How to get a website from concept to no. 1 on Google in 7 weeks.Posted by Jason Hawkins / November 23, 2010
A real-life case study
Our software OurDisk has been enjoying considerable growth recently and we have been gaining sizeable interest from the accounting and bookkeeping industry in particular. This prompted us to launch an exciting new strategy, here’s the story…
Seven weeks ago, over a few beers in a business ‘strategy’ session we decided to relaunch our Document Management Software OurDisk for an individual market – the Australian accountants and bookkeeping industry. Our goal was a simple one, to build an industry specific marketing website that MUST RANK ON PAGE ONE on Google for Accountants searching for document management software.
Some may say this is completely impossible, especially with a brand new domain name, but we knew our product, our SEO strategies and we build cracker websites for our clients all the time. So we got down to business.
Website planning and design
Once we recovered from the hangover we started to make initial plans. Domain name searches, branding ideas, initial site structure and design ideas. We work with many talented visual designers, but we had a deadline and tight budget, so we decided to go with a pre-packaged WordPress theme that suited our business objectives. At our first weekly meeting and after some research we decided to run with Our-Accounts.
Content writing for SEO
We mapped out the site structure and started aggressively writing content. We actually had three people writing content, all focussed on topic with specific direction and search terms in mind. In some cases we had three different versions of the same page. At our weekly review session, we refined our choice of wording for each and every page. This meant throwing content away, offending each-others writing ability and creating clear messages that hopefully our market understood.
As a web development firm, we also use copywriters for specific projects, however, with a tight budget and specific product knowledge, we decided to wing it ourselves. We also drew on our broader network of content experts to review our copy from this point.
We registered our key domain names making sure we could quickly expand our global launch with country specific URL’s.
Building the Our-Accounts web site
The content management system, hosting and design implementation were key this week. We love WordPress (CMS) for this type of project, especially WordPress 3.0. It offers an easy to use, flexible administration interface and a bunch of plugin functionality that more than met the needs. We choose a template that we could hack from our friends at ElegantThemes and launched. That’s right – a new web site with basic content that we told absolutely no one about was live! Our-Accounts.com.au was born! Because it was a brand new domain name, we had no risk of anyone seeing it, but it allowed us to plan and implement our assault on Google.
Payments, SEO and fine-tuning
We launched our demo site (https://demo.our-accounts.com) and linked it to the live site.
We also started our SEO this week, installing Google Analytics, Webmaster Tools, Creating the sitemap.xml file and robots.txt file ready for Google to start scanning our site. It was very important that this stage that our site had no functional errors and Google to do what it needs to do to happily start indexing the content.
In our weekly review, we adjusted the navigation structure to improve the user experience and continued to refine our key messages. These included the homepage content, overviews and approvals from our existing clients to provide testimonials that we could use. We also visited istockphoto.com to choose a few stock images to bring our software to life and connect with our target market.
Software support material
Software needs strong training/support material, so we started re-developing our training video’s to match the new product and audience. Over the weekend, we recorded 11 new screenflow video’s to post on our support site and linked from YouTube. They were fairly raw and rushed but gave us base to refine.
Our weekly review meeting quickly identified that my voice over for the training video sucked, so we used oDesk.com to get the scripts transcribed by an administrative assistant in the Philippines. The transcriptions from 11 videos were handed back to us within 48 hours and we over-dubbed the audio to improve the user experience. We also created our branded YouTube channel (also great for SEO) and linked all the YouTube videos to our website.
Chris got to work on our page specific SEO with descriptions, keywords , search-friendly URL’s, page titles and continued shuffling content to be Google friendly.
Soft launch and Link Building
Soft launch & link building was the key this week. To help Google focus our website content, we started building links from other content specific websites to establish quality links back to our website. There are soooo many online forums about software for Accountants and Bookkeepers around the world this was a relatively easy way to get ‘golden’ links back to our site. To be honest, we haven’t done too much of this, but we choose the key sites and got to work.
We continued to style the website and cross-browser tested each page. The template was good (excellent in fact!), but we also wanted to tighten the design to suit our product and message. Being web developers we can’t help ourselves, but we are happy with the outcome. We even asked one of our design partners to take a look and they asked who custom designed it! Don’t be fooled, between us, we still probably spent 20 – 30 hours customising the template. Templates are great to get something up and running quickly, but they are not necessarily going to meet all your requirements.
We used Linkedin.com to get advice and feedback from a broader cross section of businesses and our second-tier network.
We also continued to use Google’s webmaster tools and analytics to tweak our content and resubmitted our sitemap.
By the end of week 6, Google was starting to list the site – not on page 1 yet, but in the top 20 for our target phrases. We paid very close attention to webmaster tools and adjusted and added more links, individual page terms and content tweaks and voila! Searching for ‘Document Management for Accountants’ has resulted in a NUMBER 1 RANKING!
We where completely stoked!!!
The moral of the story…
- Plan and write your core content EARLY! Mash it together and tweak it as you go.
- Soft launch your site EARLY! And don’t tell anyone until you are happy.
- Be very, very specific with the core message your website needs to list for.
- Use Google’s helpful webmaster tools and analytics daily to give you feedback on performance
- Link your new site from topic related/industry specific forums
- Put in the hard yards!! It will definitely yield results.