Friday, 26 January 2007

Down to Earth SEO: An Example of What's Worked for Me

There are so many theories about search engine optimization (SEO) floating around, most of which are proffered with nothing to support them. You can spend hours and hours reading countless blogs and forums and discovering how you need to get your title and description tags correct, use H1 tags, bold text, n keywords per page, so on and so forth. However, how often do you find anyone saying, "I made these specific changes to my pages and I'm now on the first page on Google for these keywords."

So, I thought I'd provide you with one real-life example of an SEO success.

My task, to get organic search traffic to the web site for particular product ranges. I decided to concentrate on bicycle shelters, with particular emphasis on the phrases "bicycle shelters" and "bike shelters."

Before I go any futher, here are the rankings for this site as at the time of writing, when searching from the U.K.

"bicycle shelters" - 3 (2nd web site but 3rd result)
"bike shelters" - 2
"cycle shelters" - 13 (9 on

The ranking are:

"bicycle shelters" - 4 (2 for U.K. only sites)
"bike shelters" - 7 (3 for U.K. only sites)
"cycle shelters" - 9 (8 for U.K. only sites - and one of the sites ranking higher is a sister site to that I also worked on!)

Note, these results are for a page that I created on a relatively new site that had a pagerank of zero at the time and even now has a pagerank of only 2. (This site had essentially been a duplicate of an older, sister site, that now has different content, so all pages were using 301 redirects from the sister site). In fact, even now, the page in question still has a zero page rank!

So, how did I go about improving the organic traffic for these phrases?

Well, the main problem with this site was that it was a pure ecommerce site with precious little text. So, I decided to create text-heavy pages for the product ranges in question, beginning with the Bicycle Storage page. These pages, which also needed to provide useful information to potential customers and not just be SEO gateway pages, simply outlined the different bicycle storage product ranges for sale, with more textual information than in the ecommerce pages. The page title was also unique to the page and both the title and body of the page were "liberally sprinkled" with keywords, using many different permutations of bike/bicycle/cycle and shelters/storage/racks and so on.

The page also contained a gallery of images of the products, each of which linked directly to that product range. The image alt attributes contained keywords, as did the title attribute of the hyperlinks for those images.

Also, the main page heading was in an H1 tag . . . I wonder if that made any difference!

Finally, I created a Google sitemap that referenced all of the new product pages.

Now, I'm aware that there are definitely improvements that could be made to this page to improve rankings even further and my brief wasn't to "get to #1" but to improve the amount of organic traffic the site was receiving. This goal has been realized as the amount of organic traffic resulting from these pages has increased exponentially (unfortunately, I am no longer privy to this site's stats to give precise figures).

So, to summarize, these are the changes I made:

  1. Created text-heavy pages with useful content for visitors
  2. Used keyphrase variations throughout the title and description tags
  3. Used keyphrase varations throughout the body of the page, including headings and subheadings
  4. Used key words in image alt attributes and hyperlink (<a>) title attributes
  5. Created a Google sitemap
Note, I did also use the keyphrases throughout the keywords meta tag, though I personally don't believe this has any effect whatsoever. Sometimes you have to do what people expect of you too!

So what didn't I do? I did not:
  1. Actively seek incoming links
  2. Stuff the pages with multiple keyword variations in a small font at the bottom of the page
  3. Add competitor's names as keywords to the page
  4. Put keywords in bold (b), strong, i or em tags, unless necessary for usability or page design reasons
  5. Put keywords in comments apart from normal usage for defining my page structure (useful from a developer's point of view!)
One further conclusion to draw from this tale, PageRank doesn't mean diddly-squat, at least, you don't need a high Pagerank to get good organic traffic to a web page.

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Fritz said...

Yeah, PR doesn't do much anymore as far as organic traffic, but PR of INBOUND LINKS does still seem to have an effect how highly pages rate in searches. PR I'm seeing from the USA on your page is PR4, BTW (if I'm looking at the right page).

Good job on this project. Personally, I'm a bit more conservative on keyword stuffing in h1 tags, but it's good to see what other people are doing.

Thanks for this case study.

Ian F. said...

Hi Fritz,

Not sure what you mean by "conservative on keyword stuffing in H1 tags" exactly! I certainly don't approve of it and I'm still pretty on the fence as to whether H1 tags have any real influence at all.

Also interesting to see that when I checked the PR here this evening, it was showing PR3 but was zero this morning.