SUMMARY (TL;DR)

THE CLIENT

Antavo is a leading SaaS technology to run innovative customer loyalty programs for retail, fashion, beauty, lifestyle, and hospitality. They help omnichannel and eCommerce brands’ CRM efforts by supercharging their marketing technology.

THE CHALLENGE

 The website was well-established with existing organic traffic, content and lead generation, but lacked in performance compared to competitors in the niche. We had to find why the site is not performing as it’s full potential would suggest it should, and find opportunities where Antavo could gain more traffic in their niche.

THE METHOD

In 4 weeks, ROI Foundry prepared a Growth Engine Blueprint for Antavo, handing over and in-depth analysis of their on-site and off-site SEO, backlink profile, website structure, copy, content, and an Action Plan for the next months with specific optimization tasks, content suggestions, keyword lists and other assets.

THE RESULTS

1 year after the Blueprint was completed and Antavo started implementation of the optimization and content creation, rankings in TOP 10 SERP positions are up by 176.3%; organic traffic grew by 69%; with the current main cornerstone content, a long-form guide created based on the Blueprint’s findings attracting 23% of overall organic visitors. Many relevant keywords started ranking in key positions that the site never ranked for before, and the backlink profile was cleaned of malicious backlinks, strengthening organic performance.

After multiple sessions during which we assessed the current situation and needs for Antavo, a team of four began working on the analysis: a growth hacker, an SEO & content strategist, a copywriter & inbound specialist and a content specialist.

We have completed the Growth Engine Blueprint for Antavo in March 2019. In the 83-page document, we included On-Site SEO, Off-Site SEO & Backlink Profile Analysis, Content SEO Analysis & Blog, a Copywriting & UX Analysis, a Content Gap Analysis, and provided them an Action Plan on how to fix certain minor errors, how to create more engaging content and how to change things on their site to attract (and convert) more organic visitors.

Note: As the contents of the document are considered confidential, we can’t show you the exact Blueprint, but you can always have a look at the Sample Blueprint accessible on the site. (Yes, you can actually access the document for the Epic Blueprint, with confidential information removed.)

In this case study, we are going to show you what we found during the analysis, what methods we proposed, how Antavo implemented them and what results did these yield during a 1-year period

On-Site SEO: Errors You Might Not Notice

Altogether the on-site technical analysis uncovered 873 errors that could affect the rankings of the site – however, these were all minor issues, like URLs containing white space, orphaned URLs or some broken internal redirect. These were all issues that their web developer team could quickly fix based on the lists included in the analysis.

In the case of companies with an established online presence, the technical analysis usually doesn’t uncover serious problems – however it should never be skipped, because there might be minor errors that neither users nor developers truly encounter, but search crawlers do, and thus they make ranking in top positions harder. 

In the case of Antavo, these minor issues were promptly fixed after the Blueprint was delivered.

The Journey to Attracting Organic Traffic

During the analysis we went through the entire URL list of the website, and found 500+ pages that generated close to zero organic traffic in the previous year (>100). 

When looking at organic traffic, naturally we don’t factor in the visitors arriving from social media or advertisement campaigns, therefore having no organic traffic on a page doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s worthless. For example, a landing page specifically created for a paid campaign could have a high volume of traffic and conversion attributed to it, even if that traffic is not organic.

At the time of our analysis, there were over 120 posts published on the blog of Antavo. Of these, 81 could be seen by the analytic software we use, and based on the data we got, we deemed 29 of these “well-optimized”.  

To determine which pages are the ones that should be refreshed, boosted or entirely removed, the list has to be filtered manually. In the case of Antavo, the zero-traffic pages included several of the aforementioned blog posts and several pages on the site that are not meant for search engines, like personal pages of team members that typically serve to strengthen purchase intent for indecisive users on a site.

Pro tip: Also, pages created as targets for social or ad campaigns should be noindexed too, just as landing page variants - but if there is no real purpose for a piece of content that brings in 0 traffic, it should be redirected with a 301 and if there is value in it, it shall be incorporated into other content.

If you delete a page, also make sure to use a 410 that tells Google about the deletion.

In case of pages you are keeping, the two main things you can do is:

  • Optimize the pages where valuable content is present that you want to keep, so it is targeted and displayed the right way.
  • Noindex the pages that are not meant to target organic searches so they don’t erode the search budget.

Based on the analysis Antavo was provided with a list of sites where optimization or noindexing was deemed necessary to boost the performance of the site. 

These include the aforementioned blog posts that should be optimized and a lot of different pages that should not be indexed so the crawl budget could be focused on the optimized content.

Finding the content gap

Based on the keywords Antavo was ranking for at the moment, we looked at the websites that qualify as their competitors – ranking for many of the same keywords. Then, to find a content gap, we looked at the keywords they are ranking for, but Antavo isn’t.

This process usually yields a list of thousands of keywords, which have to be filtered both by certain KPIs and manually. First, we narrow down our list by monthly search volume and difficulty, looking for keywords/queries that have a high volume but are relatively easy to rank for with quality content and a sufficient number of quality backlinks. Then comes the manual filtering, so the list only contains keywords that are actually relevant.

Note: Since Google rolled out the BERT algorithm update, the ranking keywords for many sites with quality content became much more relevant - but there are usually still hundreds that they are ranking for while not being strictly relevant to their services, products or even the topic of the content itself - this is why this step is absolutely necessary.

This first competitor keywords analysis provided us with a list of 200+ keywords that are relevant, high-volume and relatively easy targets (low-hanging fruits we call them). The content created with targeting these keywords in mind could ideally target 20K+ monthly searches, with a 57% click-through ratio. Factoring in that ads also divert 5% of the traffic, realistically 6400 clicks per month could be targeted.

Searching for relevant keywords without looking at the competitors gave us an additional list of 96 keywords with a realistically estimated ~3000 achievable clicks per month if successfully targeted.

In order to attract this amount of organic traffic, we suggested the creation of new, highly-optimized content based on the data provided in the Blueprint. The first task was to create a comprehensive, long-form guide to target their most important keywords related to customer loyalty programs. 

Soon the team of Antavo created How to Create a Customer Loyalty Program: a Definitive Guide, which in the past year became their most successful piece of content, accounting for attracting 23% of their current overall organic traffic (and 48% of the Traffic Value is attributed to it). 

Searching for relevant keywords without looking at the competitors gave us an additional list of 96 keywords with a realistically estimated ~3000 achievable clicks per month if successfully targeted.

The Organic Results

1 March 2019 1 March 2020 Change
Organic traffic (daily, Ahrefs) 500 1369 +173.8%
Organic traffic (weekly, GA) 1023 1729 +69%
Ranking keywords (TOP 3) 34 66 +94%
Ranking keywords (TOP 4-10) 59 191 +223.7%

Organic traffic of Antavo.com started to increase dramatically after proper optimisation and the publication of highly-targeted content. In the past year, it nearly tripled and the trend is likely to continue based on the data.

Also note that the number ranking keywords overall didn’t change dramatically, but after the implementation the the Blueprint findings, keywords ranking in top SERP positions increased greatly – meaning that the site is now ranking for more relevant keywords with more relevant content, which Google appreciates.

The average ranking position of Antavo.com’s keywords changed from 45.3 to 31.8, also increasing clicks and impressions.

Also note that the average CTR decreased somewhat – which is normal in the case of increased visibility and traffic, as a wider audience usually has overall weaker intent to convert, even if reached with highly-targeted content.

The change is most notable if we look at the most important search queries for Antavo: the ones containing the phrase “loyalty program”. Here the number of clicks increased by 297.9%, impressions increased by 212%, average CTR is 28% higher and these keywords rank on average in the 23.4 position instead of 48.3. 

All this is the results of one year of data-based optimization and content creation.

As you can see, many of the high-priority keywords basically just appeared on the radar, starting to bring in organic traffic in the last year.

But while optimization and quality content are the basics of good rankings, we also have to say a few words about how one of the most important ranking factors, the backlink profile has changed.

The Backlink Profile: Purging the Spam

At first it might seem that the backlink profile didn’t change much overall during this period, but this is misleading.

Note that while the number of referring domains is basically the same as it was a year prior, the number of referring pages drastically dropped. 

This is because as part of the Blueprint we ran a thorough analysis on the backlink profile of Antavo, and found that there were several sites linking to theirs that were basically spam – not helping, but actually hurting their rankings.

The most notable example were a series of backlinks pointing at the non-existent “https://p.antavo.com/f/ep8/” URL, yielding a 404 message. 126 domains (!) were linking to this URL, and all the pages were owned by the very same company. The sites were all irrelevant, in many cases low-quality and spammy, just copies of each other in 99% of the cases, with nominal Domain Rating (0-10).  

Pro tip: Naturally we advised disavowing these backlinks, as in removing them entirely from the link profile, along with some other spammy or low-quality ones we found, and some sites where the backlinks were not placed properly (appearing on thousands of indexed pages on one domain).

As a result, the backlink profile now is clean of spam that might hurt the rankings, the domain/page ratio is much healthier, and we can see the fresh content bringing dozens of high-quality, relevant backlinks every week, further strengthening the profile and overall rankings.

What these results mean for you...

Overall the website of Antavo is now much more user-friendly in terms of content consumption, offering in-depth and continuously updated, relevant content for readers in the target audience.

Organic traffic and rankings significantly improved based on data from all available software, with the current trends showing further increase in the coming months.

“Reports have shown significant growth in website traffic, and our site’s domain authority increased as well.”

(Zsuzsa Kecsmar, CCO & Co-Founder)

The most important takeaway from this case study is this: 1 year is a relatively short amount of time in SEO, but even a site as well-built as Antavo’s was, only through optimization and content creation, very significant results were possible to achieve – and they were indeed achieved. These are not methods restricted by niche, platform or business model, but the results of a data-based SEO and inbound approach, that is applicable for all niches from ecommerce sites to SaaS startups.