It feels really great, when you get associated with the complete life cycle of a website – strategize – design – develop – market – develop – make money. I am sure that many of you have experienced this awesome practice and many are just starting. And there are a lot more people who are not directly associated with this whole process. Here is one of my experiences that may help you understand it from an implementer’s perspective.
We had a client who was dealing with financial market; you know, debt consolidation, settlement etc. He wanted to build a new website on the same segment. We were supposed to plan from scratch although he had the domain name ready. He wanted to develop this site around organic traffic.
So, here is how we started:
We did extensive research on our potential competitors – what they were offering, the existing loopholes and how we could differ and offer a better service / solution. This was really tough since we were dealing with established and highly crowded + competitive business space. Most of the top ranking websites were heavily dependent on links and they are on the web since time immemorial. Naturally, we just ignored the competitive and top keywords (left them for the time being to be enjoyed by the giants) and decided to start with the fortune 5000 keywords (long tail and even longer tails).
Phase 1: Design and Development of website and content. Time: minus One Month
The website was mainly divided into 3 layers as indicated in the image: Home / Primary Solutions / Articles + Forum Discussions. Naturally all sections supported each other.
Tip: In most of the cases – the URL was moved a few steps up to stay close to the root domain; nothing beyond domainname.com/layer1/topic-of-the-article-or-discussion and the primary solutions (debt consolidation, settlement etc) were: domainname.com/Topic1
In the first month we created content for all the pages along with 5 articles on every sub topic and 5 to 10 discussion threads on each topic.
Once the site was ready with clean SEO issues like canonical URL, header status etc, we launched the website.
Phase 2: More content + More Keyword research + No Marketing. Time: Month One
I still remember, we used to do keyword research for hours, everyday, to find out the less competitive and long tail keywords. We used to read different forums to find out the current issues where people needed help. Guessed keywords from those discussions and went back to developing quality content. We did not do any link building at that point of time.
Tip: In the keyword research process we found many phrases that are almost impossible to accommodate in proper content. And you know what – we felt excited with every discovery. Why? We used those keywords as comments in the blog posts / forum discussions (shhh … in the initial days we commented on our own blogs with different names). You know – the visitors can make mistakes in writing – not the webmasters :D.
Phase 3: Phase 2 + Guest Posting + Article Submission: Time: Month Two to Month Four
We started getting some organic visitors – mainly from Google. At this point we started looking for guest blogging opportunities in the same industry and also looked for industry experts who could add real value to the content. For example, we looked for authors, professionals, practitioners who were not very open to web related activities. We got 3 people who started regularly contributing in the blog. We made sure to post one article everyday and 3 links from guest posts every week.
I believe that article submission does not help much in ranking. But it is a great tool to dilute link density. What we did is simple: we targeted blogs for main keywords and articles for non competitive / non-keywords / dead words.
Tip: Now here is an interesting factor. In the initial days, we started getting links with anchor texts like “here is an awesome article on main keyword” or “secondary keyword can help”. Apart from that the anchor text was surrounded by related words in the paragraph. The ratio between these links and direct keyword link was around 7:3. And trust me – it worked.
Tip: By the way, at this phase the link ratio between commercial keyword and non-commercial keyword was 3:7.
Phase 4: More of Phase 3 + Revaluating what Google Thinks: Time: Month Four to month six
We were closely following the analytics report. We found out many long tail keywords for which we got traffic that we never knew existed. We grouped these keywords and used them in the respective landing pages (mainly articles) and comments. Earlier we were ranking down in the SERP. However with minor content modifications we started ranking top and it drastically improved visitor counts. And in the process we started getting more similar suggestions from Google and the process continued.
By the way, from this period we started continuously increasing the number of incoming links and link ratio. Continuously we started getting links from other already established websites.
Apart from that at this point we redesigned the website after many experiments. We also introduced some tools that would help the visitors apart from developing quality content.
By the way, we continuously improved quality of the existing main page content.
Phase 5: Phase 4 + making money: Time: Month six onwards
So now, we were getting good amount of visitors (especially for the long tail keywords) and it was time to make some money for the client. So, long we did not use any money making instruments like advertisements, affiliates, lead generation form etc. the logic was simple: what is the point of having all these if we do not have enough visitors! And thus followed the “visitors first” strategy. And even at this time, we were very cautious and selective about advertisement placements – content first.
At the same time, we made a new page – “our earning” where we clearly wrote how we are making money from the website and why (you know – “we need money to sustain the growing popularity of the website”).
And the things continued and still going on and we are doing really good. More importantly, the website got a strong base to fly. To add, after just 10 months the website ranked for 2 keywords that had more than 100,000 search volume / month.
By the way, I had only 2 people in my team on this project.