How To Choose the Best PPC Agency (And What to Ask Before You Sign)

PPC stands for pay-per-click, which is a key part of digital marketing strategy.

In a nutshell, companies pay a fee each time someone clicks on one of their ads and a higher budget generally makes the end result both faster and superior.

The aim of PPC is to gain brand awareness whilst your SEO strategy works on organically raising your website ranking.

Chances are you already know this much, that’s why you’re here.

Year on year global ad spend across every major PPC channel is growing even higher. Why? Because more and more data and reporting are showing that PPC really works.

But do you know just how important it is to get your PPC strategy right? Here are some key facts to give you a better idea.

  • 50% of people arriving at a retailers site from paid ads are more likely to buy than those who came from an organic link.
  • 74% of brands say PPC is a huge driver for their business
  • Companies spent $106.5 billion on search advertising globally in 2019, with 2020 set to be much the same – despite Covid.
  • 89% of the traffic generated by Google Ads is not replaced by organic clicks when ads are paused.
  • Search ads increase brand awareness by as much as 80%.
  • It is predicted that Facebook’s US ad revenues will move ahead of the print industry this year.

Whether you want to just drive more people to your site, get your brand out there, receive more phone calls or add customers to your mailing list – PPC is the strategy for you.

PPC can even feed into the improvement of organic results as time goes on.

As they say, “you have to spend money to make money”, and PPC is the perfect example. From social media to paid search, results are almost tangible – particularly with the right agency on board.

As we collectively navigate the murky waters of Covid-19 and its impact on the budgets of companies big and small, getting the most out of marketing spend has never been more important.

Smaller teams in particular may find themselves needing specialist agency support.

The good thing about working with an agency is that they have the existing experience, tried and tested campaigns and can spend countless hours experimenting and learning everything there is to know so you don’t have to.

When purse strings are pulled tight, it’s important that each and every penny gets a return on investment.

So if you’re looking to hire an outstanding agency to create and manage your PPC campaigns but aren’t sure where to start, don’t panic.

In this article we’ll help you out by discussing:

  • things to consider before employing an agency
  • how to get the most out of your PPC agency relationship
  • getting started on the path to PPC super-stardom

65% of brands are planning to increase their PPC budget in the next 12 months, so don’t get left behind!

Invest a bit of time and effort in learning more about your various options and use the below advice to figure out which is likely to be the best fit for you.

Before You Start Your Agency Search

Know your goals and desired outcomes and set some targets to work towards.

What exactly are you looking to achieve? The clearer you are about your objectives, the higher your chances of PPC success.

Without this essential set of information, you’ll have a hard time making an educated decision.

Whether it’s building brand awareness, launching a new product or service, pushing leads further down the sales funnel or driving sales and revenue, you want to set some measurable targets.

At the same time, you’ll need to determine how much you can spend on your ads with an absolute maximum that you can’t go over. You might even want to start small and increase your spend once you’ve done some testing and reporting.

Once you have specific goals, you can figure out which agencies are in a position to help you achieve them and communicate your needs to them.

Consider different pricing structures

The smaller your business, the more important your budget is when outsourcing work. Your PPC spend needs to be cost effective and the pricing structure can impact on this.

Fee types are usually split into two categories:

  1. ad spend + a monthly management fee – separated out
  2. a fixed price plan

Most PPC management agencies charge a monthly fee aside from your ad spend. This way you know how much you’re spending on your ads themselves and then a flat rate for the campaign management.

A fixed price plan is often better for smaller businesses and individuals with reduced budgets.

You know that your costs won’t rise above a certain level but because the price incorporates the ad spend and a management fee, you won’t necessarily know how much you’re paying for each.

On the whole, PPC agencies shouldn’t increase their prices to compensate for increased ad spend unless other factors come into play.

Other pricing types or terms you may stumble across include:

  • Performance-based pricing – which sounds like a win-win situation but often leads to higher numbers of low-quality leads.
  • Percentage of monthly ad spend.
  • Flat monthly rates – as referred to above where you pay a retainer fee alongside your ad spend
  • Hybrid pricing – where you pay a base fee plus a percentage of ad spend, with the idea that if you’re paying more for a certain month, it’s because the agency is doing more for you.

Be realistic with your expectations around what PPC agencies can and cannot do or achieve

Before we dive in, we think it’s worth remembering that whilst PPC is an effective tool to reaching your awareness and revenue goals, it’s no silver bullet.

PPC agencies cannot be held accountable for achieving unrealistic marketing targets or reviving a weak digital strategy, acquiring hundreds of new customers within weeks, getting you rich quick or delivering the perfect campaign every time (particularly not at the beginning).

It can take time before campaigns start yielding results. Testing is important and will continue to fortify your campaigns.

Much like SEO and other digital strategies, PPC can be a slow-burner and you may even see a slight decrease as the changes take effect and you re-rank for better searches.

You should also consider your level of participation in the campaigns – i.e. will your team be hands-on or do you need the agency to completely take over?

To find out more about how to get the most out of your agency relationship, read the segment further below.

Things to Consider Before Employing an Agency

Although finding the best PPC management company can be a time-consuming task, the below pointers and guide will help get things underway.

  • Are they are data-driven?
  • What kind of strategy will they implement?
  • Do they have demonstrable experience?
  • Are they experts in your niche?
  • Will they utilise strategic partnerships?
  • Are they local search savvy?
  • Have they got the right certifications?
  • Can they provide evidence of their mobile optimisation capabilities?
  • Do they know their various PPC channels inside out?
  • Will they employ impeccable keyword research?
  • Does their knowledge encompass all things digital marketing?
  • Does their working style match your requirements?

Not all PPC agencies were created equal. Some excel in certain areas but may lack in others.

One won’t necessarily be better than the other, but their suitability depends on your requirements.

So let’s take a closer look at agency characteristics and their importance to you.

Are they are data-driven?

Good PPC agencies value data, analytics and results.

They start by using what they already know about your target market to develop high-yield campaigns from the outset.

From there, they use numbers from your own ongoing campaigns to strategise new ideas and tweak their approach.

If you can’t get proper reporting from campaign performance then you can’t directly tie revenue generated to ad spend.

And in such uncertain times, every penny from your marketing budget needs to be justifiable.

If an agency’s main metric to measure success is clicks, then it’s time to cut and run.

You pay for clicks but they don’t necessarily earn you any money or win any customers.

The focus should instead be on converting clicks at the highest rate possible. Further action after the first click from search is where clicks turn into clients.

The agency might secure conversions using engaging landing pages, customised pop ups or other creative assets.

In a nutshell, clicks cost you money, conversions make you money.

The agency will then need the analytics in place to analyse and report on different sections of your campaigns, all the way back to the keyword level.

As well as clicks/click-through rates and average cost-per-click (CPC), reporting should cover the number of impressions, leads/ cost-per-lead, keyword and ad performance, and conversions/cost-per-conversion.

And these are just the fundamentals. Many agencies will go above and beyond this to provide total transparency on every aspect of your campaign.

When you’re first starting out with the agency they should provide as standard:

  • Suggested PPC channels to target and why they’re important for your company/industry
  • Competitor analysis
  • Keyword research, with input from you when required
  • PPC monitoring
  • Ongoing campaign optimisation (based on their analysis)
  • Split testing (A/B) to figure out what works best
  • Ad scheduling

Depending on your digital knowledge and team size it is worth asking to maintain complete administrative ownership over your account, so you can access all of this information with ease and without going via third parties.

In your preliminary discussions you could ask what tools they use to measure PPC metrics (like those listed above), how often and in what format they’ll share data with you, and even whether you can have independent access to reporting dashboards.

What kind of strategy will they implement?

Identifying an agency’s strategic abilities is near impossible from their website alone.

As such you’ll need to ask the right questions. After all, the PPC campaign will only be as successful as the strategy behind it.

PPC management has become a commodity and you need to make sure you’re not just ending up with a half-qualified account manager who has been stretched too thin.

Apollo, for example, ensure that any account manager is by nature also an account strategist and will take the time to learn your business and goals inside out.

Strategy is what sustains performance and leads to continued improvement and efficiency within your campaigns.

Ask the agency which platforms would be most likely to drive the results based on your vertical and target audience.

If you’ve already done some PPC work on your own or with a previous agency, ask them why it hasn’t achieved the results you hoped and what changes they can make.

Check that they will also be able to intertwine your PPC and SEO strategies rather than running them in parallel.

Choosing an agency that is familiar with your existing digital marketing strategy or at least your niche can enhance your PPC efforts and make sure your budget goes as far as possible.

Do they have demonstrable experience?

This is usually an easy one to find online.

Search the agency’s website for information that proves they have knowledge and historical experience in your industry.

One way of surveying their subject knowledge is to have a read of their blog. It should be extensive and include everything from how-to guides, comments on latest trends or digital news, to original research and agency awards.

If they’ve got all of this, chances are they’re authoritative enough to help you climb up the SERPs and reach maximum customer numbers.

Another important thing to look out for is PPC case studies.

If you find that the best case studies, or those with cold hard facts on them, are trapped behind paywalls or require a sign up, then just get in touch with the agency’s business development team.

The more closely that the case study client profile matches your own, the better. It will serve as an indication that the agency has expertise in your area and previous campaigns can serve as a foundation to build your own.

Make sure that case studies demonstrate clear end results, but also how the campaigns were originally set up, the timeline of ROI and how PPC campaigns were optimised along the way.

Are they experts in your niche?

Finding an agency that has hundreds of case studies is well and good, but if all of their existing clients are from a sector far-removed from your own then you may be no better off.

Although setting up and monitoring PPC campaigns is somewhat uniform across sectors, each vertical has its own nuances.

For example, if you’re a travel company and the agency focusses primarily on tech or FMCG, they won’t have the subject knowledge to get the most out of your spend.

Instead, opting for a travel-marketing specialist will improve the setting up and outcomes of the campaign process.

Choosing an agency with experience in your niche, allows them to be more effective and efficient in their keywords, copy creation, targeting, etc.

In 2020 an impressive 61% of millennials purchased something due to an online or social media ad.

Working on a travel-based PPC strategy now for campaigns over the next six to 12 months is the perfect use of budget, as borders start to open and people start to move around freely once more.

With a considerable amount of uncertainty regarding travel safety and contradictory information rife online, travellers will look towards experts when it comes to planning their trips in 2021 more than ever before.

Travel will become increasingly complex, meaning that customers need to engage with agents and tour operators to help them manage complicated arrangements.

Having an industry-savvy agency will help you to accrue brand awareness, align your travel brand as a trustworthy thought leader and put you in good stead to attract customers when travel resumes.

As such, be on the lookout for case studies and testimonials from other businesses in your space.

Will they utilise strategic partnerships?

Smart agencies that have been around for a while will have strategic partnerships with various search and social media platforms.

From Twitter and Instagram, right through to Google or Amazon, they’ll get the inside scoop and be the first to know about new changes and updates.

The reason this is so important is because in digital marketing, things are constantly changing.

We’re referring to product and service tweaks, pricing changes and biggest of all – those pesky algorithms. To give you an idea – Google’s search algorithm changes around 600 times a year. Hard to keep up with? We agree.

They’ll also use first-party data gathered from previous campaigns about your specific audience and how they behave.

If they’ve got good working relationships with other first-party data sources, they can connect with them regularly to seek additional info that will help them to predict buying behaviours in your space.

Are they local search savvy?

Recent research found that 76% of people who search for something nearby on a smartphone will visit the business within one day.

As such, you need to ensure your agency know how to run locally targeted ads as well as nationwide campaigns. This will be of heightened importance if you have a physical store or run tours or activities in specific locations.

Over the last two years, searches for local places with the qualifier “near me” have grown 150% faster than comparable searches without such terms.

Finding out whether your agency of choice has a strong knowledge of local search (both paid and organic) may not be that easy from their website or sales pack alone.

So give them a call and ask how they approach local paid search objectives and how they can help you engage with your local community.

Do they measure the success of location-based keywords or use bid modifiers for location-specific queries?

Remember, it’s better to ask now than to find out halfway into your first campaign.

Do they have the right certifications?

There are all sorts of certifications that agencies might have but the key ones are

  • Google Ads Certification (formerly Google AdWords)
  • Facebook Blueprint Certification
  • Bing Ads Accreditation
  • Amazon Advertising Accreditation
  • YouTube Ads Certification

Although the last few may not be relevant to your business right now, Google Ads is a must and you may find that the others come in useful down the line.

If they’re Google Ads/ AdWords certified then you are assured that they’ve taken the time to understand PPC advertising and are willing to prove it by passing Google’s unique programme.

Going above and beyond your standard certifications, some PPC agencies work to secure strategic platform partnerships (like those that we mentioned above).

For example, a Facebook Marketing Partner will have experience providing custom-tailored Facebook marketing strategies and know how to leverage Facebook advertising to drive results.

You can either ask the agency which of the above they’ve got under their belt or look for the corresponding badges on their website.

Certifications from industry giants prove that they take keeping up with digital advertising trends seriously.

PPC agencies are required to update their certificates every year due to regular industry updates, meaning that they’re more likely to be on top of changes than you will be.

However, don’t let accreditation in all of these platforms be the make or break of your agency partnership decision. PPC specialists have to take exams and accreditation can cost a lot of money depending on ad spend.

You can always ask why they don’t yet have these certifications and other ways they upskill or stay on top of trends

Can they provide evidence of their mobile optimisation capabilities?

In an age where people are short on time and always on the move, on-the-go browsing is a trend that won’t be going anywhere anytime soon.

Search advertising on mobile is expected to reach $22.8 billion by the end of 2020 and mobile devices account for over half of all clicks on search ads. Desktop is still important but it’s no longer king.

As such, PPC ads need to be easily accessible on devices of all sizes or your money is going to waste.

People may often see a travel advert in print whilst on public transport or flicking through a magazine, so you need to make sure your paid ads are coming up once they revert to online search.

As with so many of the above requirements, you may not be able to glean the information from an agency’s website so be sure to ask.

Of all the PPC agency characteristics, this is up there as one of the most important.

Ask to see mobile-specific results from previous campaigns alongside desktop reports, as well as reviewing mobile-optimised copy and display ads before your campaign gets underway.

Do they know their various PPC channels inside out?

There’s no right or wrong marketing channel and the decision will centre around your end goal.

Some of the most popular networks are:

  • Google Ads
  • Microsoft Ads (Bing Ads)
  • Facebook Ads
  • Instagram Ads
  • Linkedin Ads
  • AdRoll
  • Taboola/Outbrain
  • Twitter

We would always recommend selecting a few PPC platforms and running some tests to see works best for you.

Whilst there is no blueprint that can be applied to all businesses, we know what works well for travel and tour agencies from experience and ongoing research.

Some agencies may only manage search campaigns while others may design and manage multi-channel search and social media campaigns.

Once again, defining clear goals and required outcomes (as well as sharing as much information around your target audience as possible) will help your agency make the best decisions around which PPC networks should be employed.

Will they employ impeccable keyword research?

Keyword research involces finding words and phrases that users are searching for on Google and other search engines.

These terms are related to the products and services on your site and the most popular ones are typically the most expensive.

Google pretty much always gets it right – serving up ads for things we want, when we want them. 33% of people click on a paid search ad because it directly answers their search query.

But if you choose the wrong keyword, you’ll be paying a lot of money advertising to someone who wants something like your product/service, but not quite.

The fastest way to see a return on your investment is by targeting keywords based on intent, for example “buy cheap flights to France” or “package trip to India 2021”. This indicates they’re ready (or almost ready) to get their wallet out.

PPC visitors are 50% more likely to purchase something than organic visitors. But if you’re not using the right keywords, then those visitors will bounce right off the landing page without taking any further actions.

Even if your goal is brand awareness rather than sales, getting the right keywords will help you to connect with your customers and show them relevant messaging that matches their level of intent.

Ask the agency which keyword research tools they use, keyword strategies and metrics, and various testing they can run throughout the campaign (for example A/B testing).

Does their knowledge encompass all things digital marketing?

PPC advertising (when done well) is a truly outstanding tool, but it doesn’t exist in a vacuum.

If the rest of your digital marketing strategy is flawed then you can’t expect to achieve your goals. Strong keywords and superior algorithm knowledge simply won’t be enough to prop up your business.

As such, great agencies can look at the bigger picture and pinpoint some things that aren’t working, along with making suggestions for things that you can tweak.

That’s why going for an integrated agency is your best bet – one that can work across a combined SEO and PPC strategy, social media, website, content marketing and more.

Does their working style match your requirements?

A PPC agency can have all the technical know-how in the world but if they’re a nightmare to work with then it’s going to be a trying journey.

Ask the agency about their communication process, including whether you’ll have an account manager, director or entire team. On top of that you need to establish how they work and what level of involvement from you they need or encourage.

To minimise any miscommunication down the line, you should set expectations in your very first meeting and check that everyone is on the same page.

If they’re a bigger agency with lots of clients on board, find out how long it will take for them to implement requested changes.

Make sure you’ve met the team you’ll be working with before locking things in to see how well you get along. Are they able to explain things at the right level and do they make you feel comfortable with the potential plan of action?

It’s not unusual for agencies and clients (you) to work together for several years, so it’s important that the collaboration goes well from day one.

If your agency is not fun to work with, don’t work with them. If they’re switched on, easy to get hold of and put you at ease, great. If they’ve got a jazzy office with a ping pong table and beer fridge to boot? Even better!

How to Get the Most Our of Your PPC Agency, Relationship and Campaigns

Set clear goals and communicate your expectations

 

Like we mentioned at the start, you can’t undertake this journey until you know what you want to get out of it.

Once you have measurable goals and objectives, you can communicate them clearly to your agency of choice.

If you’re unsure of what exactly it is that you’re after, sit down with your own company’s marketing, sales and management team to seek clarity. After that you can sit down with the agency to communicate what you want.

It will be helpful to give them as much information as possible including data from previous campaigns you’ve run and digital marketing reports.

Hard data is the fastest way for them to build a complete picture about your target audience’s behaviours, as well as what has or hasn’t worked in the past.

Ensure that the ownership of content, collateral and creative assets is 100% yours.

From ad copy and landing pages, to keywords lists and and AdWords accounts, it’s important that it belongs to you in case you should ever need to change agency. That way you can take it with you rather than starting from scratch again.

On top of that, if you maintain ownership of your AdWords account, the information accumulated can’t be handed off to, or used to on the account of, a competitor – now or in the future.

Have one main point of contact, regardless of your dedicated team size

It’s important to have one primary point-of-contact with whom you can discuss any questions, concerns and strategic changes.

Having a whole team is great but being bounced around between individuals can really slow decisions down.

If your main contact is a senior team member, check that you will be able to reach them with ease rather than your questions getting lost in a daily barrage of emails.

Have regular check ins (but don’t micromanage)

PPC strategies need to be continuously tweaked, based on changes from the online platforms and networks and also ongoing reporting.

Set up regular meetings for the agency to share data from campaigns and discuss changes they’d like to make.

Here you’ll be able to ask any questions about what the reports are showing. Be sure to analyse everything before making any changes to your spending.

Don’t forget that they’ll need your input too, so don’t skip out on scheduled check-ins.

It might even be worth occasionally bringing along someone from your management team to get the occasional update on how well things are going or if your goals have shifted.

On the flipside, don’t bombard your agency with emails or constantly request updates. Let them do their thing and trust the process.

Be prepared to take on their advice and suggestions

This one is pretty self-explanatory. Whilst it’s great to be hands on and have regular check-ins, try to remember that you’ve hired a PPC agency for a reason.

They’re the professionals and once they’ve got all of the key information and targets from you, you should trust them to make the right decisions for you brand.

After all, there’s no point going through this painstaking process to find the perfect agency if you don’t intend to loosen up on the reins.

Getting Started

Now you’ve got all the information you need to make the best choices for your brand or company, it’s time to get started.

Make a list of your expectations and requirements.

We know we’ve covered this one numerous times above but we can’t emphasise it enough. Clearly laying our your goals and requirements is the building block for this entire process.

It will also make it much easier to start the search process. There are literally hundreds of PPC agencies to choose from.

Each will have their own nuances and specialise in certain industries or campaigns.

Come up with a list of agency options

Now comes the time to start researching. You can either google PPC agency and your locale or your industry type (e.g PPC agency London or PPC agency travel).

Alternatively you could use an agency directory or look specifically for those who are Google partners, use Google Marketing Platform Partners’ search tool instead.

Your final option is to talk to people in your professional network and ask for referrals. Whether that’s ex-marketing colleagues, previous employers or other businesses in your industry/vertical.

Once you’ve built a sizeable list, make sure they meet all of your key requirements listed above or scratch them off and you’ll soon find yourself with a shortlist.

Take a deeper dive

This is the part that takes a bit of time. So roll up your sleeves, open up your laptop and head online.

Check out each agency’s case studies and how they work. Do they have any customer testimonials from businesses like yours?

Peruse their specifications, how long they’ve been around, team size and structures, etc.

If you’ve got offices abroad then see if the agency also has a global presence. Never underestimate how useful it is to have teams in all the right time zones.

Learn about each agency’s methodology and ask questions

Get in touch with your shortlisted agencies and set up a meeting.

They will likely pitch you with a presentation around their bidding strategies, keyword research, data collection, reporting and campaign management.

They’ll also put together a personalised proposal or quote.

There are plenty of agencies that offer free consultations to give you an insight into their level of expertise or will show you example dashboards for previous/existing campaigns and clients.

Sign on the dotted line

You’ve made it all the way to the finish line and this is the scary/exciting part. Just be sure to carefully read the terms and conditions before you sign the contract.

Some things you want to hone in on will be definitions of services they’re providing you, who will have ownership of which assets, what is expected from both parties, pricing structure and retainer fees, confidentiality agreements, length of contract and terms of termination.

When looking at how long to sign yourself in for bear a couple of things in mind.

With the rise of AI technology it could be argued that PPC management companies may eventually become obsolete. Google has improved its automation technology with features like smart bidding.

As such, you may not want to lock yourself in for years to come as technology coninutes to develop as rapidly as a runaway train.

However, there’s a reason that most agencies require some degree of commitment.

Building your PPC strategy and campaigns from scratch takes a real investment of time and money from them, with a lot of hands-on work to tweak and refine campaigns until they are working well. In fact, most agencies don’t actually make any money on an account until they are several months in.

This is why it’s important to look at case studies and testimonials to check the agency is a forward-thinking enterprise with their finger on the digital pulse. If you’re signing up for a year or two, you want to continue getting great results.

Agencies can prove their commitment by offering minimal contracts and discussing what they do to make sure they’re always on top of changing trends.

So all we’d say is take the time to review the stipulations and make sure you’re comfortable with the T’s and C’s before you sign on the dotted line.

SEO Case Study: 7 Steps to Increase Organic Traffic by 200%

Want to get better rankings on Google? Of course you do!

However SEO is a complex beast and it can be hard to know where to focus your time to bring the best return.

In this case study, we’ll show you how we implemented a custom SEO strategy for one of our clients, and the results delivered.

Our case study provides actionable takeaways, following a simple and repeatable SEO strategy.

Any business can use this format to rank for a wide range of target keywords and drive more qualified traffic from search engines.

As can be seen below, the business is now ranking for over 50k more organic keywords:

Source: AHrefs

The process delivered an increase of almost 200% in high-quality organic traffic:

Source: Google Analytics

The Challenge

The client is a well-known magazine publisher, focused on travel, who were looking to increase the increase their Google visibility and make search a more important part of their traffic.

There was a clear need to improve their SEO performance and the increase the number of visitors coming from organic traffic.

We were challenged by the client to…”make it rain”!

Whilst Google search offers the potential to unlock a vast amount of additional traffic (the “rain”), for any client, the approach needs to be focused on sustainable, long-term growth.

Although the brand was a regular content producer, the articles published were not effectively optimised for search engines, resulting in limited organic traffic.

The challenge was:

  • Identify and resolve technical SEO issues
  • Cleanse the existing link profile
  • Enhance the link profile using high-authority in-bound links
  • Increase the overall Domain Authority
  • Improve organic rankings in Google
  • Increase overall organic traffic

SEO Strategy – Step-By-Step Process

The  goal with this case study is to introduce you to a range of new ideas which will help you to expand and improve your SEO performance and better serve your customers.

The approach that I will detail saw our client grow their organic traffic by almost 200%!

Step 1

Technical Audit

Any new SEO project needs to start with a focus on resolving any outstanding technical SEO issues.

Issues with the indexability of a site can cause fundamental obstacles to your ability to rank well for important search terms.

While your site is being crawled, search engines are checking a range of key areas including how secure, fast, and easy-to-use your site is.

Each search engine has its own algorithm, and algorithms get improved with regular updates.

When you conduct an audit, you are checking the SEO health of your website.

What is healthy one year can quickly change and therefore SEOs or in-house marketing teams need to keep up-to-date with an ever-changing landscape.

The core elements of a technical audit include reviewing both content and technical performance.

Back-end

  • Optimising site speed (hosting and image compression)
  • Reviewing the XML sitemap (submitting to Google Search Console)
  • Ensuring a logical site hierarchy
  • Review robots.txt file (adding XML sitemap if missing)

Front-end

  • Removing duplicate content issues
  • Identify issues with internal links

A technical audit is crucial to ensure key issues are highlighted and resolved.

There are a range of SEO Tools available to help with technical audits.

Those we mainly recommend are:

You may need to get some help with understanding technical issues, however this step is an important first step with any SEO project.

Technical Audit – Summary

  • Technical audits ensure that any issues which inhibit SEO performance are resolved
  • You will likely need a developer to assist with back-end SEO developments

Step 2

Keyword Research

Keyword research is a crucial next step to understanding the current SEO performance and the potential keyword opportunities.

There are a range of keyword research tools available, although the most popular is Google Keyword planner.

Understanding the scope of keywords which are most relevant to your business, and their average monthly search volume, gives you the knowledge to effectively optimise your website for search engines.

The starting point for your keyword research in PPC should be the landing pages for your products or services.

The aim is to identify the most important keyword to target with each landing page, considering both keyword volume and conversion intent (the search intent behind the user’s search).

You can research in 2 key ways:

  1. Search for new keywords
  2. Get search volume and forecasts for an existing keyword list

To find new keywords, use Google Keyword Planner to add words, key-phrases or your site URL.

You’ll get the following data:

  • Exact monthly search volumes (or volume range depending on PPC spend)
  • Level of competition
  • Top of page bid (the equivalent cost-per-click through Google AdWords)

The other option, if you have a pre-existing keyword list, is to upload the list into Keyword Planner to identify those with the highest search volume.

Researching your current rank for relevant keywords will help to identify ‘low-hanging fruit’. These are keywords ranking just off the first page of Google.

Once you have a better understanding of search volume and your current ranking performance, you will be able to identify keyword opportunities.

Look to identify as many relevant target keywords with search volume as-is possible before moving onto step 3.

The more data you have, the more informed your on-page decisions will be!

Keyword Research – Summary

  • Keyword research is key to effective SEO
  • Identify keywords offering strong search volume
  • Look for keywords with conversion intent (i.e. ‘family holidays’)

Step 3

On-Page Optimization

Once relevant keyword opportunities have been identified, it is important to ensure that there is a unique landing page optimised for each target keyword.

On-page optimisation is a crucial component of SEO, ensuring that landing pages have the best chance of ranking strongly in search engines.

Using your keyword research, the aim is to identify which is the most relevant landing page for each target keyword.

Effective on-site SEO optimisation is primarily focused on ensuring the Header 1 (H1) and page title are aligned in focus on the chosen keyword.

This process provides clarity to Google, giving you the best chance of strong organic rankings.

Having unique pages focused on specific target keywords also ensures that there is limited risk of keyword cannibalisation (two landing pages competing for the same keyword).

On-Page Optimisation – Summary

  • Keyword research is key to effective SEO
  • Identify keywords offering strong search volume
  • Identify the most relevant landing page for each target keyword
  • Look for keywords with conversion intent (i.e. ‘family holidays’)

Step 4

Cleanse Link Profile

An important step in delivering strong SEO performance is ensuring the overall link profile is healthy.

A healthy link profile is one which includes no ‘toxic’ links.

Links identified as toxic need to be disavowed in Google Search Console.

This process confirms to Google that you are aware of the link, however you do not wish for this link to be considered part of your links profile.

Disavowing poor-quality links is an essential part of giving your site the best possible chance of improving your SEO.

Note: The disavow process needs to be carefully reviewed as this can severely influence your ranks if not managed correctly. 

Cleanse Link Profile – Summary

  • Audit existing link profiles – Identify toxic links
  • Submit disavow file to Google Search Console
  • Treat disavow submission with caution (don’t be over-zealous)

Step 5

Internal Linking 

Once we completed a technical audit and solved key on-page optimisation issues, we need to think about improving the internal link structure.

Bounce rate is an SEO ranking factor, hence an initial focus was on creating clear calls-to-action (CTAs) and ensuring each page has a logical next step through relevant internal links.

This involved working with the internal team to ensure pre-existing blog content has links to core sales landing pages.

Key steps for improving content involve:

  1. Adding additional content
  2. Adding/improving imagery
  3. Adding/improving calls-to-action
  4. Adding additional internal links to key sales pages

Where possible, content relating to a specific destination or product should have an optimised link through to the relevant landing page.

Adding new links to content already live on the clients’ website was crucial in giving landing pages the best chance of ranking for competitive key-phrases.

Internal links are an increasingly more important part of SEO performance, therefore any time spent in this area is beneficial.

Internal Linking – Summary

  • Internal links are an increasingly important part of SEO performance
  • Links between related pages is crucial for overall performance
  • Use optimised anchor text for internal links (aligned with your target keyword)

Step 6

Content Strategy

An initial starting point was to review the existing blog to ensure ALL content on the site is representing the client’s brand in the best possible way.

Generally speaking you don’t want pages with less than 500 words of original content being crawled by search engines. Ideally, content will have a minimum of 1,000 words.

Reviewing and improving existing content provides 3 main advantages:

  1. Increased content depth increases the possibility that each article ranks well in search engines.
  2. Improving the content to include clear calls-to-action (CTAs) ensures that ALL of your content is working hard to convert visitors into enquirers (and hopefully bookers)
  3. Adding relevant internal links (to appropriate sales-focused landing pages) improves the websites internal link profile, aiding overall SEO performance.

Ideally all content should be reviewed, looking to improve both the keyword focus, content depth and user engagement.

Key steps for improving content involve:

  1. Adding additional content
  2. Adding/improving imagery
  3. Adding/improving calls-to-action
  4. Adding additional internal links to key sales pages
  5. Change keyword focus, if required (based on keyword research)

As well as utilising existing content, we worked closely the internal content teams to ensure that there is a strategy in place for new blog content.

Essentially the aim is to add to the number of contextually-relevant articles and to create ‘topical clusters’ which can be thought of as groups of pages that talk about different elements of the same key topic.

Ensuring that the content matches the user-intent across the entire conversion funnel is a great way to build awareness of your brand as well as helping with link acquisition and visibility.

The content you produce should:

  • Position your brand as an authority within your specific niche
  • Be of sufficient depth to effectively cover the subject
  • Contain internal links to key sales-focused pages

Your content plan should ensure that content is regularly being published.

A regular publishing schedule makes that the process is easy to manage, whilst also ensuring that Google crawls your site more frequently index new content.

Note: The more frequently your content is crawled, the quicker your search rankings are likely to improve.

Content Strategy – Summary

  • Content is king – Create fresh content regularly
  • The higher your keyword count, the better chance of your pages ranking well in Google
  • Focus on answering customer questions and providing inspiration

Step 7

Link Profile Development

Your link profile is one of the most important elements dictating your ranking performance in search engines.

Both the number of referring domains (links from external website), as well as the quality and relevancy of the sites linking to your domain, are key contributors to your overall organic performance.

Whilst the above is true for any domain, it is essential to grow your domain’s backlink profile in a natural-looking way, especially if you have a limited number of pre-existing backlinks.

With little previous history, there is a higher risk of penalisation by Google if your approach is not careful.

An initial focus was on developing high-quality back-links to the homepage which use safe branded anchor text.

A focus on links to the homepage ensures that the link-development process appears natural and also benefits the overall Domain Authority of your site.

Improvements to the overall Domain Authority improves ranks across your all your pages, delivering an increase in both ranking keywords and organic traffic.

Link Profile – Summary

  • Focus initially on links to your homepage
  • Start by using natural anchor text (brand name and URL)
  • Develop links from high-authority domains
  • Aim for content-rich links (links in detailed blog articles)
  • Start with a limited number of links per-month (ensure the link building rate looks natural)

The Results

Ensuring that the client’s site was effectively optimised for specific search keywords, whilst improving the internal link structure, has been fundamental to the results delivered.

Inbound links from contextually-relevant domains has improved the Domain Authority and the rankings for a wide range of pages.

Organic performance has been very strong, with a noticeable improvement in terms of keywords and almost 200% more organic traffic YoY!

Organic Keywords

A focus on high-authority links to the homepage improved the overall Domain Authority.

As a result of this process, rankings for a wide range of keywords have improved:

Source: AHrefs

Organic Traffic

Overall organic traffic has improved noticeably due to the increase in ranking keywords:

Source: AHrefs

As can be seen below, at the start of 2020, Google was delivering an increase of almost 200% in high-quality organic traffic:

Source: Google Analytics

Whilst the subsequent issues caused by Covid 19 has resulted in more limited value from the increased ranking positions, however once the market improves, the ranking positions deliver a stable flow of relevant search traffic.

Conclusion

Through this case study, we have illustrated the need to build content and back-links at a controlled pace, in a natural way.

The right content allows your brand to showcase expertise and authority within your niche, which increases your chances of ranking for tons of relevant keywords, both at the bottom and top of the funnel.

Talk To Us

Whilst your SEO performance is something which requires a hands-on approach, the best approach is to talk to the experts.

Advice tailored to your website, and your resources is crucial to achieving the best possible ROI from Google search.

Get in touch with us today for a FREE, no-obligation SEO Audit.

This will show your current performance and the potential opportunity through Google Search.

SEO Case Study: How to Rank for 10k MORE Organic Keywords in 4 Months!

In this case study we’re going to show you how we implemented a custom strategy for one of our clients, which has increased the number of keywords ranking in Google by over 10,000 in only 4 months!

March – July 2020 Comparison YoY (+10,000 more ranking keywords)

We want to share a process we’ve developed to improve the link profile and Domain Authority (DA) which any business can use to drive more qualified traffic from search engines.

Our case study provides actionable takeaways, following a simple and repeatable SEO strategy.

More site visitors means more impressions, more signups, more purchases — and, importantly, more revenue!

The Challenge

In this case study, we feature a fast-growing travel business offering wildlife and safari holidays worldwide.

The business is run by a team of specialists, who know everything there is to know about turning wildlife dreams into reality.

We began working with the client in March 2020.

The business was keen to improve their overall SEO performance at the start of the outbreak of Covid 19.

They were keen to invest in growing their search exposure in a way which was sustainable and offered long-term value to the business.

Our initial focus is on understanding more about the business, the most important search keywords, and the existing SEO performance.

The business was ranking in top 10 positions for a very limited number of relevant search terms.

The plan was to:

  1. Use keyword research to identify keyword opportunities.
  2. Optimise landing pages for key-phrases offering relevance and high search volume.
  3. Utilise existing content and focus on new content creation.
  4. Review the existing link profile.
  5. Develop the link profile of the homepage and other important pages.
  6. Focus on developing the Domain Authority.

So, if you’re ready, let’s dive into the case study.

Step-By-Step SEO Process

Step 1

Keyword Research

Keyword research is a crucial first step to understanding the current SEO performance and the potential keyword opportunities.

There are a number of keyword research tools which can help you to understand the keywords you rank for currently, and identify keyword opportunities based on search volume.

The most effective free tool is Google Keyword Planner which, provided you are currently running paid PPC ads, gives you exact search volumes for related terms.

The initial focus is on identifying keywords which are considered ‘quick wins’. These are pages ranking just off the first page of Google.

Pages already ranking strongly may simply need to be targeted more specifically on the relevant keyword.

The aim of the process is to identify the most important keyword to target with each landing page.

For each key-phrase will need to consider the average monthly search volume, the level of competition and the conversion intent behind the user’s search.

For example, ‘Kenya Holidays’ has more conversion intent than ‘Kenya’, albeit with much lower search volume.

Focus on  defining your niche (i.e. Safari holidays in Kenya)

You can research in 2 key ways:

  • Find new keywords

To find new keywords, add words, phrases or your site URL related to your business and you’ll get the following data:

Exact monthly search volumes (or volume range depending on PPC spend)
Level of competition
Top of page bid (the equivalent cost-per-click through Google AdWords)

  • Get search volume and forecasts

If you have a pre-existing keyword list, you can upload the list into Keyword Planner to identify those with the highest search volume.

The more keywords you have to review, the more informed your on-page decisions will be.

Look to identify as many relevant target keywords with search volume as is possible before moving onto step 3.

Step 1 – Summary

  • Keyword research is key to effective SEO
  • Identify keywords offering strong search volume
  • Look for keywords with conversion intent (i.e. ‘safari holidays’)

Step 2

On-site Optimisation

Once a list of relevant target keywords has been identified through the keyword research process, a crucial next step is to ensure that there are unique landing pages created to target each key-phrase.

This involved amending the focus on pre-existing landing pages to ensure these are focused on the most valuable keyword opportunities.

The most important on-page changes relate to the H1 and page title.

These key SEO elements need to be aligned to ensure there is a clear focus on the target key-phrase for each page.

As part of this process, it is important to identify whether there are any keyword cannibalisation issues.

Such issues occour when separate landing pages are optimised for the same target key-phrase.

It is crucial to resolve such issues by ensuring each page has a distinct keyword-focus. This process removes the chances of multiple pages competing with others for the same keyword.

Step 2 – Summary

  • Ensure you have a unique landing page targeting each key-phrase
  • Ensure the Header 1 (H1) and page title are both targeting the same key-phrase
  • Identify and resolve keyword cannibalisation issues

Step 3

Audit Existing Link Profile

It is important to ensure that the link profile of your website is clean.

A toxic link profile may be causing un-told damage to your ability to rank for competitive keywords.

An initial starting point is to review how ‘toxic’ existing links are.

Paid SEO tools such as SEM Rush provide clear visibility as to how to the total number of links to your domain deemed toxic or potentially:

Links need to be manually reviewed to ensure that those being listed for review are in fact poor quality.

Note: Links from niche domains run by specialists with poor understanding of website development can be listed as toxic. Niche-relevance is important to your overall performance, so don’t be too hasty to remove swathes of links at once. This can do more harm than good.

As well as paid tools, you can also review links pointing to your domain using Google Search Console.

Once a list of links to be removed has been agreed, you will need to submit a disavow file.

The disavow file tells Google that although you are aware the toxic links exist, you do not want these links to be considered part of your link profile.

Step 3 – Summary

  • Audit existing link profiles – Identify toxic links
  • Submit disavow file to Google Search Console
  • Treat disavow submission with caution (don’t be over-zealous)

Step 4

Improve Pre-existing Blog Content

Blog content forms an important part of the overall visibility for your domain.

Whilst the aim is to develop your authority with new content, the best place to start is to ensure ALL existing content on your site is representing your business in the best possible way.

The initial aim of the process is to review blog content, which provides 3 main advantages:

  1. Increased content depth increases the possibility that each article ranks well in search engines.
  2. Improving the content to include clear calls-to-action (CTAs) ensures that ALL of your content is working hard to convert visitors into enquirers (and hopefully bookers)
  3. Adding relevant internal links (to appropriate sales-focused landing pages) improves the websites internal link profile, improving SEO performance.

Key steps for improving content involve:

  1. Adding additional content
  2. Adding/improving imagery
  3. Adding/improving calls-to-action
  4. Adding additional internal links to key sales pages

The main benefits of investing in your existing content is:

  • Attracting new users 

Once ranking for relevant search terms, blog content can provide a valuable stream of visitors.

Content focused on answering questions relevant to your products, or providing inspiration, will ensure that visitors are similar to your target audience.

  • Promoting key pages

As well as attracting new users to the domain, content needs to focus on converting readers into enquirers.

This includes adding clear calls-to-action on blog content and using internal links to promote key sales-focused landing pages.

As we discussed earlier, internal links to these pages will also aid overall SEO performance.

Step 4 – Summary

  • Review existing content (landing pages and blog articles)
  • Identify additional content requirements
  • Add additional content, images and calls-to-action

Step 5

Internal Link Strategy

Isn’t it odd how something as simple as adding a link to another page on your site can help your SEO?

Any content on your should be utilised to promote key landing pages using internal links.

This will both promote relevant product, as well as improve the internal link-profile of important landing pages.

When we started working with the client, there were a few internal links on most of his pages and posts, but there wasn’t a clear strategy behind them.

After completing the initial content audit, there was a focus on adding new internal links and optimizing the anchor text of existing links.

The aim is to add a selection of internal links to other landing pages using anchor text that included either:

  • The target keyword of the landing page
  • Or, a variation of the target keyword
  • Or, a secondary long-tail keyword

The aim was to add links pointing to landing pages which related to the specific blog posts, including destination pages (i.e. Uganda), experience (i.e. Gorilla Trekking) and places-of-interest pages (i.e. Bwindi National Park).

This process ensures the target landing pages benefit from increased SEO authority as well as more exposure to readers of the blog articles.

Step 5 – Summary

  • Internal links are an increasingly important part of SEO performance
  • Links between related pages is crucial for overall performance
  • Use optimised anchor text for internal links (aligned with your target keyword)

Step 6

Link Building

Links from high-authority domains to your website are the most important component in improving your organic performance.

Whilst on-page optimisation ensures that your website is in the best possible position to perform well in search engines, quality in-bound links are a crucial part of highlighting the credibility of your site to Google.

The majority of links (at least at the outset) will need to be directed to your homepage.

This focus ensures that the links improve the overall Domain Authority of the website; helping to improve the ranks for a wide range of pages across your site.

Referring Domains Gradually Increased
Referring Domains Gradually Increased

This focus on links to your homepage using branded anchor text (your brand name or URL) is also the safest way to improve your overall SEO performance, whilst also protecting the long-term health of your website.

Moving forward our focus has diversified to include links to specific landing pages to improve the rankings of specific target keywords.

This process is based upon the keyword research process discussed earlier.

Depending on the existing link profile of your website, you may need to look into submitting a disavow file.

Disavowing poor-quality links is an essential part of giving your site the best possible chance of improving your SEO and this played it’s part in the SEO improvements.

Step 6 – Summary

  • Focus initially on links to your homepage
  • Start by using natural anchor text (brand name and URL)
  • Develop links from high-authority domains
  • Start with a limited number of links per-month (ensure the link building rate looks natural)

Step 7

Creating SEO-driven content on a regular basis

An important part of long-term SEO performance is regularly publishing new content.

Looking at the search engine performance of news websites, it is clear that Google loves fresh content.

Publishing content on a regular basis means that Google will index content more frequently, and subsequently is more likely to notice improvements to your domain and authority, and hence re-adjust their ranks accordingly.

SEO-driven content refers to content based on the important keyword opportunities relevant to your niche.

A common problem is to write write content then find the most valuable keywords they can find to ‘optimise’ the content for.

New content ideas for blog posts can be found through the keyword research phrase and through taking advantage of your industry-expertise.

  • Keyword opportunities

Use keyword research tools to identify keyword opportunities, use Google  medium-to-high traffic keywords with low (or medium) competition.

  • Questions

Ask your Sales team what questions customers and enquirers are asking.

This is a good way to understand the concerns that you can help to answer.

  • Best-of lists

Best-of lists are an effective way of inspiring potential customers and also ranking for competitive keywords.

With the increased word count available with such lists, the articles deliver high levels of monthly search traffic.

Step 7 – Summary

  • Content is king – Create fresh content regularly
  • The higher your keyword count, the better chance of your pages ranking well in Google
  • Focus on answering customer questions and providing inspiration

The Results

Organic Ranking Performance

The number of keywords ranking in top positions has improved dramatically since we started working with the business in March:

The focus on high-quality links to the homepage has delivered an increase in the number of keywords ranking in Google by over 10,000 in only 4 months!

(Source: A Hrefs)

High-authority links to the homepage improves the overall Domain Authority (DA), which is the key reason behind such a clear increase in pages ranking in Google.

The overall DA affects the ranking of all pages, hence this is the most effective way to improve overall organic traffic.

Organic Traffic

As a result of the improvement in organic ranks across a wide range of pages, the monthly organic traffic the website receives has improved dramatically:

120% More visits from Google alone in Just 4 Months!

Value of Organic Traffic

The value of organic traffic has also increased significantly, proportionate to the increase in traffic:

(Source: A Hrefs)

Talk To Us

Whilst your SEO performance is something which requires a hands-on approach, the best approach is to talk to the experts.

Advice tailored to your website, and your resources is crucial to achieving the best possible ROI from Google search.

Get in touch with us today for a FREE, no-obligation SEO Audit.

This will show your current performance and the potential opportunity through Google Search.

Case Study: Effective SEO for a NEW Website

In this case study we’re going to show you how to follow a repeatable process to greatly improve SEO rankings for a NEW website.

SEO case study on new website
(Source: Google Analytics showing Organic Traffic YoY)

If you’re expecting this article to tell you how to cheat at Search Engine Optimisation without putting in much effort, you’re in the wrong place!

With a new website, there needs to be a focus on improving organic performance gradually.

This article shows you the process we put in practise with new clients to effectively improve search engine rankings, whilst protecting the long-term health of your website.

Today’s SEO case study features Tailor Made Rail, a fast-growing travel business offering specialist rail holidays throughout Europe and further afield.

Whether you’re looking at a new site, or an update to an existing site, this article will look at developing the authority of a domain with limited existing history or authority.

Step-By-Step SEO Process

The Challenge

Our initial focus when engaging with the Tailor Made Rail team was on understanding more about the business, the most important search keywords, and the existing SEO limitations.

The existing website was using a Wix Content Management System (CMS).

The Wix CMS platform had limitations which restricted SEO performance, with the site also looking dated and was not performing effectively in converting visitors into enquiries.

The pre-existing website was ranking poorly for all relevant search terms, resulting in the business looking to invest in improving their search performance.

Organic traffic was not delivering value for the business, and hence a focus on improving the overall SEO performance of the site was required.

Step 1

Re-building The Website

There are a range of reasons why businesses invest in a new website.

A website is essentially your shop window, representing your business and providing the opportunity to effectively market and sell your products.

A new website is important if:

  • You do not currently have a website.
  • Your current website is not performing well in terms of site speed (an important SEO ranking factor).
  • Your current website is not performing well in terms of converting visitors into enquiries or sales (conversion rate).
  • Your current website has SEO restrictions (such as limitations regarding the URL structure), or does not allow you to effectively manage your site content.

Working closely with the team at Tailor Made Rail, we embarked on a project to modernise the businesses web-presence.

The focus for the project was on ensuring the new website effectively highlighted the quality of the products on offer whilst providing a clean user-experience.

The site was designed with SEO in mind from the outset, focusing on a logical site-hierarchy and effective use of on-page optimisation.

The new website included:

  • Mobile responsive design – An important SEO ranking factor
  • An easy-to-use, SEO-friendly WordPress platform
  • Well optimised landing pages focused on specific search terms

Whilst re-developing a website, or creating a new website won’t automatically result in tangible SEO benefits, a poorly optimised or slow-loading website can be the primary reason why you’re not seeing the results you would have hoped for.

You can see how your site is performing regarding page speed using Google Speed Test or GT Metrix.

Step 1 – Summary

  • A modern website is crucial for SEO performance
  • The loading time for your website is a key consideration
  • Your website should be user-friendly with clear calls-to-action

Pro Tip

Correctly implementing 301 re-directs is a crucial part of re-launching a new website.

Effective re-directs ensure that any rankings previously earned are maintained, and ensure that search engines can correctly re-route users to the most appropriate content.

Step 2

Keyword Research

Effective keyword research is a crucial part of building a new website.

The aim is to utilise research tools to identify keywords which offer high monthly search volume., as well as conversion intent.

Conversion intent relates to keywords clearly showing the intent of the user to purchase.

For example, ‘Orient Express Holidays’ would be used by searchers looking to holiday on the Orient Express (clear conversion intent); whereas a search simply for ‘Orient Express’ (which has higher search volume) would likely include a wide range of information searches.

The most effective free keyword research tool is Google Keyword Planner which, provided you are currently running paid PPC ads, gives you accurate search volumes for related terms.

The keyword research process is also useful to identify any ‘low-hanging fruit’ which are pages ranking just off the first page of Google.

These keywords provide opportunity to deliver immediate ROI, with a focus on improving ranking positions of these pages into top 10 positions.

Once a range of related keywords have been identified, a crucial step is to ensure that there are unique landing pages created to target each key-phrase.

Where possible, the proposed URL structure for your new website should highlight to Google which pages are more (or less) important, based on their position in the site hierarchy.

A simple Excel (or shared Google Sheets) document is a sensible way to understand for yourself the ideal hierarchy for your website, whilst also ensuring all key search-phrases are targeted with dedicated landing pages:

A core element of deciding the URL structure process for the new website is to identify whether keywords with sufficient volume would be better served through a static landing page, or a blog post.

  • Landing page

A sales-focused landing page, such as a destination (i.e. Italy) or experience (i.e. luxury rail holidays) is designed to highlight relevant product and provide clear calls-to-action (CTAs).

A landing page ideally will have a logical position in the site hierarchy, and is not a date-specific piece of content.

Effective landing pages will have a strong impact on the total number of conversions from organic traffic:

An example of a landing page would be https://www.tailormaderail.com/destinations/italy

  • Blog post

Blog posts provide the opportunity to add a large amount of content to a page which greatly improves overall SEO performance.

A blog provides the opportunity to link to relevant sales-focused pages, improving the internal link profile of key landing pages.

Blogs may include answers to relevant questions (i.e. What to pack for an Orient Express holiday?) or lists (i.e. Best rail holidays in Europe).

Step 2 – Summary

  • Keyword research is key to effective SEO
  • Identify keywords offering strong search volume
  • Look for keywords with conversion intent (i.e. holidays)
  • Ensure you have a unique landing page targeting each key-phrase

Pro Tip

Create a document containing your new URL structure, as well as the URLs of any existing any existing articles which they are replacing.

This will allow you to better manage the migration and ensure that no content is missed in the site migration.

Step 3

Improving Existing Content

Where possible, the amount of content on landing pages or blog posts needs to be increased.

Pages with thin content are those which have a low text to html ratio.

Generally speaking you don’t want pages with less than 500 words of original content being crawled by search engines. Ideally, content will have a minimum of 1,000 words.

Reviewing and improving existing content provides 3 main advantages:

  1. Increased content depth increases the possibility that each article ranks well in search engines.
  2. Improving the content to include clear calls-to-action (CTAs) ensures that ALL of your content is working hard to convert visitors into enquirers (and hopefully bookers)
  3. Adding relevant internal links (to appropriate sales-focused landing pages) improves the websites internal link profile, improving SEO performance.

Existing content, in whatever form, is your best starting point to improve your overall SEO performance.

Similarly to the keyword research process detailed above, an effective process for review outstanding content is simply using an Excel doc.

With a new (or fairly new) website the amount of pre-existing content will be very limited, allowing you to quickly group content into 3 key categories:

  1. Fine as-is
  2. Needing review
  3. To delete

Whilst the aim is to develop your authority with new content, the best place to start is to ensure ALL content on your site is representing your business in the best possible way.

Key steps for improving content involve:

  1. Adding additional content
  2. Adding/improving imagery
  3. Adding/improving calls-to-action
  4. Adding additional internal links to key sales pages
  5. Change keyword focus, if required (based on keyword research)

Step 3 – Summary

  • Review existing content – Identify those pieces in need of improvement
  • Ensure all landing pages and blogs are effectively optimised for specific key-phrases
  • Improve content depth (where possible)
  • Lay out text for mobile (short and succinct content sections)
  • Add imagery to sell your product and break up text sections
  • Add clear calls-to-action to all pages

Pro Tip

Focus on adding as many relevant internal links as possible, but don’t over-do it.

The link format for an internal link should simply be:
/destinations/italy

as opposed to:
https://www.tailormaderail.com/destinations/italy/

Step 4

Link Building – Start Sloooow with a NEW Website

With any new website, there are limitations.

Depending on how new the site is, and whether the new site is replacing an existing website; Google will likely have little prior perception of the authority (or importance) of your website.

Whilst the aim is to improve Google’s overall picture of the authority of your new site as quickly as-is possible, effective SEO involves ensuring that any growth in authority appears natural:

Links to the homepage are important to the performance of a new domain, developing the overall Domain Authority which has a strong bearing on the SEO performance of all pages.

This focus on links to your homepage using branded anchor text (your brand name or URL) is the safest way to improve your overall SEO performance, whilst also protecting the long-term health of your website.

The process ensures that all pages benefit from the increase in top-level domain authority.

Step 4 – Summary

  • Focus on links to your homepage
  • Start by using natural anchor text (brand name and URL)
  • Develop links from high-authority domains
  • Start with a limited number of links per-month (ensure the link building rate looks natural)

Pro Tip

A natural link profile will have most links pointing to the homepage, therefore your initial link-building is best-utilised focused solely on the homepage.

Step 5

Start to focus on deeper pages

All pages need external links to rank well in search engines.

The number of links needed to be competitive depends upon the page, the site, your niche, the type of query and so on.

Lower-level pages may only need a limited number of direct links to rank well, so it’s important to understand your site structure and the relationship between pages:

Remember, a link to a ‘Category Page 2’ (in the example above) will benefit any pages set as children of that page.

Therefore it’s worth deciding (based on your keyword research), which pages you will focus on with links, and how links to this page will also benefit others.

Hence the Homepage has the highest overall link benefit to your site.

The focus needs to be on increasing the number of high-quality links, at a rate which looks ‘natural’ to Google.

When developing links, the key is to identify websites which have relevance to your brand.

In the example of Tailor Made Rail, we were looking for websites and blogs which were related to trains, travel and holidays in Europe.

Content placement on 3rd party websites needs to follow a few key guidelines:

  1. Work with the highest authority domains you can afford with your budget – high quality link development cost money, there’s no getting away from this!
  2. Create in-depth content – aim for at LEAST 1,000 words of well-written content (more if possible although don’t add filler just to meet the word-count)
  3. Add your link towards the start of the piece – early links carry the most value
  4. Ensure that your link looks as natural as possible – ideally the link should look like a natural citation (reference)
  5. Add a selection of good quality links to the piece – ensuring that the additional inks are pointing to high-quality websites and that there are a selection of links to eCommerce and informational resources.

Step 5 – Summary

  • Target specific landing pages ranking just off the first page of Google
  • Consider the relationship between pages
  • Start to use optimised anchor text (the keyword the page is targeting

Pro Tip

Use optimised anchor text carefully. The more natural, the better.

You need to ensure that your overall anchor text ratio is not too highly focused on optimised keywords.

Step 6

New content strategy

Whilst the process of updating existing content and creating new links from high-quality external websites will take time, there needs to be a focus on creating new content.

A new content project will follow on from the keyword research, identifying which keywords are not being effectively targeted through pre-existing landing pages.

Once identified, the blogs or static landing pages need to be effectively optimised for search engines, which primarily includes ensuring page titles and headers are optimised for the selected target keywords.

To ensure that Google regularly visits your site, and hence indexes any new content quickly, it is important to publish content.

Step 6 – Summary

  • Content is king
  • The higher your keyword count, the better chance of your pages ranking well in Google
  • Internal links between related pages are important SEO ranking factors

Pro Tip

Adding social credibility to your blog posts (including Facebook likes) will improve your SEO performance.

This is an increasingly important SEO ranking-factor.

Results

As a result of the processes above, the overall SEO performance has been very strong.

There has been a clear increase in total visitors from organic traffic:

The SEO project has delivered noticeable improvement in the organic ranking for key search terms:

Organic Rankings

(Source: SEM Rush October 18 – July 20)

Aside from the key-phrases targeted above, the focus on links to the homepage delivers an increase to the overall Domain Authority.

This subsequently results in a wide range of keywords increasing ranking positions.

Ranks in Top 10 Positions

The number of keywords ranking in Top 10 positions in Google has improved dramatically during this time:

(Source: AHrefs)

Value of Organic Traffic

The overall value of organic traffic has increased significantly:

(Source: AHrefs)

Overall Organic Traffic

With a strong increase in overall organic traffic.

Performance Vs Competitors

When comparing overall performance with key competitors , the growth has been very encouraging:

As a result of the growth, the business is now out-performing long-established competitors.

Feedback

“Having worked with Apollo for 2 years now, we have been delighted with the accessibility and delivery of PPC and SEO services, as well as assisting us in building two new SEO-friendly websites for our UK and Australian operations.

I would have no hesitation in recommending Matt and his team to anyone looking to enhance their online presence and drive their business forward.”

Simon Hodge, Managing Director, Tailor Made Rail

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Get in touch with us today for a FREE, no-obligation SEO Audit to understand your current performance and the potential opportunities.