Does your business live and die by paid advertising?
If so, I’m sorry to say that you’re on shaky ground.
Paid advertising has been incredibly volatile as of late. CPMs have been rising rapidly, and that’ll likely only continue. So, it’s more important than ever to diversify your revenue so you’re not putting all of your eggs in one basket.
One of the best ways to do that is to invest in SEO — an organic means for generating traffic and sales through search engines like Google.
The beauty of SEO is that once you rank for a target keyword, that ranking becomes a free source of traffic and revenue for your business. Not to mention, users who come from search engines are warm — they are actively looking for what you have to offer — so they’ll convert much more easily.
The client of ours that I’m going to talk about today realized this and decided to take action.
They knew that banking 100% on Google Ads simply wasn’t smart.
Their SEO wasn’t too bad in years past, but a Google Algorithm update had changed that, and now, their traffic was rapidly declining.
So, they came to us to fix that.
1. Brief Background
I’m going to give you some fast facts about this client, without revealing specific details that could give away their website:
- They sell a single product to relieve the negative symptoms of alcohol usage
- They had a content strategy in place, but it failed to get significant organic traction
- Their organic traffic and revenue had been on a decline for the last year after a Google Algorithm update
- Their main driver of revenue was Google Ads
We started working with them in November of 2020.
Here’s what their organic traffic and revenue looked like in October of 2020 — the month prior to us beginning our work:
Their traffic levels actually weren’t terrible — certainly nowhere near the worst I’d ever seen for a brand new campaign.
But, when looking at the organic presence of several of their competitors, it was obvious that there was plenty of room for improvement.
Not to mention, a year prior, this client was clearing nearly $10,000/month in organic revenue, but the Google Algorithm update dropped those numbers.
So, our objective was fairly clear:
Identify why the site was affected by the Google Algorithm update, resolve the issues, and — at the very least — bring organic revenue numbers back to that $10,000/month mark.
2. Website Audit
Anytime you’re dealing with an SEO campaign — especially for a site that’s been affected by an algorithm update — you need to run a thorough website audit to determine the weak points of the website and identify any improvements that can be made.
Some of the main things we look for include:
Technical: Are there a ton of broken links and broken backlinks? Is the site loading speed too slow? Are pages utilizing metadata and incorporating header tags. Are there unnecessary pages being indexed in Google that are “bloating” the search results? Is internal linking being properly used to provide good site coverage for users and search engines? Is a proper website architecture being used? Are URLs keyword-rich, non-spammy, and as short as possible?
Keyword Targeting: Are they targeting keywords on their product and/or collection pages? Are the target keywords too competitive? Do the target keywords match the intent of the page? (For example, targeting “best” keywords on a product or collection page typically isn’t the right move — you usually need a listicle-styled blog post to rank for “best” keywords)
Content: Is there a ton of content that’s 1) not ranking for any keywords and 2) not driving any organic traffic? Is there any duplicate content? Is there a surplus of “thin” content — or in other words — is there a surplus of content that’s less than 500 words in length? Is existing content correctly optimized for a target keyword?
Backlinks: Is the site consistently acquiring new backlinks month-over-month and growing in authority? Are there any bad backlinks pointing to the site that may be PBNs or link farms? Does the current anchor text profile look unnatural? Does the distribution of links look unnatural?
Upon running our audit, we found a ton of issues in all four of those phases.
In fact, it soon became rather unsurprising to me that their site had been affected by an algorithm update.
There was a serious lack of quality across the board:
- There were hundreds of tag and category pages from their blog bloating the search results
- Better internal linking work was needed between blog content, and from blog content to their product page
- Their product page wasn’t targeting the most opportunistic keyword
- A solid one-third of the content was either “thin” or a duplicate variation of existing content
- Existing content was not properly optimized for a target keyword
- There were hundreds of spammy links being built to the site that were possibly from a negative SEO campaign
- There was a severe lack of quality links built to the site
It was apparent that we had our work cut out for us.
So, we started implementing our e-commerce SEO process.
3. Our E-Commerce SEO Process
Our e-commerce SEO process breaks down into four main phases:
- Technical SEO
- Keyword Research
- Content Creation
- Link Building
Each phase is absolutely critical to the success of an SEO campaign as a whole.
A. Technical SEO
In a nutshell, technical SEO represents how easily Google can crawl, index, and rank your pages within their search results.
Without proper technical SEO, there’s no solid foundation to build an SEO campaign off of.
Fortunately for this client, the technical SEO of their website wasn’t too bad:
- Their pages loaded quickly
- There were no broken links or broken backlinks
- Meta titles, descriptions, and heading tags were in place for all pages
- They had a solid website architecture with correct URL structure
They did, however, have hundreds of tag and category pages from their blog indexed in Google.
Not only do these pages create duplicate meta titles and descriptions, but they also bloat Google’s search results with pages that provide no value to searchers.
This hurts overall SEO performance.
This removed those pages from Google’s search results and reduced bloating.
There was also a serious lack of internal linking which causes two main problems:
I. Poor Website Coverage
The way Google finds pages on your website to add to their search results is through internal links.
The search engine literally has web crawlers — also known as spiders — that traverse websites through their internal links in search of new pages to add to their search results (they also use external links, but that’s another topic).
Without proper internal link usage, you hurt your website coverage and make it impossible for Google to crawl, index, and rank pages on your website.
A general rule of thumb is that all pages on your website should be accessible through three clicks or less from the homepage.
II. Poor Authority Flow
When a page on your website acquires backlinks (a link from another website), it grows in authority and is capable of ranking higher for keywords.
Through the use of internal links on that page, you can transfer that authority to other pages on your site so they, too, become capable of ranking higher for keywords.
Without those internal links, authority gets trapped and doesn’t flow throughout the site, which really limits your SEO potential.
To fix this issue, we went through all existing blog content and added internal links to all other relevant pieces of blog content.
We also added an internal link from all existing blog content to the website’s product page, so we could transfer authority to that page and help it rank higher for the keywords we decided to target.
B. Keyword Research
Without proper keyword research, it doesn’t matter how good our technical SEO is, how much content you publish, or how many high-quality links you build — you’re not going to rank.
And it goes beyond simply picking a high-volume, low competition keyword, too.
You need to make sure you’re optimizing pages for keywords that the pages properly fulfill the intent for.
Let me explain:
We started off keyword research by trying to identify keywords to optimize the product page for.
As the site currently stood, its product page was optimized for the keyword variation: [symptom] + cure.
Let’s say hypothetically this brand helped with nausea from alcohol usage. In that scenario, they would’ve optimized their product page for “alcohol nausea cure.”
But the problem with optimizing a product page for “alcohol nausea cure” is that the intent of that keyword is not transactional — it’s informational.
How do I know that?
A simple Google search will tell you everything you need to know.
When you Google “alcohol nausea cure”, Google only gives you informational articles.
Therefore, the intent of this keyword is informational, and it’s likely not even possible to rank a transactional page — or a product page — for this keyword.
This issue persisted with the actual keyword this product page targeted as well.
So, the current keyword targeting for this client’s product page created a no-win scenario:
They were trying to rank a product page for a keyword that Google simply won’t rank a product page for.
Knowing that, we began keyword research to find an alternative keyword that both represented the product at hand and was transactional in intent.
We did some digging and eventually found the keyword variation: [symptom] + pill.
Based on Google’s search results, this keyword was transactional in intent since it had product pages ranking for it, so we knew we, too, could rank a product page for it.
We proceeded to find several other similar variations of that keyword (we target all possible keywords for a page, not just one) and then optimized the product page for those keywords.
Next up, we needed to identify keywords for blog post opportunities.
Finding target keywords for blog posts is fairly straightforward:
First, we’ll reverse engineer competitors who have a blog and steal keyword ideas from them. Then, we’ll use tools like Ahrefs and Answer the Public to find granular, easy-to-rank-for question-based keywords related to the niche at hand.
One noteworthy thing we did was take that [symptom] + cure keyword that was originally targeted on the site’s product page, and plan blog content around it that matched the queries informational intent.
Once we had our target keywords mapped out, it was time to move on to content creation.
C. Content Creation
Before we could start publishing new content, we had to clean up the site’s existing content — and there was a lot of it.
There was a ton of issues going on, too:
- There were blog posts that didn’t generate any organic traffic
- There were blog posts that were incredibly “thin” in length
- There were blog posts that had duplicate variants
So, we ran a content audit.
We mapped out all the blog posts on the site and added columns to display: the number of links going to the page, the number of keywords the page ranked for, the traffic going to the page over the last 30 days, the sales generated from that page, and the target keyword for that page.
We then highlighted all instances of “thin” or duplicate content in red, and highlighted pages we thought we could combine that content into in green.
And finally, we executed the merging process — we edited blog posts together to rid the site of “thin” and duplicate content issues.
We also went in and upgraded all the existing and newly formed blog posts to improve their SEO performance:
- We better optimized it for a target keyword
- We added more detailed information
- We improved spelling and grammar
- We added custom graphics provided by the client
- We linked back to sources we used for the information
- We added a clear image-based CTA for the product at the end of the article
By doing so, we improved the overall quality of the site by a huge margin.
We then began creating our own content around the keyword opportunities we found and published one new blog post a week.
D. Link Building
Link building is the process of building links from other websites to yours in order to boost your site’s authority and improve its ability to rank for target keywords.
Generally speaking, you should work to get links from sites that:
- Are relevant to your site
- Are high in authority (We shoot for an Ahrefs DR score between 30-70)
- Have a solid backlink profile
- Have real organic traffic going to it
- Haven’t been nuked by an algorithm update
What makes link building complicated is that if you don’t do it correctly, you could get your website penalized and possibly even removed from Google.
So, you have to be careful (or just hire a professional to do it for you).
The trick is to make link building look as natural as possible — keep the anchor texts clean, get links from real websites (not link farms or PBNs), keep a consistent link velocity going, and build links around the entire site — except the product pages.
We avoid building links directly to product pages, as Google tends to just ignore them since they know it’s not natural (unless the link is from a listicle, product-focused article). Because who’s just going to randomly link to another site’s product page unless it’s an affiliate link, right? And affiliate links don’t pass SEO value.
But, before we could start building links, we had to audit the site’s link profile.
And what we saw was a bit scary.
They had hundreds of spammy links with the top-level domain (TLD) .gq. All of the domains were clearly link farms, and they targeted some of the site’s most important blog posts with nothing but exact-match anchor texts.
I obviously can’t know for sure, but to me, this looked like a deliberate negative SEO attack by competitors to de-rank the site.
And it looked to be working, as the pages these links targeted absolutely tanked right around the time these links went live.
Fortunately, Google offers a Disavow feature that allows you to tell them to ignore links from certain domains.
So, I added every spammy domain I could find linking to the brand to a .txt file and uploaded it.
Suddenly, all of those negative backlinks vanished in the eyes of Google.
Now we had a cleaner link profile to add to.
So, we went to work building the most high-quality links possible to the site’s homepage and blog content.
4. Results Achieved
After our time on the campaign, we were able to move all of our target bottom-funnel, product page keywords into the top-3 spots on Google. We were also able to move most of our target blog post keywords onto the first page of Google.
As a result, not only did this website reach its pre-algorithm update revenue numbers — but it actually surpassed it.
Organic traffic saw an increase of 138.9% and organic revenue saw an increase of 211.4% — which is over triple what it was prior to us getting started.
In terms of the distribution of that revenue, we managed to get their blog posts to bring in a decent chunk of change.
Just by increasing traffic and adding a clear CTA, we were able to generate nearly $4,000 from blog content alone.
Not bad for content that’s purely informational!
Here’s a look at how their traffic trended monthly during the campaign.
As you can see, SEO is not an immediate marketing strategy.
It took around 8-months before we started to really see a lift in organic traffic, but in the end, the efforts were well worth it.
Now this brand will make close to $20,000/month without any kind of ad spend.
Needless to say, the profit margins on that revenue are going to be great.
And you know what the best part is?
Since this product is a supplement, there are a ton of repeat buyers. So, while the numbers say they made around $18,000 from SEO during the month of November, the real value is that our SEO efforts will continue to grow their customer base forever.
And, now, even if their paid advertising fails…
… like it did in November.
They still have SEO to balance the scale and keep revenue coming in.