Running an online business is no easy task. There are so many challenges, that there’s no wonder almost all startups fail within their first year. When I started my business, I thought things were going to be different, as I was a savvy marketer and an experienced team leader. This business was an online store selling sports equipment and accessories. My research showed that these products were in high demand, so all I needed to do was to find the right manufacturers and retailers and to negotiate the best possible deals. Little did I know this was going to be the easiest part of the whole project.
The e-commerce website wasn’t a big problem, either. I hired a good web developer and photographer, so I managed to build an awesome website in terms of looks and usability. My clients were able to see the products from multiple angles, to turn them around and to magnify them, in order to make an informed purchase.
The only problem was that I didn’t have too many clients. After spending a small fortune on advertising and search engine marketing, I came to the conclusion that offering high-quality stuff at reasonable prices is impossible. I was going to be out of business in less than six months if I didn’t find another way to attract clients to my website.
I knew SEO was important, but only after seeing how expensive buying leads was and how it eroded my profit margins I understood I couldn’t do without optimizing my pages to be found in Google and other search engines. I hire the best SEO agency I could find. This was a smart move, but SEO is a long-term process, so I knew results weren’t going to appear fast enough to save me from going bankrupt.
The revelation came to me during a hiking trip in the mountains. Most people in the group had hiking poles. I thought those pieces of equipment were useless, as I didn’t see any point in carrying such heavy items around. I wanted to have my hands free from anything so that I could grab tree roots and branches whenever needed. One of the guys in the group gave me his hiking poles to try them for a little while. He also taught me how to use them properly. I was surprised to notice these poles weren’t as heavy as I thought. As a matter of fact, they were lightweight and helpful, as they enabled me to maintain my balance during rough times. I suddenly realized I didn’t have such products in my online store.
As soon as I got home, I started to research the hiking poles category. I ended up by finding some amazing ones, so I decided to offer them to my clients. I also took care of the SEO of these new pages right off the bat, so I had the chance to get good positions in the SERPs quite fast. Besides, I told people in my hiking group about my store, and I even managed to acquire a few new clients this way. Besides, they spread the word to their peers, so they managed to send me even more clients.
The good thing about hiking was that it was a relatively new sport, so there weren’t too many competitor websites out there. Moreover, my SEO agency did brilliant keyword research and managed to find a few real gems, search terms that bring me a steady flow of highly qualified leads. Soon enough, the hiking section has become the most visited category on my website, driving about 80% of the revenue. In addition, most of this traffic was either organic or coming from referrals, so it didn’t cost me a dime apart from the SEO costs.
This is the story of one of the most successful businesses I’ve ever run. As clients have found the shop while searching for hiking poles, they returned to purchase other items such as ski sunglasses, swimwear, shoes and various accessories. I was fortunate I went hiking that day when I realized hiking poles were so cool. The combination of hiking and SEO saved my business from disaster. How cool is this?
Here is some more information we found about online marketing in the hiking and camping niche: