SEO seems to be an evolving game of cat and mouse. Sure, the tactics used change, but the goal of upping your rankings is constant, and achieving that goal is often like trying to catch a very small, quickly moving mouse. Some people may have read up on the trend – SEO is dying and while you may be convinced of it, the 1400% growth I achieved in simply 4 months by strictly adhering to white hat tactics demonstrates otherwise.
There is so much insight on the difference between the death and evolution of SEO. In fact, I also wrote a post explaining my take on the evolution here.
Ever since businesses were no longer within close proximity to their consumers, they have had a need to be found. There will always be a need for experts in the field to help those people with visibility. Back in August I had a client come on board who wanted just that.
Client Background Information
This client is in the small business lending space. They offer small business loans, working capital, equipment loans, merchant services and more.
Their business had been taking off quite well through various direct mail campaigns, paid ads, etc… but one problem they had was the fact that organically they were practically invisible to the consumer. In fact, out of their hundreds of target keywords only six of them were ranking in the top five within Google’s SERPs.
To give you more of an idea of how invisible they were, they had eleven of those ranking in the top ten and only twenty three ranking in the top fifty. In comparison to their direct competitors they drastically needed something to change. They had the desire to be found so it was my mission to make sure that they accomplished that.
The goals of the SEO campaign were to increase organic traffic to the website and ultimately increase organic traffic revenue by improving keyword rankings to their target keywords. In doing this, the overall goal was to eventually increase conversions and conversion rate for the business.
- Perform a detailed audit including keyword research and on-site content analysis.
- Complete an in-depth on-page technical SEO audit and optimize page titles, meta descriptions, header tags and image alt tags. Clean up internal linking and navigation and develop new copy for category and product pages on a monthly basis.
- Execute off page efforts including link profile analysis of healthy and toxic external links and fix broken or toxic links. Give 301 redirect recommendations for 404 pages.
- Create branded content marketing pieces including infographics and articles to increase authoritative links back to the website and boost engagement through social media.
- Build out new landing pages with content that targets industry keywords that the company wasn’t currently targeting.
- Increase the hierarchy of the pages that were targeting some of their high volume search terms.
- Eliminate unnecessary subfolders, allowing more authority to fall to the pages that specifically targeted relevant keywords.
- Optimize the architecture of the site through internal linking and on-site navigation to improve crawl-ability and enhance user experience.
In performing a complete site audit and diagnostic I came across some on-page issues that I knew we could get some possible quick wins with. For one we needed more content. The client had numerous pages, especially local pages, which had very thin content. We all know that today Google sees content as king, so one of the first implementations I sought out was to build out content for these thin content pages.
This involved strengthening the content of over 100 pages within the site. Not only does this satisfy Google’s content needs but this is also signaling to the search engines that the client is updating and refreshing their content, an immediate ranking signal.
The client had also previously neglected to target keywords accurately on their pages. They had several over optimized meta data on some pages and others they had meta data that simply hadn’t been optimized to target the keywords that the pages attempted to target. This was all changed and optimized. To really improve rankings you have to get the basics down first.
Many people these days are skipping the basic elements of on-page SEO and going straight for the link building and other aggressive tactics. SEOs need to realize how much you can accomplish by simply optimizing what’s on your current pages.
Once the on-page elements were optimized and the thin content issues were resolved we sought to create more content for keywords that weren’t currently being targeted. If you are targeting a high search volume keyword like small business loans, you need a page high in your hierarchy targeting that keyword.
The client previously didn’t rank at all for the term small business loans. Their small business loan page on their site was low in the hierarchy embedded in the subfolder of their working capital section. This was also the case of several of their target keywords. They were embedded deep down in the site's hierarchy buried in subfolders that didn’t need to be there. We came up with a strategy to elevate that content. We brought the small business loan page from being /working-capital/small-business-loans/ to /small-business-loans/.
We also did this for all the other pages that we wanted elevated in the hierarchy. Google has told us that having the keyword high up within the URL has no ranking advantage. However, simply do a Google search for any highly searched keyword and you tell me if this is true or not.
Optimizing your URL structure alone can lead to several ranking wins. We then refreshed the content, submitted the new sitemap to webmaster tools and waited to Google to index our fresh new pages.
I had built out well over 100 pages within a keyword map that was delivered to the client. These recommendations were made after intensive competitive research and landscape analysis. There is no better strategy than to look for competitors who are ranking for what you rank for, see what they are doing, and imitate that strategy while making it better, more up to date and unique. I was able to implement several of these strategies for the client and some we are doing on an ongoing basis.
Some of that strategy has been to build resource pages and hubs, glossaries and libraries of terms in the industry, loan calculators – if a high ranking competitor was doing it, we would as well.
Another big part of my strategy was to optimize the architecture of the site through the navigation bar and internal linking. You have to be sure that Google is accurately crawling your site and crawling it the way that you want them to crawl it. So I made sure that all our high valued pages were in the navigation and received a proper amount of internal links from high authoritative pages so that Google could designate what pages on the client’s site were important and what pages that I was telling Google to rank.
An optimized site architecture is one of the biggest wins you can make as an SEO. However, be careful, playing around too much with your site architecture can mess up your rankings just as quickly as it can help.
In less than 4 months, we increased the volume of targeted keywords within the top 5 rankings in Google and Bing/Yahoo by 93%; we also increased the TOTAL volume of targeted indexed keywords by 91%. The client has gone from 6 target keywords in the top 5 in Google to over 90. They have gone from having 11 keywords ranking in the top 10 to over 130, from 23 target keywords ranking in the top 50 to over 270. As you can see in the organic traffic chart above, since taking over the client in late June, we saw constant and consistent improvements in organic traffic. The chart below shows the steady improvements of rankings. We have also seen an increase in organic conversions from lead forms throughout the site.
Some of the most significant keyword movements were as follows:
- For the term Small Business Loans, searched over 33,000 times per month, we went from not ranking to a position in the top 10.
- For the term Working Capital, searched over 22,200 times per month, we went from ranking outside the top 50 to ranking in a top 5 position.
- For the term Working Capital Loan and the term Working Capital Loans, which are search 590 and 490 times per month respectively, we went from ranking outside the top 50 to now holding a top 5 ranking for both terms.
- For the term Merchant Cash Advance, which is searched 3,600 times per month, we went from being unranked to consistently holding a top 5 ranking. The client has been as high as position two, but have yet to fall out of the top 5 since establishing the ranking.
- For the term Business Loan, searched 6,600 times per month, we went from being unranked to on the second page, and for the term Business Loans, searched 18,100 times per month, we went from being unranked to the second page as well.
- For the term Equipment Leasing, which is searched 1,900 times per month, we went from ranking on the third page of the search engine results page to the within the top 5 positions on the first page.
With these ranking increases the client has seen significant traffic improvements to these interior pages:
- Working capital page has seen increases in organic traffic of 163.71% year over year.
- The equipment leasing page has seen increases in organic traffic of 147.66% year over year.
- The merchant cash advance page has seen increase in organic traffic of 408.60% year over year.
- The small business loan page has seen an increase in organic traffic of over 50%.
- The types of leases page has seen an increase in organic traffic of 335.51%.
- The credit card processing page has seen an increase in organic traffic by over 50%.
Some year over year organic gains and revenues as of are as follows:
- Organic visitors increased 147.56%
- New organic visitors increased 151.24%
- Organic goal completions (web form submissions) increased 62.30%
- Organic Responses increased 76.37%
- Organic Submissions increased 165.91%
- Organic Fundings increased 33.33%
- Organic Deals Funded Total Amount increased 14.53%
- Organic Deals Funded Total Margin increased 18.5%
Again, these results were achieved through 100% white hat SEO tactics. Content, site architecture and an in-depth technical diagnostic was the cause for all the improvement. The client is now one of the top organic competitors in the small business lending space and continues to see improvements not only in rankings, but conversions as well.
So is SEO dying? You tell me. Feel free to comment below.
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