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How We Grew The Organic Traffic on exceltip.com by 262% in 16 Months

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    Goals

    The goal was to grow exceltip.com’s organic traffic.

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    Obstacles

    This colossal task required consistency and comprehensive efforts to be successful. The traffic to the website had been stagnant for over 2 years with no increase in readership.

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    Result

    We managed a growth of 262% organic traffic with a custom SEO strategy which we executed in house.

In this article, we share the step by step approach we took to achieve a 262% growth in organic traffic for a website in record 16 months.

Table Of Contents

1.1.About Exceltip.com website

Exceltip.com is a resource center for anyone who is looking to learn how to use MS Excel effectively. The consists of excel experts who share best practices for using MS Excel.
exceltip.com is a sister concern of Excel Forum (www.excelforum.com) , with close to 1 million registered members.

1.2 The Challenge

The traffic on the website had been constant for almost 2 years. The main challenge we faced was to determine how to increase the traffic on the website and grow the forum manifold with increased readership.

1.3 Our Findings: Initial Analysis of the website from May 2019 to November 2020

Before we deep dive into our initial analysis, let’s list all the tools & softwares we used through this process. These were

  • Google Analytics
  • Google Search Console
  • Ahrefs
  • SEMrush
  • SiteLiner
  • Copyscape
  • Cloudflare

When we started working on the website in June 2019, the website had a decent size of returning traffic of 11292/Day visitors.

This website is a space for excel fanatics and enthusiasts to learn and share their learnings. Which means that the end result we were looking for was to increase new visitors to the website. 

Let’s walk you through the step wise process and the structured SEO plan we used to achieve a whooping 262% increase in organic traffic.

1.4 Process Snapshot

  • A. Keyword Research
    • a. Search Broad Keywords
    • b. Review similar keywords to the broad keywords and group them under relevant parent topics
    • c. Search Competitor Keywords
    • d. Content Gap Analysis
    • e. Review Outdated Keywords
  • B. On-Site Audit
  • C. Backlink Audit
  • D. Competitor Analysis
  • E. Internal Linking
  • F. Content Pruning

And Here is a Detailed Rundown of the Process

In a matter of 16 months, we increased the organic traffic for the website to 40898. That’s a massive increase of 262%!

A website that has good organic flow has a high authority and strong content game. To build both of these, we followed through with the 6 step process mentioned in this article.

Keyword Research

Topping the search rankings requires your content to be designed and developed to answer the user query effectively. Keyword research is a good starting point to understand exactly that.
In this case, we were already ranking for a few keywords. So our first goal was to understand what keywords were ranking, what was the search difficulty, how were they being mapped/grouped on the different pages and then analyse the competition and keyword gaps (slightly different approach than the usual).

We analysed and researched for keywords in the following four steps:

a. Search Broad Keywords

Researching and listing the broad keywords helped us understand the current situation and then build our SEO strategy further.
As seen below, our initial search for broad keywords like “excel tips” revealed that Keyword Difficulty is high at 53

b. Review similar keywords to the broad keywords in step 1.1 and group them under relevant parent topics

Our initial search threw up a long list of keywords that could be used in our website. Using Ahrefs, we matched each keyword with a parent topic. The idea was to identify how to effectively use the keywords? Which keywords could be grouped under one “parent topic”?

This simple activity made us realise that:

  • We were missing out on a few keywords that were easy to rank and were part of the same parent topic
  • Some keywords were not mapped correctly and needed to be targeted under different pages/parent topics

c. Search Competitor Keywords

Analysing what your competitors are doing and their search rankings for different keywords is vital when building an SEO strategy. For this we first need to find the competitors. We’ll discuss this in detail in later parts of the article.

Example: For the top competitor, exceljet.net, we take into account keywords which are ranking in top 20 results with a search volume of at least 100.

One look at exceljet.net’s organic keywords on Ahrefs gave us a list of keywords that they were ranking for and the relevant pages they were using for these keywords.

This made us reshuffle our keyword strategy to get some new keyword ideas and avoid keywords where our competitors were dominating the first 10 spots since these would be hard to rank for initially and so we decided to plan working on ranking for these in phase 2.

d. Content Gap Analysis

Content gap analysis gives a detailed analysis of the keywords where the competitors are ranking but our website is not. This step helped us plan the content better. We used Ahrefs to get this information.

Pro tip:
To get this result, in the intersect option untick “1 target” and a minimum volume of at least 100.

e. Review outdated keywords

It’s advised to consistently review the keywords and remove the ones which are redundant or old. For exceltip.com, we did the same.

B. On-Site Audit

Next we worked on finding the technical and content issues on the website which required a full on-site audit.

We audited the website using tools like screaming frog, Ahrefs and found a bunch of technical issues,

  • Lack of breadcrumbs
  • Poor internal link structures
  • Unoptimized titles
  • Descriptions
  • H1
  • Thin/duplicate content pages.

We have summarised the issues that we identified during the on- page audit and how we fixed those:

Screaming Frog – We used this tool to find errors such as

  • 301 redirects ,404 Not Found and 500 Server Error
  • Missing/duplicate/Long/Short Title, description and H1.
  • URLs with Non ASCII characters, underscores, uppercase letters, etc
  • Images with missing alt text and alt text over 100 characters.
  • Canonical Issues

Site Search – By using Google’s site search (site:exceltip..com) and search operators, we found issues with index management, outdated page titles, and multiple pages targeting the same keyword.

Siteliner – By using this, we found the internal duplicate content in the website and got new content written for those pages.

Internal Links – A major way to pass relevance signals and authority to your core pages is through internal links. Make sure that your pages are well interlinked and you’re not using low-quality anchors from your power pages, such as click here or more information.

C. Backlink Audit

Backlinks are considered as an extremely important factor in SEO since they are representative of the capability of a content piece to answer a user’s query effectively.

Exceltip.com’s website had a relatively large backlink profile, so it was very time consuming to do a full in-depth link analysis.

We audited the backlinks for exceltip.com using data from a number of tools:
Google Search Console

Ahrefs

Majestic

Semrush

These backlinks were categorised on the basis of :

  • Does it link out to many sites?
  • Does the content make sense?
  • What is the link type (e.g. comment spam or some sitewide sidebar links would be marked as toxic)?
  • Is the link relevant to your site?
  • Is the link visible or hidden?
  • Does it have any traffic/ranks for any keywords? Ahrefs’/Semrush data helps here.
  • Is the page/site authoritative? Ahrefs’/Majestic DR helps here.
  • What’s the anchor text? If you have an unnatural ratio, then it might be required to disavow some links with
  • targeted anchor texts.
  • Is the link follow/nofollow? No point disavowing nofollow links,
  • Is it a legit link or one of these scraping/statistical tools?
  • Is it a link from a porn site? These are only desirable in specific cases, for example, you’re a porn site.

Based on our analysis using the reports generated, we made changes. The major edit was diawowing of backlinks which were harming the website’s ranking.

We disavowed 543 domains based upon our backlink analysis.

D. Competitor Analysis

As mentioned above, competitor analysis is a requisite when building an SEO strategy.
Following is the competitor analysis process we used:
We first analysed the competitors through Semrush. This was done by entering our domain name in Semrush and we got an initial list of competitors.

The competitor data was used to

  • Look for New Keyword Opportunities
  • Analyze On-Page Optimization & On-Site Content
  • Meta Data
  • Heading tags
  • What types of content or media they’re creating
  • Dig into Competitor Backlink Profiles
  • Examine Site Structure & UX changes required

E. Internal Linking

One of the important Google factors for improving rankings is the number of backlinks for any content. When a lot of articles link to another article, external or internal, Google recognises that content piece to be of value and places it higher on search,
Hence, internal linking is a foolproof way to improve organic traffic. Internal linking is of two types, contextual linking and navigational linking.
For exceltip.com, we built the internal links as follows :

Navigational linking
Contextual linking

Contextual linking and navigational linking : is the easiest proven way to gain backlinks and helps to build “relevance” of the content. For exceltip.com, we built contextual links in all the content on the website where it was relevant. This step helped us to generate traffic to the website.

F. Content Pruning

Regular content updation is also essential to keep your content relevant for the current visitors. If you wrote a piece of content in 2017, it might not be relevant today due to changes in the product/ service.

For exceltip.com, we identified the content pieces (blog pages) that were outdated since MS Excel’s latest updates over the years and we either removed the content or edited it.

The Final Result


We started the work in May 2019 when monthly visitors was 232,770 and in Nov 2020 this number had increased to 802,919 in November 2020. And it continues to grow!

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