- Set up data acquisition and organization tools and procedures.
- Perform immediate technical SEO fixes on existing content.
- Perform competitor analysis and keyword research.
- Deploy new landing pages.
- Deploy a blog with targeted content.
Organize the Data
The first thing we did was get our data acquisition tools in place and organized so that we could monitor our progress. We moved the Google Analytics tracking code snippet to a Google Tag Manager container to make things more flexible. Next we configured events tracking in GTM to provide key metrics like time on page, scroll depth, and various click patterns to help us understand user behavior across the site. Studying user behavior helps us understand what content is working and what content needs to be adjusted.
Once GA and GTM were all set, we set up a funnel in Mixpanel to help us understand every step of a user’s journey to conversion. We wanted to start analyzing this right away so that we could set a baseline. By tracking conversions early on, we were able to constantly review our work against a baseline. While we expected traffic growth to decrease the conversion rate by a small amount, we still wanted to ensure that we were going after the right traffic.
Finally, we ran lots of reports and reviewed them with the client. We especially like to spend a lot of time reviewing reports with clients early on for two reasons:
- Clients have intuitive insights into traffic patterns on their websites.
- It is crucial that our reports are customized and easy to use for our clients.
This review process allowed us to design reports that our client could understand immediately without needing an explanation from us. These meetings also allowed us to identify traffic patterns that were related to seasonality and promotions so that we could adjust our strategy and forecasts.
Initial Technical SEO Fixes
Our client already had a lot of content that wasn’t performing as well as it had in the past. We performed a site audit to identify the most pressing issues. As expected, there was a lot of low hanging fruit like broken links and duplicate meta tags. We fixed these immediately.
We prioritize this step so that we can capitalize on existing content while developing a strategy for new content. Google is constantly updating their search algorithm to provide better results for users. SEO attempts to respond to these changes by optimizing the way content is presented. An outdated presentation can result in content underperforming.
Some SEO firms will focus on what we call “Bad SEO” (since not all of it is Black Hat SEO) for short term gains. However, history shows that these short term gains will not only be lost, but can often result in penalties. Instead of focusing on the short term, we focus on best practices and do our best to anticipate how search engines will change. This allows us to make changes that will yield compounding returns over time. Check out our post on why UX is the most important consideration for SEO in 2021.
Keyword Research and Competitor Analysis
The next phase of the project was spent performing extensive keyword research and competitor analysis. We noticed immediately that 95% of our client's search traffic was from branded search. This indicates they’ve done a good job with brand recognition. However, the traffic we are always after is potential customers who need a client’s solution, but don't know they exist yet. This is the gold standard for good traffic in our practice.
First we made a list of keywords that the client felt best represented their services. We used these keywords as “seed keywords” to help generate a list of good key phrases to target. Next we generated two competitor lists, one of the client’s most critical local competitors and another of their top organic traffic competitors for the seed keywords. We analyzed these competitors to find out what keywords they were targeting, and what content was ranking well. All of these keywords were added to a master list that could be sorted by important factors like keyword difficulty and volume. We use SEMRush for this research, but checkout this complete list of tools by Brian Dean for other great options.
We analyzed the competitors' content to help us understand what content our client was missing, and to identify key phrases that we could easily target within their local niche. We took a two-step approach to identifying our first content targets. First, we divided keyword volume by keyword difficulty to get an organized list of our best key phrase opportunities. Then we compared this list to our competitor analyses to identify which top keywords also corresponded to content we had already identified for development. This gave us a shortlist of keywords to prioritize.
Landing Pages and Content Refresh Strategy
A lot of the content we identified for creation was either an expansion on existing content or warranted its own static page. We published several new landing pages that contained relevant information about our client’s services that did not currently exist. Many of these landing pages were related to questions people were asking in search engines on a regular basis. For example, people were asking if our client’s services were essential during the Covid19 pandemic. We were able to create a page that not only answered this question, but also provided a ton of information about how to engage with these services during the pandemic, and what precautions should be taken. This page had an immediate effect on organic traffic as it was useful throughout the industry.
We also expanded a lot of existing content. Our client’s existing copy had two primary features that we see frequently:
- The content was short.
- The content was written in a unique voice.
These are both desirable qualities, but in isolation they may not be enough for a search engine to identify your page as the best result. Our client already had great brand recognition, so we knew the voice of the content was really important, but we also knew they needed organic traffic to grow. We provided the client with an outline of what content should be included in the new copy, and we asked them to write it in their own voice. After a few editorial passes, we had great content that was more informative than any of the content on any competitor’s website, and was written in the same voice our client’s customers had come to love.
Blog Content Strategy
A big part of our content strategy was to deploy a blog. We knew there was a lot of churn in their industry, and we could see from their social media that customers were engaged and looking for information. A blog gave us the opportunity to address people’s questions in a meaningful and flexible way, while also providing us a platform for generating targeted content to continue making gains by targeting key phrases.
The blog was designed to be simple, fast loading, and easy to navigate. The client decided to do the writing in-house, so we provided a monthly content calendar that included outlined posts. The content calendar also provided post titles, primary and secondary keywords, link recommendations, content length, comparable articles, and recommended creative. This allowed us to not only provide targeting information, but also to help our client tailor posts based on how we had determined the post would best serve their customers. This way we were able to build technical considerations related to targeting into the post formats so that the client could stay focused on writing. We performed a final pass to audit the content and optimize the post before publishing.
Reporting and Results
We continued to modify reports throughout the process detailed above, and have since settled on a package of monthly reports that gives the client the ability to clearly understand organic gains from our SEO efforts. We’ve worked closely with the client to identify new strategies to grow organic traffic and generate qualified leads. We’ve seen an average of 53% growth in organic traffic YoY, and revenue growth has following suit. The resulting ROI on our client’s investment in SEO is estimated at 520%.
We are excited to be launching new strategies to deepen those gains. We will review those strategies, plus more on our content and back-linking strategies in part two of this series. So, stay tuned!