How Sarah Jones Grew SEO Traffic from 8k-30k in 4 Months by Binge Watching Rand Fishkin Videos

Sarah Jones fired her SEO firm after they tanked her traffic, then she grew SEO traffic by 375% by teaching herself using Moz's whiteboard friday videos. Here's what she learned.

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Sarah Jones of Introverted Alpha—a dating coaching site for introverted men—spent $8,000 on an SEO firm, hoping they could increase traffic to her site.

Instead, she watched with growing frustration as the SEO firm completely tanked organic traffic to her site.

“I was ANGRY,” Sarah told us when we interviewed her recently. “Eight grand! And for what? To decrease traffic to my site? Not good.”

So, she did what any angry website owner would do.

She fired them (politely, she said).

Then—perhaps going beyond what the average site owner would do—she binge watched every “Whiteboard Friday” video she could find from Rand Fishkin and read every other SEO resource she could find on the web.

In two weeks, she taught herself SEO tactics.

The result?

The DIY, Rand-inspired SEO changes she made to her site have driven a sustained 300% increase in traffic over the last three months.

And here’s best part…

After all that studying? Sarah realized that—for her situation—she didn’t need her posts to go viral or get tons of referral links or even create lots of new content to improve her SEO. All she needed was better quality content with plenty of internal links and good metadata.

Maintaining a popular SEO-friendly site just got a lot easier for her. And it can for you too.

We talked to Sarah about everything she’s learned about SEO and what her next steps are.

(Note: Before you publish anything on your blog, you need to understand what your audience is interested in, their pain points and how you can help. Create a survey and start collecting insights in a few minutes with Fieldboom.)

How to Learn SEO: Introverted Alpha WebsiteSarah’s Story

For the first two years after launching her site in 2014, Sarah’s traffic grew steadily, mostly referred from organic searches and a couple of big guest posts and features on related sites. Then in 2016, her site traffic plateaued around 14,000 visitors a month.

At first, she didn’t even notice that traffic had stopped growing. She continued to guest post and appear on podcasts, adding new links back to her site. Each referral link took “blood, sweat, and tears” to obtain Sarah explained, taking hours to complete with little return.

Sarah also hired a copywriter and, together, they added a new blog post weekly on introvertedalpha.com. But her numbers wouldn’t budge.

Because everything she read about how to increase traffic recommended blogging consistently, that’s what she did. “I just kept doing it blindly, because people said to … for what? For zero things.”

She figured out part of the issue is that her posts were not naturally sharable. “Because it’s so tender for my guys,” Sarah explained. “They’re not like, ‘Hey, here’s how to talk to a woman in a coffee shop.’ You’re not going to post about that on Facebook.”

So in early 2017, Sarah decided to try a new strategy as part of her marketing mix. Instead of focusing on creating lots of sharable content to attract new viewers, she decided to focus on SEO. But she didn’t think she could do it alone.

“I’ve come to the end of the rope of what I know,” Sarah recalled thinking. “I watch Rand Fishkin’s videos, and I don’t know what he’s talking about. And there are people who have this expertise that I don’t have, and I’m going to hire them.”

Sarah chose an SEO firm and, because they supposedly knew more than she did about SEO, she trusted them when they made changes to her site that she didn’t understand. They did things like:

  • Removing the keywords from all the site’s images
  • Shortening the meta-descriptions and removing the keywords from her posts
  • Creating orphan pages that were supposedly keyword optimized

They didn’t explain why.

And after spending $8,000 over four months, her stats were actually worse.

Sarah’s unique page visits dropped from 14,000 down to 8,000 a month. And Sarah got pissed. Pissed enough to fire the firm and take control of her site.

“I’m going to go in — I’m going to roll up my sleeves; I’m going to learn from Rand. I’m going to look up all the words and what they mean. I’m going to read that long guide on what SEO is… I’d done some of that — I knew some basics, but I just got right on in there.”

She educated herself on SEO best-practices and, in doing so, figured out all the things the so-called experts had gotten wrong. And here’s what she did next.

Pay attention, because these are the steps that tripled her traffic in a matter of weeks.

Sarah’s Winning SEO Strategy

1) Sarah decreased the number of posts on her site from 107 to 45

You want more traffic? See what content is working. The first thing Sarah did was make a spreadsheet of all her content and sorted it by visits.

How to do SEO yourself: Sarah's Winning SEO Strategy

When she revisited many of the posts on her site, she was surprised by how much of it lacked the high-quality she normally expected of herself.

“I think we kind of had our blinders on about what actual good post was and what was a fluff post,” Sarah said speaking about both herself and the copywriter she’d hired to help her with the blog.

Using a mix of the stats and her own opinion, she rated the posts according to quality, keeping only the ones that met her high bar. Sarah trashed pages with the fewest visits and re-directed them to more quality pieces. She also got rid of pages that had decent traffic if she knew she could write something better.

Want to learn why Sarah implemented this strategy? Watch this Whiteboard Friday video: Understanding and Harnessing the Flow of Link Equity to Maximize SEO Ranking Opportunity

 2)  She created new guide-style pages with better interlinking and keywords

“I took a bunch of copy that wasn’t being used as well, or it was in a weak post, or it was too short, and I just rolled in a big one,” Sarah said.

These guide-style posts are the biggest hitters on her site, drawing more traffic and ranking higher in Google searches.

 How to Learn SEO: Sarah's Most Popular Blog Posts

These guide-style posts do so well that they’re the majority of what Sarah is writing from now on. But we’ll get back to that.

These guide style posts helped with Sarah’s interlinking strategy on her site, which helped her increase SEO traffic. Learn more about this strategy in this video: Should SEOs care about internal links?

3)  She catered new content toward top Google search queries

Next, Sarah used Google Webmaster Tools to find popular search queries that brought people to her site. She worked those keywords into the guide-style posts.

By the way, this is why SEO is so important for Sarah’s coaching business: a lot of her clients come to her from late night Google searches.

Common searches where people find Sarah’s site: “dating coach, dating coach for men, dating coach for introverts, are introverts attractive?”

How to do SEO yourself: Sarah Jones SEO Top 3 Hits

And here’s the real fun part. New content? There wasn’t much of it.

Sarah researched popular search queries using a combination of Google Webmaster tools and Google suggested search. Then she created better content than anything out there on the topic. Learn more about this strategy in this Whiteboard Friday video: How to create 10x content

Sarah only published two new posts in October and one in November and, still, her traffic tripled.

“Google really cares about quality—long quality posts,” Sarah said. “You don’t have to post all the time. Derek Halpern talks about that, and it sunk in for me doing my research.”

How to Learn SEO: Sarah Jones Google Analytics

What’s next?

Sarah is currently in maintenance mode again, with traffic holding steady around 30,000 hits a month. But she’s not done. She has a plan for 2018.

Sarah is focused on only guest posting to large outlets with maximum visibility. And based on the results of the past few months, she’s going to spend less time blogging and will continue to publish one long, quality post a month instead of shorter weekly posts.

She will, however, keep producing regular weekly content. Remember how we said her content wasn’t shareable by her clients? That doesn’t mean they don’t appreciate it. But Sarah has learned that her existing clients care less about her blog than they do her email newsletter.

“My relationship with my list mostly occurs through my email. I realized one day that I don’t have to link to a blog post — it really doesn’t matter. They just want to hear from me; they want to connect with me. I say plenty of valuable stuff in the emails themselves, and sometimes they like my normal emails even better than the blog posts.”

Overall, Sarah is committed to quality, which is why she’s found success in a tough business.

“My whole dream; my whole thing is quality. It’s important and it’s so fun. There’s no ceiling on it. You can just always make more quality, and that excites me a lot. It’s really fun for me because I know I’m making everything better. It feels less like a chore now — it’s not even a chore — because it’s really fun and it’s working.”

P.S. Want to grab a copy of all of the notes Sarah took after watching Whiteboard Friday videos? Check out Sarah Jones’ personal notes on SEO for free, here.

(Note: Before you publish anything on your blog, you need to understand what your audience is interested in, their pain points and how you can help. Create a survey and start collecting insights in a few minutes with Fieldboom.)

EJ left a career in UX/UI to write full-time. She believes in user-centered design and advocating for diversity in the tech field. Follow EJ on Twitter @whatiwritewith