Many sites struggling with low organic traffic find themselves in this position because they do not have a cohesive SEO strategy to guide their efforts. With enough time and effort put into the identification of the main issues that hinder traffic, an effective plan can be created to radically improve the site’s visibility.
This is what we’ve done to help our real estate client break into the first page of the search results for some of the most important keywords pertaining to their niche. This case study lays out all the steps we’ve taken to achieve that.
The campaign’s main goal was to build organic visibility of the client’s website. The content with the potential to do so was already published on the website, and through optimizing it for carefully selected keywords, we aimed to facilitate the site’s rise through search results pages
In this particular case, the client is a website aggregating some of the most attractive real estate development projects in Southeast Asia. The target audience of our client are people looking to buy or rent new homes for themselves and their families, as well as those seeking out prospective investment opportunities.
Issues Holding Website Back
Upon careful investigation and analysis of the website’s performance, we managed to identify three main areas that prevented our client from attaining the highly coveted traffic that comes with popping up on the first pages of search results:
- Low quality backlinks: we carried out a backlink health check on the site, which revealed an abnormal amount of low-grade backlinks. Most likely, this was the result of a negative SEO attack.
- Poor performance of long-form content: despite the fact that the client’s website was full of informative, authoritative articles and lengthy blog posts, the content failed to break into the first pages of search results for important low-hanging keywords.
- Technical shortcomings: the site struggled with slow loading speeds as a result of numerous internal redirects; as well as had poor visibility and user experience due to missing breadcrumbs.
Course of Action
The identification of existing issues and a careful investigation of their potential causes allowed us to devise the following course of action, which ultimately resulted in improving our client’s organic search traffic and enhancing the experience of navigating their website.
When it comes to improving a site’s rankability, few tactics are better than obtaining high-quality backlinks that direct users to your websites. High-quality backlinks from reputable sites are a great way of helping any site rise to the top of search engine results pages.
However, it also works the other way around: unfair competitors or other malicious actors can build hundreds of spammy, unnatural, low-quality links to your site. This is known as a negative SEO attack, and the end goal of this strategy is Google taking notice of these links and flagging your website, resulting in a manual penalty.
This is why keeping a close eye on your website’s backlink profile is crucial to maintaining rankability through backlinks. The easiest way to assess whether or not your site has been affected by a negative SEO attack is by regularly checking the site’s link velocity, which is the frequency with which it receives backlinks.
It can be done through Ahrefs via its “Site Explorer” tool.
Once you’re there, look for the “Referring Domains” graph and keep your eyes peeled for any abnormally sharp spikes in a short timeframe.
If there are any, you should investigate these links by heading over to the “Backlinks” report and checking them one-by-one.
Should you spot any potentially malicious activity, you can take action by disavowing spammy links. This will keep search engines from associating these links with your website. Google has a pretty handy guide on how to disavow backlinks, and you can find it here.
Our client was flooded with poor backlinks. Upon investigating, we arrived at the conclusion that they were most likely a target of a negative SEO attack. We took action to separate the site from these links, thus improving the client’s backlink profile health.
Low Hanging Keyword Targeting
Another major problem our client faced was the poor performance of their long-form content pieces in search results for pertinent keywords. Although the content was packed with useful information (most of their articles and blog posts were over 10,000 words long), they were stuck on page 2 of the search results for keywords that they should rank in the top 10 results.
Keywords that your website ranks for in the 11-20 search result spots (i.e. the second page) are known as low hanging keywords. Think of them as low-hanging fruit – they’re the easiest to pick out and reap benefits from if the appropriate action is taken.
To identify low hanging keywords for your website, you can once again use Ahrefs’ “Site Explorer” tool.
- Enter the URL of the content you want to rank higher for, and find the “Organic Keywords” report.
- Next, hit the “Position” dropdown menu, set the range to 11-20, and apply the changes.
- Additionally, you can filter the results further by sorting them by “Keyword Difficulty,” and focusing on those where this marker is at less than 25.
The report will now show you the keywords that your website is just short of ranking on the top page for.
You should end up with a list of easy keywords to focus on when tweaking your content to rank higher. Take action by carrying out content gap analysis to see what exactly you’re missing in your content when compared to the top ranking competition for your target keywords. We’ll use an abstract example to illustrate the optimization process.
Let’s say you’ve got a website where you review consumer electronics, and your review for a particular set of Bluetooth headphones consistently falls on the 11-20 spots for the most important keywords. Here are some factors you should look for to see why your competitors ranked higher:
- Additional information you missed in your review: some easily missable aspects of headphone reviews include durability of the material, range of connection, etc.
- Variety of content types: you should keep the content varied to improve its rankability – things like videos or photos go a long way.
- Keyword density: you might not be using your target keyword enough compared to your competitors.
- Addressing user intent: always ask yourself why users type in the target keyword when using a search engine. For example, your review might be a detailed, keyword-rich description of the product, but it won’t be of much use to the reader if you don’t include your subjective opinions and feelings about the product.
- Headings, titles, meta descriptions: double-check whether or not your headings are structured correctly, your title is relevant, and your meta description falls within the 90-160 character range.
Eliminating Internal 301 Redirects
Implementing 301 redirects is important when you change the URLs of certain pages or migrate your entire website to a new domain. By doing so, users will still be able to find your content even when clicking on outdated links. In short, they redirect people to the new URLs without interrupting their browsing experience.
While necessary, 301 redirects are not perfect. They slow down the page loading time, seeing as whenever the old link is clicked on, the server needs to head over to the outdated URL, “see” the 301 redirect, and only then take the user to the right destination.
If you have dozens or even hundreds of internal links scattered across your website on different pages and have recently moved to a new domain, all of these links will now be redirected using that extra step. This, in turn, dramatically increases the load speed of your website.
The goal of removing these internal 301 redirects is therefore to reduce the number of steps the server needs to take to have users end up on the right page, in result making your website load faster. All you have to do to achieve this is simply replacing the old internal links with ones that link directly to the updated URL.
Click here for a detailed guide on how to find your 301 redirects and fix them.
Our client’s website was also missing another crucial technical element – breadcrumb navigation.
In short, this is a list of links that show the user’s precise location as they navigate the website, not unlike Hansel and Gretel leaving a trail of breadcrumbs to find their way home.
Here’s an example of breadcrumb navigation:
Keep in mind the following points when implementing breadcrumbs on your site. We’ll stick with the electronics review page to illustrate some of them :
- Strategic placement: your breadcrumbs should be easy to find, but not in a way that disrupts the readability of your pages. Keep them close to the top of the page, and don’t use large, distracting fonts.
- Differentiate from your main navigation bar: a good breadcrumb trail doesn’t replicate your site’s navigation bar, but rather tracks the user’s journey through your website, providing a unique navigation option that’s not as easily accessible through the main bar.
- Be wary of breadcrumb types: there are three main types of breadcrumbs:
- Hierarchy-based: used to navigate to increasingly specific subpages, for example: Home > Audio & Video > Accessories > All Headphones > Bluetooth Headphones.
- Attribute-based: aimed at allowing users to filter content on their own, for example: Headphones + For Gamers + Bluetooth Headphones + In-Ear.
- History-based: also known as path-based breadcrumbs, they trace the user’s path so far. Usually, websites don’t display the entire path (as that would duplicate the navigation bar functionality), and instead show a button allowing people to return to the previous step, for example: “< Back to All Headphones”
For a more in-depth look at breadcrumb navigation, as well as how to implement it on your own website, check out this detailed guide.
Link Building Strategy
Earlier on in this section, we detailed how we went about mitigating the effects of a negative SEO attack. After restoring our client’s backlink profile back to normal, we moved on to devising a link building strategy to obtain quality backlinks from relevant pages. This is a crucial step in any webmaster’s effort to optimize their website for search engines.
In order to do so, your first step should be to identify the underperforming pages through Ahrefs’ “Site Explorer” tool.
In there, find the “Top Pages” report and sort by “Declined” in the “Traffic” dropdown menu.
You can also do the same for “Keywords.”
After applying the changes (don’t forget to set your target country!), you’ll be presented with a set of results.
These are the underperforming pages you want to boost using new backlinks.
The next step is to decide on the anchor text for your backlinks. For our real estate client, we went with keyword rich and branded anchors. Since implementation, our client’s domain authority grew steadily over the course of the past year.
To illustrate this strategy, let’s say that on your consumer electronics review page, you found that a list of the top-rated third-party PlayStation 5 controllers is underperforming. Here are some examples of the anchor text you could use for your backlinks:
- “Best third-party PS5 controllers”
- “Top DualSense alternatives”
- “YourSiteName controller review”
Using the strategies outlined above, we managed to not only guide our real estate client’s website’s to recover from a negative SEO attack, but also improve its loading speed, raise domain authority, and elevate underperforming content.
Our client is now ranked for 1,613 keywords in the top 10 positions of the search results, which is quite a jump compared to 420 twelve months before we took action.
On top of that, their number of users increased by 90.97%. The total number of sessions also increased by 94.91%.
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