In-Depth Case Study: Revitalizing a High-Earning Website

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The feedback on January’s Schema series was really great (if you missed any of it, check this out).

But I did get a comment last week… “Hey Jared, love the schema stuff, but do you have any case studies of SEO success from one of your clients? Would love to hear what you’re seeing work these days.”

Well, ask and you shall receive! Get ready for an exciting deep dive from my SEO agency 201 Creative.

I’m sharing an in-depth case study that showcases our approach to transforming a client’s website from a declining trend to hyper growth… in just 5 months.

Background & Challenge

Picture a website in a lucrative niche with high affiliate payouts, thriving with over 150,000 monthly pageviews and ranking for 30,000 keywords in early 2022.

Then, the Google Core Updates of May 2022 and March 2023 hit, and the site’s traffic began to erode.

Well, let’s be honest. It fell off a cliff.

Sample organic traffic of a website
The client does not have Google Analytics, and Google Search Console only goes back 16 months. As such, I am sharing an Ahrefs graph with you. Don’t worry, I’ll share a GSC graph below.

This site did manage to “escape” the HCU… although, it was already down so much, I’m not sure it would have had much of an impact.

We were hired to start working on the website in August 2023. Let’s dive into exactly what we did:

Strategic Analysis & Content Plan (August 2023):

We started with our signature Content Plan, the one highly recommended by Jon Dykstra from Fat Stacks Blog, and many others on our Google Business Page.

  • Current Evaluation: We started with a comprehensive assessment, focusing on determining how to improve keyword rankings, particularly for those hovering around the first and second pages of the SERPs.
  • Competitor Analysis: We closely analyzed top competitors to craft a strategy that would elevate their website to their level.
  • Live Content Evaluation: This involved a critical look at the distribution of organic traffic across posts that were live. We identified and addressed underperforming articles, especially those not aligning with the primary topic of the site. We recommended which articles to update and optimize, along with nearly 150 to delete.
  • Future Content Focus: We pinpointed low competition, long-tail keywords within the focused topic for new content development. We focused on creating a really tight silo of content all centered around the same topic. You can see exactly how we find these keywords in my tutorial video.
  • Authority and Link Building: The strategy we developed included a targeted backlink campaign, focusing on high Domain Rating (DR) sites in the specific niche that the site was in. Lower DR sites would be fine, provided they were hyper relevant. Here is an example of the kind of links we built.
  • Sitewide Updates: We recommended a revamp to the homepage to emphasize the chosen topical silo. We also recommended a reorganized navigation menu to enhance user experience.
  • Monetization Enhancements: We recommended better integration of product tables and boxes in posts to streamline access to monetized offers for users.

Our Content Plans are long and in-depth (this one was 27 pages, in addition to corresponding spreadsheets). They are also highly personalized to the specific website’s needs.

We had our meeting with the client to review our findings, and they signed off the vast majority of our recommendations. Now it was time to start implementing.

Implementation & Results (September 2023 – Today)

Time to roll up our sleeves! Nothing is more frustrating than when we deep dive into a site and come up with a plan forward, only to see the client sit on the plan and not take action. Not so here!

We were green lit to get to work → here’s what we did over the past 4 months:

September 2023

While we knew we had a lot of new content to create and links to build, we first had to address some of the issues we surfaced:

  • No-Indexing for Focus: We usually recommend deleting rather than no-indexing content that isn’t relevant to the site. But, the client got social media traffic from it and wanted to keep it, so we no-indexed 139 irrelevant articles, a move that retained social traffic while sharpening the site’s topical focus.
  • Readability Enhancements: 32 articles underwent readability updates, involving breaking up long paragraphs, adding images, and optimizing internal links.
  • Article Overhaul: We rejuvenated 14 articles with our comprehensive Content Update service, ensuring they were aligned with the latest SEO practices and user engagement strategies. See my tutorial video on 9 quick content updates you can make.
  • Internal Linking Optimization: We added internal links to 46 articles with 138 carefully planned internal links, enhancing navigability and topical authority. You can see how we add internal links in my tutorial video.

October 2023 – December 2023

With key updates complete (we could have done more, but those were the essential ones), it was time to start creating content and backlinks.

  • New Content Rollout: We created 66k words of new content across 63 articles. The vast majority of these were informational articles focused around the topical silo we had settled on. We wanted to gain topical authority while giving us plenty of internal linking opportunities to those high paying affiliate articles. You can learn how we structure content for topical authority in my tutorial video.
  • Backlink Campaign: We successfully added 25 backlinks, with a strategic distribution among the homepage, informational content, and monetized articles.

Results (January 2024)

In just five months, organic search traffic has tripled.

Cumulative total clicks of a website over a period of 7 months

You’ll notice that most of the increases have happened in the last month. Such is the way of SEO… it can take awhile for your efforts to kick in.

Key Insights

  • Imagine you were having coffee with a friend, and they asked you, “What are some different ways I can make a million dollars?” Chances are you would be able to rattle off a good number of ideas right away… buy real estate, start a business, etc.
  • ​Imagine instead your friend asked you, “Given my exact circumstance, what is the fastest way for me specifically to make a million dollars?” Now all of a sudden you probably wouldn’t have a lot to say, at least not right away. That’s a much more complex scenario to consider.
  • ​This scenario reminds me of analyzing a website. If you asked me for a bunch of different ways a website can improve its rankings, I could rattle off a ton of them in rapid succession. Chances are you could too.
  • ​But, every specific website needs a specific set of actions to be taken, unique to that website. And, most clients want to maximize their ROI (duh), so it’s also about how you do that within the confines of what is possible with available time and budget.
  • ​That’s where strategically planning BEFORE you get to work is vital. That’s why we almost always start with a Content Plan and/or a Site Audit. It’s not about doing things, it’s about doing the right things in the right order.

Here are a few things that I think helped ensure this specific plan worked:

  • Content Precision: Our Content Plan’s recommendations for new content wasn’t about volume; it was about precision. Targeting lower competition, long-tail keywords within the niche was key to building topical authority.
  • Holistic SEO: From backlinks to content updates, our approach was comprehensive: the combination of immediate improvements (no-indexing, readability updates, adding internal links, updating content) along with ongoing new content and backlinks.
  • Consistency: We kept working on the plan, even when we weren’t seeing results yet. In October, organic traffic actually decreased notably for a few weeks. But, we had the trust of the client, and we kept at it.

Looking Ahead

This case study isn’t the end; we have a lot more work to do. Lets be honest here – traffic has not rebounded to anywhere near where it used to be.

Previously the site ranked for some keywords that were outside of its topical zone of authority, so we don’t expect to get those rankings back. Still, traffic has tripled since we started our work, so its headed in the right direction.

Traffic is up 3x but revenue is not up by that amount. We’ve picked up a lot of traffic and keywords from all of our new content, but we now need to translate this into more improvements on monetized articles.

In the coming months, we’ll be making more improvements to those monetized articles, along with tightening up our internal linking and anchors to these pages. These keywords are more competitive, and require more work and patience.

SEO should ultimately be evaluated by earnings, not traffic or keywords. At least, that’s what my clients care about 🙂 But keywords and traffic tend to come first.

I hope you enjoyed this deep dive into one of our newer clients and the success we’ve had in getting traffic to rebound. If you need help with your SEO, feel free to reach out to us at 201 Creative!

We’re also available for Website Reviews and Consulting!

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Jared Bauman

Jared Bauman is the Co-Founder of 201 Creative, and is a 20+ year entrepreneur who has started and sold several companies. He is the host of the popular Niche Pursuits podcast and a contributing author to Search Engine Land.

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