starting from zero

When I started the vaping website in December of 2013, I was just beginning to wrap my head around search engine optimization (SEO).


TJ and I were binge listening, reading and watching dozens of podcasts, articles and videos. We listened to everything from starting a website, to ranking in Google, how to write articles and how to link to products.

 

After about 100 or so odd hours of soaking in information, we decided to start taking action.


Through the process of learning all the nuances of digital marketing, we were suggested to use Google’s Keyword Planner. The keyword planner is a tool provided by Google that allows users to search for ideas for search terms with Google traffic estimates.


After a few days, we narrowed down to a few potential keywords in what we surmised as a relatively new market. 


The product? Vaping tanks, or better known back then as ‘clearomizers’.


Originally called cartomizers, clearomizers were tanks that came with a clear pane of plastic  opposed to a metal, non see through tank.

 

Specifically, we found the search term, “best clearomizer”. We looked at the search results for the term, and realized there were only forum posts and ecommerce pages coming up in the results.


The search term had a volume around 2,500 searches/month.


This was our ‘money keyword’.


Before new years 2013, we had published our first product review (besides our homepage).


Within a month, we had written 4 articles all related to vaping tanks. We decided to focus the main page of our website with a graph ranking every single vaping tank we knew of.


I was really excited to start seeing this “free” website traffic trickle in from Google. 


But, it didn’t come...


Instead, I sat there puzzled as to why we didn’t have any website traffic. Eventually, panic started to creep in as I thought to myself, “well, this was just a bunch of wasted time.”


TJ, on the other hand, wasn't as worried. You see, he had just learned about something called ‘backlinks’. 


A backlink is just a hyperlink from one site to another. In the SEO world, I came to learn that backlinks from other websites help Google understand the context, relevance and authority of your website; and ranks your website in the search results accordingly.


With our very first article published and this new information about backlinks fresh in our minds, our next objective was to reach out to relevant bloggers in the vaping industry and ask them to link back to our website. 


It was early January 2014. About 3 weeks after we first registered the domain and about a week after we published our first article.


We started our first backlink campaign, reaching out to any relevant bloggers in the vaping industry to try and get a link to our brand new website.


We did the email outreach campaign, cold call style, asking for anyone and everyone that had a website in our industry for a link.

Eventually, a vaping enthusiast that goes by the name Grimm Green responded to our request.


GrimmGreen owned a popular vaping blog, and we were the first site he knew that was reviewing just vaping tanks. Grimm saw the value in our site, and he eventually linked back to our homepage.


THIS backlink from Grimm Green’s website was officially the first link we ever had outside of our social media accounts and forum posts.


The following day, I remember we were on Google Analytics and we were looking at our traffic stats. We started seeing referral traffic come into our website from none other than GrimmGreen’s website.


Within 24 hours of receiving the backlink from GrimmGreen’s website to our homepage, we blipped up in both Bing and Yahoo! search engines for the search term: ‘best clearomizer’.


I remember checking the real time analytics and seeing 2, 3, 4 visits at a time to our website from Yahoo! and Bing.


It didn’t seem like much, but that link from GrimmGreen was enough to propel our website out of the “Google Sandbox”.


It wasn’t even a week later and we started ranking in Google.


That link meant everything to us. 


Nowadays it will take more than just one ‘official’ link to get out of the Google sandbox, but in the vaping industry in late 2013, there was no one reviewing vaping tanks in blog form.


We BECAME the topical authority of vaping tanks for that season because no one else was.


And that’s how it all started.