I’ve recently been rather busy working for a local company, who I won’t name for sake of embarrassing them or their ‘SEO’ agency.  Too often I’ve encountered companies paying monthly fees to so-called SEO agencies who achieve little tangible result.  It’s a worrying trend that these agencies present SEO as some highly complex, dark art only to be fixed by throwing money at it month-after-month, without a clear explanation of their methods or results.

In this particular case, the agency in question claimed that most SEO is done on-page and apparently social media only has a small effect on SEO efforts.  Interesting.  And wrong.  Anyway…  given their stance about it all being on-page, I thought they must be able to present a great demonstration of highly optimised pages.  Not so.  In fact, after a few hours of poking around I could find little evidence that anything but a few key pages were adhering to well documented SEO best-practice.

Time to get to work.  I started by bringing all the content writers (for a site of almost 20,000 product pages there are a few) and explaining what SEO is, why it’s needed and some simple rules to follow:

  1. Use Google trends to look for various different ways of presenting the product – calling it slightly different things – and find what the highest RELEVANT demand is for
  2. Test the result of step 1 by keying that search into Google – does it bring up similar items / competitors?
  3. Ensure the keyword is used in the page title (at the start), ensure the title is close to and below the recommended maximum length (55 characters)
  4. Ensure the keyword is used towards the start of the h1 (heading) on the page
  5. Insert the keyword 2 or 3 times in the body copy (where appropriate – never forced)
  6. link to the page from elsewhere in the site and use the keyword in the description of the link (link text and title tag)
  7. link out of the page to other relevant pages – this isn’t just about SEO, it’s also about creating useful links and aiding the buying process

Thankfully the site is coded well enough to bring keywords (from page name) into image alt tags and other places.  However without steps 1 and 2, this was pointless.  Optimisation needs to start with insight into market demand!

The above approach was combined with some performance optimisation (taking page load speed from over 12 seconds in some cases down to less than 300 milliseconds), and a scattering of well-written blog articles and social media posts.  In addition to this I’ve been working to fix a terrifying volume of duplicate content (taking over 12,000 category pages down to less than 2,000) and redirecting a shocking 10,000 missing pages (to be fair, their SEO agency was aware of this part – but hadn’t actually done anything yet).

The result – turning a business around from monthly decline in sales from organic search traffic for the last year or so, to an increase in revenue from organic search.  The best bit – they’ve gone from talking about redundancies, to talking about new hires and growth.  And they’ve done all this without needing to keep me on as a monthly cost – now most of the problems are fixed, their internal team know how to keep things growing – doing the job of an SEO agency internally.

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