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215: Practical Tips From A Founder Who Got Slapped By Google…And Recovered

Posted by Austin Brawner on September 3, 2019


What would you do if your organic traffic dropped by 90% overnight?

That’s exactly what happened to today’s guest earlier this year.

Mike Colavita, founder of Fat Buddha Glass, joins us today to talk about his experience being on the receiving end of a big Google slap and how he’s recovering from an organic search drop. He shares why his site was dinged in the first place and the changes they’ve implemented since then to make nearly a full recovery five months later.

What at first seemed like the worst possible situation turned out to be one of the best things that ever happened to Mike’s business.

I know you’re going to enjoy this episode!

Episode Highlights

  • 5:00 Introducing Mike Colavita and his entrepreneurial journey. 
  • 6:45 The birth of Fat Buddha Glass.
  • 9:20 How to raise brand awareness when you’re banned from practically every channel.
  • 12:10 The turning point from part-time business to full-time endeavor.
  • 15:19 Finding new marketing channels through content partnerships and placements.
  • 16:41 The dire effect of the Google algorithm update on Fat Buddha Glass.
  • 18:55 Why Google dinged Fat Buddha Glass and why Mike says it was actually one of the best things that’s ever happened to his business.
  • 21:09 What mistakes Fat Buddha Glass was making with their SEO strategy and how they’ve fixed them.
  • 24:45 Content is more than just your blog.
  • 25:59 The strategies Fat Buddha Glass implemented to recover from its Google slap.
  • 30:40 Google reveals what they’re looking for when evaluating web content.
  • 32:06 The role blog posts played in improving Fat Buddha Glass’ rankings and why they prioritized product descriptions first.
  • 34:57 Tools Mike recommends that helped him on his road to SEO recovery.
  • 40:36 The value of having a phone number on your website and how it builds trust.

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Austin Brawner: What's up, everybody? Welcome to another episode of the Ecommerce Influence podcast. My name is Austin Brawner.

Andrew Foxwell: And I'm Andrew Foxwell. How in the heck are you doing, my man?

Austin Brawner: I am doing well. It's been a busy time of year, getting prepared for a really cool trip I'm taking across the pond.

Andrew Foxwell: Across the pond.

Austin Brawner: Across the pond, way across the pond to Istanbul. I'm going to be flying to Istanbul.

Andrew Foxwell: Istanbul, wow, okay. How about that?

Austin Brawner: Taking the train across Turkey through Georgia, through Azerbaijan, and then to Turkmenistan, which I am really, really excited about. It's going to be a fun journey, but I'm also stepping back and being like, "I got to prepare for being out of the office for a couple weeks." You know how that goes.

Andrew Foxwell: Oh, man. I do, I do. I mean, I tell you what. I am traveling across one of the great lakes to Michigan. I don't know if you've ever heard of it, but it's right next to Wisconsin. It's not Istanbul, but it is a pond, to some degree, as well.

Austin Brawner: You're also going across the pond.

Andrew Foxwell: I'm also going across that pond, but it's not the big one. It is what it is.

Austin Brawner: And you're taking a little bit of time off where we're organizing our interviews and what not to make sure that it matches up with both of these times. Yeah, it's exciting stuff. That's what's going on over here.

Andrew Foxwell: Yeah. Well, I mean, today's guest, I really, really like, to be honest. I really like speaking with him because he's clearly done the work, this guy. He's a small business owner, right? He kind of noticed his own problems and made changes, which I thought was incredible, so I really enjoyed speaking with him.

Austin Brawner: Yeah, no. I initially got connected with Mike because he joined the Coalition, my membership group, and we've been working together through there. Earlier in the year, I think it was March, got hit with a really big SEO ding from Google and has been working his way back and has a lot of really good advice, a lot of things that he's gone through and actually lives through to turn his business back around.

Today is kind of the story of how he got started, what happened when he got hit with the big Google slap, and how he is coming back. I think this is a lot of really practical advice in here, and he is an operator. You guys are really going to enjoy this episode.

Mike, welcome to the show, man, really excited to have you here.

Mike Colavita: Thank you, guys. So excited to be here.

Austin Brawner: We have briefly given an intro to some of the listeners, but why don't you give us a little bit of a rundown about you, personally, and talk a little bit about your business and how you ended up here on the podcast.

Mike Colavita: Sure, yeah. It's been a fun journey. It started when I got out of school. I got a job in a retail location, worked for a store called Guitar Center. I was there for eight years, started as just a sales clerk, worked my way up to a store manager, and that retail experience has been so helpful now, 15 years later, the ecommerce business.

Then after doing the retail, went off and started my own business. I always wanted to own my own business, and I'm a car nut. I started a business, car wholesale or car parts wholesale. I would sell the aftermarket wheels directly to retail stores. That lasted for four years, and it was fantastic.

Then I thought it was time to get a grown up job and went into the software industry, and that's where I worked for a marketing company, doing marketing automation. We specialized in associations. Being that we're in the D.C. area, there's a ton of associations around here. I had a chance to work with some great people, really forward thinking, just fantastic folks, and learned so much about marketing and just business in general. That kind of reignited my energy to start my own business again. Yeah, so that's kind of how I got to here.

Austin Brawner: That's awesome. So, you decided you were going to start your own business again, and then you kicked it off and you started Fat Buddha Glass. How did that come to be? How did you decide that you were going to start a business, and then was it a straight line? Did you start selling somewhere else? Walk us a little bit through that journey.

Mike Colavita: Fat Buddha Glass is something... I started it with my business partner, who has been my best friend for over 30 years. We met in 1989 in eighth grade. We both have always talked about, we wanted to do a business together. We both have owned businesses separately, individually, but we had never done anything together, and so we started doing little things here and there, just trying to do an Amazon business. Things just really didn't pan out, and we were just thinking about, what is something that we both are interested in and passionate about?

We both had collected glass for years, and years, and years. I mean, our glass collection is through the roof. With all the changes in the laws that are happening now, we thought this is a great opportunity for us to, A) start a business in something that we really are passionate about. We look at these things as art, and we get excited when we see them, and so we thought that was something we definitely wanted to do. Then also, we felt this was a great time to get in because we're able to get in kind of on that ground floor. So, yeah. I mean, that's how Fat Buddha Glass came about.

Austin Brawner: Where did you start selling first? Was it on your own store, on Amazon, on Etsy?

Mike Colavita: Yeah, that's a great question, and that's what we did. We first started off as just an eBay venture. I mean, we really started this with $500 and in my partner's garage, not even in the whole garage. He had a little nook in his garage, and we started selling on eBay. eBay just really took off for us, and then we did go into Etsy, and we had an Etsy page, and they both just really, really started growing for us, and we were selling a ton of stuff on both those platforms, but our goal was always to have our own website, and then from our website, also to have our own brick and mortar retail stores. Yeah. I mean, it started off as an eBay thing, was going great, Etsy, then went to our website. That's kind of the journey of Fat Buddha and where we're at now.

Andrew Foxwell: I mean, your banned, right, still? I mean, you're selling products that are banned from Facebook, Google, and Amazon? Right? Is that true?

Mike Colavita: Yeah, still.

Andrew Foxwell: I mean, one, that's obviously a big challenge, but for you, how do you combat that? What are the things that you're doing, and how do you get more people to know about what you're doing?

Mike Colavita: Yeah. I mean, that is the biggest challenge for us, is because it's not only Facebook, Google, and Amazon, but it's even things like Shopify. We can have a Shopify store, but we can't use Shopify payments. There's a ton of limitations on what we have, so that's the challenge that we've been fighting for the past few years, is just getting that brand recognition.

Now, being that we did start on eBay and Etsy, we were able to build a pretty loyal following, and we built a pretty sizable email list that we were able to use and kind of maximize, and so once we had a customer, we did everything we could to make them really feel comfortable with us, that we, A) cared about the products, B) we're going to give them a great product with a great value. And so, yeah, that's been the biggest thing for us, is that brand awareness, is how to get people to it.

We did the emails from our Etsy and eBay customers while we were doing the SEO, trying to get our website ranking. It's a big challenge with this industry. There's a lot of roadblocks that we've had to encounter.

Austin Brawner: Well, it's so interesting because it is, really when it comes down to it, a gray area, right? You talked a little bit about the legality of being able to sell glass and the changing laws. It's like it really is a gray area. You mentioned one of the things, not being able to use Shopify payments. What do you do? Do you use something like Carthook to hijack the checkout page, or how do you get around things like that?

Mike Colavita: Yeah. We use a third party payment processing, and it's a payment processing company that specializes in our industry, so the rates are higher than normally. We use them. As far as advertising, we were able to do AdRoll. We did our retargeting through AdRoll, and then just two weeks ago, got an email from them saying, "Hey, we are no longer allowing these type of products to be served on AdRoll. So, thank you, but we're going to end your account." It is a battle, but we just have to find companies that are willing to work with us in our niche, and so we found a great payment processing company that we're working with. It's definitely been tough.

Austin Brawner: When did you know as you were transitioning from eBay, Etsy, obviously you said you wanted to have a store, and you wanted to have a brick and mortar store, as well. When did you know that that transition was happening? Was it a feeling? Looking back, was there any time when you're like, "all right, we've made the commitment to building this store. Now it's actually happening, and we're getting traction?"

Mike Colavita: Yeah. When we first started off, I mean, like I said, we started off in my buddy's garage, and we both had full-time jobs, and we were just kind of going along. We thought to ourselves, if eBay, we can build some business and get some extra revenue, that's fantastic, but it was really, I think, when we got over to Etsy, we really saw the demand really starting to pick up.

We were like, "Okay, we've got something here. This is something we can build on." We started to put up this website, and the website was slow going at first. I mean, obviously, we had no rankings, and there were other companies that had started before us, but it was a feeling. We saw that there was a demand. We were selling a lot more than we kind of had originally thought. We just saw there was a need there.

We really wanted to focus in on what we thought our competitive advantage was, and that was providing quality products at a really good price. If you look at our pricings compared to everybody else, we're significantly lower, but then customer service is something we wanted to really just go over and above on.

When we started getting the feedback. On our Etsy page, we had 2,000 reviews, we averaged a five star review, and we saw that it's just the support we were getting from this little fan base. We were like, "We've got something here. This is where we can start to evolve into a real business," and that's where we started going into having our own website.

And so, that's really what it was. The sales just started picking up, and then it was that loyalty that we were getting from the Etsy customers, the feedback we were getting. We were like, "Okay, this is something that we can build on," and that was the moment where we knew that we had something that we could have our own store. We could have our own retail store, and so that's kind of what triggered the expansion.

Andrew Foxwell: I mean, I think that the way that you're talking about you kind of saw it. You saw the opportunity. You continued to dive in is super cool. You're talking a lot about since you can't be on the big three, it's like talking a lot about being creative in the way you're approaching it with email, things like that, and SEO being a big part of it, too.

I know we're going to talk about SEO in a second. I want Austin to get into that, but on this site, have you seen, from an SEO standpoint, do you do other partnership articles where you get people to talk about you? Is that a marketing channel at all, or do you invest in content or placements of articles talking about you in other publications, or what is that that kind of also helps drive people in?

Mike Colavita: Yeah, we do that. Now, ever... and I know we're going to get more into SEO, but now, ever since we kind of had the ding by the Google algorithm change, we've definitely picked that up where we are having more articles written about us. We are working more with partners. It's something that we did... in the early stages, we did it poorly, but we were doing it. We were just putting out content. We were looking more for quantity than quality because we felt, okay, we're new. We need to get our name out there as much as possible anywhere we can get someone to write about us, or any blog, or anything we would do. And then we've evolved that strategy where we're now looking for quality as opposed to quantity, but yeah. We definitely do work with other partners that will do content with us.

Austin Brawner: Let's dive right into this because, initially, I wanted to bring you on to talk about your story. We've been working together in the Coalition, asking questions. You've been posting in there. You've been really a valued member. You're going along. You're doing SEO. You're driving traffic to your site. You're selling products, and you can kind of fill in the details here. You're hit with the Google medic update. I'm not sure exactly which month that was, but why don't you walk us through what happened when and what happened to the business based on the Google update?

Mike Colavita: Yeah. That date will be etched in my memory forever, March 14th of this year. We started our SEO strategy back in 2017, and it was a slow process, but it definitely was working. Come middle of Q3, beginning of Q4 of 2018, we were ranking for number one for a lot of the big keywords, for pretty much all of the big keywords for us in our industry.

We were just on cloud nine. We were getting a lot of business, a lot of traffic. We were getting thousands of unique visitors a day. It was just going fantastic to the point where it was tough just to kind of keep up with all the growth. We were growing so fast.

We always knew that we needed to put content out, and we were working with some content folks, and like I said, it wasn't great, but we were trying to get stuff out there.

Then on March 14th, it was one night. I'm one of those people that look at the rankings nonstop, which I should not do. Do not recommend to anyone because it will make you go insane. I'm trying to wean myself off of that, but I was going to bed, it was 12:00, 1:00 in the morning, and I noticed our rankings dipped just a little bit. I'm like, uh oh.

Go to sleep, wake up the next morning, and I look, and we had gone from number one to page two, page three on some of the big keywords. The bottom just fell out. Yeah. I mean, it was a real kick. It really hit us really hard. Our organic traffic dropped by 90%. Yeah, so that was March 14th. Ever since then, we've been trying to kind of see what happened and work our way back up, and we've had a lot of success since then.

Austin Brawner: That is a crazy, crazy story.

Andrew Foxwell: Yeah, it's nuts. I mean, it just completely dropped off. Actually, can you help me understand? We talked about this and the Google medic update a little bit previously on this podcast, but can you explain what that actually means, or Austin, if you want to take this one, of what the Google medic update was and what it means to your business?

Austin Brawner: Yeah. Mike, you go ahead and talk about... You've researched more than I have.

Mike Colavita: Yeah, and I'm not sure if the... I think the medic might have been before this, or I'm not sure what exactly... This was the core algorithm change that was in March of this year, and so I have researched it, and of course, Google is very coy with all their information. They're very vague, and they don't put out as much detailed information as I would have liked about what this update meant, but from reading everything that was put out there, Google was looking at content. Are you providing really good content? Is it really helping the customers or the end users, answer their questions, get the best products in front of them?

And so, they looked at our site and found that we weren't up to snuff, and I guess that's why we had that massive drop. I'll be honest. For the first three days, I was just devastated, and in a haze, and was super pissed at Google. I was like, "How could they do that to us?"

Then I remember listening to a podcast that you all did with Nat from Growth Machine. He was like, "Well, you can't be mad at Google. You got to look at yourself." And so, after three days of sulking after this algorithm change and just like, "Oh, how could they do this?" After three days, we were like, "Okay, well, now, let's look at ourselves."

We looked at ourselves and we were like, "You know what? We understand why they dinged us. We wrote our own invitation to be where we were. It was pretty eye-opening, and it was a horrible day, but two years from now, I'm going to look back, or we're going to look back and we're going to say, "Okay, that was probably the best day that ever happened to our business because it taught us so much, and during our research, we've learned so much about what Google is looking for and how we can better prepare ourselves not to be in this same situation in the future.'"

Austin Brawner: When you were looking in the mirror and saying to yourself, "Okay, we made a mistake," what were the mistakes that you were making? And how have you altered your strategy based on the mistakes that you learned you were making?

Mike Colavita: Yeah. When we looked into it... At first, like I said, we were ranking number one for all these keywords, and we're on cloud nine, and we're just kind of going along. We really weren't inspecting what we had expected. We just kind of were happy where we were at. We were putting out content. When we kind of dove in and looked at our content, it wasn't great. It was good, but it wasn't great. It wasn't better than what anybody else was putting out there. Like I said earlier, we were getting a ton of backlinks, but they weren't quality backlinks, and they weren't relevant backlinks, either. That is a strategy that we saw that was flawed from the get go. We were just looking for that quantity, as opposed to quality.

Another thing is that we weren't super educated. We didn't dive in and look at... We didn't do audits of ourself and see where we were doing well and where we were doing poorly. That's something that we've changed, is that we have a better understanding of not only us, but our competitors. What are our competitors doing for SEO? And how can we be better? And so, those are some of the things that we were doing poorly and some of the things that we have changed.

Then also, another thing was, we kind of built our business on this loyalty from these customers that we had gotten from our early days, but we had fallen off with our communication. And so, I do think that having better communication with your end customers does help with our SEO. That was it.

Then we just saw that we were putting out bad content. We were getting low-quality links. We weren't necessarily looking at our business from the customer's point of view. Google is there, not to please us, the entrepreneur or the marketer. They're there to please the end user. Once we realized that, that totally changed the way we looked at every single thing that we did from writing better content, from working with better partners and just really kind of taking into consideration, okay, what is the journey of that end user?

Andrew Foxwell: I think that makes a lot of sense, always looking at, what is that journey? What are they doing? You're talking a lot on this about content. There's one thing I do want to push you on a little bit, which is, if content is a huge part of it, is there a reason that the site, you don't have a blog or have some area that you can have a little bit more longer form content to help you rank higher from an SEO perspective in some of those places?

Mike Colavita: Are you asking why we don't have a blog?

Andrew Foxwell: Yeah.

Mike Colavita: No, we do.

Andrew Foxwell: Or if that's a conscious choice.

Mike Colavita: No, we do have a blog.

Andrew Foxwell: Oh, okay. 

Austin Brawner: The real question he's asking is, why is the blog on the top of the header? Because it is on the bottom. I did see it. I looked for the exact same thing when I was preparing for the interview, and it's on the bottom of the page.

Mike Colavita: Yeah. We should probably put it towards the top. 

Andrew Foxwell: Oh, there we go, blog. I see. Yeah, you got to put that thing in the top, man.

Mike Colavita: Definitely should. That's another thing, and I'm sure we'll talk about this in a second, but when I say content, I don't just solely mean blog posts. I mean, the blog post is definitely part of the content, but I'm also talking about just our product descriptions, our collections page.

Andrew Foxwell: Totally.

Mike Colavita: I'm just kind of putting it all in one lump sum when I'm saying content, but yeah, for sure. Duly noted, should put the blog at the top page, and this will kind of tie into some of the things that we did to change.

It's listening to a third party, like yourself, people that are coming into our website, fresh eyes and look at it. You're like, okay, there it is. The blog is at the bottom. It should be at the top.

Austin Brawner: Let's fast forward a little bit then. March 14th, right? I think I got it right, March 14th. It starts. You lose 90% of your... Was it overall traffic or organic traffic?

Mike Colavita: Organic.

Austin Brawner: So, 90% of organic traffic is gone. We fast forward. It's about... We're recording, what? About six months later. How have you been doing? Have you been able to recover? What are some of the things that as you've come and dove in here, what are you doing now that's helped you recover, and where are you at, compared to pre-March 14th?

Mike Colavita: Yeah. It's amazing. After March 14th, we did a couple... It was a few days of soul searching, and then we really just hit the ground running, like okay. It's a speed bump, but it's not going to be the end of us. Some of the things that we did that really helped us was we just looked at our site structure.

For example, Andrew just gave us a tip about the blog being at the top. Well, we looked at our previous website. We've totally made over our website. What you see now is not what was there on March 14th. It's completely different. We've updated our site structure. We've tried to make it as easy for people to use our site, find the products they're looking for, and just make it as helpful as possible.

Updating our site structure was the first thing that we did because that's something that we felt like we could control right then and there. SEO, as you guys know, it's a long-term thing, working and getting your quality back makes all of that, but the site structure was something that we could do right then and there, so we updated the site structure, and we noticed a massive increase in our dwell time, a massive decrease in our bounce rate. The page per session increased significantly, just because of these changes we were making.

We started doing a lot of AB testing. We were AB testing everything to see, how were people or how were our end users interacting with it, and how can we make it just so it's as easy for them to use as possible? The site structure was a huge thing for us.

We rewrote a lot of content. Like I said, our collection page contents, our product descriptions. Our product descriptions are our silent salesperson. When it's three o'clock in the morning, which honestly, is one of our busiest times and people are looking at our website, that product description is really selling the products for us. And so, we went through and rewrote pretty much every product description that's on here.

We started doing better email communication with people, and we switched from MailChimp to Klaviyo, and we've seen a tremendous increase from that. We do feel that engaging our existing customers is going to help us in the long run with our search engine optimization.

Nobody knows what the rankings are for Google, what they look at, but I think some people have some good ideas, and one of them was repeat business. How many times are customers coming back to you? Because if customers are coming back to you, then that's a sign if they feel that, okay, we're a trusted company.

Those are the things that we wanted to focus on first and foremost, site structure, rewriting our content, and then really having that better communication to try to get those repeat customers, which we felt would help us in our long journey of getting back to the top of ranking.

Here it is. I mean, it's five months later. By no means are we where we were back then, but in some places, we're doing better. We're now towards the top of all those major keywords again, not number one, but we're towards the top, but also, because we were able to kind of go in and look at ourselves and see what we were doing wrong, we did a lot of keyword research.

So, now we're ranking for keywords that we didn't even know existed because we actually educated ourselves, got in there and looked to see where we were missing out on keywords that our competitors were ranking for. Our overall volume is not where it was before, but it's pretty close, and it's only been five months, and so we're really optimistic that if we just continue doing what we're doing, and then we have a ton more of things that we want to do and a ton more that we think is going to help our rankings. We're putting ourselves in a good situation.

Andrew Foxwell: The thing I find myself wondering is since you've done a lot of work on this is, obviously, putting content you've talked about, product descriptions, site structure, and you're thinking this is wondering, what is Google looking for? Outside of the things you've already mentioned, what are other things Google is looking for that you've discovered in this journey back to the top?

Mike Colavita: That's a great question that you asked that because Google, just August 1st, sent out a document about what they're looking for.

Andrew Foxwell: Nice, okay.

Mike Colavita: Yeah, so it's been fantastic. That's one of the things we did, is that we really wanted to understand what they were looking for. They put a document out that, when you're talking to your customers, are we providing them exactly what they're looking for? Is it something where they would feel comfortable, and this is their own words, with spending their money or their life?

Now, no one is putting their life in us for our products, but they are spending their money with us, and we want to make sure that they're feeling comfortable that, A) we're trustworthy, and B) that we're going to fulfill what they're looking for. We want to offer them a great product at great prices.

They want to know that we're an industry leader. We had a competitor. I think this has been great. We had a competitor post, or repost, one of our infographs that we created. I think they're looking for those industry leaders, and I think if we keep going down the path, that's kind of what we're going to be known as, and it will help us, definitely, for sure with the rankings.

Austin Brawner: What's so interesting about this, and what I find fascinating, is of all the things you've talked about, you didn't mention blogging as something... Obviously you talked about content, but it wasn't one of the things that you were like, "Oh, yeah, we improved our blog posts." How much time did you spend, if any, on your blog posts, and, I guess, why focus on these other levers first, versus blog posts? I think I know the answer, but it's interesting to hear why you focus on that.

Mike Colavita: Yeah. I mean, we definitely have increased our blogs and just the quality of our blogs. Before, we were just putting out content on our blogs just to put out content to try to help it with our keywords and try to say rank for certain keywords, and so we were putting out a blog post every once in a while.

We've definitely made a conscious effort to write more blog posts, and we're working with better writers. By no means am I a great writer, and so we've spent a lot more money on working with great writers. You kind of get what you pay for, and that's one of the things I remember in that last podcast I listened with you and Nat. He was like, "Yes, people have problems spending money on blog posts," and that was us.

We were working with a company where we were spending a couple hundred bucks and getting five blog posts. Well, you get what you pay for, and it wasn't really helping us.

We've definitely invested more in our writing and making it things that are related to or relevant to what our customers are looking for, where previously, we weren't really doing that. We want that to drive traffic, but most people come to our website because they're looking for a product, and that's why we felt that the product descriptions and the collection pages should've been our priority right off the bat, is because people are coming to look at products and want to purchase products, and the product descriptions and the collection pages, that content is what's going to help them make that buying decision. That's kind of why we focus on that one first.

Austin Brawner: Makes so much sense, and it's really tough because a lot of times, when people think about content, immediately, their mind goes to the blog. But, often, the blog isn't what is really moving the... it's not really selling. It's really hard to convert content top of the funnel type traffic into sales. Sometimes it's a long process, and I think you 100% were on the right track with the path that you went. That's really, really exciting.

Do you have any resources that you'd recommend to other listeners that have been helpful for you that could be tools, things that you've turned to over the last couple months to kind of help you with this journey?

Mike Colavita: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, like I said before, when we were kind of ranking number one and just cruising along, and things were going great, there weren't really that many resources that we were using, and we had a little bit of a blind eye. Now that we did experience this downfall back in March, we've found out what resources can we use that really help us?

First and foremost, we got an Ahrefs account. I'm not saying that you need to go get that specific account or an account with them, just some kind of site audit platform that we use, because it opened our eyes to so much.

One of the first things we also did is worked really hard in getting all these backlinks. Like I said, the quality wasn't great. When we got this Ahrefs account, we noticed that those backlinks probably were hurting us more than helping us. By doing this site audit, we went through, and we disavowed a ton of backlinks because they weren't quality backlinks. I would definitely get an Ahrefs account or some kind of audit that you can go through and dive into your website, not only your website, but your competitors' website. We were able to research so many keywords, like I said earlier, that we're ranking for now that we weren't because we are using this resource. It has been invaluable to us to have this auditing software or account. It's totally changed the way we're looking at our website.

Other than that, I mean, some of the things that we use are just standard Google Docs so that my partner and I can have our tasks and things that we're doing. I also use a free app, called Wunderlist. That thing, for me, it's a lifesaver. I don't know about you guys, but I'm one of those types of people that I need to create a list for my day. I create a list. The first thing on my list says, "Create a list," so I can mark it off.

Andrew Foxwell: I'm with you, man. I use it all the time. It's one of my favorites, Wunderlist, have integrated with Slack and everything. It's crazy.

Mike Colavita: It's fantastic, yeah. I mean, it definitely helps me kind of keep on track, and so I'm like, okay, this is what I need to get done today. I've got my projects, and I try to limit myself to one or two project activities a day, but then my standard daily activities I do. Those are some apps.

But then also, and this is kind of obvious and most people probably use these, and we used it, but not to the extent we could, but Google Analytics and Google Search Console. I mean, we really dove in and tried to understand what these reports meant, and it just opened our eyes to how much information is there, how much information that Google provides you in GA and in the Google Search Console. I mean, there's tons of information in there.

Before, we were very reactive with that algorithm change back in March. We would just react to it. Now, with GA and Google Search Console, we can see things that are happening and be proactive. Those are two resources that if you're not already using those, you have to get on them because there's a ton of information out there.

Then also, follow Google and all of that on their social media platforms. Like I said earlier, they just released a document on August 1st about what you can do to avoid being part or being caught up in their core update. I found it through their social platform. So, definitely follow them.

Then also, join a forum. There's a ton of smart people. I'm in your forum, and it has been so valuable to me. I mean, Austin, you guys put out great information there, but also, it's hearing the day-to-day actions that the other members are talking about. Those are some resources I definitely would take advantage. I mean, be part of a forum. Be active. Talk to people. Hear what they're saying. I mean, those are resources that... real life resources that are just so helpful, but yeah. Those are the big things that I would do.

Andrew Foxwell: I think that's incredible, actually, to hear your take as a small business owner, what you're looking at. I have a landing page question before we let you go, or excuse me, a website question before we let you go.

One is we've heard illustrious guest and friend of the podcast, Kurt Elster, talk about putting a phone number on the site and giving the time, and then the same thing about once you get to the checkout or in the shopping cart, what else do you need? What other reasons do you have for buying from us? You're utilizing a phone number there. How many people call the phone number?

Mike Colavita: Yeah. We get a lot..

Andrew Foxwell: And what other... You get a lot of calls? And what other things that you have on your cart page are incredible converters, in your opinion?

Mike Colavita: I'm going to start with the phone number. I think it is really important. A lot of people, they'll send the email, or maybe they won't. They'll just kind of look and try to figure out the questions on their own, or they'll send an email, but it's not instant. When you're getting someone that is trying to spend money with you... and that's a big commitment. They're spending their hard-earned money with you. To have that phone number there with our hours, and we do Monday through Sunday, 9:00 AM to 9:00 PM. If anyone calls, we're going to answer the phone. It is so important.

First off, it builds trust. They're like, all right, these people are legit, but second of all, we're able to answer their questions realtime. If they're like, "Okay, hey, I like this, but I'm not sure if this is meeting my needs. Let me call," and they get in touch with us. It builds a level of trust, but also, again, we're trying to make this as easy for our customers as humanly possible to do business with us, and we want them to feel really, really confident that we're going to be here to support them. Having that phone number on there for us, I think, is so important. I don't know for every other industry, but me, personally, when I'm buying, if I see a phone number on there, immediately, there's more trust, and if I do have a question, I like the fact to know that I can call them and get an answer right then and there, not send an email and wait 24 hours to get a response. I can get a response right then and there, and then I can move forward with my purchase.

Austin Brawner: How do you manage that? Because always, the pushback is, "Oh, I don't want to have a team answering them." How do you deal with that? Because, as you've grown from Etsy and eBay, you didn't always have a phone number. How do you guys do it now?

Mike Colavita: I answer the calls, and I love it. It gives me an opportunity to build a rapport. People want to do business with people they know. This is something I learned when I worked in retail. There's nothing that replaces that face-to-face sales environment at a retail store, but I learned really early that people want to do business with someone they know. If they can build a rapport with me and feel comfortable with me, they're that much more willing to spend their hard-earned money with me. So, yeah. I answer the phone calls, and I actually really enjoy it.

I would say I've built friendships with people, people that call me their friends that I've talked to multiple times, because we have that phone number there, and so yeah. I gladly answer the phone every time it rings.

Austin Brawner: Is it your cell phone or, just logistically?

Mike Colavita: We use Grasshopper. It just forwards it to my cell phone. I got a phone call at 11:19 last Saturday, and I answered it. The person was like, "Are you kidding me?" She was like, "I just thought I was going to leave a voicemail." I was like, "Nope." I can't do that all the time, but it just really blew her away that I was answering the phone at 11:00 on a Saturday night, and sure enough, I answered her question, she made the purchase, and hopefully she'll be a repeat customer because she has that rapport with me. She has that relationship with me. I mean, I do think that people want to buy from somebody, as opposed to some place.

Austin Brawner: Sure. No, I agree. That's awesome. It goes above and beyond. Mike, we got to wrap up here. We're getting close to the end of the time, but I want to make sure that to somebody who is listening, and they are interested in connecting with you or learning more about you, what's the best place for you to direct them? I guess they could just call your customer service line.

Mike Colavita: They can give me a call or you can email me at We just changed our email. It used to be fatbuddhaglass, but It's just easier for people to remember, but check us out on Instagram @FatBuddhaGlass.

Austin Brawner: Awesome, man. Thank you so much for coming and sharing your story, really appreciate it, and some really great lessons, and good luck, man. Keep going on a good path, and it sounds like you're really taking control of everything and making the right moves. I'm really excited for you.

Mike Colavita: Yeah, man. I appreciate it. On a personal note, I want to thank you guys. The content that you all put out and your podcasts are so helpful. I mean, I've listened to hours, and hours, and hours of you guys. I feel like I know the two of you already, even though I haven't met you in person, but I feel like I know the two of you, but it is so appreciated what you guys do. It is a huge, huge help.

Austin Brawner: In Austin, next time you're there, hit me up, and yeah. Thanks so much, man, for coming on the show, and we'll talk to you soon.

Andrew Foxwell: Thank you, my man.

Mike Colavita: Absolutely. Thanks, guys. Take care.

Austin Brawner: Hey there, it's Austin again, and I have a quick message for you. If you enjoyed this podcast, I have something really exciting for you. For the last year and a half, I've been coaching ecommerce business owners and marketers inside a group called the Coalition. You might have even heard me talking about it on this podcast. We have a lot of members who come on and actually share their story.

Now, what launched as an experiment has become a game-changer for over 150 members. If you'd like me and my team of expert marketers and ecommerce operators to coach you on your journey to scale up your ecommerce business, this is your opportunity. You can head over to to learn more.

Again, head over to to learn more. Everything we talk about on this podcast, we go into way more depth with actionable training. You can get, actually, one-on-one help from me to help you grow your business. Hope to see you guys inside.

Austin Brawner: What's up, everybody? Welcome to another episode of the Ecommerce Influence podcast. My name is Austin Brawner.

Andrew Foxwell: And I'm Andrew Foxwell. How in the heck are you doing, my man?

Austin Brawner: I am doing well. It's been a busy time of year, getting p...

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