How We Improved Keyword Rankings by More than 40X in Just 2 Years
4 min read
When I first started at my current company, there was no SEO strategy to speak of. Coming in as a new member of the team, I inherited a pretty big hill to climb: a recent agency-led website redesign had inadvertently tanked our search rankings and lost more than 80% of our site traffic from organic search. Although my team was in the process of building what would become an amazing marketing and lead generation machine, there were not any dedicated SEO resources. That's where I came in.
So how does one go from having essentially no search presence to having the majority of traffic and more than half your monthly lead generation come from organic?
By following some basic tenets of SEO: creating quality content on topics relevant to your business and your prospective customers.
Following the basics below, we went from having only 5 relevant, non-branded keywords ranking on page one of Google Search to 219 in just two years.
Define What's Important
Where I've seen a lot of companies struggle is defining what topics and concepts, and therefore keywords, they want to be found for online. But this is a crucial first step in planning your strategy.
What sorts of things are your potential customers searching when they're trying to solve the problem your product/service helps with? Go beyond just product or competitor related terms and expand your thinking to cover related topics. With anything you choose, consider whether you have a "right to win" that keyword. In other words, can you speak authoritatively and credibly about the topic?
Something that can help prioritize which keywords to tackle first is monthly search volume. There are online tools to help you assess this, including Google AdWords Keyword Planner. Keywords with a ton of volume tend to be the most competitive, while longer-tail, lower-volume keywords can be easier to win. Remember that, even if a highly relevant keyword has low traffic, the handful of people who are searching for that term could be the exact right fit for you.
Consider using a keyword tracking tool, like Moz or BrightEdge, to monitor your progress against target keywords.
Once we settled on a core set of keywords, we got to work. And we kept re-evaluating as we went, adjusting target keywords as our business evolved.
Write It, Baby!
The single most important thing you can to do to improve SEO is to dedicate a resource to writing. This doesn't have to be full-time person, as was my company's case at the beginning (although now we have one full-time copywriter, and I still contribute to the writing).
Google's ranking algorithm uses hundreds of different criteria, but we know that quality, comprehensive content is what they like to see. That's why high-quality writing matters. Keep in mind that simply writing an article with the exact keyword appear a certain number of times isn't going to do the trick – plus, exact match isn't nearly as important today as it was at the dawn of search engines. Just focus on writing helpful content for your audience that includes variations of your target keywords. Usually the words will emerge naturally in the content.
Sound like a lot of work? Don't forget about re-purposing content you create to get the most bang for your buck.
We started churning out 2-3 blogs each week targeted to our keywords, developing topic landing pages, and revising homepage and product pages to contribute to better rankings.
Get Your Technical House in Order
High-quality, comprehensive content will take you far. But there will be an upper limit on your SEO success unless your site is 1) secure, i.e. SSL encryption or https, and 2) mobile-friendly.
Google considers site security to be so important, it's widely believed to be a key ranking factor. Especially if you are using forms to capture any sort of lead gen info, it's critical to prioritize taking your site secure.
In addition, Google is in the process of rolling out mobile-first indexing, indicating more than ever that mobile-friendliness is crucially important.
There are other elements of technical SEO to consider, especially site speed, but that could be a whole other post!
With the site redesign that happened before I arrived, the site had been converted to https, and had been built responsively so mobile-friendliness was by and large taken care of. With each subsequent site update we performed, we've done mobile and cross-browser testing to ensure mobile-friendliness.
Track and Measure
What good is all this work if you can't prove how effective it is? Here are some metrics you can use to track your progress month to month:
Number of keywords ranking on page one of Google Search
Percent of site traffic from organic search
Majestic TrustFlow and CitationFlow (again, could be a whole other post)
Leads captured through the website
Ranking of particular high-value keywords
There are a ton of metrics out there, but the ones above are a good start.
In our case, pver a two-year period we increased our overall number of relevant, non-branded terms ranking by more than 40X, and we got our percent of site traffic from organic search from 5% to 63%. In the first year, we increased leads generated through the website 5X.
The bottom line? Consistent focus on creating high-quality, useful, relevant content on your website pays off.