What Does a Little SEO Do?

Remember that post I wrote back in September about SEO work for the Ruby Falls Haunted Cavern and Blowing Screams Farm? With Halloween behind us, these attractions have closed until next year, and I’ve been digging through Google Analytics to see if my optimization efforts paid off. Did my SEO plan work or not? Read on and find out!

What I Did

These sites (the “haunted sites” as we call them at Papercut) had virtually no optimization when I began working on them. I enjoy working on projects like this because you’re starting with a clean slate, and you can really get a sense of the initial impact from even the most basic of SEO tactics.

I started work on these sites in late September with the goal of having changes implemented in time for the attractions’ busy season in October. I knew the work would be fast and furious, so I focused on foundational SEO and fixes that I could put in place with a limited amount of time.

The first order of business, then, was to research keywords and put them on the pages of each website. Surprisingly, the non-branded terms that the sites should be optimized for weren’t there. Their competitors were visible for these keywords, and they needed to be, too. To fix this problem, I wrote keyword-optimized copy and meta data for the desktop and mobile versions of each site and implemented it accordingly.

Next, I identified crawl errors within each site. These are problems that prevent search engines from correctly accessing the site, and they can even hinder user experience. Things I looked out for included duplicate content, 404 errors (which lead to a non-existent page), and missing meta data. With a list of errors in place, I fixed what I could and worked with our developers to correct the rest.

The Results Are In!

Any SEO knows that monthly reporting can go one of two ways: good or bad. If it’s the latter, it can ruin your day, your week, or even your month. Although I monitor analytics throughout the month, I still get a bit nervous when it comes time to compile reports and send them to clients. However, when I started working on the reports for the haunted sites, my jaw dropped—and for a good reason.

Organic traffic for the Haunted Cavern increased by 39.08% over last year, and organic traffic for Blowing Screams Farm increased by 89.10%! Using the keyword data I still have available to me in Google Analytics, I looked to see if there were any gains in non-branded organic search traffic. The numbers were good there, too. Haunted Cavern had an 82.14% increase in visits from non-branded search terms year over year, and Blowing Screams Farm had a 173.77% increase. Both sites got visits from non-branded terms that didn’t send traffic last year.

While additional marketing efforts may have had an impact on organic search, the non-branded data that I was able to pull makes a strong case for the importance of having the right words on the page.

Industry experts might argue that, with Google’s switch to 100% secure searches, the eventual removal of all keyword data from Google Analytics, and the Hummingbird update, the importance of and emphasis on keywords will begin to fade. However, the data I pulled on the haunted sites goes a long way in proving that, at least for the time being, keywords are here to stay.

In addition to improvements in site traffic, there were also measurable increases in rankings and, not surprisingly, decreases in the number of crawl errors on each site.

What Does it All Mean?

In short, a little SEO can go a long way. The basics, including content optimization and technical fixes, can still provide huge gains, even in a short amount of time. When you do SEO the right way, you’re really building a better site by improving its visibility to both users and search engines. If the fundamentals of SEO don’t exist, it doesn’t take much to see considerable improvements.

Yes, it’s the unfortunate truth that SEO is an industry full of false promises and dishonest practitioners, but there are those of us that do things the right way, and when we do, it pays off. A little SEO (done correctly) is definitely better than none.