One of the key objectives of any search engine optimisation strategy is to increase the amount of traffic you get from search engines from non-branded keywords/search terms to increase brand awareness. Another objective is to then convert that traffic growth into leads (sample requests, registrations, enquiries, call backs etc) but lets focus on traffic growth for the time being.
Non-branded search phrases are queries which users enter into search engines without using your company name or product names/brands. If you want to know more about non-brand search optimisation then please do check out this MDiTV video.
A good question to ask yourself is “What would you search for to find your website without using your company name”. Whatever the answer you come up with, that’s what you should be optimising your site for, well at least your homepage anyway.
208% growth in non-branded search traffic.
The below graph is one of our clients Google Analytics data with a little bit of filtering to show the traffic from non-brand search terms. The orange line is the number of visits to our clients site from search engines from December 2009 to 31st May 2011 (good 18 months or so). The blue line is the visits to the website post SEO which we carried out on the website up in till the present day (18 months from the point we did the SEO work). Before and after basically.
As you can see from the graph, growth was not instant. It took 4-6 months before we saw any real significant growth. This is why, if you are thinking about planning SEO, you should plan and budget with 12 – 18 months in mind. Not 2-3 months and then move on, but it does depend on other activities such as online PR activity, resources, link profile and brand awareness.
4 things did we do to increase traffic from search engines
1) Wrote unique page titles, descriptions and headers: This is a crucial part for any SEO activity. The old data wasn’t unique from page to page. Every page had the default page title set by the CMS, it wasn’t descriptive and wasn’t varied enough to capture a wide range of related search terms. Although each page should be targeted at 2-3 search terms they must also work hard at trying to capture related phrases too.
The page titles were written in line with our target phrases which were also aligned to how the business positioned itself. Example of this is ‘commercial vs domestic’ type search queries or ‘homeowner vs structural engineer’ type phrases.
2) Put 301 redirects in place: The website had organically grown over time which meant the website contained new pages which replaced old pages. An example of this is when a product is discontinued and is replaced by another version. However, these old pages hadn’t been redirected and therefore search engines were still indexing those older pages.
Another issue found is common with many websites called ‘canonical issues’. This is where two identical pages exist with the same content (duplication). An example is www.mysite.co.uk is the same as mysite.co.uk (without the www.). Therefore you have to tell search engines which one you prefer by setting up a 301 redirect to the preferred version.
3) Removed duplicated content: During the audit we discovered that the website contained printer friendly pages which had been indexed by search engines as well the original pages. This meant we had to tell Google to delete or remove the URL’s which contained ‘=print’ in the URL’s. Not only did this clean up the index so users got the most up to date pages but it also allowed us to obtain cleaner data going forward.
4) Set up internal links to key pages: The site we dealing with contained no internal links to other pages within the site. Internal links help search engines access the deeper pages within your site and is generally a good thing to do for accessibility. By fine tuning the copy on every product page we set up links to related pages (case studies, applications, sectors) from words which described the content on that linked page (anchor text). This helps Google and other search engines identify what that linking page is all about to help increase the chances of other pages being shown for similar searches.
So there you have it. Four on-site changes we made to a site without rebuilding the site and increased search engine traffic by 208%. Sometimes, in order to tackle search engine optimisation, you have will have to fix a few technical issues before you focus on developing content such as a blog.
What about enquiry levels? Did they increase?
Excellent question. Everything we do is tied to outcomes such as registrations, downloads, sign ups, enquires and requests. There is no point driving additional traffic to the site if the outcomes are to remain constant, more traffic = more leads.
We did have to make a couple of small changes to some pages like adding in more call to actions to increase the likelihood of capturing an enquiry or sign up.
The conversion rate for non-brand organic traffic at the point of doing the on-site SEO was around 1%. It has now increased to 3%, sometimes reaches 4% depending on external activities such as direct mail campaigns and PR promotion.