How we grew StudentCrowd’s SEO from 0 to 30,000+ monthly visitors in 8 months
Today we’ll show you the 3 steps of Studio-40’s SEO in action.
StudentCrowd launched in February 2015 with a vision to help students with online reviews. SEO formed the predominant channel of the marketing strategy. The goal was for StudentCrowd to appear at the top of Google’s organic search results for certain keywords e.g. “Durham University Reviews”. In turn, the expectation was this would lead to significant monthly visitors.
This was not a straight-forward assignment.
In February 2015 StudentCrowd had no content, no backlinks and no domain authority. Adding to the challenge, there were several established keyword competitors (inc What Uni, Which? and TheStudentRoom).
In this case study we’ll show you exactly how StudentCrowd got to the top of Google’s organic search for over 2,000 phrases. And how this lead to over 30,000 unique visitors in August 2015.
So, how did Studio-40 launch and grow StudentCrowd’s SEO?
In February 2015, StudentCrowd’s organic traffic was zero (not surprising given it was a completely blank canvas!).
What is more surprising, is the peaks in mid-August at over 2,000 unique visitors a day. The following graph shows results purely from Google organic visitors:
The good results continued in September with over 1,000 unique visitors a day.
AND HERE’S HOW WE DID IT…
Step 1 – Prepare (Feb – Apr)
To get to the top of Google’s organic results, StudentCrowd required a solid technical foundation. We ran the site through our suite of tools and against our technical SEO best practice that included checks on the following as examples:
- Indexing – what’s being indexed currently
- HTML optimisation – on-page elements
- Duplicated & thin content – both dynamically created and user generated
- Google accessibility – robots, sitemaps etc
- Site architecture
- Technical elements – redirects, iframes, domain housekeeping etc
- Site speed
- Mobile optimisation and user experience
- Analytics set up
During the setup phase we also helped StudentCrowd to create a content strategy.
Firstly we conducted keyword research to ascertain what prospective students typically search for. We used Google’s Keyword planner to find questions which students are searching. One key area stood out – university accommodation reviews. Prospective students frequently search for accommodation reviews to help them decide which hall is best.
Google Trends shows this searching behaviour nicely in this graph:
We recommended to StudentCrowd that hall reviews would be the best content to create to start with.
One of the unique aspects of StudentCrowd, was that there main content writers were not employed, they are current students who write reviews on the website. We recommended for StudentCrowd to add objective content to enhance each page’s resourcefulness for students.
Step 2 – Optimise (May – Jun)
During the optimisation stage we taylor the technical SEO strategy to the specific goals for the organisation. One of StudentCrowd’s key goals is to be recognised as a review site. We helped StudentCrowd to create Google’s Structured Data – this allows Google to interpret a website to show review stars in search results:
One of the key benefits to this use of structured data is that it helps results to stand out. In StudentCrowd’s case this boosted the click through rate (CTR) by 55%. This increase in clicks obviously pleased our client, but has the ancillary benefit that higher CTR help improve search positions as well.
During the optimisation phase we recommended that StudentCrowd focus energy on gaining more reviews from students. These reviews provided a fantastic growth in original content across the entire site.
This case study requires the following health warning:
Not all websites will benefit from this review based content strategy.
Great content is essential. However, the methods to create that content can vary significantly between our clients.
During the optimisation phase we created a baseline of backlinks from authoritative sources e.g. Facebook & Pinterest. These helped Google to take notice of StudentCrowd.
The next step is to conduct a competitor backlink analysis to understand the approaches taken by the rest of the industry. We use the ahrefs tool to conduct this analysis. This revealed further opportunities which we were able to perform in Step 3.
Step 3 – Grow (Jul – Sep)
Technical SEO is never really finished as Google frequently updates the search algorithm. April’s algorithm update paid off. We positioned StudentCrowd to develop a fully responsive site, and 36% of our visitors from search were from searches on mobile.
Content & Backlinks
This is really the time to start the more creative side of SEO. There are many strategies we can can perform at these stage. For StudentCrowd we decided to implement a content marketing strategy.
The first piece of content marketing was titled ‘The Best 50 Halls in 2015’. It’s far to say that we were all pretty happy with the results:
The process for creating it went like this:
- Use competitor backlink analysis to find out the type of content attracts high quality links. We found out that awards were often distributed in the higher education industry. These awards can lead to backlinks from universities (ac.uk) and newspapers.
- We chose halls because this was the area with the most review content.
- We made recommendations for the format and framework for the content. In this case the StudentCrowd team wrote the content.
- We helped to launch the content using social media & email marketing, which was picked up by several media outlets including the Huffington Post.
The backlink results…
The impact of this is far reaching as it significantly increase the domain authority. This gives a site site lift to all the pages on the site.
You can see the stepped change in September as a result of this.
We followed the 3 steps of best practice SEO to the letter. From the graph you can clearly see the benefits of step 3. The normal level of traffic grew from approx 300 to 1,400 a month.
it’s also critical that step 1 and 2 are well executed as the foundation of a well oiled SEO machine.It’s a lot of work, but for StudentCrowd they have built the business on receiving 50,000 visitors a month (for free!).
This case study is specific, we apply the same 3 step process to all of our clients.
It’s also worth noting that the work is not finished yet!! StudentCrowd needs. There are more growth strategies to implement to see StudentCrowd achieve it’s potential. There are also more Google algorithm changes stay on top of.
If you are interested in developing your SEO, call the team on 01509 631 136 or email [email protected] and let’s chat about your ambitions and how we can help.