It’s not very often you come across a white-hat SEO case study that provides actual figures. So when our client agreed to us publishing this post, we were delighted that we’d have the chance to share our approach and show just how much of an impact a good SEO-focused content strategy can have on a website’s traffic.
In May 2015, I embarked on a year-long SEO campaign with Mitesh Bhimjiyani, founder of the student careers website Success at School. Over the course of the year, we increased his website traffic from 7,029 sessions per month to 77,698 by using SEO writing best practices and a carefully planned content strategy. This SEO case study outlines the steps we took to acheive our traffic increase:
Our aim was to create well-structured content so compelling that people would link to it naturally, removing the need for excessive outreach and paid advertising. We wanted to drive qualified traffic from search engines to the Success at School website and establish the company as an authority in careers advice for school students.
As a result of our SEO campaign, Success at School significantly increased its student and teacher readership, opening doors for sponsorship opportunities and advertising on the site.
SEO Case Study: The First Three Months
From 7,029 to 9,685 visits – a 38% increase
The first thing we did when we embarked on this project was conduct an SEO audit of the website using the Screaming Frog SEO Spider.
Screaming Frog site crawl
This served two purposes:
- It provided us with an SEO overview of the website in its current form.
- It helped us identify areas for improvement.
In addition to the audit, we carried out keyword research using SEMRush Pro and Google’s Keyword Planner.
Google Keyword Planner
We used this data to identify the principal keywords and phrases that the website needed to target for each of its content channels. We also conducted initial keyword research on competitor sites as a means of comparing Success at School’s performance against other sites in the careers niche and to identify long-tail and ‘low hanging fruit’ keyword opportunities.
Based on our findings from the SEO audit, keyword research and competitor analyses, we drew up a list of recommendations on how to improve the website’s presence in search engines and increase relevant traffic to the site. We also created a content calendar with a good mix of low, medium and high competition keywords in order to balance short term gains with long term goals.
The first thing we tackled was the technical changes that were required in the website’s CMS. We drew up a list of the fields that were required to give us control over the meta information on each page of the website and passed the information on to the website developer. By requesting these essential elements, we were in a better position to structure the website’s content on a page-by-page basis.
Applying Site Architecture
Given that the site already had around 100 pages of content; we started by implementing an effective on-page structure to the existing pages, making sure that all relevant header tags, meta information, alt text, keywords and internal links were in place. While implementing these on-page elements, we were meticulous in recording everything that we did so that we could refer back to each stage if any issues arose further down the line.
By addressing all existing content first, we managed to increase the website’s traffic by 38%, which would have made a good short-term SEO case study in itself.
Then we hit a snag…
Some 12 weeks into the project, we noticed an 11% drop in traffic from the previous week. However, thanks to our careful progress tracking, we were able to pinpoint the exact reason for the drop relatively quickly.
Overlooked instances of internal anchor text
The reason for the drop in traffic turned out to be due to the internal linking text that we had been using to connect all the pages throughout the site. Although we recorded every single internally linked keyword and keyphrase, we overlooked some instances of repetition, where the same keywords were being used to point to a specific page.
As we know, Google doesn’t like duplicate content and it likes keyword stuffing even less, so we had to act quickly by removing all instances of repetitive keyphrases throughout the site. In reality, all it took was half a dozen duplicated internal anchors for Google to knock us down a peg or two.
It was also suggested by some SEO friends of mine that the ‘Google dance’ could also have been a contributing factor to the drop in traffic. It has been known for websites that start to rank well in a short space of time, to experience a drop off in traffic if users aren’t clicking through to the site in search results.
Given that I don’t like leaving anything to chance, we also spent some time revisiting our meta descriptions, making them as persuasive as possible to encourage click-through rates.
- SEO Audit incl. keyword research, competitor analyses.
- Technical changes to page structure, i.e. enabling meta information.
- Implementation of on-site architecture and internal linking throughout whole site.
- Issue: 11% drop in traffic in July (12 weeks in).
- Reason: Internal linking anchor text/Google dance.
- Solution: Adjusted anchor text keywords, revisited meta descriptions.
Months Three to Six (our biggest traffic gain)
From 9,685 to 38,432 – a further 297% increase
Running Total – 446%
From months 3 to 6 we had our biggest traffic gain. This is also when we started increase our publishing frequency to 4 posts a week. Based on our keyword research, we created a content calendar, initially focusing on high to medium search volume, low competition keywords. As our content started to rank quicker, we then went after the ‘holy grail’ keywords with high search volume and high competition.
Publishing High Quality Content
At the core of our content strategy was quality. With every new post that we published, we wanted to ensure that it added more value and was more useful than any other post of its kind out there. This meant writing posts that:
- Were at least 800 words in length, often 2,000.
- Were properly structured with on-site architecture.
- Made use of different types of media, e.g. images, videos.
- Were written in paragraphs with subheadings and bullet points.
- Encouraged social sharing through ‘tweetables’.
- Made effective use of meta information.
- Had at least 3 internal links pointing to other posts.
- Had at least 3 internal links pointed to the post in question.
A great example of one of our posts that incorporated all of these elements can be found here.
By following this formula, we managed to achieve the number 1 position in Google for some highly sought-after keywords, including:
‘Why study Maths?’
- Created optimized content based on content calendar.
- Well-structured blog posts.
Months Six to Nine
From 38,432 to 77,698 – a further 102% increase
Running Total – 1005% (our SEO case study milestone)
During the last 3 months of the project, we increased Success at School’s traffic by a further 102%, giving us a running total of 1005%. Our focus for the last 12 weeks of the campaign was to write ‘competitor-beating content’.In order to identify our competitor’s top performing posts, we used a paid version of the online marketing tool SEM Rush.
SEM Rush screenshot
We drew up a shortlist of our six main competitors’ top posts and set out to write our own versions that:
- Were longer.
- Were more relevant and up-to-date.
- Were better designed.
- Were more thorough.
Additionally, we also incorporated all the elements from our initial content formula. Even without doing any influencer outreach for backlinks, this approach proved very successful and Success at School started out-ranking many of its competitor’s top posts simply by applying this strategy.
During this final stage, we also revisited some older posts we had written and re-optimized them to rank for additional keywords. This increased the number of keywords that people were using to find the site and consequently increased the website’s traffic even further.
- Competitor-Beating Content using SEM Rush
- Re-optimizing old posts
After 9 months of strategically creating copy for Success at School, we reached a milestone in achieving over 1000% of an increase in website traffic.
It just goes to show that with careful research, a good content strategy and consistency, you can achieve impressive website rankings in a highly competitive industry.
Here’s what Mitesh has to say about the success of the campaign:
‘I started to work with Jamie in May 2015 with the objective of producing high quality content for successatschool.org that would also rank well in search. Jamie was excellent at advising how to optimize content for SEO purposes. We started to see some exciting results from about September 2015 onward. In the last 9 months we’ve seen over a 1000% increase in traffic from search. This demonstrates the effectiveness of the SEO strategy we have implemented with Jamie and makes for an interesting SEO case study.’
Mitesh Bhimjiyani, CEO, Success at School
After reaching our milestone, we handed the reigns over to the Success at School team to continue their business growth on their own. Three months after our involvement in the campaign ended, the Success at School website went on to reach 100,000 visitors by continuing to follow our content plan.
The site continues to make traffic gains by using the same SEO writing techniques we applied from day one and by making ongoing adjustments to the original strategy.
Do you want to improve your website’s visibility in search engines? Want to be the next business we write a successful SEO case study on? Drop me a line today to discuss your needs.