Maximizing Impact with Minimal Spend: A Budget-Friendly SEO Success Story (75,000 Annual Visits)

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Ryan Darani

This is a case study concerning Ryan Darani, and how he managed to raise the traffic on his site from 0 to over 75,000 (77,000) to be exact in less than a year.

Ryan Darani’s followers had observed this phenomenal growth, and they could not stop bothering him about his success.

Well, according to Darani, you must be very clear about what an SEO campaign looks like, and this involves being very true to yourself about:

  • The challenges that you are facing
  • The limits that you can reach
  • The budget that you have
  • The time frame that you have set
  • And if you are working for a client, you have to be true about the type of client you have

Darani was quick to point out that people in the SEO industry have a morbid fear of revealing the sites that they are working on, to the public eye.

However, he was willing to lay it out for all to see.

When asked why? He said that he wanted to kill the idea that SEO, was some kind of dark magical art. That there was some deep dark secret that everyone else seemed to be missing.

He went on to say that this is the same belief that makes people buy courses for over $950, just because they are searching for this elusive “Dark Secret”

He admits that he has spent thousands of dollars on SEO courses, and after analyzing it all, he came to realize that SEO is always about 3 basic and essential things:

  • Content
  • Links
  • Technology

The tiny differences in how each works are mainly due to the hands-on knowledge and experience of the SEO individual, and this is what makes the overall difference in SEO performance for a site.

In this case study, you will get to understand The What, The How, and The Why, so you can see that SEO success does not have to be such a great mystery.

Let’s Get Into It

Case Study Summary

  • From 0 clicks per day, to between 300 and 400 a day.
  • About 60 pieces of content were created for the site
  • Slightly less than 100 links were built
  • There was a very limited budget for the project
  • The campaign was performed by Ryan Darani and 2 other writers (3 people in total)
  • The app downloads for the site increased from 0 to 20 per day.

Some Important Information About The Client

Ryan openly says that the company operates within the Real Estate Industry.

The company acts as a middleman for Real Estate Agents, and the people who would like to rent, sell, or buy property.

Currently, it is a very successful app, and I can bet that you are dying to know who the client was:

The client was MOOVSHACK.

Before the client engaged Darani and his other 2 musketeers, there had been no work done on the site. Not anything at all.

If you have ever worked for a startup, and you had a small team, then you would understand why.

Everyone who understands the startup business knows there is little time for everything to be done. You are the CFO, CTO, CEO, head of sales, accountant, content writer, and social media manager, and sometimes getting a balance on things can be a mountain of a challenge.

At that time, the website was set up as an app portal for certain clients.

The Challenges They Faced

This is where you start seeing things in ways that you may never have in the past.

The site was built on WordPress and Apache. At the front end, it all looked well sewn together, but it had no link to the backend.

Ryan says that essentially, the site had just tried to create a short-term solution to a long-term problem.

The people who developed the site had ignored crucial aspects such as:

  • How would the theme be customized in the future?
  • How would content be added or updated in the future?
  • How would links and images be updated in the future?
  • The way it was set up, any changes would have to go through a very long process to be affected.

Ryan Darani and his team had their world chipped out for them.

The way the developers had created the site, Google had zero interest in it. There was no love between the site and the search engine.

The site had almost zero content.

The then was gross and completely obsolete in terms of design

The site had no traffic; NONE AT ALL!

Darani says that he loves a challenge so he rubbed his hands together in glee and got down to work.

Another challenge that he faced, apart from working hard to get the site to function, was that he hardly could get anyone to sign off on the changes that he proposed. Remember, the owner was a very busy person, as we had mentioned earlier.

Solution Number One – Getting The Technical Aspects to Work

The first thing that the 3 musketeers had to do was to make sure that the site could be accessed by search engine crawlers.

Taking a look at their search console, you could see that the site was barely breathing.

Google was dispatching crawlers to the site every 4 weeks, and if the site was to come back to life, then Ryan and his team had to fix the access issue fast.

There are certain things that he had to work on to make the site accessible, and as he explains without going into detail:

  • Site speed – The site was taking about 16 seconds to load the home page.
  • Canonicalization – The site had next to none.
  • JavaScript Rendering – The way it was set up did not allow the crawlers to read even the little content that the site had.
  • The site had more than 100 useless scripts that had no function at all.
  • There were staging links everywhere, broken pages, and internal redirects
  • Blog subdomains had been placed in the index; an issue that remains unresolved
  • Google was able to access HTTP, HTTPS, non-www, and www separately.

It may all have seemed mundane and standard issues, but they were somehow making it very difficult for Google to access and navigate the website.

Well, after working non-stop, with the developers for a week, Ryan and his team managed to bring down loading time to about 3.5 seconds. He says this was not perfect but from 18 seconds to 3.5 seconds? That was quite something.

They also fixed “Salient” which was causing rendering issues. If anyone has ever worked with the Salient Preloader, then you can understand the issues it caused.

Salient was a lovely feature, that gave you a spinning wheel, whenever a page was loading. At the time it was great for aesthetics.

However, when it came to how Google looked at a site, this feature that seemed to dazzle viewers, looked like a spinning wheel of death to the crawlers. Therefore, Googe could not see the content of the site.

Too much JavaScript, too much spinning wheel, and no content at all.

Therefore, in getting rid of this JavaScript feature, the site loaded in 3.5 seconds, and finally Google was able to see the content within the site

So now, Ryan and his team could go ahead and start planning new content for the website.

Solution Number Two – Content Planning

Ryan Darani and his team focused on content planning, just like they would for a new website. They had to think about answering the questions that the site would be able to rank for.

When he was planning the site content, he was well aware that the site did not have a commercial page. This made it very simple for him to find content ideas.

All he had to do was find content gaps, for relevant, low-quality terms that addressed the issue of “moving house”. If they felt that a certain keyword had a rather decent traffic volume, they would plan for it.

The team did not have to worry about keyword gaps. There were plenty.

However, they did not have any content.

Every title that they could think of presented a powerful content gap that they could rank for.

They mainly focused on:

  • Types of property
  • Legalities and other paperwork
  • Costs associated with moving houses
  • If there were any movers available
  • The locations, especially those that involved popular estate agents who were clients of the site

Ryan says that this is perhaps one of the benefits of coming late into the game. The competition had already done most of the work for him.

How?

They had created content, and all he needed was to find gaps that they missed, and he could fill them easily.

Looking at the way he did it, you can see the simplicity and ingenuousness of his methods:

  • He went into the comments section of YouTube videos created by the competition and found a lot of needs that went unfulfilled.
  • He was constantly checking out forums that dealt with moving houses, and he found common questions and patterns.
  • He regularly checked out Facebook, Reddit, and Quora groups.

Darani confirms that these are great places or haunts to look for information that will add a unique angle to your content, simply because they come direct from the end user.

After putting the data together, and seeing how much more coverage of certain topics the competition had, he was able to now sit down and come up with a strategy.

He decided that it was best that he started with a huge acceleration in content, and then slowed down once Google had paid attention to the site.

Here is what it looked like:

  • £5,000 – Month 1 budget for 30 articles
  • £5,000 – Month 2 budget for 30 articles
  • £2,500 – Month 3 budget for 20 articles
  • £2,000 – Month 4 budget for 10 articles
  • £2,000 – Month 5 budget for 10 articles

All these articles were produced by the two writers on the team.

This way, each writer would produce one article, every two days, for the whole month. However, the writers turned to out be pros and were able to produce a single article every day, which meant that he had two articles every day, and the production period turned from one month to 2 weeks.

The interesting approach that he had was NOT to publish in a drip-in manner.

He collected all the content for the whole month and then uploaded it all at once. 30 articles were published in a single day. This signalled a burst of activity on the site, and the search engine crawlers had to pay attention.

After publishing in the first month, there was an incredible burst of clicks to the site. It was truly impressive.

Sidenote about The Content Budget

As far as the budget laid out above, the figures were a little lower. The figures laid out include the fees for the work done.

They are not the figures for the content alone.

Based on this fact, the actual budget for content creation alone was very low. This is because his fees were much, much higher.

Solution Number 3 – Link Building

Ryan admits that his biggest problem is building links.

He says that he has always had a complicated moral feeling about them.

Why?

He could never bring himself to come to terms with creating links to content unless the content was of high quality.

If you look at the SEO industry, some of the links you find are quite shocking, and the providers of these links are doing a disservice.

This is the reason why he has always avoided them like a plague.

In the case of Moovshack, he decided to do it differently; his way!

He was not interested in the time that it would take to create the links. He wanted to personally handle the outreach to websites for purposes of roundups, guest posts, and PR.

It took him 6 months to build slightly less than 100 links to powerful referring domains.

Some of the websites that linked back to his content include:

  • co.uk
  • co.uk
  • co.uk
  • co.uk
  • co.uk
  • com
  • co.uk
  • co.uk

And many more.

As you can see, his main focus was on relevancy, rather than any other factor. It was not just about getting links from any website.

He could have gone the other, immoral way, of asking the client for a bigger budget to get links from generic guest posts, and then when they failed, he could easily have blamed Google for that.

But he decided not to.

His main focus was on:

  • Commentary from industry experts
  • Having great resource links
  • Providing high-quality guest posts
  • Doing company roundups for property technology websites.

Ryan would spend up to 5 hours a week building these high-quality links.

He would use Ahrefs to look for suitable targets, and then he would email them personally.

What is his lesson to you?

Your best option is to look for links from sites that have highly relevant content. Never go for guest post providers, simply because of DR. Many people will give you generic guest posts on sites with high DR, and these will be of no use to you.

The 3rd Month – Traffic Challenges

Although the site had started getting a decent amount of traffic every month, it somehow seemed to have hit a plateau.

And here is where things got a little bit serious, and he ended up having some serious discussions with the client about the performance of the website.

He had spent a lot of time and money on the website, and the traffic was hardly above 100 visits a month.

He truly felt bad for the client, but he also had a couple of cards up his sleeve to play.

He knew two things.

  1. The site had been completely ignored by Google for so long, that it would take about 6 months to bring it back to some semblance of life. This is if they could consider rendering, crawling, and indexing concerns.
  2. Links do not instantly begin to work. It takes time for search engine spiders to crawl links, and index them before any link juice or equity could be passed back to the site.

Ryan, therefore, committed himself and told the client that if there was not any considerable growth in traffic within the next 30 days, he would terminate the contract immediately – 3 months ahead of time.

Finally, The “Dark Magic” Happened

If you have read a lot about how to optimize a website, then you can probably see that Ryan has done it all; at this point.

He has produced a lot of content, which was targeted at particular primary keywords.

He focused the keywords with low-volume traffic, which he was sure the website would rank for.

He had built some high-quality links.

He had fixed the technical aspects of the site and it was running smoothly.

The question was, why was the performance of the site not improving as he had expected it to?

Any experienced SEO practitioner has probably reached this same point. The point where you ask, “What am I doing wrong?”

Well, he also asked himself the same question over and over again. Ryan accepts that this was perhaps the first time in his career that he had ever doubted himself.

So, he went back and perused his work, and analyzed it with a fine comb.

He found several issues that could potentially be the ones that are hampering the performance of the website.

Apart from the navigation bar, there were no links directed at the blog from the homepage.

He also felt that he could have been overzealous with the creation of internal links; they were too many and also too targeted.

He also felt that he had put too many keywords in the headings of some of the content they had created

There was a lot of disparity between some of the questions and the answers.

So, he decided to do something that many would never dare to do – he decided to de-optimize the pages of the site.

This is something that some industry experts would have frowned upon, but Ryan decided to test his uncharacteristic theory and see if it would work.

He looked at 30 pages of the site that were not performing well on the SERPs and then stripped back their content.

This meant that he had to look at who was competing for the same keywords in the content, how long their pages had existed, and what their keyword density was.

The pages on his site were quite young, and the search engine spiders are very fast in their action.

What was the logic here?

A page that is heavy in keyword density, but has been in existence for two years or more, might still perform better because of engagement, traffic, and links built over time.

Many people have always said that keyword density does not affect the performance of a site, but Rayn was not concerned about the theory. He wanted something that would work.

He and his team worked on stripping down these pages for a few days, and then he resubmitted the pages in the search console. He resubmitted them to the search console so he could be sure that Google would understand that the pages had been updated.

And then the secret “Dark Magic” happened.

The site came to life.

After 4 months of struggling to breathe life into the site, and getting very little in terms of performance, Google finally decided to reward their efforts.

The site appeared in the “Featured Snippets” section.

The page that landed in the featured snippets section was entitled “How to Cancel Your Council Tax”.

This snippet brought in thousands of visitors.

After this jump in performance, Google decided to go deeper into the website, and many other pages started to rank on the first page.

Ryan emphatically says that it is so important to compound your efforts when it comes to SEO.

If he had given up after the 3rd month when the performance was still very low, then this explosion would never have happened and Moovshack would not be where it is today.

Takeaway

SEO is not about seeing who has a bigger traffic graph.

It is about being able to carry out your duties, even within certain limitations, no matter how they present themselves to you.

Their client today boasts of about 8,000 visits in a month. This may seem dismal, but for a Startup, this cloud be very lucrative.

Such traffic can bring in investors, it can help in getting sponsors; it is a powerful leveraging statistic in the online world.

Ryan, a single person, engaged 2 writers, had a limited budget, and built something that he is very proud of to this very day.

He now runs a very successful consultancy.

Think about yourself, whether you are alone. There are no limits to what you can do to improve your website or that of a client. All you have to do is be committed, and be ready to examine yourself in case of any challenges.

 

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