An SEO case study can be a great tool to gain insight into how companies surpass goals and realize tremendous success.
However, too often, case studies feature numbers without any actionable insight.
At Kantaloupe, we do things differently. I’m not just going to show you how Kantaloupe helped grow FinTech company Fast Capital 360’s organic traffic 381% in months, but why we decided on each strategy and what you can do to achieve similar results.
When Kantaloupe became involved with Fast Capital 360 in 2019, the brand faced challenges common to many businesses:
Not surprisingly, Fast Capital 360 was facing an uphill battle to gain an organic foothold, and SEO traffic accounted for less than 40% of all site visitors. In addition, the SEO tactics in place needed to be refined:
These issues led Fast Capital 360 to rely on paid ads to generate traffic, resulting in a cost per acquisition (CPA) over $300.
The Kantaloupe team was tasked with revising underperforming enterprise SEO tactics while achieving the following goals:
Every good SEO campaign needs clear and attainable key performance indicators (KPIs) to track success. For Fast Capital 360, we used the following as our main measurements:
For Fast Capital 360 and other lead-generation or e-commerce sites, certain pages are crucial to converting bottom-funnel readers. Fast Capital 360’s highest-value pages describe the financial products they offer and how to get them. This made tracking traffic and conversions on those pages imperative to reducing CPA and generating revenue.
Overall site traffic was important to Fast Capital 360, especially since we planned to create content funnels that linked high-trafficked blogs to bottom-funnel pages. For this reason, we considered organic sessions and metrics across all site content.
Rankings were also a concern given the extremely competitive nature of the business lending industry and Fast Capital 360’s previous inability to compete on SERPs. Therefore, growing top-10 rankings and obtaining featured snippets were big focuses of the campaign.
Now that we got the background out of the way, it’s time to talk about what you’re here for: tactics and strategies.
This case involved going back to basics, setting up the best foundation for the site going forward. There was a lot of talent on the Fast Capital 360 team, but they needed direction and structure.
The first thing we did was assess the site from a technical SEO standpoint to ensure that the foundation was strong.
This process began with a complete technical site audit.
It’s important to start here when assessing an established site because great SEO content can be held back by weak technical SEO roots.
During our site audit, we found the following common issues:
An important first step was cleaning up the site’s robots.txt file and sitemap, resolving issues with crawling and indexing.
After fixing all of these issues, Fast Capital 360 had a clean slate to publish valuable, rank-worthy content on.
Fast Capital 360 had a team of talented in-house editors and writers. Our job was to educate them on how to use their talents to create content that ranks, engages and converts organic traffic.
The Fast Capital team had varying levels of knowledge about SEO best practices, and they were all hungry to learn more.
Our first step was to educate all managers, editors and content creators on what we were putting into place.
The main focus was going back to basics, including how to:
We also created a checklist that writers and editors could use to judge whether they satisfied all of the requirements of great SEO content.
Because Google and other search engines like fresh, engaging content, uplifting old pages was a top priority when revamping Fast Capital 360’s SEO efforts.
We started with the most important pages on the site — the ones that bring in valuable sales-ready customers. For this site, those pages lived in a /business-loans/ folder.
This folder included many pages for specific industries and locations that were thin and offered little value, which can damage other pages in the subfolder.
We prioritized what pages were worth refreshing based on their value and traffic potential and then moved them into their own folder. As theorized, removing these thin pages gave the /business-loans/ folder an immediate boost in rankings, now up 36.6% in just 1 year.
The remaining pages in this folder included topics that covered keywords searched by users that need money for their business. Ranking for these high-intent keywords was our main priority, allowing Fast Capital 360 to reduce CPA and generate revenue by bringing in qualified organic traffic.
We analyzed the performance of current pages and performed competitor analyses to determine what needed to be done to rank on SERPs for these highly competitive keywords.
New, optimized keyword lists were created, and writers followed the checklist to produce near-instant results that have generated a 175% increase in pageviews year-over-year.
From there, our focus moved onto high-intent guides and blogs that fed into transactional pillar product pages.
Once these pillar pages were refreshed to a point where they offered the right value to bottom-funnel readers, it was time to refine the rest of the funnel.
Since the target customer was in search of business financing, our focus was on having informational topics that began at the awareness stage — “What Is an SBA Loan?” for example. Then produce targeted pages, like “Types of SBA Loans” for mid-funnel visitors and “How to Get an SBA Loan” for bottom-of-funnel readers.
Having all of these pages allowed Fast Capital 360 to bring in organic users at any phase of the customer journey and funnel them down to other pages with internal links and engaging CTAs.
Content is king and, if you don’t treat it as such, no amount of SEO tips and tricks can get you the results you want. Luckily, Fast Capital 360 already had a lot of well-written content, but it wasn’t optimized for what they wanted to accomplish.
A problem that Fast Capital 360 had (and many other sites have) is that their content lacked the focus needed to rank and provide an internal sales funnel for readers. The broader subject of SBA loans was a great example of this. Many subtopics surround SBA loans. Fast Capital 360 fell into a trap that’s easy to get caught in.
Blogs and guides covered SBA loan topics broadly and without a focused intent. A page about what an SBA loan is was going in-depth on how to apply for one, which confuses search engines about what the page is really about.
We know Google sends users to pages specifically tailored to answer their questions, making it important to match search intent and limit content cannibalization.
For Fast Capital 360, that meant:
What did these changes do? In 1 year, pages within the SBA loan topic cluster skyrocketed up the SERPs, bringing in over 4,000% (yes, thousand) more organic sessions.
This hub and spoke model was used across all product types for Fast Capital 360 to great success. The strategy resulted in a steady increase in impressions (purple in the chart below) and clicks (blue) on high-value pages bringing in qualified leads.
This model was then used to strengthen and scale blog content on other topics. Fast Capital 360 put a lot of effort into its blog the previous year, using it to raise awareness and position the brand as a trusted small business resource.
Content clusters were formed around marketing, management, credit and other categories. This ensured that each blog had a specific function, matching a certain search intent and offering value on the topic. Naturally, rankings and clicks grew. Over time, the Fast Capital 360 brand became a source for business owners seeking financial support and business tips.
This focus on SEO viability generated over 840% more sessions and 7x the number of returning users compared to the previous year.
Every site can benefit from a content audit to ensure all pages target a specific search intent. Doing so will allow you to get the most out of your current assets. Refreshing content is almost always easier to do than starting from scratch. Doing so will allow you to see SEO results much sooner than on new pages that need to be indexed and obtain backlinks.
While implementing this SEO program, Fast Capital 360 saw it as an opportunity to scale its content output.
Kantaloupe assisted in finding and training new in-house writers and a core team of freelancers charged with increasing content production while upholding the new SEO standards.
Within months, Fast Capital 360 went from 2 in-house writers averaging 20 pieces of content per month to a team creating over 60 content assets. That included blogs, guides and landing pages that filled the need created by a new focus on high-intent content clusters.
By giving the new writers refined keyword lists, competitor analyses, outlines and an easy-to-follow SEO checklist, we were able to onboard new team members to contribute to SEO goals upon hire.
If content is king in SEO, keywords are the subjects that work to make the kingdom reach its potential.
Fast Capital 360 was in a highly competitive industry, battling larger companies that used backlink farms to build equity and authority with search engines This made it difficult to compete for rankings and clicks.
It was important to cut down on long keyword lists not focused on singular search intents, giving writers a targeted list that outlined the type of content we knew could rank.
Some of the key techniques Kantaloupe used to generate these lists included:
These shortened, targeted keyword lists were given to Fast Capital 360 writers and editors in a content brief with specific instructions on:
This information made it easy for the writers to focus on doing what they do best—writing great content.
The strategy led to excellent results for a site that previously had trouble breaking through and beating out its competitors.
Total keywords ranking in the top 3 on Google SERPs went from 9 to 220, with over half of those on mid- to bottom-funnel content that created conversions.
Ranking across the board improved. Keywords ranking in the top 100 positions grew almost 10x in a year. Also, Google BERT and subsequent algorithm updates gave the Fast Capital 360 site an additional boost as it featured accurate, valuable content that targeted a specific user intent.
The lesson here? Put users first, and Google, Bing and other search engines will reward your site. SEO doesn’t have to be murky, and you don’t need huge budgets or great technical skills to beat your competitors. If you choose the right keywords and create great content, results will come.
An important part of creating great SEO content is making sure it’s successful. An often overlooked part of any SEO campaign is making sure users actually read your page. You need development and design to work with you to help improve key metrics like time on page, bounce rate, pages per session and more.
One of the issues Fast Capital 360 had with previous SEO agencies and consultants was a disconnect between SEO and the rest of the marketing team. Kantaloupe made sure that wasn’t a problem.
The Fast Capital 360 site was undergoing a site redesign, making it the perfect time to marry site design and development goals with SEO.
By mixing SEO techniques with design, we were able to turn blogs, guides and product pages into scannable, visually appealing content that engaged and increased opportunities to retain and convert readers.
We accomplished this by:
Here’s an example using an H2 section for an important page in the “Business Credit” content funnel for Fast Capital 360.
You’ll notice a few things:
After refreshing this page with the new content guidelines and improved UI/UX design, rankings rose immediately, currently up 67.8%.
Teaming up with all departments, including sales, is key to any successful SEO campaign. With Google and other search engines now focusing on delivering the best user experience they can, it takes every part of your team working in unison to match the standards necessary to rank and drive conversions.
To scale Fast Capital 360’s organic footprint, we took a multimedia approach. By creating videos on the most important, high-value content on the site, we were able to improve UX while getting more exposure and clicks on search, including Youtube.
Since the beginning of 2020, Kantaloupe has produced videos that Fast Capital 360 has used on its landing pages, guides, blogs and hosted on Youtube.
The new videos have generated over 1,600 clicks to high-value pages on Google video search alone. On web SERPs with video features, this new content allows Fast Capital 360 to take up more of that valuable real estate and entice users to drive clicks.
The Fast Capital 360 YouTube channel has produced over 65,000 views through July 2020. This has led to over 14x more referrals to the main site.
To make the content cluster strategy work, we needed to interlink related pages.
Internal linking on the site was lacking. As new content was added, link opportunities were missed. This problem was compounded by the fact that the site had over 800 pages of content.
To fix this problem, Kantaloupe started by identifying the most important pages and what assets could feed into them. By ensuring the spoke pages linked out to the hub pages, we created a content ecosystem, giving users and search engines a path to related material.
For example, if all pages about SBA loans link to a main SBA loan product page, users are more likely to land on that bottom-funnel page. Even if the link isn’t to that hub page, it could take users to another blog that offers value by explaining a related topic.
Search engines also take into account that all of these related pages link to one page, enhancing the hub page’s importance and possibly resulting in higher rankings.
Internal link “equity” or “juice” may not be as important of a ranking factor as it once was, but it’s still a way for crawlers to decide what pages are the most valuable.
To achieve this goal quickly, we followed the following steps:
After you create high-quality content, you want backlinks of equal quality. If the pages you created are of high quality, this process can be a lot easier.
Fast Capital 360 had previously worked with agencies and consultants that provided low-quality, paid links that were common practice just a few years ago. Google is smart, and getting smarter, so we had to clean up the site’s backlink profile and begin building it back up with the right referring domains.
The first step was to remove toxic backlinks that, in the worst-case scenario, can cause manual actions from Google that cripple sites for months or even years.
We used SEMRush’s backlink auditing tool along with some manual work in Search Console to identify and remove toxic links. You always want to reach out to a site owner to ask for a link removal when applicable, but in this case, that wasn’t an option for many links.
After building a list, we submitted the toxic links to Google’s Disavow Tool, which left us with a safe backlink profile that we could then build on.
Only use the Disavow Tool as a last resort. Failing to do it properly can have the opposite effect you want, taking perfectly fine backlinks out that can help your pages rank.
Fast Capital 360’s priority — and what yours should be — was to drive traffic and conversions to its most important, revenue-generating pages. When building backlinks, that made them our first target.
We started a link-building and outreach program using the value of the newly refreshed and optimized pages. This tactic provides a stronger reason for a site owner to link to your page because it gives their audience something useful.
When pitching your page for backlinks, try to find sites where your users intersect. A link from a site about fantasy football is unlikely to link to a site that fantasy football players wouldn’t care about. That traffic wouldn’t be worth the time it takes to build links anyway.
Organically, the more informative, more visually appealing pages made it easier to acquire backlinks naturally. Site owners want their users to go to the best possible pages when they provide external links. Great content makes it easier to steal links from competitors with less valuable pages, as well.
As a result of producing great content and putting the time into link building, Fast Capital 360’s backlink profile has risen 44.8% from July 2019- July 2020. Most links went to high-value, bottom-funnel pages that have since seen significant jumps in rankings.
When analyzing campaign results, we used real-time insights to test and refine plans. We used Google Analytics, Search Console, SEMRush and more to track our KPIs.
When refreshing content, we compared month-to-month key metrics like rankings, clicks, time on page and bounce rate to find out what was working. If a page didn’t perform as well as hoped, we could take insights from one that did well and translate that across the board.
Let’s take a look at how the results matched up to campaign goals:
After training the Fast Capital 360 team and providing guides and instructions to follow SEO best practices, those tactics were used to refresh and create new content.
After taking a few months to implement and grow this system, organic pageviews took off at the beginning of 2020 and continue today.
We continue to work with Fast Capital 360, but the foundation has been set, and all internal stakeholders can execute the SEO program for consistent growth.
The work done to revamp Fast Capital 360’s most important pages and drive internal and external links to them proved valuable.
Pages in the /business-loans/ folder had 94% more sessions end in conversion.
Overall, the total number of sitewide organic conversions grew exponentially. As of July, Fast Capital 360 is seeing 10x the amount of organic conversions than it did just 6 months ago.
Organic traffic takes time and money, but it will always be less expensive than paid traffic in the long run. The amount of organic traffic a good SEO campaign can bring in can drastically reduce your cost-per-acquisition, and that’s why Fast Capital 360 turned to Kantaloupe.
Results immediately impacted revenue and CPA, even with PPC campaigns still running at the same pace.
Year-over-year, paid traffic stayed virtually the same, but organic traffic went from accounting for around 37% of total traffic to over 57%.
The rise in the organic channel helped the company reduce CPA even while putting more money into SEO and PPC — a dream scenario for any business that wants to scale without breaking the budget.
So, how was Kantaloupe able to help Fast Capital 360 reach their goals?
First, we installed a program that ensured SEO was done the right way, taking every opportunity to optimize using best practices. You can’t get the SEO results you want without putting in the time and effort to do things right.
Fast Capital 360’s commitment to SEO, from the CMO to the writers, allowed us to take all of the hard work they did before this campaign and make it better. These results simply wouldn’t have been possible without that foundation and every stakeholder buying in to the process and doing their part.
The beauty of this case study is that it can be applied to almost every site. It was a complete overhaul of an SEO program that just needed to go back to basics, starting with a solid foundation.
Here’s how you can rank and attract valuable traffic:
Interested in learning more about how Kantaloupe’s SEO team helps sites boost rankings, increase organic traffic and drive conversions? Schedule a free consultation.