Top Level Overview

How SEO Helped Drum Center of Portsmouth Grow E-Commerce Revenue by 297%
Drumcenternh.com

Introduction

Each e-commerce client is different…

Maybe you’ve got years of brick-and-mortar success under your belt and are looking to expand your online footprint…

Or you’ve been a pure e-commerce business from day one and are looking to level up.

At SwishDM, each of our clients has a unique story to tell, and it’s our job to help them tell it.

When it comes to search engine optimization (SEO), SwishDM knows that there’s no such thing as an effective, one-size-fits-all, cookie-cutter approach… 

Each business that partners with SwishDM benefits from a bespoke digital search, PR, and advertising strategy — uniquely tailored to meet both their short and long-term business goals.

In this case study, you’ll find how we helped one e-commerce business increase revenue by 297%  and realize a 46x return on their marketing spend in 2020. 

This client’s organic search traffic has almost tripled (up 178%), and unique page views have more than doubled (up 111%) in 2020.

We’ll take an in-depth look at how we help achieve those results using:

But first things first… 

Allow us to introduce you to our client…


(Source: Modern Drummer)

The Client: Drum Center of Portsmouth

Shane Kinney knows drums…

Since opening the doors to Drum Center of Portsmouth in 2009, Kinney has grown his brick-and-mortar retail store into a 20,00 square foot drummer’s paradise — home to the largest selection of drums, drum accessories, and percussion instruments on the planet.

But before hiring SwishDM in 2018, Kinney was having only marginal success turning his real-world expertise and product selection into favorable results online.

Drum Center’s inventory and expertise were second-to-none, and their pricing more than competitive…

But even if you’re doing everything right offline, e-commerce dominance depends on being able to connect and engage with your online target audience — and potential customers — quickly and effectively.

The ability to get crucial customer eyeballs on your merchandise comes down to two things: overall brand awareness and authority and —  even more crucially — the ease with which your target customers can find your e-commerce store and products through search.

Kinney and Drum Center had brand authority in spades, but it was time to turn up the volume when it came to connecting with an online audience.

That’s where SwishDM came in… 

Technical SEO Audit

Technical SEO is the bedrock of any effective digital marketing campaign.

Without a solid technical foundation to build on, time-consuming and expensive SEO initiatives like content creation and link building are likely to yield few or disappointing results.

Despite the crucial nature of technical SEO, it remains widely misunderstood and undervalued.

No doubt you’ve seen dubious SEO “experts” offering “website audits” as freebies to entice you into putting them on your payroll.

But real technical SEO involves much more than an “agency owner” plugging your website’s URL into an auditing tool like MySiteAuditor and slapping their logo on the report it spits out.

Virtually any e-commerce business owner is bound to feel overwhelmed by the reams of data an automated technical SEO tool delivers in just minutes.

After all, technical SEO is — well — technical.

In contrast to an automated data dump, a real technical SEO audit — which we specialize in at SwishDM — utilizes multiple tools: including SiteBulb, Ahrefs, Google Search Console and Analytics, and more.

Crucially, all of the raw data provided by these tools is then subject to the expert analysis of SwishDM’s seasoned SEO professionals…

Here’s just a handful of examples of issues we uncovered in our technical SEO audit of Drum Center’s e-commerce site… 

Some of the above issues were easy-to-fix quick wins…

Others required collaboration with the client and outside developers to resolve.

If we uncover any technical SEO issues we can’t fix, we work with the client’s in-house coder — or recommend a trusted third-party development team — to make sure any remaining bugs get squashed.

Website Quality Audit

Each webpage of an e-commerce website like Drum Center is listed in our proprietary Website Audit spreadsheet — from the homepage right down to product categories and individual product or content pages. 

Our Website Audit tracks the key performance indicators for each page and its most relevant keywords…

Our SEO professionals then create custom suggestions for each page on the site.

Depending on the size of the site, this can be an extremely labor-intensive process…

Our team has done manual Website Audits for e-commerce sites with tens of thousands of individual pages.

In the end, we leave no stone unturned in finding problems that negatively impact performance on a site-wide or individual page level and supply solutions for each.

Here are some improvements for Drum Center that we helped implement based on our Website Audit:

Reporting and Transparency

At SwishDM, our goal isn’t only to create a custom SEO strategy but also to make it all make sense to our clients.

Like many e-commerce business owners, Drum Center’s Shane Kinney had negative experiences with ineffective and unscrupulous digital marketing “agencies” in the past.

Kinney’s experience is by no means uncommon…

If you’re an e-commerce business owner looking to improve your site’s performance, you’ll quickly find yourself inundated with LinkedIn and Facebook messages offering SEO “expertise” at rock bottom prices.

The temptation to turn to Fiverr or Upwork to find digital marketing help is understandable — after all, it’s cheap!

It’s also potentially hazardous to the long-term health of your e-commerce business.

Whenever you “hand over the keys” to your site to an SEO or digital marketing agency, you’re trusting them with the future of your company’s search engine success.

Most so-called digital marketing agencies operate on a churn-and-burn model. They expect clients to turn over every 2 or 3 months and have no interest in the long-term performance of the companies they work with.

In many instances, that mentality leads SEOs to employ dubious black-hat SEO techniques that may show short-term gains but can result in devastating damage to an e-commerce site over time.

At SwishDM, we pride ourselves on having very low customer turnover — many of our clients have been with us for years.

One of the main reasons for this is transparency.

We don’t make promises that we can’t keep, and we keep our client’s posted each step of the way.  

Many SEO agencies cloak their methods in secrecy. They offer little insight into their process other than delivering a barebones report and an invoice when it’s time for them to get paid.

At SwishDM, we’ve built a customer-facing project management platform — utilizing ClickUp — that allows our clients to see in as much detail as they choose what tasks we’re working on and why at any given time.

We offer the project management platform in addition to our monthly reports, which highlight the following:

Clients also have access to live reporting from Google Data Studio — based on a custom template we create — showing up-to-the-minute traffic and ranking data (and more.) 

Our goal isn’t to overwhelm clients with data — far from it. 

But if you’re like Drum Center’s Shane Kinney and you want the ability to get granular with what’s going on with your e-commerce site and why, SwishDM makes it easy for you. 

If you want to take a more hands-off approach and just want results — we’re OK with that too.      

Content Strategy and Creation

In the same way that drums are the foundation of popular music, content is the backbone of most thriving e-commerce businesses. 

Particularly those that don’t rely on paid search and advertising.

Kinney isn’t a fan of Google PPC or Facebook ads…

So from day one, we made Google organic search the bedrock of Drum Center’s growth strategy. 

Since SwishDM began working with Drum Center in late 2017, visitors from organic search have almost tripled (up 178%), and page views more than doubled (up 111%) in 2020.

The Content Marketing Funnel

For you to understand the most fundamental change we made to Drum Center’s existing content strategy, it’s helpful to have a basic understanding of the content marketing funnel.

The content marketing funnel is a way of visualizing where your website visitors are in their buyer’s journey and how close they are to making a purchase.

As you can see in the above graphic, the content marketing funnel is typically broken down into four stages — Top of Funnel (ToFu), Middle of Funnel (MoFu), Bottom of Funnel (BoFu), and Sold.

Users at the bottom of the funnel are typically the most educated about a product they’re searching for and are the closest to making a purchase.

For example, BoFu users are unlikely to be searching for “What is a snare drum?” and far more likely to be searching for “Best snare drum under $500?” or “Buy drumhead online.” 

BoFu content is extremely popular online — just Google “Best XXXX in 2021” and see how many buyer’s guides and A vs. B product review articles come up.

BoFu content is so popular with affiliate marketers and e-commerce sites precisely because the search intent behind BoFu keywords indicates that the user is close to making a purchase.

They’ve already educated themselves about the product and are just about ready to pull the trigger on a purchase.

It’s easy to understand why Drum Center primarily published BoFu content before partnering with SwishDM… 

But after a thorough content audit, Swish revamped Drum Center’s content strategy to pivot away from BoFu content…

It turns out, even drums can be too bottom-heavy.

In collaboration with the client, we began to focus primarily on creating ToFu and MoFu content for the following reasons:

Brand Authority and Expertise

By focusing only on BoFu content, Kinney and the Drum Center team failed to leverage one of their brand’s greatest assets…

These guys are drum fanatics! 

Drum Center is uniquely positioned to create valuable educational content from beginner level right up to budding Lars Ulrichs and John Bonhams. 

Showcasing Drum Center’s expertise and authority through every stage of the buyer’s journey lends itself to content their competitors just can’t match. 

Topical Relevance

In recent years, topical relevance has become one of the holy grails of SEO. Google’s search algorithm is a black box, but evidence increasingly suggests that Google rewards sites that show a depth of expertise and cover topics thoroughly. From a search user’s (and Google’s) standpoint, this makes perfect sense. 

Google’s “job” is to guide you to a resource that thoroughly answers your search query — not a site whose sole aim is to sell you a product.

Many sites with predominantly BoFu or otherwise “thin” content — such as GearHungry saw their search rankings get obliterated in Google’s December 2020 core update. 

SEO experts — the SwishDM team included — agree that topical relevance will only become more crucial to SEO in the future.

Internal Links and Long Tail-Keyword Diversification

Another factor that’s become increasingly essential to SEO is internal linking or “interlinking.” 

Backlinks or external links linking to content on your site have long been proven to be one of Google’s primary ranking factors. 

But interlinks that, for example, link from ToFu informational content to BoFu content or “money pages” are now thought to deliver considerable “link juice” on their own.

Not only does creating informational ToFu and Mofu content give you ample opportunities to build internal links, but it also makes it more likely that your site will rank for additional long-tail keywords and queries

Another SEO win.

Video Content

In addition to optimizing the content marketing funnel and creating more informational content, we also worked with Drum Center to maximize the ROI on their video content.

Kinney and his Drum Center team have grown their YouTube channel to almost 50k subscribers organically by recording high-quality, engaging product reviews and explainer videos. 

Many of their videos, like the one above showcasing “Our Favorite Compact Drum Kits”  amass 50k+ views in a matter of months.

Drum Center’s video content is an ideal format to showcase their subject matter authority, unique brick-and-mortar retail environment, and their team and brand’s personality.

When SwishDM came on board, we identified a massive disconnect between Drum Center’s enormously popular YouTube channel and their e-commerce site.

Aside from a YouTube channel link, Drum Center wasn’t leveraging the video content they were creating on their website at all.

Our content team created written guides and blog articles relevant to Drum Center’s existing video content and then embedded the YouTube videos into the posts on their e-commerce site.

The video above for The Best Drum Set under $1,000 has over 130K views on YouTube, but before we revamped Drum Center’s content strategy, it had no home on the e-commerce site.

As mentioned above, external links or backlinks have long been considered one of Google’s primary ranking signals — and they remain crucial in 2021.

Given Drum Center’s stature in the drumming community and the sheer volume of products offered on their website, Drum Center had acquired a decent number of backlinks “naturally” over the years.

But only once SwishDM came on board was a dedicated link building campaign put into action…

The primary goal of virtually any link building campaign is to obtain backlinks from niche-relevant websites and bloggers — the higher the Domain Rating (DR — an Ahrefs metric) or Domain Authority (DA — a Moz metric), the better.

DR and DA are calculated differently, but both aim to provide a snapshot of how trustworthy and authoritative Google considers any given website/domain. We’re big fans of Ahrefs, so we’ll be referring to DR from here on out.

When you’re building backlinks for SEO purposes, the higher the DR of the site you receive a backlink from, the better. 

The more authoritative the linking site, the more ranking power — or “link juice” — it passes on to you.

When assessing whether a website is worth pursuing a backlink from, a good rule of thumb is whether it has a DR score of 40+ (out of 100). For example, The New York Times has a DR of 94.

Building inbound links to your e-commerce site is one of the best ways to boost your position in the rankings and put highly competitive keywords more within reach…

But it’s also where many sites run into trouble. 

Google is constantly coming up with new ways to identify “unnatural” backlinks — and penalize sites that have them in their link portfolio. 

Our outreach process to niche-relevant websites is tried and tested and follows strict quality guidelines.

Our goal is to obtain high-quality links for our clients with the minimum amount of risk.

Drum Center experienced a negative SEO attack right before coming on board with SwishDM — which our team helped resolve. Since our link building campaign began in late 2018, Drum Center’s backlink portfolio has almost doubled and continues to grow.

Here’s our link building outreach process in a nutshell…

Our link building outreach team then got to work pitching these and hundreds of other story ideas to bloggers, journalists, and editors.

Thanks in part to Drum Center’s standing in the industry and the high quality of the articles our writers produced, a significant proportion of the guest post opportunities we secured were “earned” — meaning the website/blogger publishing the post received no financial incentive.

Aside from traditional email outreach, some of the other strategies we pursue to achieve high- quality backlinks for our clients include:

Going forward, we’re putting a heavy emphasis on Digital PR for Drum Center in order to secure more premium quality backlinks and brand recognition.   

(link: https://i.imgur.com/rhGKsfE.png

Don’t let the link building section above lead you to believe that there’s no such thing as a bad backlink.

The more links, the better, right?

Wrong.

Backlinks from high-authority and niche-relevant websites can have a huge positive impact on your search rankings… 

But backlinks from low DA and spammy websites can substantially harm your off-page SEO.

If like Drum Center, your website has been around a long time, you’ve probably acquired numerous undesirable backlinks.

Perhaps at some point, you tried to improve your search performance or paid an SEO vendor that used (mostly) outdated tactics like Private Blog Networks (PBNs).

You could even have been the victim of a negative SEO attack from an unscrupulous competitor.

There are many ways your site can acquire harmful backlinks…

After all, you can’t control who links back to your site, can you?

The worst part is, you might not even know that toxic backlinks are holding your SEO efforts back.

That’s why one of the first steps we take when partnering with a client is to run a thorough backlink audit. 

That means that we manually review every single external link pointing back to our client’s website.

As you can see from the Ahrefs screenshot above, Drum Center still has almost 9K backlinks — and that’s after we’ve weeded out any harmful, unnatural, or spammy backlink from their link portfolio.

If it sounds like a boring job, that’s because it is…

But to make sure we identify harmful links without losing any valuable ones, there’s simply no better way to do it. 

Once we manually compile a spreadsheet showing toxic backlinks, we follow a two-step process to get them removed.

  1. We contact the website owners and ask them to remove the harmful link(s).
  2. If that’s unsuccessful, we instigate a process that Google calls disavowing links to remove any toxic, unnatural, or spammy backlinks from the link portfolio.

As a part of our ongoing SEO services, SwishDM proactively monitors Drum Center’s and our other client’s backlink profiles so we can nip any potential problematic backlinks or SEO attacks in the bud.

Keyword Research

Anyone with even a passing interest in SEO will be familiar with keyword research…

So, we won’t go into too much detail here. 

Suffice to say, even for an established site, the keyword research process never ends.

The chart above shows dramatic growth in the number of keywords that Drum Center ranks for since onboarding with SwishDM. Close to 2K keywords rank in positions 1-3 in Google’s SERPs, and Drum Center now ranks for almost 45K keywords overall. 

If your e-commerce website relies even in part on organic search traffic, ongoing keyword research is fundamental to your success.

Essentially, we do keyword research for our clients in three different ways.

SEO Competitor Analysis

As mentioned in the keyword research section above, analyzing your competitors is one of the most effective ways to improve your website’s organic search performance. 


Using tools like Ahrefs (again) and Semrush, you can learn a tremendous amount about your e-commerce competitors. 

Here are the primary objectives of an SEO competitor analysis…

Swish undertook a comprehensive competitive analysis of Drum Center’s top 16 competitors using our own proprietary method with Ahrefs and multiple other tools. 

Our exhaustive competitive analysis uncovered many areas for improvement, such as significant gaps in Drum Center’s content and opportunities to double down on content in topics where Drum Center was already outperforming competitors.

We firmly believe SEO competitor analysis is an ongoing process — there’s always something to learn from observing what’s working (and what’s not) for your direct competition.

Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)

Every e-commerce site owner likes to watch their organic traffic trend upwards and their Domain Rating grow… 

But as former e-commerce entrepreneurs ourselves, we understand that the bottom line is far more important than any line on a traffic graph.

That’s why in addition to digital PR and SEO services, SwishDM brings our considerable CRO skill set and experience to the table.

Since becoming SwishDM clients, Drum Center’s e-commerce conversion rate increased by 28.49% from 2018 to 2020.

The line between CRO and SEO gets blurrier all the time…

There is considerable disagreement amongst SEOs about whether bounce rate — how frequently users leave your site without clicking a single link — is a Google ranking signal… 

But there is zero doubt that a bounce from an e-commerce site hasn’t led directly to a sale or other conversion goal — such as a visitor signing up for your newsletter.

PageSpeed (and Core Web Vitals) are a definite SEO ranking factor, but they also have a huge impact on CRO.

Studies show that “A 100-millisecond delay in website load time can hurt conversion rates by 7%. A two-second delay in web page load time increases bounce rates by 103%. 53%$ of mobile site visitors will leave a page that takes longer than three seconds to load.” 

At SwishDM, we believe in increasing our partner’s revenue and ROI, not just their traffic.

Here are some of the CRO strategies we deployed with Drum Center to increase their conversions and revenue.

Final Thoughts

In the just over two years since Drum Center of Portsmouth partnered with SwishDM, they have seen significant growth in organic traffic, Domain Rating, and revenue.

The primary drivers behind the improvements shown in this case study are:

But really, we feel like our journey with Drum Center of Portsmouth and its owner Shane Kinney is just beginning.

We can’t wait for the redesign of Drum Center to launch later in 2021, so we can take our Digital PR, SEO, and CRO efforts to the next level.

And Drum Center’s revenue right along with it!

We’ll be sure to release a second case study once the results are in.
If you have any questions about this case study or how SwishDM can help you reach your e-commerce goals, please don’t hesitate to get in touch for a free consultation.

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