Case Study SEO

How to Increase Website Traffic (SEO Case Study): 200k+ Monthly

How to Increase Website Traffic

Getting website traffic is damn hard.

Right?

Not always.

If you have a solid plan to follow along with crucial SEO strategies, the hard task of getting organic traffic becomes a lot easier.

Recently we optimized a website, having 10k visitors per month and grew the traffic to 200k visitors per month in just 4 months.

Yes, you read it right.

200k visitors per month all from organic search.

And, we did all these using the same SEO techniques and strategies that we’re going to show you here.

So, grab a cup of coffee and get cozy as this is going to be super actionable and a bit long.

Website Structure and SILO Architecture

Most case study or guide starts with keyword research. Because that’s a vital part of your SEO strategy.

But having said that, the topic has already been covered by many marketing blogs.

We’re going to omit that and talk about “SILO Website Structure”

Not many guys talk about it, yet it is one aspect which could make or break your site.

I’ll clear up things with examples.

So, what is Silo?

Best Silo Structure in WordPress

Silo-ing is placing your contents having the same topical relevance under one closed pack.

This helps in preserving the link juice and get more authority and relevance in the eyes of Google.

So, what we did to implement on our client website?

We started small and decided that we are going to concentrate on only three popular categories in our niche.

We started with one category and wrote highly informational posts concentrating around that category. Following resources helped us to build authority real quick.

  1. Bruce Clay’s Theory on Silo Structure
  2. Scratch99’s guide of Silo-ing using WordPress
  3. Authority Hacker Site Architecture & Silo Technique

Later we expanded to other categories and followed the same strategy.

Regarding site structure, we created around 5 silo group on our site. Interlinking was heavily done within the posts in one group.

We avoided interlinking between various silo to preserve the topic relevance of the silo.

We did interlinking between the posts using a Inbound Autolink Anchors feature of SEO Ultimate plugin that help to use our own key phrases to auto link related articles. We used long phrase keywords as anchor texts for internal linking.

On Page SEO

In recent times there has been a lot of debates regarding the role of On page SEO as a ranking factor.

But still On page SEO is very important in improving website’s user experience. User experience is closely tied with bounce rate and thus may help in improving your ranking.

Though a lot of debate is going on the rankability factor of Onpage SEO, we still find it an important arsenal of our overall SEO strategy.

For a detailed guide, you can read following articles to understand on-page seo factors and how we optimized web pages:

  1. On-Page SEO Guide by Brian Dean
  2. On Page SEO Factors by Tim Soulo

Following are the On-Page SEO factors identified by ahrefs by having a detailed research:

On-Page SEO Factors in 2017

Here are few pointers that we used and found it extremely helpful in ranking our site:

Point 1- Meta Tags:

First I would like to talk about Meta titles and Meta Description. Contrary to the popular belief they are not the headlines in your content.

Meta Titles:

These are the headlines for your search engines and often is directly responsible for the click-through rate (CTR).

We followed the advice of Brian Dean and incorporated Google Adwords keywords into the title.

These companies are paying thousands of dollars to split test their titles, and it makes perfect sense to use their research for your Meta Titles.

Meta Description:

It helps in making Google understand your content better. In this age of technology, artificial intelligence (AI) programs like the Rank brain, it makes sense that Big G (Google) uses this parameter to understand your content. Having said that, it’s highly important to optimize your Meta description.

Following is the example of good and bad meta tags (titles & description):

Meta Title & Description Example

Point 2 – Format Content Properly

In 2017, No one would like to read a boring page of text. The attention span of an online reader is mere 8 sec.

So, it becomes necessary to format your whole article with multimedia content ( images and videos) to make it look engaging and trustworthy. Use heading tags from H1 – H6, where required to make it readable easily as shown below:

Best Practice for Content Formatting

Point 3 – Customize Social Media Headlines & Images

Most of the social media sites have different image recommendation like Facebook has size recommendation of 1200×628 whereas Twitter has a size recommendation of 1024×512.

Plus it has been found that different types of headlines work better on different types of social sites.

So, you should use custom headlines and image for each media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest by using Yoast SEO plugin as shown in below screenshot:

Yoast SEO Plugin Social Setting

Point 4 – Custom URL Structure

WordPress creates a default URL from the title, and it doesn’t look fancy at all.

In fact, the guys at Cognitive SEO did a detailed study on the effects of URL and titles on rankings.

And the key takeaway was to create content for the users rather than the search engines. Using custom made URL structure by using targeted keyword, is a very easy way to brand yourself and provide a better user experience and relevancy for your audience.

Best Permalink Structure for Wordress SEO

High-Quality Content

Back in the good ole days you can publish 300 words article and bombard it with all the GSA links, and boom ranking one is yours to take.

Not now.

If you’re looking to take the ranking one position, by all means, you’ve to produce quality content.

Google loves a long form of content. Having said that, the content length varies from niche to niche. If you’re targeting Health or any form of Internet marketing niche you’ve to produce insane content length to get any traction from Google.

For our niche we found the sweet spot as for content length would be around 2800 words. For most of the cases, a friendly but expert tone with the article went well with us.

Average Content Length of Top 10 Results

All the articles were extremely detailed with tons of examples, videos, and clever formatting.

We were able to keep the bounce rate quite low due to the high engagement on our site. A study by Search Engine Watch highlighted prime importance to links, content and user experience.

Here are some points you should remember while planning your content production:

  1. Always try to go overboard with the technical details. Nobody likes to read fluff article. The more research and analysis you put in your article, the better it will be.
  2. Try to make your content engaging by using quiz, survey and good looking Infographics.
  3. Video content share is going to rise by more than 68% in the year 2017. So, we produced 1 video per week and uploaded it to YouTube and other social channels. This helped in increasing brand identity.

Page Load Time

The total attention span internet netizen is only 8 sec. So, you need to catch their attention within that period. If your page takes even one second more to load then, you’re bound to lose audience and money.

Many newbie marketers try to save money on hosting and this brings the death bell to their sites. Recently, I read an interesting tutorial from Mathew Woodward regarding his site page load time and speed.

We found out that our site load time was around 8 sec which was not very good using Pingdom website speed test tool. By implementing several of the below strategies, we were able to reduce the site speed to around 600 ms. This had a direct impact on our conversion rate which rose from 2.5% to a healthy 7.5 %.

Pingdom Website Speed Test Result

So, how we do it?

Step 1- WordPress, Themes & Plugins Updation

We updated themes and WordPress along with plugins. Now, you must be thinking that what it has to do with page load time.

  • We found out that a well-updated site tends to load much quicker.
  • We were able to fasten our site by 500 ms from using this strategy.

Also, we removed unnecessary plugins which were not required for the website.

Step 2- Use of CDN (Content Delivery Network)

If you’re trying to build a business you’ve to shell money. Not everything comes free.

If you want your site load very quickly, it makes all sense to use a content delivery network. So, a CDN helps in loading your site from different corners of the world closest to the visitors thus saving time and money.

We found MaxCDN to be a great tool and absolute value for money.

If you’re short on money, you can use CloudFlare too.

Step 3-  Image Optimization

We used lots of high-quality images as we tend to get a very nice portion of traffic from social media. However, all the images were not sized optimized and hence was responsible for dragging the high site load time and poor user experience.

We used a free service called Compressor.io to compress and optimize all the images.

This helped in improving our site speed by .45 seconds.

Following are the exact steps that we took to optimize our images for better rankings.

  1. Rename Images by choosing the right name in plain and simple English. Describing your images helps in getting more authority to your site.
  2. Optimize Alt Tags for your images. Search Engines can’t comprehend your images, and as such, it is required to tell them what your image is all about.
  3. Create an image sitemap for your site.
  4. Try to Compress the Image Size using an online Free service called compressor.io

However, even these steps were not enough to optimize website speed and later we decided to host our images on another server.

Step 4- Code Optimization

You can do some basic code optimization by following the below-mentioned guides. However, if you’re unsure of what you’re doing, we would advise you to hire some coders from Upwork or Freelancer.

  • You can tidy up your plugin CSS by following this guide.
  • You can replace WordPress Jquery script with Google Library. This helps in speeding up your site as it uses Google’s CDN which is extremely powerful.
  • We did an audit for all of our plugins and found out many plugins which can be replaced. We inactivated them and later deleted most of them. We used W3C Markup Free Validation Service to find the code errors & warnings.
  • We used a great wordpress plugin called WP optimize to clean our database. If you’re an experienced programmer you can do it yourself otherwise you can use the plugin. Here is a nifty video which shows you how to do it.

Broken Link Fixing

Google main aim is to provide high-quality content to their user. We found that site metrics like bounce rate, 404 links are closely monitored and often has an indirect correlation with SERP rankings.

Our website has already hundreds of published posts along with hundreds of outgoing links. That means there were 404 pages served to our user which were affecting time spent on a site.

Here is what we did to fix all those issues:

First of all, we had 404 page which was not customized and looks ugly. This was hurting brand image and perception. So, we designed customized 404 page.

For some inspiration, you can have a look around some these pages like Empire Flippers 404 page.

Empire Flippers 404 Error Page

This is Inc 500 company, and we took inspiration from their page.

The first things that we like are the very funny pictures of founders saying they messed up something. Just have a look here.

Next is a neat little trick they did with the page links and the social media buttons to capture visitors attention and also to bring them back to the content part.

Here is how they do it.

Empire Flippers Social Media Button on 404 Error Page

For broken link checking and removing, I would recommend using the free broken link checker plugin.

Along with broken links, the plugin also shows the status code, and this would help you in taking corrective action.
Since we have a huge website so we had hundreds of broken links and you can play with the setting to suit it to your purpose.

We would recommend you to use a fast server when running this plugin as this would decrease the server load time.

You can stop search engine bots from following broken links. So after running this plugin for several hours, you’re bound to find some broken links.

One Pro tip I would share with you guys is to:

“Remove” broken links from the comments section.

For your blog post section, it would be better if you update or fix the link instead of removing it.

Layout & Formatting

There is a popular verbiage in the marketing world that content is king. But,

Content that delivers is king.

Having said that, here are some of the strategies that we used while formatting content to increase conversion.

Line & Paragraph Spacing:

Line space is  blank area present between two paragraphs which helps in breaking your content into small manageable chunks for your readers.

Though sometimes line space increases your content length and may create a problem for the mobile user often it is manageable.

The human eye has trouble moving from one line to another line of text when it is more than 80 characters. Thus restricted column width often performs better than another format.

We made sure to keep our content width restricted so as this easy for our user to read for a long time.

Bulleted and numbered lists help in presenting access to visually enrich pieces of information.

Quality Images:

It’s true that images speak thousands of words. You should invest some money in acquiring good quality images. Growth Supply has mentioned a great resource for finding some great high-resolution free stock images.

Try to use images along with your text so that your targeted demographic could relate themselves to your content. The image should be casual and avoid stock images at all cost. It is better to take your image or to purchase high-quality images instead of using copyright images without permission.

Pro Tip: Brand your image with your brand colors and consistent layout.

Text Formatting:

Headers and sub-headers are very important as they help to break up your long blog posts. Try to use full stops, commas, dashes and colons to make your writing sound interesting and hook your audience with your copywriting skills. You can read this article by Brian Dean where he shares many advanced copywriting secrets.

Our conversion metrics got a healthy boost from using several of those copywriting metrics.

Fonts play a major role in establishing trust and authority, and yet many site owners make lots of mistakes while choosing their font. A font like sans-serif font, Roboto are easy to go with your eyes.

Pro Tip: Use bigger fonts. Bigger fonts are generally easy to read and share and is found to have more acceptance.

Internal Linking:

We experienced internal linking is one of the key factor of ranking higher. The best part is, it leads to better SEO and stronger profile of links by having an internal linking. We used SEO Ultimate Plugin  for the internal linking and linked internal pages with exact anchor texts and with its variations to pass the link juice. We experienced, it dramatically increased page views and reduced bounce rate.

Analyze Backlink Profile:

Doing regular SEO audits for your site is very important. While doing SEO audit, you should do thorough backlink analysis of your site.

Because, those days are gone when you can blast your site with exact match anchors and your site would zoom to SERP rankings.

One more thing we found that Negative SEO is real. Your competitor will do anything in their power to destroy you.

Here are some methods that we used and found it to be working well for us.

Use Google Disavow Tool:

There are three steps to this. First, you need to collect a list of all the sites linking to your money sites. Now you can use an online service or Google webmaster tools to find out the source of links to your site. You can find “Links to Your Site” under “Search Traffic” section. Following video will guide you step by step procedure:

If you’re planning to use Ahrefs , here is a quick video to help you in this endeavor.

Now the question is how do you determine you’re getting negative SEO. First, if you see some spammy Chinese or Russian links then definitely you need to look further. Moreover, links from porn/gambling sites should also be avoided.

Other than that, you need to download all your links and put it in MOZ. We found that the MOZ spam score is a good metrics to trust.

Now comes the meaty party to let Google know about the spammy links. We have to create a text file with all the spammy links or better you can ignore the complete domain which is sending spammy links to your site. You can simply mention the domain: example.com in that text file to block all the links coming from that site.

You can go to Google Disavow links page here after login from your Google webmasters tools account, and select the domain to disavow all the links coming from the site.

So, we found a lot of incoming bad links to our sites in the month Jan and were able to disavow them by the month of Feb.

Pro Tip: Always keep your disavow text file updated.

Diversify Anchor Text Distribution

Back in the old days of SEO, you could pretty much rank anything with over optimized anchor text. Now in 2017, if you try to pull off this hack, it could eventually lead to a penalty.

The idea is to build a site with natural anchor texts. This could mean that the site should have around 50% brand anchor text with naked URL making the next 25% of the anchor text with different variations.

The site did have around 10% partial match anchor text, and we completely avoided the exact partial match as it was already targeted for negative SEO.

We wanted to play by Google and now looking at the traffic after six months, it seems everything worked great.

We analyzed hundreds of sites in our niche and found most of them were using the same anchor text like for example if someone is building a site for the golfer, the keyword “Best Golfer equipment” are used for more than 100 hundred times.

We totally avoided and made sure that no same partial match anchor text to be used more than one time.

Now if you’re interested in learning how the overall should look in an Authority site, I would suggest looking at this video by Tim.

Perfect Anchor Text Ratio

Now and then, I see people getting hung up on the perfect formula for anchor text ratio, etc.

And, the sad part is that after a lot of consultation, they end up doing the exactly same thing that would make their backlink profile look unnatural.

So, I would advise you to get more and more brand anchor texts in the range of 40% to 50%.

Also make sure that you add around 15% of naked URL, HTTP URL and generic anchor text like.

Following is detailed anchor text ratio, we found ideal for the ranking. But, you don’t need to follow this as it is for every project but you can play with some variations:

Anchor Text TypeIdeal Anchor Ratio
Brand Name30%
Brand + Keyword Anchor12%
Title Tag10%
Full Open URL (Naked URL)9%
website.com (Naked URL Variation)7%
Long Tail Random6%
Partial-Match6%
Generic Anchor6%
Long Tail Exact5%
LSI Keyword Synonyms5%
www.website.com (Naked URL Variation)1%
Exact Match1%
No Text (Image)1%
Author Name1%

Social Sharing

Now social sharing and growth were an integral part of our strategies. Even though we don’t have concrete evidence we could like to believe that our social growth partly played role and especially social signals helps to bypass the Google sandbox time for the fresh websites.

Here are some of our strategies that we used and worked extremely well for us:

We’re always on the lookout to increase our page speed and found out that our social sharing plugins are responsible for making our website slow. Our suspicion also got validated when Shane Melaugh did this case study.

We found Mashshare plugin to be working fine for us without compromising on our site speed.

Secondly,  You need to have automation in place so that you can share your post on all your social media sites. Have a read  article by Mashable on Social Media Automation.

Thirdly, try to write engaging headlines for your social post. Make sure that you incorporate some power words.

Pro Tip: Analyze the headlines with free tool CoSchedule Headline Analyzer.

Link Building

Even in the Rankbrain and Hummingbird, Google SERP algorithm is largely dependent on backlinks. So let’s get started with it.

Web 2.0 Link Wheels

This is considered as gray SEO technique. We find it effective but these are still risky regardless of the fact how safe you are playing with this.

We built 10 different link wheels in the period of 5 months (Two Web 2.0 Link Wheels in each month).

Web 2.0 SEO Technique

How to Build Web 2.0 Link Wheel for High Ranking:

You can create your web 2.0 link wheel with following steps:

Tier 1 Links:
  1. Create account on 5-10 different web 2.0 websites. You can download our list of web 2.0 websites which we used for this campaign.

    Download: 70+ Web 2.0 websites list for Free & easy backlinks.

  2. Setup blog on each website: This will be sub-domain of main website. Follow below steps to create blogs:
    • Use your targeted keyword in the URL of the blog. Preference should be to have exact match keyword in the URL. Like “TopKeyword.blogspot.com” or “Keyword.tumblr.com
    • Customize the Title & Description: Title should include the Name + Keyword of the blog. Also, write a unique description of the blog having your target keyword like: “This is the resource website / blog for Target Keyword” or “If you are looking for Target Keyword. We are here to help you.”
  3. Create “Contact us” and “About us” pages: By having both pages, your blog will look more professional and authentic. You can have couple of lines on about page and you can link back your home page (not always). While on contact page, you can have form to contact back with some statement like: “Feel free to contact us, if you have any question related with Keyword.
  4. Welcome Post: You can have 250-300 words related welcome post. No need to link or think more about its optimization.
  5. Fill-up Blog with Content: At this stage, you need to fill up your blog with relevant high quality content. Post 3-8 articles on each blog to avoid consistency on number of posts on each blog. Use videos, images, quotes, infographics within the posts and link back to some industry high relevant authority website within content but don’t link your competitor.
    You can follow below guidelines for the web 2.0 articles:

    • 500-800 words minimum (better to have even more).
    • Write high quality and 100% unique content.
    • Highly Relevant – Article should be directly relevant with target keyword (not a general article).
    • Keyword Density – should not more than 1-3%. Use target keyword in natural way and add in title, first sentence, middle of the article and last sentence.
  6. Use Images: Add 1-2 images in the article. Keep name of the image as your Primary keyword and use exact match keyword in the ALT tag of the image. For the 2nd image, you can use variation of the keyword.
  7. Embed Videos: Find any related video from YouTube and embed in your article.
  8. Link with Authority Resources: Link any of the authority resources in your article and make it sure to place your link first.
  9. Internal Links: Link other post of the blog with in the article with some long phrases.
  10. Anchor Text: You can play with different variations to make it more natural. We used below ratio:
    • Brand Name: 30%
    • Generic: 20%
    • LSI Keywords (Partial Match): 20%
    •  URL Variations: 20%
    • Exact Match Anchor Texts: 10%
Tier 2 Links:
  1. Social Share & Bookmarking: we shared on social platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Google plus. Also, bookmarked on many websites.
  2. Links from Document Sharing Websites: We wrote 5 unique articles average 350-400 words and submitted to following websites:
    • Zoho
    • Issuu
    • Dropbox
    • Drive.Google
    • Edocr
  3. Links from Image Sharing Websites: We submitted images on different image sharing websites and placed our keyword and link in the description of the image. we used URL as anchor text for the image based links.
    Following is the list of websites which we used to share images:

    • pinterest.com
    • dropshots.com
    • photopeach.com
    • fancy.com
    • dayviews.com
    • flickr.com
    • deviantart.com
    • 23hq.com
    • imgur.com
  4. Blog Comments: We built 5-10 comment back links for each blog.
  5. Forum Profiles: Randomly, we built 5-10 related profile links for each blog.

Social Signals & Branded Persona

We created our social fortress around Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Google Plus and other top social sites with a backlink to our sites.

We created branded persona on Quora, LinkedIn Groups, Facebook groups and other, similar forums related to our niche. After making sure that we have contributed some value to the community, we started dropping links to our sites.

We have experienced social signals directly impacted to have higher & stable visibility in search engines by increasing citations, inbound links and brand awareness.

Social Signals Ranking Factors

Forum Posts

Forum traffic is highly targeted and converts well. However, we mostly neglect forum traffic and concentrate on other sources of traffic.

But to get the most out of forum traffic, we need to build our accounts in the right way. Try to create an original account with a good logo and profile description. For the first month, don’t try to do any promotion or drop your link. Rather you should concentrate on adding value to the community before dropping your post link.

Forums links helped to build a authority in our niche along with the referral traffic.

We used following search terms to find the relevant forums in our industry:

  • Target Keyword + Forum
  • Forum + Target Keyword

Blog Comments

Blog comments itself don’t carry high authority but helps in building a relationship with other bloggers and linkerators in your niche. This can be the first step towards securing a guest post.

Try to leave a detailed comment rather than a generic looking comment.

Each week we posted 3+ blog comments on relevant posts on different high authority blog with URL of home page and person name as anchor text.

You can download our template to find relevant  blog comments and manage in proper way.

Pro Tip: Don’t link out to your money site using exact match keywords. Instead, you should use your name / persona name / brand name to make it look authentic.

Business Directories

Business directory links have much authority especially for local search engine ranking. So, we focused on it and built almost 40 links.

Just to let you know, there’re also some paid links for which we’ve to pay money.

We searched business directories by using following Google search operators and you’ll get a ton of suggestion to work with:

  • “best directory + keywords”
  • “best directory + location”

You can also do some competitor analysis, and if you find some directory links, you can go for it.

Guest Posts (Blogger Outreach)

This was the bread and butter for our link earning process. We went with a simple 3 step process.

  1. First, you need to get a list of sites that accepts guest post. You can use some of the operators mentioned by Himanshu Sharma on Optimize Smart.
  2. You need to analyze that those sites are authentic and legit. Go for sites with DA30+ and TF15.
  3. Now use an outreach campaign tool like Ninja outreach to contact bloggers in your niche or you can manage it manually as well.

By following these simple 3 step process, we were able to build around 50 guest post links.

Download: Templates & spreadsheet to manage blogger outreach campaign.

PBN Links (Grey Hat SEO Technnique)

PBN (Private Blog Networks) links are very powerful, but there is a real chance that you may get penalized. So, please exercise these option with caution.

Here are some pointers that you should remember while building your PBN network.

  1. Different Registrars: Make sure that all your PBN domains are under different registrar.
  2. Different Hosting with C class IP minimizes the footprint.
  3. Each website should have these following pages about/contact/privacy policy.
  4. Content should be unique and 100% original.

We managed to built 30 PBN links in the period of 5 months.

Press Releases

The overall press release is a very effective link building strategy. Whenever you release any new service and product, you can use a press release to make the general mass aware of it.

There’s various Press release syndication service which can publish your offer in around more than 200 media sites.

We published 10 press releases in 5 months (every 2nd week, we were submitting press release) and in the result, we experienced increased brand awareness and lot of referral traffic with higher conversion rate.

 

Over to you…

Phew! This became long.

We’ve already shared all of the secret strategies that we use to take our website to 200k visitors a month from On page SEO to link building.

If you’ve such experience in building such site, please let us know what challenges you faced and how was the experience.

And, if you like these post, make sure that you share it with your loved ones.

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