SEO is hard work – period! It is complicated and volatile, you never know when you will be negatively impacted by a Google update.  Just yesterday Google’s Matt Cutts announced the release of Penguin 3.  Read more about it at Search Engine Land.

 

 

This post is not about the latest Penguin update. In this post I am going to share with you a case study and the reason why I love my job, why I love SEO.

SEO is Hard Work

When I first started out in the game, it was easy to get a website ranking and drive organic traffic. Back in the day, stuffing the meta keywords tag and submitting the website to directories were sufficient to achieve page 1 rankings. Not anymore, the game has changed. Google has made it harder and tougher – you can’t blame them. They are obligated to make sure that the search user experience is free of spam and of high quality.

If SEO was easy, SEO agencies and people like me would not exist. Businesses would just spend their precious marketing dollars on Fiverr, if it was easy.

Now to the case study…

Hard Work Pays Off

This client (a personal friend) came to me in May 2011 concerned that their organic traffic to the website has plateaued. They are in the home improvement business. The objective was simple, they wanted to drive more traffic to the website and capture more leads.

Here is what I did for them:

Keyword Research

This is a no brainer, before diving knee-deep in to optimising the website I did some thorough research on the vertical and their competitors. Using tools like the Google Keyword Tool, I identified relevant keywords that had decent search volumes. I also looked at some of their competitors to see what keywords they were actively optimising for.

Keyword popularity fluctuates from time to time. With this in mind, I made sure that I double-checked that the keywords that we chose to target were still accurate on a monthly basis.

Technical Audit

I spent a good amount of time analysing the website, picking the website apart to find any issues that were affecting the crawlability and indexability of pages. Detailed all my findings and recommendations in to a document for the web developers to implement. I had a long list of issues that needed to be addressed, I like to group issues based their effort and impact. By doing so, we were able to determine what was a quick win and what required a little more effort and development time to implement.

Keyword Mapping

Taking findings from the keyword research, I then mapped those keywords to the relevant pages on the website. Keywords that had no relevant page or a page that is strong enough to support the keyword were classified as content gaps. These were keywords that we needed to create content for.

On-Site

It goes without saying that optimising the title, meta description, heading tags and internal links on the website is critical. I made sure that every page on the website has a clear keyword focus and that the on-site elements were all unique and had no duplicates. Because the client had a PPC campaign live, I incorporated the best performing call-to-action to the meta description to ensure we capitalise on CTR.

Content Development

It took me a while to convince the client that we had to develop more content for the website. Firstly to address the content gaps and secondly to ensure that the website’s content is useful to users and the search engines. I ran a series of workshops with the client to educate them on the importance of content and how to write for the web. It was relatively easy for them to generate content given that they were in the home improvement vertical. We brainstormed ideas for DIY guides, buying guides, product information, etc. Because we had a long list of content ideas for the website, implementation had to be phased over 6 months.

Link Building

Before any link building activity takes place, I always like to do conduct a link profile analysis of the client’s website and their competitors. Once we understood where they were and what it would take to influence rankings, we began actively acquiring links. The main tactic that was the most effective was leveraging their sponsorship deals and local business directories. The client was sponsoring sporting clubs and local charity events, it was a no brainer there to ask for link and negotiate contributing content to their websites. A lot of businesses don’t realise that local councils and local chamber of commerce have websites and online directories. Council websites tend to be on .gov domain names, which have great domain authority.

Measure, Tweak & Repeat

Measurement is very important, because generating leads was one of the main objective, I helped the client setup goals in Google Analytics. I analysed their organic traffic on a weekly basis and had monthly deep analysis. Some of the tools that I used to measure and monitor our SEO efforts: Google Analytics, Google Webmaster Tools, Bing Webmaster Tools, Advanced Web Rankings and Open Site Explorer. Based on insights found, we made tweaks accordingly.

The Results

Here are the results, this is why I bloody love what I do:

Background:

SEO Results Week-on-Week

  1. Organic traffic to the website plateaued
  2. SEO engagement started
  3. Results of SEO implementation kicking in
  4. Spike in January is seasonality, higher interest for home improvement services

Growth in Total Organic Traffic:

Growth in Organic Traffic

  • 14% average month-on-month growth (June 11 – Sep 12)
  • 70% year-on-year growth (Jan – Sep)

Growth in Non-Brand Organic Traffic:

Brand vs Non-Brand Organic Traffic

  • 18% average month-on-month growth (June 11 – Sep 12)
  • 66% year-on-year growth (Jan – Sep)

Increased Page 1 Visibility:

Increased page 1 visibility

  • Keyword rankings on page 1 improved
  • Page 1 visibility improved

Conversions / Leads:

  • Goal conversions from form submissions fluctuates month-on-month
  • Majority of their leads are phone inquiries
  • I am now working with them to implement a phone tracking solution to better understand the impact of SEO on their business – watch this space

Unaffected by Algorithm Updates:

Organic Traffic Overlay with Algo Updates

  • By adding great content on to the website and building good quality links, the website was unaffected by nasty black-and-white animals

Conclusion

Now you know why I LOVE SEO! =)

  • SEO is a long term strategy – give yourself a few months before you see the rewards
  • Don’t take short-cuts (link schemes) – don’t risk getting hit by algo updates
  • Invest in content that satisfies your users’ needs
  • Think outside the box with your link building tactics

If you have a passion for SEO, I would like to be friends with you. Connect with me on Twitter or Google+.