By Nicolas Pustilnick

How great link building works – An SEO case study

People are limited. We cannot be all things to all individuals, and sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know. When you don’t have the right insights, your business and website will not run optimally.

One of those ‘below the radar’ insights of useful websites is good link building. Too many businesses just do not understand the importance of strategic link building and suffer for it.
no domain authority = no qualified traffic

A few months ago, Pulse was engaged to assist on an exciting project. The client was one of the top flatmate sharing sites in Australia.
First, some background info. The website has been live for more than 14 years, with a brand that owns an enviable global domain. However, there were several problems that the site was experiencing, including:

  • the site was not optimised for the keywords they hoped to target
  • Google wasn’t indexing internal pages.
  • Location based keywords weren’t working, given the website presented a global domain (.com) not differentiated by country or city

These were not the only problems. In light of all this, it was decided that a new site was to be built from the ground up.

Significant crawl errors

 

Site Crawl errors

 

image source: Google Webmasters tool now called Search console
Using Moz and SEMrush tools for both Desktop and Mobile, it was found that as of August 2015 the current site had 1,253,404 broken links and other important errors. Unfortunately, the nature of this problem is that these just simply can’t be fixed until the new site is live.

Domain authority results: The domain level stats  were not great either, as can be seen in the data below.

Domain Authority Stats

image source: Moz open site explorer

The site itself

Most importantly, however, user experience was not up to date with what users expected in 2015 by way of user experience. While the site was functional and aesthetic, there were some updates of which it could take advantage, particularly noting how linked to modernity online relevance seems to be.
That said the brand was still great. While there was goodwill in the brand and the domain, the priority was to build strong links and do so as soon as possible. However, link building can be a labour of love, and it takes time; in this case, there was no time to waste.


First cab off the rank: keyword discovery

First, we undertook a hunt for the best keywords for the site. By analysing the market and competition, and identifying keyword areas for both people who were looking to find:

  • accommodation, and
  • flatmates

we identified a search market in Australia of 100,000 searches a month within a group of at least 500 keywords.

Google adwords traffic

Image source: Google ad words city break up traffic

 

This find was supported by our first ranking report: out of 203 keywords that were tested; only three ranked within the first results (branded terms only) and only six ranked within the 21+-50 first results.

Keyword ranking
Image Source: Moz Analytics

Competitor links
Next, we analysed our client’s most significant competitors. We realised a major hurdle in reaching the level of links to match, as the competition had significant links directed to them both in number and reputation. The directing links included highly reputable websites which gave editorial mentions and links up to scale.
linking_domains

image source: Moz open site explorer

So, what was our strategy?

There are several link building techniques that we could have employed – however; that is not the point of this article (although if it is something in which you are interested, you could read this post [link to post]).

Instead of a full sojourn considering all available techniques, let’s consider those that were used.

Blog commenting

Blog commenting can be a stellar technique – when done right. Superficially it appears easy, but this is not always the case. The trick is to find interesting conversations where you can do more than dip your toes; you need to make a worthwhile contribution and make it in the right place.

In this case, we found a great site from the United States which offered services similar to our client and found a conversation in its chat forum. Some participants were looking for a similar website in Australia. This was obviously our opportunity: we participated in the discussion, we offered our solution and promoted our client’s site, and mentioned the link to our client’s site.

Now, this particular US site has a huge domain authority of 95/100 which made any backlink precious. However, most importantly, our client since received 259 sessions from the link which makes the exercise more valuable than just than a typical SEO tactic; real traffic has been delivered on a constant basis.

google_analytics_sessions

Image Source: Google Analytics

Educational based websites .edu domains

Edu website

In addition to the above, we conducted a manual and personal outreach to several hundred very popular .edu sites, and example of which is www.eti.wa.edu.au. The website presents a ‘freemium’ model which allows all users to post ads on the site freely; from there these websites were delighted to link back to our client’s website.
As it turns out, www.eti.wa.edu.au presents a staggering Domain Authority (a score reflecting how well a page will a page will rank on search engines) of 52/100. As such, the results were great on the SEO front, but the .edu website itself delivers a lot of traffic back to our client’s website.

PR strategy

Working closely with a public relations consultant, we developed a strategy to ramp up our client’s PR. This involved approaching sites like domain.com.au, which of itself has significant clout, particularly in a market related to our client’s service.

Our aim was simple: get our client’s website and brand face to become the go-to place for all matters of flatmate topics.

Results were again encouraging in so far as Google was concerned, both on the SEO and link generation fronts.

There are of course other techniques that could be followed, including niche directory submission, approaching a government website and affiliate partnerships.

Content amplification strategy

When it came to content generation, we created a blog related to the clients business. We invited users ranging between 18-28 years old to submit regular posts to our client which were then amplified using Facebook promoted posts and content delivery networks like Outbrain.

This earned our client links and shares, but also added fun, conversational touch to the client’s brand.


Campaign results

Since we first started working on the client’s website the traffic has grown from latterly 0 organic searches to up to almost 2000 a month, again with a non-optimized site with more than 1200 broken links.

The number of pages indexed by Google grew from 2 pages to 75 pages delivering traffic, not only in Australia but India and the UK.

Next steps
When the new site goes live (replacing the current site) we envision that all the gained authority produced by the link building will deliver ten times more organic traffic without even creating a single new link.

We anticipate that the ROI will be impressive, and we’ll keep you updated.

 

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