2020 SEO Case Study #1: The Lost Pet Startup

We’ve wanted to create a series of blog posts showcasing some of our client cast studies for a long time, but as they say, the cobbler always wears the worst shoes! In this series, we will present some of our wins from 2019 and 2020 for clients in different niches & markets. In this first case study we will show how much a good industry analysis in the early stages of building an SEO strategy can have a huge impact on the success of a campaign.

Google Algorithm Update May 2020

While a lot of websites have suffered losses with the recent Google algorithm update that happened at the beginning of May 2020, we have only seen positive results from all of our clients. We believe this is a result of our holistic approach to SEO that involves continuous improvement and implementation of SEO best practices that we’ve learned from over ten years of SEO experience and testing.

While most SEO campaigns require at least 3-6 months minimum to start seeing any real growth depending on the niche and level of competition, we have some clients who have seen success start earlier than that. SEO in 2020 is a very different beast than SEO in 2010. One thing most people don’t realize is that the algorithms of today work at a much slower and gradual pace than the pre-historic algorithms of yesterday and that there are hundreds of factors that you have to take into account when building a strategy.

The SEO landscape in 2020 is much different from before. With the large of amount of data that Google stores and analyzes to feed into their powerful algorithms, they are able to measure content and site performance better than ever before . They look at everything: site speed, natural language processing (to better understand the content), site engagement, user experience metrics, historical backlinks and velocity, and brand mentions. Based on their algorithms patents, Google can even build a relational and brand sentiment profile around your site (See our E-A-T Factors post for more information). There are many more factors than that to cover, but those are some of the most relevant ones to be aware of in 2020. Being successful at SEO in 2020 takes experience built over years dealing with Google’s changes and the built up knowledge to understand the impact of every change you do on a site. We rarely have the opportunity to build a website from the ground up, but in this case study you will get some insight into our process and the factors we look at when executing an SEO campaign.

The Lost Pet App Startup

A startup that creates a lost pet app approached us very early in the process of building out a website to complement their main product, which is a lost pet finder app. The project required a full-site content and SEO strategy to start building out their online presence in the niche and bringing in new users. There were certain constraints that we had to adhere to in order to achieve the desired goal without taking away from the main product by duplicating it’s content and features on the website.

Our goal was to build a strategy that would position our client favorably in the market for the long term without providing so much information that users would be overwhelmed and not install the app. Our starting point was a one-page website that only ranked for the site’s brand and one of the main cities that the app operates in. There was a lot of work to do.

Step 1. Keyword Analysis & Competitive Research

Our first step in creating our strategy was to analyze the competitive landscape and identify the keywords that had the most relevance to users that would be searching for lost pets. We identified some location-based keywords and informational queries that would drive traffic to the site and align with their app’s local community-based market. Our client had amassed a lot of data on local pet shelters and rescues. We used that resource to create site content to quickly and effectively target new markets. Further, we provided full mockups of the required pages, content, and URL structure as well as the on-page SEO elements required to start building out their pages.

Step 2. Content Gap Analysis

While the industry for lost pet apps is fairly new, there are several older and more established sites that already exist in the niche and compete for many of the same keywords. As part of our strategy to rank for keywords as soon as possible, and to start building up our client’s topical authority in the niche, we suggested creating a blog for the site. We also provided a list of content topics and guidelines that would help our client to rank for key keywords that would attract the right audience from all stages of the funnel. We also chose informational topics that would also help build our client up as an expert in the niche over time. The blog is a useful place to target relevant long-tail keywords that you might not be able to build landing pages for.

As part of our content process, we provided guidelines to the client’s content writers for the right keywords to use, topics to cover, and questions to answer in the content as well as target content lengths and tone of voice to use. We also provided guidance and trained the writers SEO techniques to maximize the impact of the content. We at Growing Search believe that SEO should be a company-wide effort and that the more people that understand and implement SEO best practices in a company, the better the overall success of a campaign will be.

Step 3. Execution

In the first few months of the campaign, we built out landing pages for all the “location + lost pet” and “location + pet shelters” related keywords. We provided mockups and guidelines for how the page layout should be and which on-page SEO, content and conversion elements should be included on the page. To supplement those pages, we created a content strategy to rank for other related keywords that pet owners looking for lost pets might be searching for.  We also ran a site speed audit early in the campaign and realized the site was suffering from the JavaScript rendering-related slowdowns. As such, we were able to provide technical solutions that improved the site crawl including lazy loading images, server side rendering javascript and using image compression to reduce image sizes. In order to help the new pages and blog posts to get visibility, we ran an outreach campaign to promote the app.

Step 4. Results

Although there was a major brand change halfway through the campaign that required a complete site migration, we were able to see growth in visibility very quickly after. Within the first 2-3 months we started many more keywords start to rank. Within a few months after the site migration the client’s website started first page for several keywords. And today, roughly 8 months since we started the campaign, they are ranking first in the US for the main keyword “Lost pet app” and “Lost dog app” as well as first page for several cities keywords such as “lost dog NY”, “lost dog NJ”, and others.

The results in a few months have been great. Organic traffic and keyword visibility increased from under 100 keywords at the beginning of the campaign to over 2600 keywords with several high volume keywords breaking into the top 10 positions after 3 months.

Takeaways

In less than 6 months we were able to show significant wins for our client. We upgraded the rank of a site that was starting from almost nothing. Our goal throughout the campaign was to help our client get more leads for their app through organic traffic but the path to get there requires understanding the market and creating the right touch points to reach users on every stage of their journey in order to attract and retain those users.

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