If you’re in any SEO groups around the web, there has been chatter recently about ranking websites with just traffic.
For years we’ve all been on about quality content and links. This has always made sense. If you build a website that has quality content, and then carefully build relevant and high quality backlinks, all things being equal you should do well in the search engines. As the process has evolved, it has become harder and harder to do this, although due diligence and planning is mighty helpful.
It also makes sense that if you do these two things correctly, you will rank, and then the organic traffic should start to flow, so it’s third in line in the sequence. Recently though it seems that Google has switched, or at least merged the presence of traffic into the filter. Sites that are getting more quality and relevant traffic, tend to do better in the search engines from a ranking point of view.
So why is this the case?
Social Media and Traffic
As social media has taken off, it’s now normal that a site could gain traffic immediately on a site being launched. This can happen either from social viral traffic or paid social traffic. Any other paid traffic will also play a part. Google seems to have realised this, and no longer are webmasters patient enough to wait for organic traffic to roll in.
Why would webmasters wait for traffic to come to them, when there is masses of traffic at their fingertips on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram?
In this case, it would also make sense that if a site is gaining highly targeted and real (human), targeted traffic, from whatever the source, that it’s probably worthy of Google love also.
When I have time, I want to run a case study on simply ranking a brand new site with purely social traffic.
Crowdsearch.me, recognised a few years ago that traffic was starting to become important, and Dan Anton and his team released the popular software platform to send targeted traffic to a website or other properties. It’s very cool, and I’ll probably do a full review on this software some time in the future.
Certainly in the last couple of months I’ve noticed a lot more chatter in the SEO groups about if this is a real factor. But I have’t seen any real hard core case studies yet, that can legitimately prove the theory. For many, organic traffic is hard to get, especially highly targeted real people wanting your product or service, and it does take time. The quickest, easiest and simplest approach is to simply buy it.
My SEO Traffic Case Study… Of Sorts
OK, so the site I’m going to talk about has a bit of a blurry history. It was my first agency site (“my city seo”) site here in Australia. I was a participant in one of the largest and most successful SEO courses and that certainly did help things along. At one point, I was ranked positions 1 , 2 and 3 for the term “SEO + city”. My site was number 1, a citation at number 2, and my Facebook page at number 3. They stuck for around a year and things were going along pretty well, agency wise. It was growing quickly. I’d been pretty careful how I ranked it, although I could have – and probably did – make mistakes along the way.
In 2015 there was still a thing call “negative SEO“. Google seems to have got on top of the issue for now, or at least the majority of the problem. If you haven’t come across the term before, it refers to an attack on a website with spam link profiles to negatively influence a sites rankings, by sending large quantities of low quality links, or over optimized anchor text, or both.
Ahrefs.com Referring Pages
So on Christmas eve 2015, someone spammed the life out of my site.
You can see from the graph above that in January 2015, referring pages (links) increased from around 500 to over 12,000 in just a few days. The majority of these links were from ultra low quality domains, and all anchored to the term “seo + my city”. At the time this represented around 60% of the total anchor profile. Over-optimized??? Just a little.
I immediately went about recovering the site, disavowing links and using some 301 redirect canonical strategies. It worked well and I was able to recover the site within about 3 weeks. It was immediately attacked again and I recovered it a second time. However it gradually decreased in rankings over the next month.
I don’t know which competitor I had annoyed, as I don’t really have anything to do with them in my city. Regardless I learnt some big lessons:
- The SEO industry is no different to any other, there are bad people, and there are good people.
- Negative SEO does indeed work
- I learnt how to recover a site… fast
What I found most devious was that they executed the attack on Christmas Eve, hoping I wouldn’t notice for a few days or maybe a few weeks.
What Do I Do Next?
So at this point, after 3 attacks and the site languishing between pages 10 and 100 for all keywords, I had to decide what my next move would be. Luckily for me, I had partnered up with another agency, and was busy ranking that site, and way too busy with clients. So I made the decision to abandon the site. Since early 2016 until late August 2017, I did absolutely nothing to it. Actually I tell a lie, I changed the theme, and removed some pages of content, and just left it as the home page, contact and about pages.
Fast Forward To August 2017
Around about July 2017, I was playing around with some new software that was on the market called Serp.tech, a new mass page building software by Herc Magnus and Todd Spears. I have been playing around with mass page builders for a while, including Network Empires V-Krakken, a mass page builder using video. It’s a beast, and a tool I’ll talk about in a dedicated post as it’s so powerful (I built a 1000 subscriber email list in less than two weeks for free using this tool). You can hear more about it here:
One of the first sites I built with Serp.tech was a national SEO Agency site that built out every city and town in the country for the term “seo+city/town”. Once the site was complete, indexed and had started to rank, I simply directed that traffic to my old SEO site. (I wont explain here how I redirected the traffic. All I can say it was not using a 301 or any other redirect protocol).
So over the last couple of months traffic has dribbled in from real users looking for seo services, albeit all over the country. Keep in mind though that my local area was also built out on the mass page site, so it has also received real local traffic also.
A couple of weeks ago (September 2017), I was checking our rankings for our other agency site and noticed my old site was started to show up for many related keywords, I checked “SEO+city” and sure enough, it was on page 4. Then a week later, it was on page 1, and the last few days it’s been slowly clawing it’s way up page 1.
Considering I haven’t touched the site in nearly 2 years, and only sent the mass page traffic to it, did the traffic recover, and then rank the site back to page 1? The only other possibility, is that the penalty has been removed, or expired (which does happen) due to a Google filter shift or it simply expired over time. The majority of the spammy links have dropped off according to ahrefs,com, but this happened over a year ago.
To me, it’s a little bit too coincidental that after sending the traffic, it was back in about 3 to 4 weeks, and it was completely by accident. My main aim was to give the mass page traffic a landing page that was somewhat functional and user friendly!
I’m inclined to think it presents a strong case for traffic ranking a site.
If nothing else, it’s given me a lot of data and ideas to put together a proper case study.