How to achieve big gains quickly with correct on-page SEO – Client case study & SEO activity checklist

When I first started building websites and trying to improve rankings and generate traffic to them, I remember my mentor, and now business partner told me:

“remember content and structure is always the most important part of any website”

I’ve come a long way since first building a little site promoting sports videos. I was hoping to generate some pocket money at the time with Google Adsense.

I’m now seasoned (and hardened) at ranking sites and doing it well, but along the way I’ve tried almost every strategy out there.

I could have saved myself a lot of pain along the way if I had just remembered those words.

Of course, it’s now a core part of how I do things, but along the way I thought I could “trick” Google into ranking sites, and “pull the wool over its eyes”. As it turns out, there are ways to spam and “trick” the search engines into ranking and generating traffic, but I’ll leave those to other people. Its not worth the risk for businesses to be engaging in dishonest practices, in order to game the search engine’s algorithms.

These days I’m very strict on how I look at the on page aspects of a website, for clients’ sites before I even consider linking. Many times I’ve achieved big changes in a short period of time with simple, but highly effective on page adjustments. I’ve also had moments where I only achieved results by spending time on the on page element of SEO (usually on my own hobby sites!).

The following is a recent case study (client) who came to me recently and asked to help with generating more traffic and rankings in

The importance of on page SEO – Case Study

Firstly I’ll explain a little bit about the history of the site (without divulging too much info about the site itself to protect the client’s privacy), and then work through the steps I implemented to achieve some big gains over the course of only a few days.

Below is a screen shot of some of the rankings improvements over 2 days, just from implementing on page SEO. I took control of the site on a Friday morning. This screen shot was taken on the Monday after the weekend.

So the cool thing about this, is that when I showed the client this, they were stunned at the results in such a short period of time.

From a client relationship perspective, there is nothing sweeter that starting a campaign like this. It provides an immediate boost to their confidence in you, and it also gives you a little room to breathE, while you’re getting off page strategies underway. Keep in mind that this was done with nothing but on page adjustment, nothing black hat or spammy, just simply showing Google exactly what the site iS about.

To the client, it can seem a bit like magic.

The thing is, these are typical results we see on many new client sites. Typically if a client has had a site built somewhere else, they look great, and probably function well, but how do they perform in search?

Website History

To be fair, this site is about 6 year old.

It was originally on an old html platform, and was a simple blog with a few html product elements added for products. It has never had any SEO implemented before. The backlink profile is rather sparse. So it does have age, and a clean profile in its favour. It’s in the equestrian niche. I would consider this a medium competition market, and after some keyword research it does prove to be that.

Believe it or not there is a rather dynamic online market for equestrian gear and the market has become quite lucrative with highly priced brands now entering the market. So high ticket products are not uncommon.

About 2 months ago, the owner had the site migrated (in this case rebuilt) on Shopify. Not by a professional agency, but by a friend. So another tick, the site was now on a quality platform with pedigree.

The exact steps in 2-day ranking gains

Step 1: SEMRush Audit

I use SEMRush daily, and it really now has become a tool I couldn’t do without. That, and The 3 tools make up the core of my daily tools.

The first thing I did was run a quick domain search to get an idea of the current keywords that the site ranks for. I also used to cross reference. They index sites in different ways so at times you’ll notice differences and also find data the other doesn’t have. So I ended up with a list like this. Note this is just a sample.


So with this very quick analysis using SEMRush, I can quickly get an idea of the market, where the volume is, competition.

Now at this point, if this was a new site, or I was doing in depth research for the market, I would delve deeper into competitor analysis and content analysis, but for this task, all I wanted was a quick overview of where to focus efforts on the site as it exists currently.

We can add more keywords and markets into the strategy later on, but right now I just want to have the core market at reach and use that data to adjust the site.

Once the site has settled after the adjustments, I can then move deeper into each product category and do further research on related phrases, long tail keywords and phrases etc. The site owners will have some say in this, as they will know what products have the best ROI, so then it makes sense to focus on those first.

Step 2: Adding keywords to rank tracker

This is always one of the steps I do early in a campaign.

It’s easy to get lazy and want to do it a week or two in, but in this case study, if I had done that, I would have missed tracking the immediate gains.

There are ways to go back and grab data historically, but it’s a a pain, so just getting it done early is easier, and only takes a few minutes.

I use two keyword tracking tools, RankTracker from Link-Assistant and You can download Rank Tracker for free. I love Rank Tracker as you can track unlimited keywords for a one-off cost of purchasing the software. Check out the free trial first.

Step 3: Added Structured Data Markup

I’m a big believer in adding schema to all sites.

But it needs to be implemented correctly.

My post on using schema for local business websites is good place to start.

In this case, I just generated the schema markup using the Serpspace Markup Generator. For Shopify, I simply added it to the theme.liquid file. Even though the business is national, I added Local Business schema as the the business also provides services locally.



Step 4: Edited Title, Descriptions & Meta Tags

Firstly I ensured all title and descriptions were appropriate for the pages, and then added appropriate SEO title and descriptions.

The next step has had the biggest impact on site rankings, IMO. Shopify uses “collections” to categorize products, and each collection should be treated as a hub page. Therefore attention was given to ensuring titles and descriptions were all in place, as well as relevant and topical.

Using the keyword research I did previously, each collection has the main keyword in the page title, and then product variations in the description.


Then to compliment the page’s title and descriptions, the SEO titles and descriptions need to be added correctly. Shopify has improved this part of the process greatly.

The anatomy of this process was again using the keywords and product variations.

This time though, I used partial anchor text for the title, and then added the product variations in the SEO title also. The description was simply used as way to pique interest.


Essentially what I’m trying to do is include all keyword variations possible from the keyword research I’ve done, using a combination of both the page title and description and SEO title and description.

“MAGIC”? – Hardly. It’s just simple SEO 101, but time and again I see the foundations overlooked.

Step 5: Added to Google Webmaster Tools

So after completing each collection page as per above, I added the site to GWT, included the sitemap.xml, and waited. The results after 2 days were great.

SEO KISS Principle

So by now you make be thinking:

 “is that it? I thought I was going to learn some super ninja optimization trick?”

Keep It Simple, Stupid

That’s the point. On page foundations are super critical for any site. The first thing that I’ll do if a site is stuck or not moving is audit the on site elements. I may look at links at the same time, but the on page has to be right to get any traction in the first place.

There is a standard line when talking about ranking sites that it takes time. In many cases it does, and there have been some studies recently about the time it takes to rank a site. But this proves, and I see it almost daily, that adjusting on page elements can have rapid, fast gains for very little effort.

Now though, this site is ready to do the same for each product (sigh), and then start an off page campaign to the collection pages and products.

You can find out more about specific tools you can use here:  Boost Your SEO With These 4 Powerful Tools

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