SEO Case Study: 141% More Organic Traffic

What would your business be like with 141% more organic search traffic?

Unless your website is a CRO nightmare…

You would see hockey stick revenue growth.

In this post, I’m going to show you how we grew a client’s organic search traffic by 141%.

Let’s jump in.

Brief Background

I will give you as much detail as possible without revealing the client’s niche or website.

Here are some quick facts about the client:

  • The client hired Gotch SEO (in 2015) to improve their SEO performance.
  • They offer a piece of technology that helps health care providers interact with their patients more effectively.
  • Their business is between 1-5 employees.
  • They already had an active blog and were promoting their content on social media.
  • They hadn’t done any SEO in the past.

Our SEO Strategy

My SEO agency uses two different strategies with our clients and they are as follows:

1. Content Driven Strategy

This is our preferred strategy, but it requires significant resources, time, and effort. Which is usually beyond what the majority of clients can afford.

With that said, our content driven strategy is simple:

  • Create SEO content that attract backlinks.
  • Promote the content so that it actually gets backlinks.

The goal of this strategy is to increase the authority of the client’s website.

The more website authority you have, the easier it is to rank for keywords.

This content driven strategy is exactly what we teach in our SEO training course Gotch SEO Academy.

2. Non-Content Driven Strategy

This strategy is exactly like it sounds: we don’t create and promote content.

Instead, we optimize a page or many pages for target keywords.

This approach is best for smaller businesses or local businesses with smaller budgets.

For this client, we used this strategy.

Here are the tactics involved with this strategy:

  • Find keyword ideas, analyze the competitors, and have the client approve the keywords
  • Optimize the target page(s) for those keywords
  • Perform an SEO audit to identify all on-site technical issues and off-site backlink issues
  • Fix all issues found within the SEO audit
  • Prospect for link opportunities
  • Begin securing “easy” backlinks
  • Start our blogger outreach campaign
  • Continue acquiring relevant backlinks until the client ranks

Now I will show you how this process works in practice.

Keyword Research

The client had already done keyword research and supplied us with great ideas/keywords they wanted to rank for.

We took this information and immediately tossed it into the Google Keyword Planner. The purpose of doing so is to verify that there was enough search volume.

Through quick research we identified the keywords with the highest search volume.

We ended up with a rough list of approximately 15 keyword ideas. We cut this list down to 9 target keywords.

Here is the search volume for the keywords we are targeting:

Rankings-min

We were able to trim the list through our competitor analysis strategy.

Competitor Analysis

We break our competitor analysis down into two stages.

The first stage takes no more than 30 seconds.

Within this 30 second timeframe, we are looking at the following:

  • PA & DA: we compare the client’s PA and DA relative to the ranking websites
  • Big Brand Dominance: we look for big brands such as Wikipedia or Amazon ranking on the first page. This is can be a sign that the niche is competitive.
  • Pages That Signal Low Competition: we look for “weak” pages such as those from Q&A sites, PDFs, article directories, press releases, or even web 2.0s. These types of pages are easy to outrank.

This quick process can tell us whether a particular keyword is worth pursuing.

If the keyword passes this first test, we then move onto stage two of our competitor analysis.

The second stage is more comprehensive because we analyze the each competitor one-by-one.

In this analysis, we are looking at a few different factors including:

  • Total Linking Root Domains: the quantity of unique domains linking to a page is a strong ranking factor, so it’s at the top of the priority list for us.
  • Link Quality: we examine the link quality of the competitor’s page. We do this to get a general picture of what link quality is “accepted” for the keyword.
  • Domain Age: I don’t believe domain age plays a huge role, but it’s something we still consider.
  • Strength of Content: we rate the quality of the competitor’s content on a scale of 1-10. This rating is based on the length, the intricacy, the exhaustiveness, and the structure of the content (from a readability and design perspective).

We always measure these factors relative to the client.

Example: if a competitor has 100 linking root domains, then we know that our client must get a similar amount.

This isn’t an unbreakable rule.

Sometimes it takes more, sometimes it takes less. But it’s a good goal/benchmark to keep track of during the campaign.

This entire competitor analysis process is in Gotch SEO Academy. Make sure you sign-up to secure your spot for the next launch.

The next stage of the process is to select what pages we want to optimize. Then, actually optimize those pages.

Page-Level Optimization

We decided it would be most effective to target the client’s homepage for the set of 9 keywords we selected.

These keywords are related, so this isn’t a problem.

In most cases, I don’t think you should ever exceed 1-3 keyword themes per page on your site. One keyword theme, per page is best.

For example, if I’m targeting the keyword “anchor text“, I wouldn’t also try to rank the same page for “St Louis SEO”.

Yet, I can target keywords related to “anchor text” such as “what is anchor text”.

That’s because those variations are within the same keyword theme.

With that said, here’s what we did to optimize the page:

Are you ready?

It’s complicated so make sure you hang onto your hat…

  1. We added the keywords to the title and META description
  2. We added our the “big hitter” keyword (the one with the most search volume) to the first H1 tag on the page
  3. We sprinkled the big hitter keyword a few more times on the page

That’s it.

Mind blowing, right?

After we optimized the target landing page, we then began our SEO audit.

SEO Audit Procedure

I’ve explained our SEO audit in-depth before, but I’ll explain here again.

The purpose of our audit is to identify technical issues that could harm user experience. Or, technical issues that could be leaking website authority.

Common technical issues that hurt user experience or leak authority include:

  • Slow website loading speed
  • Non-mobile friendly websites
  • Distracting elements
  • Ugly, confusing, or outdated design
  • 404 pages (only bad if they have link equity)
  • Broken links
  • Redirect chains
  • 302 redirects
  • Duplicate content
  • Thin content
  • Ineffective internal linking

After performing the audit, we were happy to see that the client did not suffer from these issues.

  • Their website loads around 1 second.
  • They have a mobile friendly website.
  • Their SSL certificate installed right.
  • They have a clean and modern design.
  • They only had a few 404 pages and broken links.

The only issues we identified had to do with the client’s internal linking practices.

This wasn’t an urgent issue, but something we wanted to jump on right away.

Their main internal linking issues were:

A) they weren’t using keyword rich anchors and,

B) they were linking to the wrong pages with keyword-rich anchors.

Point B can be the most problematic because it can create keyword cannibalization issues.

We knew that by fixing these two issues, we could flow internal authority back to the homepage.

So, that’s exactly what we did.

We changed the internal links to target the homepage and used exact match anchor text.

That simple.

After we finished up the on-site optimization we moved onto link acquisition.

Link Building

We decided to focus on the following link types:

These are the link types that we use for most national SEO campaigns.

Here are the rough totals of links we built:

  • 30 + contextual backlinks on relevant blogs
  • 100 + blog comments on relevant blogs
  • 15 citations on the best directories
  • 50 branded properties

The client has 31 linking root domains before we started. Now the client has around 84 according to Ahrefs.

They have more than this because Ahrefs doesn’t capture all link data on the Internet.

Referring Domains-min

I know you are likely wondering: “what about the anchor text ratios!?”

I got you covered.

For the contextual backlinks, we used exact match, keyword variations, and branded anchor text.

We used a name for the blog comment anchor text and the citations produced naked link anchors.

The anchor ratios are in line with what I’ve been preaching for years now:

  • Less than 1% exact match anchor text
  • 1-5% keyword variations
  • High percentage of branded and naked link anchors

If you need help with anchor text, read our guide: https://www.gotchseo.com/anchor-text/

Now let me show you the results of this work.

The Results

Here is the Google Analytics data over the course of 9 months:

Organic Search Traffic-min

When we started the client was getting approximately 1,885 organic search visitors per month.

After 9 months of work, we increased their organic search traffic to 4,541 per month.

A 141% increase.

There are a few conclusions you can draw from this growth pattern:

  1. Growing organic search traffic takes a long time
  2. If you quit early, you will never see the fruits of your labor

SEO agencies and businesses who hire them, must both understand that SEO is a long game.

My agency has achieved explosive growth for some clients within 3-4 months, but this is rare.

For most campaigns, it takes 6, 8, 12, or even 15 months to see growth.

SEO is NOT a quick fix.

In my opinion, it is a supplemental marketing channel.

Businesses that rely on SEO or an SEO agency for growth, will lead themselves down a path of destruction.

This is true for two reasons:
1. When you rely on an SEO agency to grow your business, you will use the agency as a scapegoat.

When you aren’t converting leads on your site, you will call up the SEO agency and ask:

“why aren’t we getting leads” or “we haven’t been getting leads since you guys started”…

Here’s the truth:

It’s easy to blame an SEO agency or any type of outside marketing agency for your problems.

It’s HARD to reflect on WHY you actually aren’t getting leads.

More often than not, traffic is NOT the problem.

In an ideal world, more traffic would solve your revenue problems.

In reality it doesn’t.

Getting traffic is the FIRST part of the process.

You have to actually convince that traffic to contact you or buy your product.

That means you have to understand sales, copywriting, and conversion rate optimization.

The reason why businesses stagnate when they have MORE traffic is because of a weak sales funnel.

Business is just like real life.

For example, your life will be a struggle if you are always looking for someone to blame for your problems. The same is true for your business.

Stop blaming. Start reflecting.

Now let me rant onto the second reason why you shouldn’t rely on SEO.

2. Businesses built on organic search traffic, have no other choice but to blame the SEO agency.

This is the reason why my agency doesn’t work with startups or businesses that do not already have reliable marketing channels.

That’s not because we can’t get them results…

It’s because we know how those campaigns turn out.

A bootstrapped startup will question your every move.

They will ask questions like: “Why aren’t we getting results yet!?”

…after two weeks of starting a new campaign.

I’m going to end my rant here, but I will be writing a blog post on “Why Startups Should NOT Hire an SEO Agency” to elaborate on this further.

Subscribe to get notified when it’s published.

Conclusion

This client had a great foundation for SEO and made our job much easier.

It’s not always this easy to grow organic search traffic when working with clients.

Sometimes the clients have years of ineffective/spammy SEO tactics that you must battle against.

That’s why my agency loves working with clients who have done little or no SEO in the past.

Working with a fresh slate makes your life a lot easier.

With that said, this SEO campaign still has a lot of room for improvement.

Have some questions about this case study?

Leave it below because I answer every single blog comment.

Comments

  1. I am curious, why 9 months for so few backlinks? I know things need to look slow and natural, but that seems such a long time for any type of gain ratio, so did you have a reason why it took 9 months? Was it fairly new site or something? I know our human nature wants everything right now; however, with google, you need patience.

  2. Nathan, this is STRONG….when you pull back the curtain and show the facts it’s compelling content.

    What REALLY got me however was your subject line in the email to your list that got me here. Bravo. I stopped watching UFC to open it. Tim Ferriss would not approve.

    So less than 200 links doubled their traffic….hmmm…. I hope no one reading this thinks they can grab a 250+ link gig from Fiverr and get your same results.

    Thanks for all you do!

    Dave

    1. Hi Piotr,

      Thanks for the comment. Better content makes ranking easier, but it’s all relative. For example, the content standards in the marketing space are much higher compared to a small niche.

  3. Another great post Nathan. In 2 or 3 sentences, can you compare Ahrefs’ DR and UR vs Moz’s DA and PA when assessing competition?

    As you know Moz updates only once per month but I still see them getting a lot of love from SEO blogs such as yours so I’m curious.

    1. Hi Jermaine,

      Thanks of the comment. I actually have said many times that Open Site Explorer crawls the LEAST amount of links (compared to Ahrefs and Majestic). The only reason we use the Moz toolbar is because it’s easy. The Ahrefs toolbar is still a little clunky and I definitely don’t need anymore plugins on my browser lol – In general, we don’t take any of these metrics too seriously. There is deeper analysis that is necessary outside of looking at third party metrics

  4. Great case study. If only some businesses realize the importance of time. I’ve had local clients that think that if they pay you today that you can bring in customers tomorrow. Even after I expressed and communicated properly the time span it will take to get it up to that point of being high in the serps, they just don’t listen.

  5. Hey Nathan,

    Been following you for a while and your content is pure GOLD. You provide awesome insights and am looking forward to consuming more of your value nuggets!

    Trev

  6. Great article, thanks for sharing! Regarding the branded and naked URL links you mentioned, I’m assuming these aren’t for the guest post type opportunities you acquire? Since on the surface it would seem a waste not to employ partial match anchors here…. Thanks again.

    1. Hi Zak,

      Thanks for the comment! Yes, that’s exactly right. All branded and naked links anchors came from blog comments, branded properties, and citations. We used exact match and partial match anchors for guest posts. A couple branded anchors here and there as well

  7. Awesome article..you always produce top quality content for SEO without the ‘fluff’ i see so many other places. That’s a real art form today. I appreciate your tips.

    Thanks man..

  8. Hi Nathan
    Been following your blog for a while and its great to read your no fluff, easy to understand SEO technics as I am a newbie myself.
    Do you mind if I pick your brain – Im currently doing some backlinking for a client (External contractor, small business, hardly any budget), however I have no say in the content that they publish as they have someone else doing this. Since I have no power over the use of keywords or what they write (it is related to the finance markets and they don’t create whitepapers or inforgraphics or even run competitions), or the website itself (even though I tell them about the duplicates and SEO issues, it was not my place), I am a bit lost as to how to get them further natural backlinks (just to flow back to their site).

    You mentioned:
    30 + contextual backlinks on relevant blogs – Since I can’t guest blog, provide answers to the finance of their business – whats the best way to go about this?

    100 + blog comments on relevant blogs – ok thats easy to do.

    15 citations on the best directories – already did this on such things as directories, profiles etc.

    50 branded properties – What do you mean by this? Creating inforgraphics? Whitepapers? As I have no say what gets created.

    Any ideas would be great.
    Thanks for your time and keep up the work! I am still reading your site with great interest and learning something new everyday!

  9. Nathan amazing post as always. I think link velocity is another crucial component, would you mind to share if you completely based it on competitive analysis, domain stength, goals etc

    1. Thank you Melissa!

      In all honesty, I think being random is the most important element of link velocity. If you are acquiring quality links, the velocity will generally be lower (since they are harder to get).

  10. Great post as always!

    Nathan, would you suggest that to get good backlinks, you need to hire a reputable SEO company?

  11. Hi Nathan,

    Another great read, I got inspired from your bio when I came across to your website before few months. You really did a great job with this blog and I always learn something new from your each post.

    Your case study is really interesting, you have mentioned about Business citations, so if the client don’t have physical address, what we can do in that case? Should we skip the citation and listings for the business have virtual address?

    Thanks

    1. Hi Vikram,

      Thank you for the comment!

      Yes, it is ideal if you have a real physical address. If you want to get more grey hat with it (and you don’t plan on having a physical address), you can use a generated one.

  12. Absolutely amazing case study Nathan! I love the transparency and the information you’ve shared, keep it up! You’re my favorite SEO blog and I get plenty of proves that you’re the shit, for example when I google SEO atlanta you dominate haha!

  13. Wow Nathan !
    You are just amazing. Thank you for coming up with this great piece of content uncovering the SEO Strategy.

  14. Thanks for yet another great post Nathan.
    Your posts are informative and easy to read and are one of our go to -must read sources for SEO.
    Those are really pertinent points about on site optimization and startup clients expectations for ranking that help put the reality of the time frame involved in perspective.

    Keep up the great work
    Regards
    John

  15. Hey Gotch I love reading your blog posts, I have a lot of question from you….
    1. About Brand Signals:
    First of all please tell me, should we create Tier 2 links of Brand Signals
    2. Web 2.0’s
    Suppose I want to rank a keyword for example Call of Duty 1 Game For PC
    This is my target keyword and how much Web 2.0’s Should I create and should we Create Brand Signals of This Web 2.0 that we are using to rank our keyword. How much posts should we do on powerful Web 2.0? How much tier 2 links should we build on that Web 2.0….
    3. Social Signals?
    These days social signals are not working for me, for you they work or not? If yes, then please tell me how do you use Social Signals to rank keywords….
    Please answer my questions and I shall be very thankful to you, waiting for your reply anxiously….

  16. Hi Nathan.

    I can completely relate with this post about SEO taking time.
    I myself worked with a startup (as a digital marketing manager) that was into a very competitive domain; education and training.
    It took almost 8-9 months for me to help them rank number 1 for global search for its primary keyword (yes, that actually happened. we started right from the scratch).
    The best part is there was no blog or proper social media activities before I took over.

    And you know what was the best part? I didn’t do even a single paid activity during this entire period.

    The start-up ranks above authority sites and blogs. I no longer work with them, yet they are there in top position. Now they’ve re-approached for SEO for their other site.

  17. Hi Gotch, Well explained post. I have always had confusion with leaving comment on a blog. Can you explain how it should be done? The website details we fill in the coloum while submitting comment would be of any use?

  18. Hi Nathan, interesting case study. Definitely agree with the second part about client expectations…

    The 50 branded properties – are these just social media sites or something else?

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