Digital Marketing
SEO
02.21

SEO case study: Zero to 100,000 visitors in 12 months

Woolza wants to share a process we’ve developed at Siege Media to earn links and visibility and to increase web traffic for our clients.

You need more traffic.

More visitors to your site means more impressions, more signups, more purchases — more revenue. But how do you capture more traffic from search results that are becoming more crowded, more diverse, and evolving in the way they are delivered?

With SEO, of course!

We are going to walk through how we built a site’s SEO strategy from the ground up — growing from zero visitors to 100,000 — and share key takeaways that you can apply to your own strategy.

The general outline of our strategy was:

  1. Start slow and take advantage of “easy wins.”
  2. Focus on securing a handful of strategic links to important pages.
  3. Establish passive link acquisition channels to build momentum.
  4. Be intentional about content creation and its impact on search.
  5. Level up over time, and target higher-value opportunities.

Let’s dive into the case study.

Note: We had control over every aspect of the site, making it much easier to accurately attribute organic gains to the SEO work we were implementing, as well as to make SEO recommendations every step of the way. I have also anonymized the data to maintain confidentiality for the website.

1. Starting slowly with a new site

Starting with a new site, we understood there were limitations.

In the beginning, we focused on opportunities with low competition and decent traffic value. We used SEMrush to determine traffic value and manual research to gauge competition.

Examining the search engine results pages (SERPs), we looked for results with:

Finding results with these types of pages would give us confidence that we could easily build something searchers would prefer.

Once we identified potential opportunities, we built best-in-class content targeting those specific SERPs. To separate our content from others in the space we used:

By building content that would best answer searcher intent and needs, we set our pages up to be successful in the SERPs.

2. Securing a handful of links to important pages

Pages need links to rank in search.

But the number of links needed to be competitive depends on the page, site, niche, type of query and so on. Furthermore, search engines have become more sophisticated in how they evaluate links, placing more emphasis on quality and less on numbers.

What we learned from doing this project is that bottom-of-the-funnel pages really only need a handful of quality links to rank well, and from there, positive engagement signals would further validate the page as an authority in the eyes of search engines.

Of course, securing links to bottom-of-the-funnel pages is extremely difficult because these pages typically aren’t link-worthy. The purpose of these pages isn’t to inform or entertain; these pages exist to drive conversions, and that doesn’t usually compel other sites to link.

There are a few situations where serving direct value to your site aligns with the goals of other websites, and link opportunities exist. These opportunities involve hyper-focused link pages that are relevant to your content.

This strategy isn’t sustainable for a long-term, large-scale campaign because these situations are limited. But we learned that you only need to execute on a select handful of these opportunities to be successful with bottom-of-the-funnel pages.

Other opportunities available to bottom-of-the-funnel pages include:

You can’t build a sustainable link acquisition campaign with these tactics, but you can secure a few quality links to your converting pages and drive initial engagement for your site.

3. Establish passive link acquisition channels

Link building is really hard.

Link acquisition is a manual process that is ongoing, forever. My favorite description of link building came from former Googler Matt Cutts, who defined it as “sweat, plus creativity.” Because securing links is so difficult — and we knew we needed links to grow traffic — we sought to establish passive link acquisition channels to amplify all our link-building efforts. Part of our content strategy was to use high-quality, original photography, and this provided a perfect opportunity to attract passive links. Rather than copyrighting or watermarking our photos, we decided to use a Creative Commons license that allowed others to use the photos as long as they linked back to their original source (on our site).

Along with having your images cited, other potential ways to earn links organically include:

The key is to create something original, and then make it easy for others to cite (link to) you as the original source.

4. Strategic content creation

Content drives SEO success.

It’s possible to secure a few links to bottom-of-the-funnel pages, but you’ll need middle and top-of-the-funnel content to sustainably capture attention and links. Creating useful content for your audience is always a sound strategy, but you can take it a step further by being intentional and strategic about the content you publish. We maintained a relentless focus on SEO — creating every page with search, and the opportunities available to us, in mind. To determine opportunity, we compared SEMrush traffic value against competition level.

Along with manually reviewing the search results, you can also use Moz’s Keyword Explorer tool to get an estimate of the competition and difficulty surrounding various terms and phrases.

Of course, investing in creating quality content is important, but the key takeaway for us was the success we saw from being strategic about the SEO impact of the content we created.

5. Leveling up over time

Momentum is key in SEO.

As you build traction with your campaign, SEO tends to have a multiplying effect where your results will build exponentially. As you earn more visibility in search, you begin to attract more visitors — and if you satisfy the needs of those visitors, they will keep coming back (increasing traffic), endorsing your website (links) and sharing how great you are with others (social media, blogs, podcasts and so on).

We recognized our site was building momentum, and after six months of work, we started to raise expectations. We began to target more competitive spaces (which we avoided at the start), and because we had built a strong foundation, we were successful.

We established a solid baseline of authority and trust with our site, giving us the ability to compete for higher-value terms. Seeing early returns, we began taking even bigger bets on the content we created — not only investing in original design and photography but also adding interactive elements such as custom tools and video.

Recap

We didn’t use any secret tricks or hacks to grow traffic. Rather, we invested in building quality content, and we implemented various link acquisition strategies to match each stage of the project. As the site grew, so did our expectations and goals.

To recap, here’s our process for growing traffic:

  1. Start slow and take advantage of “easy wins.”
  2. Focus on securing a handful of strategic links to important pages.
  3. Establish passive link acquisition channels to build momentum.
  4. Be intentional about content creation and its impact on search.
  5. Level up over time, and target higher-value opportunities.

This is a repeatable, scalable process that we’ve found to be effective. Of course, you will need to tweak and adjust this process a bit to fit your unique situation and needs. However, I hope you can take the key lessons we learned from this project and apply them to your own strategy.