Author: Mark Birkett - First published 24th January 2013 (Updated January 2014)
How well was dalemedia.co.uk performing when we started?
Excellent question. Without knowing a (failing) website's starting point, how can we judge any SEO successes?
To explain; our old website at www.dalemedia.co.uk was just a single web page with a few paragraphs of information on it plus a basic contact form. We deliberately left the site like that for an entire year - i.e. from January 2012 to January 2013 (relying quite heavily on our soon-to-be-replaced website at www.dalemedia.com for business leads - since you kindly asked). This was done so that we'd avoid any chance of falling foul of the somewhat 'ageist' Google Sandbox which allegedly treats 'newcomer' websites less graciously than the 'old timer' websites that have been around a long time.
In short, we did absolutely no SEO work on this single-page website whatsoever for an entire year. That's because we wanted to start our SEO demonstration with a 'stagnant' and 'unloved' website that would mirror many similarly 'unloved' business websites elsewhere. This is what it looked like; not particularly inviting to the eye; nor particularly impressive to Google in SEO terms.
Was the old site already indexed by Google?
Yes, it had been submitted and indexed by Google but nothing else. The old site performed dreadfully to be quite frank, as you will see...
Don't forget, what we really want to do is to rank well for search phrases that have potential traffic attached to them (i.e. potential customers) . So, using the FREE Google Keywords Tool, we checked the potential traffic levels for a number of relevant phrases (i.e. relevant to our web and SEO-related business services). Here's what that initial research told us:
For each of these 14 phrases, the image above shows the potential traffic over the last 30 days for both 'global' and 'local monthly searches'. ('Local' in this instance means the UK, and were interested in those traffic figures because we trade in the UK).
You'll also notice that some of the phrases contain a reference to towns and cities near to Dalemedia (i.e. Manchester, Rochdale, Bury etc). This is important, because whilst it might be nice to rank highly for what's called the 'head' of a given search term ( i.e. 'web design'), the chances of getting to the top of the rankings for that phrase are very slim - not impossible, but fairly slim simply because there are so many other web design and SEO companies trying to do exactly the same thing.
So we'll also focus on finding out our ranking results for geo-located terms such as 'web designers manchester'. This is known as the 'long tail of search'. And that illustrates a timely and vital point...
If we are in Manchester and the person making the search is also in Manchester, they are probably a 'hotter lead' than someone in (say) Exeter. And it is also a fact that there is more potential traffic buried in the combined 'tail' of search terms than there is in the more generic 'head' of search terms. So always remember,
"Target The Head, But Don't Forget To Chase the Tail"
OK, back to checking our rankings then...
The phrases for which we're interested in checking our ranking are now:
Geographically-focused & relevant search phrases:
web designers manchester - 8100 UK monthly searches
web design manchester - 14800 UK monthly searches
web design rochdale - 480 UK monthly searches
web design bury - 720 UK monthly searches
web design oldham - 480 UK monthly searches
web design stockport - 590 UK monthly searches
search engine optimisation manchester - 880 UK monthly searches
seo manchester 12100 UK monthly searches
Some non geographically-focused & relevant search phrases:
e-commerce website design - 14800 UK monthly searches
video company - 22200 UK monthly searches
web designers - 201000 UK monthly searches
website design courses - 12100 UK monthly searches
web video - 49500 UK monthly searches
how to design a website - 823000 UK monthly searches
These 14 phrases are by no means an exhaustive list we could have checked for, but it will suffice to make the point here. That's because the phrases above are relevant to what we do and clearly carry a healthy number of UK monthly searches. In fact, if we were able to attract every single one of those searches to come to our site, that would represent just under a million searches a month. Even if we only attracted 1% of that vast market, we'd have 10,000 site visitors a month. And if only 1% of those site visitors actually became customers, that would be 100 new customers every 30 days. Now that's worth working for!
How do you know how well / badly the old site was performing for these phrases?
Whilst there are many Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) tools out there, we are going to test drive one of the more popular ones to help us answer this question. We're going to be using Link Assistant's SEO Power Suite. You can download a FREE trial version to use yourself.
(NOTE: Some of SEO Power Suite's features are disabled unless you pay the full £180 fee for the Professional version, but even so the FREE version tells us a lot).
SEO Power Suite incorporates a number of tools to help us:
Initially, we'll focus on using SEO Rank Checker to assess our current ranking performance in Google.
As you can see from the images below, SEO Rank Checker can be used to show us our rankings in Google for our 14 researched keyphrases.
(Yes, there are hundreds of other important search engines but Google is the most important one for us right now as it controls some 85% of UK search traffic. The opening dialogue box allows us to search by either 'country' or by 'search engine'. We've chosen to focus on searching by Google alone):
What are the results?
When we clicked on 'NEXT', SEO Rank Checker took quite some time to collate all the results. Depending on how many terms you are checking, and on how many search engines, this may take an hour or more. In the example below, we decided to confine our results for the 14 phrases in Google UK alone. The search took 5 minutes and 51 seconds...
Well, we knew it wouldn't be pretty. The screenshot below shows our results for the researched keyphrases as of January 24th 2013 in Google UK. Apart from being at no. 73 for 'Web Designers Manchester", we are beyond the top 100 results for all the others. And since there are 10 results per page in Google UK, that puts us on page 8 - which may as well be Mars really.
So there is a lot of work to do...
If you have installed Google Analytics on your website (and you should) Rank Tracker has a neat facility that allows you to link up to the data it generates. Rank Tracker can then show exactly how many visits each researched phrase sends to your website. And, if you have one set up, you can also link Rank Tracker to your Google AdWords Pay-Per-Cick (PPC) account.
We can also use Rank Tracker to create summarised and printable reports.
So far, we have learned how to use Google's Keywords Tool to find keyphrases that:
We have seen how to use SEO PowerSuite's Rank Tracker tool to assess our 'starting position' - so that we have some idea what will constitute 'success' later. And we have seen how to link Rank Tracker to Google AdWords and Google Analytics.
As you can see from above, there is a lot of work to do. Apart from one phrase - 'Web Designers Manchester" - our domain (www.dalemedia.co.uk) was practically invisible to the outside world. Clearly this is not a tolerable ranking position - especially for a web design and SEO company. So now we're going to use whatever tools we have at our disposal to push the newly-designed and (hopefully) much-improved Dalemedia website up Google UK's results pages. You will be able to see exactly how it all works and have access to all the data as we go along...