Want to make a promotional SEO case study that has so much value people will PAY to read it?
You can. But you need to build it right.
Funnily enough, shouting about how awesome you are and why people should buy your services is not going to work.
At least not efficiently.
In my podcast and community, How the F*ck SEO case studies, I create new SEO case studies each week which generate 100,000s of views. That’s a lot of attention for how f*cking awesome you are.
This case study I did with Monday.com got 500,000 impressions on the LinkedIn carousel alone.
More than 50 people joined my Premium community for £17 a month just to read that full case study.
In this article, I'm gonna teach you my process for turning a typically boring piece of content (the case study) into readable, nay, binge-worthy asset.
What most people get wrong about SEO case studies
To create a great SEO case study, you need to understand where your audience is coming from.
I can almost guarantee that, whoever your target audience is, they:
- Are looking to grow their business (without the headache, ideally)
- Don’t know who to trust (and want to work with those they do)
- Care about what’s in it for them, their company, and their investors
Your reader cares about results. Whether that’s glory, financial freedom, or whatever. Your case study should show them the "magic land" of transformation.
But importantly, to trust that the magic land is possible, they need to understand how it was achieved.
The majority of your readers will fall into two further buckets:
- “I want to learn how you did this, so I can copy the strategy and implement it myself.”
This audience was likely never going to be your customer immediately, and that’s okay.
They might not have the budget or buy-in for an agency right now. But they will always remember you as the person who helped them build a winning strategy.
It's also quite likely that they will try and implement your case study and realize it's still really hard to do great SEO. When they're ready, you will be who they reach out to.
- “I want to learn how you did this, so I can see if you’re smart, logical, and someone I can trust.”
This is who you’re really trying to connect with.
The most recent SaaS client I closed said this to me when he asked to work together: “I really like your strategy, but I don’t want to do all this. I need someone to do it all for me. Can you do it?”
🟢 Green light.
I had his trust through my content.
I solidified that trust with a one-time keyword strategy project.
And now I have his ongoing business because as a CMO he wants to get results, without being in the weeds every day. That’s where you and I come in.
Most SEO case studies forget to show of their cunning. The logic. The reasoning. The "why" behind what they implemented.
- What I did
- Why I did it
Are two questions that when BOTH answered provide actionability.
Most SEO case studies never give away enough granular secrets to truly impress, convince, and convey the value the team behind them could bring.
3 Things That Make a Binge-Worthy SEO Case Study
I've made 25+ SEO case studies now. Collectively they've got over 1 million impressions, listens, and page views.
Here's what tends to separates the ones people talk about, from the ones people don't:
- They share the real website URL
I’m personally convinced that 99% of case studies are completely made up. For that reason, I strongly encourage my podcast guests to share the live URL of the website.
Another reason is that marketers are gold miners. We love digging. We want to stick your URL into Ahrefs ourselves. We want to read your blog posts. We want to see how you structured things.
No URL = -10 points instantly.
(No revenue outcome data = -10 points as well)
- They include real quotes and interviews
Quotes that go further than a simple client testimonial really humanize a case study. They add a layer of credibility that’s hard to put your finger on.
People say all sorts of interesting things when you interview them. Like this quote from Brad Smith in the Monday.com case study.
It perfectly captures the essence of the case study: scaling up content production requires good documentation. There’s something magic about it.
Sit down with your team and ask them two questions:
- What’s your secret sauce—the thing that people really need to know to copy this strategy?
- What’s a mistake you made during this process, that people should avoid?
Quote them on it. Trust me.
- They give lessons after lesson. Advice after advice.
The most binge-worthy case studies are so full of value you want to stop and take notes.
In my SEO teardown of Userpilot’s programmatic SEO strategy, I broke their strategy into multiple “how to” guides:
And gave real templates, examples, and advice throughout that would actually help the reader attempt to implement this SEO strategy themselves.
Those tidbits and step-by-steps are what make a piece of content high value enough to read thoroughly.
They’re what gets a reader to spend enough time with you, reading your thoughts, to start thinking you’re an expert.
Forget the background and the story. Forget the fluff.
Focus way more time finding unique, unexpected learnings than you think.
My SEO case study template - 4 Sections
Here's the four sections that every SEO case study template must have.
Section 1: Title and Intro
You should spend a lot of time on your title and introduction. Their goal is to interrupt a potential prospect from their scroll, so they sit up in their seat and start reading.
They should both:
- Grab attention
- Push the reader onwards
My favorite technique for titles & intros is to use fascinations.
Pro copywriter, Eddie Schleyner taught me this one when I interviewed him last year.
“Fascinations are sentences designed to conjure intense curiosity and compel action, in that order.”—Eddie Schleyner, take his free course on fascinations here.
Here’s how I usually implement that:
Your title format: How X Company Achieved Y in Z Months
The hook is in the result + timeframe. If you can squeeze an extra fascination in as well (like “$50K monthly revenue” or “and then IPO’d”) then bonus points.
Your introduction format:
My introductions always follow this format:
- Short story
- Background & Results
The goal with a big graph is mostly to grab attention. Large results need to be broken down and picked apart to understand what happened, and often smaller stats from mini-experiments are even more interesting for the reader (we'll get to that later).
- What you will learn “fascinations”
These aren’t simply “what you’ll learn”. They also have some strange twist at the end that piques curiosity (that's a fascination).
Section 2: Your Nuance Window
The next part of a great SEO case study is what I call the nuance window. It’s the part where you give context to your reader:
- In a nutshell (100 words) what happened and what was achieved?
- What does the company in question do?
- What’s their business model?
- Why did they want to invest in SEO?
- What challenge were they facing?
- How much content was produced?
- What were the results? (Revenue ideally)
I like to give the reader a real idea of what was attempted. That way they can understand the trajectory we started on and where we eventually arrived.
I also like to help the reader avoid rabbit holes here. For example, a high-ticket sale enterprise SaaS solution should not follow the same exact strategy as freemium, product-led company. So, it's important to give this nuance to your case study.
These will typically be bullet-pointed. They’re important details for some people, but they’re scannable for most.
Bullet points facilitate that.
Section 3: Your How-To Guide - (80% of word count)
This is the meat of your content and should be jam-packed with lessons, ideas, examples, and learnings.
9 out of 10 of my case studies follow a chronological order (how you started, what you did, what you do now). Chronology just makes sense for a case study.
It's important to go into this with the mindset that this is not about the company in the story, it's about the reader. That means you need to make the lessons applicable in a general way, too.
The best case studies explain the why behind a how so others can copy and implement.
Here's some example "how-to" sections (note how they typically focus on one outcome).
- Case study: How this content update process 10x'd traffic in 4 weeks
The how-to section would single out just one piece of content. And we'd then answer these questions:
- Why did this piece of content need updating (the SEO theory)?
- What changes were implemented in the “content update process”?
- What else should people make sure is part of the updates?
- Why is each of these things important in SEO?
This case study not only proves your content updates are effective, but your clear thought process, nuanced points of view, and unexpected dedication to the content update proves you're someone the reader would love to have updating their content.
- Case study: How to write 1,000 articles in 1 year like Monday.com
This case study wasn't really about their traffic growth (which was stupidly good by the way). What made this case study interesting was the velocity of their content production.
Before the SEO work started, Monday.com didn't really have content. They had grown rapidly through paid ads but were nowhere to be seen on the SERPs. They had catching up to do—and wanted to experiment with what would turn out to be low acquisition cost, low investment cost (relative to their humungous paid budget) channel.
The "how-to" for this case study focused on the most challenging part of the story. How to actually ship that much content in such a short space of time.
- How to choose keywords for your articles (step-by-step)
- How do you find and qualify enough writers? (6 steps)
- How do you overcome non-technical writers?
- What documentation was critical to optimize your processes?
- What templates help scale content?
My goal was to get Brad Smith to answer all the questions someone would have when trying to build their own content operation.
And to also share things they never would’ve thought of, the secret sauce.
How to Make it Extra Actionable
A good how-to guide is actionable. To be actionable it not only needs to be clear how to achieve success. But a great how-to guide must also give the reader tools to achieve their successes, too.
To achieve this, consider adding one of these to your case study:
- Giving away a useful template
- Using real before/after examples and screenshots
- Turning your process into a framework and teaching that
For example, in the Monday.com case study I shared the Codeless team's Planning Predictor Framework for choosing keywords:
And in the Userpilot case study, I shared a real brief template they used to make sure writers deliver quality content.
And in the LEMA framework guide (How to Create Remarkable B2B SaaS Content) I shared a checklist for creating briefs and editing content.
These little extras make the content that much more actionable and memorable. Which is 100% my focus as a content creator, and I believe should also be yours as an SEO case study creator.
Section 4: Your Secret Sauce
This is my favorite part of every case study I do.
I ask two questions to every guest I interview:
- What mistakes do people need to avoid when doing this
I invite the interviewee to reflect on the issues they faced on this journey and to help the reader avoid them.
This is the perfect “experienced guide helping the inexperienced Padawan” moment.
- Secret sauce behind the success
I invite the interviewee to summarize their #1 piece of secret sauce advice for nailing this strategy.
This is their earned experience time. Here they can reflect and say “honestly, this thing is the bit you really need to get right here”. No bullshit, this is the thing.
These two questions, if injected with all the value you can muster, are like the frosting on a delicious cake. They make it memorable.
Final Thoughts - Repurposing Your Story
Anyone who follows me on LinkedIn will already know I repurpose my case studies into carousels.
One of the best second-order effects of “jam-packing” value into your case studies is that it makes them super easy to repurpose on social media.
Designing your case studies to deliver as many “aha!” moments as possible makes them that much easier to promote and generate new business.