SEO Case Study: 1.7M Visitors from 27,000 Keywords

high-rankWhat difference would it make to your business if you were able to rank in the top 20 listings within Google (for the USA or any other location) for over 28,368 related keywords, thus gaining more than 1.7M visitors within a month?

Every week, I research multiple websites to try to crack the formula that helps these sites rank towards the top of the search engines.

When undergoing the initial backlinking profile, I will explore it using Majestic SEO’s Trust and Citation Flow.

Majestic SEO promdress

Majestic SEO

I will then attempt to correlate the backlinking profile using Ahref’s reasonable domain rating scale, known as Domain Rank calculation.

ahref-promgirl

Ahref

Both of these tools (and similar tools) attempt to calculate the value attributed to a backlink.

Predominantly, you are trying to assert the distribution value of a backlink to a web page. This is the framework for the anatomy of what makes a decent link.

In the beginning, when Google first released its search engine (and more importantly PageRank), it needed websites that it considered of high value. Whenever these high-value sites linked backed to another website, Google gave the site credibility. Within the list of sites were the BBC and CNN.

Of course, none of us are privy to the criteria that Google laid out as a quality link. Over the years, millions of websites have been released, and each has to be evaluated to assert whether it is high quality, low quality or spam.

Both MajesticSEO and Ahref attribute their factors that either give value to a link or not. Similarly, Moz also provides a ranking factor know as MozRank.

Let’s assume a website begins with a value of 0.

A web page’s value in any of these given tools can be improved by getting lots of links from semi-popular pages or a few links from very popular pages. This is the simple basis of how these tools attribute a ranking factor.

MozRank

However, here is where we hit a little snag. Have you ever heard of a site getting penalised due to a manual penalty?

Google Manual Penalty

Google Manual Penalty

Sites have been affected by a Manual Penalty, and when a site is penalised, Google devalues the links that point to these websites. Consequently, you may get an inaccurate view of what they are actually worth.

Let’s walk through this.

In the MajesticSEO image far above, you see the site has a TrustFlow value of 50. This is an exceptional achievement. Secondly, you can see that the Ahref report shows a Domain Rank of 61. Again, this is an outstanding achievement.  How do we know that the site has not been hit by a manual penalty, or more importantly, how do we know that the links that point back to the site have not been devalued?

For the first part, we can easily assess this using sufficient tools that are out there. One of these tools is SEMrush. If you have an account with SEMrush, you can punch in the URL for the site and see its keyword ranking and traffic data over a defined period i.e. 12 months (this also works with the free version).

semrush keyword ranking

SEMrush Keyword Traffic

If you know when Google had all of its algorithm updates and the impact each one of these had, then you can correlate a drop in traffic to a penalty.

panguin tool

Panguin Tool uses your Analytic data to map your traffic to algorithm updates

The second part is not easily done, except by paid tools. Scrapebox is an instrument which has a feature that can bulk check a list of URLs that have been indexed or de-indexed by Google. Here is a video explaining how this feature works.

URLs pointing back to a website should appear in Google. Consequently, this provides value as a backlink. If there is a substantial amount of backlinks that have been de-indexed by Google and this correlates to the drop in traffic, chances are that the said website has been penalised by Google.  The most accurate tool (but by far the most expensive) is the Linkdetox tool. Its case studies give you an idea of the complex and accurate review of a website’s health.

Let’s take a look at our case study to assess what they are doing right to have achieved 1.7 million visitors from 27,000 Keywords with 2,777 referring domains. Going forward, we are assuming that everything is fine and the sites backlinking profile is stable.

Promgirl.com 

The most crucial factor for any site’s backlink profile is not simply ensuring that they are indexed in Google, but also ensuring that the backlink has value in the eyes of Google. Historically, Google provided a ranking factor with its PageRank toolbar. Here is what Google had to say about it:

You can use PageRank to see a page’s importance, which Google calculates based on things like the number of links leading to that page. Pages with higher PageRank are more likely to appear at the top of Google search results. Source.

However, as my friend Glen Allsop from ViperChill said, the Google PageRank tool is no longer updated:

ViperChill Facebook Status

ViperChill Facebook Status

Of course, all is not lost. If Google is not updating PageRank, it is sufficient that the web page you intend to build a backlink from has a PageRank value of at least 1. Furthermore, Moz provides its own determinator for the quality of the backlink, in the form of Page Authority and Domain Authority, as does Majestic SEO and Ahref. These will also be sufficient to assess the quality of a backlink. If a web page has received a minimum PageRank of 1, then it is estimated to be of sufficient value (meaning if there is no update, it is not expected to drop to a zero). This is also the case with MOZ, MajesticSEO and Ahref equivalents.

Google PageRank Explained

We must understand that the value of a backlink can only be of value when:

1) the link has been indexed in Google

2) the link has validated value by one of the SEO tools, the most important being PageRank

Thinking ahead (especially if you want to expedite the ranking of any site), the ideal situation is where you can get a backlink from an existing web page that has already been indexed or achieved a validated value. If you are building new links to a website, the results cannot be achieved without this criteria.

Let’s take a look at Promgirl’s backlinking profile:

If you take the 27,000 keywords of Promgirl and divide them into the 2,777 domains providing backlinks, you’ll see that every referring domain built 9.7 keywords, achieving a top 20 position in Google for the website.

promgirl top keywords

Keyword Performance

For those who are not familiar to what has occurred since Google underwent its Penguin Algorithm update, especially Penguin 2.0, this process is understood to be the Synergic Effect.

In the past, the method applied to rank for a particular keyword was to build as many links as possible, using the keyword as the anchor text:

<a href=”http://www.mysite.com”>anchor text</a>

However, Google has radically updated how they rank websites, based on a Natural Anchor Text Distribution Formula.

Natural Anchor Text Distribution Formula

To better understand the Natural Anchor Text Distribution Formula, you can read Anchor text Optimization; Avoiding over optimization over at Moz.

In conclusion, it is imperative that the backlinking profile of your website looks as natural as possible in the eyes of Google. You should also ensure that the anchor text for most of the backlinks that point back to your website and other web pages contain the Brand name [Prom Girl], domain name [promgirl.com] and many other varieties of related keywords [Long Prom Dress, Short Prom Dress, Prom Gowns]. An example is ‘Long Prom Dress, Short Prom Dress, Prom Gowns – Prom Girl’; however, don’t include the main keywords that you ideally want to rank.

When you start targeting main keywords using the direct anchor text, you will start to see the site rewarded with many other keywords.

Here are the results from the research findings:

After assessing the outbound links across all 2,791 domains for 55,259 backlinks, I found that:

  • 183 domains with 1 outbound link – the only link pointing from that web page was to promgirl.com
  • 997 domains with 1 – 10 outbound links
  • 406 domains with 11 – 20 outbound links
  • 191 with 21 – 30 outbound links
  • 204 with 31 – 50 outbound links
  • 203 with 51 – 100 outbound links
  • 178 with 101+ outbound links

Unfortunately, the tool did not bring back any results for the remaining 429 domains, but that’s okay. I believe there is sufficient data to tell us that having links on 50% of pages with more than 11 outbound links is not something to worry about. Also, it’s a relief that you don’t have to be over-picky about the number of OBL.

Let’s see if there are other reassurances in the data.

Domain Authority (DA) and Page Authority (PA)

Page and Domain Authority

Page and Domain Authority

The number of pages that have a Domain Authority of 1 to 10 is 607, while there are a staggering 2185 with a Page Authority of 1. Not all Page Authority is necessarily coming from a page that has a Domain Authority of 1. Take the link from the Apple Store: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/promgirl-shop/id554362357?mt=8. It has a Domain Authority of 100, but a Page Authority of 1. Interestingly, it has a high TrustFlow of 44.

It is classified as a rel=nofollow; therefore, it is not passing on link juice. However, in the eyes of Google, a link from Apple would surely have some value.

Usually, a page with such low Page Authority is due to it being buried deep into the site and not easily accessible from the homepage. In the Apple example, there are 5 layers to the structure: itunes.apple.com / us / app / promgirl-shop / id554362357.

Google has to mine that structure before finding the page and then evaluate whether the link deserves any weight.   However, since there are 2185 pages with a Page Authority of 1, is it safe to say that these pages do add value to a link? I would say yes, but let’s corroborate the findings with TrustRank. Before we do that, here is the breakdown of Domain and Page Authority.

  • #number of pages with a domain authority of 1 – 10 = 607
  • #number of pages with a domain authority of 11 – 20 = 806
  • #number of pages with a domain authority of 21 – 30 = 472
  • #number of pages with a domain authority of 31 – 40 = 305
  • #number of pages with a domain authority of 41 – 50 = 195
  • #number of pages with a domain authority of 51 – 60 = 113
  • #number of pages with a domain authority of 61 – 70 = 60
  • #number of pages with a domain authority of 71 – 80 = 33
  • #number of pages with a domain authority of 81 – 90 = 37
  • #number of pages with a domain authority of 91 – 99 = 29
  • #number of pages with a domain authority of 100 = 2

Here is the most startling part of the finding:

  • #number of pages with a page authority of 1 = 2182
  • #number of pages with a page authority of 5 – 10 = 53 (there were none for 2,3,4)
  • #number of pages with a page authority of 11 – 20  = 316
  • #number of pages with a page authority of 21 – 30 = 67
  • #number of pages with a page authority of 31 – 40 = 27
  • #number of pages with a page authority of 44 – 47 = 13
  • #number of pages with a page authority of 51 = 1

Clearly, you have to acquire links that are of value. You cannot simply think that mining blackhat types of links will suffice, i.e. comments, wikilinks, forum profiles, etc. In fact, successful sites do not go after manipulation of search using these types of links. At the very least, you have to be smart and think in a post-Google Penguin era.

Majestic’s TrustFlow

Trust Flow

Trust Flow

TrustFlow is also equally interesting – 2,224 domain referrals have TrustFlow of 0. Here is the rest of the makeup of TrustFlow:

  • 1 – 5 = 229
  • 5 – 10 = 104
  • 11 – 15 = 53
  • 16 – 20 = 22
  • 21 – 25 = 13
  • 26 – 30 = 8
  • 31 – 35 = 2
  • 36  4 = 0
  • 41 – 45 = 2

I have broken this down in increments of 5, since TrustFlow is harder to achieve. TrustFlow of 15+ is where the gold nugget links are.

Although the case study does show that this site has achieved tremendous results from low TrustFlow links, being able to achieve TrustFlow in the top 15+ and even more so from the top 25+, 35+ and up to 45, should be part of a strategy. However, if you go after TrustFlow of 50+, I can say for certain that one link will outweigh 100s if not 1000s of links.

Here are some additional findings:

  • promgirl.com actually has backlinks from adult-related sites. This does not mean that the links are built using spam methods, since the types of links are not spam or blackhat – they are content-based links. Nonetheless, they are coming from completely unrelated sources.
  • There are sites that are of very low-quality content with a lot of duplicated content.
  • The Majestic report displays a whole spectrum of industries that are unrelated to the website, thus deeming them non-relevant. There are also websites which are not even in English.
  • Links also come from websites which are poorly designed and do not have any design whatsoever, failing all html/css checks.

Anchor Text Diversification 

Anchor Text Distribution Formula

Anchor Text Distribution Formula

Since the Google Penguin updates, a lot of focus has been given to Anchor Text Distribution.

Here are the simple rules to Anchor Text Diversification:

Acquisition of links should be for different and unique anchor texts. Although you notice banded across the web the following formula, or similar ones i.e. 20% brand name, 20% naked URL, 20% related keywords, 5% primary keyword etc., Promgirl does not use any of these formulas. Their anchor texts have no consistent basis whatsoever – they are all over the place. If you do follow a formula, this is the type you would use:

  • 20 – 25% of your anchor text would be made up to include the site URL
  • 20 – 25% of the anchor text should include the brand name
  • 20 – 25% of related keywords
  • The rest would be a mixed bag of anything and everything

This is a safe place to ensure that you are following a disciplined formula.

Apply 1- 5% for your primary anchor texts. Be confident that building a lot of content-based links from mixed quality with a variety of anchor texts will eventually reward the site across the board.

333 links point to the main homepage, while the rest of the links point to inner pages. Promgirl is an eCommerce site; therefore, it sells physical products. Consequently, it has many product pages and images.

It is expected that people will make reference to images and product pages while having a discussing via their website. This helps to push links which include inner pages and images as well as About Us, Contact Us, Policy Pages and more. Approximately 20% of links to Promgirl point to inner pages.

On a closing note, 1.7 million visitors is a phenomenal achievement, and this is only according to SEMrush’s estimation. I know that SEMrush is way off the mark, and the traffic numbers are much higher than this. Does your site require 1.7 million visitors in order to get you into profit or to achieve the goals you set out to do? Hopefully not.

The focus should be mapping out strategic objectives towards building links in piece meals, consistently following through on that action.

The target should be attempting to achieve links from web pages already indexed which have gained some Page Authority and TrustFlow, giving a faster response and increase in ranking. Failing that, you can build links from new pages, and over time they will mature and give the necessary push.

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About the Author Azzam

As a Digital Marketeer and Entrepreneur, I have been fortunate to have learnt from some of the best of the best. That is what I believe is critical to ensuring anyone’s success. Take what has worked for successful people and make owning it, knowledge first and then applying what you learn by taking action. Persevering on that path will bring about sure success, simple but effective formula.