2018 Ongoing SEO Case Study | How We’re Growing Linkio into An Authority Site
The journey to a goal is where all the learning happens and by sharing it with you, we all grow together. Let’s get started.
Month 1 – September 2017
It’s almost September 1st, 2017. Linkio is a a brand new site. It does not have one single backlink and this happens to be the very first article being written.
Here is the current backlink profile:
Our goal is to turn linkio.com into a mega SEO authority site.
We have a game plan ready to go and Linkio just happens to be a SEO management software, so not only will we show you how we turn Linkio into a SEO authority site in less than a year, but we’ll do it while using our software for support.
Here’s the 4 week game plan:
- Work on branding (logo and design)
- Homepage copy
- Publish five 1000 word articles to the blog just to get the ball rolling
- Build 30 manual outreach backlinks in the next 30 days.
Ninja Stuff To Develop for Growth Hacking SEO and Branding
- Create “Linkio’s Top 500 Agencies”
- Create “Linkio’s Top 50 SEOs”
- 500 SEO Agency Survey About Link Building
- Free Anchor Text Suggestion Tool
Since this is a brand new site, I’d like to plan out 12 months worth of link building, based on the success achieved from our other site, OutreachMama.
There are three types of key pages on the site:
Homepage: Needs to be the most powerful page on the site (by backlinks)
Commercial Pages: In our case, that will be software feature pages
Marketing Assets: Long form blog content/free tools/marketing assets
We’ll be building backlinks every month, splitting up the links according to the below monthly percentages.
- Homepage: 100% of links
- Commercial pages: 0%
- Marketing assets: 0%
- Homepage: 50% of links
- Commercial pages: 0%
- Marketing assets: 50%
- Homepage: 30% of links
- Commercial pages: 10%
- Marketing assets: 60%
Month 2: October 2017
One month has passed and we worked hard getting our marketing materials ready and getting backlinks.
- Redesign status
Currently, the homepage redesign is 75% complete. It’s a full overhaul but now that we have a great logo, color scheme and copy, it’s just about coding the design we created and finalizing the images, which will be screenshots of the app.
Estimated publish date: Month 3
2. Link 500
We finished identifying the top 500 SEO agencies in the US and are currently having the landing page designed. We’ll use this asset to give back to the community with recognition while helping to improve our own brand awareness.
Estimated publish date: Month 4
We just started gathering up the list of the top 100 individual SEO influencers. The list should feature big names like Neil Patel, but also try to feature up and coming micro-influencers.
Estimated publish date: Month 4
4. Anchor Text Generator
This was the first piece we were able to launch in month 2. You can find the anchor text generator here. The keyword is already ranking on page 1 of Google and we’ve been experimenting with Facebook ads as well, getting a couple signups a day. The plan is to optimize the tool for email capture and start sending even more traffic.
5. New Initiative: 2018 SEO Summit
One of our goals for 2018 is to be connectors in the SEO industry. We want to pair experts with an audience that would appreciate their knowledge. That goal will be accomplished in the form of a virtual 5 day summit is Q1 of 2018.
I’ve done an initial call for speakers to my email list with lots of interest. We’ve currently ramping up plans for further outreach, starting with the designs for the landing page, which is soon to be underway.
Estimated timeline: TBD
6. SEO Tools Article
On the content marketing front, I’m aiming to create a definitive list of SEO tools that cover all-in-ones, onsite auditors, link building managers, blogger outreach tools, link monitoring tools, penalty recovery tools, competitive analytics, website analytics, rank monitoring, and reporting.
Estimated publish date: Month 4
7. Publish five 1000 word articles to the blog just to get the ball rolling (as discussed in Month 1)
I decided not to publish these “fluff" articles. With content marketing/blogging being so saturated, I’m no longer convinced low cost articles like these that regurgitate topics are effective or worthwhile.
Estimated publish date: Never
That’s a summary of our onsite initiative. Let’s switch gears to our offsite authority building.
Last month, our metrics were zero’s across the board. Here’s how they looks now:
The new backlinks are 100% the product of continued blogger outreach. We’ve been reaching out to marketing sites, mostly agencies, and asking for links previously published article. The tactic has been working well, because we try to provide them value as well, instead of just asking for the link.
We continued focusing on homepage branded links, and will continue doing so for the foreseeable future. This strategy is inline with our brand-first SEO methodology, where we but branding above all else in the first 3 months (and maybe even 6 months) of a new SEO campaign.
Until next month, cheers.
The third month of our marketing campaign continues seeing quick execution towards our goals.
Here’s a snappy on the key activities:
- Redesign status
The updated homepage design is complete, although we already did another redesign – which has yet to be pushed into development.
Estimated publish date: Done
2. Link 500
Our list of the top 500 SEO agencies in the country has been completed and published. You can find it here: Link 500
We have not started using this as a marketing asset yet, and still need to add an award embed code to the page.
Estimated publish date: Refinements pending
4. Anchor Text Generator
We’ve been working on a redesign of the generator to force an email capture before initial results to boost conversion rates. This is slated for publish Month 4.
5. New Initiative: 2018 SEO Summit
We made a ton of progress here. The page is ready and live here.
We’ve already got a handful of speakers signed up and my marketing assistant is reaching out to more and more people. We have yet to start marketing for audience members.
6. Anchor Text Categorizer
We started development for our second free tool – the anchor text categorizer. This, combined with the generator, will provide SEOs a solid tool set for their link building.
On the software front, we’re looking to roll both of these into the actual software with a lot more automation.
Estimated publish date: Month 4
Next, here’s a review of the link building progress.
We continue delivering links via blogger outreach on niche relevant sites. We’re getting lots of links from SEO blogs thus far.
Here’s how the Ahrefs metrics have evolved over the 3 months:
Next, let’s have a look at ranking positions.
This is what is so powerful about understanding SEO. You don’t panic when you’re rankings haven’t shot up within 3 months. It doesn’t work that way with a new site and competitive keyword.
Here’s what we’ve got so far:
I believe we are months (and probably over a year away) from ranking for a significant keyword like SEO tool. Regardless, the activities we’re doing now are essential towards building a sustainable online business.
As we add content and uncover new keywords, we’ll keep growing this tracking list.
Until next time, cheers.
In month 4, we hit a huge milestone. The rebrand and redesign of our software app was completed and because of that, we were able to redirect our original site, managebacklinks.io, to Linkio.
ManageBacklinks has been live for 7 months and we had built about 90 branded homepage links to the site. I decided to redirect that entire site to https://www.linkio.com/manage-backlinks/ and not the homepage because I wanted to keep Linkio’s homepage branded anchor text profile clean.
By redirecting the site to https://www.linkio.com/manage-backlinks/, I was able to keep the original domains name in the URL, thus making it a more natural-looking redirect.
Just as awesome, this redirect effectively increases the number of our referring domains by 150%, which Ahrefs will eventually be able to pick up.
Here’s how the progress looks right now.
Ahrefs is picking up the increase in authority, rankings and traffic. There are currently two factors that will continue hindering the growth in traffic over the next several months.
- It’s a brand new site and new sites just don’t rank for valuable keywords for about a year unless you get lucky.
- There isn’t much content on the site. As of now, the only rankable pages are the homepage, a features page, this case study, and a couple of free tools.
We’re focused on base building (branded SEO), and making the app as valuable as possible so that means adding lots of content takes a back seat.
Regardless, let’s have a look at our current rankings.
The “backlink management software" keyword went from Not Top 100 to #2 because of the direct we did.
The ranking should stick because the page managebacklinks.io redirects to includes /manage-backlinks/ in the URL.
The focus on branding is helping with the ranking for “Linkio", as it moved from #4 to #2.
Our link building strategy hasn’t changed. Focusing on branded homepage links.
It’ s a simple game plan and we’re delivering on it with consistency. There’s no need to over-complicate SEO. As we continue running this campaign, the SEO for the site will inevitably improve.
Marketing Plan Update
Both now require an email in order to generate the results. This should help improve the conversion rate of the site.
In addition, I finally created an automated email marketing sequence for Linkio that currently lasts about 20 days.
I can talk more about it next month and how it fits into the SEO picture.
Month 5 and 6
January and February 2018 are in the book. Linkio continued to see growth in rankings and traffic.
The keyword SEO management software went all the way from page 6 to page 1! That’s page one for a brand new site within 5 months with absolutely no keyword-optimized anchor text.
That’s the power of branded SEO!
We continued with our link building efforts, trying to get listed onto as many SEO blogs as possible. Over a 60 day period, we went from 84 to 203 referring domains!
100 more and I’m happy to consider Linkio an authority site.
For our anchor text strategy, we’ve been heavily branded focused.
I know it feels painful sometimes spending several months doing foundational stuff, when you’d rather be targeting your keywords.
What we’re doing is akin to what a lion does in the Sahara.
The herd is constantly on high alert for any new stimulus. The lion bides its time, blending in with its surroundings and eventually the herd relaxes.
That’s when it pounces.
Similarly, Google is on the alert for spammy SEOs. By building a branded profile first, Google doesn’t see us as a threat. So when we do start focusing on keywords, Google is more receptive to our advances.
73% of our homepage backlinks are branded! I’m going to focus on the other types of branded anchor text for the next couple months like websitename.com to continue evening out the branded ratios.
Even though the referring domain count is impressive, organic traffic from Google is not impressive…yet.
We’re averaging about 150 weekly organic visitors.
You might be thinking, “Ajay, if you built 200 links, you should have way more visitors than this."
You’re right. So why don’t I?
A) It’s still a brand new site and the visbility is still improving
B) So far, the site is only ranking for low volume, middle of the funnel, high intent keywords like “seo management software" and “backlink management software" and “anchor text generator".
There is no content yet that caters to high volume keywords.
We’re working on changing that in month 6 with the launch of our massive SEO tools guide article.
That’s it for now. Until next time!
Month 7, 8, 9, 10
Over the past 4 months, we continued building the authority of the homepage and launching premium content. Let’s review the highlights of the past 4 months, starting with rankings.
Here’s a breakdown of the rankings progress over the past 4 months. Note several of my high volume keywords are starting to move into the top 100 and above, like seo tools whet from 93 to 68 and seo tool when from Not-Top-100 to page 9.
Amazing progress? Not really. But this is an extremely mature industry – results will take time.
SEO case study actually took a step back, however, this has not been a focus keyword for us and I believe it’ll rebound with time on its own.
The biggest driver in our rankings improvement for the tools keywords is launching a new super article aimed specifically at SEO tools and SEO software related keywords.
I made the decision to launch this page because I notice Google prefers to show results that have multiple tools listed.
Next up – let’s look at SEO authority growth over the past few months.
Over the past 4 months, we gained an impressive 111 referring domains, which comes out to about 1 link per day.
Although metrics are higher than ever, we need to keep pushing at this to compete with bigger players in this space.
On the horizon is a massive, 10,000 word, 5 video SEO tutorial series that should help with more links and new keywords.
What’s next is more of the same! Stay tuned.
This month we published content and built links.
Does this process sound familiar?
Well of course, because it’s essentially what we’ve been doing for the past 11 months!
It’s a formula – it takes time – but it works.
Let’s review the progress this month starting with the rankings.
The rankings change over 4 weeks shows one interesting change.
“SEO tools", my highest volume targeted keyword (Google Keyword Planner estimates 50,000 monthly searches), has gone from position 66 to position 40, or page 4.
5 months ago, this was not a top 200 ranked keyword.
That’s exciting progress. Our strategy for ranking that keyword has been simple.
We’re building links to the SEO tools list page slowly but surely. Here’s a breakdown on links going specifically to that page.
Most pages ranking for this keyword have hundreds of referring domains going to this exact page so we have a long way to go.
Because this will be a long term link building campaign, keeping the anchor text profile looking natural is a huge deal to make sure we don’t shoot ourselves in the foot while spending all this time and energy on link building.
This is where Linkio combined with our anchor text generator has been helpful for my team.
We started with calculating the ideal anchor text percentage to aim for based the percentages of those who showed up on page 1.
When a link opportunity comes up, my team has a look at the planner, and chooses the anchor type that makes sense to use next.
So far, this is the end result.
Note, there is a ton of variety, rare repeat usage, and you could not distinguish this from an “I don’t even care about links" type of profile.
This is the most natural way to actively execute on a link building campaign.
Moving along, we also published our latest mega article – this SEO tutorial for beginners.
Link building has just started, but there are already some promising page 3-6 rankings coming in.
Next, lets cover overall authority growth.
With a gain of 24 referring domains in the past month, we’re continuing our 1 link per day trajectory. Ahrefs hasn’t yet picked up the bump in SEO tools or SEO tutorials rankings, so we’ll see how the keyword and traffic stats look next month. It’s important to note that tools like Ahrefs and SEMrush provide delayed updates on traffic scores.
Let’s go to the source to see how organic traffic has been doing.
This weekly overview of Google traffic over the past 11 months shows a pretty common pattern with new SEO campaigns.
Lots of flat, then a big bump, then more flatness, then another big bump.
If we keep doing what we’re doing and extrapolate how this graph will go over the next 12 months, we’re certainly on the right track.
For the next month, I’ve decided I want to try increasing the volume of links and the volume of content being published to accelerate growth.
Can you believe it? We’ve reached the 1 year mark of this case study.
And guess what?
We just hit page 1 for our first super competitive, high volume keyword: “SEO Tutorial".
The best part?
I only needed 13 links to do it.
Compared to how many links others on page 1 have (529, 96, 177, 125, 11,000, 466), ranking with only 13 seems VERY unlikely.
Yet, here we are. And this is how I did it:
First let’s rewind for a second.
From the day I started this “How I turned Linkio into an SEO authority site" case study, I said I wouldn’t be worrying about anything but homepage branded links for at least 6 months.
I ended up doing that for 8 whole months.
It felt like forever but like I’ve said all along, branded SEO will establish you as an SEO authority in your industry, and that makes it easier to rank.
So around month 10, I finally published this SEO tutorial article: https://www.linkio.com/seo-tutorial/
All in all, this article took about 60 days to make. There’s 9000+ words, 5 videos, a downloadable upgrade and crisp copy.
If you’re thinking that’s going a little overboard, just keep in mind that the best SEO strategy is still creating amazing content.
Everything becomes easier after that.
Next, I came up with an anchor text plan for my link building.
I took the page URLs that ranked on page 1 for the term “SEO tutorial" and calculated the average of their anchor text percentages with Linkio.
Note that since these are inner pages, keyword-based anchors are much higher whereas branded anchors are much lower.
This is in sharp contrast to how homepages should look.
(It’s because my homepage already has its ideal percentages that I’m able to get more aggressive with internal page link building).
With this game plan in mind, our link building strategy was to go after competitors’ backlinks.
We downloaded the backlinks for all the competitors who rank on page 1, filtered for the links that were indexed and dofollow (with Linkio), and then sent out a drip of emails to these bloggers everyday.
The emails basically introduced them to our SEO tutorial article and asked for a link on the same page that the competitor has a link from (basic skyscraper strategy).
As of the date I’m writing this, we’ve gotten 13 referring domains and here’s how our percentages look:
As you can see, the percentages are close to ideal.
And here’s the rankings graph for the top 5 sites in Google for the keyword “SEO tutorial":
To recap: Create amazing content, have a link building game plan, execute.
Most importantly: don’t cut corners – build a strong brand first – everything else becomes easier (as you can see).
Let’s see how everything else is going:
New highs across the board. We’ve even started scoring organic links now, as sites continue finding us on other lists.
Rankings are bouncing around. Some up, some down – all good.
Here’s the week over week organic traffic stats from over the past year. Looking pretty solid!
The plan for next month is to keep the links coming and publish a new article.
Months 13 – 14
Now that we’re entering Year 2 of our SEO case study, it’s getting to the point where some trust and thematic relevance should be established with Google and it should become easier to rank for valuable keywords in my space.
Indeed, just recently, Linkio received a substantial bump in rankings – attaining its newest highs to date.
Here’s the all time rank tracker.
9 months is a LONG time for my bigger commercial keywords like SEO software, SEO tools, SEO management software, etc to remain stagnant, right?
It becomes even more unbelievable when you see the sheer amount of link building work and activity that happened in those 9 months.
Over those 9 flat-ranked months, we added about 240 referring domains or 27 referring domains a month.
You might wonder what kept me going through those middle months, month 6..7..8, where nothing seemed to be happening no matter how much I invested in links.
In competitive industries, however, this is just the way SEO is now.
If you’ve got a new brand, you are pushing a boulder up a very steep hill.
The formula is simple.
Quality content + good links + time = rankings.
We never lost faith and now we finally broke into new highs.
Now, to be clear, in those 9 months, there are still progress happening in other way.
Traffic steadily increased. We started to get lots of referral traffic from the links we built.
We even got organic mentions from top publishers like Search Engine Journal!
Let’s add traffic to the picture so you get a better sense of the overall improvements.
Everything is going in the right direction!
Next, let’s cover the specifics of authority improvement and rankings improvement.
The trend remains positive but I’d like our referring domain count to start going higher faster.
I’ve added an additional resource to that goal so we’ll see how it helps.
New highs almost across the board.
I just published another massive article targeting the keyword Directory Submission Sites.
I’ve started an outreach campaign for it so we’ll track the rankings overtime.
In addition to that, I’m going to continue building homepage links and links to my SEO tutorial and SEO tools pages.
Until next time, Cheers!