lot more authoritative sites like Entrepreneur, The Motley Fool, and even the IRS for some keywords. I’ll show you how I did that in the next section.
Benji and Devesh’s hypothesis for how I was able to do that was because they believe Google understands that Keeper Tax is solely focused on independent contractor taxes and self-employed workers. That is why they ranked me higher above the more authoritative but broader finance websites.
How I Implemented The Content Strategy
After I uncovered the pain points, I had two options: convert an older blog post with similar intent or create a new blog post to target the keyword. I created a keyword map of all the pages on the site and matched them to a keyword. I matched the pages to a keyword based on the new content strategy I described above.
If I did not have a similar intent keyword for an older blog post, I would add it to our content backlog.
Converting Older Pages For Pain-Point SEO
Let’s start by what I did to the existing, older blog posts that weren’t ranking for anything useful and thus not generating any conversions. Updating old blog posts to target more useful, or higher volume, keywords is particularly powerful because you don’t need to wait for Google to discover, crawl, and rank them and old posts usually already have some backlinks.
Take, for example, a post we had on receipts and taxes. This topic is generally a common pain point among our users (“What receipts do I need to keep for tax purposes?”), but before my updates it was ranking for “paper receipts”, and “are paper receipts required by irs” which aren’t useful terms for us.
I did keyword research to find a similar high intent/volume keyword with a relatively low keyword difficulty.
I decided to target the keyword “Receipts for Taxes” because there was a lot more search volume and the intent behind the keyword was more in alignment with the service Keeper Tax provides.
Keeper Tax helps freelancers and other self-employed workers find tax write-offs in their business spending. A person Googling “receipts for taxes” at least indicates they are likely saving or thinking about saving receipts.
So some fraction of these people may have business expenses and could be interested in Keeper Tax’s software to help them save money on taxes by finding more business expenses.
Here is the page when I pull it up on Wayback Machine.
I updated the URLs, headers, title tags, content to include the target keyword and optimized the pages through Clearscope. I also refreshed or added content to the pages to match the search query of the new keyword and to coordinate with Clearscope’s suggestions.
The red underlines show various things I updated and optimized on this page.
I then used Clearscope to optimize the keyword choices throughout the post.
Clearscope analyzes the search results page (SERP) of a keyword you’re targeting for what topics they cover and helps you go over the same topics in your post to help your chances of ranking.
Google has moved away from relying heavily on strictly exact keywords as a ranking factor for pages. Now, Google views pages holistically and uses knowledge graphs to understand topical relevance.
For example, when Google was a newer search engine, you could get a page ranking on the first page of the search engines if you knew how to frequently place your target keywords in the right places.
So, if I was trying to target the keyword, “best protein powder”, I would just have to have placed the exact keyword in the URL, headers, meta title, and throughout the content. Although you still need to place keywords in those sections, nowadays, Google understands that if a page is talking about the “best protein powder”, it would have relevant keywords and synonyms.
What Clearscope does is scan the top ten results of the first page and calculate the averages as well as the importance of a keyword appearing in a report.
So for the “best protein powder” example, you’ll see that the content on the page should include topically relevant keywords like, “amino acids”, “build muscle”, “carbs”, “carbohydrates”, etc.
Clearscope provides you an exact list of keywords that you should have in your content to increase your page’s topical relevance. The report even provides the estimated word count you should have for a page.
As you can see, the terms are ordered by importance.
This does NOT mean you should stuff the keywords in your pages. Instead, the list of keywords is a great reference to use on topics to cover In your content to satisfy the search intent.
The old blog post was about 800 words. Since Clearscope recommended 1,900 words, we bulked up the content on the page by 1,100 words of topically relevant information.
Keeper Tax also had content already written for some of the keywords in my new spreadsheet, so for those I just updated the old content and optimized the pages.
I made sure to change and optimize the highest converting pages first. I prioritized keywords where the user was already looking for ways to save money or handle their taxes over high volume keywords about general tax advice i.e. “receipts for taxes”, “track miles for taxes”, “home office deduction”, “how much should I set aside for 1099 taxes”. This is because, as per what the course teaches, these keywords have higher conversion intent than say, “tax advice” because the purpose of searching those keywords is related to saving money on one’s tax bill.
Our top converting pages were our calculator pages which showed freelancers how much taxes they would owe without any write-offs or how much they would be looking to pay. This works because independent contractors who use the tool would typically see a high total for the taxes owed. Keeper Tax was able to position itself as a tool to help you reduce the taxes owed and convert the visitor into a customer.
Creating New Content In Line With My Content Strategy
Here’s my process for creating new content. The majority of our new articles were written by accountants and edited by me. I would assign a keyword to an accountant from my content calendar or keyword list. By using Clearscope’s suggested word count, I would tell them the minimum words required for each specific keyword.
Then I’d shoot over the Clearscope document link to give them ideas on topics to cover and keywords to include.
Here’s what I mean. If I wanted an article written on the “home office deduction” keyword, I could send my writer Clearscope’s editable document with the keywords suggestions.
My writers would know to talk about the simplified method, standard deduction, square footage, etc. This would ensure I fulfilled the intent for that search query.
Whenever I assigned a keyword or topic, I instructed my accountant writers to create the most detailed, in-depth article and I would handle the SEO optimizations after.
SEO Strategies I Used To Rank Blog Posts Quicker
Note from Devesh: This is a nice discussion of how Brandon optimized his client’s overall site structure for SEO. While we do these sorts of “technical SEO” cleanups for our agency clients, we don’t cover this in our content marketing course. But it’s a nice and instructive read for folks wanting to do similar things.
Optimizing Keeper Tax’s Site
In addition to creating new content, I also optimized the site and all of the current pages for SEO.
Since Benji and Devesh’s strategy is based on capturing organic traffic, it is vitally important that your site has a clean site structure so Google can easily discover and navigate through your site.
Having a cleaner SEO site structure would also allow my older and newer pages to rank higher in the search results.
So, I updated old pages for conversion-focused keywords and cleaned up the errors on the site.
I used Ahrefs to do so, and what I did is something anyone can do, even if you are not an SEO specialist.
In Ahrefs, if you click “Site Audit” you can get a quick “Health Score” grade and analysis of all the technical SEO issues your site has.
You can clean up all the technical errors by seeing what pages you need to fix and following Ahrefs’ instructions to resolve them.
Internally Linking Relevant Pages
Internally linking relevant pages contributed to a huge part of my success. By linking pages together, I was able to send Google the right signals for what my page was about and is responsible for why I was able to get my conversion-focused pages ranking higher in the search results.
Here’s how it works.
Each page has a certain amount of “link juice” in it. Link juice is a term to refer to the value passed to a page by backlinks. A page with a ton of backlinks pointing to it, would have a lot of value or “link juice”.
Internal links pass “link juice”, connect your content and show Google the structure of your website.
Google travels through your site by crawling the links within your site. You can let Google know what pages and posts have more value by linking to them. After all, if a page was truly important, it would be linked from a lot of pages in the site. For example, for my “1099 tax calculator” page, I would have a lot of my blog posts and pages point towards that page. This shows Google that it is a valuable page.
A simple way of knowing what pages should be linked together is by using a search operator.
“Site: [your website] + topic”
Here’s an example of what I mean:
By running this search query, Google will show you all of the pages on my client’s site that talk about the topic of “home office deduction” and these pages should be linked to one another.
Each page has a certain amount of “link juice”. By internally linking those pages that mention “home office deduction” together, I could pass the “link juice”, power up the page, and get it ranking higher on Google.
Anchor Text Strategy
There are a ton of benefits of internally linking relevant pages together. Proper anchor text selection in the internal links can positively impact your SEO.
Anchor text is simply the clickable text that you see in a hyperlink.
I internally linked a lot of relevant pages to my “what happens if you miss a quarterly estimated tax payment” page.
I used anchor texts with synonyms like:
- “penalty for not paying quarterly taxes”
- “what happens if you pay quarterly taxes late”
- “paying quarterly taxes late”
- “what happens if you don’t pay quarterly taxes”
This sent Google the correct signals that my page was about “what happens if you miss a quarterly estimated tax payment” as well as those keywords.
By internally linking to this page a lot with a variety of similar anchor texts, I was able to also net and rank for other keywords with the same search intent.
Here is the result of my internal linking strategy.
As you can see, I was not only able to rank for what happens if you miss a quarterly estimated tax payment” but also for other synonymous keywords like, “what happens if you pay quarterly taxes late”, ““what happens if you don’t pay quarterly taxes” and “paying quarterly taxes late”.
I went in and optimized the anchor texts for my internal links in all of the blog posts to net more keywords and capture more targeted traffic.
Conversions From My Content
Before I worked on the site, the majority of Keeper Tax’s signups came from running Google, Facebook or Instagram ads.
By creating content with conversion-focused keywords, I was able to attract organic leads to the site.
The chart above shows the signups from content alone. I started with the content barely bringing in any conversions in May to bringing in over 700% in signups a month. If you look past September, it is still growing exponentially.
The client was over the moon with my results.
The SEO rankings for Keeper Tax have grown exponentially.
Here are some screenshots of our SEO rankings through Ahrefs.
Ahrefs showed we are #1 for 148 keywords and in the top 10 for 996.
All our articles are written by highly qualified accountants which is key for ranking in the search engines.
For any websites in the health, wealth and safety niche, Google uses E-A-T, as a measure of how much it should trust it should place in a brand or website. E-A-T stands for Expertise, Authority, and Trust.
It was absolutely critical that we provided tax advice from qualified experts.
After all, Google’s goal is to provide its search users with the best experience possible by promoting websites that it can trust.
Here is the overall traffic growth from those rankings above.
As you can see, the site was not pulling in much traffic every week when I started mid-June. That peak in July was due to this year’s late tax season. Now, we have doubled the amount of organic search traffic even during off peak tax season.
What is the main value that I’ve received from the G&C course?
The main value was hands down the support. I crafted a game plan based on their strategies and they gave me feedback along the way to put the plan into action.
I got a firmer grasp of the strategies they talk about on their blog. The forum and monthly Q&A’s gave me the opportunity to ask any questions I had whenever I ran into issues or if I wanted a second opinion. They even did an analysis on Keeper Tax’s site and offered suggestions for improvements.
The case studies in the training videos showed the strategies they used and helped me craft my own plan of action for Keeper Tax.
The course absolutely matched my expectations. Being able to pick the brain of content marketing experts and get 1-on-1 feedback allowed me to quickly see amazing results for my client.