Keval Shah is the founder of an SEO agency that is especially for e-commerce websites. It’s called Inbound Pursuit and Keval joins us to tell us all about it.
Keval is a college dropout who hasn’t let that hold him back. His SEO agency is helping many businesses drive traffic to their e-commerce stores and dramatically increase their sales. After a short period of time, the agency is now averaging $80K per month.
How has he done it?
Besides being an authentic and hardworking person who is willing to take risks and test things, Twitter has been the biggest driver of growth. In this interview, Keval shares how he uses Twitter to grow his business and the tactics he uses to rank e-commerce websites.
Hello! Who are you? Could you introduce yourself?
Hey! My name is Keval Shah, and I’m the founder of Inbound Pursuit: an SEO agency that specializes in helping e-commerce companies generate more organic search traffic and revenue.
In the e-commerce world, most business owners see paid advertising — such as Facebook Ads and Google Ads — as the main source of revenue. However, the problem with relying on paid advertising is that it can be quite volatile. Ad costs can rise regularly, resulting in less frequent sales and lower profit margins.
I identified SEO as the solution for that and found that a lot of e-commerce brand owners took interest in implementing it to create an alternative source of revenue. Hence, Inbound Pursuit was born!
Currently, we’re averaging around $80,000 per month in revenue. We’re happy with the progress we’ve made so far, but are excited to really start scaling the company in the latter half of this year.
How did you start making money online?
I actually started my journey in online business in late-middle-school, early-high-school!
I had a deep fascination with web development when I was really young. I still remember using Microsoft Notepad to create HTML websites, each document being a separate page of the website. Once I discovered WordPress as a free tool to build legitimate, hosted websites, I was off to the races.
I was creating websites about pretty much everything that interested 13-year-old-me:
- Halo 3
- and — yes — even Call of Duty!
There was something about having your own space on the web that really intrigued me.
The internet gave you the ability to publish pretty much anything you wanted, and have it publicly visible to the entire globe. However, I quickly realized that just because your content was public didn’t mean anyone would actually find it and read it, so I scoured the web looking for a solution to that problem.
That’s when I came across SEO: an internet marketing strategy that promised free traffic by ranking your pages in Google.
For the first several years, my implementation of SEO was disastrous. But, I made it a point to learn from my mistakes. After several failed sites, I finally had my first success: a television blog about the show, The Legend of Korra. That blog generated a little over six million visitors in its three-year-span, and also made me around $10,000 in ad revenue — which was pretty insane for a high school student!
It’s still funny to me, when I look back, that my first success in the SEO world came from writing about a cartoon show. But I’ll defend the Avatar television series until the day I die — it’s a great series, and it’s as much for adults as it is for children!
By the time I finished writing the blog in around 2014, I was in my first year of college and in pursuit of a degree in Computer Science. At that point, I honestly thought my time in the SEO world was over. But when it came to finding internships over the summer, I found myself gravitating towards digital marketing internships. Before I knew it, my resume was filled with freelancing SEO positions!
It was during these freelancing gigs that I expanded my knowledge of SEO, and applied it to legitimate businesses. I didn’t have any professional SEO experience at this point, but I was beyond obsessed.
I read SEO blogs and forums religiously, learning everything and anything to give me that extra edge in the SERPs. It was during these freelancing gigs when I realized that SEO was my passion.
Fast forward to 2017, my knowledge and experience with SEO had grown significantly, but my performance in college had suffered, to say the least. In finding my calling in SEO, I had realized that computer science just wasn’t for me. I ended up failing out of the computer science department and switched my major to Economics — anything to secure that “glorified” piece of paper.
In the midst of my studies, an SEO agency reached out to me for an interview. I interviewed with them, and they offered me a full-time position despite me not having a degree. Exhausted from school at that point, I decided to drop out of college and take the position so I could finally do something I loved: SEO!
I figured I could always go back and finish up the remaining classes and get my degree. To this date, however, I still haven’t gone back and finished!
Why did you choose to start InboundPursuit?
I started Inbound Pursuit for two reasons.
Firstly, I wanted to build an agency that focused on helping e-commerce brands.
So much of the SEO world is focused on helping local businesses rank. But just in the last several years, we’ve seen an absolute surge in the e-commerce space. Facebook Ads have been a good source of revenue for e-commerce brands in the past, but with every passing day, Facebook has become more expensive and more unreliable.
I’m building Inbound Pursuit as the go-to agency for e-commerce brand owners looking to have an SEO strategy implemented so they’re not so reliant on paid advertising platforms. Not only is search engine traffic more reliable, but it also ends up being more cost-effective in the long-run, not to mention the conversion rate is a lot higher than Facebook Ads.
The second reason I built Inbound Pursuit was to give business owners a custom SEO solution, unlike what 99% of other agencies provide.
As much as I hate to admit it, SEO has a bad reputation in the business world. So many business owners have been burned by SEO agencies that don’t know what they’re doing. Many of them have given up on SEO as a viable source of revenue.
The issue is that these agencies run all of their clients through the same cookie-cutter strategy when SEO is something that needs to be personalized. An SEO strategy that works for one brand won’t necessarily work for another.
With Inbound Pursuit, the focus is on building out custom campaigns for each client. As a result, we can’t onboard as many clients on a monthly basis as some of these larger agencies, but the results we’ve been able to deliver have been incredible — and that’s what’s most important in my mind.
How have you grown your business?
Twitter has been an incredible avenue for me to generate new clients for my agency and grow my business – follow me here @SEOKeval.
I like to think of it as an “ecosystem” that I’ve created to take e-commerce brand owners from people who don’t know what SEO is, to people who understand its effectiveness and are ready to have it implemented for their brand. Every new follower I gain is a new potential client I can help, so in a sense, the pathway to growing my agency involves growing my following on Twitter!
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— Keval Shah | Ecommerce SEO 🛒 (@SEOKeval) September 24, 2020
Growing on Twitter is a bit like a snowball rolling down a mountain: it starts off small, but as it continues to roll down it gets bigger and bigger, faster and faster. It took me around 3-4 months to get my first 1,000 followers, but now I’m able to generate over a thousand followers each month fairly regularly.
You’ll notice the direct correlation between the number of tweets per day and the number of followers gained — that’s not by accident.
The more you tweet, the more chances you have of content going viral. The more your content goes viral, the more followers you’ll generate for your account. And the more followers you generate, the more opportunities you’ll have at signing new clients.
It’s not a coincidence that one of my best months to date — November 2020 — also happened to be the month that I cleared over $100,000 in revenue for the first time.
But with Twitter, it’s not just about how much you tweet. Networking is also incredibly important. I made friends with some fairly big accounts early on, and their engagement gave my tweets the boost in impressions needed to start attracting new followers regularly.
Now that I’ve seen the possibilities with Twitter, I’m keen to replicate this same strategy with Facebook and Instagram.
You see, at the end of the day, Twitter is just one ecosystem of people you can nurture into clients. You can do the same on just about any other platform that lets you speak directly to an audience.
With Instagram, I can run a similar strategy of posting content and amassing a following.
With Facebook, I can create a Facebook Group and run paid advertising to create a community of engaged users. Heck, I can even run a cold email campaign and get users to opt in to my email list. Once you achieve direct communication access to an audience of people, it comes down to creating content to build that trust and educate them on what you do.
Build a big enough audience, and you’ll be astounded by how far your messaging can really go. I now regularly do over 1 million impressions a month on Twitter, and as I grow my following, that number, too, will grow.
What does a successful SEO campaign look like?
We define a successful SEO campaign as:
- more organic traffic
- increasing rankings
- and — of course — more revenue for our clients!
We don’t pay much attention to third-party metrics like Domain Rating and Domain Authority.
As long as the client continues to see more organic revenue coming in from Google, we know we’re doing our job.
Can you provide a few of your SEO success stories?
Our latest success story was an eyelash extension brand that did a mix of B2C and B2B through their wholesaling page.
When we started with them in November of 2020, all of their organic traffic was from branded terms and they only had a handful of first-page keyword rankings. Today, they have over 500 keywords ranking on the first page and are absolutely crushing the game. The hope is that we can make them the #1 eyelash extension brand online in 2022!
We were able to achieve these results through a combination of extremely high-quality content, and a heavy dose of link building. We used the brand’s category pages to target primary money keywords like eyelash tweezers, eyelash extension adhesives, mink lashes, and volume eyelash extensions. And we used different pages we built out to target keywords like wholesale eyelashes and eyelash extension supplies.
The first thing we did was upgrade the quality of the pages we wanted to rank by adding more high-quality, keyword-rich content. We then launched an extensive link-building campaign to raise the authority of each individual page. The result, as you can see from their Ahrefs graph, was a massive boost in organic traffic 3-4 months into the campaign.
As they currently stand, they’ve outranked well-known beauty brands like Sephora and Ulta for several of their primary keywords, and they show no signs of slowing down.
Our plan going forward will include a ramp-up in their blog post output, so we can further build the site’s topical relevancy, and target top-of-funnel and middle-of-funnel keywords. And, of course, we’ll continue building links from high-quality, relevant websites.
Another recent success story was a candle brand that sold directly to consumers.
They came to us with a fairly straightforward problem: They had been in business for around two years, and they weren’t able to crack the first page for their primary keyword, which had a search volume of around 27,000. They’d gotten close, but they could never make the jump from page two to page one.
We got to work in March of 2021 and conducted a full audit of their website. Some issues we found right off the bat included: keyword cannibalization of their target keyword, directory links pointed at money pages rather than the homepage, and poor internal linking strategy.
The first thing we did was resolve keyword cannibalization issues — we removed all instances of the target keyword from meta titles of pages that we weren’t trying to rank the keyword for. Next, we disavowed all spammy directory links pointed to the site’s money pages. And finally, we added internal links from the site’s homepage to the site’s primary money pages, so that authority would flow through.
We then followed a similar strategy as what we did for the eyelash extension brand: we upgraded the money pages with high-quality, keyword-rich content, and launched a link-building campaign to bring high-authority, relevant links.
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Within three months, the brand hit the #3 spot in Google for their primary keyword, and their organic revenue skyrocketed!
Going forward, we’re planning to build clusters of topically relevant blog content to bump that main keyword up to the #1 spot. We’ll then devote our resources to pushing the remainder of their money pages to the first page for their target keyword.
Since we work with e-commerce clients, our primary objective is to ensure they’re generating more product sales. As a result, a lot of our focus is ranking product and category pages.
One of my favorite strategies is targeting overarching keywords on category pages that encompass a general category of products, then adding around 1,000 words of content below the products listed that are optimized for that overarching keyword.
This immensely improves the value of a page that’s otherwise simply a list of products, and really separates it from other category pages that may be targeting the same keywords. We’ve been able to rank for some extremely competitive keywords this way, and it’s been an absolute game-changer for our clients.
Having that content also gives us the opportunity to internally link to other relevant category pages, and build links to category pages since it contains valuable, link-worthy information.
Give the audience a strategy or process, or tips they could use on their own for the DIY SEO.
How do you use Twitter?
I use Twitter as an avenue to get my name out there in the business world, educate people on the power of SEO, and ultimately generate clients for my agency.
Everyone talks about the power of Facebook and Instagram for marketing, but Twitter is so massively slept on.
Not only has it allowed me to make a name for myself in the SEO and business community, but it’s allowed me to connect with some absolutely incredible people around the globe. Not to mention, like-minded people who are trying to make the most out of their lives and improve themselves each and every day.
Twitter has completely changed my life; my life is completely unrecognizable compared to what it was just two years ago.
Not only has it allowed me to build a personal brand, start my own SEO agency, and meet some incredible people, it has also allowed me to have a positive impact on others. And that impact — that ability to change other people’s lives for the better — is what I’m most proud of. That’s the real success story, in my opinion.
I get messages from people all the time, who say my content helped them change their lives!
I can’t express in words how much messages like this mean to me. I say this a lot on Twitter, but I just want everyone to win. I want everyone to have success in their lives, and if I can be even a small part of making that happen, it makes all of the time I’ve spent posting content worth it.
How do you come up with Content for Twitter?
The truth is, there is no real drawn-out content strategy I’ve put in place, other than being authentically and unapologetically me.
I treat Twitter like my public diary. Thoughts I have related to money and business, SEO strategies I’ve had success with, fun things I did over the weekend — I throw all of it on Twitter. I try to be as personable as possible because, at the end of the day, I’m just another guy trying to navigate the world of online business.
I don’t try to frame myself as a “guru,” and I don’t claim to have all the answers — but, I’ve adopted a growth mindset; I’m always learning and trying new things; so that gives me a lot of things I can talk about.
One thing I do actively emphasize, however, is simply providing as much value as possible.
The last five years — from failing out of computer science, to battling alcoholism, to dropping out of college, to building my own SEO agency — have been an absolute whirlwind. There was a time in my life when not very many people expected much out of me. Overcoming those struggles and getting to where I’m at now in life taught me a lot, and the lessons I learned from those experiences are where a lot of the value I provide comes from.
When I talk about SEO specifically, I try not to provide the same cookie-cutter content that your typical blogger writes about. A lot of my SEO content stems from the things I actually do to generate results — not the typical theory that you’ll find in a Google search.
I’ll usually write up a thread, the first tweet being the result I achieved for a client, followed up by several reply tweets that break down the steps I took to achieve those results.
What makes this type of content great is that it’s actionable. My followers get very specific instructions that they can take and implement in their own SEO campaigns. Not to mention, it usually gets a ton of engagement, results in new followers, and further frames me as an expert in my field.
What are some other important things you’ve learned?
One of the most important things I learned early on was the importance of being a specialist rather than a generalist.
When I first decided that I wanted to start an agency, for whatever reason I was under the impression that I needed to offer every marketing strategy under the sun — not just SEO. So I started learning Facebook Ads and Google Ads because I thought if I had more skills, I’d attract more clients. But what I quickly learned was that wasn’t the case at all.
Specialists have a lot more success than generalists because a specialist is able to hyper-target their offer to a particular audience and better resonate with their needs.
What this really comes down to is the importance and effectiveness of niching down.
I niched down my business model from a general marketing agency to an SEO agency. I then niched that down even further from a general SEO agency to an e-commerce SEO agency. By the time I had niched down into e-commerce SEO, my messaging was so on-point — it resonated so well with the pain points of my target audience — that my revenue saw an almost vertical spike.
Another thing I learned was the importance of consistency.
It’s pretty cliche, but showing up every day truly is half the battle. I can’t say I recall too many times when I wanted to quit (I enjoy the grind and learning process), but there were times when I doubted my ability to really scale my agency to greater heights.
But I kept going:
- I kept publishing content
- I kept improving my SEO process
- I kept focusing on generating incredible client results
— and eventually, doors started to open for me.
And it was all due to that consistency: even when I thought I hit a plateau I wasn’t sure I could overcome, I kept putting in the work every day. I kept showing up, and eventually, I proved myself wrong time and time again.
And thirdly, I learned the importance of hiring coaches and investing in yourself.
I’ve worked with three different coaches to date, and they’ve all been instrumental in helping me get to where I’m at today. Why try to figure it all out on your own when you can work with people who’ve already been through it all?
I’ve hired coaches to help me write better messaging, come up with client acquisition strategies, become a better salesman, and improve the SEO strategy we implement for clients. It was an absolute game-changer and helped me avoid unnecessary trial and error.
How long did it take you to begin seeing success?
I saw my first success with my online business two months after I started posting content on Twitter.
I was posting a lot of general digital marketing content with an emphasis on SEO since that’s what I primarily knew (I hadn’t niched down yet), I had a link in my bio to request a consultation, and a prospect filled out the form, stating that he was looking for SEO specifically.
We hopped on a call and he agreed to a retainer of $2,000/month! I’ll never forget that moment because it shattered pretty much all of my beliefs about money and what was truly possible. Here I was making around $3,600/month at a desk job and I just signed a client for more than half of that. What if I signed a second client? A third? A fourth? Could I be making 6-figures at 23 years old?
I would end up quitting my job two months later.
What is your philosophy when growing your business?
The number one thing I focus on to grow my business is generating incredible client results. Getting incredible client results opens the door to referrals, secondary projects from existing clients, and — the big one — gives me the opportunity to share those results on Twitter.
Nothing drives more business like showing the world the results you’re capable of producing. And when you are able to consistently share incredible results on a public platform like Twitter, people start to take notice of you. People start to talk about you. And you start to develop a good reputation.
Nowadays when I get on sales calls, the only objection I have to face is pricing. Prospects already know I can generate results, because of what I’ve shared on Twitter over the years. That makes client acquisition significantly easier. As long as they have the budget for our retainer, they’re usually good to get started.
What keeps you going when things are tough?
The one thing I quickly learned about business is that, like life, it comes in peaks and valleys.
Failure is incredibly common — in fact, I’d argue that things go wrong more often than they go right! But what ultimately keeps me going is my vision of building an SEO agency that truly gets clients results, and my mission to help other people along their business journey.
Notice how I didn’t say anything about money!
It is my belief that anyone motivated in business purely by money will not get very far. Money isn’t enough of a motivating factor to deal with the constant failures that business brings about. It’s incredibly important that your business is something you’re passionate about — something that you’re genuinely interested in outside of monetary gain. That’s the only way you’ll have the motivation to spend the thousands of hours necessary to build it into something you’re proud of and overcome tough times.
But let’s say you’re working on a passion project and you hit a bump in the road, or something discourages you — what’s something tangible you can do to overcome that?
A strategy that works for me is to simply talk the problem out with someone I trust, or someone I’m close with. This helps me get out of my head and break any kind of tunnel vision I may have related to the issue. Once that tunnel vision breaks and you’re able to clearly see the situation for what it is, a solution usually comes about fairly quickly.
Advice for other online entrepreneurs just starting out?
The most important piece of advice I can give to new entrepreneurs is to simply get started.
Our brain is a tricky organ: it does everything in its power to help us avoid pain. Oftentimes that results in us pushing out plans — like starting a business — that may take us outside of our comfort zone and lead to pain. We tell ourselves bald-faced lies like, “I’m not ready yet”, “Once I do X I’ll get started”, or “Now is not the right time, I need to wait until Y” when the truth is you’ll never be ready and there’s never a perfect time.
We tell ourselves these lies in order to avoid failure, but the truth is that failure is unavoidable. The second you decide to embrace failure and allow it to serve as a learning experience is when you’ll start to make strides in life that you never thought possible.
So start today!
I’m not going to lie — there are going to be times when you think you’re in over your head; you’ll hit roadblocks that you aren’t sure you can overcome, and the disappointment you’ll face on certain days will feel as though the wind has been taken out of your sails. But you’re an entrepreneur now, and that means you’re a problem solver. And when you do overcome those roadblocks and limiting beliefs — and you will — you’ll gain more confidence in yourself and more momentum as a business owner. Not to mention, it’ll feel incredible!
So show up every day, tackle challenges head-on, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you do that, there’s no way you’ll fail, as true failure is giving up or not even starting to begin with.