January 3, 2013
A little research was in order. Using the usual terms for his industry, I found him nowhere on Google, just as he had said. Next I viewed the coding on his web pages and found that his webmaster had neglected to address many issues pertaining to SEO, such as adequate title and description, as well as providing minimal page content from which to extract keywords. In addition, he duplicated a single page over and over with one minor difference, adding the name of each local town in our region in the title as an attempt to capture geographic search terms.
The Client’s Dilemma and Our Plan of Action
Since this client’s financial arrangement set up a year ago involved a monthly payment for which he received the above website, as well as hosting and domain registration through the contractor, I asked whether he thought the contractor would allow us to “point” any traffic from the original domain to a new domain I could register in the meantime. If so, I could develop a new website for him to address these concerns. If the relationship was a lost cause, however, I told the client that it would probably not amount to a loss of much business since no one could find him in web searches anyway. He agreed we should just start all over again from scratch.
Great. Now I would be faced with establishing page one SEO for him with a brand new domain name and an even newer website. All with no seniority, backlinks, or history of any kind to which Google could relate. Having never had such a set of circumstances previously, this was a scary proposition. But the client said that if I could get him to show up among his competition in search results within a few months’ time, he could live with that. I said it was definitely a possibility. So we began our project.
A Step-By-Step Strategy
First I chose to register a domain very close to his original, using his company name, but adding “NY” at the end to include his location. As I frequently do, I chose PowWeb for hosting which allowed me a free domain registration and a deep discount on the annual hosting fee. I also received a bonus for one of my other websites so my total cost was a lot less than GoDaddy who usually comes in at the bare minimum. When it’s time to renew next year at full rate, I can negotiate with PowWeb for a renewal that matches their reduced bulk rates or just transfer the whole thing over to GoDaddy who will give me a year’s free domain extension as a bonus for the transfer.
With my only project expense little more than pocket change, I was free to devote my total attention to creating a website that would outshine the competition in every way. My only trepidation was how long Google would make me wait before seeing any results in searches. I was prepared for the typical six to eight weeks.
Painstakingly writing extensive, interesting and creative text which differed on every page to complement excellent visuals, I included detailed “image alt,” “link alt,” and “title” coding everywhere I could. I added his industry membership, certification and service expertise logos, as well as many satisfied customer reviews with detailed project descriptions and mentioned specific locations.
I set up links to his Google+, LinkedIn and Facebook pages, in addition to adding social endorsement buttons for each. I listed his many services individually on every page with links to his comprehensive service page, anchored directly to the appropriate elaborate explanations clients would need to judge his full value.
I wrote a different title and description for every page to represent as many probable keywords potential customers might use to search for his services. Then I created and uploaded a sitemap page in a format both Google and Bing would accept so they would have all pages ready to index.
Once the site was ready, I registered it with Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools so I could use these diagnostics to further refine my work. I also registered the site with Bing Webmaster, a new effort on my part, which I found impressive and consistent with Google in its many reports and statistics.
How The New Website Ranked in Searches
The client’s review was a rave and I advised that we go live right away so Google would have adequate time to get to know us. Two days passed when my searches returned no results, even those specifically aimed at the exact domain name. On day three, one of my generic searches brought his site up on page two in the midst of competition with years of seniority on the Internet.
A second search landed him on page one, among his biggest competitors, one for whom I had won numerous marketing and design awards years ago and with whom I continue business relations today. This competitor had also purchased adwords from Google which I noticed kept his organic search results quite prominent during my many search experiments. Yet, my client’s new website beat out his ranking on page one in an important search!
This was unbelievable to me. His site has no backlinks whatsoever. His seniority is nonexistent since we wiped out his history on the Internet. And his traffic is virtually zero because it is a brand new website. Yet, with use of various keywords and search phrases, his website appeared in the competitive mix on pages one through five only three days into its life.
On both Google and Bing webmaster diagnostics, I can see exactly what searches have brought him up. On Google’s actual search page preview which appears to the right of search results, I can see what text is targeted. In some cases, the word “company” was linked to some of the industry logos I had added, which is an ironic, inadvertent and unexpected twist. The Google preview highlights text used both on the home page as well as other pages as the specific source of its keyword matches.
Only when I repeated the five exact words in the exact order of the home page title did his website appear on page one, though, which proves the overwhelming power of that component in SEO.
The more terms I used in my searches, the more his search ranking improved. Using just a 2-word search relegated his website to a much poorer ranking on Google, but he retained a good showing (page 3) on Bing.
An Astonishing Discovery!
Webmaster Tools has also given me a list of website keywords in order of priority based on the number of times each term appears.
This is a most startling set of statistics. As I often have done in recent years because of proven success, I had added a block of small text at the foot of each page specifying the name of every town he would service. Instead of working to my advantage, these town names were dominating his keywords, yet were not appearing in search results when targeted. As a consequence, when other keywords were used in search experiments, these town names may have been responsible for crowding out the prevalence of more valid terms needed to bolster his rankings. I have removed those blocks of text from every page and hopefully his rankings will improve soon.
Google Has A New Darling in Organic Search Results
I also noticed that Google is now featuring its Google+ pages for many companies in search results at the top of its organic listings. Although my client had set up his page, he has been remiss in adding any content which could explain why he is not included in those results. If he had agreed to pay me for the effort, I would have gladly uploaded plenty of worthwhile content to his Google+ site about whose critical importance I had advised him early on!
This case study provides ample insight that parameters for Google’s algorithm have drastically changed over the past few years, giving businesses without an established Internet presence a chance at search success if SEO is managed carefully. It also shows that you are never locked into using a domain or contractor you do not like. Finally, it is a glimpse into the future of SEO as an everchanging, evolving science about which we can never be too sure.
Marilyn Bontempo, president of Mid-Hudson Marketing, based in Holmes, New York, has been developing strategies for business success for more than 36 years. A professional writer and graduate of Bard College, she has won numerous awards for excellence in marketing, photography, graphics, writing and web design. As a specialist in branding, she assists many of her clients with management of their social media and public relations initiatives. In addition, she handles e-commerce for a number of online merchants not only on their own websites but also through eBay, Amazon and others. View her work at http://www.midhudsonmarketing.com.
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