What's that feeling in the pit of your stomach when you're thriving, revenue earning website starts losing top spots in Google and you start seeing a trend of earnings going down?
When we took on the client, they were averaging $8-9,000 per month. To the outside world, that's still a good chunk of cash. But to a site owner who is seeing a downward trend, this is alarming. For this e-commerce case study, grab a mug of your favourite coffee, so you can take it in bit by bit with the time it deserves.
This e-commerce case study is for you if you have a site that's generating income for you.... but all of a sudden, you're noticing:
- rankings are dropping
- you want to double or triple your revenue from where it's at, whether it's $1k/m or $10k/m+
- your rankings are stagnating and STUCK!!!
We took on this e-commerce site in April 2018. Keep in mind that while we work on big e-commerce and affiliate sites, we are very selective about who we take on as a client. Why? So we can produce stunning results like these:
By the way, you can click on this link to join our FREE FB group here: Rule Your Rankings!
Anyways, here we go:
See the flatline? And then a little somethin’ somethin’? And then like… that leap from July to whocareswhen?
This part is important: While the above image shows ‘all good (and it’s very hard to see the smaller dips), here are the rankings for some of the keyphrases in the beginning:
So, back to the first image, all zoomed in to show you what tanking rankings *really* look like on a downward trend:
When you have a thriving e-commerce site bringing in a ‘few grand’ that pays the bills & then some… and you realize there’s a serious issue with the site and it could further tank completely OR rankings might remain stagnant… you panic.
And we get it.
But let’s rewind and talk about the details.. and lastly, HOW we 2.5x the traffic for this client’s e-commerce site within a few months and how, today, 10/15/2019, his site is thriving beyond his belief and ours:
The site is currently averaging $25,000 per MONTH and we will be showing you proof, but, let's get into ALL the nitty gritty details from A -> Z:
How We Came Across This Client
You Guys, I swear to God, there I was, getting ready to perform my first jump off a ramp with The Bird scooter, living life on the edge, when I hear ‘ting… ting ting ting’ on my iPhone.
Lo & Behold: it is THE Marie Ysais, messaging me:
Marie: “Hey, can you call me? I’m thinking of taking on this client. He has an e-commerce site but some of his keywords are all over the place. I need your infinite smarts, wisdom, and good looks to come through and give me your analysis. Like… ASAP!”
As I stared Death right in the eyeball, or at the very least, a possible fractured leg, I told it, “You’re lucky Marie needs me. I’ll be back to handle you another day. For now, the world needs my SEO’ing.”
Me: “Sigh, fine Marie. I’ll be home in 15. Let’s discuss.”
Off I went...
Yeah, that's me.
Why We Decided To Take This E-commerce Site On…
We get approached by quite a few e-commerce site owners as well as affiliate site owners. We are very specific with who we take on and me and Marie bounce back and forth until we are both on board.
Here are some of our initial observations with this site:
- Custom programmed e-commerce store
- 5 years old
- Rankings had dropped (serious drop in revenue as well)!
Let’s delve a bit deeper.
Why I Don’t Care For Custom Programmed E-commerce Stores
The first one, for me personally, is a flaw. With a few solid options, I don’t think programming your own solution is warranted, but in this case, this client already had a few other successful sites, using his own platform, so I gave it a bit of a pass. Fine, get over it, Moon…
Site Age of 5 Years
We consider age a huge plus. I firmly believe that in some cases, age can lend to faster results. At the very least, it’s not a newly setup store and we don’t have to worry about getting past the 3-6 month mark like we are super careful in doing with newly setup sites!
BAM! Once we popped this sucka into Ahrefs and went back and forth, not only did we identify easy wins for the client (longtails and bigger keyphrases on page 2 of Google), but we saw a serious problem.
Major keyphrase cannibalization for several keyphrases.
…a couple hundred, at least.
But not just that, the interlinking on the site was done with an old link silo.
This link silo used to work really well a few years ago; we know because we had old sites set up this way:
If you are taking your supporting pages and daisy chaining them, and using the wrong anchors, chances are you are setting yourself up for cannibalization. This SILO was used a lot and is still used today but it doesn't impact rankings with out back-links.
To summarize this nicely, frankly, a lot of these sites come to us with old school interlinking, key-phrase cannibalization, and a host of other issues that present themselves once we dig deeper and deeper.
We spoke to the client and shared in detail our concerns with keyphrase cannibalization. It is extremely important to us to set client expectations correctly before we agree to take them on as a client.
In this case, we told them the wait could be 3-6 months easily. The client understood this, and we began work.
How Interlinking, Link Silos, and Keyphrase Cannibalization Go Hand In Hand
The problem is: what has worked really well in the past, SEOwise, won’t work right now.
2018 presented us all with some bitch slaps and 2019 ain’t slowin’ down, Son!
In fact, confusing the signals on your site will tank a site or keep it in a stagnant chokehold, leave your site stuck. This has been the theme of 2018 and 2019 and if you’re doing this with your site, please stop. Sooner or later, it will catch up to you.
And then, frankly, it can take several months to fix this, depending on how severe the case is and, also, how quickly Google decides to have mercy on your site.
So, here’s how keyphrase cannibalization happens:
For whatever reason, whatever SEO’ing you’ve done, you are sending confusing signals to Google. So now, for a certain keyphrase, it may be ranking two of your pages from the same site, but not in top positions (that’s a ‘problem’ that I’d love to have, HA!) OR you’ll see two pages appearing/disappearing without stability for a given keyphrase.
Some reasons this happens is because the SEO has been sloppy and doesn’t realize he is targeting several pages for the same keyphrases. Whether it’s the URL, meta title or unintentionally linking to a page with the anchor text the immediate page is supposed to rank for, or other reasons, here it is.
It was clear that we needed to make some big changes to the site and in big numbers.
If you want to learn the exact steps of how we fix keyword cannibalization issues, how we do on site SEO using our own RYR foundation, and create various link silos (including the Danny Silo), visit RYR: Level UP! here.
SEO Progress Isn’t Always Steady…
As much as we’ve seen keyphrase cannibalization cases sort out in a matter of 10 days to 4 weeks, we’ve also seen major cases take 3-6 months.
Well, this e-commerce website was no exception!
Imagine a mess that you have to sort out over dozens of pages and their URLs/slugs are overoptimized…here’s an example:
….and then imagine, they’re all optimized for keyphrases such as “buy red apples”, “red apple reviews”, “cheap red apples”, etc.
So now, all of these pages are competing in Google and keeping each other from ranking to the top… because these pages are now sending confusing signals to Google (Keyword cannibalization!!!)
Take that and multiple this by thousands of pages, and your head will be in a doozie:
So, do you know what happens when you fix thousands of pages at once? While these fixes are very much needed, clients need to know that the progress will always look waaaaaaay uglier before it gets better:
How Exactly Did We Fix This Mess?!
This is where organization is key. After a thorough software and manual audit and looking at the overall scope of things, we knew we needed to organize the data and break everything down in steps so we could fix things step-by-step (and undo anything that caused issues down the line).
Out of thousands of pages and blog posts, we marked ranking pages versus link silo pages.
This alone took quite a lot of time as we had to check the content on some of the pages and see if they could be used in a supportive, tiered link silo. Also, the ‘ranking pages’, needed a significant clean-up and updates.
What does this entail?
This entails creating an Excel spreadsheet and going through all of our checks. Some of the things we go over are:
- make sure none of the slugs are competing
- make sure supporting pages won’t cannibalize ranking pages
- titles of articles aren’t duplicated nor in conflict with each other
- meta description and titles are unique
- meta description and titles don’t contain same keywords/keyphrases
- alt tags target same keywords/keyphrases
- h1/h2/h3/h4 aren’t targeting keywords/keyphrases
Multiply all that with thousands of pages?
Let’s just say that if you want to take on serious e-commerce or affiliate websites, you need to be super organized so you and your team can take the same sheet, understand the objective, and continue with the work.
How This E-Commerce Site Ended Up Doing…
I purposely didn’t start this case study with the monthly searches for the keyphrases.
It’s as if in the SEO world, most SEOs tend to claim huge search numbers or else, pffft, their work doesn’t matter.
I call bullshnizzlez on that. Here is a small snippet of some of the monthly searches we were trying to shift our client’s site for:
Here are rankings for some of the long tails and bigger #s. However, this site rankings for thousands of keywords and Moon is too lazy to fill this space up with 45 images:
Only 3-4k searches per month? Yeeeeeep!
It also takes way too many featured snippet spots and hundreds of longtails. Don't sleep on those longtail keyphrases, Kids!
In our original update, we revealed that the site was now average ~$19,000/month (in mid to late 2018):
This time, forget the arrow and look at the consistent rise!
However, as of October 2019, here is how the site is doing:
$25,000 per MONTH!
So, how do RYR Level Up strategies hold up overtime? Let's take a look. The proof is in the pudding... or well, the images the client provided himself:
From June to October, the website users went from 15K to 25K.
Here's what he revealed furthermore:
So, do you see how the site climbed in traffic from July 2018 onwards into January 2019? And then it takes a sudden dip?
The client decided to move away the site from his customized platform to WordPress. Initially, it took a hit and now, it's doing better than ever.
The following two images show organic keywords the site is ranking for collectively as well as the traffic value of $21, 572, though, as we mentioned above, he's admitted to averaging around $25,000 per month!
So, this client went from noticing a trend in tanking rankings to increasing revenue from $8-9k/month to now $25k/month and turning off his Adwords campaign for this site.
Here at RYR: Level UP!, we are proud of the SEO work we do.
We focus on on site SEO and technical SEO. If you want to learn more about keyword cannibalization or our own RYR foundation strategies we use on our own site as well as client sites, check out RYR: Level UP! here.