Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hi! My name is Kevin Miller, and I help scale the best D2C & technology companies with proven growth marketing frameworks I learned at Google and various startups. I am currently the Founder of The Word Counter.
As an interesting case study for my main business GR0, an SEO agency, I went so far as to build a website that could help count words, track keywords, and even generate words from letters for games like Scrabble. It wasn’t just a fun side project -- I wanted to use the website to serve as a proof of concept and a way to put my SEO work into practice.
I aimed to build an English-language online tool that was completely free to use. Our typical audience consists typically of students, copywriters, or English learning users, but the tool is available to anyone online who needs help with English or writing-related queries.
In just two years, we rank for over 300,000 keywords and have over 2,400 domain referrals, and achieved 52 in domain authority. This shows how valuable and sustainable investing in SEO can be.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I grew up in Ormond Beach, FL, and I went to college at Georgetown University. Following my time in DC, I had the privilege of living in the most beautiful city in the United States, San Francisco, where I learned, lived, and breathed startups. I worked at 5 different startups you wouldn’t have ever heard of, and I worked at two companies you would, Google and Opendoor, at which I was the Head of Growth Marketing. I learned by doing, and it was painful at times, but worth it.
While I was in college, I was constantly using character counter and word counter tools. I was an avid user, as were quite a few of my other classmates, however, there was no one authority on Google that was the tool to use. And understandably, since none of the tools were well-developed, easy to use, or served as the ultimate resource for all things English language.
I realized there was a huge opportunity here to become that tool. At the time that I realized this opportunity, I was also honing my skills in SEO and realized that this could be the perfect case study for my strategies: a website that I would build from scratch and use only SEO tactics on from start to finish. If I could grow this website to rank #1 through solely SEO, I knew my strategies could work elsewhere too.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
I wanted to build a product that was easy to use and visually appealing to the user. Although a seemingly simple task, this proved to not be the standard across the board for all of the free word-counter tools I found on Page 1 of Google.
I wanted to build a product that had ease of use, and visual appeal - allowing them to clearly see words, characters, sentences, and pages since all competitors did not have that in a single view. Another goal was to build a tool that would allow the user to determine their writing’s reading level and speaking time for presentation purposes.
Ultimately, I wanted to create a one-stop tool that could serve users for all logistical purposes regarding writing, as well as answer frequently asked questions regarding the English language.
To do this, I hired a developer from Techy Scouts. This company was referred to me, and I have learned over several projects that the best partners to outsource work should always be through referrals from people you trust, as you have a very honest and real case study to refer to.
Under my direction, Techy Scouts was able to design the product over the course of 60-90 days with very small tweaks on my end. The cost of developing the website and tool was $25,000 total, which I bootstrapped myself.
I knew I wanted to monetize the site with ads, but the main intention of the site was never to be a profit source for me. I invested in this to act as a case study for my SEO tactics, and even though it was a large sum upfront, it was worth the investment regardless to be able to have tangible proof that my tactics can take a website from nothing to ranking on Page 1 of Google. I still use the site to this day as a case study for my current company GR0, and it is an invaluable resource to show potential clients.
Describe the process of launching the business.
While the tool was in development, we prepared for the nearing launch by getting started on our organic SEO efforts to drive traffic.
Before launch, we had 100 content articles written to fill the website with meaningful and relevant content that answered questions about the English language. We did this purposefully so that it could begin to rank for multiple keywords.
I also did this to make the site seem more reputable like it wasn’t brand new. I didn’t want users to visit the site and see that it was new – I wanted to give the impression that it was established. However, in terms of SEO strategy, it is more useful to publish articles consistently rather than all at once.
Publishing day after day after day continuously alerts Google to check and crawl your website. If you post all at once, Google is only alerted once to go to your website, whereas posting consistently indicates to Google that your site should be crawled regularly and it builds trust in Google’s eyes.
Since I first launched the site with the 100 articles, we have published over 2,000 articles to continue growing the domain as one of the top resources online for English-language queries.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Since launch, we have focused solely on attracting and retaining customers through organic channels. Since this product was also built to act as a case study for my SEO tactics, I chose to focus all of my efforts on SEO.
After the initial 100 articles that we prepared for launch, I also contracted writers to continue creating content at a high volume -- approximately 5 articles per business day. This is an extremely high publishing rate, and not common for most new site launches, however, I wanted to prove that writing content on related keywords could help bolster your search rankings. We put in our 10,000 hours in our keyword research to determine what questions people had about the English language.
In addition, we also made it a priority to garner backlinks to increase The Word Counter’s domain authority. We accomplished this using two methods: press releases and reporter outreach. Over the course of two years, we have distributed 10 press releases on PR Newswire, which automatically get picked up by sites such as Yahoo and Market Watch. We also reach out to reporters daily who are looking for quotes from business owners/entrepreneurs to feature in their articles.
Below is an example of a quote I secured in a Legal Zoom article titled, “How to Manage and Motivate a Remote Workforce During a Crisis”:
I was also featured in a CrowdContent.com article on “The Long-Term Value of Content and Why You Shouldn’t Put Off Creating It in the Short -Term”:
I also recommend you get creative with how to secure backlinks -- reporter outreach does work, however, we see about a 10% response rate and that’s higher than average. There are other ways outside of the box to get a backlink, such as submitting a testimonial form on TechCrunch recommending a business -- this strategy landed us backlinks to both of my projects:
Although the quotes may be short or not directly related to your core business offering, we have now secured countless backlinks that all link back to The Word Counter’s homepage URL, which indicates to Google that we are trustworthy.
Quality is always the priority.
In the land of SEO, backlinks are king. The more places on the internet that link to your site, the more “popular” your site becomes in Google’s eyes. Unsurprisingly, this helps your brand’s online authority, presence, and trust. Improving your website's authority helps in many ways including better keyword rankings, faster indexing, and more traffic.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
In just two years and purely through SEO practices, The Word Counter now ranks for over 300,000 keywords and has over 2,400 domains referring back to the homepage. Going from 0 to 52 in domain authority in that time span is no small feat, and it just goes to show how valuable and sustainable investing in SEO can be.
Since launching, we have monetized on the free tools through advertising, but there is still a long road to go in increasing our revenue. Our initial focus was to provide a useful online tool and to build its authority on Google SERPs -- the end goal was never about profits. However, seeing how well the site is now doing on Google and the consistently increasing traffic, there is a huge opportunity to increase profit margins through affiliate marketing.
We currently do very little with affiliate marketing and have a small partnership with Grammarly. We want to continue to offer this tool for free, and the only way to do that while still increasing profits is to expand our affiliate partners. We plan to do this by finding creative businesses to partner with, such as online English language courses, that would tie into the user intent of those visiting our site.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
As my main business GR0 continues to see rapid growth, I’ve noticed that having a side project like The Word Counter, act as a case study is incredibly valuable. With no other external factors in play (email marketing, Facebook ads, etc), I can attribute all of the website’s success to our SEO tactics.
If possible in your field, I would recommend to every entrepreneur to start their own case study project that proves the power of their product and/or services. It directly complements the core services that you offer, and is especially powerful in a sales capacity, particularly as a B2B agency.
The other main valuable lesson that I gained throughout this experience is to invest in quality. Although it sounds obvious, it can be so enticing to initially choose the cheaper option, especially as someone who is bootstrapping their product. I did this myself with content writers and it backfired -- the only result was having to pay for the job twice, as the cheaper options didn’t meet the standards of content that I was aiming for. Quality is always the priority.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
I built The Word Counter on WordPress and took advantage of multiple plug-ins and additions that the platform offered:
- AdThrive - this is how I am currently monetizing the tool.
- Yoast - this is an SEO plug-in that I recommend to all entrepreneurs that can’t invest in a full team to optimize their site. This plug-in will help optimize all of your posts.
- OptinMonster - this tool helps with the email capture of users. Even though I am not currently retargeting users, I wanted to collect emails throughout the past two years in case I ever want to act on a Newsletter or email offering.
- Sucuri - this is a standard security plug-in.
And lastly, I use SEMRush and Ahrefs for all of my keyword research and to track traffic. These tools are not free, but they are incredibly valuable to those that are looking to build content on their website related to their products. It can be used to check search volume, keyword difficulty (how hard it is to rank for a word or phrase), and also to look up your competitor’s top-ranking pages.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
This book was a huge help to me as a first-time entrepreneur. It walks through the many obstacles about starting a business, and how perseverance is key in being successful.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
One tip that I would recommend to all future first-time entrepreneurs: invest in a project management system. If you’re working on a project solo like I was, a project management system can help you manage all the movie pieces without anything slipping through the cracks. I wish I had invested in one -- my process and launch would have been far more efficient if I had one.
My favorite project management system that I’ve worked with so far is Notion. The capabilities of Notion and what you can use it for are endless and it can be fitting for a wide range of projects.
Where can we go to learn more?
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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