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.
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.
Table of Contents
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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
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 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).
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:
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:
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:
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.
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:
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.
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:
(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.
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.
“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
Whilst your SEO performance is something which requires a hands-on approach, the best best is to talk to the experts.
Get in touch with us today for a FREE, no-obligation SEO Audit to understand your current performance and the potential opportunities.
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