Viral Traffic Growth Using Content: How Ryan Stewart Grew LacesOut and Drove Over a Million Visitors in a Year

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Ryan Stewart of Webris is an all around cool guy. He’s been featured on some of the biggest marketing publications like Moz and Ahrefs, and his post on why he stopped selling SEO services was one of the most popular articles on the Moz blog last year.

Then I came across a case study of an Ecommerce store that he put together. I was blown away.

He actually laid out how he built the entire site, produced content, and hit over a million visitors a month in the first year. I’ve worked with ecommerce businesses of all sizes, and this was one of the most rapid traffic growths I’ve seen in awhile.

And interestingly, all the traffic was driven by content and social. Oh- and did I mention that he developed a system for it, and outsourced the whole thing?

Today, I’m going to show you how he built and drive over a million visitors in under a year, and how you can do it too.

The problem with Amazon

Clients ask this to me all the time- why don’t we just sell using Amazon FBA? Why do we need to build out an Ecommerce website?

The answer is control.

By building out your own ecommerce business end to end, you have complete control over the business. If you sell using Amazon, you’re subject to its policy changes, and traffic loss and low priced competitors. Also, Amazon's cutoff is up to 30 percent off the top line, and it’s difficult to be profitable when you are just starting out.

Not to mention the inability to drive more traffic through content.

Ryan had the same reason- he wanted complete control over his ecommerce business, and he decided to build out the website from scratch. And with services such as Shipstation that can automate the selling process for you, building out your own ecommerce website is the best way to go.

The Niche

Choosing a business niche is the first step. Since he was planning to resell imported goods, he decided to go with something cheap, and something easily transportable (which is another way of saying it should be small, not bulky)

In fact, if you’d ask me what inventory works best for starters, I’d recommend the same thing. Always choose products that are easily transportable, offers good profit margins, and doesn’t cause issues while importing (electronics).

Ryan went one step further, and being the content marketer that he is, also analysed how well the product could be marketed.

He noticed a market gap in shoelaces, found out that he could cheaply source them from China at a fraction of the selling cost, and that they rarely caused any issues with customs.

So he decided to go with an ecommerce business that sold shoelaces for sneakers.

The Ecommerce Platform

WordPress is obviously the way to go when you’re into a lot of blogging and content marketing.

Ryan set up LacesOut using WordPress and Woocommerce for setting up the store and had templates for the product pages custom designed on Upwork.

In fact, he just had templates designed for the homepage, product pages, resource pages, blog and blog post pages on Upwork.

However, if you’re starting out, I’d recommend using the default themes or layouts. It’ll save you a ton of development trouble and money in the start.

The Site Structure

The URL structure tends to be one of the most important on-page factors in SEO for online stores.

Woocommerce simplifies this a lot with simple structures that can be optimized. Ryan used product category pages for his main categories with the slug


and individual /product/product-name/ for all the product pages.

He noticed that almost all his competitors (including big bad Amazon) had review schema that made them stand out in the SERP. So he went ahead and had review schema marked up on the category pages.

Also, he noticed that search intent was different for plural keywords. For example, if someone was looking for ‘blue rope sneaker shoelace’, a product page selling that particular product would be what they’re looking for.

However, if they searched for ‘blue rope sneaker shoe laces’ or similar plural keywords, they’d rather prefer to see a variety of them to choose from. So he optimized his category pages with plural keywords.

He also added 50-100 words of content for each category page so that all of them had unique content and not just a simple list of products.

User Experience

User experience is regarded as the most important ranking factor in 2017. And it’s a no-brainer- if you’re taking care of your visitors and giving them what they need, then you deserve to rank.

Ryan put a lot of thought into this, and designed product pages that really satisfied searcher intent. Also, he made the buying process smooth by using single page checkout using PayPal and focused a lot on optimizing LacesOut for mobile.

On the product page, he ensured that there were multiple hi-res images of the product from different angles, because again- that's what big brands do, and what users expect from trustworthy brands.

Besides these, he also added quick benefit-driven bullet points that conveyed the usefulness of the product.

The Keyword Jacking Strategy Ryan Uses to Find Content Gaps and Produce Content at Scale

When it comes to ecommerce, content gives us an edge over others, and enables marketers to do a lot of stuff that we otherwise couldn’t:

1. First and foremost, content gets you links naturally. It’s almost impossible to get links to your product or category pages unless you have a good affiliate program. However, like any other content on the web, you can use content on your ecommerce website to land links and increase domain authority.

2. It takes time to rank with product pages. And this is a huge problem because the #1 priority with any new business is to generate revenue. But getting rankings with quality content is super-simple when done right, and it’s easy to scale.

3. Content is easy to promote. Product pages aren’t. Imagine what it would like if people kept sharing links to product pages on social. It just doesn’t happen. Content is what gets naturally shared on social networks.

4. People don’t just buy stuff from anyone online. You need to warm them up, brand properly and then sell. Content is the best way to push people down your funnel.

So content is key.

But how do we come up with content ideas and how do we scale it up?

Ryan has a great video where he walks us through the process, but I’ve put together an even more detailed step by step tutorial for you.

The basic idea of this strategy is to find keywords that the big brands in your space are ranking for, analyzing the content ranking for those keywords, and then outranking them with better content.

Sounds simple, huh?

The process outlined below will show you how to do this at scale. First, use Semrush to find your competitors. Semrush is one of the best tools in the market today for keyword research. They have a very handy tab called ‘Competitors’ in the ‘Organic Research’ section.

This tab gives you a solid idea of your main competitors, and how they fare in terms of traffic and rankings.

We can see that is the main competitor of

Now let’s take a look at the keywords data for

We can click on “View full report” to see all the keywords that the domain ranks for. Now let’s apply a few filters.

Click on “Advances filters” to open filters:

Now apply the following filters:

Exclude all keywords that are in Positions greater than 20 and click “Apply”.

Now export all the keyword data by clicking on export and import it into Google Sheets (you can use Excel if you prefer).

After importing into Google Sheets, we remove all columns except the Keyword, Position, Search Volume, Keyword Difficulty Index, CPC, and URL.

We then sort it by URL and hide all the keywords that the home page of ranks for.

Now you should have a list of all the well-ranking pages, and the keywords they’re ranking for along with the search volume. In the above screenshot, you can see that the size chart page is ranking for all sorts of keywords like shoe lace sizes, shoe lace length, shoe lace size chart, etc.

This is a perfect example of a page that we can build to jack those keywords.

Next, we add a column to the right titled “Topic” and add a topic that summarizes the page’s content and the keywords that it ranks for.

For the above example, an example of a topic would be “Shoe Laces sizing and length guide for sneakers”. We then copy that down to all rows having that URL.

We then follow the same process for all sets of URLs to have a bunch of topics (along with keyword data, CPCs, and competing URLs)

Then, we create another sheet in the doc for the topic ideation process.

You can either name the columns as shown in the screenshot below, or make a copy of this template.

Now we copy and paste all the topics we summarized from the keywords list in the previous list, and list those topics one by one in the topic ideation sheet.

Before you start, install the chrome plugin Keywords Everywhere. It’s a handy plugin that shows your search volumes of keywords right in the SERPs.

Let’s use the same example we used above:

Now, all you need to do is Google the topic phrase, and take a look at the competition, search volume, number of ads and the content that is already ranking, and a quick look into your blog editor (or WordPress Dashboard) to check if you’ve published similar posts in the past.

When we take a look at the SERP for “Shoe Laces sizing and length guide for sneakers”, we can see the following:

  1. A couple of low authority websites are ranking on the first page
  2. No ads in the page
  3. The content that is ranking is useful, but there is definitely room for improvement
  4. The LSI keywords have low to moderate search volumes

By LSI  keywords we mean the ‘searches related to’ keywords at the bottom. Google thinks that these keywords are somehow related to our search term, and therefore, it makes sense to include these keywords in our content and try to rank for them.

Now we can go ahead and fill the topic ideation template:

Does the topic have enough search volume?

I would say yes. This differs from niche to niche, but the general idea is that if the topic has the potential to be a valuable resource and drive a decent amount of traffic every month, then you should go for it.

Can we compete?

Yes, we can- there are a couple low authority websites ranking on the first page.


No ads on the page. Ads are an indication of how competitive the keyword/topic may be.


The journey is just the position of the post in the selling funnel. Ryan uses four types of content- Viral, Discover, Consider and Customer.

Viral content is just used to get a lot of eyeballs and get familiarize the brand with prospective customers. Content in the ‘Discover’ level is used to get people to discover products and product types.

Content in the ‘Consider’ level can be used to get people to consider a particular product that you sell, and content in the ‘Customer’ level can be used to nurture or resell to your existing customers.

The above topic, “Shoe Laces sizing and length guide for sneakers” is a ‘Discover level’ topic because we’ll just be introducing our products and brand with the content.

New or Rewrite?

It’s always better to rewrite or rework on improving an already existing post rather than produce new content. If you’ve published any similar posts in the past, you can add ‘Rewrite or Rework’ and if you haven’t published any similar posts before, add ‘New’.


For the notes column, all you need to do is note your observations about the content that is ranking on the first page for later reference.

We then repeat this process for the entire list of topics.

Next, we create a new sheet called the ‘Content Calendar’. You can either name the columns as shown in the screenshot below, or make a copy of this template sheet.

Having a Content Calendar is imperative for a well-structured content marketing plan. Ryan’s Content Calendar template makes it super easy to outsource all the content creation process.

The Stage is the ‘Journey’ from the topic ideation sheet. Audiences are the different audience personas that you may be targeting with your business. Topic is the topic idea we formulated in the topic ideation sheet.

Keywords are a combination of the main and LSI keywords we found from the SERPs.

For the topic “Shoe Laces sizing and length guide for sneakers”, examples of keywords would be

  • shoelace length guide
  • boot lace length calculator
  • hiking boot lace length
  • adidas shoelace length
  • converse shoelace length
  • work boot lace length
  • vans shoe lace length

For the Competition, you can either use the Semrush keyword difficulty Index from the Keyword jacking sheet or use other keyword difficulty metrics like the Moz keyword difficulty score.

For Traffic, you can just enter the sum of the search volumes of keywords in your list (search volumes can be seen in the SERP using the Keywords Everywhere chrome plugin).

Next is the Content Framework column. Content Frameworks are just the formats of blog posts that you plan to use. They can be Skyscraper posts, expert roundups, news updated, curated roundup posts, expert guides or guest posts, depending on which framework is most suitable for the topic.

For our topic- Shoe Laces sizing and length guide for sneakers, a long-form expert guide would be the most ideal.

The Medium is just the type of content that would be most suitable for the post. They can be videos, normal blog posts or infographics. I would prefer our shoe laces sizing guide to be an infographic as it’s easier to depict such data with infographics.

Videos can be a good idea if there are a lot of videos ranking on the first page for our topic or target keywords.

Now here’s what:

The remaining columns are all aimed at giving you the ability to outsource content creation in a structured process so that you can scale this up.

You can go ahead and fill out the Title, Word count, Author, Outline, Draft Due Date and Promotional Plan columns and assign it to your writers directly from Google Sheets.

Digging out keywords from one single competitor can get you a couple dozen proven content and keyword ideas. Ryan does this with a number of competitors from Semrush data to come up with a long list of content ideas that he uses to scale content creation for months.

About 90% of LacesOut’s traffic comes from SEO, and content is what drives all this traffic. Being able to map out the content ideation process enables them to push out content regularly and drive consistent growth.

A quick look at the Top Content tab in Ahrefs shows that an overwhelming majority of traffic is driven by the content:

How Ryan Promotes Content

Social networks are the most happening places online today. Developing a social presence and engaging with your target audience is imperative for branding.

And this is what Ryan recommends if you’re looking to delve into social. First, identify the social networks where your target audience hangs out and interacts with similar brands. Then go all-in on those networks.

Right from the start, Ryan noticed that brands in the shoes and fashion space, including his competitors’ were big on Instagram and Facebook.

So he put together a process to get all his content shared on the two networks, and decided to advertise on Facebook to increase brand awareness, and promote content.

In fact, a non-ROI focused branding approach is the way to go if you’re looking to familiarize people with your brand. And Facebook’s ad platform is robust enough to advertise to highly targeted audience segments.

Now that he had a content and branding strategy in place, there was only one ‘missing ingredient’ left- Links.

The Link Building Strategies Ryan Used to Grow LacesOut

Ryan’s Webris link building course happens to be one of the most well-rounded and systematic link building courses in the market.

Let’s take a look at the strategies he used to build links for

Product Review Outreach

The idea here is simple. You send free product to bloggers that publish product reviews, and you get a link in return.

But how do you find bloggers that review such products?

Enter search operators.

All you need to do is search for footprints like inurl:/review/ to find bloggers that do product reviews in your niche.

Here’s a Google sheet with a long list of search operators for product reviews.

After you’ve collected a list of prospective blogs for pitching your product to, list them neatly in a Google Sheet.

The next step is to find the contact details of the blogger or webmaster.

I explained this process in detail in my uber-detailed post on Ecommerce SEO, but here’s a quick more up-to-date method to scale this up:

Find the first and last names of the blogger or webmaster and the domain name of the website and list them into three separate columns.

Use this Email Finder google sheet to find email addresses using this data. Hunter can find about two-thirds of email addresses correctly. You might want to snoop through LinkedIn profiles of bloggers for email addresses if Hunter is unable to find them.

After you’ve collected the email addresses of all the prospects, all that’s left is sending them the pitch.

But before that, let’s add a canned response in Gmail for this. It’ll save you a ton of time.

First, go to settings in your Gmail:

Then go to Labs, and Enable the Canned Responses feature.

From now on, your Compose window will have a new feature:

You can add templates, common replies, etc and save them in Canned responses, and can use them later as you like.

This is especially useful when you want to send templated pitches to bloggers.

Now let’s go ahead and craft our pitch:

Hey {{Name}},

I’m {{My name}} and run the store over at {{My Store Name}}. We sell {{product type and description, and why we’re different}}.

I thought I’d reach out because I’m trying to partner up with influencers like you, and we do this in a number of ways:

  1. Free product from our website
  2. Sponsored Posts or Reviews
  3. Sponsored Social Shout-outs

Would any of these be of interest to you? If you, please let me know- I’d love to chat 🙂

Thank you,

{{My Name}}

{{My Social Profile}}

That’s all there is to it!

Once they reply with their requirements or rates, you can reply, send them free product or pay for a post if you’d like.

Getting PR Mentions and High Quality Links With Infographics

Infographics are just visual representations of useful data. They’ve been very popular over the past few years, and these days it’s being abused to such an extent that most bloggers consider it as spam.

But from the work we do for clients at Mostash, there are two types of infographic types that still work very well: Interactive (animated) infographics and small data visualizations.

These are different from the 3 page long infographics with clumps of text and vectors.

In fact, small data visualizations are what Ryan used to build links too:

He used the above infographic to land links from places like HotNewHipHop.

Alright, this works, but how do you find the data points for the graphic?

Remember the example topic we found for the Content Keyword Jacking strategy, “Shoe Laces sizing and length guide for sneakers”?

That is a great example of a topic we can put together an infographic.

Almost any type of useful data can be visualized into an infographic.

Buzzsumo and the Ahrefs Content Explorer are handy tools for this:

All you need to do is search for ‘sneakers’ (which is our niche) in the ‘Trending Now’ tab to get content and topic ideas that have done well on social.

You can also go for ‘shoulder niches’ (parent or related niches) to appeal to a larger group of bloggers. Examples of shoulder niches for ‘sneakers’ are sports, fashion, etc.

Once you’ve collected some good data, you can outsource the design part to Upwork (Ryan uses Upwork) or design contest websites like 99designs. (We design great infographics too btw.)

Once the design is ready, you can go ahead and start pitching journalists, online magazine writers and bloggers. I’ve detailed how you can find journalists and press websites in my post on Ecommerce SEO.

But my favorite strategy to find websites that publish infographics in a particular niche is using Google reverse image search.

Here’s the step by step process:

  1. Go to (which is an infographic directory) and search for shoes (our niche)
  2. Open the infographic pages one by one, right click, and Search Google for Image
  3. Copy all the websites that have published the infographic and list them in a Google Sheet. Do this for all the infographics on

That’s it. Now you have a list of websites that have published infographics about ‘shoes’ in the past. These sites are much more likely to publish your graphic or data visualization than random blogs. You can also look for blogs that published infographics in shoulder niches like ‘fashion’.

Now that you have a list of prospects, you can follow the same process we used for product review bloggers- find the first and last names, and then use the Email finder sheet to find email addresses using the Hunter API.

Then, we send them a pitch (or saved canned response) that looks like this:

Hey {{Name}},

I’ve been a fan of your content on {{Blog Name}}. Loved the recent post on {{Recent Post Topic}}.

I was wondering if you accepted content from external sources by any chance?

I’ve been diligently working on a visual representation of {{Infographic Topic}}, and it’s coming out pretty well. You can see a preview of it here- {{Preview Link}}.

Do you mind if I send you a link when it’s complete? I also open to sending along some content. All I ask in return is some form of attribution to {{My Site Name}}.

Just give me a shout if you’re interested 🙂

Thank you,

{{My Name}}

{{Social Profiles}}

When they get back to you, you can send them the infographic and a well-written piece of content (300-500 words) that matches the tone of the content on their website.

Building Links With Guest Blogging

Guest blogging is still one of the oldest and most scalable ways to build links. The idea is simple- you deliver good content and get links in return.

Ryan follows the usual approach here- using search operators to find blogs that accept guest posts, and then pitching them topics, then getting the articles written by writers, and then getting them published with links pointing back to LacesOut.

Here’s a huge list of search operators that you can use to find guest blogs.

The process is simple. Once you have a list of prospects and their submission addresses, contact pages or contact email addresses, you can send them a pitch that looks like this:

As long as you ensure that you deliver what you promise in your pitch, and keep linking out unnecessarily to a minimum, you should be able to get your posts published.

How Ryan Scaled Up Content Creation and Promotion

The Content Keyword Hacking Process I detailed earlier covers how Ryan is able to formulate and outline a lot of topic ideas for his store. After he had the docs and topics in place, all he had to do was assign the work to writers and set due dates.

But where can we get good writers from?

Ryan used Upwork. I recommend Upwork and Problogger Jobs.

After his writer creates the post, he assigns them to a VA, who drafts the post in WordPress, creates the required visual assets and images for it (with preset Photoshop templates) and schedules social media posts with Buffer.

But where can we find VAs who do all this?

You can find many on Upwork, but Ryan actually hired a VA with good communication skills and sent him walkthrough videos for the whole thing.

In fact, he used walkthrough videos for almost all his training.

He has a very systematic and robust process for link building that involves four roles: The Lead SEO (who assigns and oversees all the work, and performs high-level tasks), the Link Prospector (who find link opportunities using search operators and contact details), the Outreacher (who takes care of the emailing and relationship building with bloggers and prospects) and the Content Writer (who researches and produces content according to the requirement).

By segmenting the entire link building process into specific tasks, he can hire and train VAs (virtual assistants) for each specific role, and can ensure the smooth flow of the work.

Let me give you an example.

Once the lead SEO directs the team to build 10 guest post links, the link prospector finds blogs that accept guest posts with the keywords given to him, and the search operators that he knows of (from his training videos). He then lists all these in a doc that is shared with the Lead SEO and the Outreacher.

The Outreacher then reaches out to all these prospects, pitches topics and assigns them to the Content Writer in the same doc. The Content Writer then produces the content and adds the doc link in the same Gdoc. The Outreacher then proofreads the post and sends it to the blogger.

Could it get any more streamlined?

This process continued until the Outreacher is able to get 10 placements.

Ryan uses this same process to manage the link building for hundreds of clients. The greatest advantage of this process is that after the roles are defined and set, it’s completed automated via Google Sheets.

Your turn. What’s your take on Ryan’s process and strategy?

header image courtesy of Sooodesign

Joe Warnimont

Joe Warnimont is a Chicago-based writer who focuses on eCommerce tools, WordPress, and social media. When not fishing or practicing yoga, he's collecting stamps at national parks (even though that's mainly for children). Check out Joe's portfolio to contact him and view past work.

Comments 3 Responses

  1. Great article. The content you wrote is absolutely top. Thank you! If it possible, I would also like to receive the link to the full case study.

    1. Glad you liked our post Jony! Let me see if I can find the case study. I’ll let you know via email if I do.


      Bogdan – Editor at

  2. Hello, excellent article thank you. Any chance of sending me link to the case study so I can take a look? Thank you

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