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This is what you need to know:
- Before the penalty traffic was at 37,724 per month
- When we started work traffic had dropped to 1,298 per month
- Traffic is now at 52,396 per month
So I’m going to show you how my team at Search Logistics pulled it off
Please make sure you’re paying attention, because I’m going to break down the recovery strategy we designed for this site step by step.
What Will I Learn?
A Closer Look At The Case Study
This website operates in one of the most saturated and competitive markets around:
The site provides discount codes targeting a range of countries within Europe (France, Germany, Netherlands) with the UK as the primary target.
The site also operates as a content publisher by posting travel tips on their blog on a regular basis.
When joining Search Logistics in February 2021, the client’s primary goal was to recover the site’s organic search traffic as it had been significantly impacted by the core algorithm update in May 2020.
The Biggest Challenges We Had to Overcome
When a site gets hit by a core algorithm update, you really have to strip things back to basics and work from the ground up.
This means you have to tackle all three areas of SEO:
- Technical SEO
- Link building
As we completed our initial SEO audit, the biggest and most pressing challenges that we had to overcome were:
- Cleaning up the index to make sure that only the right pages were being crawled and indexed by Google.
- Optimising content on the coupon pages to improve conversion rates.
- Improving keyword visibility with supplementary topically related content hubs.
- Increasing link velocity with a link building strategy that targets the newly optimised coupon pages and newly created travel content.
With issues spanning all aspects of SEO, the combined efforts of our technical, content and outreach teams helped get the site back on track.
Here’s what we did…
Creating A Plan Of Attack
Although the site had problems across all 3 areas of SEO, the 4 step plan of attack was relatively straightforward.
The first 3 steps all focus on fixing issues with technical SEO and content with the last step focused purely on link building.
Step #1 – Fixing Index Bloat
If your website has thousands of pages, it’s likely that you’ll find pages that offer no value to the user still being crawled and indexed by Google.
These kinds of pages create an issue called “index bloat” i.e. when too many poor-quality pages are being indexed by Google.
This wastes crawl budget as Google ends up wasting time trying to crawl pages that aren’t valuable or relevant for the user.
In our client’s case, there were hundreds of internal search result pages indexed.
So here’s a list of the most common types of pages that cause index bloat (and how to find them easily).
To find HTTP pages indexed on your site, use the following site searches on Google:
To find paginated pages indexed on your site, use the following site searches on Google:
To find tag based pages indexed on your site, use the following site search on Google:
To find author pages indexed on your site, use the following site search on Google:
www. and non-www. pages
To find www. (and non www.) pages indexed on your site, use the following site searches on Google:
Empty category pages
To find empty category pages (on eCommerce sites) indexed on your site, use the following site search on Google:
site:yourdomain.com “0 products found”
Replace “0 products found” with whatever text you display on your website for empty categories.
Below are some other types of pages that you may find indexed:
- Trailing slash – For example, if your URLs all end with a trailing slash “/” but you have URLs without a trailing slash indexed.
- Duplicate pages – For example, if you have multiple URLs all serving the same content i.e. domain.com, domain.com/index.html, domain.com/homepage/ etc.
- Test pages – If you have any test pages from your dev site indexed. This often shows up in the Google Search Console links report
- Other miscellaneous pages – i.e. checkout pages, thank you pages etc.
There are a few ways to do that:
- Delete the Page – Remove the content and serve a 404 (not found) or 410 (gone) status on the URL. In most cases the page will be removed from the index after it’s been recrawled by Google.
- Noindex tag – Add the following code to your page to prevent Google from indexing the URL:
Important Note: For these tags to be seen by Google, make sure that you haven’t blocked them on your robots.txt file!
- URL Removal Tool – Google allows you to temporarily block results from your website using the Removals Tool. Note that this usually lasts for about six months, so you still need to implement one of the other above fixes in order to make sure that your pages are permanently deindexed.
Step #2 – Optimising Content to Improve Conversions
Google’s goal is to provide users with the most relevant results to their search queries. This means that your website content needs to match what the user’s looking for.
After looking at competitors, we noticed that the other top-ranking websites for the keywords we wanted to target were offering more information on the coupon codes than our client.
But closing the content gap between your competitors and your site alone doesn’t always mean that you’re providing the best user experience.
You also need to present the information in the right way – this is the difference between organic search visitors and customers.
In other words, if your users aren’t able to find the information that they expect to see, it’s likely that they’ll leave your site to visit your competitors instead.
Here are some examples of what this meant for our client when looking at competitors content:
Popularity of Coupon Code
One competitor included the number of times that the coupon code has been used. Proving a record like this can help build trust as it shows the likelihood of the code working for other users.
Coupon Code Expiry
Another competitor included the date that the discount code expires. Noticeably, this text is in a bright red colour so that it stands out and provides a sense of urgency for the user to redeem the code sooner.
The competitor also included the time when the code was last used. This serves as another trust factor as users are more inclined to use codes that have been used often and more recently.
By providing useful information like this, you’re improving the user’s experience of your website whilst also increasing the chances that they will convert.
This shows that the way in which the information is provided is as important as the information itself.
Step #3 – Improve Keyword Visibility With Content Hubs
In addition to coupon codes, the site also publishes travel tips.
Why? …Because it’s much easier to regularly write articles about travel than it is to write about coupons while still creating lots of opportunity for topical relevancy.
We followed suit by creating supplementary travel articles that targeted relevant long-tail keywords. But, instead of writing stand-alone blog posts, we opted for a more comprehensive content strategy: content hubs.
Content hubs are made up of one pillar page supported by a cluster of shorter articles that are topically related to each other.
Content Hub Benefits
- Rankability – Organizing your content into a power hub improves your chances of ranking for a range of topically related keywords.
- Brand Awareness – Showcase your expertise within your niche and set yourself apart from the competition.
- Authority – People that need to reference a topic will use it as a source – which means that it will continue to build authority for you.
- Engagement – Power hubs attract visitors that are interested in a specific topic. As such, they have the potential to generate a dedicated readership.
- Internal Linking – Content clusters within the main Power Hub should link to each other and to the main article as well. As a result, users are encouraged to stay longer on your website and browse more.
- Crawlability – Internal linking between the pillar page and cluster pages makes it easier for Google to crawl and index the pages.
Once you have published your content hub and taken care of all of the internal linking there is nothing more to do.
You just have to sit back and wait while the content hub will:
- Help Google crawl and index these pages
- Help Google understand the relationship between these pages i.e. that they are topically related to each other
- Help users navigate your website
- Help guide users to your core landing pages i.e. the “money” pages that are most important for you
With index bloat, content quality and a new content hub published we moved onto the last part of our strategy – link building.
Step #4 – A Competitor Based Link Building Strategy
With this in mind, we created a link acquisition plan based on the client’s competitors who had considerably more backlinks (of better quality) than our client.
If you want to do the same for your site, you just need…
Once you have setup the Link Acquisition Estimate Template, you should use my competitor backlink analysis tutorial to start replicating those links:
This competitor based approach not only shows you how many links you’ll need for your backlink strategy but also allows you to steal their links too!
The results speak for themselves – here’s how the sites link velocity improved since the start of the campaign:
If you’re struggling with link building then you can lean on one of these link building services to help you out but they won’t replicate competitor links for you.
The Results Are In
As you can see, the May 2020 core algorithm update was devastating for our client taking their search traffic from 37,224 per month to just 1,298 per month.
My team at Search Logistics started work on the site in February 2021 and are now showing a 40% improvement over the pre-penalty traffic levels:
As you can imagine the client is very happy with the result especially after seeing such a heavy drop in search traffic which has destroyed many other businesses.
But now the site is running on a solid technical foundation with an ongoing link building strategy it will continue to grow this year.
Wrapping It Up
That brings us to the end of the case study!
Our three-pronged SEO strategy (Technical, content and links) helped realign the site with its competitors and recover from the May 2020 core algorithm update.
I showed you how to:
- Identify and fix index bloating
- Optimise the content on your website to improve conversions
- Improve keyword visibility with content hubs
- Increase link velocity with a competitor based link building strategy
Do You Need Help With Your Search Traffic? Just submit an enquiry now and we will help you out!
Otherwise you might enjoy some of our other SEO case studies