One of the big shifts I noticed in 2018, was the dropping importance of backlinks in SEO. They’re still no doubt a leading ranking factor, but many people are neglecting other factors which have become equally vital.
Namely, Technical SEO and OnPage Optimisation.
Focusing all our efforts on these two factors for one client, helped us increase sessions by 123,000 over 7 months compared to last years data:
Let me explain how we did it…
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- 1 Background: The Case Study Website
- 2 Initial Analysis & Implementation
- 3 Creating a Growth Strategy
- 4 Results of the Campaign
- 5 Conclusion
Background: The Case Study Website
This is a client we began working with in August 2018, working in the online learning and personal development space.
Our client is an e-learning website focused on educational material and training programs.
Their difficulty was simple:
They already had great content and backlinks from authoritative websites. More content and links wasn’t the problem.
The problem was they’d hit an invisible ceiling with the growth of their search traffic, and were unsure how to grow it further.
Initial Analysis & Implementation
At the beginning of each campaign, my team conduct an analysis to identify limiting factors and check for compatibility with Google.
Below you will find three core issues we highlighted for this company to spur new growth in the business…
Quality of Content
As the business already had a great foundation of content, it was unnecessary to start with new opportunities.
Instead, we focused on an owned marketing strategy.
An owned marketing strategy is starting with the assets you already own and improving the way that you market them. It can include your social media channels, video content, email lists, or in this case – the website.
This business already prided themselves in delivering great quality content. Our focus was to make it great mathematically, not just great literature.
See, content that reads well isn’t necessarily the same as content that ranks well. “Just create great content” is a misled strategy, especially when your target is search engine traffic.
So what shifts great content into rankable content?
Well, this client already had keyword research and a great starting point.
Our work then, involved adding some surrounding terms, simplifying the sentences, and correcting all grammar and punctuation errors across the core pages.
Improving the quantity of traffic towards your website is only part of the battle though – the other half is improving the conversions.
Whether we focused on the core pages or the supporting blog content – the core objective was always to provide a great reading experience.
Have you ever tried to work your way around a supermarket – only to be blocked by displays, dumped baskets and countless people competing for space? Well, poor navigation on your website can work as a similar hindrance.
Many webmasters have heard that external links are good for your website and so they litter them all over the content. Countless out-of-context links to Wikipedia need to be removed, and even articles to authoritative sources that make no sense.
The same is true for internal links, there are often too many links toward conversion pages. By contrast, most websites lack anywhere near enough links to comparative content.
To help users along with their journey – we focused on improving the navigation of the website. Which of course is also beneficial for search engines.
Contextual links are fundamental for your visitors experience, if nothing else. But only linking to your core pages can ruin the navigation on your website and damage your users experience.
Try to include content on separate pages that focus on specific problems or questions around your products or services, which you can then create internal links towards.
UX & Pagespeed
Many business owners know that page speed and user-experience are important ranking factors – yet continue to overlook these important factors. Here are some statistics that are taken from various case studies and used by Google:
- Pinterest increased search engine traffic and sign-ups by 15% when they reduced perceived wait times by 40%.
- COOK increased conversions by 7%, decreased bounce rates by 7%, and increased pages per session by 10% when they reduced average page load time by 850 milliseconds.
- The BBC found they lost an additional 10% of users for every additional second their site took to load.
- DoubleClick by Google found 53% of mobile site visits were abandoned if a page took longer than 3 seconds to load.
As well as having a profound impact on the user experience, page speed also is a confirmed ranking factor for mobile websites. Therefore, it goes without saying that improvements in this area will have profound impacts on not just the number of sessions – but the quality too.
Here are some tools that you can use to audit your website’s performance:
In this case, we’ve still got room to improve, but managed to get down to a very reasonable 3 seconds fully loaded website:
The nature of the website’s infrastructure makes it quite difficult to decrease it further than this – but it’s a great start.
Creating a Growth Strategy
The initial checks and changes proved to be very effective, and we’ve now seen a huge growth in the sessions each month.
It’s also been well received by updates from Google during the course of 2018, with very few links built towards the website.
At the beginning of 2019, we decided to set annual goals and create a framework for this client, as we do for all clients at the start of a new year.
Here’s the framework we created for them, which you can also use to create a successful growth strategy in 2019…
(Though, yours may look slightly different depending on your niche)
Adding New Products / Services
Since their business focuses on educational material and training programs, it makes sense that we help them create new courses.
Identifying subjects that people are interested in helps us to know what is currently working and what areas are seeing growth.
A great tool for this job is Google Trends.
Here’s an example of one keyword opportunity that we spotted that hadn’t been tapped into yet:
As a programming language, Python has continued to grow each year thanks to its application for data science.
From your perspective, what you’re looking for is an emerging market. Meaning, a product that people are looking for now that they weren’t looking for when you started the campaign.
Do you know what the most important part of a business is beyond solving a problem for your audience?
Assembling an incredible team.
Think about it, every problem can be solved with the right people. Employment costs are also one of the highest expenses for most businesses.
To help the company grow, we also focused on helping them to develop career information. If you want to help people learn and grow – why not transition them into full employment too.
However, this works for almost any business that needs skilled worked. Creating a great online presence for your recruitment pages and job opportunities could also help you to find talented staff looking for jobs.
While you’re unlikely to get many sales from this content – it’s an essential part of growing as a business.
Blog Content that Inspires
Having a blog and filling it with content is an old and dated approach to marketing. It’s no longer acceptable to just have okay content.
Your customers are looking for a rich media experience that includes graphics, icons, images, videos and interactivity.
For every new product and service that you expand into – consider what types of questions your audience might have about it.
For example, if you have a course on python, one blog post might discuss why learn python? Another might be who created python? Yet another could be how is this different from other languages like Swift or Go.
Keyword research will play a major part in learning what questions your audience is looking to answer. Once you’ve found it, review the search results and how your competitors present that information – then improve upon it.
The search engine has come a long way in the past few years, and while links remain one of the biggest ranking factors – they’re losing that dominance they once held. However, any good strategy should focus on how to acquire mentions, shares and links of content.
In this case, the website already owns thousands of links, many from huge industry leaders and household names. The link authority is not an issue for this campaign.
However, it opens up the possibility of a new type of link acquisition…
Promoting content of your industry partners.
This is a great way to help redirect traffic to your website, establish strong relationships and create future opportunities for link building.
In this case, using channels such as social media to promote great content in the industry can be engaging for your audience – but also be a form of networking.
If the content you’re pushing happens to link towards your website too – that’s even better for you.
Results of the Campaign
An owned media marketing strategy is one of the least expensive forms of marketing but is often one of the slowest. If you’re looking to grow out an existing business and improve your brand image – then it’s a combination of efforts.
While methods such as private blog networks and link building, in general, are great for flipping websites, real brands often love longevity.
In this case, we’ve delivered that strategy while also helping to push significant increases in traffic and business toward the site.
Core Term Progression
The highest volume core term that we track for this campaign is a broad term with 27,000 monthly searches. When they joined us, it was positioned 7th position in the SERPs.
Through improved internal navigation, content optimisation and our link strategies – it’s now positioned 1st in Mobile and 2nd in Desktop.
Daily Keyword Trackers
As you can see from the graph, the results came after just a couple months into the campaign, with some minor fluctuations as Google shuffles the top 10 positions periodically.
When you’ve reached the top positions, it’s typical to see fluctuations on a regular basis. At this point in time, the best thing is to invest in expanding your product and service offering or starting to focus on long-tail content creation to build brand awareness.
Google Analytics (Year-on-Year Data)
Last month we saw an increase of 38% when compared to February last year, and as you can see in the next section – things are continuing to grow.
This represents growth from 110,000 to 155,000 sessions during this period, which is an extra 45,000 sessions.
Google Analytics (Campaign Growth)
Since the beginning of our partnership in August, we’ve taken a website that was stagnant and struggling to rank – then increased the traffic by 15% compared to the same period in the previous year.
This represents growth from 793,000 to 916,000 sessions during this period, which is an extra 123,000 sessions.
Results here are increases in the range of tens of thousands off extra users per month, with some of the best results the company has ever had in February – the shortest month of the year.
You’ll notice there’s no unorthodox strategies or “hacks” in this case study. We’re not hiding them, there simply wasn’t any.
SEO isn’t a big mystery, there’s specific processes and fundamentals we look at. Which in this case, was optimising and leveraging the clients existing assets (content & links).
These exact steps work for virtually any established website looking to expand its search traffic. Which you’re welcome to apply yourself or alternatively…