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A Case Study: Going All-in on Search

When first starting at my current company, it was clear within the first few days that we had a number of initiatives to tackle, including relaunching our brand, improving our technology stack, getting our data in order, reworking our events process, and more. But, one item on the list was clearer than any others – we needed to become more discoverable. As a brand that had the right partnerships, products, and resources, we were running up against a saturated market where our audience was getting inundated with information. We needed to develop and deploy a strategy to capture attention in a way that naturally fit into the user journey. There were a few ways we were going to do this – develop a massive amount of content, double down on social, crank up our email campaigns and go all-in on organic search, which is what we’re diving into today.

Ahh search… The ever forgotten, old-faithful, marketing channel. It’s become somewhat of an afterthought for so many brands due to social taking such a prominent place on the marketing podium. But, for us, and I assume more brands, search has been easily our most powerful awareness channel to-date. A few quick stats before we dive into our process.

  • We went from ranking for 443 overall keywords in April to 1008 in December
  • We went from ranking for 9 keywords on page 1 in April to 270 in December
  • We increased traffic to our site from organic search YOY by 38% and it was our number one traffic driver for the year
  • Search was by far our best quality traffic producing a 36% bounce rate, generated the most log-ins in 2018 and over $170k in earned value media

A channel that people put secondary ended up being our biggest marketing asset. While we still have a lot of work to do (e.g. optimize for voice, etc.), we doubled down and the results were surprisingly incredible.

So, how did we do this?

  • Got our content engine up and running
    • With no value-add content on our site, we knew this was the key to becoming more searchable. One after another, we built an inventory of 25 pieces to date and are currently cranking at a frequency at 3 a month. This ranged across education, thought leadership, and business content. While we can always do more, we quickly began ranking high for topics we were covering, whether it was something like credit investing or senior loans. We leveraged our tech to monitor search volumes and write about topics we thought had legs, we were diligent about writing for SEO, while still having some personality
  • Invested in the right tech
    • Two tech investments we made that change the game for us – Brightedge and Yoast Premium. Brightedge allowed us to track keywords, URLs, competitors, performance on specific improvements, and overall search quality. Yoast premium enabled us to optimize our meta titles and descriptions. These two things combined gave us the perfect tech stack to optimize everything across search, from content to structure
  • Re-architected our website
    • With the rebrand came a need to rethink our website, both design and structure. Not only did that mean rethinking our navigation items and labeling, but thinking through the structure of our pages. This ended up being key, ensuring that pages were structured properly, designed with a pop, and developed to spec. Structurally, we ended up killing hundreds of pages, but this allowed us to focus on core pages vs. having pages with no SEO juice
  • Cranked on tech enhancements
    • If there are two things you need to ensure your site does in 2019, it’s run fast and work on phones. Not only did we take a simplistic design approach that would work on mobile, but we also ensured that our pages we’re as optimized as much as possible from a speed perspective. Google dings you now more than ever if your site is running optimally, so we page speed score up to 92% from 55% (!).

Bottom line, search isn’ the sexiest marketing channel, and it’s actually hard to get stakeholders excited about it, but at the end of the day, don’t sleep on search… It may surprise you.

-Al Cavalieri

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