Creating an effective SEO strategy can be challenging. However, when planned and implemented correctly, it can provide a business with exorbitant results. That is precisely how we grew our SaaS client’s organic traffic by over 96%. In this case study, we’ll show you how we did it.
Before our campaign, the client’s website struggled with increasing organic traffic. Our goal was to change it and grow the quantity and quality of organic traffic. For that, we had to ensure that all three SEO components - on-page (content), off-page (backlinks), and technical factors - were addressed.
The client is a US-based SaaS (software as a service) B2B cloud software provider. While based in the US, the client also targets international markets in Europe and Asia, including France, Japan, South Korea, and China.
Challenges and Issues Holding the Site Back
Upon closer examination, we noticed several issues holding the client’s website back, preventing it from reaching its full potential. These issues were
- Index bloat. The first issue we noticed was index bloat. The client had thousands of crawlable URLs from poor-quality and irrelevant legacy pages. Our first challenge was to fix these crawl budget issues and upload the missing XML sitemap.
- Incorrect hreflang implementation. The second challenge we were facing was the wrong implementation of hreflang attributes. That meant a potential issue with the site’s content targeting the wrong users.
- Neglected content strategy. While the landing pages were relatively well-optimized, the site lacked supporting content to increase keyword visibility and drive more traffic to the website. We needed to address that and improve the website’s onsite content.
- Low authority. The website lacked the authority for the homepage and service pages to break to the top search positions. Our solution was to boost that authority through a targeted link building campaign.
Course of Action
Based on the existing issues and final goal, we came up with the following course of action:
Crawl Budget Management
Google has limited time and resources to crawl the World Wide Web. Therefore, every website has dedicated time spent by Googlebot on crawling it. That time is referred to as the crawl budget.
The key here is to know how to manage that crawl budget. That’s especially vital for extensive websites with hundreds or thousands of pages. In such cases, it’s crucial to ensure that Google only crawls the most important and relevant URLs. Otherwise, you risk index bloat.
Index bloat occurs when the site has too many crawlable URLs, where many of these pages are no longer relevant, of poor quality, or even no longer exist. In such a case, search engines index crawl those pages, wasting your crawl budget on irrelevant URLs.
The most common types of pages that can create index bloat include:
- HTTP pages, when the site already has an SSL certificate
- Paginated pages, where content is divided into several pages
- /tag/ and /category/ pages; typically of a blog
- Legacy pages; pages that are no longer relevant (the client had thousands of legacy pages of old events still crawled)
- Thin content pages; pages containing low-value content
The client had over 30 thousand crawlable pages, many of which were legacy and thin content pages.
Our job was to remove these irrelevant pages from Google’s index. The best way to do this is to implement a “noindex” tag in the page’s source code, which tells Google to crawl the page but not index it.
It looks like follows:
<meta name=”robots” content=”noindex, follow”>
You can also use the URL Removal Tool on Google Search Console, which temporarily removes a given page from Google Search.
Creating an XML Sitemap
Another problem with the client’s website was the lack of an XML sitemap.
An XML sitemap works as a map of the website’s existing URLs. It provides essential information about the site’s content (pages, files, posts, videos, etc.), specifying the most important pages for Google to crawl.
Another way to describe an XML sitemap is to think of it as a table of contents of your website. It helps Google better understand the site's structure and crawl it more efficiently and not waste your crawl budget.
We had to create one from scratch. And as daunting as it may sound, creating an XML sitemap is actually a relatively straightforward process. Ahrefs has a very helpful guide on how to do it.
Implementing Hreflang Attributes
Hreflang is an essential attribute for any website that wants to target several audiences through localized content. Essentially hreflang is an HTML tag that tells Google about localized versions of your web pages.
That ensures Google always serves the most relevant version of a web page based on the user’s location or preferred language. This, in turn, improves the user experience, minimizing the risk of users leaving your website to find more relevant content.
Incorrectly implemented hreflang can lead to Google showing the wrong content to your targeted audience. It can also lead to possible content duplication. Therefore, implementing hreflang attributes is essential.
What does a hreflang attribute look like?
<link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”x-y” href=”https://domain.com/alternate-page”/>
- rel=”alternate” tells Google there’s an alternate version of the page;
- hreflang=”x-y” tells search engines the content is written in language “x” and targets the country “y”;
- href=”https://domain.com/alternate-page”/ tells Google the location of the alternate page.
As covered, the client targets several markets - the US, Japan, France, and China. The incorrect hreflang implementation meant that Google displayed, for instance, a US page for French users, who would much prefer to access the page in their native language. That increased the bounce rate.
You can learn more about implementing hreflang tags here.
Building Topical Relevance with Blog Content
Our next challenge was to grow the client’s keyword visibility in search results by building the client’s topical relevance with supporting blog content; such as industry-specific guides and articles.
This helped display the client’s expertise and target long-tail keywords which are more specific and easier to target.
When building topical relevance, the first step is always conducting keyword research. As said, we wanted to target long-tail keywords. There are several ways to find them.
The simplest method is to use Google’s People Also Asked section in SERPs. For example, let’s say we want to write about LEGO. Google will then provide us with several long-tail keyword ideas.
It’s a straightforward method, but it’s quite limited. For a more extensive list of results, we’d recommend using Ahrefs’ Keyword Explorer Tool (in fact, this is what we did in the client’s case).
Here’s how to use it to find long-tail keywords. Let’s stay with our LEGO example:
- First, open Ahrefs’ Keyword Explorer, type in your keyword, pick the region you want to target, and click search.
- Ahrefs will present you with results and information on search volume, keyword difficulty, competitors, etc. Scroll down to see the potential keyword ideas.
- Once presented with the results, click on any of the sections (terms match, questions, also rank for, or also talk about). To find your long-term keyword ideas, filter the keyword list by lower keyword difficulty, lower volume, or a specific number of words.
- Once you have your keywords, write them down and start creating relevant content.
That’s what we did when creating the client’s content strategy. Once we had our list of keywords, we could start working on the new, supporting content.
For that, we used Surfer’s Content Editor tool. Using it, you will be able to create your keyword-specific drafts. The tool will provide you with all the details, including competitors, average content length to target, additional keywords, and more.
Using Ahrefs and Surfer, we were able to create top-quality content and increase the site’s keyword visibility, while also improving the site’s navigation through internal linking.
Furthermore, by publishing such content regularly, we were able to build the client’s topical relevance and authority, ensuring Google and users see the client as a credible source of information about the subject.
Building Links to Important Pages
No SEO campaign is complete without a solid link building strategy. It’s the key to boosting any site’s rankability and authority. The client’s backlink profile was practically nonexistent, with many of the most important pages - service pages or homepage - having little or no backlinks pointing to them.
To fix that, we first needed to identify backlink prospects. The best way to do this is to use Ahrefs’ Link Intersect tool.
To use it, you need to type in your biggest competitors’ URLs and check their backlink profiles. This’ll provide you with the sites that link to your competitors but not to you. Once you get that information, you need to reach out to these sites and pitch why you believe they should link to your website.
That’s exactly what we did for our client. Our outreach strategy was focused on building backlinks to the client’s homepage and service pages, which we targeted with keyword-rich and URL-branded anchor texts.
In just over six months, here’s what we achieved:
The organic traffic grew by 96% when compared year-on-year.
In addition, keywords ranking in the top 10 positions of Google increased from 259 to 357 a year later – an increase of 37.8%.
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