How We Helped Exploding Topics 5x Pipeline Revenue From Organic Blog Traffic In 7 Months
At the end of 2022, I started working with Exploding Topics, a trend discovery platform, to help drive more conversions (and ultimately revenue) from the blog.
Over the next seven months, the total pipeline revenue (measured via trial signups at three different pricing tiers) from total organic blog traffic more than 5xed. In this post, I’ll share how I helped contribute to this increase and what I learned from working with them.
Before we jump into it, I’d be remiss to imply that this was entirely my work.
At the end of the seven months, only about 5% of the total published posts were created by us. However, these posts contributed to about 20% of the total pipeline revenue from organic blog traffic.
How I Measured Conversions And Pipeline Revenue
I measured conversions (signed up for a trial) exclusively by first-touch interactions in Google Analytics.
A first touch interaction means someone first found Exploding Topics via a blog post and then converted into a trial user within 30 days of that first touch.
So it doesn’t account for any assisted conversions (e.g., they first visited ia a different source, like email, direct, ads, etc., and then later in the journey visited a blog post before converting).
I also segmented the conversion type by pricing tier inside Google Analytics to calculate pipeline revenue.
And when I refer to “pipeline revenue,” I’m referring to the value of the trial user if they turn into a paying customer at that pricing tier at the end of the trial.
Now that you have the details let’s jump into the strategy of how we helped accomplish this and what I would do differently in the future.
The Strategy To Increase Conversions From The Blog
When I began the engagement, the Exploding Topics team had already created content for high volume, topically relevant keywords, and they used Brian’s Reverse Outreach method, which targets journalistic search terms to attract high-value links.
As a result, Exploding Topics had impressive traffic stats with about 85,000 monthly visits and a domain rating (according to Ahrefs) of about 71.
Now, they wanted to increase conversions from the blog.
Before discussing the strategy I used to help improve blog conversions, I want to note that a key problem I see many SaaS companies make is immediately targeting high-difficulty BOFU keywords before building any traffic or authority.
Depending on the difficulty of these keywords, it can be nearly impossible for a low-authority website to rank, and as a result, the posts don’t drive any conversions. Sure, you can build links to those posts manually to help them rank, but I typically avoid this strategy simply because I prefer to put resources into compounding marketing efforts.
Instead, I recommend that low-authority websites create content for very low-difficulty pain point keywords and also work to build topical authority by using the Reverse Outreach method and create content for other topically relevant keywords that are feasible to rank for and can drive traffic.
Once you earn positive user engagement signals, search engines will be more willing to rank your BOFU, high purchase intent keywords.
That said, Exploding Topics already had excellent authority, so I implemented my conversion-focused content strategy (which I adopted from Grow and Convert’s content marketing course and adapted based on my experiences). Here’s an overview of what it looks like:
- Customer/Product Research
- Keyword Research
- Writing The Content
- Tracking Conversions
You can read more about the details of this process in my methodology post, but I’ll give you an overview of how I executed it for Exploding Topics below.
Step 1: Customer Research
Normally, I interview someone from customer success, sales, and marketing to uncover how the product works, but in this case, Brian was handling all of these tasks, so I only interviewed him.
Nevertheless, here are the main things that I’m digging for during these interviews:
- Who are the best customers (least customer support, most profitable, close the fastest, etc.)?
- Who is involved in the buying process (e.g., who is searching for the product vs. actually purchasing the product, etc.)?
- What pain points are they facing before reaching out?
- What is their current approach to solving the problem your product solves, and what is painful about it (are they solving it manually or with a competitor product)?
- What alternative solutions are they researching?
- What are the key differentiators of your product?
During the customer research interview with Exploding Topics, I identified that the main target audience was primarily entrepreneurs/content marketers, ecommerce owners/marketers, and investors. However, the VC/investor audience segment was the most profitable.
I also learned about the key differentiators of Exploding Topics that make it unique from most other trend tools:
- Data quality and relevancy: He provided a detailed overview of their data qualification to prove that their data is higher quality and more relevant.
- It provides up-and-coming trend suggestions – not just current trends. This is critical to the audience as they want to catch trends before they hit.
- Usability: It’s super easy to find trends with just a few clicks rather than spending hours searching for relevant trends.
I also think it’s critical to learn not only how your product is different from competitors but also how the audience is currently solving the pain point and what’s wrong with the process.
This question was critical because it turns out that most new Exploding Topics users weren’t using a direct competing tool. Instead, they were manually searching for trends by reading industry publications, talking to people, and scrolling social media.
This piece of information is critical to the actual content writing because instead of positioning how Exploding Topics is way better than any other trend tool out there, we primarily explained how it solves the problem of manually searching for trends.
Here’s an example from an intro we wrote:
Sure, we still talk about the key differentiators that make Exploding Topics unique from other trend tools, but the primary positioning in each piece is how it solves their current pain point – manually searching for trends and often missing under-the-radar trends.
Step 2: Keyword Research
Next, I looked at the main pain points identified during the customer research process and then did reverse keyword research.
Reverse keyword research is when you Google a pain point, click on the top ranking post, and then look for the keywords it ranks for to find the best keyword that matches the pain point your product solves.
For example, we discovered that VCs and investors are our most valuable customers. They use the product to solve the pain point of finding new startups to invest in.
So I just type that pain point into Google.
It won’t have any search volume, but look at the keywords the top ranking post ranks for:
Voila! Here are a bunch of keywords that somewhat match the pain point we typed in above and are great candidates to add to our keyword list.
I also identified relevant keywords with “tool,” “software,” or “platform” (like “trend tracking tools”), as those tend to indicate strong purchase intent.
I then added all of those keywords to the keyword spreadsheet and prioritized those that had the best combination of:
- High purchase intent for our most profitable buyer persona
- High volume
- Low difficulty
In general, I prioritize purchase intent for the most profitable audience above all else because traffic volume rarely correlates with conversions. Also, Exploding Topics has a very strong domain, so I didn’t worry too much about keyword difficulty.
That said, if you’re a brand new company with low domain authority, I would probably start by targeting exclusively low-difficulty yet highly relevant pain point keywords like “find new trends and products before your competitors.”
I also want to highlight that I prioritized pain point keywords targeting our ideal customers – not just any customers.
If you’ll recall from our customer research, the highest value customer persona was the investor persona. So I tended to prioritize pain points an investor would face over those that an ecommerce store owner might face.
To summarize, I did these three things during the keyword research process:
- Reverse keyword research to identify keywords that match highest value customer pain points.
- Identified “tool,” “software,” and “platform” keywords with high purchase intent.
- Prioritized keywords that showed the highest purchase intent for our ideal customer persona.
Step 3: Writing The Content
Ranking for a high purchase-intent keyword doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll drive conversions.
People will only convert if they understand how your product solves their problem and why it’s better than the competition.
Simply including your product in the blog post isn’t always enough to drive conversions.
To maximize conversions, I pull from the customer research notes to understand two things:
- The pain point our ideal customer currently faces that’s causing them to search for this term.
- How our product solves that pain point better/cheaper/more effectively than their current approach and why it’s better than competing solutions for our ideal customer.
This seems pretty simple, but there’s a lot of nuance to it, so I’ll walk you through exactly how we crafted the post, how to find trending topics, for Exploding Topics.
First, the purpose of the intro is to resonate with our ideal prospect’s pain points to build trust. It also sets you up to position your product as the solution to their problems:
While “how to find trending topics” is a pain point style keyword, the SERPs showed that the intent is a list of tools, so we made it a list post.
In the Exploding Topics section, my job is to communicate the product’s value to our ideal customers in a way that makes it a no-brainer for them to convert.
Note: The caveat is that your product has to provide substantial value to your ideal user. I’m not trying to over-embellish the product – just show how it solves the pain points of our ideal customer better/faster/cheaper than any other method. If your product actually isn’t that valuable, marketing won’t really help you.
To build out the product explanation, I go back to my customer research notes and ask theis question:
What are our product’s key differentiators/benefits that make it the best solution to this problem?
In this case, Exploding Topics is different from its competitors because:
- It’s super easy to use and provides under-the-radar trending topics.
- The trends are highly relevant to business users – so they won’t have to sift through pop culture trends.
- The trend suggestions are accurate (data quality) – they’re based on a large set of reliable data and aren’t just based on a random analyst’s opinions or subpar data.
So when I build out the argument in the Exploding Topics section, I open with the pain points each of these key differentiators solves:
Next, I show how the product works (proving it’s easy to use)….
…and then I explain how it finds and qualifies trends (proving that trend suggestions are relevant and fairly accurate thanks to high data quality).
Here’s just a snapshot of that discussion:
Then, I compare the rest of the tools on the list based on these criteria (i.e., how easy is it to find trends with them? How reliable are the trend suggestions? etc.).
Given that I’m positioning the article on Exploding Topics’ key differentiators, it’s easy for me to provide unbiased analysis on the other tools, and the value of Exploding Topics will still shine through.
For example, here’s how I analyzed another competitor’s data quality. Instead of just saying, “our data quality is better,” I provide factual information on how that competitor qualifies and ranks trends, and the reader can easily see for themselves why Exploding Topics might be a better option:
Even though this information is designed to make the value of Exploding Topics shine through, it is still useful to the reader. For example, information on each tool’s data quality is beneficial as data quality does impact the trend suggestions you receive.
In addition, this approach ensures you only attract ideal customers.
For example, if someone wants pop culture trends or only current, peaking trends, they’ll know that Exploding Topics is not the best option, and I’ll highlight the other tools on the list that are excellent at providing those trends.
Using this structure is great for a few reasons:
- It objectively shows how our product is better than competitors by simply highlighting its key differentiators.
- It repels the wrong customers, and those readers can still find other great options on the list.
Step 4: Tracking Conversions
I track trial signups for each pricing tier in Google Analytics and use the Model Comparison tool to sort by first touch interactions. This means I’m tracking how many blog posts generated the first touch with a prospect that converted into a trial user within 30 days.
What I Learned And What I’d Do Differently
Now that I’ve discussed the process I used to help produce those results, I want to discuss some key learnings from these past seven months.
Lesson #1: Topical Authority Trumps Domain Authority
Topical authority and domain authority are often used interchangeably, and I learned the hard way that there is a significant difference between the two.
When I started working with Exploding Topics, I looked at its impressive domain rating and thought, “I can rank for any keyword I want!”
So I ignored the importance of topical authority.
We were running out of investor-focused bottom of funnel keywords, so I went into the ecommerce space and tackled “new product research tools.”
Unfortunately, Google didn’t really view us as ecommerce experts (yet) and didn’t rank the post.
If you look at the post ranking in the 10th position, you’d think that we should have been able to at least rank on the first page given that we have nearly double the domain authority and this post has just one link.
Unfortunately, this website has much higher topical authority in the dropshipping and ecommerce niche, so it still outranked us.
So in the future, I recommend building topical authority by creating stats pages and even TOFU/MOFU guides for the most critical topics you need to rank for.
I realize this goes against my primarily BOFU approach, but if you can’t rank for your main niche keywords, it won’t matter how great your BOFU content is, as Google probably won’t rank it if you aren’t a topical authority.
Lesson #2: Shorter Posts + Graphics > Detailed Descriptive Posts
I heard plenty of people say that longer, more detailed posts aren’t ranking as well as they did in the past.
As you can see in step three, the writing process, I tend to write detailed explanations of the key differentiators of our product, and I also provide detailed analysis of the other tools on the list so that our ideal prospects can see the unique value of our tool and any readers (ideal customer or not) can actually make an informed purchase decision.
Unfortunately, this also made the posts quite lengthy (3,000 plus words).
I thought it would be okay because the content was useful to readers trying to make an informed purchase decision. However, readers still want to get the information they need quickly. As a result, the posts could have ranked better.
So I thought about how I could still convey the same information with fewer words and decided to incorporate more charts and graphics.
In fact, I even sent this message to Brian:
So I updated many of the posts to portray more information through graphics.
For example, I used to always thoroughly explain the trend qualification process because data quality is a key differentiator.
However, I later created a graphic that communicated the same information visually (users can enlarge it if they wish):
It’s a much better user experience and I actually think it can boost conversions as readers can understand the point I’m trying to make in seconds rather than spending several minutes reading a wall of text.
Google also rewarded these changes. Here are the traffic graphs from those posts that we updated with more charts in April:
I also started trimming the detailed feature pain point/benefit discussions when explaining how Exploding Topics works because the product is pretty straightforward. Users immediately see the value when they play around with it.
A brief explanation approach might not work for more complex products, so you’ll have to use your best judgment here.
Lesson #3: MOFU/TOFU Content Can Convert If Your Product Has Obvious Value/Short Buying Process
One thing that I found interesting is that a lot of the MOFU content actually drove signups. This might be because the MOFU content had significantly more volume than the BOFU content, and the product itself is relatively inexpensive.
So the takeaway is that if you have a relatively inexpensive product with very clear value (it’s not very complex) and a short sales cycle (awareness to purchase), you can generate conversions from keywords higher in the funnel.
I should also mention that many of the “(industry) trend” posts leveraged data from Exploding Topics, making the product’s value obvious. Therefore, you can probably drive some conversions if you can show your product in action (even if it isn’t for a BOFU keyword).
Lesson #4: SEO Isn’t Dying
Finally, I think it’s worthwhile mentioning that SEO isn’t dying.
Despite AI, Google updates, and other factors that leave many brands worried that SEO is dying, the blog was still the main lead acquisition channel:
In fact, as more and more companies pull back on SEO (or use AI to produce more undifferentiated content), this is your opportunity to take advantage of a less competitive landscape.
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If you want me to help you to implement a content marketing and SEO strategy that converts, feel free to reach out to me.