An exciting, Melbourne based, marketplace startup approached me to help them achieve a step change in organic growth.
An agency had been engaged and initial SEO growth had been positive, however this had stagnated, the agency was now at arms length and the business felt they were lacking strategic direction to make the next step.
My strategy for marketplace SEO was;
- Identify and fix any inefficiencies in technical architecture to assist crawl and indexation.
- Understand the language used by the market and provide a closer match throughout the site to their intent.
- Review and fix any link issues created by the, somewhat questionable, activity completed by the previous agency.
- Educate the internal team throughout as to what, why and how we were doing what we were doing. I spent a few days at their office, understanding how they worked, the product, brand and market.
I worked with the delivery and development teams via a series of technical consultations, including server log file analysis, to better understand how often and how efficiently search engines were crawling the site.
For large sites, such as marketplaces or classifieds which can contain millions of pages, architecture is absolutely paramount – and log file analysis tells you exactly how the bots are seeing the site.
This analysis unearthed a variety of technical issues including a large mis-match in the number of crawled URLs vs indexed vs contained in XML Sitemaps.
Further investigation on a page type basis, achievable through an XML Sitemap Index file strategy (where site sections are individually contained within separate XML Sitemaps), highlighted just where the indexation gaps were:
Note: I’m under an NDA so unable to share details on the actual site structure, apologies!
From here I reviewed the suburb pages in more detail and found:
- Major issues in mis-canonicalisation of pages
- Overly simple boilerplate/dynamic content rendered most pages low-value
- The majority of crawl budget was being spent crawling non-indexable pages, E.g. enquiry URLs.
Keyword research & Content Optimisation
The objective of this exercise was to understand the natural language patterns and trends of the market through search behaviour analysis. That’s a posh way of saying we did keyword research!
Following this, we made some adjustments to the naming conventions throughout the content of the site, namely:
- Optimised Title Tags using the same language as customers
- Improved Meta Descriptions geared to entice clicks based on user intent
- Optimised H1’s including keywords
- More dynamic text, less boilerplate within content
A link audit was completed, with data gathered from my own backlink toolset as well as shared docs from the client.
A few eyebrows were raised within the opening minutes.
Namely, redirected expired domains (that were irrelevant to the client’s industry) and a multitude of web 2.0 properties created to assist with ranking for the new brand name when it launched. E.g. WordPress, Dribbble etc.
Thousands of links were analysed to ascertain risk, with 12% of the links requiring either adjustment or removal. Working with the previous agency I was able to obtain login details for the old sites and quickly remove a majority of the poor links and domain redirects sharpish.
I’ve no doubt this not only helped initial performance, but also helped reduce the risk of the site running into a manual or algorithmic penalty later down the track.
Almost immediately, organic visibility and traffic began to increase. This accelerated and within weeks the traffic was up 50%, then 100%, 150%, 200% and up.
Simply, the site had been operating with the handbrake on.
Making life easier for bots, using the same language as the target audience and removing poor links unlocked the potential.
Here we can see how the number of keywords the site was visible for experienced a step change in April, when the project commenced, from 5k to 10k.
To overlay this – the overall site visibility as reported by SearchMetrics.
Traffic Subsequently increased 3x from 3k visits to over 10k within just a few weeks.
I say it often – the boring stuff works :)