How Incapsula Doubles Their Business Year Over Year With SEO, Content Marketing and CRO
by Mike Khorev
I’ve recently listed another great interview with Tim Matthews, who was a VP of marketing at Incapsula (now Imperva). Incapsula/Imperva is a cloud service that accelerates and secures websites of any kind and had $1.5 billion market capitalization at the time of the interview. Incapsula accelerates all the good content and block all the attack traffic and keep websites safe, so they can do what they’re meant to do.
Tim emphasized the importance of SEO and content marketing in their customer acquisition strategy and shared some numbers they were able to achieve:
- Market Capitalization: $1.5 billion
- Protects: 5,000,000+ websites
- Number #1 customer acquisition channel: Content Marketing and SEO
- Year over year growth: 100%
- Content team: Cheif Editor and 10 – 12 external writers
- Cost to produce one blog post: $400 – $600
Here is the part of the interview when Tim and Eric discuss content marketing SEO and Conversion Rate Optimization and what role they play in the overall strategy.
Tim: Part of our problem is that we sell to everybody, which maybe sounds good to people when they’re given their investment pitches, but it poses a real go-to-market problem. How do you service such different buyers as a free blogger versus a big Fortune 50 company, multi-national? The way we do it is we have a premium-free plan, like I mentioned. Then we have the pro and business plans, which are self-service trials where you pay with a credit card, so there’s very little to no sales interaction with those customers unless they have issues getting set up. Then we have a sales team that services the enterprise plans, which could be mid-size companies with a lot of online Tim Matthews Page 3 of 9 traffic, or those very large companies that I mentioned before. We’ve got those 4 distinct pricing plans with very different feature capabilities, and also a different way we acquire the customers.
Eric: Great. Talk about customer acquisition right here, it’s a great segue. What’s working for you? What’s super effective in terms of customer acquisition for you guys?
Tim: Number 1 for us is the combination of SEO and quality content. If you think about what we do, there’s a lot of information that people want to know about how sites get attacked, how they can prevent attacks or how they can make their sites faster, and people are searching for this every day. We spend probably the most money and manpower combined on really quality content and making sure that we’re constantly showing up on that number 1, the first Google results page. That’s probably a really big area for us. We also spend a lot of money on CRO, so conversion rate optimization. It dawned on us that we’ve got a very large number of people coming to our site every day and we were leaky. People were not converting or they were bouncing very quickly, and so I am a real big fan of optimizing, and we do probably 5 experiments a week to try and really keep people on the site and convert. I can give you a couple of examples of successful tests that were really simple, but very effective.
Tim: My favorite is … Like a lot of SaaS companies, our call to action on the buttons was start free trial. We thought everyone else does that, it seems like a reasonable call to action. We actually changed that for our enterprise plan only to get quotes, because it turns out a lot of enterprise customers don’t want a trial. In some cases they can’t run a trial. On IBM.com for example, you can’t just run a trial for a big site like that. They actually want to talk to a sales person and get a quote. Changing those start trial to get quote, changing those 2 words resulted in a 280% increase in conversions, a huge, huge impact. I think a lot of people make the mistake of not focusing on optimization to website. You’re never done, but it can yield great results.
Eric: Just to give a little context to that INC, you guys are running 5 tests per week. How much traffic do you need to be running at that level?
Tim: You typically need … I’m not a CR expert, but you need probably 50,000 uniques a week to be really able to see some good quality results, or you run a small number of tests and you just wait longer to get the significance you need to prove out the results.
Eric: Right. I think one thing a lot of companies forget about is not only just testing, but having that testing framework where you’re constantly tracking these over time, or else these tests just kind of get lost in translation. Is that something you guys do?
Tim: We do. We actually work with an agency because it’s a lot of work and we don’t have somebody in house who’s dedicated. We have a methodology where we meet every week, we have a series of tests, and we have in some cases brain dead obvious results, not a case of any judgment calls, and we are constantly yanking out one that didn’t work or accepting one that did. Then of course you have to remember to actually hard code it on your site. Some people forget to actually take the test and actually code it into their website. I think it’s a regular cadence. We have some metrics that we want to see more conversions to free trials or form fills to talk to sales people. Right now we’re working on keeping people on our micro-sites longer, so reducing the bounce rate to keep them around. You have to have the goals in mind. You have to have the cadence. You have to have the team, because if you don’t have the team to really manage CRO, it can get very complicated very quickly, and if you’re not watching your results you can spend a lot of money and get nothing for it.
Eric: Okay. Backing up a second, you just talked about quality content. What exactly does quality content look like to you?
Tim: Quality content is something that our buyer would actually want to read. It sounds really obvious to say, but many people make the mistake of not talking to their perspective buyers and asking them questions like what do you read? What do you search for? What kind of content would you like to see from us? I like to think of quality content as something you can write that somebody can learn something from and apply to their job that day. Data sheets wouldn’t cut it, or high-level overviews that are available elsewhere wouldn’t cut it. Something unique to you that somebody can read and learn something from … I read a lot of great marketing blogs and I’ve never bought some of those products, but I’m thinking about them and I think I probably learned a lot about AB testing from optimizing the quality content. I think people make the mistake of just dashing stuff out and they get caught up in that fallacy or maybe misnomer about you’ve got to post every day, every day, every day. I’d rather think about creating a quality piece that can be longstanding. We have blog posts from 5 years ago that are still in our top 10 because they’re so useful and they’re of course highly linked to. That’s what I mean by quality content.
Incapsula’s SEO and Content Marketing Review
With this high-level overview, we can move into the detailed analysis of their content marketing and SEO strategy to get a better understanding of how they achieved those amazing results and growth. I recorded a short video where I analyzed their content marketing efforts, traffic growth, link building activities, CRO tactics and provided few actionable tips that you can apply to your business and sites.
Notes and highlights from the video:
- Incapsula.com merged with Impreva.com in 2019 and done a good job at mapping old domain to new domain and setting up 301 redirects. All Incapsula.com blog posts, content pages, traffic and rankings have moved to Impreva.com
- They started link-building mid-2013 and their backlink profile has been growing over time.
- There are few spikes in the number of referred domains and that usually happens when you acquire or buy links from PBN (private blog networks) that belong to one owner and webmaster. Overtime those domains and sites go offline at the same time and it causing the number of referred domains to go up and down significantly. Those tactics were working back in 2013 but can get you a penalty now.
- Since Sept 2016 they’ve been working on building quality links and the chart was steadily growing without spikes or declines.
- Over the course of 3 years they created backlinks from 2,500 new domains and published a large number of 500 blog posts which they later migrated to Impreva.com in 2019.
- Before the migration, they ranked for 69,000 keywords (11,000 keywords ranking on the first page).
- Over the last 5 years, organic traffic from Google increased from 20,000 to 151,000 visitors per month. An average traffic increase of 100% year over year.
- Incapsula and now Imperva offer a wide range of IT and security services and use live chat and book a demo form as a lead capturing tool. They should have an average 2%-4% conversion rate from organic traffic.
- Their content marketing strategy for the blog posts includes keyword research and writing long-form blog posts. They’ve moved over 500 posts from Incapsula and keep writing new ones. Blog posts and some of the best performing posts have backlinks from over 100 domains.
- Each post targets specific keywords that their prospects would search online and most likely to convert to a client. Here are a few examples:
- They rank in the top 7 worldwide for the keyword “phishing” with 74,000 searches per month just in the US as well as other 1102 similar keywords and driving 3,973 monthly visitors. To achieve that they’ve built links to that post from 169 domains. With an average conversion rate of 2-4%, that’s 80-100 leads/month from that single blog post.
- They also rank top 3 worldwide for keyword “DDOS” with 75,000 searches per month in the US only as well as 438 similar keywords and driving 2,572 monthly visitors to that page. To achieve that they’ve created backlinks to that post on 222 sites. With an average conversion rate of 2-4%, that’s 50-100 leads/month from that single blog post.
- Overall they have first-page ranking for almost everything related to IT security, phishing, servers, firewalls, disaster recovery and other 3000 IT related topics and keywords.
Takeaways and Next Step
SEO and content marketing were #1 customer acquisition channels for Incapusla and helped them reach $1.5 billion market capitalization. Tim and his content team executed a well-planned content strategy that helped them drive 151,000 monthly targeted visitors to incapsula.com and 188,000 monthly visitors to imperva.com and convert them into clients with effective conversion rate optimization techniques. You can use their content strategy and my teardown to build your SEO campaign as SEO works the same way for any industry, keywords and product whenever it’s B2B, B2C or SaaS.
To make SEO work for your business and reach your revenue targets make sure you follow the 5 step process Tim used for Incapsula:
- Perform keyword analysis to find what your prospects are searching for on Google.
- Create SEO optimized pages (home page, internal service/product pages, blog posts, case studies) targeting those keywords.
- Build quality, relevant contextual links to your home, internal and blog post pages.
- Track your rankings, metrics, conversion rate and continuously optimize performance and CRO
- Be consistent and persistent. You need to build links and optimize your website for a few years until SEO will deliver real value and make your thought leader in the industry. 30 backlinks per month and the weekly blog posts on your site would be a good start.
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April 6, 2020