SEO Campaign Case Study: From 126 to 121,883 Unique Visitors in Under 6 Months

Gustav Palm

Gustav Palm is a Digital Marketer at Northmill, an international FinTech-company. He is passionate in everything related to the online marketing field, and specializes in Content Marketing and communications.

Article stats

  • Referring domains 14
Data from Content Explorer tool.

    There is a reason they say you should keep your friends close but your enemies closer.

    By analyzing your business competitors, you can learn how to build quality content that will gain huge amount of traffic and more importantly — convert readers into customers.

    That’s exactly what we did with our recent SEO campaign and the result was a knockdown.

    Here’s how we did it.

    Wait. Is content still king?

    Being perhaps the most important part of your digital marketing efforts, content marketing is still highly undervalued.

    You often hear the phrase ”content is king” but this phrase is meaningless without some concrete advice attached to it.

    Understanding Content Marketing

    The web is filled with low quality content that provides zero value. Or perhaps it provides value but doesn’t drive any traffic or sales.

    So why do companies spend so much time on creating content that doesn’t give them any results at all?

    We’ve been there too.

    Writing low quality content for too long just because we believed that content was king when it came to SEO.

    However, what we’ve learned is that content is not king unless it’s awesome content. So let us rephrase:

    Awesome content is king.

    About us

    Northmill is a Fintech company founded in Stockholm 2006 with a vision to simplify everyday financial services.

    We offer modern online loans and have 150 000 customers in three countries. The strategy is a multi brand concept which currently operates under the following brands: Credway, Easycredit and Credigo.

    Our content strategy

    Our marketing team has a clear philosophy when it comes to creating content. We aim to create valuable content that strengthens our brand, leading to new customers in the long run.

    Our sites are filled with a lot of relevant information about lending money online on our static pages, but we also have a news section where we create content related to our main topic: private economy.

    An uphill struggle

    It was a real struggle getting people to associate themselves with our brand on social media. For a long time we only had around 100 followers on Facebook.

    Gradually we understood that, as a lender, you don’t go about bragging that you just got an approved loan. The behavior is just not the same as when you buy a couple of nice sneakers and you go ahead and press the share-button on Facebook.

    Awesome + content = brandbuilding

    With our content marketing strategy we create such awesome content that people actually are willing to relate to our brand in a whole new way. When we provide value to people through our content we strengthen our brand and increase the chance that readers will convert into customers in the future.

    Today, we’ll give away our secrets.

    In this case study we’ll walk you through our recent SEO campaign and show you how we managed to create a single piece of content that:

    1. drives a ton of traffic
    2. builds our brand
    3. converts into new customers

    Step 1: Know where your competitors get their traffic from

    We had previously written two articles that contained information about tax refund in Sweden. They neither ranked, nor provided any other kind of value.

    Our article about tax refund, written in 2013, had resulted in a total of 126 page views.

    Our article about tax refund, written in 2013, had resulted in a total of 126 page views.

    Competitve analysis

    Using Ahrefs Site Explorer, we noticed that one of our main competitors gained a lot of traffic from keywords related to the same topic as our poorly performing article about tax refund.

    2 things you should do

    1. Get an overview of the organic traffic your competitors are currently receiving by entering your competitors domain name in Ahrefs Site Explorer. Then click on “Organic keywords”.

    2

    2. Sort on “Traffic” and start analyzing the results. The rectangles show all the search terms related to tax refund.

    3

    As you can see, our competitor gets most of the organic traffic to their page from phrases related to tax refund.

    Indeed, 18 out of 27 top results for their overall organic traffic are phrases related to tax refund (in Swedish “Skatteåterbäring”).

    Combine multiple tools for the best results

    After taking a look at the column “Volume” in the above picture, we wanted to confirm the data with Google’s Keyword Planner Tool. As you can see below the numbers from Ahrefs and Google Keyword Planner Tool are consistent.

    Monthly search volumes from Googles Keyword Planner Tool

    Monthly search volumes from Googles Keyword Planner Tool

    So what next?

    The plan was crystal clear. We needed to combine our current articles into one improved article and make it better than all the other results in the SERP.

    Now this first phase is the most important phase so do not start the writing process unless you get all the information you need. The better research you do, the better result you’ll get.

    Tips:

    • Never start writing until you’ve conducted a thorough research
    • Always have a clear concept before writing

    Step 2: Conduct detailed keyword research

    The plan was to give Google a reason to make our page rank higher than the others and we knew that we had to create an awesome page with fresh and unique content that was better than everything else in the SERP. A method often referred to as the skyscraper technique.

    A manual look on the SERP had the Swedish Tax Authority (Skatteverket) on top and then our competitor, followed by one of Swedens largest newspaper on position 2 and 3. Our own pages about tax return didn’t rank well at all.

    We started to read everything they had on their pages, analyzed their content, their titles, the meta description, the headers and everything else we could think of.

    We needed to set a goal before we started to write and to do that we had to know what keywords and phrases to aim at. For this, we used Ahrefs Keyword Explorer Tool, Über Suggest and Google’s Keyword Planner.

    Ahrefs Keyword explorer

    Ahrefs Keyword explorer

    1. Enter the keyword you think is the main keyword in Keyword Explorer.
    2. Choose your country and then sort on volume.
    3. Start analyzing the results.

    Tips:

    • Always provide the web with unique content
    • Create better content than the others
    • Analyze titles, meta, headers and content on the sites that ranks

    Making the right conclusions

    In Ahrefs we could see that the keyword “skatteåterbäring” was the biggest one with 8,100 monthly searches.

    We also noticed that the term “skatteverket deklaration” had 6,600 monthly searches but when we searched for that term on Google we discovered that all the first page results came from the Swedish Tax Authority (Skatteverket). We therefore decided not to target that phrase.

    All the first page results came from the Swedish Tax Authority (Skatteverket).

    All the first page results came from the Swedish Tax Authority (Skatteverket).

    You can’t be meticulous enough

    A lot of marketing programs out there are awesome but there’s no software that is 100 % accurate and perfect — not even Googles own Keyword Planner which is known to miss out on longtails.

    This is why we always try to confirm results by using more than one source. In this case we used Übersuggest not only to confirm the data that Ahrefs presented but also to find out if we missed out on any important keywords or phrases.

    The findings were amazing…

    1. Go to https://ubersuggest.io/ and enter your main keyword. Go ahead and click on “View as text”.

    7

    2. Copy all the content in the popup and go to Google Keyword Tool.

    8

    3. Paste all the words you copied from Übersuggest into Google Keyword Tool and start analyzing.

    9

    We found out that the terms “skatteåterbäring 2016” and “skatteåterbäring 2015” (which means tax refund followed by year) had major monthly search volumes. We also know that Google likes fresh content, and that fresh content gets premiered especially if a searcher ends the search with a year or date.

    Now we knew what keywords to target. Our goals became:

    • Top 3 for term “skatteåterbäring 2016” (33,100 monthly searches)
    • Top 3 for term “skatteåterbäring 2015” (12,100 monthly searches)
    • Top 3 for term “skatteåterbäring” (8,100 monthly searches)

    Tip:

    • Always set a goal before you start

    Step 3: The Writing

    With the research completed we needed to get down to business and start writing.

    To make sure the two other poorly written articles about tax refund didn’t cannibalize on this new piece of content, we decided to create a whole new page with a fresh URL and redirect the old ones to the new URL. This way we concentrated all our content that’s related to tax refund on a single page.

    Once that was done we started to work the magic and a couple of days later the article was finished. On November 2nd we published the content about tax return.

    It includes all the valuable information searchers need, images, table of contents and awesome content.

    Tips

    • Make sure not to have more than one page that targets the same keywords. Better to have one strong page than three weak.

    The journalist v.s the content marketer

    Just because we’ve published an article it doesn’t mean we’re done. For a journalist, the publishing is where the job ends. For a marketer this is where everything begins.

    The Content Marketer starts with a kind of reversed engineering method to try to understand what the target audience wants to read about and then ends up publishing the article.

    We constantly follow up on the results and improve them. This is a part we call “communication with Google”. Once the Googlebot indexes our page we’ll know whether it’s good or bad and we’ll know what to do because Google tells us what to do in different ways.

    Tips:

    • Don’t consider you article finished just because it’s published
    • Keep a close eye on it and try to understand Google’s verdict

    Step 4: Monitor and Optimize

    In our case, we published the article on November 2nd and waited for Google to act. At the end of January we started to analyze the results again and on January 31st we adjusted the article and worked with the details.

    Bounce rate and behavior

    We use Google Analytics to get an insight into user behavior to learn how we can improve the article.

    We could see that a visitor spent 4:45 minutes on average on the page and that the bounce rate was 94.80%. Which is pretty high, even for an informational page like this. We could also see that the exit frequency was 94.14%.

    11

    Our analysis told us that a visitor comes to this page most likely to know when she will get her tax refund. The high bounce rate was expected and the same goes for the exit frequency.

    Despite this we tried to improve the results. We wanted to know if we could improve the numbers so we added the top bar and the overlay at the beginning of March.

    12

    Comparison of March and February metrics.

    As you can see we managed to improve both the bounce rate and the amount of exits. We decreased the bounce rate from 93.57% to 92.13%. The exits sank from 93.32% to 91.48%. Another interesting insight was that the average time on site decreased. Whether it’s a good or bad thing could be discussed.

    Our conclusion was that we had made the page more user friendly by adding the top bar which gave the user the opportunity to get a fast answer of her question. This lead to a lower time on page. In other words, a good thing.

    Related search terms

    A good tactic we used to increase the relevancy of our article was to see how Google had interpreted our page and the keywords and phrases it had associated with it. This helped us to make the article even more relevant. For this we used Google Search Console data which we have synchronised with Google Analytics.

    1. Go to “Search Traffic” and then “Search Analytics” in Google Search Console
    2. Click on “Pages”
    3. Click on the page you’d like to analyze

    13

    4. Click on Queries
    5. Start analyzing

    In the fifth step you’ll see the queries searchers execute that made them land on your page. This is very interesting because according to Google these phrases are relevant to your article.

    What we did was to analyze the whole query list and then added words and phrases to the article to make it super relevant.

    First page results

    Once we were done with these adjustments we waited. And suddenly something happened. On February 12th we climbed to position 7 on first page with one of the main keywords, “skatteåterbäring”.

    Graph showing positions for keyword “skatteåterbäring”

    Graph showing positions for keyword “skatteåterbäring”

    We had reached a milestone — page one. But we were not done yet.

    As a Content Marketer you have to be stubborn and patient before you see the results you want.

    In our case we kept on improving the copy, the design, and adjusted details even further. And guess what?

    March 12th we reached position 8 on the first page with the keyword “skatteåterbäring 2015” and by April 4th the same keyword climbed to position 4.

    Graph showing positions for keyword “skatteåterbäring 2015”

    Graph showing positions for keyword “skatteåterbäring 2015”

    A very interesting thing to see was how fast we climbed to position 1 for the biggest keyword “Skatteåterbäring 2016”.

    Graph showing positions for keyword “skatteåterbäring 2016”.

    Graph showing positions for keyword “skatteåterbäring 2016”.

    Tips:

    • Have patience when it comes to Google
    • Never stop improving your content

    Wow! What if we could convert the visitors into customers?

    Suddenly, our article about tax return drove thousands of visitors every day.

    Taking this even further we started to ask ourselves what should be the next step? How could we leverage even more and use all this traffic to actually get more customers? We had to be able to do something more than brandbuilding with the huge amount of traffic volume we were receiving.

    This piece of content had earned us 121,883 unique page views in just a few months. Now for a large country it may not be that much but for a small country like Sweden with a population of 9 million… it’s awesome!

    Image shows the total amount of pageviews and unique pageviews.

    Image shows the total amount of pageviews and unique pageviews.

    Long term v short term benefits

    Our philosophy is to provide valuable information so that the visitor gets a state of the art experience and remembers us in the future. Hopefully when the customer needs a loan she will recall our brand.

    A lot of people have been telling us that we’re crazy because we invest a lot of time in creating content and they often say: ”Why put so much effort in something that does not create customers?”

    So, maybe there was a happy medium. Combining the long term effects of brand building and converting more first time visitors into customers.

    Step 5: Converting readers into customers

    To create awesome content you need to understand the visitors intent. So start by asking yourself why they make a certain search query in the first place. Once you understand that you can continue with your strategy.

    In our case we understood that the searchers intent was to know when they would get their refund. So on March 3rd we added a top bar that takes the reader further down on the page and gives them the answer to their question.

    In other words we tried to provide the answer faster and at the same time engage them on the site.

    Image shows the top bar, created to improve the user experience and answer the readers question faster.

    Image shows the top bar, created to improve the user experience and answer the readers question faster.

    Once we knew why the visitors searched for phrases like tax return we could assume that some of them need the money immediately. Therefore we assumed that there is actually a demand for money and therefore we would offer to lend them money with a discount.

    But at the same time we don’t want to bother them too much when reading about tax refunds as not all of them will want to borrow money.

    On March 9th we decided to insert an overlay that appears once the customer wants to leave the page and on that overlay we wrote:

    Waiting for your refund? We offer 10 % discount on all our loans. Apply for free.

     Image shows the overlay where we offer our services to convert the visitor.

    Image shows the overlay where we offer our services to convert the visitor.

    Here’s what happened after adding the top bar and the overlay. Of course we don’t know if this is a result of the bar and the overlay. We’ll let you be the judge of that.

    Graph showing organic positions of one of the keywords “Skatteåterbäring 2015” between 29th February and May 2nd.

    Graph showing organic positions of one of the keywords “Skatteåterbäring 2015” between 29th February and May 2nd.

    When we started to write this piece we had the three goals which I mentioned earlier. But once we saw how many new visitors the article brought to the site and we became greedy (in a positive sense), we wanted to get out more than branding from this whole project. And we did.

    Just to be clear. Even though Gordon Gekko is a cool character to watch in a movie we would hate him in real life.

    Just to be clear. Even though Gordon Gekko is a cool character to watch in a movie we would hate him in real life.

    Believe it or not, this time our greed resulted in conversions. We actually managed to create a piece of content with the goal to rank and build our brand which also converted visitors to new customers. Awesome!

    This result meant something more than these numbers. For us, this lead to a new mindset because now we actually know that there are ways to convert visitors of a brand building articles into customers.

    The final results

    Our goals before we started to write were:

    • Top 3 for term “skatteåterbäring 2016” (33,100 monthly searches)
    • Top 3 for term “skatteåterbäring 2015” (12,100 monthly searches)
    • Top 3 for term “skatteåterbäring” (8,100 monthly searches)

    We managed to get top 3 positions and reach 2 of our 3 goals (we wont give up unless we reach 3 out of 3).

    But besides our initial goals here are some other amazing results:

    • 1,415,825 total impressions in the SERP
    • 121,883 total unique visits
    • 700 clicks on overlay
    • 287 new customers (!)

    This project became such an success that it is now one of the most visited pages on our site. When we analyzed what we thought Google related our site to we started to wondering if there was any risk here. Could this major page make Google think our site is more about tax refund than loans?

    An interesting question actually. We could write a whole new article about it but the short answer is you don’t have to worry about that as long as you:

    a) tell Google that the page is not as important as your main pages
    b) don’t do anything shady

    david-smallEditor’s Note

    This case study is another great example of the power of combining thorough keyword research with great content.

    However, you may have noticed that the keyword difficulty score for these search terms was quite low.

    As Tim revealed yesterday, content alone will not normally be enough to rank for more competitive terms. As keyword difficulty increases, more backlinks are required to reach the top spots:

    keyword-difficulty

    The takeaway is clear.

    To get the most out of your own SEO campaigns, you should combine:

    1. Detailed keyword research
    2. Creating ‘Best’ available content for each target keyword
    3. Pro-active link building/content promotion

    Indeed, that’s the very strategy we have been following here on the Ahrefs blog.

    Conclusion

    Content Marketing is a fundamental part of online marketing and SEO. Everyone can create awesome content that results in new visitors, links, mentions, collaborations or new customers. But it’s not easy and it takes time.

    You need to build up an awesome team that can create a content machine which iterates this working method over and over again.

    Everyone can do this.

    So, what’s the topic for your next SEO campaign?

    Gustav Palm

    Gustav Palm is a Digital Marketer at Northmill, an international FinTech-company. He is passionate in everything related to the online marketing field, and specializes in Content Marketing and communications.

    Article stats

    • Referring domains 14
    Data from Content Explorer tool.

    Shows how many different websites are linking to this piece of content. As a general rule, the more websites link to you, the higher you rank in Google.

    Shows estimated monthly search traffic to this article according to Ahrefs data. The actual search traffic (as reported in Google Analytics) is usually 3-5 times bigger.

    Get notified of new articles

    46,617 marketers are already subscribed to Ahrefs blog. Leave your email to get our weekly newsletter.

    • Hi,

      A really good article, but can’t you just look at the top competitors anyway, look at their content and rank? I’m on the trial period of ahrefs. Not every top 10 competitor will rank for every keyword you want to. Can’t you simply just take a look at their site and make your site better it anyway?

      Thanks.

      Robin

      • Hi Robin, see my note on the post. All our data points to the fact that as keyword difficulty increases, content will require more links to rank.

        While very high traffic, these keywords had a relatively low difficulty score (which points to excellent keyword research on Gustav’s part).

        Links continue to be extremely important for competitive terms.

        Of course, building links becomes much easier if your content is truly the best resource for the search result.

        So as i said, the best process is

        1. Identify keywords
        2. Create the best resource for the query
        3. Build links to it.

        And actually, Ahrefs can help with all parts of that process: Keywords explorer for initial research, organic research for identifying gaps in your content (and filling them in) and competitor analysis for finding backlink opportunities.

        • Thank you David for a prompt and full reply.

          That’s great. It really is an informative and useful piece Gustav’s written. Well done indeed. A tremendous job and I’m starting to see how ahrefs can help here (which I’m really enjoying BTW).

          Much appreciated.

          Best regards,

          Robin

          • I have been using Ahrefs for 5 months now. Absolutely amazing tool. The only downside is that the package I am on doesn’t allow full reveal of competitors keywords and my current budget doesn’t allow me to afford the higher package yet. All in all the #1 seo research tool available.

    • @davidmcsweeney Great article mate. Question: For the content creation itself, how do you determine budget for it?

      • Actually, this is Gustav’s article 🙂 But I can attempt to answer the question from my side — although it’s a tricky one!

        You can get content from tens of dollars to tens of thousand dollars, but ultimately (like anything in life), you get what you pay for. I know Neil Patel for example invested around £25K or something like that into his content marketing guide.

        It’s also an ROI decision ultimately. If your content ranks it can potentially bring in business for years. I mentioned in a comment on Tim’s keyword post that this type of content is all about getting potential customers into your sales funnel.

        It’s clear that the days of content for content’s sake are over and with the huge number of businesses vying for market share, content has to be A++ to get the attention of both Google and potential customers.

        You should have an idea of your overall marketing budget and I would say that a good chunk of that should go into creating and marketing your content.

      • Gustav Palm

        It took under 8 hours to write, analyze and update this article. in-house. So ROI was huge. I won’t go into exact numbers but the direct sales alone from this article was more than enough to motivate the working hours.

    • great motivational article…thanks for awesome share..

    • People have their own ways of soaking up information they find. I suppose creativity is also really important. This article has certainly inspired me.

    • Thanks AHREFS team that you make us learn new things.(like very much to read your case studies)

    • What about link building? I’m in the seo business since 2006 and know this article is bulshit. Even with this article the marketer create links, but not even a word about that.… This article is completely useless for me.

      • DiamondCoreMarketing

        Yup, link building is still a key element even for lower competition phrases. Plus, the case study revolves around Swedish search. Everyone knows ranking for languages like this is absurdly easy compared to US/UK search.

      • I explained in the note I added that link building would be required for more competitive terms and that the combination of content + links is what will get the content to rank.

    • This article is about how to promote an article to google, and I see that is advertised in Facebook.

      • Content promotion is a big part of what will get your content to rank in Google.

    • DiamondCoreMarketing

      The regurgitation is strong in this article..

    • What do you get success in social platform? I could not understand.

      For a long time we only had around 100 followers on Facebook.” But it is also not 100 follwers on Facebook. What you did.

    • Listen2me1st

      such a detailed work and deep analysis however, i am just wondering if you did use any other off page activity for this page only. ?
      I agree with your approach of awesome content is king.

    • Kim

      Is there any chance that you will add volume/metrics for Norway also ?? Its just the country beside

    • David Prian

      Thank you for sharing this detailed step by step process. I can attest that this works, maybe not with as dramatic results, but with success none the less…

    • This is a great article! Due to the lack of time, there are a few that I read from top to bottom, but this case study was truly great.

    • Rita Vissers

      I quit after content is king in SEO, it isn’t, it never was and it will not be for the foreseeing future, content is only important to convert your visitors and get social media traffic, but for SEO only one thing is king queen and master and that is backlinks.… end of story!

      • Gustav Palm

        Hello Rita,
        Link building has undiminished value. Content used to be king but the new king is search intent.

    • thank u Gustav Palm

    • That was an amazing change in just 6 months. I know that some people only get to as much as 40,000 visitors. You are at 100,000+ Pretty amazing.

    • Gustav Palm

      It´s been over 1 year since I wrote this case study but the technique still holds today and this article still generates huge amounts of traffic. One thing worth mentioning though, is that the backlink acquisition this piece of content got from Ahrefs didn’t have any significant impact on rankings. However, it’s true this was low competition content because it was targeting informative search queries instead of commercial ones.

      Thanks for all comments!