Why The Fundamentals of SEO Matter (Case Study)
The world of online marketing is a fascinating place and for the past three years, I’ve seen more than I could imagine in such a short span of time. As an SEO, I’ve looked up to leaders in the industry, followed other people’s work and applied my own creativity to try and bring something new to the table. As the industry continues to evolves, so does everyone’s skill set. I can’t say I solely focus 100% of my time on SEO. Social media marketing, email marketing, content strategy, web analytics and even paid advertising (AdWords and Facebook advertising) have somehow worked their way into my day-to-day. I’ve certainly jumped on ‘inbound marketing’ bandwagon :).
(Google Trends for ‘inbound marketing’)
While there is a growing need for inbound marketers, I’m here to tell you to never forget the fundamentals of doing search engine optimization (SEO) as it’s proven to me time over time that the basics are worth every minute of your time.
Let’s take one step back
A lot of my friends and colleagues have wondered where I’ve gone since I took the exit out of the consulting world (not entirely, just out of the full time job) and into an in-house Analytics / SEO position. For the past 6 months, I’ve been working diligently on a number of fairly large projects. The transition has definitely proved to me the difference with consulting (working with clients) and working in-house (getting your hands really dirty with the changes). Personally, I feel the change has helped me focus more on the areas I want to improve my skills in. But don’t get me wrong, I had my ounce of joy working with clients on SEO projects and learned a lot in the process. I’ll need to save this story for another post otherwise I won’t get to what I wanted this article to be 🙂 Stay tuned.
How it went down
Like I just said, none of my consulting learnings went to waste. I’ve done countless audits, which have now gotten me to a point where spotting an issue could be as easy as pie. But is it really? No. SEO issues are never easy to diagnose and often there is no solution / no end to testing and helping businesses foster online. The only way for us to understand the pain points of a business’s web strategy is to get a view from the top and dive deep into the roots of the issues. Why is their site not ranking well for their keywords? What are they doing wrong? Who have they worked with in the past? What did the person whom they hired do?
Information gathering is the more important step that you should never take lightly on. Ask a lot of questions and take lots of notes.
So here we go….
The problem: organic search traffic made up as little as 1.2% of overall traffic. Website was not optimized for search engines. Improper use of keywords in various places.
The solution: comprehensive keyword research to find all the terms that will bring the most qualified traffic. Map keywords to existing pages and create new landing pages where needed to capture the demand. Implement the changes. Rewrite all the title tags and meta descriptions. Work with content team to ensure writing follows SEO best practices.
Tools I uses: Screaming Frog SEO, Moz Campaign Tracker, Google Analytics, Google Webmaster Tools, Excel.
(Google Analytics report that shows improvement of a subset of organic keywords traffic)
A few things you need to know when looking at the above graph:
- New profile was created to exclude internal traffic (implemented on January 8, 2013)
- An inline keyword filter is applied to look at only keywords containing a specific word (this is a subset of head and long-tail keywords I used for the SEO strategy).
- (not provided) made up 28.22% of overall search traffic in this time period. This means there could be a great portion of these words not showing in the reports so take the numbers explained here with a grain of salt. Focus on the trends.
- Domain authority (DA) remained consistent at 38 in this period.
- This website got ~11.3M visits between January to end of May, 2013 (not a small site). It is a content rich website.
Here’s a look with the AdSense revenue line overlaying the traffic line:
(Google Analytics report that shows visits and AdSense revenue)
Why is this a win for this website? AdSense revenue on organic search traffic means free recurring revenue!
In order to see this type of result, we needed to improve our visibility in the search results for our core terms. These were the changes we saw and the impact:
- 0 keywords were showing up on the first page. Now, 17 keywords show up on the first page of Google and 8 of those show up in the top 3 positions.
- The 3 position keywords make up the majority of organic traffic to the site.
- Organic traffic increase AND our engagement for these keywords we targeted also improved.
(8/17 keywords on the first page is ranking in the top 3 positions after 4.5 months)
(Moz keyword rank report shows keywords that have search demand AND made it onto the first page got more traffic)
(Moz keyword rank report shows the improvements of a keyword over time)
(one keyword I focused on in this campaign rose to the roof for rankings. Google keyword tool reports 8,100 exact match searches per month on average. this would mean 8.1% of total traffic from this keyword made it onto this website given the 3000 clicks reported in over a 3 month time period)
(visitors are engagement with the content and goes off to view, on average, ~7 pages per visit with only 35% leaving the site after looking at just one page)
What’s the secret? There is no secret. Small changes made the biggest difference.
When I started the audit for this website, I knew the basics weren’t taken care of. No title tags, no meta description, more than one H1 per page… As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I carried out a comprehensive keyword research to understand the landscape better – what are people interested in? What words were they using in search engines to find that content?
Once you know that, you can then optimize your site better for search engines and for visitors. In the specific example, I only implemented and changed the Title Tag and Meta Description.
I believe good SEO’s who do a bad job often don’t carry their research out thoroughly enough. Understanding how the website is built or why it is laid out the way it is, is half the battle. To win the war, you must do a better job of studying your enemies and the landscape you are competing in.
Although my situation only required me changing title tags and meta descriptions, it was definitely not a walk in the park to get changes in place and implemented. Also, I would emphasize that although this looked like a direct causation effect, let’s not forget that countless studies and experiments (correlation) in the past have ended with many outcomes (good and bad). So I’ll just say it – Correlation is not Causation. That means, don’t consider my study here a solution to your problem, but as a bit of a refresher on the simple, yet important parts of doing SEO.
Have you done a similar case likes this one? Did it result in the same? Would be glad to hear from you in the comments below!
June 18, 2013 / Jackson Lo / 0