Case Study:


In The Book was a well-established retailer of personalized books in the U.K, but was yet to fully break into the U.S market due to increased Google competition for target keywords in America.

The goal was to increase the overall strength of the In The Book US subfolder to help the site gain more traction in search while also generating media buzz. I decided this would best be achieved by a large-scale link building campaign, and settled on The Book Donation Map of America. The success of the campaign was recognized by industry leaders at the 2021 US Search Awards, and took the award for “Best Use of PR in a Search Campaign.”

The Results


Websites that linked to the content


Increase in monthly organic visits after 2 months of content live


Increase in site’s overall domain authority


Now we knew the goal, it was time to find an asset. The asset couldn’t be overly promotional in favor of In The Book’s products in order to be picked up and covered, but had to stay true to the brand’s overarching philosophy: reading with your child was a special activity that everyone should be able to share.

As part of the research, I looked not only at what In The Book’s direct competitors had been doing in terms of earning links, but at the wider bookselling industry as a whole. To be honest, the competitors weren’t really working hard to earn links anyway (some could get by on the popularity of their brand alone), but looking at the wider industry is always a good next step for me when researching content creation like this.

I came across this neat resource from Better World Books. They’re an organization that donates a chunk of their proceeds from selling used books to literacy nonprofits in third world countries, and they’d created this map to show where you could drop books off in their designated “drop boxes.” The map had been created using a simple Google Maps API and was earning big backlinks for the company (354 websites link to it as of June 2022.) Showing that this resource could get these kind of links was a huge part of getting the buy-in.

Keywords to inform the strategy

Book donations are a localized search term. It’s clear people who want to donate books are searching for keywords like “places to donate books austin” or “cleveland book donations.” The idea of creating a map was part-inspired by Better World Books, but it was clear there was scope to create something bigger with more meaning. 

Putting the spotlight on local businesses post-pandemic

As a result of the COVID pandemic, many local businesses were struggling, including independent, local nonprofit book donation stores. I was able to further get buy-in for the “Book Donation Map of America” because the content could serve as a resource that shone a spotlight on independent bookstores/charities/libraries only, picking up on the post-pandemic buyer theme of “shopping local” and supporting these businesses.

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One of the reasons this campaign was award-winning was because it was evident how much time my team and I had spent researching the content. Overall, there were over 1,200 places to donate books included as markers on the final map.

I worked with a development agency to use a Google Maps API to plot all the organizations on the map and segmented them into “types of donation” to make it easy to use: drop-off only, in-store donations, pick up, or if they were closed or had restricted access due to COVID. We also put in a cool “city selector” that would take users straight to the city they wanted to donate books in. On the map they could click on a location closest to them and easily discover when, and how to donate books there.

THE Promotion

The outreach list for this content was long. We found over 600 relevant contacts to pitch and built the list from scratch. The list included:

  • Journalists who write about books/donations specifically
  • The organizations on our map
  • Libraries
  • University websites
  • Book blogs (Sparknotes etc.)
  • Websites who linked to the Better World Books map

The map began earning links straight away, with local newspapers keen to report on the localized angle. Instead of donating to major corporations, journalists were thrilled to be able to point to local, independent organizations where donations could really make a difference. 

The organizations we featured were also genuinely thrilled to be part of the map, and it also earned a link from a coveted .edu university domain.


  • 70 total referring domains (as of one year after going live)
  • 13 referring domains with a domain rating (DR) of 50+
  • Coverage in the Dallas Observer, Greenville Post and Courier, and other local news websites
  • 6 months after live: In The Book website “domain rating” had increased by 5

Coverage and links are great! But, let’s take it a step further by looking at how the content increased the actual website traffic as a result of this newfound authority. The arrow represents when the content went live and started earning links.

Links to a website remain one of the most powerful ways to increase organic search traffic.

us search award
Posing with the award, October 2021, with my partner in crime at In The Book, Alanah.