Case Study on GrowTraffic

How to use SEO Copywriting to Increase a Website’s SERP Ranking

 

 

Introduction to GrowTraffic

 

I’ve been working as an SEO Copywriter for a good while now; initially I spent several years working for the NHS but, for the past couple of years, I have been writing freelance and working with Search Marketing expert Simon Dalley at GrowTraffic.

 

GrowTraffic is a Digital Marketing Consultancy operating in the freelance sphere and, since its inception in 2009, has helped a wide range of clients improve their business’ online presence. Working with several loyal and reliable partners, GrowTraffic covers the whole range of online marketing services (SEO, PPC, landing pages, website re-design, copywriting etc.), taking clients right through the entire SEO process, from the first minute they approach us, through all the necessary research and different elements of work, until they have a vastly improved website that not only ranks highly in the SERPs but also offers a great ROI and, ultimately, makes them money.

 

Through our blog and client research, we keep abreast of all SEO trends and algorithmic updates, including the ever present dark arts, although GrowTraffic only ever practices ethical SEO and we never engage in so called ‘Black Hat’ techniques. We firmly believe that the best way to achieve results is to always be open, upfront and honest with our clients.

 

 

Introduction to Our Client  

 

Over the years, GrowTraffic have worked with a wide range of clients, from blue chip international corporations and household brands through to the smallest of start-ups. This particular client, a Freelance Web and Graphic Designer, first approached GrowTraffic in January 2013 to request help with the SEO of his website, which had slipped down to position 40 for a term they’d previously ranked well for.

 

Although the website in question was the client’s main website for his own business, other projects had kept him occupied elsewhere for the previous two years and the site had inevitably slipped down the rankings due to a lack of attention. As these projects had now come to an end, the client needed to re-establish his business in order to attract new contracts.

 

Having worked as a web designer for over 15 years, the client was familiar with the notion of SEO and had a passable knowledge of the main principles, however, as it was not the primary concern of his work, he had not kept abreast of the seismic changes that have reshaped the SEO landscape over the past 18 months. Acknowledging his limitations, and needing to make an immediate investment in the website, the client contacted GrowTraffic.

 

To begin with, GrowTraffic performed an audit of the website and its current performance in terms of the search engine ranking and quickly reached the opinion that the most effective and rapid course of action would be to implement an SEO copywriting campaign, which would restore the site’s authority, improve its position in the search engine results pages (SERPs) and increase the amount of traffic to the website.

 

In order to address the needs of both website and client and implement the necessary SEO copywriting campaign, GrowTraffic took the following actions.

 

 

  • Step 1Research

The first and most important step with any SEO copywriting campaign is that of research; it is the foundation upon which everything you subsequently do will be built and your work will stand or fall on the basis of this stage. As with any other marketing campaign, it is vital that you thoroughly research the client, their business and the online market in which they operate before any decisions are reached regarding the structure or implementation of the campaign.

 

  1. The Initial Conversations

 

Initially, your research will begin with several long and detailed conversation with the client in order to find out as much information as you possibly can; the more detailed the information you have, the more you will be able to tailor your copy specifically – and the plan as a whole – to the needs of your client.

 

In order to ensure that the right questions are asked and no crucial knowledge is missed, it is advantageous to have a standardised document from which these initial conversations can be directed. The first few occasions on which you engage with a new client can vary greatly; they may be done in person in a busy office, remotely by Skype on a bad line or just over an exchange of emails meaning that you never actually see each other face to face but, however they’re conducted, these first few conversations are often peppered with distractions and it is all too easy to miscommunicate what could turn out to be vital information.

 

  1. The Creative Brief

 

To avoid this pitfall, GrowTraffic uses a standard New Client Creative Brief; on occasion, I have emailed this document and asked the client to complete and return it themselves although, more often than not, I simply fill it out using my own notes after the preliminary conversations have been had.

 

In the case of GrowTraffic’s Web Design client, I completed the Creative Brief as follows;

 

 

Name Of Company:

 

#97

 

Please summarise the project (i.e. what you require from GrowTraffic):

 

SEO copywriting to help improve the website’s ranking. Website has been left over last two years but client now wants to re-start the site and needs help to get it up the rankings. Client would like page 1 but accepts that this will take time and require a lot of writing. Client agrees blog posts as the main course of attack but is also open to re-writing content and possible off-site articles, if appropriate. All work to be onsite to begin with. Client accepts may require ongoing SEO on monthly retainer basis following implementation of initial campaign. Client may want further SEO work carrying out for his clients going forward.

 

 

What is your budget?

 

 

Possible budgets discussed with client and he is willing to consider any quote depending on the needs of the site. Will quote shortly.

 

Please provide your domain name(s).

 

www.***********.co.uk

 

 

What is your current ranking/position?

 

 

Currently at 44. Highest ever reached is 6 (2012).

 

What is the nature of your business?

 

 

Web and Graphic Design

 

What products or services do you offer?

 

Web Design; Logo Design; Corporate Image Design; e-Commerce Services etc.

 

 

Who is your target audience?

 

Small to medium business owners; often little experience of digital marketing; often have minimal online presence; needing help and advice re. first website/new website; generally locally based i.e. in and around Manchester.

 

How do you want your target audience to perceive your business?

 

Professional, experienced, reliable, affordable, friendly.

 

What do you want to achieve with your website?

 

Main purpose is to attract new business; client needs site to start generating enquiries ASAP.   Content must show that client is knowledgeable and a safe pair of hands; needs to demonstrate experience but useful content is of secondary interest to client

In as few words as possible, what’s the single most important idea that visitors to your website should be left with?  

An affordable way of getting a quality website for your business.

 

Who are your main competitors?

 

 

Information removed (for client’s confidentiality).

 

How are you positioned in the market compared to them?

Currently way down the list; this market is very competitive and two years out has left client in the cold. To beat the competition we need to approach this from a search engine POV rather than a customer POV. Website needs a lot of improvement to match competition.
 

What are your desired keywords?

 

 

Information Removed (for client’s confidentiality).

GrowTraffic will research your target audience and online market further; are you agreeable to changing targeted keywords if appropriate?  

Yes.

 

Do you currently have any social media campaigns?

 

Facebook, Twitter and Google+ accounts set up but very little interaction so far; hardly anything, certainly in last year. Chosen purely for popularity, no research done.

 

Would you like GrowTraffic to research/instigate a social media campaign?

 

Client is confident that he can instigate this himself but is likely to require some advice/help from GT. Not the main priority at the moment so may return to this later.

 

Do you currently have a blog?

 

 

Yeah, although not been in use for a while. Function is ready on website (WordPress); posts were uploaded at the beginning but nothing in the last year at least.

 

Would you consider a blog on your website?

Main feature the client requires; SEO copywriting campaign to be based around a blog, other copy may be added at a later date. Client initially wants all posts to be written by GT to boost rankings, then suggests possible decrease in frequency once established (not advised).
 

Has your website been maintained by an SEO agency in the past?

 

N/A

 

With GrowTraffic’s help, would you be willing to take over your own SEO campaign?

 

Yep.

 

Please provide us with any additional information that you think will be important or that we need to know.

Client initially wants to concentrate on the blog so I will quote for this first – a minimum of 3 blogs per week will be required (not researched yet) – but I strongly suspect that the design and content of the website will also need reviewing. Not up to the standard required to reach page 1 at the moment. Client advised and is agreeable.

Depending on the client and the project being undertaken, additional sections may need to be added or others removed when completing this form, but it does at least give you an idea of the issues that need to be addressed in those first few conversations with a new client.

 

Moreover, it is essential that the completion of this document does not mark the end of discussions between yourself and your client; effective communication is the surest way of ensuring a project’s success and an ongoing dialogue must be maintained to encourage this.

 

  1. Research the Competition

 

Whilst the Creative Brief is unarguably an invaluable document to work with, it is impossible to gain all the knowledge needed to execute an SEO copywriting campaign from the client alone. Instead, utilising the knowledge acquired about the business, the next stage is to carry out extensive research into the current state of the client’s website and the online market in which it operates.

 

This is not an arduous task however it can take some time, as there are several key stages that must be covered;

 

  1. Identify the Keywords                     To begin with, it’s always best to target as few keywords as possible, choosing one or two that will form the foundation for the SEO campaign and that can be added to at a later date if necessary. The starting point is likely to be those keywords specified by the client, although there’s a good chance that these may change once the research has been conducted.
  2. Research the Keywords                    The next step is to examine the validity and popularity of those chosen keywords to establish their viability; there are several tools available that can help with this but the Google Keyword Tool is one of the best. If you don’t already have one, you will need to create a Google Ad Words account to use this tool.
  3. Cross-reference the Keywords                    Using the results obtained through the Google Keyword Tool, you can then cross-reference them using Google Trends, which allow you to explore in more detail the long term trends of your chosen keywords. If the trends indicate that your chosen keywords are, for example, decreasing in popularity, rather than increasing, then there is little point in targeting them and an alternative should be indicated.
  4. Identify the Competition                 Once you have reached a consensus about the targeted keywords, a search in Google for those terms will allow you to quickly identify and measure the competition. The first thing to note is the number of results that are returned, it will be under the Google headings in the top left of your screen; the fewer results returned for that keyword, the less competition there will be and the easier it should be to target.                                                      Taking the top 10 websites from the search results, you can then study the methods that the competition are employing and scrutinise their means of success in achieving the top positions. By examining these websites in this way, you will be able to gather a wealth of information and document everything from their design, the amount of content they are creating, the type of content being uploaded and even the style of writing adopted; in short, you should be able to fashion a basic blueprint for successfully ranking on your chosen keywords.
  5. Double Check the Competition                   With the information now accumulated, you can make use of competitive research sites, the best one of which is www.semrush.com, to further study the competitive data of your top two or three rivals. Amongst a host of other things, this will enable you to find out which terms the competition are targeting organically, which in turn will inform your decision about the keywords you wish to target. By now, you will be able to firm up your keyword selection (or go back to the second point and start again!).

 

It’s important to remember here that, at any point during this stage, the targeted keywords are liable to change as the research you are doing informs your decisions. It’s crucial that the dialogue between you and your client remains open and honest so that they are aware of any changes and the reasons behind them as they happen.

 

Returning to GrowTraffic’s Web Design client; he had chosen two keywords that were very specific to his business and its locality. Having followed the steps outlined above and thoroughly researched both his website and those of his direct competitors, it was decided that GrowTraffic’s SEO copywriting campaign would continue with those two keyword terms.

 

Despite being quite heavily contested terms, requiring a very high standard of design and content creation, the fact that the keywords were location specific meant that there was a niche that could be targeted effectively. Hence, now armed with an arsenal of information, I moved on to the next step in the campaign.

 

 

  • Step 2 – Plan

Having now done the vast bulk of the preparation work, the next step is to assemble a working plan that will outline the structure of the campaign, the style of the writing and the subjects to be covered. In order to keep the plan in line with the foundations of the campaign, there are several key points that must be addressed;

 

  1. Identify A Niche

 

Using the information that you have now accumulated about the client, their target market and their online habitat, it is vital that you now identify a niche into which the client will slot; admittedly, this harder to do with some clients than with others and it can occasionally require a little bit of forging but, by doing this, you are much better placed to find an audience for your content and thus drive traffic to the website.

 

In the case of our client, as I have already mentioned, the niche to crack is the locality; Web Design in Manchester. Despite operating in a highly competitive market, by concentrating on his local area, I can further research the competition’s content creation and use it to shape my writing.

 

  1. Balance The Ideal And The Do-able

 

Unless you’re working for a FTSE 100 Company with oodles of money, there is always going to be a conflict between what you would ideally do and what you can actually do. This is not just in terms of what you can accomplish; your plan will be shaped by the limitations of your client’s time and money.

 

In the case of our Web Designer, having looked at the competition and seen their level of content creation, I was aware that, if we were ever to match or even beat their top ranking position, the necessary plan would be to publish one blog post daily as a bare minimum, plus re-write the content of the website and introduce multimedia such as image, slide or video posts, not to mention ratchet up the social media interactions by several notches. As this was not all possible to begin with, the plan I drew up for this client eventually looked like this;

 

 

Copywriting

 

 

Details

 

Frequency

 

Delivery

 

Blog Posts

 

 

500 word posts, to discuss all aspects of online marketing, with particular emphasis on recent developments/marketing news, concentrating on Manchester and the locality. Posts may additionally discuss aspects related to but not directly involving digital marketing e.g. issues relevant to Manchester.  

3 x Per Week

(Frequency open to change going forward)

 

To begin immediately. GT to upload directly to the website.

 

Images/Slides/Video (Multimedia)

 

These will be created by GT but will relate to the blog posts and published alongside or within them.

 

 

 

As blogs.

 

As blogs.

 

Website Copy

 

The content of the entire website (all pages) will need to be re-written, in order to meet the standards of the competition and reflect the updated target market.

 

 

One bulk of work but can be done piecemeal if necessary.

 

To be agreed once the blogging campaign has had time to bed down.

 

Social Media

 

 

Current social media accounts will be updated and re-started as required and utilised to publicise the blog posts and new content.

 

 

 

Will be done in line with publication of blog posts.

 

To begin immediately. GT to manage until further notice.

Having now researched every angle of the client’s requirements and made a balance between the ideal amount of content creation necessary to achieve a top ranking position and the actual amount as dictated by the limitations of the client’s budget and time, you will now be in a position to draw up a comprehensive plan of the pieces you will produce.

 

  1. Timetable The Content

 

This may appear to be a daunting task to begin with, particularly when envisaging a seemingly endless round of blog posts, but it is actually much easier than you may first think. Anyone familiar with marketing will be aware of the principle of employing a calendar to plan content creation and planning out blog posts is no different.

 

Thus, you mark out the contracted three posts per week on your calendar and sync your subjects with notable dates – such as Halloween or Christmas – as much as possible. By this time you will have a large chunk of your posts planned and the remaining ones can be filled with content relevant to the client, always remembering to be flexible, however, in case topical items arise on the news.

 

 

  • Step 3 – Write

 

By this point, for me at least, the hardest part of a project is done and I can now settle down to what I like doing best – writing. By now you should have a good idea of how you are going to write the content and what you are going to write about so, theoretically at least, it should be plain sailing from here. I’m ever the optimist!

 

As SEO copywriting works slightly differently, however, it is vital that the following points are always at the forefront of your mind whilst writing;

 

  1. Remember Your Audience             Never forget who you are writing to and make sure you write in a way that will engage them and about subjects that will interest them.
  2. Remember Your Client                 You must always remember that you are not writing as yourself, you are writing as your client. The client’s website is the embodiment of their business and, by extension, an embodiment of them; you are writing as the client speaking directly to their customers so the tone and style of writing should reflect this.
  3. Style Your Writing                        An experienced copywriter should be able to write in any way necessary for the client; so, for example, the tone of your writing must be appropriate – do your audience prefer funny or serious? Do you need to write in perfect English or can a more colloquial tone be adopted?
  4. Remember Your Competition                  Keep a beady eye on what the competition are producing and make sure what you’re doing is better; it sounds simple but is so often forgotten in favour of just churning out copy to please the content creation machine. It also sounds easy but does take a certain level of skill; the harder the market you’re trying to crack, the better your copy needs to be.

 

  1. Remember The Search Engines      The stated aim of all search engines, Google in particular, is to present their user with the best possible websites in answer to their search criteria and their algorithms are constantly being updated to reflect this. As an SEO copywriter, my job is to write copy that pleases the search engines as much as it pleases the end reader; these two aims are intertwined, as one will (or, at least, should) always lead to the other.
  2. Mind The Keywords                      Finding this balance between search engine and reader is crucial, as keyword laden text that says very little at best (and at worst is practically unreadable) will harm your website exponentially. Recognising that searchers want websites that provide them with detailed and useful information, Google’s latest round of algorithm updates now place emphasis on a more natural writing style that is easy to read and, quite frankly, makes sense. The skill then, in SEO copywriting, is almost to get your keywords in without anyone noticing.
  3. Keep It Relevant                          Another essential way to please the search engines, and therefore the quickest route to secure higher rankings, is to write content that is relevant and particularly content that is trending that day. A quick review of social media feeds and similar blogs will give you plenty of ammo for topical discussions.
  4. Write Well                                  It’s the most basic of points, but badly written copy will get you nowhere fast. As a copywriter, I strongly believe that there is no place for poor writing anywhere, but there are occasions where the quality of the copy is not of great concern. If your purpose is to improve a website’s ranking, however, then it’s not negotiable; your writing needs to be beyond reproach. This means that your spelling, punctuation, syntax and grammar need to be perfect throughout the entire website and your writing must be accessible but not patronizing.
  5. Structure Your Content                 Whilst I don’t have the space to discuss it in detail here, there is an art to writing persuasive copy that is fundamental to SEO copywriting. Put very briefly, any piece of SEO content should be structured as follows;
  • An enticing heading that draws the reader in,
  • An introduction to the subject you are discussing,
  • An explanation that goes in to greater detail,
  • An explanation of why this is important to your reader and then the most important section,
  • A call to action

 

What’s more, rather obviously, the content must be built around (but not beholden to) the chosen keywords and must also include relevant links, both internal and external.

 

In the case of GrowTraffic’s Web Design client, I started producing and uploading three blog posts per week, discussing anything and everything to do with digital marketing, with a particular emphasis on topical stories designed to generate traffic and evergreen content to ensure ongoing interest and relevance. Throughout the project, I kept the client’s target audience in mind, writing to professional small to medium business owners of the correct demographics and the business community in Manchester, whilst also making the blog posts accessible for and relevant to other bloggers and webmasters in a similar niche market.

 

By taking this approach, I was able to ensure that the content on the website would be interesting and useful to potential customers whilst also showing the client off as an expert in his field. What’s more, the blog posts were not only hitting the desired keywords but were also ranking for current search terms, due to the fact that they were topical. The added bonus with this approach is that similar professionals will additionally read, comment upon and share the content, not only helping with the battle of promoting the content but also establishing the client as an expert to yet another audience.

 

 

  • Step 4 – Promote and share

 

 

The thing about copywriting these days is that you can’t just upload a piece of content to a website and assume that your work is done; instead, in order for the website to benefit from the SEO copywriting process by increasing its traffic, content promotion is as essential as content creation.

 

In fact, this is arguably the most important step in the entire process; if you’re writing to improve a website’s search engine rank then you need to prove to the search engine algorithms that the content you are creating is useful, as opposed to just relevant. In other words, stuffing a piece of writing with keywords will not gain you rankings, anyone can write keyword laden rubbish; the search engines now want proof that your content is worth their recommendation and the best way to show them that is to get people reading it.

 

The key to maximising your content’s reach is to make use of as many tools, websites and apps as you possibly can although, as with the amount of content you can produce, the knack is in finding a balance between the ideal and the do-able. There are now so many social media platforms that can be utilised for business promotion that, without a dedicated team of staff, it would be impossible to have an active presence on all of them. Instead, the trick is to research those that your target audience is most likely to engage with and focus on those; I generally advise clients to concentrate on three or four, which for most people will be Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn.

 

In addition, especially if you’re publishing a blog, there are numerous blog networks or blog community sites that are essential tools for publicising your content to a wider audience, plus there are always industry specific forums that provide the added bonus of establishing your client as an expert in their field.

 

In this case, our client already had profiles set up on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn, although there had been only minimum engagement with any social media for some time. To rectify this, I updated the client’s profiles on all four social media networks and began promoting the blogs now being published three times per week as agreed. I additionally advised the client to redouble his social media interaction in order to increase his chances of improving his site’s search engine ranking, which he was happy to do.

 

Moreover, I made use the blog community sites Bloglovin, Fuel My Blog and Networked Blogs to further increase his new blog’s reach, readership and popularity.

 

 

  • Step 5 – Review and Continue

 

 

Throughout the entirety of any SEO campaign, particularly that of SEO copywriting, there are a further two steps that must be continually returned to and adhered to;

 

  1. Review Your Progress

 

Writing on ad infinitum without reviewing the effect the content is having is pointless; at every stage it is crucial to check whether the site has improved its position or not. Reviewing the campaign regularly not only allows you to gauge the overall impact of the campaign but also identify which pieces of copy had a positive impact and which didn’t, thereby informing and shaping your plan as you continue.

 

Somewhat frustratingly, however, SEO Copywriting can very often have a delay between the time of publishing and witnessing the impact, leaving you in limbo with a client whilst you cross your fingers to ‘wait and see’. Very rarely will an intensive campaign of copywriting have no effect though, so you will always see an impact of one sort or another with a little patience; it is just wise to bear this quirk in mind before reaching the point of despair and throwing in the towel!

 

As if to prove a point, in the case of GrowTraffic’s Web Designer client, there was almost three weeks – nine blog posts – of barely any noticeable movement before the site began to slowly climb up the rankings. However, once the regular content creation had been given time to bed in, the site continued to improve its position; by the end of the initial contracted period of three months, the site had climbed to position 12 in Google and, by the end of a further three months, the website was nestling comfortably in the 2nd place slot.

 

  1. Keep On Going

 

As optimising a website for the search engines is, by necessity, an ongoing process, it is not feasible to simply implement a three month SEO copywriting campaign and then stop; the minute the content creation stops, the website will once again fall away down the rankings, as other websites create newer, fresher content and move on up the ladder.

 

Instead, once the correct level of content creation has been established and the website has gained rankings as a result, this process must continue at the same rate for as long as the client needs the site to rank. It should also be noted that, the higher the position reached in the rankings, the fiercer the competition is for that slot and thus the harder it becomes to maintain; in many cases, keeping the content creation at a steady level may not be sufficient to hold the top spot and the content will need to be increased both in volume and quality.

 

 

Conclusion

 

After having worked with this client for almost eight months, producing three blog posts per week as already discussed, GrowTraffic were able to get this client to the top of Google for the keywords he had initially requested, proving that the campaign of SEO copywriting as laid out here succeeded in all its stated aims.

 

Having reached the top position, the client decided, against the advice of GrowTraffic, to cease creating content, erroneously believing that the goal had now been achieved. Unfortunately, the site quite quickly began to once again fall down the rankings and the client requested that the campaign be reinstated, at which point the site regained some of its losses.

 

Whilst undertaking this second stage of work for the client, GrowTraffic also utilised the principles of SEO copywriting to rewrite the entire content of the website, a task which additionally helped the site the remain in the number one position once it had returned to it. After having maintained a top position for some time, GrowTraffic were able to reduce slightly the amount of content created and introduce various other SEO techniques to bolster the copywriting campaign.

 

Overall though, the case of this client’s website has illustrated perfectly the power that SEO copywriting can have when determining a website’s rankings. Over the past 18 months+, I have experimented with the amount of new content required, the subjects discussed, the style and tone of the writing and the amount of subsequent promotion, finding in the end a perfect compromise between the demands of the search engines and the capacity of my client. Throughout it all, however, the principles of SEO copywriting have remained the foundation stone of my work and they have once again come up trumps.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Contact Me

 

If you would like to contact me to ask me a question about the case study or to discuss any aspect of my work then please get in touch by emailing me at rachelweinhold@msn.com. Thank you.