SEO Audit Case Study: 1.4M Visitors in 6 Months

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In this SEO case study, we’ll show you how we managed to get our financial services client’s website to an all-time high of 1.4M visitors in just six months…

…without building any links!

case study results

This is a perfect demonstration of why you should run a comprehensive SEO audit on your website every year.

So I’m going to show you the 4 step process that we followed to transform this sites search traffic below…

A Closer Look At The Case Study Site

seo case studyOur client’s site provides real-time market data, news and services within the financial trading sector.

They also have tons of content about investing and provide free and paid tools to help everyday investors make good decisions.

They are seen by their users as a “trustworthy and reliable source of information” in their niche.

All sounds good, right?

Here’s the problem:

The client joined Search Logistics after losing over 30% of their organic traffic almost overnight.

Their primary goal was to:

  • Recover lost organic traffic
  • Get their site back on track to consistent traffic growth

The Biggest Challenges We Had to Overcome

The site’s organic traffic was growing nicely until July 2021…

Almost overnight organic traffic dropped by over 30% and showed no signs of recovery over the next couple of months.

What’s worse is they couldn’t determine the core issues of what was causing the organic traffic drop.

That’s when they got in touch with us.

The main problems we faced for the client were:

  • Hundreds of low-quality indexed pages
  • Slow page loading speed – especially on mobile
  • Massive lack of best SEO practices
  • Huge content gaps compared to competitors
  • Not seen as a complete topical authority by Google

These SEO issues were single-handedly destroying the site and it was clear that Google wouldn’t rebound the site automatically.

Why?

Firstly the site had indexed hundreds of irrelevant and poor-quality pages, which…

  1. Caused unnecessary index bloat
  2. Wasted the site’s precious crawl budget

Remember: It costs money for Google to crawl your pages.

So why would they waste their money crawling low-quality pages?

In addition to all of this, the site’s loading times were very slow. This provided a poor user experience – especially for mobile devices.

Good user experience is essential if you want your site to rank in the SERPs.

core web vitals

Lastly, the client’s site operates in the competitive finance niche and clearly didn’t have topical authority. This was going to be a big task for our team.

Thankfully we have handled tons of situations like this before.

After running a comprehensive SEO audit on the client’s site, we developed a clear SEO strategy to revamp it.

Creating A Plan Of Attack

Here is a complete breakdown of the 4 essential steps we took to overcome all of the client’s challenges.

Remember – You can use this same process and implement each to get similar results for your own site.

Step #1 – Removing Unwanted Pages From the SERPs

Most websites have some unwanted pages indexed by Google.

The odd unwanted page sneaking into the index isn’t much of a problem.

But when there are hundreds (or even thousands) of these pages are indexed – it can significantly impact your SEO.

Here’s why:

Google has limited time and resources for crawling and indexing websites (known as crawl budget).

crawling vs indexing

When numerous unwanted pages are indexed, it wastes this crawl budget for your site.

Eventually, your site’s crawl budget gets used up. At that point, Google stops crawling and indexing your important pages.

This is called index bloat and is where the problem becomes serious!

1. Identifying Pages Causing Index Bloat

Below is a list of the most common types of pages that cause index bloat and how to find them on Google.

Just copy and paste the searches into Google and replace the site with your own domain:

#1 – HTTP Pages
  • site:yourdomain.com inurl:http://
  • site:yourdomain.com -inurl:https://

site search operator google

#2 – Paginated Pages (i.e. domain.com/blog/page-2/)
  • site:yourdomain.com inurl:/page/
  • site:yourdomain.come inurl:p=

inurl page search

#3 – Tag Pages
  • site:yourdomain.com inurl:/tag/

tag search

#4 – Author Pages
  • site:yourdomain.com inurl:/author/

author search

#5 – WWW. And NON-WWW. Pages

If your site follows www. URL structures, then you shouldn’t have any non-www. web pages indexed (and vice versa).

  • site:yourdomain.com inurl:www.
  • Site:yourdomain.com -inurl:www.

www searches

You get the idea! Some other types of pages that also cause index bloat are:

  • Trailing slash – URLs follow a structure where they end with a trailing slash “/”. You shouldn’t have any pages indexed that do not contain a trailing slash because it causes duplicate pages and content.
  • Duplicate pages – Multiple pages on your website that all contain the same content. A common duplicated page homepage example is domain.com, domain.com/index.html, domain.com/homepage/ etc.
  • Test or Dev pages – Test pages from your website’s staging or development site.
  • Other thin content pages – Pages that offer little value to the end user, such as empty category pages on eCommerce websites or Thank you pages.

It’s crazy how many types of pages there are, right? And Google has to try and crawl each and every variation.

You can imagine how easy it is for an established site publishing content for 10+ years to get a ton of index bloat.

So get it sorted straight away!

2. Removing Pages Causing Index Bloat

Once you’ve identified the pages causing index bloat, there are a few ways to remove them:

#1 – Delete The Page

Remove the content and serve a 404 (not found) or 410 (gone) status on the URL. In most cases, the page will be removed from the index after it’s been recrawled by Google.

#2 – Noindex Tag

Add a noindex tag to tell Googlebot (Google’s crawler) not to index a URL. You can easily do this by adding the following line of code to the top of any page:

<meta name=”robots” content=”noindex”>

Just ensure that Google can see the tag by double-checking that you haven’t blocked the URL on your robots.txt file.

#3 – URL Removal Tool

Google’s Removals Tool allows you to temporarily remove URLs from its search index. This typically only lasts around six months.

You must either delete the page or add a no-index tag after using the removal tool to ensure it’s permanent.

YouTube video

Step #2 – Improving Page Speed Performance

Your websites speed is something you should take seriously.

How fast your website loads significantly affects your overall user experience. And user experience is something that Google takes very seriously.

page speed

Here’s what I mean:

You land on a slow-loading page and because it takes so long to load – you get frustrated and leave quickly.

This is called bounce rate, a metric that Google directly tracks on your site.

bounce rate

It also plays a crucial role in Google’s ranking algorithm.

Why does Google care?

It comes down to Google’s ultimate goal – Deliver the best possible search experience to its users.

That’s it!

Use Google’s Pagespeed Insights tool for free to see your website performance.

Just enter the URL of the page you want to measure and the tool will provide a score out of 100 based on a number of metrics.

google page speed test example

The tool also tells you exactly how to solve these issues by providing instructions on fixing each one.

page speed fix checklist

Cool, right?

Website page load speed is no longer a luxury – it’s a necessity.

When auditing our client’s page performance, we noticed that the mobile version of the site had particularly slow loading times.

This was something we needed to sort out quickly!

Here’s how we did it:

1. Lazy-Loading Images & Video Content

Simply defer loading large or resource-intensive page elements like images and videos until they are actually needed.

The images and videos load in as the user scrolls down the page.

what is lezy loading

Lazy loading will significantly:

  • Reduce the loading times of your suite
  • Improve overall page performance

This is especially true for mobile websites where users may never reach the bottom of the page.

Learn how to implement lazy loading for your own site following this tutorial.

2. Image Compression

Large files take longer to load.

That means you need to compress images to less than 100KB per image.

How do you do that?

We use image compression tools like TinyPNG and Image Compressor to reduce image file size without compromising on quality.

You can even take advantage of a tool like ShortPixel to do it automatically whenever you upload an image to your site.

shortpixel homepage

3. Minify JavaScript & CSS Files

Most websites have JavaScript and CSS files that take up a lot of processing time.

But what most people don’t know is that you can minify these files to remove:

  • Unnecessary characters
  • Unnecessary code
  • Unnecessary whitespace

..so they load quicker.

If you do this manually, it will take forever.

We use Terser to minify your JS files and Totpal to minify your CSS files quickly but you can also use WPRocket.

By optimising the page speed with just the 3 techniques above, we significantly improved the time it took for the client’s website to load – especially on mobile.

Step #3 – Building Topical Authority with Blog Content

With the core technical SEO issues out of the way – it was time to focus on website content.

This meant creating quality content that ranked well in Google and provided tons of value to their audience.

Regularly publishing blog content on your website has a number of huge benefits:

  1. Increases your keyword visibility for long-tail keywords
  2. Provides internal linking opportunities for the most important pages on your website
  3. Builds topical relevance, showing both Google and your viewers that you’re an expert within your industry
  4. Generates more traffic from Google

After performing a full content audit, it was clear that the client lacked the quality content they needed to rank.

Our team also identified significant content gaps between the client’s site and key competitors, which prevented them from building topical authority for both Google and users.

This was even more important because the client was in a YMYL (Your Money or Your Life) niche – Finance.

What is YMYL?

YMYL websites cover topics that may impact a person’s:

  • Physical well-being
  • Mental well-being
  • Financial well-being
Google scrutinises websites that are in YMYL niches even more than usual because of the impact they can have on people’s lives.

This means showcasing Experience, Expertise, Authority and Trust (E-EAT) is essential.

what is eeat in seo

The next step was to create a detailed content strategy for the blog that involved an outline of which topics and keywords should be covered.

Here’s how we did it:

1. Competitor’s Blogs

This is the simplest (but most effective) way to expand your own blog content. You simply look at what your direct competitors are posting about.

You can either:

  • Spot-check their blog, which you’ll usually find on a URL like:
  • your-competitor.com/blog

  • Do a site search for their blog posts using a site search like:
  • site:your-competitor.com inurl:/blog/

But there is an even better way to get content ideas and see what keywords your competitors are targeting with my intelligent keyword spreadsheet (you can dowload via the link below)

Download our Intelligent Keyword Spreadsheet.

This powerful sheet uncovers your competitor’s low-competition, high-traffic keywords FOR FREE.

It takes less than 5 minutes and will give you a massive list of keywords and content ideas to focus on.

2. Ahrefs Content Gap

Another way to find new blog post ideas is to use Ahrefs’ Content Gap report.

This will provide you with a list of keywords your competitors are ranking for but you aren’t.

You can then create new articles that are optimised for these keywords to fill the content gap.

Simple, right?

Enter your competitors’ domains into the tool along with your own website (you can add up to 10 competing domains).

ahrefs content gap

Click “Show keywords” and Ahrefs will pump out a list of all the keywords your site is missing.

ahrefs keyword gap list

Go through the keywords to identify any relevant topics to your website.

If you already have a similar page to your competitor but aren’t ranking for a specific keyword, you don’t necessarily need to create an entirely new blog post.

Add new content to the existing page to cover the topic gap.

Work smarter, not harder.

3. ChatGPT

ChatGPT is an AI model that is great for generating content ideas for your blog.

Use the following prompt template and type it into ChatGPT:

Generate X blog post ideas about [enter your niche / industry / topic

Here’s an example of SEO topics:

chatgpt generated topics

You can extend this search further by getting ChatGPT to focus on specific subtopics:

sub-topic ideas

Found a couple of content ideas?

Now, get ChatGPT to create an outline for it:

chatgpt outline

Now you can refine the outline and ensure it covers all the core sub-categories for the main article.

Make sure that you:

  • Add in your own experience
  • Demonstrate good E-EAT

Just using those 3 topic expander techniques, we were able to fill in all of the key topic gaps our client’s competitors had.

Step #4 – Implementing Internal Linking

Internal linking might be one of the most underrated SEO strategies.

What is that?

Internal linking is when you create hyperlinks from one page of your site to another (page of your site).

difference between internal and external links

It’s also a ranking factor that Google uses to better understand your content while helping readers and search engine crawlers navigate your site easily.

Pretty important, right?

There’s more…

Good internal linking can enhance website’s:

  • Visibility
  • User experience
  • Search engine rankings

The bottom line is you need to pay close attention to your internal linking strategy.

Internal Linking Best Practices

Below are the best practices we use to implement good internal linking.

#1 – Use Descriptive Anchor Text

Choose descriptive and relevant anchor text for your internal links.

descriptive anchor text for internal link exmple

Google considers the anchor text as a:

  • Signal of relevance
  • Context between the pages

Use keyword-rich anchor text that accurately describes the linked page.

#2 – Link To Relevant Content

Internal links connect related pages and content within your website.

By linking to relevant pages, you provide users with more information and resources, encouraging exploration.

This can:

  • Increase visitor engagement and conversions
  • Help Google understand your website structure
#3 – Optimise Link Placement

The placement of internal links within your content matters.

Aim to place important internal links at the top of the page or within the body of the content where users and search engines are more likely to notice them.

This ensures that the links receive more visibility and authority.

#4 – Use A Reasonable Number Of Links

There is no hard rule on the correct number of internal links you should have.

A good guideline is to add internal whenever they are relevant. But don’t overdo it – too many can confuse users and weaken link authority.

#5 – Create A Logical Site Structure

A well-organised website structure with a clear hierarchy and intuitive navigation helps users and search engines understand the relationship between different pages.

Silo Structure vs Flat Structure

Ensure each page is easily accessible through internal links, enabling users to navigate seamlessly.

Here’s an example of an eCommerce website:

Blog post > Product page > Sub-category Page > Category Page > Homepage

#6 – Use Breadcrumb Navigation

Breadcrumbs are a helpful navigation aid that shows users the path they’ve taken to reach a specific page.

They improve user experience and reinforce internal linking by providing clear paths for website navigation.

Here’s an example of what breadcrumb navigation looks like:

breadcrumb navigation example

#7 – Fix Broken Internal Links

Broken or outdated links can harm user experience and SEO.

Check regularly for broken links and update them.

broken links on ahrefs

This ensures users can navigate your site smoothly and helps search engines correctly crawl and index your content.

It’s worth spending the time to ensure that your internal linking strategy is on point. You’d be surprised at how big an impact it can have on your site’s performance (and even rankings).

read our case studies

The Results Are In

That brings us to the exciting part…

After running the in-depth SEO audit and implementing the 4 key tactics above, the client’s site reached a massive all-time high of 1.4 million visitors in a single month.

1.4 million traffic case study image

Crazy, right?

But that’s not all…

The site is now ranking for 93,914 keywords in the top 10 positions of the search results compared to 80,522 at the start of the project (November 2022).

ranking keyword results

That’s an increase of 16.6% in just six months.

Don’t underestimate the importance of technical SEO and creating great content your readers will love. It can generate significant gains in shorter periods of time than you might expect.

Need help with your SEO? Click here to get in touch now.

Wrapping It Up

Here’s the big takeaway from all of this…

Technical SEO is essential and if you aren’t running SEO audits consistently, you are running a huge risk of massive issues in the future.

The truth is that quality content and good technical SEO are the foundations your website needs.

As a reminder, here’s a quick recap of the 4 steps we used:

  • Step #1 – Identify and remove unwanted pages from Google’s index to maximise your sites crawl budget
  • Step #2 -Improve your page speed performance by lazy-loading and compressing images on your website and minifying your JavaScript and CSS files
  • Step #3 -Find topics for your blog by using your competitors’ websites as inspiration
  • Step #4 -Implement a quality internal linking strategy throughout your site

Don’t have the time to do it yourself?

Hire my SEO team to help. Submit an enquiry here!

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What Are Your Thoughts?

10 Responses

  1. Hey Mat.
    I think that you will be unpopular with lots of your peers for producing this great insight and as Gerald
    mentioned above ( powerful information that is unknown to many of us ) perhaps it may inspire you to
    dig out future info that would benefit us novices.
    Thank You.

  2. Wow, powerful information that is unknown to many of us. It’s helped me to identify what I’m doing incorrectly. And understand why competitors are ranking well.
    Thanks!
    Gerald

  3. Hi Mathew,
    I loved your article and this is helpful for all SEO geeks! Is there any tool for creating breadcrumbs or how to create breadcrumbs?

    1. Hi!Rank Math and Yoast offer you the possible to enable breadcrumbs on your site. They both have blogs that explain how to do it on their website.

    1. Yes, you can rank a website without external links – However, just having a silo structure and internal links is not enough. You need to focus on all on-page elements (site speed, structure, user experience, etc.) – In other words, you need a rock-solid SEO foundation. On top of that, you also need great and valuable content.

  4. This content could well be a best selling e-book! I’ve been thinking of researching about how to conduct a site audit for a clear, step-by-step guide to retrieve rank on my affiliate site and my search ends here 🙂 Thank you!

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1.4M Visitors - Zero Link Building

Campaign Challenges:

  • Huge technical problems including spammy content
  • There was a huge content gap to fill
  • We did not build any new links
Campaign Results:
1.4M

Organic Visitors

93,914

Top 10 Rankings

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