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In this episode of the eCommerce Playbook Podcast, we're diving deep into why organic revenue is essential for sustainable growth. Richard and Taylor are joined by Travis Biechele, the brand-new Director of SEO at CTC.

They discuss the strategic reasons behind CTC's shift towards SEO and how we're leveraging organic growth to build a stable revenue foundation for our clients. Learn about Travis's journey from a random tweet to becoming CTC's SEO Director. Hear about his innovative approach and dedication to driving results, and find out why he's the perfect fit for leading our SEO efforts.

Show Notes:

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[00:00:00] Richard Gaffin: Hey everyone. Welcome to the e commerce playbook podcast. I'm your host, Richard Geffen, director of digital product strategy here at CTC. And I'm joined today. We got Taylor, of course, CEO of Common Threat Collective is in the house. We also have a special guest with us, Travis Beshell, who is our brand new director of SEO here at CTC. What's going on guys.

[00:00:19] Travis Biechele: Hey, excited to jump in and join. I

[00:00:22] Richard Gaffin: Awesome.

[00:00:22] Taylor: Yeah, this has been a long time coming and I'm excited for Travis to come out from behind the curtain and reveal himself to the world via this podcast.

[00:00:32] Richard Gaffin: So I think the question that we, we need to kick this episode off with, of course, is why is CTC doing SEO for a long time, but we've sort of been allergic to the idea of doing organic for our clients. But of course, we have also pushed the idea that the organic layer of revenue is the most stable one.

And it's the one that you need to grow in order to create a foundation for the rest, particularly for your paid. And so obviously we've always wanted to look for an organic solution for our clients and we finally landed on one. So I think Taylor, maybe you can help us set up this, the answer to this question or the rest of the conversation by answering this question of why are we doing SEO and why are we doing it now?

[00:01:11] Taylor: So this story starts like many of mine do with a random tweet that I sent out. And Travis, I was trying to find the exact text of what I said, but it was something along the lines of I'm looking to meet whoever it is that's the best in the world at SEO, SEM. Because we're building the agency Avengers and we want to sort of bring to life this service offering on behalf of our customers, both potentially first as a referral opportunity, but really what I was after was I wanted to meet the people who are doing this well. And Travis showed up in my DMS and he says, I know I'm one of those people from an SEO, SEM perspective. Hopefully I demonstrate that regularly here on Twitter. Curious what opportunities you're open to, especially as an entity outside of the CDC ecosystem. So. Showed up, we started having conversations and the problem I was trying to solve for was this. In our planning process with our customers. And you've seen this slide, Richard just referenced that we have what we call the revenue layer cake. And we say that your revenue is comprised of two basic layers, your existing customer revenue and new customer revenue, but that those layers could both be broken up into paid and organic versions of each. And we would track forecast and plan this organic revenue layer for our customers and often highlight to them how they were seeing it. Deprecate over time or depreciate maybe is another phrase there and not have a solution for them to the problem. We would say things like, Hey, you need to figure out how to drive some growth in this layer of your revenue, but good luck.

Maybe here's some people you could talk to. And that was a frustrating experience for customers. They want you to not only be able to recommend an action, but ideally be able to help them execute against it. And I knew that this was a part of businesses that served multiple facets of impact where yes, organic search results provide a way to generate organic meaning non pay per click revenue, but it also has a role to play in the funnel generally.

For our partners, where the more places you're showing up as customers are searching for answers to questions about your category, about your brand, the more likely you are to convert all the sort of spaghetti customer paths that end up through purchase. And so I thought it could have a dual impact on both our paid efficacy, as well as this organic layer of demand. But for me in a human service business, no opportunity matters absent the human to lead it. That is the thing I have learned in this business over many years. It doesn't matter how much I think the market opportunity is right. If I don't have an expert and thought leader to drive it, it doesn't matter. And that's where Travis showed up. And Travis illustrated this incredible attribute of persistence, professionalism, a level of attention to detail and care for his craft. That was really compelling. And with these journeys, what I usually do with people is I say, basically, okay, you have to sell me through the lens of bamboo earth. And so what I did is I gave Travis an intro to Dave recook at bamboo earth. And I said, Hey, talk to this guy. I think he's got a compelling idea of SEO. You should meet with him. Travis pitches, Dave, Dave basically gives a long thoughtful list of why it won't work. Here's what I don't. Here's the reason why I don't think this is going to work out and why we're not going to hire you right now. Awesome. I thought that would be the end of it. Travis received that it kind of closed. I went back to my day to day job about three weeks later. I get an email from Travis. That basically says I took all the feedback from Dave and I went and closed all the loops and here's how I took everything that he gave me and made it better so that we can deliver on it in a way that actually is consistent with what he wants unsolicited, didn't ask him to do that, didn't suggest that he should, he just went and took it all and actioned against it immediately. And I said, amazing. And he went back to Dave and Dave was like, well, you've answered all my questions, let's do it. And so that was for me, the impetus was that curio effort, interest, curiosity, expertise, and. Response to feedback, high level of effort. And so Travis I put Travis in with the room with Tony, our head of paid media.

And I said, look, develop the service offering, learn our system and let's do it together. And here we are now that's Travis. I'm, I'm trying to think of like, when did we start this conversation? It's been a bit a while,

[00:05:34] Travis Biechele: think it was May of last year.

[00:05:36] Taylor: Yeah.

So almost to be clear, this is a one year journey. I just, I just went through really quickly a persistence, trying to find the right way to do it, to be standing here today going, Hey, CTC is now able to offer SEO in a way that I think is consistent with our promise of helping brands deliver predictable, profitable growth with an obligation to a revenue outcome that we're going to talk through today.

And so. And more than anything, I'm excited about the human being that we have in the organization who I know will be just as relentless in creating value for our customers as he was with creating value for us here at CTC.

[00:06:09] Richard Gaffin: So before we throw it over to you, Travis, and kind of talk about maybe the specifics of, of how you're approaching SEO for us, I'm curious to pull on the thread of what were Dave's objections. To SEO. Why did he think it wasn't going to work? Because I think that helps to answer this question. Why SEO and why now?

So actually maybe Travis, you could speak to that a little bit. Like what, what did he give you? That was, or what were his objections? I guess, to, to moving forward with it.

[00:06:34] Travis Biechele: One of them was that they were in the process of migrating to a Shopify 2. 0 theme. And so with limited developer resource available, he had kind of indicated, this is a priority for me effectively through end of year. And that was in response to me saying, some of what I bring to the table are technical fixes in nature.

I will need to work and collaborate with your dev team. And so when he kind of put that as, as a bit of an obstacle or roadblock, I took it upon myself to basically, as best I could master liquid theme code for Shopify and understand for the elements that I would be introducing that would typically require a developer to take action.

Can I do this? So it was a bit of a, of an overnight learning for me, which is kind of something that I've, Done multiple times over the course of my career. When I, when I find that someone else is a roadblock, I'll just acquire that knowledge and then now it's mine and, and it kind of fortifies my capabilities.

[00:07:34] Taylor: So if

anybody's listening, so okay, this is, this is so good. And Corey, we should clip this is that the barrier was Travis didn't know how to code. And so Dave said, my developer is not available. So I can't buy your service. Most people would be like, all right, well, let me know when the developer's free. And then you would never hear back from the customer. Travis just taught himself the code. He said, I will learn the thing that's in this world. Like it's all available to you. Right. And so that to me was like the perfect signal of like, Hmm, that's what I want to see. Problem barrier, plow through it. No foam wall, we used to say here at CTC.

[00:08:06] Richard Gaffin: That's right. So were any of Dave's objections around, this is, we can cut this if it's not the case, but was there any Dave's objections around the idea of. Moving forward with SEO right now, like the idea of prioritizing SEO as a strategy, and if so, how are you able to overcome some of those?

[00:08:23] Travis Biechele: Yeah, I think there was, there was a certain amount of reluctance to, can this kind of pay for itself? What is the time horizon that I can expect to have revenue generated from this service ecliptic cost to produce? And that has, that kind of feedback has effectively reframed how I think about SEO and approach to it.

It's hard because we don't have a crystal ball that can give you that perfect answer. But it is a longer time horizon, certainly than any paid media or other traditional marketing effort. So, what I've been able to do is to that specifically, the way we look at revenue that we generate from any SEO effort that we do, is we try to qualify it by traffic that comes through net new pages that we create for a brand.

And then if we're looking at organic traffic through only those pages as landing pages, that's something that didn't exist yesterday. We've created it for you today to specifically capture demand that exists out there in the market for a product or service that your brand promotes. And that's a clean filter to kind of prove that out in a world where proving an attribution are muddied waters at best.

So that kind of developing that answer and that methodology was a way to kind of satisfy Dave's concern that their payback period might be too long or too short.

[00:09:49] Richard Gaffin: Okay. So go ahead, Taylor.

[00:09:51] Taylor: I was just going to say, and this is really important is that the challenge with SEO that often convolutes this issue is that technical SEO, in other words, the improvement of your existing. Pages is subject to all sorts of additional variables that affect volume of demand for that page in a way that it becomes really difficult to isolate your impact into revenue assignment to you.

So if you, let's just say you improved an SEO on a PDP. And then the seasonal demand changes in a way for that PDP, it's hard to suss out like, what was the impact of the technical SEO? And you're trying to do year of year comparisons of different things. And you're trying to build a narrative more than you can isolate the impact explicitly. Now that's not to say that that's not important or it doesn't make a difference. It's just harder to isolate. Whereas if there was a page that never existed before, and now traffic shows up to that page and revenue gets generated in light of that, that's a much easier foundation to work from to isolate the impact of SEO on your business.

[00:10:56] Richard Gaffin: And I think that the through line there, and maybe the important thing to draw out is that the goal of this approach to SEO is revenue is revenue attribution, as opposed to my, my, my experience with SEO is something to do with traffic or ranking, like is how high does your thing rank on a search or whatever. But the, the, this approach here is. Closer to, or is more specifically about revenue is this driving revenue? So maybe Travis, you can. flesh out a little bit more for us, like how this is different from everybody else's approach to SEO, because that was the thing I was immediately struck with is that, that the revenue first approach is sort of unique in the field.

So maybe explain the environment a little more and how this is different.

[00:11:38] Travis Biechele: Sure, I think for too long, perhaps since forever, rankings, traffic, inbound links were enough to satisfy brands. It demonstrated activity. I'm paying for SEO as a service. Here's a catalog of the activity that happened, and I think SEO entities and practitioners historically have promoted this thinking because it's what perpetuates their career, and in a way, it kind of poisoned the well, because you might exit a 6 month engagement, having paid.

X thousands of dollars for this service. And you, you don't have a real tangible, provable way to say, here's the net new revenue that I earned from that, unlike paid media or unlike other marketing efforts. So I think that has gone on for effectively decades and it's really unfortunate because SEO does have the potential to bring net new organic revenue into a business.

And that's kind of what we're trying to do. I think mature, elevated brands and thought leaders realize, and of course, understand that revenue is king. So for us at CTC, revenue is the only measuring stick that matters. And that's how we greater work. Of course, rankings are important. Of course, increased exposure on search results pages is important, but there are precursors to success and they shouldn't be conflated with KPIs or success metrics themselves.

So we focus relentlessly on delivering that, that new organic revenue to the brands that we service.

[00:13:03] Taylor: And what I love about this is it now allows us to take ownership and responsibility for that page. That revenue item in our dashboard, which is that organic revenue piece. And to start to say, we will make an impact there and measure our success there, and that number ladders up to the overall revenue goals of the business, which ladder up to a contribution margin outcome. And so we continue to hone everything directionally in making the financial impact. That connects to the marketing tactics we're suggesting, and we know putting ourselves on the hook for that is the highest bar of expectation. But that's, and that's what we're signing up with, with clarity. It's why I think we have an edge in the market right now in terms of the service offering is because we're willing to put our name on a bottom line outcome and say, hire us or fire us on the basis of that result, we'll take ownership and responsibility for it. And I can say as a leader. That's what I crave. I crave partners in that pursuit, whether it's my employees, whether it's an outside vendor, if they say, I know what you care about. And so I will take responsibility for improving that thing and not try and obfuscate it with traffic numbers or other listing ranking results that ultimately don't change my bank account. Those are the kinds of people I want to be in the trenches with.

[00:14:18] Richard Gaffin: Yeah, it seems like there's definitely a sense in which people often treat organic revenue as being this sort of mysterious thing that either kind of happens or doesn't. But what we're doing is here is taking a stance and saying, this is a lever that we can control, something we can actually pull you know, And that's part of what sets us apart.

So let's I'm kind of curious to talk maybe specifically about. Your approach to SEO tactically, and part of the reason that I'm interested in that is a conversation we were having before we hit record, which is about some tailor you brought about. Isn't it too late for SEO? Isn't a going to replace all of this blah, blah, blah. And so what I'm interested in is, and Travis, you sort of mentioned a response to that. So I want to talk through that right now. Like, what, what's your response to that? Yeah. Sort of, that thought about the idea that it's too late for SEO or that AI is going to replace everything or whatever. And how do you respond to it in terms of your actual day to day work?

[00:15:08] Travis Biechele: I think that to be pessimistic about a completely unknown future is irresponsible. So we can't predict the future of what a search results page will look like, or the influence of AI on that. But what any brand absolutely can focus their efforts on is what I like to call the health and wellness of your website.

If there's a future where in advertising you plug in your single domain URL and everything is done for you. Well, you still control the content structure, et cetera, of, of your domain, of your website. So part of the, the initial part of our SEO work tactically is to do just that, to redress your existing site and make sure we look at 170 different factors and we do our best to make sure that your entire site from collection pages to PDPs, to even content pages.

Are up to snuff that they give the best inputs, the best signals to search engines so that your website can be better crawled, indexed, and ultimately discoverable for people looking for the product or service that your brand offers.

[00:16:16] Richard Gaffin: The idea that ultimately it's still up to you, what's on your website. And that is going to be essentially completely in control.

[00:16:22] Travis Biechele: Exactly


[00:16:23] Taylor: about even Google, there is a constant iteration to the, what the algorithm prefers and what the structures are that part of this journey will always be adjusting your tactical execution to meet the primary tool of the moment. And whatever SEO or whatever AI is going to become is. A discovered future that we don't know yet, but we do know today right now that brands are in desperate need of additional levers outside of meta advertising to find ways to build a sustainable, healthy business. And that margin innovation is a thing I've talked a lot about is that the idea that everybody's growth is just going to come from a perpetual increase of advertising spend while holding efficiency constant is not real. And so for many brands, they're at a maturity phase where they have an opportunity to make sort of what I would call Roick based investments, return on invested capital over longer periods of time, where they can look out three, six, nine, 12 months and say, all right, what could we invest in today that would bear ongoing return for us as a business into our future to help make this business more likely to exist in 10 years. And to me, SEO is part of that. Where we both acknowledge the need for short term impact and also the potential value of the long term horizon. Andrew and I used to use this metaphor a lot back in the early days of CTC about growing rice or going to the store and buying rice, right? The metaphor was that you, depending on what the need was, you would choose to make the impact.

But the reality is, It is a lot more sustainable for brands to have the opportunity to do both, to go and pick it from the trees, or to also go to the store and buy it when necessary. And if you have both, you create leverage in your organization for demand and reduce risk of volatility. So all of these things are ways in which you can create a better future for your business by making both kinds of investments, not one or the other.

[00:18:14] Travis Biechele: And I love that because I independently came up with my own analogy of. Do you want an apple today or do you want to plant an apple tree that yields fruit in perpetuity for its lifetime? So it's a similar thing where you can have that immediate result, which is paid efforts, or you can have a fruit yielding tree for years and years to come.

If you invest in that, the health and wellness of that tree, your website.

[00:18:39] Richard Gaffin: Right. I like the idea too. And both of you are saying that it's like, it is actually kind of not an either or too often people just decide not to plant the tree, but you can plant the tree and then buy the apples while you wait for the tree to fruit as well. It's like, it's not. Yeah, it's not a binary. Okay, cool. So I think like a lot of what this episode is, is of course, we're making a pitch for our SEO services. And of course, if you go to common thread code. com and hit the hires button and ask about SEO, you can go ahead and do that. And we would love to do this for you. But what we also want to do is provide just, I think it's interesting always to provide our folks with practical tips. And so one thing that I always like to ask Taylor when we're talking about this, You know, whatever specific tactical executions is, what single piece of advice would you give to the folks listening right now around SEO? So what's the one thing that they can do SEO wise that'll transform or at least begin to transform the way that the organic traffic?

[00:19:32] Travis Biechele: For me, I would say the single best reflective question is. How are you proving that your current SEO efforts are driving revenue for your business? And if that answer isn't immediate and crystal clear, then that's, you know, that that's a problem. It should be a red flag. And I think specifically, tactically, It's something along the lines of, how are you controlling how your website appears in search results?

Are you consciously and meticulously monitoring your page titles, your meta descriptions, your URL structure, so that the, those very fundamental basic inputs, Are up to snuff and that you are representing your brand in organic search the way that you need to be.

[00:20:19] Taylor: So what I love about this answer and this, for some people, this is like dissatisfying. They want like a, go click this button and do this thing and you'll get this magic result.

That's like, we crave this. But what you'll notice about almost every part of CTC is that the, the idea of measuring what matters as the mechanism for driving the right corresponding set of actions is like foundational to how we work. Is that we believe that forecasting is an exercise in execution and that the point of forecasting is setting the expectation of a very specific set of metrics so that your behavior will orient around improving them. And so when it comes to SEO, it's no different than email, where if you go read. How do we do email? You know what we do? We forecast and project every email we're going to send every month. We make sure that number adds up to the expected existing customer revenue that we need. And then we start executing.

We measure. And if we adjust, we send another email and we adjust, we improve it. We send again to get to the goal. SEO is not different. How much organic revenue do I need? Where is it going to come from? What incremental impact am I going to make? What pages am I going to launch? How much traffic's going to come from it? And then every day we measure the expected return against the result and change our behavior course correct. Every time we're off course, it is no different than any other service we run. And we believe that this is how you get where you're going by having a clarity of expectation around the result and visibility into how you measure it. And so that isn't a specific tactic. Yes, we're going to design a lot of pages. We're going to use tools like a refs to search, understand search volume and where the opportunity exists and the relationship between competition and volume and figure out the right words to focus on and all those things. But it actually begins very foundationally with measuring the impact.

[00:22:01] Richard Gaffin: I'll throw it back to you, Taylor Travis. Is there any, anything else that you want to hit on this? Anything that you want to leave them?

[00:22:07] Taylor: Well, I do. Let me, Travis, let me set you up for one more thing, because the expectation that We gave you, when you came in, was that you looked at all the CTC tools, everything from GQ score to the growth map to statless. And we said, this only works if you integrate it into the profit system. If you become a part of it, it can't be separate to it. And so maybe you can talk a little bit about how power score leads to the impact and measurement and the growth map leads to how we report in statless. So people can understand how this is not going to be a separate siloed experience from common thread, but it's going to be a key critical function of the profit system.

[00:22:39] Travis Biechele: Yeah. When we talk about growth maps, there's, there's a separate tab where we're tracking SEO efforts over time as well. We are setting an expectation. We are forecasting out the potential traffic and revenue that every effort generates. And that's that feeds into the entire ecosystem there when we talk about starting off with an SEO client, the 1st 1.

The 1st things we look at is what we call the SEO power score and that is technical in nature. We're looking at 170 different factors. We have a custom weighted scale based on the priority of concern and the number of pages affected to give you a singular output that's paired with poor, good, fair or excellent.

And so that kind of sets the stage for our focus in month one of work together. And so that entirety of a month, one's work is centered on the areas that need the most help because they're affecting the most pages or they're the highest priority that kind of then can work in the background as we've been launching to content SEO, which is where we are focusing on those areas where there is overlap of relatively low competition, but high volume for a keyword theme phrase theme that your brand's product or service can satisfy.

And so then month in month out, we're delivering batches of monthly content in the form of pages and measuring those meticulously over the course of time after they launch. So that ladders up to expected revenue contributions from organic and kind of sets that stage.

[00:24:18] Taylor: So from the start, when you come in, just understand that anything that we do is anchored in this idea of helping you define a financial objective, and then all of the marketing and execution that will flow out of it. And we will be rigorous in holding ourselves accountable to delivering on the financial result. Connected to whatever marketing effort you're participating with us in. And I think that whether that's at CDC or not that's my encouragement for you is to take from this, like Travis said, go examine and ask the question, what am I doing in SEO right now? How am I measuring its impact? And what is the return on that investment? Could it be better? Is there more opportunity to reduce the volatility of your business? Drive more organic demand, build more trees. We could all use more trees.

[00:25:02] Richard Gaffin: There you go. Wise words. All right, folks. Thank you again to Travis for joining us. Thanks Taylor. And yeah, like we were mentioning before, if you want us to do this for you, we of course would love to start that conversation. So come to commentarycode. com, click the hire us button and we'd be happy to have that conversation with you. All right, folks,

everybody take care. We'll see you next week.