13.7x Traffic Increase in 9 Months Despite HCU – Case Study

The case study I’m telling you about today started like most of our campaigns – site was stuck, and we were hired to figure out why.

Simple, but not simple – as always, the devil is in the details.

It wasn’t just a matter of slapping together a quick fix or relying on vague assumptions. I’ll digress, but what does it even mean, “SEO tricks”?


I’ll repeat myself and say something I said so many times in the podcast and in the other case studies: there aren’t any tricks in SEO. There’s hard work.

And definitely, the approach where you’re just “hoping for the best” is not the right one. (Although in the post-HCU and early-SGE world, hope might sometimes be the only certainty.)

However, we never leave the faith of the site we’re working on to chance. 

There’s a lot of hard-core analysis involved, a strategy that is built on it, and many hours of implementation.

We needed to dive deep into the site’s issues and develop a comprehensive strategy (as we always do at the start) to make it start growing traffic and revenue.

Lo and behold, as we dug in, we found a mess of technical issues, poor content, and a general lack of direction. 

It was like trying to navigate a dark room without a flashlight 🔦!

We weren’t surprised to see that we had our work cut out for us – even better when that’s the case! – we were determined to try to get to the bottom of it all and turn things around.

The Client

Introducing The Client: a progressive business owner driven to build a long-lasting internet presence. Their website is devoted to assisting individuals in leading more environmentally friendly lives, and in the process, they have developed a decent following.

People from all over the world are searching for solutions to lessen their environmental impact through sustainability; hence, this specialty is, as you would assume, quite popular right now.

Interest over time in “sustainability’ topic – Google Trends.

There is, to put it mildly, intense competition.

Still, the impact of their website was not as it should have been.

Project flat-lining its growth curve means the project is actually losing the battle.

Technical problems, subpar material, and a general lack of direction had left the website stuck in neutral. If they were to realize their greatest potential, obviously something had to change.

That’s where we entered the picture. The client was trying to find a partner that might assist them in turning their website into a steady source of income. 

And, as you’ll see in a second, we came through.

A Quick Intermission

Before we jump into it, here are some truths to note about this case study.

Just so you know, this case study is still under development. We have been in the trenches with this campaign for some time, and boy, have we witnessed some successes! 

(About that soon!)

But as things frequently go in the crazy world of SEO, we’ve also suffered some blows from the most recent algorithm changes.

Source: https://status.search.google.com/summary

Still, that’s the game, isn’t it? 

We are not people to back down from a task. We are, thus, still in there, fighting, adjusting our tactics, and rolling with the punches.

Here, we all try to keep things authentic. We want to give you a front-row view to the raw, unvarnished reality of what it takes to win in the long term, since… get ready for a total cliché… SEO is a marathon, not a sprint.


We will, most likely, be updating this case study as we proceed to provide you with inside information on the adjustments we are making and the outcomes we are observing.

So, go get some popcorn, then buckle up! You really won’t want to miss a second of this SEO roller coaster, which is just getting started!

The SEO Method We Apply

Alright, now we are discussing this case study, but, like every campaign and (I hope) every SEO company, we have processes and methods we rely on. So, let me give you a quick rundown of our main SEO principles.

Our method is like a perfectly planned dance; there are a million steps that you can choose from, but only the correct ones will bring out your best qualities and earn you the final applause.

What, then, is our special sauce? To start with, my friend:

1/ Flexibility!
SEO is a capricious beast! Meaning, what was effective one day may not be effective the next.

We have, therefore, created a modular framework that enables us to change course more quickly than a politician during a press conference.

Tiny example of our internal site audit specification.

We can combine content, links, technical wizardry, and even some totally unexpected implementations to create just the right combination for your website.

2/ Up-to-date technology.

We’re not scared to work with the newest and finest in machine learning and artificial intelligence.

But we don’t merely “jump on the hype train” for the sake of it.

We’ve been rocking programmatic SEO since before it was cool, and we learned a long time ago how to make content that not only checks boxes but also moves the needle.

‘Cause at the end of the day, that’s what matters, amirite?

Anyway, I just wanted to put it out there before we get our hands dirty with the core details of this case study. This is just a little peek behind the hood.

Since context rules, I want you to know where our heads are while we take you on this crazy journey.

So, let us now go straight to the juicy parts.

Project Schedule

This project can be divided into the following steps – let’s briefly go through them and see what it took to grow the client’s traffic over 10x!

0: What is Discovery?

I heard this joke once that you can recognize a web developer or other person who’s really technical by the fact that they start counting from 0 instead of 1.

Source: https://www.reddit.com/r/ProgrammerHumor/comments/p8ubqh/count_from_0/

Well, I simply can’t help it, but in this case, the 0 is not as related to a techie personality as it is to an indication of the first, most fundamental element.

The “0” here is, in my dictionary, simply the best start.

So what is Discovery stage? We treat it as a mandatory, fundamental, and basic (yet most important) point of the strategy; it’s normally the same and helps us set the stage for all the implementations and optimizations to come.

Think of it like the foundation of a house. You wouldn’t start building walls and putting up a roof without first making sure the ground beneath is solid and ready to support the whole building, right?

That’s exactly what our Discovery phase is all about. We dig deep into the website’s current state, leaving no stone unturned. 

It’s like a full-body scan for your site, revealing any potential issues or areas for improvement.


And trust me, we always find something! Whether it’s technical gremlins 👽 lurking in the code, content that’s about as fresh as last year’s memes, or a link profile that’s more tangled than a bowl of spaghetti, we’ll uncover it all.

But we don’t just point and laugh at the problems (okay, maybe we chuckle a little). Nope, we roll up our sleeves and start fixing them right away. Because why wait? 

And also, as Thomas Edison put it rightly:

“Vision without execution is hallucination.”Thomas Edison

If we don’t implement it, we’re just daydreaming. What counts in SEO is action, action and action.

At the end of the day – we’re practitioners, not theorists! And it is practice, not theory, that proves whether something works or not.

So, as I mentioned previously in our other case study, the Discovery stage is also a good moment to decide what to do and what to skip for now (or indefinitely). We do it using the resultant of the below three variables:

Ideally, if something is easy, impactful and really a big deal, then it gets P1 (priority 1). If something is not that severe, or implementing it won’t have that much benefit, but it’s easy to do at scale, then it’s also worth our time, etc.

By the end of the discovery phase, we’ve got a crystal-clear picture of where the site stands and a roadmap for where it needs to go. 

It’s like having a GPS for your SEO journey; without it, you’re just driving around aimlessly.

So, yeah, Discovery Stage might not sound as flashy as some of the other phases, but trust me, it’s the most important one. It sets the stage for all the SEO magic that’s about to happen and makes sure we’re building on a rock-solid foundation.

This next section covers what we did exactly during the Discovery stage 👇🏻

1: Digging Up the Dirt (and Burying the Hatchet)

You may also know this step as “Audit and Strategy”, but I thought naming it this way was much cooler 😎

So what are the actions of the first month? 

We audited the hell out of this site and whipped up a strategy so fresh, it could’ve been served at a Michelin-starred restaurant.

And boy, did that audit give us a treasure trove of stuff to work with!

We found issues ranging from “pfft, easy peasy” to “oh boy, this is gonna take some elbow grease.” The easy stuff? Mostly technical junk. But the real head-scratchers? Stale content that was about as engaging as a root canal.

But hey, we’re not the type to back down from a challenge, remember? We took that list of problems and went to town on it like a kid in a candy store.

With the audit data in hand, we went ahead to implement what was really worth it.

Here are the juicy picks from the documents we delivered to the client in the first, discovery month. You’ll judge yourself best, but I think we cooked up an SEO strategy that was hotter than a ghost pepper!

SEO Audit

I really can’t go into how we found or fixed all of these elements because you’d still be reading this case study at your next birthday 🎂 But I’ll give you a shortlist of the more interesting ones, together with some examples.

So here’s what we put in our initial technical audit (in no particular order):

  • UX & Design tips
    Here, for example, we recommended improved menu structure:
  • Internal link issues
  • Shallow Pages with No Unique Content
    Here’s an example of such page – as you can see, it had nothing:
  • Index management
  • Orphaned URLs
  • Broken External URLs
  • Page speed improvements
    Things definitely did not look that great:
  • URLs with Duplicate Page Titles
  • Redirect loops
  • Internal redirects issues
  • Sitemap issues

Enough to say that we left no stone unturned, poking our noses into every dark corner of the site. 

Structure snafus? Check ✅

Internal linking letdowns? Check ✅

Plugin pandemonium and schema shenanigans? Double check ✅✅!

But, as I said earlier, we didn’t just point and laugh at the problems – we started fixing ’em faster than you can say “Google algorithm update.”

Content and Outreach Strategy

Next up, we set our sights on the entire sustainability niche. 

We dissected the competition like a bunch of mad scientists, figuring out what made ’em tick. 

The mission? Create a content plan and link profile so beefy, they could’ve won a weightlifting competition.

Here are some elements we delivered in the keyword research document:

  • Current Keyword Visibility
    This section provides an overview of the website’s current ranking and visibility for specific keywords. This helps us establish a starting point for our SEO efforts.
  • Low Hanging Keywords (positions 11-20)
    These are keywords for which the site is ranking just outside the first page of search results. By targeting these keywords, we can improve the site’s visibility and drive more traffic.
  • 2nd Tier Low Hanging Keywords (positions 21-50)
    These keywords are ranking on the second or third pages of search results. With some focused content, we can usually improve their rankings and increase the overall visibility.
  • New Keyword Ideas Based on Competitors’ Content Gap
    After analyzing the site’s competitors and their content, we identified some potential opportunities to target keywords that the site was currently missing out on. It’s things like this that can absolutely let you stand out and capture more traffic!
  • Content Plan for Articles
    We also prepared a list of article topics and headlines to target specific keywords. By creating high-quality content around these topics, the website’s going to cover new verticals and attract more visitors.
  • Content Plan for Top Lists (e.g., Top 10: Sustainability Conferences Around the World)
    We identified several “top list” style content ideas that tap into wholly new keyword and traffic verticals. Think outside the box, baby!

At the same time, we started pumping out content like there was no tomorrow to establish some serious street cred in the niche.

Programmatic SEO Strategy

With AI as our trusty sidekick, we planned pumping out new URLs, on top of the usual high-quality stuff. 

It was basically like filling in the content gaps with a cement truck – we were building authority faster than a speeding bullet! And you’re obviously in for a treat! I’m talking about this in detail in section Programmatic SEO below.

Growth Plan

The final, yet, probably the most crucial element of the Discovery – like a cherry on top of a cake – is our document, where we summarize everything. We call it a Growth Plan because it lays out what steps we take to grow the website in the long term.

As Rad said recently in his Brighton SEO presentation:

“Please, always, ALWAYS plan for growth. Because even if your site is penalized, or whatever happens, you might outgrow the current circumstances with a solid growth plan.”Rad Paluszak

Sidenote, in fact he summarized the SEO strategy in 3 simple takeaways:

  1. Basics are important, but so is leverage ⚖️
    While keeping a tab on the basics (which are very important), use your leverage and pick implementations that are both very impactful and scalable.
  2. Work Smart 🧠
    As this old, cliché saying goes: work smart, not hard!
    • ❤️ Strategize
      Make sure to have a strategy in place. Otherwise, you don’t know where you’re going.
    • 🎯 Set Goals
      Set goals (and make them SMART) because without them, there is nothing to measure your performance against.
    • 🔍 Assess
      I mean, without the assessment where you revisit, retrospect and have a moment of reflection, how do you know if your strategy is working?
  3. Plan For Growth 💸
    Keep an eye on the ball: always plan for growth!

With the SEO strategy locked and loaded, and the technical gremlins getting their marching orders, we were ready to dive head first into the next stage.

2: Let’s Get This Party Started!

With the boring (but super important) maintenance tasks out of the way, it was time to put the pedal to the metal and rev up our SEO engine.

First things first, we gave the technical side of things a final once-over, just to make sure everything was tip-top shape. It’s like giving your car a tune-up before a big road trip – gotta make sure it’s running smoothly, ya know?

With that solid foundation in place, we were ready to tackle the meaty stuff:

  • Content creation and optimization
    We took a long, hard look at the existing content and gave it a major glow-up.

    But we didn’t stop there!

    We also whipped up the first batch of 40 human-written articles, designed to fill in any keyword gaps and make the site’s content more well-rounded than a perfectly shaped pizza.
  • Outreach link building
    We knew we needed some serious street cred to make this site stand out, so we went on a link building spree.

    We targeted the crème de la crème of the sustainability niche, like super-relevant, DR78 Earth.org, and managed to score 10 links from these heavyweight champs. Booyah!

You can learn a bit about backlink due diligence and tech SEO in Ep 199: Backlink Due Diligence & Tech SEO with Rad Paluszak of the Buying Online Businesses Podcast.

YouTube player

Now, let me hand the mic over to our Outreach Team Leader, Andreea Saveluc, who’s got some juicy insights on our link building game plan.

Here’s what Andreea had to say:

“Our approach was focused on quality. We didn’t just look for any website; we looked for the right ones where our well-researched content would be valued. This strategy helped us connect with a range of websites, big and small, each adding value to our campaign in its own way.”Andreea Saveluc

💣 Boom! 💥 There you have it, straight from the horse’s mouth. Our link building approach was all about quality over quantity. We weren’t just playing the numbers game; we were hand-picking the very best homes for our contributions with backlinks.

Helpful Content Update

But, of course, no SEO journey is complete without a few bumps in the road. Cue the notorious Helpful Content Update, a Google algorithm shake-up that had everyone’s head spinning.

In a nutshell, this update was like Google putting on a pair of super-sharp glasses and taking a closer look at what counted as “valuable” content. Sites that didn’t make the cut? They took a nosedive faster than a lead balloon.

But here’s where our content strategy really shined. We’d been focusing on high-quality, AI-generated content from the get-go, and it paid off big time. 

Of course, AI isn’t some magic wand – it still needs a human touch to make it truly sparkle. That’s where our rockstar content team came in, constantly monitoring, tweaking, and polishing that AI-generated goodness until it was so helpful, even Google couldn’t ignore it.

The result? Our client’s site didn’t just survive the algorithm apocalypse – it thrived! 

Brace yourselves, sneak peek from around HCU coming!

Rankings continued to climb like a vine on a trellis, and traffic kept flowing like a well-oiled machine. Bear with me, I’m about to reveal more!

3: Pedal to the Metal – AI-Driven Expansion

The next few months? It was like we had the PDCA methodology on steroids.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with PDCA, it’s this nifty little management method that’s all about continuous improvement. It’s like the Kaizen of the business world, always striving for better, faster, and stronger.

💡 The PDCA Lowdown

PDCA stands for Plan-Do-Check-Act, but I like to think of it as the “always be hustling” cycle. Here’s how it breaks down:

  • Plan
    This is where you set your sights on the prize and map out how you’re going to get there. It’s like GPS for your goals.
  • Do
    Time to put your money where your mouth is and make it happen! Implement that plan like a boss and collect all the juicy data along the way.
  • Check
    This is where you put on your detective hat and analyze the heck out of that data. Did you hit the mark, or did you miss it by a mile?
  • Act
    If you nailed it, awesome! Time to make that process your new standard. If not, don’t sweat it – just figure out what went wrong and course-correct like a pro.

Rinse and repeat, baby! That’s how you keep leveling up in the game of business.

So, back to our SEO adventure. 

We kept the optimization train chugging along, churning out content and building links like it was our job (because, well, it was). 

Month 3 saw another 40 articles hit the site, along with 6 more high-quality links in our back pocket.

But then we decided to crank things up a notch. Enter: programmatic SEO, aka AI-driven content at scale.

4: Programmatic SEO

But wait, what exactly is this “programmatic SEO” thing we keep throwing around? I know, it sounds like some fancy tech jargon, but don’t worry – we’ve got you covered.

We managed to snag a quote from our very own AI wizard, Jarosław Motyliński, who broke it down for us:

“Programmatic SEO is our way of combining technology and SEO expertise to create quality content at scale. It revolves around using AI to create a large volume of content – hundreds or even thousands of articles, each tailored to a specific long-tail keyword. This allowed us to minimize the time and resources typically needed for heavy content creation and maximize the client’s reach.”

It’s like the love child of cutting-edge tech and good old-fashioned SEO know-how. We take the power of AI and use it to crank out high-quality content at a scale that would make your head spin.

The best part? It saves a ton of time and resources that you’d normally need for this kind of heavy-duty content creation. Plus, it helps our clients cast a wider net and reel in more of that sweet, sweet organic traffic.

It’s a win-win, baby!

But hold on a second!

Programmatic? Thousands of AI content pages?

Isn’t Google, like, totally against all that?

Fair question! And yes, in general, Google is against AI content that is produced en-masse and doesn’t contribute any added value.

Here’s another one of Rad’s favourites:

If used properly, like we did in this case, programmatic SEO is like the secret weapon in our SEO arsenal. It’s how we manage to flood the internet with top-notch content without breaking a sweat (or the bank).

Our process for this is quite complex, but also simple at the same time.

First, we always analyze the potential pages we could build.

In this case it were pages related to sustainable brands. We almost literally built a company directory into the client’s site. 

But, with just a basic company directory, we wouldn’t have been unique or useful! And these are the two parameters you’re trying to aim at.

So, secondly, before implementing any of these company directory pages, we sat down to think what can we add to them, so:

  1. In general, objectively, the pages are much more useful.
  2. We have something that competitors don’t have or can’t easily reproduce.
  3. They are increasing the potential keyword base we can target.

Overall, we’re trying to win much more than just “some new pages on auto-pilot”.

Lastly, implement it better than anything else, connect with the site (internal linking, CTAs, related content, etc) and enjoy the growth!

Here’s what we ended up with:

There are elements like:

  • brand name & image
  • rating for their sustainability, price and other elements
  • price range
  • additional details like the official website
  • full eco-characteristic we pulled from different sources and reworked/summarized with AI
  • internal links, etc.

But don’t get it twisted – this isn’t about quantity over quality. Each and every one of those pages was optimized to the nines, both for the search engines and the human beings reading them.

That’s the beauty of programmatic SEO – it’s not just about pumping out content for the sake of it. 

It’s about creating content that meets all of these criteria:

  • delivers the best user experience and is genuinely helpful
  • moves the needle, both in terms of rankings and user engagement

This was like the secret sauce to our SEO sandwich. With AI in our corner, we were able to pump out a jaw-dropping 1200+ pages in almost no time!

Each and every one of those pages was just perfect AND helpful!

It was like we had a content creation machine that never slept, never got tired, and never ran out of ideas.

And the results? You’ll see in the Results section below, but let’s just say our client was doing a happy dance all the way to the bank 🤑.

But hey, we can’t take all the credit. We were just following the trusty ol’ PDCA method – always planning, always doing, always checking, and always acting on what we learned. And with AI as our trusty sidekick, there was no stopping us!

Just so we’re clear about programmatic SEO and employing AI content!

There can’t be any misunderstanding in what I said above. I also don’t want you to get too excited about just running with AI content.

The “lazy” approach absolutely DOES NOT work here!

Programmatic strategies are very resource-heavy during the planning and implementation stages. They must be really meticulously prepared and executed.

They only seem easy, because they are very scaleable, but make no mistake thinking they’re cheap or easy!

They are 100% everything BUT cheap or easy!

So, there you have it – the lowdown on programmatic SEO.

By the way, B.O.B. SEO service together with Rad and his team at non.agency, we perfected the programmatic SEO approach and call it SEO Revamp. Below is a presentation on the strategies and concepts behind The Revamp (shared as part of SEO for Paws charity event):

YouTube player

Results and Numbers: The Proof is in the Pudding!

Alright, folks, it’s time for the moment you’ve all been waiting for – the big reveal of just how much of an impact our SEO sorcery had on this client’s website.

Now, I know what you’re thinking – “But wait, didn’t you start this project way back in April 2023? What took so long to see results?”

Well, my impatient friend, let me tell you – SEO is a lot like baking a cake. You can’t just toss all the ingredients in the oven and expect a masterpiece to come out 5 minutes later. It takes time, patience, and a whole lot of finesse.

But boy, was it worth the wait! Check out these jaw-dropping numbers:

📈 Results after nine months of SEO magic (April’23-Jan’24)

  • Traffic growth was so big, it made our calculators blush – we’re talking a 13.7x increase, from a meager 20,000 clicks to a mind-blowing 275,000+ (same time window). Boom!
  • People were loving our content so much, they just couldn’t click away.
    We saw an 80.8% growth in average engagement time, which is marketing speak for “our stuff was so good, people actually read it.”
  • You know what didn’t grow? Our bounce rate.
    Despite the massive influx of traffic, it stayed as steady as a rock. That’s what happens when you create content that hits the spot!
  • Remember how slow and clunky the site used to be? Yeah, not anymore.
    We gave it a major speed boost, and now it’s faster than a cheetah on espresso.
  • Authority, schm-authority – we built so many high-quality links, Google couldn’t help but take notice.
    The site’s authority went up like a rocket ship!
  • Oh, and remember that little thing called the Google Helpful Content Update? The one that sent everyone into a panic?
    Yeah, our client’s site didn’t even flinch. It was like “update? What update? Let’s grow!”
  • Most importantly, an outstanding 37x revenue increase thanks to increased traffic and additional monetization options, including affiliate and newsletter marketing.

But hey, don’t just take my word for it. We’ve got receipts! 

Feast your eyes on these sweet, sweet data points from GA4, Ahrefs (links), and Semrush:

  • New users flooding in like it’s Black Friday? Check ✅
  • Backlinks from domains so authoritative, they could run for president? Check ✅
  • Referring domains and organic traffic charts that look like they’re on steroids? Check and check ✅
  • Organic traffic so thick, it makes Nicki Minaj jealous? Oh, you better believe that’s a check ✅!

So, there you have it, folks – the results of our blood, sweat, and SEO tears. We took this client’s website from zero to hero in just nine short months, and we’ve got the numbers to prove it.

But hey, we’re not ones to rest on our laurels. We’re always hungry for more – more traffic, more engagement, more mind-blowing results. So, if you’re ready to see what our SEO magic can do for your website, give us a shout. We’ll be waiting with our wands (and keyboards) at the ready!

The Story Continues…

As I said earlier in the copy, this is SEO, not a fairy tale, so there are no heroes or princesses to be saved. There’s only us, the client and Google. 

And, more like in real life (which it is!) than in a fairy tale, things sometimes get weird, extremely unstable and totally unpredictable.

Here comes, The March Core Update…

FFS Google! March 2024 Core Update 😨

When Google rolled out March 2024 Core update, we suffered a little step-back:

I mean, don’t get me wrong, we’re still over 5x compared to where we were last year:

But we definitely bled a bit and are currently working on implementations targeting the improvements that will help the site recover what’s lost and grow beyond that.

Before you ask this – no, it wasn’t the AI content that got hit! Actually, the AI content is doing better than ever before (surprise, surprise)! What suffered harm were the main articles…

So I suppose AI writes better than niche-specialised, experience content writers? Or maybe HCU and March 2024 updates are just a hoax for Google to cover something? (Where the hell is my tinfoil hat?? 🤠

In any way, we’re already re-analysing the site (remember PDCA, ye?), working on fixing it and turning the situation around 💪🏻

As much as there are no certainties in SEO, there’s one certainty in life – we always adapt!

So, stay patient, stay strong and play a long-term game focused on growth!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top