Welcome to the case-study of our own agency! The article reflects our SEO success one year after taking a deep dive into inbound marketing.
Your website is your most valuable and cost-efficient element in your entire marketing arsenal. It is the one thing that will grow your business while producing the most positive marketing ROI. If you're here for take-a-ways, absolute step one is having a high performing website. It's crucial to growth and without it, you cannot grow by using inbound marketing.
First, I have to deferential between the often confusing SEO metrics of page ranking vs. domain ranking authority. According to Moz, page ranking is a outdated and WordStream views it as an ambiguous and passe metric. But it’s one of Google's measuring sticks and even though Google downplays its significance, there are many who won’t let page ranking disappear into the realm of SEO history.
Second, we don't rank a website’s worth on outdated metrics, but on metrics that have tangible values such as:
- Domain Ranking Authority: The website’s overall popularity compared with every other website on the planet. This is like the Nielsen Ratings for television.
- Traffic: If no one’s visiting your website, that’s a problem.
- MozRank: A combined metric that weighs link authority and website popularity.
- Marketing Grade: An aggregate and very accurate numerical “grade” sourced from Hubspot.
- Indexed Pages: Indexed pages is the number of pages your website has had indexed by the most popular search engines.
- Conversion rates: Inbound metrics applied to web products like CTAs and landing pages.
Our Horrible Domain Ranking Authority
When we began, we started cold. Our domain ranking authority was sitting at 20 million—a depressing number. This number meant that there were 20 million other websites (including our competitors) who were more popular than ours. Oddly, we were a web design company with decades of SEO experience.
What was wrong?
We lacked fresh content. Bingo. For at least the past decade Google has ranked websites accord to content. And not just any content, but the right content. The Google freshness update is the algorithm that ranks content.
Traditional, static websites go "stale" and lose ranking in time. When you launch a new website, your site can be more visible to both people and search engines, but only for a while. Even if you edit a few pages here and there, in time a website goes so stale it’s almost worthless to have. Most websites over five years old are pretty much SEO dead. The only way people can find a stale website is by searching directly for your company name or arriving from some other search that’s working, like Google Local (the list of alphabetized sites on the search results sidebar with maps).
How We Fixed our Domain Ranking Authority
1) Our Own Best Case Study
We decided to become our own best case study right at the start. Since we were selling inbound marketing retainers—helping companies to grow, we thought we’d better practice what we preached! So we set a schedule and dedicated a lot of time out of our day to execute inbound for our own agency as a high priority.
2) We Published Content
Content is the fuel for domain ranking authority. Not just any content. Don’t make the mistake of adopting the buzz term, “content rules” and start sticking up just any content on your website. Here’s a little hierarchical questionnaire that shows the importance of publishing the right content—our 7 laws of content publishing:
- Are you publishing content?
- Are you publishing on a scheduled basis?
- Are you publishing major content at least once per week?
- Is the content relevant, educational, and otherwise adds a contribution to everything else that’s on the Internet?
- Is there a keyword strategy associated with the content?
- Are you citing other content by linking out to that other relevant content?
- Are you using SEO best practices such as: SEO-rich titles, image “Alt” tags, “meta” tags, etc?
We began publishing high quality blog articles at the minimum rate of 3X per week. For a small agency, that’s a lot of work but the payback is remarkable.
Blog publishing accomplishes two great things: 1) You’re improving your branding and helping your prospects. 2) You’re growing your SEO organic search potential. It's a big win on both fronts.
3) We Got Social
If we didn’t have social accounts like Twitter or Facebook, we created them. We are now active on our company and individual Twitter accounts and other popular social channels.
Social is organic. Social networks are free but you have to be active on them. Consistency is the key. We’re now receiving about 20% of our organic website traffic from social networks and we’re having fun as well!
4) We Created Conversion Paths
A conversion path is simply a pathway for website visitors to become leads. Publishing the right content drives website traffic; creating conversion paths drives leads. A conversion path is also (or at least it should be) a helpful thing. Your goal is to assist visitors coming to your website by solving their pain points and intersecting them where they are in their buyer’s journey.
A conversion path boosts ranking simply because any conversion path requires internal linking and creating landing pages. A landing page is considered content.
5) We Track Everything
Primarily we use Hubspot’s marketing software to track everything—and I mean everything. For example, we recently migrated our entire blog from a subdomain to our primary www web address. There is very thin evidence that there is any difference in SEO juice between content hosted on a subdomain vs. a primary domain.
But we were talking to another partner agency whose SEO research indicated that subdomains have less authority. So now we’re tracking our ranking, watching to see if we’ll achieve an increase from our efforts.
After one full year we’ve moved from the 20 million metric of popularity to 2 million. Our goal is to hit a minimum of 200,000 which would be a very high ranking. We expect we’ll reach that goal in 12 to 18 months.
What does this mean? A lot of new leads. What about effort? We are an inbound agency. We track time as any good service business should. If we were to hire another agency to do all we are doing ourselves, we’d expect to pay about $5,000 - $8,000 per month.
Whether you’d consider that number high or a bargain depends on what one new customer is worth to you. Part of our tracking process includes ROI—knowing what kinds of leads convert, what the return is, and doing continuous improvement.