Extreme Makeover: The SEO Edition

September 14, 2011
By Lisa Barone in Internet Marketing Conferences

Hang in there, friends! It’s the final stretch of Day 2 and this sounds like it’s going to be a fantastic one. Three search marketers were given three months to get new sites ranking. Today we learn what they did, how they did, what they learned. Taking us on our journey today will be David Burgess, Russ Jones, and Jay Young.

Just kidding!

Sounds like the work isn’t quite done yet so we’re gonna hear about what they PLAN to do on the sites and then we’ll see the final results at SMX West San Jose. It’s like our very own cliffhanger! :)

Let’s see what good causes these guys chose to volunteer their time to and what they plan on doing.

Up first is David.

He chose Nazareth Housing, Inc, which is working to reduce homelessness.  Nearly all of their clients are 200 percent beneath the poverty line so they have a lot of work to do.

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

  • Think about who’s looking for charities
  • Blue Chips have entire departments devoted to CSR
  • SHP now working with Price Waterhouse Coopers on the back of ranking page 1 for [homeless charity].

One of the key things they did was to look at the data. Ayima crawls the Web like search engines do. They create Market Intelligence Reports which analyze the most competitive terms and gives their traffic score and rankings.  Nazareth Housing didn’t rank for any of the keywords. They obviously had a long way to go.

They also looked at the backlink profile and the anchor text for all the links pointing in.  All of their competitors had entirely natural backlink profiles so they knew what they needed to do.  It was a blank canvas. They had to focus on brand.

When studying competitor backlinks they found most of the links for their competitors were coming from blogs (blogspost, wordpress, etc), but there were some media links from sites like The New York Times.

What type of content was generating links for their competitors?  Blog posts were getting 6.7 links per post, but static pages were receiving 3.9 links per URL.

Guide to creating linkable content

  • Analyze the content of highly linked to posts
  • Analyze the strategy and schedule of content creation
  • Generate insight and compelling content
  • Engage with sites linking to similar content

Target for link development

  • New Page Links
  • High PR/Authority/Relevance
  • Competitor analysis and targeting
  • News/Press

Nazareth Housing has an annual benefit that is coming up. Last year they raised more than 190,000.  They could definitely write a press release about it and then feed it out to Facebook, Twitter and online PR syndication sites to get some links and buzz going..

Measurement & Analysis [They had no analytics prior]

  • Create a Gmail Account
  • Install Google Analytics
  • Install Webmaster Tools
  • Backlinks, Market Intelligence, and Crawls

On Site Optimization

  • Redirects and canonicalizatoin
  • Fix Errors
  • Design and code clean up
  • Mark up improvements
  • Add & iterate content

Few examples of the work that needs to be carried out:

  • The /home.html version of the home page has received more links than than the real root domain.  Using an htaccess file they redirected the .home.html URL back in and inserted the rel=canonical tag to clear up confusion in the future.
  • All the footer text with their address, telephone number, etc was actually an image [#headdesk]. One of the key things they looked to do was strip it out from an image and make sure it’s indexable content.
  • Drive Conversions: Increase awareness about their Donate Now button but also strengthen the funnel to get people there.
  • Create an SEO plan:

So, the clocks’ ticking.  By the time SMX West comes about, he’ll let you know how it went. :)

Next up is Russ.

He says they did puppies because that’s about as easy as it gets keeping people happy.

They did the Animal Protection Society of Durham. They care for 7000 animals a year. It’s a no-kill shelter. They offer Spay-Neuter programs and foster programs.

The Landscape: Keyword Discovery

Breed specific terms are searched more often when combined than the generic puppy terms. Highly non-competitive each searched rarely. [That’s what the slide says, I’m hoping that makes sense to you. ]  Link building wasn’t going to be their primary method, content was.

The Problem: Breeder control

Russ noted that nearly all organic and paid listings ranking right now are for breeders selling pure-bred dogs. There is little to no exposure for APS of Durham or the Rescue Organizations with which they work.  Not that there’s anything WRONG with buying a  purebred puppy, they wanted to make sure people saw they had an option. Dude, it’s like 101 Dalmations right here at SMX!

The Goal: Total Domination

Use every tool to control page to control breed-specific terms. Two paid listings, 2 or more organic listings, image listings, local place listings.

The Strategy: Organic

1. Use Exact Match Domains For Quick Wins

  • Geo-targeted domains
  • Unique articles, high LDA score on care for specific breeds
  • Updated local maps for area vets
  • Rescue, adoption, and care resources

2. Build Breed-Targeted Content: A short unique description for each breed.

3. Use Cute Puppy Widgets For Links: Use Javascript to rotate simple list of link images with alt text. He said this was the best widget-bait of his life. heh.

The Strategy: Paid

1. Google Grants: Apply for Google Grant. Profit.

2. Dual Listings: APS of Durham, Exact Match Domains

3. Call Tracking: Exact Match Domains, Paid Campaigns

The Strategy: Other

1. Google Images: Rank in Google Images, coax Google to include images.

2. Google Places: Control and update listings, call tracking, coax Google to include maps.

The Results: Early Wins & Progress

Organic Results

  1. 10 breeds and four generic targeted
  2. 10 #1 listings
  3. 10 SERPs with at least 2 listings
  4. 1 SERP with 2 listings
  5. 2 Breeders pushed down [MUAHA!]

Next steps: They want to grow organic even more.

Link Building

  • Widget Placement
  • Rescue Groups
  • Local Veterinarians

Multi-Page Sites

  • Secure Site Links
  • Call Tracking
  • Coax Google to Include Maps

Push Muttcatts.com off front page. Because, he says, its creepy.

Tools Used

  • LDA Optimizer
  • PageRank Recovery Tool

Next up is Jay Young.

They were working with Barrier Free Living. They’re a charity that provides services to help New Yorkers with disabilities live independently in the community. They cater to victims of domestic violence and people with disabilities. They have emergency shelters, residential programs, do outreach, etc.

Jay and his team are doing a lot of free consulting and a big education effort.


  • Increase donations
  • Increase visibility
  • Increase the overall number of intakes per month

Technical Issues:

  • The site uses a 302 redirect as soon as you hit the page, sending you to a /home1.asp. That should be changed to a 301 redirect.
  • The site also uses a 302 redirect to the non-www version to the home1.asp and this should be changed to a 301 to the www version.
  • There’s no robots.txt file.
  • There’s lots and lots of other stuff I didn’t have time to write down.

Look & Feel

  • Link the header to the home page
  • Design custom 404 page

On Page:

  • Titles aren’t as optimized as they could be so he’d recommend working in relevant keywords when possible.
  • Meta keywords are present but since they aren’t critical for a site, they’re find as they are.
  • Meta descriptions are identical across the site and this needs to be changed.


  • The site currently ranks well locally for its very specific, targeted key phrases. But it doesn’t rank well enough.
  • They do fairly well in local. They want to get more reviews from volunteers.


61 pages are indexed in Google for the www version but show 63 when you do a site search for the non-www version. SEOmoz’s Open Site Explorer found loads of pages that don’t exist and return 404s.


Could benefit from keywordized anchors but still should keep it as clean as possible. He recommends contacting other organizations that they could work with and ask to be listed as a resource, plus they’ll be submitted to good free directories or charity directories.

Guest Posting

They’re a natural fit to tell their story.

Social Media

They have a Facebook page but the only post on it is one that says they went to  class about social media. They have some work to do there. Through Facebook efforts and efforts with Twitter to tweet about new volunteers, those are good things they can do. Using their current YouTube videos, they can gain awareness, as well.

  • Start with strong local outreach.
  • Welcome new volunteers.
  • Use Twitter and FB for fundraising.
  • Use FollowerWonk to find and engage influential people
  • Host a FB-based content with a positive spin on your niche

And that’s the plan. We’ll have to check back with Jay and the other men to see what success they find and any lessons learned.  I love the idea for this session and kudos to Jay, David and Russ for taking on the challenge.



Online Marketing
Online Marketing

Your Place in the Marketing Mix

on Apr 18 by Emily Cote

As Internet marketing consultants, I’m sure we’d all agree SEO is a vital part of a successful marketing strategy. Online…


Thank You.

on Mar 15 by Rhea Drysdale

After an overwhelming show of support from the community, I wanted to take a minute to thank you. When I…

Online Marketing
Online Marketing

Day of Darkness: How Can You Help Fight SOPA/PIPA?

on Jan 18 by Lisa Barone

Much of the Internet is going dark today in protest of the Stop Online Privacy Act (SOPA) and its counterpart…

^Back to Top