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Time for Marketing

Sep 2019

#25 - Matthew Woodward - Case study: 14 x Organic traffic in just 8 months

September 23, 2019

Matthew publishes blog content and case studies on his personal website and on his company website. The case study that we talked about is published here with much more information and all the tiny details.

You can also find Matthew on Linkedin or Twitter.

You can also watch the whole presentation on YouTube

Here is the transcript of the podcast:

Matthew: One of the biggest wins we had was with the homepage where we deploy I think around 10,000 words of content.

Peter: This is the time for marketing. The marketing podcast that will tell you everything you've missed when you didn't attend the marketing conference.

Peter: Hello welcome to the time for marketing podcast the podcast that gives you all of the information that you have missed when you didn't attend your marketing conferences. Welcome to episode number 25 my name is Peter and I'll be your host for today before we go to our guests. I'm not going to tell you to subscribe to the podcast I'm going to tell you and ask you something else tomorrow when you go to work. Yes, I know you work with a lot of marketing people when they leave their cell phones on the table take them open their podcast app and subscribe them to my podcast, that's probably the easiest way to tell people to subscribe to the podcast thank you. All right and now let's go to the guests that we have this time hello Matthew Woodward how are you doing?

Matthew: [laughs] Hey, thanks for having me on. I love your little tip there a very blackhat approach so to speak I think I might steal that one for myself of next conference [laughs]

Peter: Well, people don't randomly talk about podcast and mention podcasts to other people that doesn't happen. We have to give them specific advice this is always a marketing thing be very specific on what people should do click here, subscribe other people to my podcast. Nice to have you here on the podcast, Matthew.

Matthew: Thank you very much.

Peter: Matthew people know you. You have a very known blog that is matthewwoodworth.codit.uk and you are also the director of search logistics. Tell me what are the fun things that you do in your line of work?

Matthew: Well, my line of work all of it is fun from top to bottom. I've been doing SEO since before link-building existed and I've been following my passion ever since. The fun things I get to do every day is just nerd out on what I love doing and that is SEO and digital business and everything like that. Honestly, it doesn't matter if I'm doing like some like boring data entry tasks or planning a new promotion [laughs] I love it all.

Peter: All right. I invited you to this podcast because you were in Barcelona, how is Barcelona?

Matthew: Yes Barcelona a beautiful city. I don't usually like cities, but Barcelona was pretty cool. The Affiliate Summit Conference is one of my favorite conferences because it attracts such a wide variety of people rather than just SEO or just the ECOMAS guys and so forth. It's a great conference and I put together a great presentation for them which I'm hoping to boil down and share with you guys today.

Peter: I feel that affiliate marketing is, similar to SEO, it has been pronounced dead a couple of times in the past.

Matthew: Yes.[laughs]

Peter: It's still there and it still works very well right?

Matthew: Yes, as long as there are things to buy there'll be affiliates and as long as there are search engines to search they'll be SEOs. [laughs]

Peter: All right let's not beat around the bush that's what we do. Let's go directly to your presentation, your presentation was a case study on how to increase your search traffic for 14 times?

Matthew: Yes, we took search traffic from 2,700 a month to 38,000 in just eight months with an affiliate site in the health niche.

Peter: All right. I think we have to take our five minutes so that you can explain to us how you did that so that we can repeat that for our own websites here you go.

Matthew: Look SEO doesn't have to be complicated. One of the things I know as popular SEO blog owner is that people always like looking for the secret ingredient or the supersecret to SEO. The truth of the matter is it just doesn't exist. There isn't a super-secret to find, there isn't a super ingredient, there isn't that one thing that's going to push you over the edge. It just doesn't work like that. It's a combination of factors that will help to elevate your search traffic. The problem is most people are only focused on one of those factors which is building links.

It's very easy to get lost in the technicalities and complications of SEO, but look it boils down really to a very, very simple three-step process. That is, first of all, take a look at technical SEO. You've got to build the structure of a solid and healthy website structure that not only Google loves, but people love as well. The second step is you've got to create content that actually helps people. It's actually, got to be relevant people actually want to engage with it. It's got to be the content that when people read it they want to share it. No one wants to link to a lemon and many people don't produce good enough content that's worthy of attracting links naturally it's a common mistake.

The third step is link building and that just acquiring links from relevant websites. That is 10 times easy to do when you've taken care of content creation and your technical SEO and on-site experience. Those three pillars the healthy site structure, the content and the link building those three pillars if you pay attention to them and work them together have absolutely incredible effects. You don't need SEO to be complicated just take care of the basics and Google will reward you. The problem is many people don't want to take care of the basics.

Honestly, that's all we did in this case study we 14 times search traffic in a highly competitive health niche and we only built 76 links. Over that period the site actually attracted around 350 links. Now the reason it was able to attract 280 links was that because we paid attention to site structure and content before we went out to do the link building. now if you had to budget for those additional 250 links in the health niche you'd probably have had to spend around a hundred to 150 dollars per link. Not only from an ROI perspective is taking care of your technical SEO and quality of content important.

It's important for your users, it's important for Google your rankings your traffic and conversion everything relies on getting those three pillars right, but so many people are blindly obsessed with link building they can't see the woods for the trees and then they use all of their effort and all of their resources building links which they're not getting the maximum value from those links because they haven't taken care of the other core pillars and when you take care of all of them they all work together and it's the most cost-effective way of increasing your search traffic.

Now the case study site and I've got a very detailed case study that drills down into all of the technical differences that we could simply not cover in five or ten minutes. If you want to check that out there's a full post on my blog along with a video that goes through all of the real nitty-gritty technical bits it leaves no stone unturned. We faced a common problem with this site that many people might face and when we were trying to rank it the search results were dominated by huge brands huge, huge, huge brands and that's quite scary when you're looking at it.

What we noticed is the brands that were ranking specifically the pages that were ranking were only ranking out of the strength of the domains Authority. They were not ranking because of individual page level metrics like backlinks that men that if we focused on page-level metrics we had an opportunity. For example where a site like Holland and Barrett might be ranking number three, but with zero links to the page. Yes, if we build a page it's got 15 links to it we've beaten them on page-level metrics and that gives us an opportunity to compete in the search results.

That was the common theme of this case study we were looking for search results where sites were purely ranking out on the main level metrics rather than page level and then we optimized all of the page level metrics in order to compete. Now the health niche is seriously, seriously competitive, but that approach allowed us to find lots of opportunities that

once we approached it with that mindset and that's how we got the competitive advantage with the entire strategy that was really the foothold that allowed us to take control. Once we identified the opportunity, it was in just a case of looking at our competitors seeing what they were doing why they were doing it how they were doing it.

We were looking at what they did that we liked, what we didn't like where they're using trust signals on the page was the content aligning to intent we really just did a very manual observation of the search results to see what we felt. Now, manual observation, the power of observation is one of the most underutilized skills you can have as a human being, like in general life. Not only in SEO but we can learn so much as by observing and in the SEO world, we're often distracted by big data and tools and analytics and all these other things that actually stops us from just using the computer between our ears.

Quite often you can just look at a search result and just ask yourself questions, why is this ranking and look through the data and come up with your own observations rather than just looking at what a tool says. That's important to do because you really start to get a feel not just for the SEO of the niche, because every niche is different, but also who your competitors are. Why are they your competitors, what they do good, what they do bad? It becomes more of a business exercise and it's something that's lost on many SEOs and people skip over.

Once we decided on our strategy, we observe the search results and we found our opportunities, then it was just a case of going and making sure we had build a solid site structure that Google loves and humans love. I drilled down more into that in the post be`cause it gets very technical and the issues this site had is unique to this site. We have issues with page speeds, site structure, duplicate content, had some issues with trust signals and a few other areas. Have a look at the full case study and see if your site suffers from any of those problems as well. If it does, you need to fix them.

Once we've taken care of there was like seven or eight key issues that was preventing us from building a solid foundation that Google loves. Once we built that, it was then just a case of creating content. Now, we created the content of the back of the manual observation we've done in the search results. We've made a note of what was ranking, what we liked about it, what we didn't like about it and so forth. We went out and created content that matched that specifications. One of the biggest wins we had was with the home page where we deployed I think around 10,000 words of content.

Sorry, the home page originally had 1,500 words of content on it. We increased that to nearly 11,000 words just by answering 20 of the most popular questions in the niche. The impact on that was the home page went from ranking for like a handful or keywords to over 11,000 different keywords just by adding about 10,000 words of content to the home page. We went out and we made sure all of the content we were creating for our target keywords is at least equal to or slightly better than our competitors. There's literally no reason to be ten-timesing your content, you've just got to match or better your competitors.

Once that was in place, it was just a case of acquiring links from relevant sites and trust me, many, many people struggle link building, but link building is really, really, really easy when you've created content that people actually want to link to. It's a much easier sell when you picture, hey, look at this awesome post when it is actually awesome and that's a big part that many people will miss when they're so focused on link building. They can't see the woods for the trees and then they miss out on much bigger opportunities and end up spending a bunch more money than they need to, to acquire the same amount of links.

Once we have taken care of on-site structure, technical SEO, the content and then the link building, those three basic pillars of SEO. We saw traffic grow from 2,700 per month to 38,000. That's a 14 time increase in 8 months in one of the most competitive niches on the planet. We did it solely by taking care of the every basic pillars of SEO, wasn't complicated and that's the biggest advantage that you often have in it in SEO. Just by using the power of manual observation and seeing where you can fit in with things rather than relying on tools and analysis and this and that and the other.

Just look for those opportunities with your eyes and then make sure you do the basics right, because if you do the very basics right of any business whether it's SEO or offline business, whatever it is, if you do the very basics right, you always see success and that is very much the case with SEO.

Peter: All right, thank you. A couple of very interesting things were mentioned, home page started ranking for giant number of keywords. Usually I would say that the home page, because it has to look nice and it doesn't really have as much content, it would usually rank for the brand keywords and more or less nothing else, but you switched that and wanted to get the home page ranked. How can be a home page competitive to 1,000 worded article from the competition?

Matthew: The home page usually has the most weight in terms of SEO. It usually has the most authority and you're right, most people only use a home page to try and rank for brand terms. What we did was we just made a list of the most popular questions in the niche and answered them. In you know, when you clicked to expand the question and it reveals the answer? That on it's own attracted a bunch of long tail keywords that were all relevant to our niche and then also reinforce all of our topical relevance. That was just something that tried on that site and we have great, great, great success with that.

Peter: All right, so it should be tried at other places too.

Matthew: Yes, and I've just have to point it out, beyond just finding out what the top questions where and answering to them, there was no keyword research that went into it. There wasn't any like strategy or planning that went into it. It was just, okay, let's answer all of these super relevant questions on the home page and see what happens, and that's what we did.

Peter: Very interesting, the tools got to compare yourself to the competition, Pop or Quora or others are really, really popular right now in SEO in the last couple of months. You're saying, use your brain and just see for yourself and you're going to understand your competition much better than using the tools.

Matthew: Yes, I'm not saying don't use the tools, but the tools shouldn't be the first thing that you use. The first thing that you should do is use the computer between your ears, do the search yourself, look at the search results, manually review them both on a desktop and a mobile phone and get a feel for it. Often just by looking, you see opportunities and while everyone else is distracted with automation and tools, you can just observe. It's how I see most of my success in life, I just sit back and observe. Observe the people that are winning, observe the people that are losing. Why are they winning? Why are they losing? Why is this person doing that?

Why do they making it? Just sit back and observe and if you apply that to the search results, I learn more just observing search results and doing random searches like best gaming laptop. I like watching how that search result has changed over the years. Two years ago you would've found a bunch of amazon affiliate sites there. Right now, there's not a single affiliate site there. Just that kind of observations tells you the direction that things are moving in. If you're building Amazon affiliate sites and you're not building businesses right now, well the search results are already telling you you're making the wrong decision. That's the power of observation, it's underutilized not just in SEO but in general life as well.

Peter: Yes, and I had a boss once who every morning he wanted to type all of the costs and income for the different marketing channels into the spreadsheet himself. He went through the numbers every day himself with his own brain and understood and of course, now the company has grown to up 300 people.

Matthew: Yes. That's-

Peter: There is an idea of understanding, getting the deep understanding of the field is the additional benefit.

Matthew: Yes, that's a very intelligent decision by him because he could just have someone else enter the numbers him read the data, but when you read the data you're not analyzing it in the same way as when you're actually in the got to doing it. Very smart move by your boss and I think there's a lesson there for all of the SEO community to take [laughs] Including myself actually.

Peter: All right Matthew. I think we had a very nice summation of your presentation at the Affiliate World in Barcelona. As mentioned, we'll add links to your blog post with your video and to your short presentation to the show notes. Where can people find you, contact you and of course read stuff that you write on your blog?

Matthew: Yes, the best way to read anything by me is to hit matthewwood.co.uk. There's a ton of content there that answers pretty much every SEO question you can ever think of. You'll also find a case study section and you'll find this case study, How We 14 Times Search Traffic. The case study includes all of the technical details that I wasn't able to include on the talk along with a video that steps you through the entire thing. I'm hoping that it's one of the best SEO videos you've ever seen, so leave me a comment and let me know if that's the case.

Peter: All right, let everyone go and check that. Do you have any future conference plans already set up?

Matthew: I'm going to be talking at Chiang Mai SEO in November and I got a couple of a potential bookings next year that we're just ironing out the details of [laugh] but Chiang Mai SEO will be next one, yes

Peter: One more thing, when I went through our communication in Gmail, I searched for your name and then I found out when was the first time when I really met you but contact with you. It was probably last year. I think it was last year when you were having SEO Black Friday deals.

Matthew: Oh yes. Yes.

Peter: Black Friday is coming slowly. Are you having something similar this year too?

Matthew: Yes. For the last five or six years, I've published a site, internetmarketing.blackfriday, which covers all of the Black Friday deals across the SEO and blogging niche. I think last year we had like a whole 120 different deals loaded and I think 11 of them were exclusive to us as well. That's something that I've been doing for quite a long time and we'll be doing it this year as well.

Peter: All right. Excellent. I think that's it. Thank you very much for being on the podcast. It was extremely informational.

Matthew: Yes. Perfect.

Peter: Glad for having you here and have a great day.

Matthew: Thank you very much. It's been great to be here.