I will show you guys how we took this campaign to the next level, with less SEO than I actually recommended (It is a national account so I recommended that the agency spend more with us so we could deliver more. They ended up going with our Elite Level White Label Package and it worked out really well for them). No holds barred, this is what we did and the results speak for themselves.
Discussing theory as it pertains to search engine optimization can be fun, and it is a great way for us to all expand our horizons, but I like pulling the gloves off and showing people what really worked, from start to finish.
Sharing test results can be really positive as well, but I fear a lot of people that perform tests are not really ensuring the experiments are controlled. Also, the sample sizes of data are minimal when compared to the tens of trillions of documents in Google’s index. The immense size of the ecosystem combined with the difficulty involved with maintaining enough constants in your tests to ensure proper controls when trying to figure out an algorithm that has specific randomized filters built in to confuse SEO’s, make quite a lot of room for error.
That’s why I like to just bust open the books on a campaign.
An 800% increase in indexed pages since the start of the campaign. That is huge.
We are tracking improvements of over 6,000 keywords
Plenty of those are #1 ranked for buyer intent keywords
One of those terms by itself gets 5,500 searches per month
This sounds cool, but do you want to hear the best part? These results have pushed almost 30,000 additional clicks over the past 90 days. 10,000 clicks per month on average.
This begs the question, what would your client sites do with an extra 10,000 clicks per month?
Third party metrics are not always accurate but I wanted to entertain you guys with some nice screenshots to get star The first image is the currents stats shown by Ahrefs and the last image shows the site before we started our National SEO campaign.
You can see the main pages on the site are all status code 200, which means the page is being served properly without a problem, and the extraneous scripts and pages we do not need Google to crawl is blocking the spider via robots.txt.
We also plug the site into Google search console which can help reveal additional issues and affords us analytic opportunities at a glance. GSC should be one of your best friends in terms of where to look for actionable insights.
The second phase of our initial onboarding includes a deep dive into the competition to assess what they are doing to rank in the top three SERP positions and how we can replicate that success and improve upon their strategies to overcome them in the SERPs.
This includes an intensive backlink profile analysis and recording the link types they obtained, the anchor text used, the power of those hyperlinks, etc. We use this information to create a data-backed actionable linking strategy.
Again, I do not want to turn this post into a comprehensive training on doing competitive analysis, but I also want to show a high-level overview of some of this stuff just so you can see what a campaign looks like from start to finish.
Our next step at this point is to plan for the site level optimization. We use a series of best practices we have recorded combined with any anomalous findings we discover from the competitor analysis. Rarely do the site level practices we find our competitors using meet our standards, so this is usually the first opportunity we have to really outclass the other sites we are up against.
One of the most unique steps we take, in the sense that I am not sure any other white label provider on the planet does this, is performing TF-IDF semantic research based on the SERPs you are competing in.
TF-IDF is short for term frequency-inverse document retrieval is a value used to determine the importance of text inside of documents or sets of documents. Traditional on page optimization revolved around analysis and testing of keyword densities and the relation between keywords being used in too many places (keyword stuffing).
NOTE: THESE ARE EXAMPLES OF A DIFFERENT CAMPAIGN. THIS IS NOT THE NICHE OF THE SITE BEING DISCUSSED IN THIS CASE STUDY
Individual keyword and phrase utilization is still important but take this a step further and see what other words are typically used in conjunction with our money terms and what those use rates look like as well. This allows us to take the semantic optimization portion of our on-page to the next level.
If you want some more information on this process, the application, the patents Google has that incorporates the TF-IDF metric, and some success we have had with it, check out this live training Chaz did. That link takes you to the start of his presentation and he speaks about semantic optimization throughout his time on the webby.
The above link will give you a solid overview of what optimization action items we perform for all of our campaigns. Our content is mostly geared toward local rankings but this is still a really solid guide for anyone that wants a resource for their on-page
Once we have the site level underway we get busy with some foundational off page action items that prepare the site for the links we are going to build in the coming months.
This includes writing and syndicating a press release. There are a lot of SEO axioms that either support or argue against the impact of press releases for a campaign, but we have all but empirical evidence derived from a lot of use cases and we find them to still be extremely useful.
We have syndicated over 15,000 press releases and they still serve a purpose in an SEO campaign. We did a lot of training on press releases and use cases for them. I made a post on different ways to use press releases in your marketing on the Local Client Takeover blog quite some time ago.
Chaz did a 3 part series on the web20 blog that included an introduction to using press releases for SEO, a guide on writing optimized press releases, and a hard-hitting post on 5 ninja press release applications and the results we experienced when implementing them.
For fun, we even compared our press releases to two competitors in the industry. Gloves off.
Moving on…We eliminated IFTTT from the lineup recently because we found them to have diminishing effects on the SERPs. Having said that, this site did get its social essentials built along with IFTTT recipes set up. We have a dated post on the basics of this and keep in mind the results we got from this are not as likely to happen with the current condition of the algorithm but check out the IFTTT training we have on the LCT blog if you wish.
Here are the recipes we used. Keep in mind this is a bit dated so some platforms will not be allowing IFTTT any longer, but I wanted to be transparent about what we did.
Another component of our campaigns is social signals that we drip in month after month. I am guilty of having a postulating argument for using them as controlled testing in most cases will deliver minimal results as far as SERP impact, aside from indexation.
I am a firm believer that social links are a natural part of a real website’s backlink profile. Referral traffic from social sites look great too, especially as you are building other links and adding content to the site, it only seems natural that you would be getting some type of social interaction with the brand you are working on.
I believe, like with anything, the key here is not going to Fiverr and buying 500,000 signals, especially when dealing with local sites. It looks bad. A natural looking number is what we are after here.
We do not have extensive testing on this concept, as it is not something that will provide dramatic results in an isolated test case, but we use them because sound logic suggests it will make your campaign look more natural.
Some people save their high power link building for later in their campaign when the foundational links are built and indexed, but we start incorporating hard-hitting links in the first few weeks. I personally used to wait but established a lot of data showing that waiting to drip those more powerful links just stalls a campaign in the long run.
We have not found any negative effect with not waiting until the foundational links are more established, as long as we are building them in an ongoing manner to help pad the backlink profile. This is typical for our link building campaigns.
There are a series of links and platforms we have at our disposal to use for our partner’s campaigns. For this client, in their first few months, we use our Authority Niche Placements.
We categorically break these links down by referring domains. It looks something like this:
- Site with 25+ referring domains
- Site with 50-200 referring domains
- Site with 50-200 referring domains
- Site with 200+ referring domains
- Site with 200+ referring domains
Notice the main public facing metric I like to use is referring domains. Third party metrics suck.
We obviously can’t show you the exact links we built for our partner’s client, but all link URLs are given to the agency buying from us and they can decide whether to share them with their client or not.
Further into the campaign (months 2-3) we take a step back and quality check the site level and on page optimization activities. We make sure the TF-IDF action plan has been implemented on the pages included in their package and completely optimized every portion of their target pages based on the information obtained from the audits and analyses we performed at the start of the campaign. This included things like internal linking, optimized header tags, meta descriptions, picture alt tags, and page markup).
Here is the template we use. Go ahead and swipe this if you need it.
We built another round of social and web 2 accounts for the brand, these are secondary accounts that further earn us solid brand links and help reinforce the online presence. We aren’t just ranking a website, we create and build a strong digital brand early on.
Reinforcing our brand-building efforts, even for national and ecommerce brands, we build out and optimize the top national business listings for the brand. Again, our early focus is to establish a lot of trust for the brand, we found doing so helps propel rankings in the later months. In our case we have our own team create the top 42 general business citations using some unique content and descriptions on each to ensure we give the search bots every reason to crawl and index our brand properties. These are on general platforms such as Chamber of Commerce, Yelp, and YP. These essential citations also give us even more brand mentions and links on authority platforms.
NOTE: THIS IS AN EXAMPLE REPORT, NOT THE ACTUAL COMPANY REPORT
We drip more social signals from platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Stumble Upon and others, but at a slow rate of only 50 – 70 signals per month so this looks completely natural.
The heart of any SEO campaign is quality link building and we continue in month two to use a combination of niche placements and guest posts using the anchor text strategy we defined early in the campaign.
Briefly, we use a lot of brand and naked URLs when we build the brand so that allows us to reserve our heavy-hitting niche placements and guest posts for money and top-level keywords. A great anchor text strategy we found to be highly effective is to use more natural looking anchor text phrases rather than exact match words that don’t make sense by themselves, ie how to find the best _____, how to calculate the _____, which New York ______ accepts insurance. Natural anchor text that incorporates your exact match keywords is fine, as is LSI and long tail phrases just try not to repeat the exact same anchor text, you want your anchors to appear random.
We round out every month by ensuring proper crawl and index of the links. A brief caveat on Search index vs crawl. Crawl is imperative for Google to properly weigh and reward links. If Google does not crawl the link there can be no reward for that link. Crawl and index are two separate things though. Just because a link is crawled does not mean it will be indexed. Index does not have any effect on link equity or passing PageRank. Index is completely focused on Search quality results. We ensure the links get crawled, Google determines if a link source will be included in their index.
The main goal in these remaining months is to round out the heavy hitter link building so we can continue to push the main keywords further up the SERPs and really start bringing home some ROI for our partner’s client.
We convinced the owner of this campaign to get a bit more aggressive with their link building because they wanted to rank nationally for these terms. We included additional outreach links and authority niche placements as part of their service. The final anchor text looks like this for those that like to check out those type of things.
I had to blur out the brand name and the URL, but from the screenshot, you can see that 48% of the backlink profile consists of Brand name and URL variations. This is pretty typical for our campaigns as we like to remain somewhat conservative so we can avoid penguin related filters.
Before we get to the money keywords, I want you to take note of how we continued to diversify the backlink profile of the site as well as create relevant anchors using long tail strategies. In this case, where the company sells different products we can get super specific about makes and models.
Sorry again for not being able to show the actual anchor text, but again, we basically created super specific hyperlinks that complimented the different products and specs of the product. Imagine if you were ranking a page about an electronic device. The same strategy can be applied as we could start talking about the tech under the hood of the product in our anchor texts.
This allows our backlinks to look extremely natural and potentially even ranks us for super specific queries performed by people looking for solutions that our site provides.
I have never been a big fan of adhering to or suggesting percentages of money keywords as anchors. There was also a time when I did not repeat anchor texts in a backlink profile except for when building naked URLs or brand name anchors. That has changed for us. My best advice is to create a loose structure based on your competitors that are ranking in the top three and then measure and optimize as the campaign matures.
You heard me touch on the guest posting strategies we employed with this campaign because it is a national ranking site and we feel it needed an extra boost. Guest posting became such an overused term in our industry and unfortunately, it typically means that a vendor has a list of sites that they re-use for every client that comes their way and there is no real checks and balances for quality assured posting.
You will find a lot of those sites are also content mills with no real traffic or rankings. Their only purpose is to charge people for guest posting services by using inflated third party metrics to make the sale.
We outreach to sites that have a minimum of 10k traffic per month. I understand that tools can be incredibly inaccurate with their traffic metrics, but we use Ahrefs to benchmark this number and at least have a uniformed way of qualifying sites in our system.
Arguably, sites with traffic are most likely real sites, so we move on to the metric I find most important, and that is referring domains. Links are still one of most impactful pieces to Google’s algorithm. They pass link juice and help Google “grade” other pages.
That is why I couldn’t care less about third party metrics like Moz domain authority, Majestic Trust Flow, nor even UR/DR from Ahrefs. Those metrics are not indicative of ranking effect from links that are built. The number, power, and relevance of the referring domains, however, are going to give us a solid idea about the positive movement potential.
Not all of our contextual guest posts are going to have heavy hitter referring domains like this one but we make sure the content that gets posted is relevant and that we are taking this opportunity to use keyword anchors to leverage the power of these sites to their full potential.
That sums up the meat and potatoes of what this campaign looked like to achieve the success that it did. Keep in mind we did not see these results overnight. Good SEO takes time. It takes patience and the understanding of best practices.
Once the on-page is squared away, continue to add blog content to provide additional link targets and interlinking and continue to pad your anchor text profile with pillowing links to maintain safe anchor percentages as you add new power links every month.
If you want to see verbatim what we do for each campaign just check out our White Label Monthly Synopsis. If you have any additional questions or comments we can have a conversation on the FB thread for this post or you can log in and leave a comment.
Happy rankings all!