SEO is difficult, I mean if you don’t know what you’re doing. The learning curve is steep, it’s a marketing medium that is jam-packed with jargon, technical know-how and it requires a lot of guesstimates as there is no specific example on how to best do SEO.
It can differ from industry to industry, it differs if you’re in a national, local or global market.
In this article, I’m going to break down our exact step-by-step process on how we took a home cleaning company from 800 unique organic visitors per month to 21000 unique organic visitors per month.
We did this in less than 18 months. In this article, I’m going to show you exactly how to do it for your own business, and if you’re not keen on doing it yourself, I’d love the opportunity to do it for you.
This site in question had utilized the services of a premium SEO company based in Sydney. They were paying this company over $2,000 per month for 18 months.
The operations manager of the Sydney cleaning business came to us as they had suffered an obvious algorithmic penalty 6 months prior due to the nefarious tactics of their SEO provider.
She had given her previous SEO company the time to try and fix their service and proverbially right their ship.
They had received multiple promises from the SEO company that their organic traffic would increase but after 18 months of their service, they were variably worse off than when they started and a hefty $36,000 thrown down the drain.
Here’s How You Should Start
Like any good SEO-based marketing strategy, you need to start with the basics. Make sure to keep in mind that this strategy doesn’t need to be completed in one month. It’s a long process and you should treat it as such.
Completing things week by week has been more effective than completing tasks all at once in our personal experience.
What you’ll need
You’ll need access to the following tools, and software to complete this work to a high standard and replicate the results of our case study.
- Screaming Frog
- Google Sheets
- A competent back-end web developer
- An amazing writer
- G-suite account
- A competent designer
- An SEO Workbook
Your SEO workbook
Your SEO workbook is where you’ll jot down, track, and measure your SEO results over time. I’ve attached a screenshot of ours for our client but you’re more than welcome to edit and amend as you need.
After you’ve completed the setup of your SEO workbook the first thing you need to do is complete a thorough on-site audit using Screaming Frog’s website crawler.
You’ll need to get to fixing on-page errors, such as missing title tags, pages missing H1 headings, and missing meta descriptions for all pages.
Once that’s done, it’s time to utilize automated software to conduct your site audit.
Site Audit & technical fixes
Using SEMRUSH you’re going to use their site audit tool. Run the site audit and if it returns results that are less than 90% site health, you’ll need to reevaluate and get a developer to fix any errors stipulated in the errors, warning, and notices section of the site audit dashboard.
All errors, warnings, and notices don’t necessitate fixes, however, you need to make sure the following elements are above 90%. They include crawlability, https, site performance, and internal linking.
Once this is done, if you’re a WordPress user, you’ll want to install WP-Rocket and get your developer to focus on optimizing your website for first contentful paint loading speed.
After, it’s time to check your website for thin content. You’ll need to go through all of your pages, and posts to make sure not only do they provide a good user experience on desktop and mobile, but you’ll also need to make sure that there is enough content available for the search engines to determine what your website is about.
You’ll need to make sure that every page has at least one image and that the alt tags of those images are descriptive enough so that if a blind person was using a screen reader on the page they would be able to decipher what the image was.
Use your SEO workbook to document which pages have thin content.
You will then need to vet and hire a writer to rewrite the content as necessary. We also highly recommend getting a writer to rewrite all homepage and service page web copy from scratch.
We did this quite thoroughly and systematically for the cleaning company’s website. They had 50 blog posts, which we rewrote with SurferSEO, added relevant frequently asked question sections to every page, added a semantic heading structure to all pages, as well as images with proper alt tags under each heading, and requested a re-index through Google Search Console.
Once you’ve got that out of the way, it’s now time to get to the nitty-gritty and that’s keyword research.
Using a keyword research tool (of which there are plenty of free ones) enter in your competitor’s URL and see which pages are ranking for which keywords. You’ll then need to export these keywords and sort by volume, and keyword difficulty metrics.
Look for any keywords that are of significant volume and that indicate purchase intent and jot them down in your Google Sheets document. This will create a map of the pages that you’re going to create later down the line.
You’ll also want to do a how-to *your industry* keyword search and add those to your spreadsheet. Include a column that’s titled ‘keyword type’ and next to each keyword define whether it’s transactional or informational.
Transactional keywords are those keywords that indicate that someone is searching to make a purchase, whereas informational keywords are targeting top of the funnel search queries where the searcher isn’t wanting to make a purchase but are looking to become informed on a topic that you’re website should be providing the answer.
Create another sheet in your SEO workbook, you’ll input the informational keywords here. You’ll be using these keywords to create how-to guides covering every topic and subtopic of your market. Once you’ve done that you want to get started building industry-relevant citations.
Citations are links that point to your website. They’re also the foundation of good local SEO. The more and higher quality citations you have, the higher your chances of ranking for localized-based keywords are.
They’re almost always in directories and are great for initial backlinks on a new website, diversifying a link profile, or getting your name, address, and phone number out there.
It’ll be too time-consuming to do it yourself. What you want to do is head over to SEO Builder and purchase the small citation package.
Mark the date that you’ve purchased this and set a reminder in your Google Calendar to purchase the same package again 4 months from that date. The next thing we’re going to do is a competitor analysis.
We’re now going to complete a thorough competitive analysis of your search engine result page competitors.
If you’re apprehensive about utilizing AHREFS, it’s actually a necessity for this facet of our optimization journey. Sign up for their 1 week $7 trial, that way you’ll be able to obtain all the necessary data you need.
Search for the top monetary keyword that you’ve obtained through your keyword research.
Now use that result to search for your top 5-6 competitors’ domains in AHREFS.
Enter them into another sheet of your Google sheet.
The first column should be the domain of the competitor. The next column is the number of referring domains that the competitor has.
You’ll also then want to check the amount of referring domains over a time period graph, this will give you an indication of the link velocity you need to utilize in our next step.
Make sure to note any anomalies in your workbook, an anomaly is defined as a competitor that is ranking for your high traffic keywords without having a large amount of referring domains.
Once that’s done, give yourself a pat on that back, that’s a lot of work but we’re not close to done yet.
The time period in which the above should be completed is between 1-2 months. We’ll then circle back and repeat this process every quarter.
What We Do Next
So, you’ve got your initial set of links, your site is audited and ready to be crawled perfectly by Google’s crawler, and you have a rough idea of how many links you’ll need to build over time, now comes the fun part.
Remember that writer that you utilized for the content on your site’s rewrite. Contact them and let them know you’re looking to have 5 articles sent out per month.
Utilize the informational keywords sheet in your SEO workbook to obtain article ideas.
Make sure to actually search for the keyword in Google and provide your writer with the top 3 results. Utilize the heading structure of all 3 results, to make sure your writer is creating a piece of content that blows the aforementioned competition out of the water.
The structuring of this content can be done quite easily through Frase.io but if you don’t have that available to you, you’ll need to do it manually.
To get the initial boost of traffic, we highly recommend creating industry-based pricing guides and questionnaires that answer consumer queries relating to ‘how much does *insert industry’ cost on average’.
We did this with our cleaning client and that particular article receives over 1000 visitors per month.
You’ll be completing this task into perpetuity, so make sure you set aside time every week to upload your article.
When uploading your article, make sure to include images under each heading and use proper alt tags that are descriptive of the image, so that even a blind person would be able to understand what the image is.
We use Canva pro as it’s the cheapest way to get high-quality original images. We then use Window’s snipping tool to make the image even more original and give it a descriptive name, which is almost always the same as the alt-tag.
You’ll also want to categorize your articles by type. For example, for our cleaning client, we have article categories as follows. We have industry guides, surface cleaning guides, bedroom cleaning guides, and so on.
You’ll find that as you do this over time, the topical relevance of your website will increase and you’ll start ranking automatically for your transactional keywords. However, again, as a disclaimer, this is time-consuming.
Once you have a steady stream of high-quality industry-based content, it’s now time to get people to link to it.
Link building is the crux of any SEO campaign. It’s difficult to know which links to obtain, their anchor text, and how to avoid Google penalty.
The purchasing of links is discouraged by Google and you can end up penalizing your website in the long run if Google catches on to any shady link-building tactics.
Because our client was paying us so much money and they had already been penalized as a result of their previous vendor’s shady tactics.
We wanted to make sure that this didn’t happen again. Here’s how we recommend you create high-quality links.
First, you’ll need to create a persona in your Google Gsuite account. You’ll be using this email address as a means of sending targeted outreach emails. You’ll also use it to sign up for HARO.
After you’ve created your weekly article, you’ll then reach out to individual websites within your industry asking if they can link to your brand new resource.
Be sure to let them know that you don’t mind what anchor text they use and to let you know once it’s done so you can share their article on your social media channels.
This reciprocal exchange will increase your level of referring domains over time, you’ll also obtain industry-relevant backlinks from real websites and not the link farms that your competitors are actively obtaining links from.
Next, let’s move on to HARO.
HARO stands for Help a Reporter Out. You can find them on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. HARO is an easy way to generate yourself the backlinks you need in order to rank higher for your transactional keywords.
The reporter will send you a question related to your industry and then you answer it in a reply email. When the article is published, they’ll provide their readership with a link back to your site where they can find more information about your company.
The great thing about HARO is the links are super powerful, you can obtain links from authority sites that have millions of monthly visitors, so not only do they increase indirect traffic to your website, they’ll increase your site’s authority over time.
We make a note to view and respond to at least one query per day. Depending on your niche, there should always be questions to answer in the business and finance section of their bulletin.
Make a note of all the successful link acquisitions you obtain in your notebook.
Service page creation
So, you’re well on the way to obtaining a steady stream of new fresh content, referring domains, and ultimately backlinks to your website and your informational pages should now be gaining small bites of traffic from Google. They might even be ranking in the top 3 positions and receiving natural links.
Now it’s time to start creating service pages within your site.
Go back to your SEO workbook, those transactional keywords that you’ve jotted down but are yet to targeted are to form the backbone of your service page roll-out.
Now, ideally, you’ll have a parent page being your services page. So your service page URL would look something like yourwebsite.com/services/new-service, however, this is not imperative. We use this to make our website look tidier.
Look at whoever is dominating the SERPS for that particular service page query and analyze where you can improve, use the following criteria to map out your service page.
- Does the top search result have adequate information?
- Do they have a checklist of some sort?
- Do they have information on pricing?
- Do they have a FAQS section?
- Are there any before and after photos?
- How many call-to-action buttons are there?
The same applies for location pages, although location pages may or may not be worth creating depending on if you’re in a major city or not.
Once you’ve analyzed and found what those pages are missing, and what you can exceed, send those details to your designer and create a page that looks similar to your home page but that has original elements that are relevant to the service you wish to target.
Once you’ve created that page, create a widget on your homepage that makes it easy to link your homepage to your services page, this will form the basis of our next SEO strategy.
So, we’re now about 6 months into our SEO campaign.
Your website is jam-packed with great linkable content, you’ve created service and location pages and you’ll be seeing a lot more keywords being indexed by Google, more referring domains and your domain rating (as measured by AHREFS) should be going up slowly as well.
If you haven’t already, you’ll need to start internally linking all your content.
There are plugins that can do it for you, but we prefer not to utilize a robot for an extremely important part of our SEO journey.
We make sure that all of our content is inner linked, as naturally as possible.
You’re nearly done! We’ve pretty much completed our SEO workbook.
The only thing to do is continue what we’re doing.
That means, continue having your writer create unique, linkable content with end-users in mind.
Continue reaching out to journalists and webmasters to link to your linkable content and we continue doing keyword research, technical fixes, and optimizing the speed of our website every month.
If these tactics are followed you’ll have created a website that will dominate its niche for many years to come.
If that all seems too difficult to do yourself or you don’t have enough time and would like to leave it to the experts.
We come highly recommended, with a methodology that works and results that speak for themselves.
Rachel is the head of search operations at Maxim Media. In her spare time she likes to spend her time with children and reading about all things marketing