Note: As I write these posts, I’m often torn between writing for my peers or our clients. This one’s for our clients. Sorry peers.
Many of our clients come to us and know little to nothing about SEO and are unsure of its value. We recently began a relationship with a client that had a new website and a new url and came to us to help them with their internet marketing. Although we’ve only had the client for about a month, the work we’ve done illustrates how, for some sites, even the most rudimentay of on-page SEO work can immediately benefit a business’ internet marketing presence.
Even though we provide both website design and internet marketing services for our clients, its actually pretty rare for us these days to find ourselves working on a brand spankin’ new website which is located on a brand spankin’ new web address. Recently, though, we had the chance to do just that.
A client came to us after recently rebranding their small business. They’d changed names. They’d bought a new domain name. And they’d just put a single redirect on all the URLs from their old site to the home page of the new one. (Okay, don’t blame us for that one; that’s the situation we inherited…)
Their site was largely designed when we got a hold of it. However, none of the code was marked up for SEO, no keyword research had been done. Basically it was an SEO tabula rasa.
All of this created an interesting question. Starting with nothing, how much would just applying the “basics of SEO” to the site — basic keyword research and keyword-based Title Tags, for instance, make to their search engine results? How quickly would they see a gain?
The first thing we did here at Splat was to conduct a competitive audit. We were recommending capturing locally delimited keyword phrases because — let’s be real — they weren’t going to rank nationally or globally within their industry anytime soon. So, our strategy was basically to go after the keyword phrase ” ‘city name’ + ‘industry keyword’.”
Going into the audit, we had the sneaking suspicion that the client’s industry space wasn’t especially competitive. We actually conducted the audit through two channels. First, we took a local Business Journal’s Book of Lists to see who the big players are in their industry sector. After locating the top ten or so (in terms of earnings) we looked at their sites, with an eye towards looking at relevant SEO indicators such as title tags, keywords, H1 tags. The basics.
We were not impressed. We found an astonishing lack of attention paid to just the basics of SEO by firms whose billings were in the tens of millions annually. (My personal favorite was a firm — which claimed a high level of digital savviness — whose home page title tag was simply “home page.”
After looking at the 900 pound Gorillas in the client’s vertical, we then used standard industry tools to help us identify families of keywords. (The earlier survey was instructive in just giving us descriptive language to use as a starting point which, combined with gut feeling, gave us the initial set of keywords to use in the industry standard tools.)
After we’d identified families of keywords that seemed to offer the best yield for the client, we compiled data on the ten or so firms that are actually ranking for those keywords. There was very little correlation between who is ranking and who the largest players in the field are.
This last analysis was the final lynchpin in the development of our strategy.
We developed a final set of keywords and rewrote the title tags for every page on the fifteen page site. Then we waited.
We didn’t have to wait long.
When we started working for this client (four weeks ago as of the time of this post) they were not ranking in the top 100 search engine results for any industry keyword. The site has been crawled once since the title tag rewrite. Immediately, they vaulted to #20 (Page Two) for their principal keyword string. And that shift was really simply the result of re-writing the title tags. Very little other on-page optimization has been done (yet.)
Will this very simple title tag rewrite pay the eminently reasonable fee we’re charging this client? Probably, but ask me in six months…