SEO for IT services and outsourcing companies: Yalantis case study
High competition and a huge cost of getting the lead are fears preventing IT companies and start-ups from using internet marketing for growing their business.
Are they right?
In this article we will tell about efficient strategies for IT business growth using content marketing and search engine optimization.
The case is based on 36 months of cooperation between Livepage team and Yalantis (Ukrainian IT company).
As a result, search traffic became the main source of lead and customer generation for Yalantis.
Results for February 2016
August 2017 [the case was updated 18 months after its publication]
Results for August 2017 prove relevance of the chosen strategy, about which we will tell you below.
We will also show on the examples why some companies fail to repeat the case.
- Traffic — 5 daily visitors and 0 monthly leads.
- No clear marketing strategy.
- About 20 articles in the blog.
Important! The first step towards the result was to set a specific goal. The goal of Yalantis marketing team was as follows:
«To get 50 leads monthly for mobile app development with the help of content marketing and SEO».
Our first mistake
We didn’t think through which articles have the highest conversion potential. The reason is weak study of a potential customer portrait. As a result, we created the content like comparison of Swift and Objective-C, which converted badly.
Which strategy we offered
Important! Find those 20% of actions, which give 80% of result.
It is possible to get 50 monthly leads only through a lot of content solving the readers problems.
We developed topics of interest to the target audience, for example — «The case of integrating Google Maps API into iOS application».
Promoting the content through low-requested and niche-specific business solutions in mobile app development targeted at C-level managers and entrepreneurs.
Why have we chosen this strategy and why do most companies fail to repeat our result — you will read below.
How we managed to grow search traffic
Writing niche content
Promotion for low volume search queries (specific solutions for business) can be easily made with the help of useful niche content.
- prove the company expertise;
- solve customer problems;
- attract leads for potential customers.
An example of the article created for Yalantis — How much does it cost to create an app. It covers all difficulties faced by a potential client and tells about all possible costs.
But the content itself is not enough.
Below you’ll see additional methods which helped the website get higher search ranking for every piece of content.
Perfect research of every content requirements document
To write a high-quality task for copywriter, you should research and:
- draw up a list of all questions you need to answer in the article;
- collect all keywords users use when searching for the problem solution;
- make a short plan of the article.
Tools for competitor analysis and search of keywords allow to collect most of the required information.
A step-by-step guide for developing a content requirements document:
1. Understanding the subject.
To understand the material:
- look into the concepts;
- search for information on the subject in Google;
- communicate with an expert on the subject, for example a member of the company;
- read 1–3 articles on the subject, understand what is lacking there; draw up a content plan.
2. Collecting keyword phrases.
Export of data from Semrush is the main phase of making the list of key phrases the users use.
For example — kitchen glass splashbacks for the UK region.
Choose the required region, example — UK:
Open the whole list of phrases:
Research all keywords choosing suitable ones:
Analyze the whole list and write out all keywords with their volume.
3. Competitors research in Semrush and lookup for low-tail search queries.
Additional words are a very important factor for getting high-quality low-frequency traffic to the articles.
Improving existing content
Previously posted articles on the website are a real well of lost opportunities for growing search traffic and getting leads.
1. Content reoptimization.
According to Hubspot, updating blog posts gives 106% growth of search traffic on average.
What articles to improve:
- older than 6 months, bringing traffic but giving few conversions;
- older than 6 months, ranking 7–15 in search results for the main keywords;
- included into top 30 pages by traffic on particular website.
To update the articles, you need to:
- use Semrush and Google Search Console to see for which queries the article appears;
- find synonym queries close by meaning by looking into competitors’ data and search results;
- find 10–15 additional clarifying keywords (usually adjectives) which will add to the growth of low-tail search traffic;
- properly write new keywords into the content;
- update charts, out-of-date data;
- think through the article logic, add additional information if necessary.
An example of traffic growth after enhancing the article for key queries on Yalantis website:
2. Pushing lead generating articles to the top of search engine results.
The strategy is to get more traffic from high converting articles, and thus to get more leads.
You should analyze which pages have brought the majority of conversions for several months and push them to top 1–3 positions in Google by the key search queries.
For this purpose, you may do as follows:
- update the article structure — find poorly described or missing part of the subject;
- improve keywords usage;
- get inner links to this piece of content;
- raise the number of links to a page through link-building.
It is worth using this strategy after 6–8 months from starting the content marketing strategy.
In addition, read the article of Neil Patel about how to make your content rank high in Google Search.
Website technical optimization for excellent results
A technically optimized website will give you an advantage against young competitors or help you to quickly catch up with «elders» in the niche.
For technical optimization you need to do as follows:
1. Check the website for content and page duplication.
Having not unique «borrowed» content is one of the reasons why your website search ranking is not growing.
Duplicated internal pages prevent search engines from correctly defining the relevant page, which also causes trouble with getting to the top of search results.
2. Check website speed.
3. Check for 404 errors and 301, 302 URL redirects.
4. Check for server errors.
You can read how to do a more detailed technical test of all parameters in the Moz article.
To develop an efficient marketing strategy, you need to research 5–10 competitors and make conclusions.
Criteria to assess your competitors
Similarweb will be of help, it will show how the traffic is distributed between the channels and what is its absolute value.
The chart shows about 61% of all website traffic is search traffic.
Important! The figures shown may differ from those in reality but after checking 3–5 websites you will understand a common pattern and traffic arrangement on competitor websites.
This information will allow predicting what amount of traffic you can get.
Search for pages bringing traffic
To show that content marketing is the main source of search traffic generation and it makes sense to use the same strategy, it is necessary to check competitors through Semrush.
Export the list of top pages by search traffic:
The examples show that about 40–80% of competitors’ search traffic comes from the blog articles. This means you should turn to content marketing.
Important! Do not write only traffic articles. This is a trap — read further in section «General articles = low conversion».
The analysis is necessary to understand what effort your competitors make for outbound marketing, determine which methods bring the best result, and try to make them the basis of your strategy.
With the help of Ahrefs.com you should deeply study:
- the number of domains linking to your and competitor websites;
- types of links your competitors get;
- average domain authority.
This information will help you choose the right strategies for getting links to outrun your competitors in terms of link quantity and quality.
After analyzing the links of competitors, we have realized that it is worth chasing not after the quantity of links but after their quality, and enhance the work with related websites like Dribble and GitHub.
How to get high-quality links
Analysis of competitors’ links has shown that the most useful links for traffic growth are guest articles on field-specific traffic websites.
Advice! If nobody wants your content, you should check how interesting are the topics you offer.
Imagine that a person with an article on how to display «Hello World» on C++ is applying for guest post.
Examples of high quality guest articles:
Apart from links, these articles will increase the brand awareness, referral traffic and get leads.
By the example of Smashing Magazine over 2 years:
We published the articles which brought 350 visitors each over 2 years and 30 visitors from each turned to Contacts — it’s a very high conversion. And now imagine you have at least 20 such articles.
Our recommendation: to focus on creating 2–5 articles of such quality monthly.
The aim of crowd marketing is to get links from forums, Q/A websites and thematic communities.
A distinctive feature of this method is that first of all you should help in answer, and, as a second priority, add the link to the site where visitors can learn additional details.
The main websites for crowd marketing can be:
Important! It is better to organize this process in cooperation with the client employees. Depending on the answer quality it can be considered either as a link spam or useful material.
To raise recognition and authority of the company, it is recommended to work with social networks:
When creating an account in a social network, you should fill in the user profile in full (photo, profession, company website).
When you share the content owned by the company, always give the link to its website.
Important! It was difficult for us to work with topical social networks and websites as to do that you must be highly competent in the subject matter.
As a solution, we presented a guide for Yalantis team explaining how to work on social networks.
Over 18 months (until February 2016) we achieved a growth of search traffic from 0 to 15 000 monthly visitors.
The result was achieved owing to:
- regular publications — 5–7 articles monthly;
- right selection of potentially lead generating topics;
- getting high-quality and relevant links.
The first traffic results were achieved owing to well-done internal optimization and regularly posted content.
Update: August 2017
Over the next 18 months of cooperation traffic increased by 300% — to 45 000 monthly visitors from the search traffic channel.
The focus was made on:
- raising conversion from already existing articles;
- pushing 1–3 existing lead generating articles to the top;
- writing business-specific articles;
- increasing the number of publications on third-party sites.
This amount of search traffic allows Yalantis to get over 70 leads monthly.
Search engine optimization and content marketing are the main channels of the company lead generation at the moment.
Key to success
A key to successful website promotion is the work of two teams together.
Without the Yalantis marketing manager and editors, we could not achieve such a result in the content quality. Without our work, they could not choose traffic subjects of the articles.
If you are unable to invest into your team, do not expect great results.
When growing business through content marketing it is important to understand that the content quality (expertise) is a critical parameter for getting to the top results of search engines.
It is not the best way in the long term to outsource the content creation.
You will not manage to get the required volumes of high-quality content. You will see a clear example proving our conclusion in the section «Weak content = weak conversion».
How to achieve more and improve your result
Additional traffic sources
The aim is to build as many as possible points for entering the website from all possible sources.
Examples of entry points:
- articles in media;
- participating in the community and sharing your experience;
- interview with bloggers;
- creating websites related to the subject of your business;
Research of competitors or related business models may suggest you ideas for creating microservices or satellite websites.
In the field of mobile app development, you can start sending iOS and Android development news every week. After growing popular, this newsletter will become a source of visitors to the main business website.
- http://howmuchtomakeanapp.com — app cost calculator
- https://iosdevweekly.com — iOS news weekly newsletter
An interesting example is Crew. Facing financial difficulties, they created a project which is not directly related to their business.
Remarketing allows to get back users that have already visited your website but haven’t taken actions you expected.
The aim of remarketing is to show an offer only to those users who are the most interested in services or additional content.
Before setting up remarketing, with the help of Google Analytics it is necessary to:
- determine the target audience;
- understand how the users taking the target action behave;
- learn what pages they mostly visit before conversion;
- how much time they spend on the website;
- from what devices and browsers they come.
Important! If goals are not set up in Google Analytics, it won’t be possible to correctly set up remarketing.
Based on these data, we make up a profile of visitors that will most probably be converted. Then the code on the website collects lists of users fitting the chosen criteria.
A final step is to set up and show an advertisement message which may convert them into leads.
The subscribers are the most tolerant audience. These people will spread your content to a wider audience. It is very important to start building the email list as early as possible.
Here are some methods for building the email list:
- Create white paper — a deep niche research to download which you ask for email.
- Invite to participate in free webinars.
- Offer to be the first to know about new publications.
Example: The ranking of best cities to live from the Economist. They provide 2016 data in exchange for email sign-up, while 2017 data are given on a paid basis.
Paid advertising for low frequency queries and certain regions
In the section «Why others fail» you will learn why PPC for broad search queries is usually expensive and not converting.
But you should not disregard this channel — paid ads by very narrow search query segments or audience types is very efficient.
Pay attention to detailed clustering of search queries.
Analyzing Android app development, you can find less competitive queries:
- how much does it cost to develop an android app
- android development company
- android app development cost
- need android app developer
- android app development companies
- professional android app development
- companies that develop mobile apps
They clearly show the user requirement but are not as general as android app development.
We are intentionally not chasing after expensive queries.
But we collect traffic from cheaper and more specific queries with less impressions and more clear need.
Narrow geographic targeting is also works well. For example, you understand specific aspects of working in Islamic countries and setup targeting only for one country, or even better for a number of cities.
Why others fail
High cost of attracting the lead and its quality is what scares away IT business from promoting business through Internet marketing. In other words, the quality of leads received does not allow to sign contract with most of them.
Why it is so.
1. Lack of analysis
Let’s look at the example:
Query — Android App Development
This is exactly what you are doing, isn’t it?
Logically, yes it is.
However, search results by this query include 4 paid advertisements of developers while TOP 10 organic results consist of educational resources.
There are no agency websites among the results. This means promotion by such general queries is ineffective for all channels. Users are looking for tutorials, not for development services.
- PPC will be inefficient because of a different need of visitors.
- You will not get to the top 10 in organic search as educational websites are dominating there.
2. Too high lead cost
Let’s check the cost of a click for «Android App Development» in the US region.
Using Semrush data, we see that every click will cost over $30 USD. The broader a query, the higher is click cost and the lower is conversion.
Are you ready to pay so much for a doubtful chance to get a lead? I think no.
Even if there are potential customers among those who want to learn how to develop apps on Android — the quality of such leads will most likely be low. Users asking general questions do not clearly understand what they want. Have you ever experienced it?
Focus your efforts on marketing in those areas which are the strong points of your team.
For example, uber applications.
The cost of click in a narrow area is far lower ($9 instead of $30).
The probability of converting leads into customers here is much higher, though the number of those interested is much lower. Why? Read on.
3. General topics = low conversion
Let’s look at the analogy.
Which user is closer to a purchase? The one who is searching for «laptops» or «macbook 13 touch bar»? The answer is obvious.
Chasing after traffic, not after conversion, is a common mistake.
Two articles bring about the same amount of monthly traffic. But the number of transitions to Contact differs by 3 times.
The difference is that before writing the second article we asked ourselves — «Will this topic motivate readers to apply for the services»?
Ask this question when choosing the topic and type of the content angle.
4. Weak content = low conversion
If you have time to read few articles in search results for any keyword, tell please to whom would you apply for consultation as a potential customer? Whose content better meets business requirements?
You may see an example that one may get to the search engine top results with the content even without deep expertise.
However, it will have lower conversion rate and that website will rank lower in some time due to worse behavior factors.
Use this comparison in terms of your content and you will understand whether it needs to be improved.
5. Features of strong content
You can skim good content, read it by first sentences or by titles and get the point.
- understanding what problem the content solves, what benefit a reader obtains;
- clear introduction, main part and conclusion;
- practice and expertise (knowledge transmitted through the team);
- understanding which actions deliver the result, and which are work for the sake of work;
- understanding for whom you write.
- emphases, titles, subtitles, bulleted lists;
- graphic elements (pictures, schemes, videos);
- simple content presentation (simple language, no technical abbreviations, complicated terms etc.);
- paragraphs of 5–7 sentences;
- layout (raising font and spacing gave 133% growth of conversion, source).
We recommend to check all the content through ContentYoda, a service from field experts.
The service checks a text by many parameters:
- ease of understanding;
6. Lack of patience
Before promoting your business through Internet marketing channels, ask yourself:
«Am I ready to spend at least 6 months investing time and resources to check whether an Internet marketing strategies are working and only then to make a conclusion?».
It doesn’t mean that you will not get a single lead over these 6 months, but you should be ready for this risk. It is often a mistake to make an early conclusion about the work done.
In my experience — many give up earlier.
7. Not enough effort
You should clearly understand what is your team capability.
We often see that a customer is unable to keep up the pace of publications in the blog. On top of that, it is necessary to write high quality guest articles.
You need at least one person in your team who will be engaged in full-time content creation.
Instead of afterword
- Developing expertise inside the team is a must for achieving results.
- Choosing a niche is what will help your content reach excellent results.
- The content quality must be high, otherwise do not publish it.
- Time and resources — from 6 months to check an Internet marketing hypothesis.