This Week In SEO 105
Four Case Studies and a Tweet


Bringing a Site Back from the Dead

the new Viagra commercials are really pushing the envelope…

Good case study here.

Backstory: some guy bought a website but never did anything with it. Fast forward a few neglected years and leading up to Q4 2018 the site was also pretty abandoned by visitors and getting no love from Google.

This post covers what the author did to re-tafficize™ the site, including

  • fixing thin content
  • updating good articles
  • disavowing links

Since this website wasn’t really worth much we decided to experiment and have a plan consisting of 2 parts.

Step 1. Check the website and delete all the content which wasn’t ranking or content that was considered as thin or low quality in the eyes of Google. Same for low quality backlinks.

Step 2. If the first part gave results (fortunately it did), we could move to the second phase of the plan which was to invest some money in it, write more content and build some high quality backlinks to boost the rankings.

The results:



What it Takes to Rank in Higher Education Niches

This is a good case study–not just for the takeaways, but for the research process. It seems like a lot of people just want to be told what to do (e.g. sign up for our link building service) instead of researching and understanding their industry, their competitors, and what it takes to rank for their best keywords.

Obviously this is easier to do if you have some SEO skills yourself, but not impossible. In this case study, they crunch some data they get by digging through the sites on page one for various keywords to draw some conclusions:

Our findings show that page one URLs have more nofollow backlinks than page 2-10 URLs.

And while some might scream this is an example of page 1 URLs having more total backlinks overall, and thus some of those will be nofollows.. it doesn’t account for the fact that URLs on page 3 who have a similar number of total backlinks ( but very few nofollow ) aren’t on page 1.

If total backlinks for page 1 URLs and page 3 URLs are similar, but nofollows are less on page 3 and more on page 1 URLs, then you have to give the credit that nofollows ARE helping in rankings.

I’m not trying to start a conversation around the value of nofollow links OR endorse them as the thing your backlink profile is missing, so don’t @ me. I’m just pointing out that this case study is pointing out that there is some interesting data here.

Is it likely that the sites ranking on page one provided some value and that there are other factors accounting for their high rankings, one consequence of which was earning lots of no follow links?


But that’s a signal that you should pay attention, and dig in further. WHY are they getting more nofollows than the page three sites?

That’s just one tiny piece of one data point you can dig in to. Check out the whole study to get a sense of the process and data a professional SEO looks at when trying to rank a site.


A Study in Anchor Text

Fair warning, this post is filled with a bunch of technical math talk, but also some really interesting takeaways. So, power through…

Long case study with a brief conclusion:

Anchor text plays, at best, a very weak role in ranking sites and a very big potential role in getting penalized so play it safe.

Of course, this study is not perfect–as the author admits:

We studied 3 million random search queries and found that, on average, the top 10 ranking pages also rank for between 400 and 1,300 other queries.

So, clearly, this is a large‐scale happening that our study fails to take into account.

Still, worth your time to read through and understand more fully the takeaways and the way they arrived at that data.


Addressing and Ignoring Technical SEO

This is actually a post from 2015 with a few updates and a new published on date so I’m gonna including it here to a) stick with the case study theme, and b) it’s genuinely interesting and important content.

Technical SEO.

By fixing some pretty terrible technical SEO issues (and leveraging “traffic leaks”) Nick was able to grow the site from 7-8,000 visits per day to an average of 25,000.

Key takeaways:

  • Leverage your site’s internal link equity and your strongest page’s citation flow. Use this to your full advantage to send link equity to the pages that need it most.
  • Optimize your site’s crawl budget and make sure you’re not wasting Googlebot’s time crawling pages with thin or near-duplicate content.
  • Don’t underestimate the power of properly built and optimized sitemaps, and make sure you’re submitting them regularly through GSC.
  • Put in the work to engineer a few big traffic pops, while they may only be a flash in the pan in terms of growth; the sum of these parts will create a larger whole.

The updated part of this post mostly relates to this graph:

Which shows that, when the site was sold shortly after the work described here, but new owners neglected on-page SEO pretty badly.


Tweet of the Week

I didn’t have a fifth case study to fit the theme of this week’s post, so I’ll leave you with my favorite tweet of the week (which I tried to anonymize because I’m not trying to call anyone out).

Moz recently updated their DA, and many webmasters saw their DA drop overnight. Poor John Mueller fielding questions like this:

(Remember that DA is *not* a real thing that Google even measures, only a Moz metric)

A Big Google Update, Outreach, Content Syndication, and More!
Best Content, Internal Linking, A Horrifying Google SERP, & More!

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Get our simple, straightforward guide on how to rank your site.

Sean Markey

Sean Markey

Obsessive consumer of SEO news and strategies, writes the This Week in SEO column. Loves playing drums and writing fiction. Bets you he can throw a football over them mountains.
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