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SEO Program

Product

Portable spectroscopic analyzers

Situation

B2B

Market

Industrial & Consumer Analytical Equipment

Deliverables

Sophisticated SEO Program
SEO Monitoring & Reporting

Brief. This is a typical SEO project and Client need, with notable complexities. MG Lomb has a high-level of experience and sophistication with SEO, successfully accomplishing our Clients’ SEO goals. MG Lomb does NOT outsource any of our SEO work. Our services are done in-house, by full time MG Lomb SEO specialists.

NOTE: Although successful in the end, we selected this project for case study, because it is an excellent example of how a typical SEO project can become complicated. Client driven variables can cause failures in SEO, and subsequently frustrations. This case study provides useful insight into why SEO can be difficult, confusing, and at times expensive. At conclusion of the project (a six month SEO program) MG Lomb had successfully ranked 14 of 15 of the Client’s search phrases, in Google’s top ten.

Project Background

Nearly every SEO project discussion begins with … “I want to be number one in Google searches.” Projects that differ include this, but add other objectives, such as pay-per-click programs, or ___ ? In any case, all projects require appropriate needs analysis, cost tolerance, and scrutiny for return on investment. This case study SEO project was typical, until it wasn’t.

Client Requirements. To be number one in Googles searches. And, determine if pay-per-click is useful. MG Lomb’s position on SEO, with regard to typical requirements, is most often the same … Organic SEO is more effective (for ROI) than pay-per-click (if it can be achieved); and, Pay-per-click is useful “upfront” while accomplishing organic SEO success, if it can be included in the budget (this provided no factors would prioritize pay-per-click).

Website & Company background. The Client’s company was fairly new (three years old), the North American division of a large Asian parent company. The new division was formed to take aim at a new beachfront market, using a newly engineered technology. For the company who would own the number one Google position, with relevant search phrases, a lucrative return would be possible. However, our Client was late to the party. As mentioned, roughly nine entrenched competitors already existed. Competitors who were serious about their SEO, long before our client even built and launched their new website.

Goal

Rank three (3) products in Google’s top ten organic search results, for fifteen (15) product search phrases. Develop and implement a successful SEO strategy, for a new company (and new URL), competing with ten established, entrenched competitors.

The Problems. (1) Roughly nine entrenched, well-funded, competitors. (2) Poorly managed legacy webpages. (3) Conflicting Client actions, detrimentally impacting SEO.

  1. Nine entrenched competitors. Nine is not a small number of competitors, when it comes to SEO. And entrenched means they have click-equity, where we do not. This SEO project required MG Lomb to essentially “unseat” numerous well-funded existing competitors, from their top 10 Google rankings – so our Client could rank. Anyone who knows SEO understands that this is neither quick, simple, nor easy. Additionally, many of the competitors were “well-funded;” well-funded meaning consistently SEO active. And a key to SEO success … is being active. So page activity, with on-going adjustment and consideration, equate to strong organic search results. Our competition was active, effective, and investing in SEO aggressively.
  2. Poorly managed legacy webpages. Duplicate, forgotten, redundant, and mismanaged legacy website pages and content “will” negatively impact your SEO. In this case, the Client had literally “hundreds” of old, forgotten webpages. These were evidently not known of by the Client. Worse, few (if any) had associated 301 redirects.
  3. Conflicting Client actions. Unknown to MG Lomb, the parent company of the Client had been “duplicating” entire sections and pages of the website, verbatim. Google takes duplicate content seriously. In the worst cases Google will potentially de-index duplicate pages (remove the webpage from results, completely). Google may also re-prioritize a duplicate webpage. This means, one page may index at the number 2 position (top ten), while the duplicate page may appear “unindexed” (51+), or even not at all. This is bad, and takes considerable time and planning to correct. These serious SEO problems were preventable. They were driven by a situation of “need to know” by the Client, who was overly protective of the web program. This protective behavior resulted in numerous negative SEO problems, all of which required identification, and resolution.

Project & Scope

A typical SEO program requires the following: (1) Identification of primary and secondary competitors. (2) Identification, justification, and selection of primary and secondary search phrases. (3) Setup, of 1 and 2 in an SEO software application (such as MOZ), and integration with MG Lomb’s proprietary SEO goal’s and tracking tool.

  1. Identification of competitors. To begin any SEO program, we need to know what competitors you’re looking to unseat, and how they’re succeeding at SEO. Part of most SEO campaigns involves identifying your competitors, specific to your products, services, and search phrases. Once selected, we’ll add them into your MOZ campaign, to track their SEO results, as compared to your SEO results. Although this is an important early step, on-going review of unknown competitors is commonly part of the on-going SEO review process. In this case study, we addressed three primary competitors per product, plus another three secondary competitors. We optimized three products, for a total of eighteen potential competitors. As there was overlap, a total of nine competitors was decided.
  2. Selection of search phrases. This is the most critical SEO task. Done poorly, you will be optimizing for (paying for) search phrases which will not yield you the best ROI. You MUST select the right search phrases, and document your justifications for selection. This is a complex task, which cannot be automated, nor should it be underestimated. Search phrase selection requires client participation, and usually begins with interviews, aimed at helping clients make the best selection. In this case study, MG Lomb assisted the Client with selection of five primary (product oriented) search phrases, and five secondary (industry oriented) search phrases, for their products. This totaled 30 search phrases identified and implemented. It is worth noting, the number of search phrases chosen to be optimized directly impacts the cost of an SEO project.
  3. MOZ, goals and tracking tool, setup. Once the competitors are established, and search phrases selected, MG Lomb can setup the SEO “campaigns” in MOZ, and MG Lomb’s proprietary SEO goals and tracking tool. This is the tool which MG Lomb uses to provide on-going performance data to our clients. This typical scenario is how MG Lomb addressed the Client represented in this case study.
  4. Temporary Website. An outlier to our typical SEO process, was a temporary holding website the Client had created. MG Lomb was engaged to build the new website, pivoting on the newest product, but knowing we’d eventually be closing down this temporary website, and migrating content for two other products. We took this into consideration, with respect to SEO, during website development.

Challenges

Some SEO projects start simple, and remain simple. Others, are not. Although MG Lomb was successful with this Client’s SEO program and goals, notable complications occurred. All relating to factors outside our control – but directly caused by the Client’s lack of knowledge. What is stated below are actual excerpts from the Client’s SEO report, with pertinent names redacted.

As mentioned … your SEO project has been far more complex than most. And definitely not what we anticipated to have taken on. But our agreement was for MG Lomb to optimize Client’s SEO to the best possible outcome. So that is what we have been striving to do. A little history of the Challenges will provide some perspective.

Challenge #1.  Search Phrases. (FIXED) It took some time (the first two months – we settled these on April 31st) to work with you to select and establish the best search phrases to optimize for. Once done, collaboratively, with Client, MG Lomb had to make physical changes to the Client.com website, so those search phrases could be optimized. This process took to the end of April, which is not unusual, being a result of decisions made jointly, with research and results monitoring of competitors to consider. So not too much of a Challenge, but it does cover what the initial 2/3 month period was focused on – again, pretty normal.

Challenge #2.  Product 1 indexing to ParentWebsite.com – NOT to Client.com (FIXED) With every SEO project, we have to prioritize. This problem was identified by both sides as a primary concern. As you recall … when a Google search was performed, only the Parent company website was indexing with Google (not the Client website). This error was caused by the Parent website “grabbing your page content” from our new Client.com website, and indexing with Google – ahead of us! Google does NOT like duplicate content, and penalizes (or selects) the chosen pages to be indexed. This type of Client driven error is not common. And it created a new problem MG Lomb had to identify and resolve. This effort effectively usurped the entire month of May, until it was resolved. MG Lomb did resolve it, but we lost an entire month to an unnatural SEO problem, created by the Parent company. Effectively, your own Parent company website was competing against you, causing your SEO results to fail. This is because the action taken by your Parent company violates Googles content indexing rules. This issue was identified and resolved, by MG Lomb.

Challenge #3.  Product 2 and Product 3 … OLD backlinks, to ParentCompany.com (FIXED) Roughly nine old backlinks were found and updated, from publication websites – these backlinks were wrongly directing Product 1 oriented web searches to the OLD ParentCompany.com webpages. We contacted these pubs and successfully redirected the OLD backlinks to the NEW Client.com website. How did we find these? In our initial investigation efforts, we wanted to see what kind of negative click equity (potentially causing Challenge #5) was out there. We discovered a number of OLD publication articles featuring your products, with Product 1 focused content. Without a doubt, this was causing problems. But it is fixed now. It did, however, uncover another problem (see Challenge #5).

Challenge #4Product 1 ONLY website launched, before Product 2 and Product 3 were added (Open Issue). By launching the new Client.com website with “Product 1 ONLY” your Challenge #5 was created. After extensive SEO problem investigation and troubleshooting, we think we’ve uncovered the root of the Challenge #5 problem. The original 301 redirects (January), which were correctly and properly directed to the NEW Client.com/products page, established a Product 1 precedent (overpowering Product 2 searches). When we launched the Product 1 only website, there was only “one” product, and no “general” products page. So when you selected “products” on the new Client.com website, you automatically went to the Product 1 page. The next step in development was to add the other Client products (Content Migration project). Still, when you were to click the Products top-level drop down navigation, you got the Product 1 landing page (which forwarded to Product 1). We think, this established click juice with Google (it did NOT happen in Bing) which subsequently drove the other Product 2 results to the “Products” page on the Client.com website, and subsequently resulted in Product 1 results for Product 2 and Product 3 searches. Strange … as we’ve never seen this happen before. And apparently neither have our peers. I should remind you that this is NOT happening in Bing. Bing is, and always has, indexed all our primary search phrases as intended.

Challenge #5Product 1 search phrases cannibalizing Product 3 results (in Google). As you know, when a Product 3 search WAS done in Google (not Bing – Bing indexes fine) some of the results (10  out of 10) are wrongly posting Product 1 landing pages (clearly a problem). Today, only 3 of 10 are still wrongly listing Product 1. THIS problem has been the strangest and most unique SEO problem we’ve seen. It’s unusual, to say the least. To date; my team and I have invested numerous hours (outside of your project scope) to investigate and resolve this issue. To resolve, we also reached out to our SEO peers, current colleagues and new, with all of them telling us things we already knew. Again – we’ve never seen this particular problem before. After trying everything obvious, we started digging deeper, and we think we know where the problem is arising from (also see Challenge #4). There were approximately 600 ParentCompany.com pages (half of them deleted before we even took possession of the content) that have garnered “click juice” with Google. These all require new 301 redirects (see Excel chart). When migrating the OLD website content, MG Lomb did perform roughly three hundred 301 redirects. What we’re saying is we found “another 300 pages” that still require redirecting. MG Lomb feels that this (along with the previous 301 redirect strategy, and Challenge #4) is why Challenge #5 is occurring (although it’s already improved some – see Successes, top). We are confident that it will be resolved within the upcoming weeks (during July).

Results

At six months, the Client’s SEO related objectives were successfully achieved … with 14 of 15 primary (product oriented) search phrases indexing in the top ten, on Google. Our results with Bing were equally successful, sooner. Numerous unknown problems were identified and resolved, such that future SEO efforts need not be victim to problems relating to erroneous actions by the parent company, and by poorly managed legacy webpages. In the second six month term of Client’s SEO project, MG Lomb went on to additionally optimize for the Client’s industry related search phrases. Unfortunately, as the Client continued to take steps unknown to MG Lomb (even after discussing the potential for this to backfire), additional errors were made by Client, causing notable SEO gains to regress, during the second six months. The Client again duplicated the content, creating an exact copy of the entire website, and giving it (unchanged) to a distributor to use – with only a change to Logo. Again, Google perceives this type of duplicate content as “gaming the system” or potentially counterfeit.

Summary

This particular SEO project was selected for case study, in part, due to the fact that there were important complications to share, discuss and learn from. MG Lomb was, as we typically are, highly successful in this SEO project and campaign (14 of 15 search phrases indexing in the Google top ten). However, this particular situation highlights the importance of honest and clear communication, with respect to SEO.