Breaking free
and pushing forward

How my team helped Cowgirl Magazine escape a common vendor lock-in scenario and saw massive results as a result

COWGIRL Magazine is an awesome brand, and I I was pumped when their editor Ken Amorosano reached out to XWP. They were a forward-thinking, early AMP adopter, but their custom site had become a real problem.

In this case study I’ll walk through the challenge, how we tackled it, and the stellar results we got. Note: I was the strategist, analyst and account manager for this project, and worked with a team to implement the fixes for this project.

Read the original
case study here:

The Problem: Tech Debt
(Erratic SEO, Difficult Updates)

COWGIRL’s success made their existing setup a serious headache. Their old vendor wouldn’t update their site or custom AMP plugin. Things got so bad the site actually went down! We’ve all heard horror stories about vendor lock-in, but this was real. Ken was stuck – he couldn’t grow his business and needed a major overhaul.

My Strategy: Future-Proof and User-Focused

Your work on Rolling Stone*, how closely you work with Google** on the AMP plugin… I knew you were the right folks for the job.

—Ken Amorsano, Editor @ Cowgirl

* I was also on the team that helped do their rebuild!
* And Google’s first product owner on AMP!

After some calls, I knew we could build them a sustainable solution, not just a patch job. I needed to pull from the playbook I helped write: Think about humans, encourage adaptable solutions, and seek results that would make Ken and his team’s content more engaging from a platform standpoint.

Here’s the plan I put together:

  1. Ditch the Custom Plugins: We’d swap AMP for the official, Google-backed AMP plugin we maintain at XWP.
  2. Upgrade Theme and Smash the “bugs”: A new theme was needed, and Newspack was the obvious choice: AMP-compatible, flexible, and a thriving open-source community behind it. We also fixed a variety of annoying bugs, indexing problems, and general annoyances of maintaining and reading the site.
  3. Train the Team: COWGIRL needed to own their tech, so we trained the in-house team on the new tools and workflows.

The Results: Speed, Flexibility, and Growth

The COWGIRL team was incredible: They picked all of the new tools quickly, and found ways to grow their business as a result. The outcomes speak for themselves:

  • Lightning-Fast Mobile UX: Page speed skyrocketed, especially on mobile where their audience lives.
  • Editorial Freedom: Newspack lets them customize without getting stuck like before.
  • Organic Search Boost: Google loves quality content, and COWGIRL’s traffic went way up.

But what got me REALLY excited was how stoked Ken was for Web Stories!

We introduced this multimedia format to Ken, and he was all over it—I remember the excitement to take the countless videos, photos, and graphics and blend it all together. In hort, this format is a perfect fit for the COWGIRL team and their audience.

After our designers and I helped him get everything set up, we trained his editors, and even helped him strategize around how to use stories for advertisers.

Our partners at Google appreciated Ken’s enthusiasm and embrace—and beyond the big gains on his site,
I was able to score an incredible win.

Google highlighted his team’s Web Stories work as a featured case study on the highest-visibility blog in the creator space.

The Quote that Says It All

Here’s the best part of working with Ken is how kind and earnest he is: “We’ve got the fastest website in the galaxy. I mean, this thing is lightning fast. As a result, we’ve got more organic traffic.”

That’s the kind of impact that makes my day. Well, it’s true: When we reviewed the results we saw a substantial jump: A 29% desktop and 67% mobile traffic increase. Their editor told me in our case study that our work together “delivered beyond … imagination.”

Lessons Learned

  • Don’t Be Afraid of Big Changes: If tech is holding you back, sometimes a pivot is the answer, not a bandage.
  • Invest in Your Team and Give them Data: When your people have the right tools and know-how, anything’s possible.
  • Partner for the Long Haul: The best client relationships are built on trust and shared goals.

Want to discuss if your site is truly set up to succeed?
Or do you want to partner up together?