SEO Case Study: 1 year of $2,000 Per Month
Search engine optimization is generally perceived as a vast and complex field, and the fact that it’s constantly changing makes it even more difficult for businesses to understand how different SEO techniques and strategies can help boost their online presence. There are indeed many variables to take into consideration when implementing a SEO campaign, but it all comes down to a few basic elements that form the foundation of good SEO and are at the core of all successful SEO initiatives.
In order to make things clearer and provide a better understanding of what a proper SEO campaign implies and how it can draw results, we’re going to offer a detailed breakdown of how we build a $2,000 per month SEO campaign and what can be expected of it.
Our SEO campaigns are structured in such a way as to cover all key SEO ranking factors and include the best SEO practices. The techniques that we employ when building the campaigns may sometimes overlap, each of them having varying degrees of complexity, but a stripped-down SEO strategy is based on the following elements and sequence of actions:
- On-page Optimisation
- Website Quality Audit
- Keyword Research
- Backlink Planning
- Content Creation
- Image Optimisation
- Technical Optimisation
- Site Structure
- Website Speed
- Google My Business
- Link building
- Social Accounts
- Guest Posts
We’re going to delve into all of the key areas we’ve listed in our SEO strategy and explain how we approach each one of them, so you can gain a better understanding of how our SEO process works.
Many people equate on-page SEO with content and keywords, and although these two elements still play a crucial role in building a successful SEO strategy, these days there’s a lot more to on-page optimisation than that. The good news is that even though on-page SEO is much more complex than it used to be, it still remains one of the easiest steps in the SEO strategy, since it’s one of the areas that we have full control over.
On-page SEO is the process of optimizing website pages to make it easier for search engines to understand your website and its content, determine its relevance and therefore improve its rankings in SERP and increase organic traffic. Off-page SEO techniques can help to some extent, but without proper on-page SEO, your site will be pushed down search results by your competitors.
Considering that the first organic result in Google gets approximately 32% of all clicks and the click-through-rate drops sharply after the first position, it’s extremely important to focus on all the on-page factors that can help improve your visibility on search engines and earn more organic traffic. That includes performing keyword research, publishing relevant, high-quality content, optimizing meta titles, meta descriptions, images and multimedia elements, properly formatting pages, internal and external linking etc.
Website Quality Audit
In order to determine the pages that require optimisation and the strategies that we need to implement, we’ll start off our SEO process by conducting a detailed website quality audit. We give thanks to Ryan Stewart and The Blueprint Training for putting these amazing sheets together to help with our on-page auditing and optimizations.
During the website quality audit, we’ll be collecting a variety of relevant data from the client, such as:
- Page category
- Page depth
- Page in sitemap
- Main KW
- “Best KW”
- Our ranking
- Goal completions
- $ Conversion rate
- Goal conversion rate
- Bounce rate
- Avg time on page
- SERP CTR
- Current title
- Current meta description
- Current H1
- Word count
- Status code
- Index/No index
The information we gather at this stage allows us to gain a detailed overview of the site, understand how it’s structured and decide where to begin the optimisation process. We’ll also be using this data further down the track.
After we’ve collected all the relevant data, we analyse each specific page and then proceed to updating them as required, as seen in the URL actions #1 and #2.
The most common URL actions include:
- Updating the on-page
- Targeting the page with links
- 301 Redirect to new URL
- No index
- Leave as is
Keyword Research and Backlink Planning
Once we have identified the pages that require on-page updating, the next step in the process is to conduct keyword research for those specific pages. We’ll also inspect the top 3 competitors for each keyword to see how many backlinks they have built.
When researching the top 3 competitors, we review their pages in Ahrefs, one of the most sophisticated software for backlinks and SEO analysis, to see what variations and LSI keywords they are ranking for, then we list them in the secondary keywords area.
Once complete, the sheet will tell us how many backlinks we need for each target page, which will later allow us to set our link building strategy into motion.
On-page SEO Optimisations
We place a special focus on perfecting the three definitory elements of on-page optimisation:
- URLs – we make sure URLs are simple, short, and descriptive.
- Meta Titles – we create effective meta titles that drive clicks.
- H1 [Heading 1]– we use strong H1s to help search bots figure out what each page is about.
All these factors play a major role in SEO rankings, so we put in extra effort to optimise them as best as possible.
Other on-page optimisation aspects we address during this phase of the SEO process include:
- Recommended word count
- Meta descriptions
- Framing keywords for the writers
- Internal Links
- Image alt text
Additionally, we run a Page Optimiser Pro report on the home page to get an understanding of how the current on-page optimisation has performed.
Page Optimiser Pro is a very effective SEO tool that compares a site with the top 10 competitors for a specific keyword, measuring a variety of on-page signals such as keyword density, word count, and more.
Page Optimiser Pro helps us make sure we have all our bases covered on the main target page. In this specific case, it was the home page as it targets the main keyword. After we finalized the on-page optimisations mentioned previously, we got an optimisation score of 68.2, which marked a significant increase, but there was still room for improvement. So, we went back and implemented a few more of its recommendations to achieve a score of 89.9.
At this point of the SEO campaign, we have completed the following tasks:
- Website quality audit
- Keyword research
- Target pages for link building
- On-page optimisations
In terms of content creation, the site in question already had a good foundation of service page content. To add to this, we focused on 3 different types of content creation:
- Adding to the existing content
- Creation of suburb pages
- Creation of “Geo Pages”
Adding to the existing content
After running the Page Optimiser Pro report, we discovered that some of the pages required more content. Several service pages only had 300 words, so they didn’t meet the recommended word count of 800 words or more to not be deemed as low quality by Google and affect the site’s ranking. We built on the existing content, and made sure all service pages had a minimum of 800 words.
Creation of Suburb Pages [Suburb SILO]
One of the main strategies we use for almost every service-based business that visits customers at their location is to create Suburb Pages for the areas they service. This strategy is known as a “Suburb Page SILO”, which basically refers to grouping related pages together.
The first step is to identify high-performing and extremely relevant keywords, which will help us determine the top pages in the silo. In our case, the area page keyword is “Air Conditioning Sutherland Shire”, and that will become the top-level page from which will derive the keyword universe and all other pages in the silo.
This graphic shows you how the site structure will look like:
In this specific case, the home page was the area page. However, a website’s silo architecture can be more complex than this, including several areas all linking back to the home page. For national campaigns, the best thing to do is use areas → cities → home page.
What’s the point of creating this type of structure?
There are three solid reasons why we find this strategy effective, but they all relate to the same purpose – bringing in more leads.
- First of all, by building out the suburb pages and linking them back to the area page, we build relevance for the area page keywords. The area page is generally the page with the keywords we are looking to target, having more search volume than the suburb pages. In our example, the area page keyword is “Air Conditioning Sutherland Shire” and variations of that include “installation”, “service”, “maintenance” and other semantically relevant words for the silo, together equalling several hundred searches per month.
- Secondly, by creating these inner pages and mentioning the locations, we improve the business’ visibility on Google Maps, as you will see below.
- Thirdly, the silo structure helps us rank for the keyword + suburb pages in the SERP and bring in more traffic to the website. As we optimise each suburb page, they will be ranked by search engines, and bring in traffic if there’s a high enough search volume for the keyword + suburb.
The ultimate goal is to build topical relevance for the pages we targeted, which we’ve done by ranking in main keywords and their variations. That brought in an additional 69 clicks. If we consider a 10% conversion rate, that’s almost 7 jobs over one year.
How SEO silos are built
There are two methods to build a silo structure:
- Manually –a practice suitable for building less than 15 pages
- Automated– better for building over 15 pages
While the first method is more time consuming, it also requires less technical skills.
Creation of Geo Pages
As the name implies, geographical pages are pages that contain specific information about the areas where the business offers its products/services. They are absolutely essential for businesses that want to attract a local customer base, as they allow them to rank for each and every serviced location.
There’s more creative freedom when building geo pages. For example, for a business in the construction industry, geo pages can look like:
- 10 Best Hardware stores in “location”
- 10 Best Tool Stores in “location”
- 10 Best Plumbing Stores in “location”
Another creative method to build geo pages is to create a breakdown of the job that the business has completed in the area that it wishes to target. Here’s a simple example of how the page could be structured:
- Daikin Split System Installation in Cronulla
- How the business helped
- How the work was completed
- The final result
- Images of the job – images that carry metadata are ideal for adding extra geo relevance
Creating relevant geo pages is generally a simple and straightforward process. It can be as easy as building informative pages with information taken from a variety of sources put together in an original way. Examples include:
- History of “location”
- “Location” information
- “Things to do in “location”
- “10 best cafes in “location”
- “10 best restaurants in “location”
All these pages will link back to the area page in order to create a SEO-friendly site architecture.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and this definitely holds true when creating optimised websites. A site’s content is not limited to written text. Images also play a very important role in the equation, as the power of visual content is growing. According to statistics, visual information on the internet has increased by 9900% since 2007. What’s more, 39% of people will stop engaging with a website if images won’t load or take too long to load.
Therefore, from a SEO perspective, image optimisation is an essential part of the process, making websites more accessible, appealing, and engaging to both users and search engines. When used correctly on a site, images provide search engines with contextual information.
Geotagging images helps build location relevance to gain more visibility for your Google My Business listing. Also, naming images with keyword rich titles helps build relevance and improve rankings for target keywords.
Apart from that, optimised images also improve page speed, which is an essential factor in ensuring great user experience. Great UX is directly related to SEO ranking and conversions.
The image optimisation process
Optimising images is a fairly straightforward process comprised of four steps:
- Gathering the images
- Embedding geo coordinates of the target area in the image
- Labelling the images with keyword rich descriptions
- Embedding in image:
- Website URL
Once optimised, the images can be used for:
- The website location page
- Google My Business listing
- Citations and backlinks
Although some SEOs don’t differentiate between on-page SEO and technical SEO, placing them in the same category, we like to approach them separately as they address different SEO issues. While on-page SEO focuses on content, keywords, metadata, and other page-specific elements, technical SEO deals with the functional side of the website and how it’s structured in order to help search engine spiders find, crawl and index the site more effectively.
A lot of times, technical SEO is left on the backburner, since on-page optimizations are considered more effective in drawing visible results. However, without proper technical SEO, improving rankings through on-page SEO only can prove difficult, if not impossible.
The main areas covered by technical SEO are:
- Crawling – the way search engines explore the site
- Indexing – the way your content and pages are stored, analysed and organized
- Rendering – how search engines understand the site
- Speed – load times are an essential factor in ensuring good UX
- Website architecture –how the content is structured on the website
Our technical optimisation process
Just as with on-page optimisation, we started our technical optimisation process by running an audit of the site to identify technical issues. We used Ahrefs for this purpose, as it helps eliminate the guesswork and streamline the whole process.
There were a few issues that Ahrefs managed to identify, such as:
- Mixed content issues
- Duplicate H1 tags
- Multiple 404 pages
- Low word count on several pages
- Slow site speed
These were minor issues that had little influence over the site’s rankings, but that required fixing nonetheless.
To ensure that the site continues to perform optimally, we let Ahrefs crawl it every 7 days. Although this is not a crucial step of the process, it does help catch issues in due time and provides peace of mind.
As the site structure was already established and didn’t present any issues, there was little work needed in this area. However, after reviewing the entire site, we discovered it completely lacked internal links. Since internal links are a technical aspect that shouldn’t be overlooked, we immediately corrected the issue.
Why internal links are important
Internal links are an important part of technical SEO because they can help establish site architecture, and make it easier for visitors to navigate the website, guiding them from one page to another. In a case study mentioned by Ahrefs, it was proved that internal links can help boost organic traffic by 40%.
Internal links also function as signals that allow search engines to figure out the structure of a site, discover the site’s pages (increase crawlability), understand their importance and what they are about, and ultimately drive traffic to the site.
Here are the steps that we follow when creating a strong internal linking structure:
- All pages are linking back to the home page
- All services pages link back to the service page
- Suburbs pages link back to the area pages
- Area pages link back to the home page
- All blog posts interlink with each other and with other relevant pages
This is an example of how we put things into practice:
E-A-T stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness. The term appeared in a Google document known as the Google Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines, and it is how the search engine labels high quality pages. Although Google mentioned that these are not ranking factors, but merely guiding principles for creating high performing pages, E-A-T is not something to be looked over, especially for Your Money or Your Life (YMYL) pages – pages that approach sensitive topics such as health and wellness advice, legal advice, financial advice etc.
Achieving high E-A-T is part of a long-term SEO strategy, providing a more holistic approach to optimisation, and ensuring websites stay at the top of Google rankings for longer. That’s why we choose to follow the E-A-T criteria when building our SEO strategy.
As with all other optimisations, we first conducted a thorough audit of the website to identify the areas that required work and then we implemented the necessary optimisations.
Improving Website Speed
Website speed is one of the factors that can make or break a site, for quite obvious reasons. First of all, no one likes a slow site, and users nowadays are more impatient than ever. Statistics show that on average 40% of visitors will abandon a site if it takes more than 3 seconds to load. A slow loading site will drive potential customers away, leading to low conversion rates.
But it’s not just visitors who don’t appreciate sites that take too long to load. Google also penalizes these sites, meaning slower websites are ranked lower in SERP.
After a quick speed check, we noticed that the site speed was well below average at around 11 seconds. In order to improve this, we simply downloaded and installed Nitro Pack.
This is rather a quick fix for improving page speed, so when it fails to provide the expected results, there are other actions that can help, such as:
- Moving the site to a local server – our choice is Cloudways
- Deleting unused plugins
- Manually decreasing image sizes
- Installing Nitro Pack for added boost
Google My Business
Google My Business listings are no longer an option for local businesses these days, but an essential part of building a successful online presence. A properly managed GMB can prove extremely beneficial for local businesses, for a variety of reasons.
Stats also tell us that almost 46% of all Google searches are local and over 50% of ‘near me’ searches result in a physical store visit. As local searches continue to grow, businesses have to focus on improving local rankings more than ever. With a GMB account, businesses can make sure all their details and information are listed correctly and potential customers can find them with ease, thus improving the business’ local search visibility.
Ratings and reviews are great for earning trust from customers and establishing authority. Luckily, collecting and managing reviews is made a lot easier by GMB listings, building better relationships with customers and providing businesses with social credibility.
But the most important benefit of setting up a GMB listing is earning more foot traffic and phone calls from customers, which is the ultimate goal for every business. A GMB account that is constantly updated and optimised can guarantee an increase in call volume, resulting in more jobs and higher revenue.
Therefore, our main objective when building the SEO campaign for our service-based client was to get the Google My Business listing optimised and performing at peak.
Audit & Optimisation
As per usual, we ran a 20-point Google My Business audit in order to make sure there were no issues holding the site listing back from peak performance. The audit findings helped us identify the areas that we had to optimize. Once we had a thorough understanding of the shortcomings in the listings, we began optimising them, so they could compete with the top competitors for the main keywords in their specific locations.
Some of the checks and optimisations include:
- Name Check
- Address check
- Phone Number Check
- Duplicate Listing Check
- GMB Category Check
- Possum Filtering Check
- 750 Character rich description
- At least 10x services
- Service areas added
- 700-word GMB website
- GMB Details filled out
- Hybrid/Service Area Radius Check
- NAPW Consistency
- Photo Check
- Negative Review check
Google My Business Posts
Consistency is key when implementing a long-term SEO strategy, so when creating our GMB posts we adopt a similar approach to GMB photo posting. We created mini blog posts containing 100 words and scheduled them to be posted 2 or 3 times per week, every week for the whole 12 months.
Although these posts have been viewed 4400 times, 0 people have taken action on the posts. So, the obvious question is what’s the purpose of these posts?
It’s all about using links to build authority and relevance. Since the posts will be added to the GMB site, they will automatically create pages with unique URLs. These URLs can serve as an entry point for building links. The posts themselves contain links to other pages, so by sending links to them we pass equity from one page to another, thus boosting the site’s relevance.
The posts can also be used to build do-follow links to your site, social media profiles, top citations, and other online profiles and tap into the value they contain.
Google My Business Website
Google My Business also allows businesses to create free mobile-optimized and easily customizable websites where they can add the information and photos included in their GMB profile and enhance their search engine optimization efforts.
We take full advantage of this feature to advance our optimisation strategy and create yet another place where we can add links back to our client’s website. Building a GMB website is incredibly simple, by clicking the website tab on the left-hand side of the GMB dashboard and then following the steps in the setup wizard.
We added in a keyword rich title including our main keyword and then added around 1000 words of keyword rich content to the GMB site. We also made sure that the content we created for the GMB site included:
- Main & variations of our keywords
- Bolded keywords
- Website, name, address and phone number (all hyperlinked)
- Backlink to our maps listing URL or CID
- 1 x branded anchor text back to our home page
- 1 x exact match anchor text back to our target page
Once all these tasks have been completed, we launched the website. Then, to perfect our optimisation process, we opened up the target page on the website and linked it to the GMB website by using a branded anchor text.
Link building refers to the process of acquiring links from other websites to your website. These links signal Google that your website is a reliable source, worthy of citation, and thus increase the site’s chances of ranking higher in SERP. Link building remains to this day one of the most effective SEO techniques, and an essential part of any successful SEO strategy.
When done right, link building can provide the following benefits:
- Build credibility
- Boost rankings
- Increase web traffic
- Establish authority
- Increase visibility and exposure
- Reduce bounce rates
As you can see, there are more than enough reasons to place link building at the heart of your SEO strategy. However, not all link building techniques are created equal. That’s why we chose to focus our efforts on the three types of link building that drive results every time:
- Social accounts
- Guest Posts
Brand social accounts
Social media is a very effective tool that brands can use to their advantage when building out a SEO strategy. Social media platforms provide businesses with the possibility to engage with their target audience, increase brand exposure, improve online visibility and organic traffic, and boost overall brand awareness, therefore leading to higher rankings.
Social accounts are also closely linked to a brand’s online prominence, which is a major ranking pillar for Google’s algorithm. According to the search engine, “prominence refers to how well known a business is. Some places are more prominent in the offline world, and search results try to reflect this in local ranking. For example, famous museums, landmark hotels, or well-known store brands are also likely to be prominent in local search results.” That’s why we place a great deal of importance on social media branding in our SEO strategy.
Our process consisted of manually creating 80 social profiles and using keyword-optimized descriptions, tags, and content, as well as fully completed categories and service areas. After setting up these social accounts, we interlinked them all together to boost exposure.
Citations refer to any online mention of a business, containing information about the business’ name, address, and phone number (NAP). Citations can appear anywhere on the internet, from business directories to social platforms, making it easier for people to discover a business and thus having a great influence on local search engine rankings.
Just like social media accounts, citations can also increase prominence and provide the opportunity to use optimised images in different places on the internet. In order to achieve that, we manually submitted business information to 65 top tier business directories and GPS platforms, as well as to more than 100+ secondary directories.
Guest posting or guest blogging is a SEO tactic that implies writing and publishing content on someone else’s website or blog. The main reasons for creating posts for other websites is to position yourself as an authority in your industry, increase brand awareness and trust, and drive more traffic to your site.
When it comes to guest posting best practices, we have a few recommendations:
- Don’t overdo it. There’s no need to post more than one or two high-quality guest posts per month.
- Choose your target pages wisely. Choose between the homepage or location pages, depending on which is connected to the GMB listing.
- Don’t use exact match anchor text for your links. Use branded anchor text or brand + geo anchors instead.
- Monitor the posts and take part in the conversation to build authority.
The first step in the process is finding guest blogging opportunities. That can be achieved by searching for relevant sites with over 1000 monthly visitors and examining these sites closely to gain a better understanding of their blog content. Then, you can contact the blog owner by sending a personalised email and propose a guest post for the site.
In most cases, if the guest posts get accepted, they will post your article for a fee ranging from 50USD to 300+ USD, depending on each site. Once the articles are published, it’s important to check if they include the correct links and if they work properly.
The Final Result
As it was shown in the present case study, running a 12 months SEO campaign looks a lot like a marathon that requires perseverance, effort and patience. It takes time and determination to get to the finish line. So, this prompts a very important question: is the investment of resources justifiable and does it bring the expected results? The answer is yes.
There are no shortcuts when it comes to creating an effective SEO campaign. That’s why we take a holistic approach to SEO, making sure we cover all the important aspects when optimising a site and leaving no boxed unticked. We strongly believe that the success of a SEO campaign lies in addressing it from many different angles, rather than focusing on a single SEO factor or strategy.
Every single step in the process that we’ve presented so far, from on-page SEO optimisations and GMB listings to link building and everything in between, has brought a significant contribution to the final result. So, at the end of this 12 months campaign we managed to achieve a 41% increase in new users over the previous year, which proves that all our SEO efforts were completely worth it.
The graphics below speak for themselves.