This SEO case study gave me the head start on my planned exit from freelance websites. But then in the beginning, it wasn’t a case study at all.
Update: the traffic had grown to correspond with the number of keywords currently ranking between position #1 – 10 on the first page of Google.
Borrowing from Jay-z’s lines, there was ‘A Reasonable Doubt’.
Why I hated freelance websites.
Sky high level kind of scary competition is one reason. Yes I have achieved some success on some platforms. But the energy draining anxiety that originates from vain hiring hopes wasn’t desirable.
Waste of precious time on these sites was taking a toll on me. Who doesn’t know that pouring water on stones to break them wastes real time.
And the interesting part is; I am no more single.
With my wife, Elvis and Christabel, I had to rethink this freelance thing, especially on those all comers platforms.
And then it became apparent that there was a serious disconnection between my major goals and how I spend my time.
Before March 2017, I use to think that striking a deal with a stranger in a distant country and within 72 hours can only happen on freelance platforms.
My encounter with the CEO of a cell phone services company in Colorado, USA changed all that.
Thank you Mark. I am 100% certain you never intended an event like this to happen in my case. Now my perspective is different.
First there was a Facebook comment related to what I do – search engine marketing.
I responded. Surprisingly six months later, that experience led to this SEO case study of 1,949.46% growth in average monthly visitors from organic search in less than 7 months. In this case we are talking about growth from 560 – 11,477 average monthly search visitors.
Here you’ll see where they were, what we did and the outcome.
Why am I writing this in first place? Well, results are better than speculative information.
How This SEO Case Study Got Started
Best Cellular LLC operates out of Grand Junction, CO and other locations. The CEO, Curtis McCoy and I got in contact via a Facebook group.
From the experience in other sites he had before, he knew exactly what he wanted – consistently growth of organic search engine traffic.
So he and his team mate, Austin had basic understanding of how SEO works. The challenge was ‘how to move from where they were – 560 visitors from organic search to a higher number.
Making the performance and growth as consistent as possible was also a priority.
Practically, without dependability and desirable results, the whole SEO thing falls back to pure gambling.
And for a great number of business owners groping in the dark, gambling is really what it is. After some series of back and forth interactions, Curtis complied with the agreed price and PayPal invoice I sent.
And I was like, wow! Could this be scalable? This I’m yet to find out.
SEO Audit: The Starting Point
Like many other matured digital marketing experts, I don’t just quote price of services out of thin air. Potential clients differ.
So it takes some probing and understanding to arrive at a mutually fair price.
That was where the website SEO audit came in.
The major factors I wanted to see through the analysis included the following. Note, this is not meant to be an exhaustive list.
- Overall traffic
- Search traffic volume and percentage
- Backlink profile
- Website content
- Keyword ranking
- Page loading speed
- Technical SEO factors (sitemap, structured data, crawl errors, dup content etc
- User experience and social signal
These were the major things I audited prior to quoting price and getting the work started. And as for Best Cellular, there was an apparent need for improvement on all the influential variables mentioned above.
Really don’t know how long they have been in the business, but the domain was registered as far back as 1998.
Here is one mistake I see people make.
When they want to outsource search engine optimization services is to jump into expected outcomes, duration and price before detailed analysis of what is required.
So when you fall into prices quoted out of thin air, the real problem will only unfold 3 – 12 months after the bargain.
The point is to get a detailed SEO audit of your own peculiar website in relation to your niche and target location before anything.
Before we get into details of what I found in their own site, there is one other thing that matters a lot.
And that is competition research.
One thing I want you to note here is that competition in the same niche across different countries can hardly be equal.
This is why I laugh when I see people outside the digital marketing space saying something like ‘SEO is dead’. Such people are merely generalizing based on their own assumptions and limited experience.
The Audit Findings
After doing both off-page, on page and technical SEO audit on the site, below are the things uncovered.
The interesting thing you should take away from here is that starting with an audit is better than doing what you think or heard is the current SEO best practices.
In effect, you’ll be working with real data as opposed to your own assumptions or untested opinions.
Overall Traffic Volume: In the last 30 days prior to starting the project, Best Cellular’s overall traffic volume was 4,169 unique visitors. The previous six months September 19 2016 – March 19 2017 was 8,776 unique page visitors and 29,702 page views.
Search Traffic Volume And Percentage: Understandably, the real challenge was to attract growing volume of prospects who are actively searching for their products and services.
So part of the audit was looking at what they had in terms of search traffic volume and percentage of it for their website.
Within the previous six month period, Sep 19 2016 – Mar 19 2017, organic search traffic volume stood at 3,802, that’s the total. This also constituted like 27.2% of overall traffic volume.
Direct traffic was the highest at 4,490 visitors constituting 32.1%. And most of it came from Facebook and other sites.
Backlink Profile: This was where the real, not presumed challenges began to unfold.
The main thing was to analyze both the quantity and quality issues. Next step was to identify opportunities for consistent improvement.
While the entire SEO audit in itself wasn’t that advanced based on where we started, a whole lot of issues were uncovered.
For this backlink profile analysis I used Ahrefs. Google search console was utilized to identify internal linking issues. Note; this was made possible because they had it integrated in their website before.
If you don’t know how Google search console works, the main thing is that it helps to measure search engine optimization status and performance on Google.
As at the time, the site had like 6,690 backlinks in total. Unfortunately, an overwhelming number of these were pure spam.
So I downloaded them in a CSV. For most of these links, the domain rating, trust flow, page titles and anchor text depicts the low quality and apparent damage to the website.
Below are some of the harmful links.
Then there were 455 spam links exactly like these. One thing worthy of note was excessive linking from a single domain name. And they were coming from pages like the one below.
God forbid you encounter something like this. But if that happens, this is enough to keep your SEO efforts and investments fruitless forever.
And you could be waking up in the night with worries of why this is happening.
These guys also had many other links from their old domain linking to non-existing pages on the site they wanted to rank.
Obviously, the thinking was that more is better when it comes to link building.
As you may already know, excessive 404 Not Found urls is bad user experience signal. And Googlebot takes note of that when it gets out of hand in your site.
For many business owners who have been through some major and minor website redesigns, this is a common issue.
So when search engine crawlers and real users follow through to deleted pages it leaves a bad reputation for your website. How did you fee the last time you experienced such? I guess bad huh!
Website Content: Whether you are starting out or just interested in how to outsource SEO, the content on your website makes a lot of difference.
It’s not just about frequent publishing and volume. Quality matters as well.
This is one of the most interesting angles from which new starters can compete in a certain niche.
And fortunately, finding a unique competitive angle was one thing that worked really well for us. It doesn’t take money to find the angle first. You just have to research and know your market deeply.
But how do you define quality contents? Well, among other things is readability. People share it. And Google reward quality contents with higher ranking.
As for content audit, here are the key questions that serve as pointers to the right direction.
- Where are we in terms of volume – how many pages?
- What are the top performing contents?
- What gaps can we fill with our contents going forward?
- What are the most important pages that need more traffic?
Starting out, Best Cellular had an online store in their website. This is from where they sell sim cards, cell phones, cellular services and other accessories.
With their blog and other pages added, they had like 590 pages.
And because the mobile phone services niche is highly competitive, most of these pages were ranking very low. Note; this is a niche dominated by the likes of Verizon, TMobile, AT&T, BestBuy, NerdWallet and many others.
For some reasons, maybe because of bad design and user experience, the shop page which was part of the top 5 had a very low average session duration.
The obvious thing is that if people are not spending enough time on your website, you have no chance of converting them into paying customers. This is another interesting factor about quality content as it relates to search engine optimization and website conversion rate.
As for the home page which gets the highest volume of traffic, it wasn’t good enough, at least to my taste.
Most times, I view content and design from potential customer perspective.
And that also applied here.
The next step was to select the 3 most important pages that need growing volume of targeted traffic.
Keyword Research And Competition Analysis
Starting out in outsourced SEO services, it is usually the client that determines the most valuable search terms they want to rank for and generate traffic from. Consequently, this forms the basis for keyword research that provides great insights.
And that was exactly what happened in this case.
So with the preferred keyword list already given, the next tasks included the following –
A) Research and identify long tail search terms with relatively obvious purchase intent. This will ensure that all our efforts will be focused on areas with desirable ROI potential.
B) Analyze and understand the competition for selected keywords. Without knowing what and who you are up against, getting good outcomes from your budget and efforts will be 10X harder than what it is supposed to be.
C) Find a unique angle that will help us compete favorable in the niche
So regarding these tasks above, here are the actions taken.
I went directly to Google (Google.com, not Google.co.uk or .ca since the client is in Colorado, USA) and typed in exactly the keywords we wanted to increase ranking for.
And from there, I built an expanded list of other keywords that are relevant regarding our main goals. My focus here was on related keywords from auto complete and below the search results page.
I also used Ubersuggest to uncover more long tail search terms. This brings into view, some keywords and patterns you may not have even thought of.
Note; this is practically better than blindly creating and publishing contents on your site. People do it all in the name of branding and thought leadership without results.
As for the competition, the major influential factors are:
- Top competitors for each target search term
- Backlinks, page and domain authority
- On page optimization
- Content quality
Here are some of the competitors ranking in the first page for most of the keywords we were going after.
As you can see, these are authoritative old websites owned by companies with deep pocket to rank for any search term they deem valuable.
When we were starting out, I perceived this immediately the client mention ‘sim card’ and other related keywords.
First identifying the competitors will make it possible to do some deep analysis of their backlink sources as well as other factors mentioned above.
Read this post on how to uncover your competitor backlinks to understand more of what I mean.
The simple premise is that if these people are ranking in the first page for your target search terms, then it means they have a lot of SEO factors working for them.
From this, you can learn to copy and improve on what is working for them – right now.
For example, understanding your competitor backlink quality and quantity will make you aware of the practical hard work and investment it may take to achieve the same level of ranking for selected target keywords.
As at the time of the SEO audit and keyword research, Best Cellular ranking for the selected keywords was around page 20 – 100+.
Content and on page analysis also showed what they had was of low quality in comparison to what the competitors had. Hence, Google distributes their organic search traffic accordingly.
For this part, I looked at title, meta description and image ALT tags. Word count, readability, sub heading, internal and external linking was also take into account.
Site Loading Speed
If you are not informed enough, how fast or slow your website loads may not be an issue for you. But in today’s mobile driven world, page speed makes a lot of difference.
Remember, a whole lot of people just like you want to gratify their desire preferable right now, not later.
How do I know you may want to ask? Well, I’m human just like you. And we share a lot of universal traits. So speed matters. The main interesting fact is that page loading speed influences bounce rate, page view and ranking.
These are some of the quality and user experience signals that search engines take into account when ranking pages.
So we tested the page loading speed and made some points for improvement going forward.
Check these page loading speed and conversion case studies for more insight.
Technical SEO Audit
With regard to technical SEO, there are many things that could be holding back your website for high ranking. This could be your case even when the best efforts are put forward.
In some cases, it could be a simple limitation of your search engine ranking and traffic generation potential.
This is why we don’t ignore this when starting new search engine optimization projects.
Especially with old websites, many issues often unfold when proper technical audit is done. Expectedly, this was the case in this SEO case study. Here are the main things we looked at.
Sitemap: For the work done here, I used Google search console which they gave me access to. When integrated within a website, it provides real data on how Google crawls, index and ranks your website.
It also reports issues that affect your ranking when they occur.
A sitemap handles the interaction between your website and search engine crawlers.
It provides data structures for indexing and ranking of web pages.
So when your sitemap has issues directly reported by Google, it limits your website ranking and organic search traffic potential.
Here is what I found on their website after peeping into the sitemap.
Directly in Google’s own technical language, this is a sample of the reported issues:
‘When we tested a sample of the URLs from your Sitemap, we found that some URLs were not accessible to Googlebot due to an HTTP status error. All accessible URLs will still be submitted.’
Discovery Lesson: An interesting number of inaccessible urls. Again, if the content or pages you’ve spent money and time to create cannot be crawled and indexed, you have zero chance of generating organic traffic them.
In other words, the ROI on what you spent creating them will be near or flat zero.
‘When we tested a sample of URLs from your Sitemap, we found that some URLs redirect to other locations. We recommend that your Sitemap contain URLs that point to the final destination (the redirect target) instead of redirecting to another URL.’
Hint: improper Ulr redirects can create problems too.
‘Your Sitemap is on a site that is not in the Google News database. Google News can only accept Sitemaps from sites that we crawl. If your site is crawled by Google News, please check that the URL of your Sitemap agrees with the URLs of your articles as they appear on Google News, including any leading “www“.
Hint: Google News can help in ranking your website and generating higher volume of organic search traffic.
However, improper url structures can cause crawlability issues.
See how to get started with Google News SEO here.
Crawl Errors: Without having the tool to monitor these things and then taking the time to understand what is going on, you could be groping in the dark.
Interestingly, many business owners and marketers simply stop at integrating Google analytics.
While this is good for measuring website traffic volume and other things, it doesn’t report much with regard to SEO performance and traffic from organic search. Ask for expert help if you need it.
Now, this is how you know your website has serious crawl errors.
When the majority of your website contents are not indexed after being crawled, you see something like this.
Even though most of Best Cellular’s pages were crawled within the period under review, lots of technical error reports followed the pages that were not indexed.
In such cases, you don’t have a chance of working to increase ranking and generating traffic from non indexed pages. This also means you’ll be struggling with only half of your growth potential.
Another interesting point here is that crawl errors often impacts user experience just as organic search engine traffic volume.
Structured Data: Structured data helps search engine crawlers to analyze and display the content of web pages in relation to each unique search query.
While this may not have direct ranking impact, it affects SEO performance in many interesting ways.
For example, having review signals and multiple page links in search engine result pages (SERPs) often impacts click through rate.
So from this perspective, it becomes clear that getting to first page for certain search queries isn’t enough to get the highest click through rate in SERPs.
With regard to some recent Google search features, the nature of results make real difference in distribution of first page traffic.
At the point of writing this post, I did a search for ‘what is structured data’, below is what I found.
This query box was found in position #2 within the first page. Now let me ask, have you seen this type of result in recent times? I guess the answer is yes.
By doing structured data analysis during SEO audit, we Identify the specific pages that can be improved to attract more search traffic.
This often comes from queries that relates to product packages, prices, location, reviews and events. So it gave us opportunity to spot some existing structured data errors that need to be fixed.
Here is what we found.
Yes, you can ignore this. Remember, I said it doesn’t have direct impact on ranking. But that will mean under utilization of search traffic potential from your existing contents. Here is a research by Moz that provides more insights on this.
Duplicate Contents: This is not the type of severe SEO problems whose impact cannot be understood easily.
According to Google, there is never a direct duplicate content penalty. However, it affects the crawl budget, indexing and authority in your website.
By having multiple versions of the same content in your domain, the crawl budget will always be split among them.
Why is duplicate content a problem?
Well, the time and crawl budget spent on duplicates would always be wasted instead of having Google to crawl only the unique pages on your site. Also during a crawl of internal and external links, the ranking authority (score) will be split among these duplicates.
Obviously, higher page authority makes for higher ranking after being indexed.
Because they had ecommerce store on their website as well as other pages, Best Cellular had lots of duplicate contents.
The meta description and title tag report in Google search console also revealed this.
Inside the dashboard, click Search Appearance>HTML Improvements and any other one of the blue links. You’ll be able to identify this and take appropriate action.
The Search Engine Optimization Strategy
The real essence of detailed SEO audit is to identify the exact strategies that need to be executed for maximum ranking and traffic volume.
On the other hand, it helps to pinpoint some peculiar technical issues that could be holding back your own website and business.
Practically, this is better than surface level guesswork. Different from this, a lot of people depend 100% on assumptions formed from one or two blog posts they read. At other times, it could be from conflicting expert opinions.
However, if you do nothing with the findings, nothing will happen in terms of the change you want.
So based on our findings, here are the major things done to accomplish the goal in view.
#1: Cut Down The Spam Links
While identification of their sources wasn’t my main priority, spam links do exist for many different reasons. If you know what is negative SEO, you’ll understand the motive behind this source of spam links.
In the words of David McSweeney,
‘Search engine listings are real online battlefields. If you are in a lucrative niche, you’ll no doubt be slogging it out against several competitors for the top spots in Google’.
On the other hand, less informed people often hire bad SEO posers who thrive on building spam links at scale.
Over optimization on the side of website owners also causes problems. Interestingly, these are some of the reasons why constant backlink monitoring is very important.
If you don’t know what is wrong, you wouldn’t care at all. In their case, I saw a mixture of everything.
As at the time of the very first analysis, there were 6,690 links.
So how do we go about cutting down the number of spam links for Best Cellular? For this task, there are many ways to do it. But it all depends on the major types of spam link you are fighting.
In this case, we used the Disavow tool inside Google search console.
Disavowing in this context is simply telling Google not to take these spam links into account when crawling, indexing and ranking your website.
As noted earlier, I made a list of the most harmful backlinks. Put them in a text file. The next was to submit to Google for them to act on it. This is where the submission is usually done.
You can check this link to the tool. Note that the outcome of disavowed links cannot be seen or measured immediately. So it takes time. You can even do this multiple times as the need arise. On a broad scale, this is only a single part of what was done.
After 2 – 3 months, we started noticing a drop in traffic and increase in ranking.
Six months later, the backlinks count dropped from 6,690 to the current number below.
Understand here that search console data is for the last 90 days. Most times it doesn’t record fresh added links.
Discovery Lesson: Growing the volume of backlinks is not the only thing you need. This drop in link count and increased ranking is just one proof beyond speculation.
The other thing done in this regard was to reduce the number of low quality links from their old domain.
Based on our findings, many of those links from old domain were also linking to urls that don’t exist anymore. So it helped in the link reduction and improvement.
#2: On Page Keyword Optimization
The only thing that makes search engine optimization harder than necessary, especially for DIY business owners is 100% dependence on assumption.
As opposed to guesswork, experienced experts use different tools to uncover real growth opportunities with regard to peculiarities of a certain website. So in this case, the audit and research done earlier formed the foundation of on page SEO.
By using SEMRush Site Audit features, here is a sample of what I found.
One thing I like very much about this SEO tool is that it doesn’t just give you data. It shows you the exact things that need to be worked on and how to fix them.
To get the ball rolling as fast as possible, we focused on the ranking factors that are directly within our control.
Note that most of the things done under these sections were ongoing week to week and month to month tasks. Based on the shot you saw above, majority of the tasks were content and technical SEO based.
So here are the major tasks done in this section.
- Content Readability
Practically this has more to do with user experience, but it matters beyond just that. If you are an active user of Yoast SEO plugin, you already know that there is a score around this one.
First is the home page. If you look at it right now, it is still not the best in my opinion, but Mr. Curtis and team had their opinion and preference.
Beside the home page, other specific pages were improved in terms of content readability.
- Content Enrichment
Based on my experience as search engine marketer and everyday user, rich, detailed contents often rank higher than others in Google first page.
And I guess this happens across many other search engines. In this particular hyper competitive niche, this is exactly what the case is. First is to identify existing contents that needed improvement.
And second was to create better contents to compete favorably in the niche.
This is one of the specific angles in which long form content marketing makes a lot of difference.
Beyond my personal opinion and experience, here is a preview of the top 10 ranking competitors for the search term ‘best prepaid cell phone plans’.
There is also a long form content ranking research that backs this up. Worthy of note is that optimization in the above areas was made with our target keywords.
- H1, Meta Description And Body Tag Optimization
From time to time, many business owners write and publish contents on their website without regard to keyword optimization. What happens in those cases is that the ROI on time and money spent creating such contents remain flat zero or below average.
Hence, no one or few people find the pages in the first place.
In other words, you could have the best website and contents on the internet, but if no one finds them, it makes no difference at all.
The only exception is if you are actively paying money to promote your contents.
With a list of underperforming pages in this regard, we went in and did some active optimization within the period of this search engine optimization case study.
Discovery Lesson: In an interesting number of cases, most business websites do not need additional contents to increase their organic search traffic. So it is not only the content publishing frequency or content volume that brings good content marketing ROI. People need to find what you’ve created already.
#3: Technical SEO Improvement
Once again, we used our findings to make progressive improvement in terms of technical SEO.
However, this was one of the areas where the site owner didn’t give me full responsibility. Because we were just getting to know ourselves then, I guess the main reason was because of the cost.
Fortunately, he had some other (1 – 2) persons working with him. And they are relatively savvy with some minimally complex search engine optimization concepts.
So because p of the stage in which they are in the business and cost concerns, they took most of the responsibilities here.
Interestingly, as we started progressing from month #1 upwards, I was doing periodic analysis and recommendation in terms of the following specific areas.
- Sitemap optimization – this one wasn’t perfectly handled at all. Even now as you are reading this, the site still has some issues.
- Crawl errors – we were fixing this from time to time as they pop up. Specifically, the errors from old domain were taken care of
- Structured data – even for some pages have potential in this regard, nothing was done to maximize that
- Duplicate contents – because of the ecommerce store within the website, this one happens very often. This also gets taken care of as they pop up.
Discovery Lesson: It is not all the technical SEO factors we fret about that makes the biggest difference. Once you get the fundamentals right, nothing can stop your site from getting good amount of organic search traffic in no time.
#4: Link Building
Which SEO case study will be complete without link building? If you’ve been wondering about this, here is my answer.
It is possible to have search engine optimization case study without link building. Maybe you decide to focus on technical and on page ranking factors only.
My point here is that growing search engine traffic is not all about link building as many people think.
To accomplish the goal of consistent growth that the Best Cellular team wanted, we did some link building too. Worthy of note here is the power of consistency.
After the initial on page optimization, we were building quality backlinks from every possible source
. Before starting out, I used Ahrefs to uncover some competitor backlink sources. But getting some type of links that the competitors have was practically unaffordable.
Just take a look at the type of links pointing to AT&T website.
So we got went to work on the known possibilities within our reach as at that time. Based budget limitations, focused on these types of links.
- Blog Comments
Tell me what…?
Does blog comment still work in this day and time for link building? My answer is absolute yes. It still works but depends on how you are doing it and the sites from which you get the comments.
Regarding this source of backlinks, here is what you have to note:
‘Getting backlinks from sites with real traffic is another way of building site authority with Tier 1. These are the hardest backlinks to get but also the most rewarding.’ Nathan Gotch.
From the onset, comment backlinks was part of the ongoing strategy. Practically, you cannot see if and how search engines take these types of links into account. However, Ahrefs analysis shows that getting links from domains with high rating actually counts.
What matters here are the domain authority, page authority, niche relevance and website traffic growth. You can use Moz Tool Bar to identify link sources for this task.
- Forum Links
Based on the high volume user generated content nature, a whole lot of discussion forums often have high domain authority. And you can find good forums in almost niche.
While forum backlinks are not the best and most powerful, getting few links from niche relevant forums doesn’t hurt.
So for the first 1 – 3 months, lots of forum links were built into the site. And here you have opportunity to get profile, signature and in-post links where possible. Because of the mobile tech niche in which we were operating, some of the links came from Android Central, Android Police and Android Authority.
As at the time of this writing, these websites had domain authority range between 60 and
Don’t forget to use Moz Tool Bar to find only forums that have some authority. In fact this chrome extension is very important for selecting whichever site you want to get links from.
- Expired Domain Link Building
In the competitive world of search engine optimization, a whole lot of things are practically outside your control.
For example, how people respond to your link building outreach emails. The life span of the links you build on other people’s website is also out of your control.
This is the foundation on which expired domain link building rests.
The basic premise is simple. Find and buy expired domain names related to or within your niche. These types of domains are hot digital properties because of the SEO value they often carry – domain/page authority, age, trust flow and sometime real traffic.
After purchase, four domain names were used to build real blogs for linking purposes.
At scale, this is what many people call private blog network links (PBN). Whether this is white or grey hat I don’t know.
But from the analysis done, it was clear that lots of competitors in the target niche uses this exact type of backlinks. Key fact is this – the way you build your own will determine whether it will work or waste time and money.
Perhaps, if you use thin contents and then do excessive anchor text linking, this is likely to get your site penalized.
The domains were bought at $11 dollars each. Mind you that people buy and sell these types of domains on daily basis.
If you are too scared of the potential ranking and penalty risks, you can use this as Tier 2 backlinks instead of linking directly to your main website.
Regarding the outcome of the link building efforts, here is a summary of what happened in June 2017. Remember, the work in this SEO case study started in March 2017. Once again, it is worth reiterating that consistency made a lot of difference in all that we did.
As you can see, most of the links added in June had 31 – 100 domain rating.
Discovery Lesson: Domain and page authority determines link quality more than many other factors. So try to focus on getting links from sites/pages with 30+.
#4: The SEO Results
Based on the psychology of momentum, results from baby steps is a definitive and proven requirement for all great milestones.
Make your baby steps towards any goal consistent enough and you’ll automatically become unstoppable.
On the opposite side, if you don’t see desirable results from your efforts, you are 99% more likely to give up eventually. Even when you have proportionate potential to accomplish the goal in front of you, being on the wrong path won’t get you there.
This concept works in physics, sports, finance and many other fields.
As a matter of fact, I have seen this happen in search engine optimization and content marketing many different times.
This SEO case study is just an additional proof. So let’s take a look at some of the results we got.
- Keyword Ranking Performance
This time it’s not about what we did. Instead, is about the outcome of what was done. As you may already know, there are too many factors that affect the ranking of target search terms and traffic generated from them.
After the first month, we started seeing some improvement in ranking for the target search terms.
Remember what we said earlier about momentum.
One month before we got started, the percentage of organic search engine traffic coming to the website was 17.7% with overall traffic volume standing at 5,564.
So in this case, social and direct traffic constituted the biggest source. And as a matter of fact, conversion from it was near zero.
After cutting down the junk backlinks and optimizing the keywords in terms of on page SEO, the overall traffic started going down while the organic traffic increased to 38.3%.
As at that time, no single backlink has been built.
- Search Engine Traffic Growth
From the onset, our goal wasn’t to beat At&T, TMobile, Verizon, Amazon and every other website in the search engine result page (SERP) competition. Our goal was simple to achieve measurable growth as consistently as possible.
And that was what we focused on.
So as we kept on taking consistent actions based on the SEO audit that was done before, the outcomes proved we were on the right path. Consequently, there was a noticeable level of upward confidence on both sides.
Austin Abbot, one of the team members had this to say.
As for me I didn’t expect results to come so fast within the first 1 – 3 months. The reason is very clear – this is a hyper competitive niche dominated by deep pocketed giants who have been in the SERPs for years with sky high domain and page authority.
And majority of these guys have 1 million+ backlinks. Because of the brand trust level, most of their backlinks were powerful links too.
Regardless of these odds against us, we were seeing consistent progress in all the SEO performance metrics.
In the third month, the organic search traffic had grown from 1,307 to 4,335 constituting 44.7% of overall traffic. The links were built as reported earlier and on page optimization made this to happen.
New keywords moving into ranking position #4 – 11 brought a good number of the visitors.
- Business Value
Growing search engine traffic is good. But without conversion, it will be practically useless. So from time to time, we do have conversations about the business value they get from these targeted website visitors with different needs.
I am not the kind of search engine marketing consultant that focus only on numbers that fill analytics dashboards only.
Even though they don’t share much information regarding conversions, I am the one that often initiates the conversation. And in most cases, they pick valuable conversion optimization tips that stem from experience, not just blog posts I read.
For Best Cellular, their traffic is monetized by sales of cell phones, new sim card activation on their network and other accessories.
Before proceeding, let’s look at the current search traffic numbers after the six months.
From inside Google search console, this is what their organic search traffic count was as at the time of starting the execution plan.
So from there all the things we did brought us to this current number in less than seven full months.
The numbers you see above are for the last 28 days as at the time of this writing. The common question that people ask is usually this one – how long does it take to get results from SEO?
To that I still maintain that consistency on the right path matters more than duration.
The other important thing people learning how to outsource search engine optimization services forget is that competition in all niche markets are never equal.
First is to get on the right path.
Ask for expert help if you can’t do the work on your own. And then, if you can be able to maintain momentum over time, the growth you desire could just start happeniing sooner than you thought possible.
Better to start with real data than to depend on assumptions. Below is a comparative view of what happened in first one month and the last 30 days.
Note that the last 30 day view was based on custom date range.
From the above performance record, it became clearer with this SEO case study that on page search engine optimization alone can make a desirable difference.
As indicated above, organic search traffic from Google increased by 87.45% in the first one month.
Bing and Yahoo also contributed minor amount of traffic within the period. One thing you should take away from here is that older sites (3 years+) gets results faster than new sites in terms of on page optimization.
In terms of real business value, this also happens very often beyond growing website traffic volume.
Now let me ask you this question, what if consistent growth of organic search traffic contributes additional 1 – 5 clients per month to your business? Remember, these are real people actively searching for your type of services because they need them.
How much would that worth in real revenue numbers?
According to Ahrefs, using Google adwords paid search advertising to get the current volume of organic traffic will cost like $15.9k per month.
This is based on the average keyword cost per click (CPC) for search advertising within the niche which is – $1 – $5.
Note that the numbers reported differs from one tool to the other based on the duration of period under review.
Judging by the keywords you have seen so far in this case study, how much do you think AT&T, Verizon, BestBuy and co are paying for each click?
One interesting question here is; do they pay me close to this amount per month? The answer is no. However, as the results of the past optimization work continue to compound over time, these and other important numbers will remain on the upward side.
But then, I have to acknowledge that change happens. Example is the Google algorithm updates that are never within the control of SEO experts.
Let’s do a little conversion math here.
Assuming you have a staffing services company. Yours could be operating in technology, finance, health or other niche markets. And In a single month you brought 10,000 visitors from proactive search engine optimization.
Remember, these are people actively searching for your services.
So within 1 – 30 days period, you generated 100 leads and converted 10 into paying clients. That’s a conservative 1% conversion rate.
At $3000 billing per placement you get $30,000. With these conservative numbers how much can you comfortably pay to get 10 new clients in your staffing agency?
It’s not about cold calling a list of people who do not have current need for your services or budget for such.
Maybe your niche and experience are different, so tell me – how much do you earn per placement? This helps to determine the appropriate amount to spend on search engine optimization, Google adwords advertising or both.
Probably you don’t need 10,000 website visitors to get 10+ clients per month from search engine marketing.
With a deep research, your own niche and location may prove less competitive than you think in terms of SEO. Interestingly, if they’ve not been getting value from it, they wouldn’t have been paying me for the past six months.
The point am making is this, it’s not all about growing website traffic volume which is pretty much useless without conversions.
During one of our periodic review chats, the CEO said this recently in response to my question:
From the above statement, you can see that without Google adwords call extension and call only ads, proactive SEO delivers valuable inbound phone calls.
Beyond my personal opinion, let me tell you why that happens.
In a study of over 100 million search queries across PCs, tablets and smartphones, HitWise reported that mobile constitutes around 58% of all searches.
After setting up conversion tracking in Best Cellular’s ecommerce store, Google analytics recorded this sales of two Samsung galaxy S5 and other low ticket items within 3 days.
As for this SEO case study, around 52% of all traffic comes from mobile devices.
Discovery Lesson: If you depend on paid advertising only, your growth and ROI will be limited to the size of your budget. And you have to keep paying a certain amount per month to generate the same volume of leads from your website as well as revenue. In this case study, that will be $15k+ per month. With SEO, the opposite is the case.
In almost every niche market you look into, it is not hard to find first page ranking contents that still generate targeted website traffic after three years.
Call To Action
SEO is dead. It takes forever to get results. Those are all myths. And it amazes me the number of people that make decisions based on these fallacies.
Another interesting thing is that most of these people have great potential to achieve consistent growth of their website traffic, quality leads and monthly revenue.
Unfortunately, their beliefs and current practices hold them back more than anything else.
At this point I am 100% certain that you’ve found another reason why it is important to forget assumptions and follow real reputable data.
Now tell me, what’s better than that?
Worthy of reiteration is the fact that search engine market (paid search and SEO) competition is never equal across all niche markets and locations.
The same thing holds true for the next 100 search terms that could help increase buyer traffic to your website. For everyone, it is easy to stay outside some certain processes and assume a lot of things.
But when you get in, you may just find some positive surprises as it happened for me in this SEO case study.
Below here are the actionable takeaways.
- Start with an audit to understand the peculiarities in your target location, niche and keywords
- Do some research to find low competition search terms
- Research and analyze the top ranking competitors in your niche
- Go for the quick wins with technical and on page optimization
- Create, publish and promote quality contents based on the keywords potential customers use
- Be proactive with link building
- Above all else, embrace consistency
Doing these things the correct way will move you to a financially beneficial position that is better than where you are right now.
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