This may be of some interest.
Posted by ChristopherHofman
Currently, many businesses face challenging times and are moving their SEO budget to disciplines which offer quicker wins.
But you can also create instant results with SEO, and it can be done on a small budget even when you are up against bigger players in your industry.
In this blog post I will show you my framework to do SEO sprints. I will show you how you can use Google’s ability to index and rank faster to your advantage. Later, you will be presented with a case study, where we used SEO sprints for a chain of opticians. The result: an increase in bookings of vision tests of 73%.
But first, let’s have a look at the layout on page one of Google (for most queries).
Google never took SEOs into account when designing for the user. As a result, their transformation over the last few years from the “10 blue links” format to “the portal” has pushed the organic results on page one down by several pixels.
Today, the four Google Ads at the top of the SERP cover most of the pixels above the fold. In many cases, your screen can also be covered with a Google Shopping ad. Apart from the ads, Google fills up the space on page one with SERP features such as featured snippets or their own platforms such as Youtube or Google Maps.
In some industries, Google will even place their booking search engine at the top. Examples are Google Flights or Google Hotels.
During the last few months we have seen more desktop traffic, but in general users are moving to mobile. An iPhone’s screen of 758 pixels makes it nearly impossible to rank above the fold for an organic result.
We, as SEOs, have to rethink our way of doing SEO.
The Google challenge
Do you know your numbers?
For a particular query, how high is the expected click-through-rate if you rank number one? Is it 20%? Twenty-five? These are the typical estimations coming from CTR benchmark studies. But in reality, for competitive queries, the right CTR will be much lower, which means that you could be basing your business case on the wrong numbers.
Instead, I would recommend looking at your Google Search Console data to see what your CTR is when ranking number one for a non-branded term.
As an example: In the retail industry I have a client ranking consistently at number one for a broad generic term with a monthly search volume of 2.8K. How high do you think their CTR is?
They are not the only ones with a meager CTR. Doing some research, I discovered that positions three and four for this query had CTRs of 1.1% and 2.4%, respectively.
When CTRs used to be higher, I went after the big keywords. At the peak of my “Big Keywords” career, I reached the number one ranking in Google (Denmark) for the biggest keyword in the banking industry: “Lån” (loan). It took one and a half years to go from the bottom of page three to number one in Google, and the investment paid off handsomely for the client.
The strategy was straightforward, with a focus on technical SEO, on-page, and off-page factors. In other words, SEO as we have always approached it. However, working with SEO in a silo frustrated me, because I felt that we could get better and faster results by working together across disciplines and across departments.
In October 2018, a new insight gave me the chance to rewire my SEO thought process. This led me to develop a new framework aligning SEO with other marketing activities.
The big insight: Google indexes and ranks faster
Back in the year 2000, Google updated their index every five to eight weeks. This gave SEO a reputation as a discipline where patience was key, and where results were a long-term project. This understanding is still common inside the industry, and many SEOs will still tell their clients to be patient and expect the results to come inside one or two years.
However, if you do it right, this is not the case anymore.
Let’s fast-forward to 2018: I discovered that Google had changed gears.
My client was planning to run a marketing campaign starting in October. My SEO team was invited late to the party, as I only met with the client two weeks before the campaign launch.
I was not too optimistic about the time frame to get them results, but we gave it a shot.
The results surprised me.
Inside 20 days, they went from not being indexed to ranking in the top three for their main keyword.
I was baffled. This was not the Google I knew.
This insight was huge, because it meant that SEO could break free of the classic silo and be part of other marketing activities.
The idea of the SEO sprint was born.
What is an SEO sprint?
Let’s stop and think for a minute.
How often do marketing campaigns ignore SEO? SEO data can actually be a central element in marketing, because the data reveals the inner feelings of users when they search on Google. This is data which would be very hard to get from qualitative interviews.
Have you tried to convert mentions to links months after a PR campaign ran?
Ever worked on an SEO project where you never talked to the PPC team (even though they have valuable information, like which keywords convert, that you can use for your SEO work)?
Have you delivered a tech audit with a long list of to-dos without really knowing what the business strategy was, hence the priorities of the SEO tasks?
These are examples of SEO working in a silo. Silos waste knowledge and they miss the big picture. Instead, SEO activities should be aligned with the marketing plan.
When you rank at the top of Google for the keywords and user intentions which support your business strategy, it is due to teamwork across your marketing department.
This is what SEO sprints are all about: Based on the company’s business strategy, SEO sprints are an integrated part of your marketing mix. They are SEO activities which support a marketing campaign, where the objective is to be present at the most important touch points in Google for particular customer journeys.
An SEO sprint consists of five steps:
I’ll dig into each of these steps in the case study below.
The secret behind a successful SEO sprint
In late 2018, I performed other SEO sprints, which proved to me that there was an opportunity to work differently within SEO. For example: a New Year’s campaign where the client’s main keyword went from out-of-index to the bottom of page one within 10 days. While they didn’t make the top three, they still obtained a 6% CTR from a ready-to-buy audience.
So, how can you use a sprint to rank faster in Google? Do sprints focus on links, content, or page speed?
Those factors are only partly important. The main ranking factor is the competition. Let’s face it: You rank number one at the mercy of your competition. It matters a lot for your ranking if competitors don’t focus their SEO efforts in the same direction as you.
In my experience, when broad media sites and forums rank, it’s a good sign that competition is not so strong. The ideal scenario is when competition is manageable and Google results have low volatility, meaning the results don’t fluctuate much. This is a signal to me that I can rank quickly and remain at the top of Google for a longer period.
While you should try to rank for all your keywords, the key is to identify and prioritize important, low-competition keywords to get results quickly. When you have established yourself, then you can start to build out your topical authority and aim for the keywords with tougher competition.
The DriveSafe case study
Let’s put the SEO sprint framework into practice. Nyt Syn is a Danish chain of 57 opticians. They have a 6% market share in a market dominated by three bigger players. During 2018 and 2019, I ran two successful SEO sprints for their DriveSafe campaign.
DriveSafe glasses are glasses produced by ZEISS. You can use them as normal eye glasses, but they are particularly useful to avoid being blinded by the headlights of oncoming cars at night. They retail at $500 (USD), so it is not a low-priced item, but they are the safest solution in the market.
The target group of the DriveSafe campaign is primarily 35-year-old women and above. They are not worse off than men when it comes to seeing badly at night, but our research showed that they are more ready to do something about it. Our main objective was to have them book an eyesight test at their local Nyt Syn optician.
After running the first DriveSafe campaign in Q4 2018, which was fairly successful, we managed to triple the organic traffic during the second SEO sprint a year later.
During the period, 23.7% of the organic traffic to nytsyn.dk went to the DriveSafe pages. More importantly, Nyt Syn increased their bookings by 73% for the second campaign when compared to the first.
How we did it
Before we started our SEO tasks, we needed to understand the objective of the DriveSafe campaign and how SEO would support the business goals.
In order to translate the marketing strategy into SEO activities, I use customer journeys to map out the customer needs and define the content touchpoints on Google.
This was our SEO mission statement:
“We are present in Google when users make queries related to night vision with the intent to solve a user challenge leading to the booking of an eyesight test.”
You need to understand user behavior before you can execute your strategy. Fortunately, it has never been easier to get access to data. While many still stick to one tool (e.g. Google Keyword Planner or Moz), I have come to realize that the more tools you add, the more you will identify your user’s intentions. I use Google’s own tools (Google Search Console, Google Analytics) and different Clickstream tools (e.g. Moz Keyword Explorer). Each tool will bring something new to the table.
To this stack I also add the company’s own data sources, like live chat. It’snot only a tool to communicate with your customers! No one ever contacts a company simply to engage in small talk. The data from the chat history is a gold mine of user questions. Zendesk and Internal Site Search are two other underestimated resources, where small observations can turn into big insights.
In the end we managed to identify hundreds of keywords within the range from general symptom searches to specific product requests.
Insights depend on the strength of your data. If you don’t dive deep enough during data retrieval, you won’t get a full understanding of user behavior, thus missing out on important user intentions. By looking at the keyword list, we identified various user intentions. With them in hand we created customer journeys to map out which content to build or repurpose.
Here are the user intentions mapped out in different stages of the customer journey for this campaign:
Awareness: What is night blindness?
Consideration: Do I have a bad night vision? Can I use glasses with yellow tint?
Decision: DriveSafe glasses from ZEISS
We discovered four interesting insights from the data:
1. Early funnel content is notoriously underestimated. We identified the bridge between the symptom searches for “night blindness” in the early stage of the customer journey and the need to drive safely at night. By creating the page “What is night blindness?”, we answered the users’ symptom questions and moved them on in the funnel towards our solution.
2. The keyword data revealed a need from users to test their eye sight online. We converted a general eye vision test into a night vision test. The test took off. More than 180,000 users ended up completing the test via different channels.
To boost the general authority of the DriveSafe pages and this particular online test, we also acquired links. Apart from the extra authority, the referral traffic was decent.
3. We could see that users went for a premature choice when looking for a solution. If you are a mountain bike rider, you probably use cheap plastic glasses with yellow tint. These are not good for driving at night, but this was the best guess for many users.
An interview with a professor from the School of Optometry in Denmark revealed that glasses with yellow tint let in too much blue light. This is the light which our eyes are exposed to at night. Instead of ignoring users searching for yellow tinted glasses, we decided to warn them instead. The page “Don’t use glasses with yellow tint!” attracted a lot of traffic. It also showed that you can rank number one for keywords which counter the primary user intention on page one of Google.
4. The optometry industry jargon is different than the terms that users search for. Company policy can sometimes prevent you from optimizing your site for the user terms, but Nyt Syn embraced the opportunity.
There are 800 monthly searches for the query “natbriller” (night glasses). This is not an industry term, but we decided to create a page with it anyway It paid off. Nyt Syn has now ranked consistently number one and two on Google for this important keyword for more than a year, bringing in lots of profitable traffic.
The search terms mentioned in the last two insights. are low competition, low volatility keywords, which made us rank quickly. An instant result motivates the team, and it builds authority in the eyes of Google. Subsequently, this enabled us to rank for more difficult search terms. Today we rank in the top three for over 100 non-branded keywords, and every tenth search results in a click on a DriveSafe page.
From these insights, the Nyt Syn content team went to work on the pages we needed to be present at every important touch point in Google.
The team is small with only one content writer. However, this case shows that you don’t need to be a big team to beat your competitors as long as you know where to focus. In total, five pages were created and a couple of existing pages were repurposed.
You need some time at this step, since it takes time to write great content. At this point we also prepared a link building strategy based on advertorials, which we rolled out during the campaign.
We were ready to launch.
We use a dashboard to constantly measure the performance and gain new insights. This enabled us to change course midway if necessary.
Here are two good examples:
1. One month after the launch of the second SEO sprint, Nyt Syn decided to run two Facebook campaigns based on the SEO data. The first campaign aimed at getting users to take the online night vision test. The second campaign told users to avoid glasses with yellow tint for night driving.
The two campaigns worked great and increased the number of bookings significantly. This was a perfect example of using SEO data across channels.
2. During the campaign we obtained some nice customer testimonials. With the customers’ permission, we placed them on the DriveSafe pages. This enabled us to display the five star ratings in the Google SERPs, which lifted the general CTR overnight by 2-5%.
Learning and adjusting is central to SEO sprints. With Google’s ever-changing landscape, we need to be agile and ready to adapt. We learn from each SEO sprint and use what worked for the next sprint to constantly improve the results.
The third SEO sprint for DriveSafe is set for September. What can we do to build upon our past achievements?
Let me leave you with some insights gained, which you can hopefully use for your own campaigns:
1. GSC data tells us when users will start searching for night vision search terms. This means that we know when to launch our campaign next time. For SEO sprint one, we had a blank page. We could only use Google Trends data, so it started in October. Now we run it from mid-September because the data tells us that users are asking Google earlier.
2. GSC data will reveal new user intentions because we are building up more data. This data, coupled with customer feedback, creates a base to produce even more relevant content and thereby a better chance to own the most important touch points on Google.
3. From our PPC data, we now have more data to know which keywords generate orders and vice versa. We will have more GSC data to add new keywords to our Google Ads.
4. By A/B testing the communication on Google Ads and Facebook, we know which words and which USPs work. We can use these insights to update titles and meta descriptions to communicate more directly on Google.
5. We know that SEO insights can be used to create successful Facebook campaigns. We will double down on Facebook and test other channels such as Instagram.
6. We know which links brought us referral traffic, so we will focus on similar links for the third sprint. While it is only correlated data, we can compare the ranking history with the publication of advertorials to look for keyword jumps. Some advertorials are duds. Some are gold. It does help us to pick the better link opportunities.
7. We got the star ratings for the DriveSafe pages. By studying the Google landscape, we can see which other Schema markups we should add.
Companies are currently looking for instant results, which make them put SEO on hold. However, with SEO sprints you have an agile framework to get quick results — when done right.
You can use Google’s speed in indexing and ranking results to your advantage. It will enable your organization to integrate SEO as part of the marketing mix. While you can now rank inside a few days or weeks, fast rankings will depend on the level of competition on page one in Google. When you have low competition and low volatility for keywords with strategic importance, then you have found your sweet spot for quicker results and stable traffic long-term.
SEO sprints consist of five steps, and they can be performed on a small budget inside a short period. The learnings from one SEO sprint are passed on to the next one, so you can reuse what worked efficiently.
Good luck with your SEO sprint!
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This may be of some interest.
Earning the trust of prospective customers can be a struggle. Before you can even begin to expect to earn their business, you need to demonstrate your ability to deliver on what your product or service promises.
Writing a case study is a great way to do that.
Sure, you could say that you’re great at X, or that you’re way ahead of the competition when it comes to Y. But at the end of the day, what you really need to win new business is cold, hard proof.
One of the best ways to prove your worth is through a compelling case study.
Below, I’ll walk you through what a case study is, how to prepare for writing one, what you need to include in it, and how it can be an effective tactic. To jump to different areas of this post, click on the links below to automatically scroll.
What Is a case study?
A case study examines a person’s or business’s specific challenge or goal, and how they solved for it. Case studies can vary greatly in length and focus on a number of details related to the initial challenge and applied solution.
In professional settings, it’s common for a case study to tell the story of a successful business partnership between a vendor and a client.
Whether it’s a brief snapshot of your client’s health since working with you, or a long success story of the client’s growth, your case study will measure this success using metrics that are agreed upon by the client you’re featuring. Perhaps the success you’re highlighting is in the number of leads your client generated, customers closed, or revenue gained. Any one of these key performance indicators (KPIs) are examples of your company’s services in action.
When done correctly, these examples of your work can chronicle the positive impact your business has on existing or previous customers.
To help you arm your prospects with information they can trust, we’ve put together a step-by-step guide on how to create effective case studies for your business — as well as free case study templates for creating your own. Get them using the form above, and then get creating using the steps below.
How to Write a Case Study
- Determine the case study’s objective.
- Establish a case study medium.
- Find the right case study candidate.
- Contact your candidate for permission to write about them.
- Draft and send your subject a case study release form.
- Ensure you’re asking the right questions.
- Lay out your case study format.
- Publish and promote your case study.
1. Determine the case study’s objective.
All business case studies are designed to demonstrate the value of your services, but they can focus on several different client objectives.
Your first step when writing a case study is to determine the objective or goal of the subject you’re featuring. In other words, what will the client have succeeded in doing by the end of the piece?
The client objective you focus on will depend on what you want to prove to your future customers as a result of publishing this case study.
Your case study can focus on one of the following client objectives:
- Complying with government regulation
- Lowering business costs
- Becoming profitable
- Generating more leads
- Closing on more customers
- Generating more revenue
- Expanding into a new market
- Becoming more sustainable or energy-efficient
2. Establish a case study medium.
Next, you’ll determine the medium in which you’ll create the case study. In other words, how will you tell this story?
Case studies don’t have to be simple, written one-pagers. Using different media in your case study can allow you to promote your final piece on different channels. For example, while a written case study might just live on your website and get featured in a Facebook post, you can post an infographic case study on Pinterest, and a video case study on your YouTube channel.
Here are some different case study mediums to consider:
Written Case Study
Consider writing this case study in the form of an ebook and converting it to a downloadable PDF. Then, gate the PDF behind a landing page and form for readers to fill out before downloading the piece, allowing this case study to generate leads for your business.
Video Case Study
Plan on meeting with the client and shooting an interview. Seeing the subject, in person, talk about the service you provided them can go a long way in the eyes of your potential customers.
Infographic Case Study
Use the long, vertical format of an infographic to tell your success story from top to bottom. As you progress down the infographic, emphasize major KPIs using bigger text and charts that show the successes your client has had since working with you.
Podcast Case Study
Podcasts are a platform for you to have a candid conversation with your client. This type of case study can sound more real and human to your audience — they’ll know the partnership between you and your client was a genuine success.
3. Find the right case study candidate.
Writing about your previous projects requires more than picking a client and telling a story. You need permission, quotes, and a plan. To start, here are a few things to look for in potential candidates.
It helps to select a customer who’s well-versed in the logistics of your product or service. That way, he or she can better speak to the value of what you offer in a way that makes sense for future customers.
Clients that have seen the best results are going to make the strongest case studies. If their own businesses have seen an exemplary ROI from your product or service, they’re more likely to convey the enthusiasm that you want prospects to feel, too.
One part of this step is to choose clients who have experienced unexpected success from your product or service. When you’ve provided non-traditional customers — in industries that you don’t usually work with, for example — with positive results, it can help to remove doubts from prospects.
While small companies can have powerful stories, bigger or more notable brands tend to lend credibility to your own — in some cases, having brand recognition can lead to 24.4X as much growth as companies without it.
Customers that came to you after working with a competitor help highlight your competitive advantage, and might even sway decisions in your favor.
4. Contact your candidate for permission to write about them.
To get the case study candidate involved, you have to set the stage for clear and open communication. That means outlining expectations and a timeline right away — not having those is one of the biggest culprits in delayed case study creation.
Most importantly at this point, however, is getting your subject’s approval. When first reaching out to your case study candidate, provide them with the case study’s objective and format — both of which you will have come up with in the first two steps above.
To get this initial permission from your subject, put yourself in their shoes — what would they want out of this case study? Although you’re writing this for your own company’s benefit, your subject is far more interested in the benefit it has for them.
Benefits to Offer Your Case Study Candidate
Here are four potential benefits you can promise your case study candidate to gain their approval.
Explain to your subject whom this case study will be exposed to, and how this exposure can help increase their brand awareness both in and beyond their own industry. In the B2B sector, brand awareness can be hard to collect outside one’s own market, making case studies particularly useful to a client looking to expand their name’s reach.
Allow your subject to provide quotes with credits back to specific employees. When this is an option to them, their brand isn’t the only thing expanding its reach — their employees can get their name out there, too. This presents your subject with networking and career-development opportunities they might not have otherwise.
This is a more tangible incentive you can offer your case study candidate, especially if they’re a current customer of yours. If they agree to be your subject, offer them a product discount — or free trial of another product — as a thank-you for their help creating your case study.
Backlinks and Website Traffic
Here’s a benefit that is sure to resonate with your subject’s marketing team: If you publish your case study to your website, and your study links back to your subject’s website — known as a “backlink” — this small gesture can give them website traffic from visitors who click through to your subject’s website.
Additionally, a backlink from you increases your subject’s page authority in the eyes of Google. This helps them rank more highly in search engine results and collect traffic from readers who are already looking for information about their industry.
5. Draft and send your subject a case study release form.
Once your case study candidate approves of your case study, it’s time to send them a release form.
A case study release form tells you what you’ll need from your chosen subject, like permission to use any brand names and share the project information publicly. Kick off this process with an email that runs through exactly what they can expect from you, as well as what you need from them. To give you an idea of what that might look like, check out this sample email:
You might be wondering, “What’s a Case Study Release Form?” or, “What’s a Success Story Letter?” Let’s break those down.
Case Study Release Form
This document can vary, depending on factors like the size of your business, the nature of your work, and what you intend to do with the case studies once they are completed. That said, you should typically aim to include the following in the Case Study Release Form:
- A clear explanation of why you are creating this case study and how it will be used.
- A statement defining the information and potentially trademarked information you expect to include about the company — things like names, logos, job titles, and pictures.
- An explanation of what you expect from the participant, beyond the completion of the case study. For example, is this customer willing to act as a reference or share feedback, and do you have permission to pass contact information along for these purposes?
- A note about compensation.
Success Story Letter
As noted in the sample email, this document serves as an outline for the entire case study process. Other than a brief explanation of how the customer will benefit from case study participation, you’ll want to be sure to define the following steps in the Success Story Letter.
First, you’ll need to receive internal approval from the company’s marketing team. Once approved, the Release Form should be signed and returned to you. It’s also a good time to determine a timeline that meets the needs and capabilities of both teams.
To ensure that you have a productive interview — which is one of the best ways to collect information for the case study — you’ll want to ask the participant to complete a questionnaire prior to this conversation. That will provide your team with the necessary foundation to organize the interview, and get the most out of it.
Once the questionnaire is completed, someone on your team should reach out to the participant to schedule a 30- to 60-minute interview, which should include a series of custom questions related to the customer’s experience with your product or service.
The Draft Review
After the case study is composed, you’ll want to send a draft to the customer, allowing an opportunity to give you feedback and edits.
The Final Approval
Once any necessary edits are completed, send a revised copy of the case study to the customer for final approval.
Once the case study goes live — on your website or elsewhere — it’s best to contact the customer with a link to the page where the case study lives. Don’t be afraid to ask your participants to share these links with their own networks, as it not only demonstrates your ability to deliver positive results, but their impressive growth, as well.
6. Ensure you’re asking the right questions.
Before you execute the questionnaire and actual interview, make sure you’re setting yourself up for success. A strong case study results from being prepared to ask the right questions. What do those look like? Here are a few examples to get you started:
- What are your goals?
- What challenges were you experiencing prior to purchasing our product or service?
- What made our product or service stand out against our competitors?
- What did your decision-making process look like?
- How have you benefited from using our product or service? (Where applicable, always ask for data.)
Keep in mind that the questionnaire is designed to help you gain insights into what sort of strong, success-focused questions to ask during the actual interview. And once you get to that stage, we recommend that you follow the “Golden Rule of Interviewing.” Sounds fancy, right? It’s actually quite simple — ask open-ended questions.
If you’re looking to craft a compelling story, “yes” or “no” answers won’t provide the details you need. Focus on questions that invite elaboration, such as, “Can you describe …?” or, “Tell me about …”
In terms of the interview structure, we recommend categorizing the questions and flow into six specific sections that will mirror a successful case study format. Combined, they’ll allow you to gather enough information to put together a rich, comprehensive study.
Open with the customer’s business.
The goal of this section is to generate a better understanding of the company’s current challenges and goals, and how they fit into the landscape of their industry. Sample questions might include:
- How long have you been in business?
- How many employees do you have?
- What are some of the objectives of your department at this time?
Cite a problem or pain point.
In order to tell a compelling story, you need context. That helps match the customer’s need with your solution. Sample questions might include:
- What challenges and objectives led you to look for a solution?
- What might have happened if you did not identify a solution?
- Did you explore other solutions prior to this that did not work out? If so, what happened?
Discuss the decision process.
Exploring how the customer arrived at the decision to work with you helps to guide potential customers through their own decision-making processes. Sample questions might include:
- How did you hear about our product or service?
- Who was involved in the selection process?
- What was most important to you when evaluating your options?
Explain how a solution was implemented.
The focus here should be placed on the customer’s experience during the onboarding process. Sample questions might include:
- How long did it take to get up and running?
- Did that meet your expectations?
- Who was involved in the process?
Explain how the solution works.
The goal of this section is to better understand how the customer is using your product or service. Sample questions might include:
- Is there a particular aspect of the product or service that you rely on most?
- Who is using the product or service?
End with the results.
In this section, you want to uncover impressive measurable outcomes — the more numbers, the better. Sample questions might include:
- How is the product or service helping you save time and increase productivity?
- In what ways does that enhance your competitive advantage?
- How much have you increased metrics X, Y, and Z?
7. Lay out your case study format.
When it comes time to take all of the information you’ve collected and actually turn it into something, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Where should you start? What should you include? What’s the best way to structure it?
To help you get a handle on this step, it’s important to first understand that there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to the ways you can present a case study. They can be very visual, which you’ll see in some of the examples we’ve included below, and can sometimes be communicated mostly through video or photos, with a bit of accompanying text.
Whether your case study is primarily written or visual, we recommend focusing on the seven-part outline, below. Note: Even if you do elect to use a visual case study, it should still include all of this information, but presented in its intended format.
- Title: Keep it short. Develop a succinct but interesting project name you can give the work you did with your subject.
- Subtitle: Use this copy to briefly elaborate on the accomplishment. What was done? The case study itself will explain how you got there.
- Executive Summary: A 2-4 sentence summary of the entire story. You’ll want to follow it with 2-3 bullet points that display metrics showcasing success.
- About the Subject: An introduction to the person or company you served, which can be pulled from a LinkedIn Business profile or client website.
- Challenges and Objectives: A 2-3 paragraph description of the customer’s challenges, prior to using your product or service. This section should also include the goals or objectives the customer set out to achieve.
- How Product/Service Helped: A 2-3 paragraph section that describes how your product or service provided a solution to their problem.
- Results: A 2-3 paragraph testimonial that proves how your product or service specifically benefited the person or company, and helped achieve its goals. Include numbers to quantify your contributions.
- Supporting Visuals or Quotes: Pick one or two powerful quotes that you would feature at the bottom of the sections above, as well as a visual that supports the story you are telling.
- Future Plans: Everyone likes an epilogue. Comment on what’s ahead for your case study subject, whether or not those plans involve you.
- Call to Action (CTA): Not every case study needs a CTA, but putting a passive one at the end of your case study can encourage your readers to take an action on your website after learning about the work you’ve done.
To help you visualize this case study outline, check out the case study template below, which can also be downloaded here.
When laying out your case study, focus on conveying the information you’ve gathered in the most clear and concise way possible. Make it easy to scan and comprehend, and be sure to provide an attractive call-to-action at the bottom — that should provide readers an opportunity to learn more about your product or service.
8. Publish and promote your case study.
Once you’ve completed your case study, it’s time to publish and promote it. Some case study formats have pretty obvious promotional outlets — a video case study can go on YouTube, just as an infographic case study can go on Pinterest.
But there are still other ways to publish and promote your case study. Here are a couple of ideas:
Gated Behind a Blog Post
As stated earlier in this article, written case studies make terrific lead-generators if you convert them into a downloadable format, like a PDF. To generate leads from your case study, consider writing a blog post that tells an abbreviated story of your client’s success and asking readers to fill out a form with their name and email address if they’d like to read the rest in your PDF.
Then, promote this blog post on social media, through a Facebook post or a tweet.
Published as a Page on Your Website
As a growing business, you might need to display your case study out in the open to gain the trust of your target audience.
Rather than gating it behind a landing page, publish your case study to its own page on your website, and direct people here from your homepage with a “Case Studies” or “Testimonials” button along your homepage’s top navigation bar.
Business Case Study Examples
You drove the results, made the connect, set the expectations, used the questionnaire to conduct a successful interview, and boiled down your findings into a compelling story. And after all of that, you’re left with a little piece of sales enabling gold — a case study.
To show you what a well-executed final product looks like, have a look at some of these marketing case study examples.
1. “New England Journal of Medicine,” by Corey McPherson Nash
When branding and design studio Corey McPherson Nash showcases its work, it makes sense for it to be visual — after all, that’s what they do. So in building the case study for the studio’s work on the New England Journal of Medicine’s integrated advertising campaign — a project that included the goal of promoting the client’s digital presence — Corey McPherson Nash showed its audience what it did, rather than purely telling it.
Notice that the case study does include some light written copy — which includes the major points we’ve suggested — but really lets the visuals do the talking, allowing users to really absorb the studio’s services.
2. “Shopify Uses HubSpot CRM to Transform High Volume Sales Organization,” by HubSpot
What’s interesting about this case study is the way it leads with the customer. This reflects a major HubSpot credo, which is to always solve for the customer first. The copy leads with a brief description of why Shopify uses HubSpot, and is accompanied by a short video and some basic statistics on the company.
Notice that this case study uses mixed-media. Yes, there is a short video, but it’s elaborated upon in the additional text on the page. So, while case studies can use one or the other, don’t be afraid to combine written copy with visuals to emphasize the project’s success.
3. “Designing the Future of Urban Farming,” by IDEO
Here’s a design company that knows how to lead with simplicity in its case studies. As soon as the visitor arrives at the page, he or she is greeted with a big, bold photo, and two very simple columns of text — “The Challenge” and “The Outcome.”
Immediately, IDEO has communicated two of the case study’s major pillars. And while that’s great — the company created a solution for vertical farming startup INFARM’s challenge — it doesn’t stop there. As the user scrolls down, those pillars are elaborated upon with comprehensive (but not overwhelming) copy that outlines what that process looked like, replete with quotes and additional visuals.
4. “Secure Wi-Fi Wins Big for Tournament,” by WatchGuard
Then, there are the cases when visuals can tell almost the entire story — when executed correctly. Network security provider WatchGuard is able to do that through this video, which tells the story of how its services enhanced the attendee and vendor experience at the Windmill Ultimate Frisbee tournament.
5. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Boosts Social Media Engagement and Brand Awareness with HubSpot
In the case study above, HubSpot uses photos, videos, screenshots, and helpful stats to tell the story of how the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame used the bot, CRM, and social media tools to gain brand awareness.
6. Small Desk Plant Business Ups Sales by 30% With Trello
This case study from Trello is straight forward and easy to understand. It begins by explaining the background of the company that decided to use it, what their goals were, and how they planned to use Trello to help them.
It then goes on to discuss how the software was implemented and what tasks and teams benefited from it. Towards the end, it explains the sales results that came from implementing the software and includes quotes from decision-makers at the company that implemented it.
7. Facebook’s Mercedes Benz Success Story
Facebook’s Success Stories page hosts a number of well-designed and easy-to-understand case studies that visually and editorially get to the bottom line quickly.
Each study begins with key stats that draw the reader in. Then it’s organized by highlighting a problem or goal in the introduction, the process the company took to reach their goals, and the results. Then, at the end, Facebook notes the tools used in the case study.
Showcasing Your Work
You work hard at what you do. Now, it’s time to show it to the world — and, perhaps more important, to potential customers.
But before you show off the projects that make you the proudest, make sure you follow the important steps that will help ensure that work is effectively communicated, and leaves all parties feeling good about it.
Want to learn as you write your case study? Listen to an audio summary of this post below.
For an easy way to get started, grab your free case study template below, and go create a case study that makes your subject proud of their success.
Editor’s Note: This blog post was originally published in February 2017 but was updated for comprehensiveness and freshness in February 2020.
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Posted by EricSerdar
I’m not a literary scholar, but I believe it was Hamlet that said “to have a featured snippet or not to have a featured snippet?” Ever since featured snippets came onto the scene, sites have been trying to secure them.
My team and I wanted in on this craze. Throughout our journey of research, testing, failure, and success, we found some interesting pieces of information that we wanted to share with the community. I’ll walk you through what we did and show you some of our results (though can’t share traffic numbers).
What are featured snippets?
A featured snippet is the box that appears at the top of the search result page that provides information to succinctly and accurately answer your query and cites a website.
Why are featured snippets important?
A featured snippet is important because it represents an additional SERP feature that you can secure. Usually located at the very top of the results page, featured snippets offer you greater visibility to searchers and can boost brand recognition.
Our featured snippet plan of attack
- Research, research, and more research on how to pull this off
- Identify keywords we wanted to target
- Change how we structured our on-page content
- Measure, test, and repeat the process
1. Research, research, and more research
We spent a great deal of time researching featured snippets. We looked at different ways to find featured snippet opportunities and researched how to optimize our content for them. We also went and saw Kellie Gibson speak on featured snippets volatility.
Did we implement everything from what we learned during this discovery phase into our featured snippet strategy? No. Are we perfect at it now after a year and a half of practicing this? No, no, no. We are getting better at it, though.
2. Identify keywords we wanted to target
We originally started out focusing on big “head” keywords. These represented terms that had indeterminate searcher intent. The first head term that we focused on was HRIS. It stands for Human Resources Information System — sexy, right?
Note: Looking back on this, I wish we had focused on longer tail keywords when testing out this strategy. It’s possible we could have refined our process faster focusing on long tail keywords instead of the large head terms.
3. Change how we structure our on-page content
We worked closely with our writing team to update how we lay out content on our blog. We changed how we used H2s, H3s (we actually used them now!), lists, and so on to help make our content easier to read for both users and robots.
In most of the content where we’re trying to rank for a featured snippet, we have an H2 in the form of a question. Immediately after the H2, we try and answer that question. We’ve found this to be highly successful (see pictures later on in the post). I wish I could say that we learned this tactic on our first try, but it took several months before this dawned on us.
4. Measure, test, and repeat
The first blog post that we tried this out on was our “What is an HRIS” article. Overall, this post was a success, it ranked for the head term that we were going for (HRIS), but we didn’t win a featured snippet. We deemed it a slight failure and went back to work.
This is where the fun started.
Featured snippet successes
We discovered a featured snippet trigger that we could capitalize on — mainly by accident. What was it?
Really. That was it. Just by adding that to some of our content, we started to pick up featured snippets. We started to do it more and more, and we were winning more and more featured snippets! I believe it was this strategic HR example that clued us onto the “is” trigger.
So we kept it up.
What did we learn?
I want to preface this by saying that all of this is anecdotal evidence. We haven’t looked at several million URLs, run it through any fancy number-crunching, or had a statistician look at the data. These are just a few examples that we’ve noticed that, when repeated, have worked for us.
- Blog/HR glossary – We found that it was easier for us to gain featured snippets from our blog or our glossary pages. It seemed like no matter what optimizations that we made on the product page, we weren’t able to make it happen.
- Is – No, not the clown from the Stephen King novel. “Is” seemed to be the big trigger word for winning featured snippets. During our audit, we did find some examples of list featured snippets, but the majority were paragraphs and the trigger word was “is.”
- Definitions – We saw that definitions of the head term we were trying to go for was usually what got the definition. Our on-page copy would have the H2 with the keyword (e.g. What is Employee Orientation?) and then the paragraph copy would answer that question.
- Updating old posts – One surprising thing we learned is that when we went back to old posts and tried adding the “is” trigger word, we didn’t see a change — even if we added a good amount of new content to the page. We were only able to grab featured snippets with new content that we created. Also, when we updated large amounts of content on a few pages that had featured snippets, we lost them. We made sure to not touch the sections of the page that the snippet was pulling from, but we still lost the snippet (some have come back, but some are still gone).
A few final things to note:
- First, while these examples are anecdotal, I think that they show some practices that anyone wanting to capture featured snippets can do.
- Second, this was process was over a 12–18 month period and we’re still evolving what we think is the best way for us and our content team.
- Third, we had a lot of failures with this. I showed you one example, but we’ve had many (short-form content, long-form content, glossary terms, blog posts, etc.) that didn’t work. We just kept measuring, testing, and optimizing.
- Lastly, I need to give a shout out to our writing team. We massively disrupted their process with this and they have been phenomenal to work with (effective interdepartmental relationships are crucial for any SEO project).
Let me know what’s worked for you or if you have any questions by leaving a comment down below.
Note: On January 23, 2020 Google announced that featured snippets would no longer be listed twice on the first page. For more information, you can check out this thread from Google Search Liaison. This may change how valuable featured snippets are to companies and the amount of clicks a listing gets. Before you start to panic, remember it will be important to watch and measure how this affects your site before doing anything drastic. If you do decide to go nuclear and to remove your featured snippets from the results, check out this documentation.
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I hear you, theoretical reader. And yet, I persevere.
B2B podcasting today is where content marketing was a decade ago. It’s emerging as a marketing discipline. People are starting to get sophisticated about deploying and measuring podcasts. We’re seeing new tools to make it easier to launch, promote, and monetize. And despite the thousands of hours of audio out there already, there’s no sign that the market is satiated.
I believe that if you’re not already thinking about podcasting for your B2B brand, you should be. But if my beautiful words can’t convince you, let the data tell the story:
B2B Podcasting: 20 Stats that Make the Case
These statistics come from five different reports, all released in the last year. When you look at all five together, the picture is clear: We’re nowhere near peak podcast, and brand content is the next frontier.
Podcast Listenership Just Keeps Growing
Podcasting is a growth medium. More people are listening now than ever before. But what’s truly impressive is how many listeners are new to the medium. Even though podcasts have been around since the early 2000s, they have only reached a mass market audience in the past couple of years.
1: Nearly a quarter of all listeners started in the past 6 months. (2)
2: Globally, 36% of the sampled population has listened to a podcast in the last month. (1)
3: 51% of the U.S. population over 12 has listened to a podcast. (2)
4: 32% of the U.S. population over 12 has listened in the past month (90 million people). (2)
5: 22% of the U.S. population over 12 listen weekly (60 million). (2)
6: 62.6% of respondents said they listen to more podcasts now than they did a year ago. (3)
7: Only 3.1% said they listen less than they did a year ago. (3)
In summary: Podcasts continue to attract new listeners to their existing audience of 90 million people monthly. And, most promisingly, those who listen are far more likely to add new podcasts than cut down.
[bctt tweet=”Podcasts continue to attract new listeners… And, most promisingly, those who listen are far more likely to add new podcasts than cut down. @NiteWrites #B2BPodcasting” username=”toprank”]
Podcast Listeners Are Demographically Valuable
Okay, so millions of people are listening to podcasts. But are these people a worthwhile target audience for B2B marketers?
The answer may vary depending on your most valuable audience, of course. But most B2B marketers are interested in targeting millennials. A recent survey found that at least 73% of millennials are involved in product or service decision making at work, with 33% reporting they’re the sole decision maker at their company.
Basically, if you’re trying to influence B2B purchases, millennials matter. And podcast listeners are disproportionately affluent, social media savvy millennials:
8: 50% of listeners under 35 have listened to a podcast in the last month. (1)
9: 41% of podcast listeners make $75k a year or more, compared to 29% of the general population. (2)
10: Podcast listeners are more likely to be active on social media across channels and more likely to follow companies and brands. (4)
Podcast Fans are Devoted Listeners
According to Google’s 2018 benchmarks, the average time on page for content from most industries is between two and three minutes. Marketers can certainly make an impression in that amount of time. Even fifteen seconds is valuable to a savvy marketer with a good hook and strong CTA. But podcast listeners spend a great deal more time with audio content:
11: 76.8% listen to podcasts more than 7 hours a week. (3)
12: 61.2% spend more time listening to podcasts than watching TV. (3)
13: 52% of monthly listeners listen to the entirety of each episode. (2)
14: 70% of listeners say that, at least sometimes, they do nothing else while listening to podcasts. (2)
As that last statistic shows, podcast listeners aren’t the distracted, multi-tasking folks we might have imagined they are. If the material is engaging, they’re willing to devote their attention. Speaking of which…
[bctt tweet=”Podcast listeners aren’t the distracted, multi-tasking folks we might have imagined they are. If the material is engaging, they’re willing to devote their attention. @NiteWrites #B2BPodcasting” username=”toprank”]
Podcast Fans Want to Learn (In a Fun Way)
Back in the early days, podcasts were — in the best sense of the word — geeky. They were for highly techy types to share knowledge, teach and learn. While purely entertaining podcasts have seen plenty of success, at the root of it podcasts are an ideal medium for learning.
People don’t just listen to podcasts for fun. The overwhelming majority want to feel smarter at the end of every episode.
Think of all the subject matter expertise in your company. Now multiply that by the influential guests (e.g. your customers, prospects, and industry experts and peers) you’ll invite on to share their expertise. It’s easy to see how a brand podcast can bring educational value to an audience that’s ready to learn.
15: 74% say they listen to podcasts to learn new things. (2)
16: 71% say they listen to be entertained. (2)
17: 59% say they enjoy podcasts because they make them feel smarter. (2)
The Business Podcast Market Is Ready for Lift-Off
There’s still a massive untapped market for helpful, informative business podcasts — exactly the type that B2B brands could develop, produce and promote. In fact, we can see that the ad revenue model for podcasting is expanding to include branded content. Right now, branded content is still a small percentage of overall podcast advertising, but it’s growing fast.
18: There are avid fans of business podcasts in 13 million households. (4)
19: There are casual fans of business podcasts in 52 million households. (4)
20: Branded content has increased from 1.5% to 10.1% of podcast advertising since 2016. (5)
What’s more, podcasts offer a range of content marketing benefits, which can inform and bolster your broader digital marketing strategy.
Don’t Be (Pod) Cast Aside
The podcast boom continues unabated — and it’s grown from a strictly amateur platform to a sophisticated content marketing medium. B2B marketers who are creating any kind of audio content should consider podcasting as a channel to earn attention, deeply engage an audience, and ultimately drive measurable business results.
Ready to produce your own podcast? Check out our webinar on the 4 P’s of Podcasting.
- Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2019
- The Podcast Consumer 2019
- Podcast Trends Report 2018
- Nielsen Marketers Guide to Podcasting
- IAB Podcast Ad Revenue Study for 2019
The post B2B Podcasting: 20 Stats that Make the Marketing Case appeared first on Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®.
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