How Warby Parker Built Their Eyewear Empire with SEO

A decade ago, consumers would never have thought of buying glasses online. There were doctors to consult, prescriptions to fill, opticians to see—almost the entire process was handled via in-person, one-on-one interactions. Warby Parker changed all that.

Founded in 2010, the ecommerce eyewear provider brought the direct-to-consumer model to their customers. While you still needed to see an eye doctor to get the right prescription, Warby Parker took the rest of the process online. But getting people to trust an ecommerce company in a traditionally brick-and-mortar market wasn’t easy. Warby Parker needed a way to build their brand.

In today’s article, we take a look at how Warby Parker’s organic and paid strategy helped them accomplish this goal. Using SpyFu’s Competitor Analysis tools, we break down how they turned $691k in monthly click value and a strong backlink profile into a growth engine for their brand.

Without a solid SEO strategy, they may never have been the agent of change that disrupted an industry.

An Organic Strategy That Built an Empire

Going fully online in a traditionally in-person market meant Warby Parker needed to work even harder to gain traction for their brand. Not only did they have to battle the lack of trust inherent in the ecommerce purchase experience, but they also needed to legitimize their product in an essentially non-existent market.

To accomplish this, Warby Parker doubled down on a targeted keyword strategy that resulted in $691k in monthly click value. Combined with a consistent and authoritative backlink profile, Warby Parker could increase awareness in and build trust for their fledgling eyewear brand.

Turning 779k Monthly SEO Clicks into $691k in Monthly Click Value

Every click Warby Parker gets equates to a savings of $0.89 that would have come from their overall ad spend. With approximately 779k in monthly SEO clicks on their target keywords, they’ve positioned themselves as one of the most effective organic marketers in the industry.

Take a look at the growth in their estimated monthly SEO clicks over the past five years.

Estimated monthly SEO clicks over the past five years via SpyFu.

While we see some fluctuation in 2018 and a drastic dip in early 2019, organic clicks over the past five years have trended in a positive direction. That path is mirrored in the estimated monthly click value as well.

Estimated monthly click value over the past five years via SpyFu.

While we see an uncharacteristic spike early this year, Warby Parker has invested steadily in organic keywords over the past few years. What’s interesting about this trend is that the overall value from these clicks seems to correlate with Warby Parker abandoning their blog. Posts stopped around July 2018, at which point the brand likely pivoted to more targeted SEO efforts.

Just take a look at the 2,290 keywords Warby Parker ranks for on page one:

Page one keyword rankings for Warby Parker via SpyFu.

The estimated monthly click value for these keywords is quite high. This illustrates how established their brand is, as the value from brand name keywords like warby glasses, warby eyeglasses and warby parker frames are all close to $100.

But where things really get interesting are their page 3, 4, and 5 rankings, specifically:

  • shop glasses online – $423/m
  • glasses frames online – $494/m
  • online glass frames – $202/m

And check out warby parker eyeglasses at $2.15k. That’s incredibly high.

Each of these keywords has a monthly value in the hundreds of dollars. For a market that didn’t exist more than a decade ago, it’s amazing to see how much value online eyewear brands like Warby Parker can get from ranking for these transactional keywords. With some additional optimization to their on-page SEO for product and landing pages, Warby Parker has the potential to bring in even more value. But they do have a lot of competition.

When you combine this keyword targeting with their authoritative backlink profile, it’s easy to see how Warby Parker ranks so well in the SERP in spite of their competitors.

Instead of relying on on-page SEO alone, Warby Parker also uses their brand and values to tap into the benefits of off-page SEO. They do this by telling compelling stories about their values and brand. Gaining these links not only increases awareness of their company; it strengthens their domain authority and taps into the trust-building benefits of social proof.

Just take a look at their backlink profile:

Backlinks via SpyFu.

Forbes, Wired, Yahoo Finance—Warby Parker has gained links from many high-quality websites. Most of these backlinks fall into three categories:

  • Business model teardowns – Where websites like Forbes and Yahoo speak to how Warby Parker revolutionized the way consumers buy their glasses. You’ll find a number of articles like “[Company Name] Wants to Be the Warby Parker of [Industry].” When people read these features, it piques their interest in Warby Parker and what makes their strategy so effective.
  • Culture features – Where websites like DailyBeast and  MarketWatch share Warby Parker’s one-for-one purchase model. Whenever someone buys a pair of Warby Parker glasses, the company donates a pair to someone in need. This highlights Warby Parker’s brand values and makes them more appealing to millennial buyers.
  • Product showcases – Where websites like Uncrate and Black Lapel feature Warby Parker’s glasses directly. As an ecommerce platform, these are incredibly valuable for increasing visibility for the Warby Parker brand. And it’s a great way to increase their audience through other trusted platforms.

Gaining these high-quality backlinks, most of which have above-average domain strength, helps Warby Parker maintain their position in the SERP. And the diversity of links they receive helps them as well—a varied backlink profile is one of many positive ranking factors for Google.

For a company that doesn’t have a focus on content marketing, these different types of backlinks are the best chance they have for increasing visibility for both search engine crawlers and potential customers. It also helps Warby Parker support their more targeted keyword strategy.

Keyword Targeting That Highlights Specific Use Cases

Warby Parker ranks for 7,371 total keywords, sharing only 2,695 of them with top competitors. These keywords are specific to the products they sell, as well as the way potential customers can purchase them. Targeting use cases helps Warby Parker stay top-of-mind across every segment of their market, whether it’s the type of glasses they sell, the purchase method used, or the type of customer they want to attract.

Organic keyword data via SpyFu.

Many of Warby Parker’s most valuable keywords are highly competitive as well.

Most valuable keywords sorted by Ranking Difficulty via SpyFu.

This level of difficulty makes sense when you review the types of keywords Warby Parker shares with their competitors. Each one in the screenshot above is some sort of semantic variation of a common customer question.

How do I buy glasses online?

Considering how important this question is for Warby Parker, it’s no surprise that they rank well. The search intent is as close to a perfect match as you can get between customer need and product value.

Warby Parker’s business model was significantly different from the traditional experience of buying glasses. So they needed to get their brand name in front of as many potential customers as possible to create their market. Going after the high-difficulty keywords was one part of the strategy; the other was product- and use-case-specific keywords.

Product-specific organic keywords via SpyFu.

Warby Parker ranks well for all types of eyewear for men, women, and children. And they rank for variations on frame, prescription, and sunglasses. Each keyword gets its own product URL as well:

  • https://www.warbyparker.com/eyeglasses/women
  • https://www.warbyparker.com/eyeglasses/men
  • https://www.warbyparker.com/sunglasses/women
  • https://www.warbyparker.com/sunglasses/men

This URL structure helps Warby Parker direct potential customers to the most valuable pages based on their search. It’s a commonly used ecommerce strategy, but one that definitely pays off when you consider the customer experience.

Combine this with their paid advertising strategy, and it’s not hard to see how they’ve built such a successful online brand.

Warby Parker uses PPC and paid advertising campaigns to ensure their brand is always present in the SERP. In the early years of their company, this helped increase awareness for their novel purchase experience. Now, it gives Warby Parker the strength they need to fend off a slew of new competitors.

The core of this strategy is aggressive paid keyword buying—Warby Parker goes after all keywords relevant to both their brand and their products. Doing so increases visibility across a number of relevant search queries and helps Warby Parker connect with customers at any stage of their buyer’s journey.And Warby Parker does this with a relatively modest budget when you consider their size. Their competitors have to do a lot more heavy lifting just to be a part of the conversation.

19,254 Paid Keywords Connect Warby Parker with Their Audience

When Warby Parker was starting out, their bold PPC strategy helped evangelize their product, their company, and their values. Now, it helps them keep their brand top-of-mind. They accomplish this by going after close to 19,254 paid keywords using the same kind of targeting as their organic campaigns.

PPC keywords over the past five years via SpyFu.

Over the past five years, Warby Parker has slowly ramped up their paid keyword buying strategy. While some months might only see 6k to 7k individual keywords, this strategy translates into an estimated 203k monthly PPC clicks.

These approximately 200k PPC clicks combine with their 779k organic clicks to get Warby Parker close to a million overall clicks from SEO each month. That’s an insane amount of potential traffic they have the opportunity to convert, with each click directing a search to a targeted product or landing page.

Warby Parker mirrors their organic keyword strategy by going after product name variations and relevant long-tail key phrases in their ads as well.

PPC keywords via SpyFu.

Just take a look at these paid keywords—we can see a number of specific use cases:

  • reading glasses
  • buying glasses online
  • blue light blocking computer glasses
  • affordable eyeglasses
  • measuring pupil distance

This means that Warby Parker not only attracts potential customers looking for reading glasses, or glasses to use when spending long periods of time on the computer—measure pd is a keyword for helping potential customers find the right-sized frames at home.

Each of these is a specific use case or customer persona that Warby Parker knows would benefit from their product or platform. All they need to do is communicate that value effectively in their ads.

Doubling Down on Ad Content That Works

When we look at Warby Parker’s ad history, it tells the story of a thoughtful, data-driven team. Many of their ads show an initial period of testing and copy changes, followed by extended runs of the same or similar content. When Warby Parker finds something that converts, they stick with it.

Take a look at this ad history for their blue light blocking glasses:

Ad history via SpyFu.

Each of the dark blue-green tags represents the same ad running for several months at a time. Typically, we see about six months of value from each ad before Warby Parker chooses to switch up the content. When you’re going after such a wide array of keywords and phrases, being able to rely on ad copy that converts frees up more time for testing less new ads.

We see even longer periods of similar content for ads targeting readers and reading glasses.

Ad history via SpyFu.

But a more varied approach for affordable eyeglasses and best glasses online.

Ad history via SpyFu.

That makes sense when you consider how competitive each keyword is. Reading glasses is a much less popular target keyword than affordable eyeglasses. With so many competitors gunning for the top position, Warby Parker has to switch up their content more often to stay relevant.

Their competitors even go after warby parker as a keyword, driving up the cost of branded keywords.

Example ads for “warby parker” via Google.

That means Warby Parker has to be really smart with their budgets to make sure they don’t overspend going after the wrong kinds of keywords.

A Consistent Ad Budget That Doesn’t Break the Bank

Warby Parker pays an estimated $420k a month on their PPC campaigns. That’s only slightly higher than most of their competitors, but well under GlassesUSA.com, a competitor that spends $424k.

Top paid competitors via SpyFu.

The graph above shows Warby Parker’s budget over the past year in red. While now they’re matching their top competitor on overall budget, last year they were still under $300k per month. That indicates that GlassesUSA.com’s strategy must have driven down conversion rates for Warby Parker. We see the budget increase in January 2020 when funds are typically allocated.

If we take a look at their budget over the past five years, these increases only really started happening around 2018.

Estimated monthly PPC budget over the past five years via SpyFu.

Being able to maintain an even more modest budget for the first eight years of their company history is a testament to Warby Parker’s overall market dominance. As the first mover and established brand in sales of online glasses, they were able to rest on their laurels for quite some time.

We’re excited to see how these budgets evolve in the coming years as Warby Parker’s competitors continue to go for the top position in the market. It’s going to be a difficult fight, though, as Warby Parker has spent years building momentum for their organic and paid campaigns.

Warby Parker Built an SEO Machine That Works

Warby Parker uses both organic and paid SEO to solidify and hold their position in the online eyewear market they helped create. By going after the right keywords with targeted content and ads, they’ve built an SEO and PPC strategy that elevates their brand.

Being able to focus on product- and use-case-specific keywords ensure that no matter what the searcher wants, or the intent behind their query, Warby Parker has a page or product that’s appealing.

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