Have a dog training business that can handle more leads?
I’m going to share with you the steps that we took at Pomelo Marketing to grow a relatively new dog training business’ monthly organic traffic by 496% which consistently generates over 90 organic leads per month.
From this case study, you will learn how to achieve these results by:
- Improving site structure that is optimized for local search results.
- Creating a focused content strategy to increase topical authority.
- Optimizing the Google Business Profile (formerly known as GMB).
- Building authority with links.
The client, Delaware K9 Academy, operates within northern Delaware specializing in dog obedience training with their flagship two-week boot camp training.
The client came to us with the aim of becoming the most recognized dog trainer in Northern Delaware.
This meant that we would need to dominate the local search results in the map pack as well as the organic SERPs in the primary cities of operation.
There were highly authoritative websites ranking for the targeted primary keywords as well as established competitors that have been the industry leaders for many years prior to the establishment of the client’s business so we knew we had some work cut out for us.
But we were able to achieve amazing results:
And in this case study, I’m going to share with you the steps we took so you can apply them to your own business.
Site Restructuring & On-Page Optimization
If you’ve had trouble ranking your website for your primary keywords, or couldn’t rank for your specific city or state, it’s very likely that the cause for this is a poorly structured site that has little to no on-page optimization.
What do I mean by “on-page optimization”?
To understand on-page optimization you need to understand what kind of weight Google gives to certain elements on your website.
For instance, the URL of the website is one of the elements that hold the most weight for Google. This is followed by the meta title, headers, and then the actual content on the page.
By not optimizing these areas effectively, you’re giving Google a hard time recognizing what your site is about and what you should be ranking for.
This is what we are trying to fix when ‘restructuring’ the site. Organizing all this information in key areas that Google will easily understand.
So how do you start?
The most effective way to start optimizing your site structure is to conduct in-depth keyword research.
Here’s an example of the keyword research methods we deployed to make sure we were targeting the correct keywords when restructuring the website.
This process is crucial and will plan out the roadmap for future pages and content on the website.
Step 1: Search Broad Keywords
Step 2: Review Relevant Keywords
Step 3: Review Competitors’ Primary Keywords
With this new information it’s now time to go into the website and see where the primary focus of the optimizations should be.
Technical & On-Page Audit
Finding all the technical and content issues on the website requires a full on-page audit.
Being that this was a relatively new site, we didn’t need to dive deep to find all the areas of improvement that needed to be made.
However, we still went through and made sure that we weren’t missing anything. You can see our SEO Checklist for the full list of on-page elements we reviewed, but here are some tips to help you get started on your website.
Screaming Frog – A cheap way to regularly crawl your website. There are lots of ways to find errors, redirects, and missing metadata. You can also use a custom search to find all references of your keywords.
Ahrefs – Our go-to tool to analyze any website online and see what is working and what is not. It’s a great starting point to reverse engineer competitors and identify primary keywords.
Site Search – By using Google’s site search (site:domain.com) and other search engine operators, you can quickly find what pages have been indexed by Google. This can be used to determine different things like index management, outdated page titles, keyword cannibalization, canonical issues, and more.
Page Titles – You want to keep your content relevant and up to date. By utilizing the ‘intitle’ search operator you’re able to quickly see if you have any outdated content.
Internal Links – A major way to pass link juice and relevance signals and authority to your core pages is through internal linking. Anchor text selection and topical clusters are going to be imperative here. This is one of the best ways to increase rankings on your primary pages.
Another technical element you need to consider is implementing structured data (also known as schema markup) wherever possible.
The best way to think about structured data is that you’re providing helpful information to search engines.
It’s basically a piece of code written in JSON (Java-Script Object Notation) that provides supplemental information about the content of your web page.
For example, if you had a page on your website for a recipe for homemade dog treats to reward your dog with during training, you’d implement the recipe structured data to markup your content.
Or, if you were selling branded training collars on your website, you’d utilize the product structured data markup to help your web page appear with star ratings in the search results page which can help with conversions.
For this client, we manually added:
- Local Business structured data to the homepage – This helps Google understand all the relevant information related to the business
- Breadcrumb structured data to the core landing pages – This helps Google understand the page’s position within the overall site structure
- Article structured data to the location pages – This provides more information about the article, like who wrote it and what it’s about
- FAQ structured data – This informs Google that there is a section answering the most frequently asked questions related to the business
Lastly, although this is fairly standard practice now, you should double-check to make sure your website is mobile-friendly.
About 50% of all website traffic in the United States now comes from mobile devices. With this number expected to grow, it’s extremely important that your website is serving a mobile-friendly user experience.
This means that your website not only needs to look good on mobile devices; it must load fast and be easy to navigate.
An easy way to determine if your website is mobile-friendly, according to Google, is to test your website through Google’s Mobile-Friendly Testing Tool.
Just input your website into the testing tool and Google will tell you if the page is mobile-friendly or not.
Focused Content Strategy
Often, websites will have impeccable on-page optimizations but will still struggle to rank for their primary keywords. You may have come across this situation yourself.
The root cause of this situation is the lack of topical authority, which is also sometimes referred to as topical relevance
What do I mean by “topical authority”?
To understand that, first you need to realize that Google ranks domains that have a wide breadth of knowledge on a single topic.
Whereas before, you could simply rank by conducting decent keyword research and having an optimized landing page, Google now rewards sites that can actually show that they know what they’re talking about.
This means that if you’re trying to rank a page on a specific topic (in this case dog training), Google wants to see supporting articles related to that topic that displays your expertise and authority on the subject.
This helps Google send traffic to qualified businesses and websites, instead of any random landing page that may or may not be a good fit.
So how do we do this?
Build Topical Relevance With Supporting Content
In order to establish and build topical authority, you’ll need to create content that addresses as many questions regarding your service, product, profession, or location as possible.
This means that instead of focusing purely on extending content on a homepage or landing page, you can build topical relevance by creating supplemental content.
Here’s a step-by-step breakdown of what you’ll need to do:
Step 1: Identify Supporting Topics
In the case of dog training businesses, your primary goal may be to support the different services you may offer and show Google that you are an expert.
For example, if you were offering therapy dog training you’d want to cover as many relevant supporting articles for this topic as possible.
So you’d want to consider covering topics such as:
- What does an emotional support dog do?
- How to pass the Canine Good Citizen Test
- How to train your dog to be a therapy dog
- What does a service dog do?
It’s great if you can identify these supporting questions and topics by yourself. If you can, you can go ahead and start creating high-quality content which we’ll cover in step 2.
However, what if you don’t know how to identify some of these supporting topics?
These are some of the methods you can use to find supporting topics that relate to your primary keyword or service:
People Also Ask
The first place to identify some topics is Google’s own ‘People Also Ask’ section on the SERPs.
These are all relevant questions to your main service that people may be interested in.
By formulating well-thought out responses to these questions, you’ll let your visitors, potential customers, and Google know that you’re actually an expert on the topic.
The next place that you can look is SurferSEO. This is a content optimization tool that recently released a content planning feature that helps you identify relevant topical clusters.
Ahrefs Content Explorer
Finally, the best place to look would be on established competitors’ websites or through the content explorer on Ahrefs.
Ahrefs will show you parent topics that you can drill into to see the supporting content related to that particular topic. It’s a great tool that can help you flush out the topic in its entirety.
Step 2: Create the Supporting Content
Now that you have a list of supporting topics that you can write about, you’ll need to create the content. However, it’s important to note that you shouldn’t just throw up words on a blog post and call it a day.
It’s important to optimize your content to allow Google to understand what you’re writing about.
Every word matters and your content should be held to a professional standard.
Make sure you’re completing these optimizations on your blog posts to have the maximum efficacy with search engines.
Your page titles should be engaging, descriptive, not lengthy (max 65 characters), and contain the targeted keywords towards the beginning if possible.
Keep in mind that the page title is what shows on the actual Google Search Results Page so it should be attractive to help facilitate a click.
Headings help users quickly find what they’re looking for, as well as help search engines understand the layout and structure of your content.
Here are some actionable steps you should take when optimizing your headings:
- Include a single H1 tag on each page that includes your primary keyword and describes what that page is about
- Use H2 tags for other relevant headings that target relevant subtopics for your primary keyword – this will help you potentially rank for featured snippets and give Google confidence that you are fully answering the query.
For example, if you were to search ‘can dogs eat raw shrimp’ – you can see that the answer snippet is taken from an H2 section on the page:
- Use common sense and structure your other headers with H3, H4, and H5 tags wherever necessary.
Meta descriptions don’t directly impact your rankings but they should be optimized because they are displayed in the SERPs.
A well written meta description can also help with your CTR (click through rate) by giving the user a preview of what they may be looking for.
Here’s what you should look for in a well-written meta description:
- Summarize what that page is about.
- Unique and concise to prompt the user to click the link.
- Includes the primary keywords that the page is targeting. In the screenshot above you can see that Google is highlighting the keywords related to the query.
The most important element to optimize is the URL. It is even one of the first things that Google mentions on their SEO Starter Kit.
Here are some tips on establishing optimized URLs:
- Be concise and write URLs that are user-friendly. For example, https://dogtrainer.com/therapy-dog-training is better than: https://dogtrainer.com/dog-training-services/dog-training/therapy-dog-training-occupational-dog-training-01072022
- Don’t use underscores (_) in your extended URLs, use hyphens (-) instead
- Stick to a consistent, logical URL naming convention that follows your site structure.
Step 3: Create contextual links between the supporting articles and main pages
This step is extremely important.
Interlinking is one of the most effective practices of SEO.
Google spiders follow links to discover new content to rank.
Therefore, you need to add contextual links from all of your supplementary articles to your main page that you want to rank.
Add your contextual links in the middle of the article where it makes sense and is relevant.
You could also add your links to the bottom of a post in a concise CTA (call to action).
Doing this will help Google understand that the supporting article is relevant to your main topic and will cluster them together.
When it comes to deciding what anchors to use when you are linking to your main pages, you don’t have to be as careful as selecting anchors for off-site link building but I would recommend that you do it in a fashion that makes sense.
For example, in the example above they chose to use the anchor ‘teaching a dog not to jump’ which leads to an article that is titled ‘How to Get Your Dog to Stop Jumping Up.’
It makes sense within the context of the sentence and is a good indicator of what kind of article you’ll be reading when you click the link.
With this method, you’re creating the coveted topical clusters that were mentioned earlier and providing Google with substance to analyze and rank.
An important facet to creating content that will resonate with readers, rank on the search engine results page, and help bolster your main pages is nailing the user intent (or search intent).
For example, if you search for ‘dog training collars’ you can see that the top results on the first page of Google are sites reviewing or recommending the best dog training collars.
This shows you what kind of intent Google is expecting for a query like this.
So if you wanted to write a piece of content explaining what kind of dog training collars your clients should use, you may want to include links to relevant products so your content is in line with what Google expects.
Conversely, if you wanted to explain how to choose the right dog training collar you may want to switch the primary keyword from ‘dog training collars’ to something more targeted like ‘how to choose a dog training collar.’
If you’re unclear about how to identify what kind of content you should create for a specific keyword, the best thing to do is search for that keyword and see what content is already ranking.
After analyzing the SERPs you should ask yourself these types of questions:
- What kind of page is it? – Is it blog post, product page, homepage?
- What kind of content is on the pages that are ranking? – Does the page include mostly text, have many images and/or videos?
- What kind of site is it? – Is it a general news site? Is it a competitor? E-Commerce website?
- How long is the content? – If you are noticing that Google is rewarding pages that all have 1000+ words while yours has only 500, it may be a signal that you want to lengthen your content.
Asking these questions will help you refine the content you create to match the search intent of the specific keyword you want to target.
Establishing E-A-T (Expertise-Authority-Trust)
Google weighs the perceived expertise of a business or website by analyzing certain signals such as pages explaining your history and credentials, links to social media profiles, coupled with other ranking signals like in-bound and out-bound links.
Establishing E-A-T is something you should be doing regardless of ranking factors, as it is something every business needs to do to gain confidence from potential clients.
For example, in our case, the client did not have any references to their dog training videos they were creating on YouTube nor were there any links to other social media profiles like Instagram.
In addition to this, they did not have a dedicated ‘About’ page where they could tell the visitor about themselves.
All of these factors, coupled with a contact page that listed their contact information, all builds trust with your visitors and Google.
So to break this down into actionable items – you need to:
1. Make sure your information is factually correct
There are ways to increase the credibility of the information on your website and that is to include out-bound links to other authoritative sites to back up your claims.
For example, if you are explaining the benefits of positive reinforcement in dog training, you may want to include a link to the American Kennel Club’s article on the science of operant conditioning.
2. Show off your credentials on your site
Having an about page or an author bio to your supporting content is a great way to show Google (and your potential clients) that the information you’re providing is trustworthy:
Here’s an example of the About Us section we implemented on our client’s site:
3. Make it easy for clients/visitors to contact you
From Google’s perspective, they want to rank real and legitimate businesses for their users.
The best way for anyone to understand whether a business is legitimate is having clear contact information.
Things like your facility’s address, email address, telephone number, and a contact submission form should all be on your website so potential clients can contact you easily.
The final and most important part of a focused content strategy is including localization into your website.
What this means is that you want to make sure that you are including state and city modifiers to your content and/or creating dedicated pages to target specific areas you service.
By having specific location pages that are interlinked and placed in key spots on your website, it gives you a much better chance of attracting highly qualified local traffic as opposed to visitors from the other side of the country.
Optimized Google Business Profile
Your Google Business Profile (formerly known as Google My Business) is a crucial component of attracting local leads to your business.
It is the one of the first things that shows up on a local Google search result and takes up a large portion of the page’s real estate.
Therefore, it is the most important tool in generating qualified leads to your business.
In order to make sure your business shows up in the ‘local map pack’ you need to ensure that you are making certain optimizations to your profile.
Provide Complete Information
You want to make sure you’re filling out as much information as possible on your Google Business Profile.
This helps Google understand what kind of business you are, what services you offer, and the locations you’re servicing.
You want to be thorough here because it helps not only Google, but potential clients understand your business better as well.
This also helps you eliminate unnecessary calls and messages inquiring about business hours, availability, or specific programs.
Listings must be accurate and consistent
Local company listings (also known as citations) are one of the essential building blocks of local SEO marketing.
A local business listing is any instance of your businesses’ NAP (name, address, & phone number) that can be found online.
These listings are utilized by search engines like Google to verify the information on your Google Business Profile.
They crawl the internet to make sure that your business is legitimate and the information you are providing to Google is accurate.
Again, from Google’s point of view this is a necessary check because they want to provide users with the best possible options locally and they need to verify that the business is real.
In many cases having an SEO expert build and update these listings can lead to a dramatic improvement in the results of the local rankings, which in turn will have a significant impact on the number of leads your business receives.
If any of the information is wrong or inconsistent, the following may happen:
- Your business will not appear in the local map pack or organic search results
- Your business may be reported as closed or out-of-business. This can remove your presence automatically or manually by Google.
- Your potential clients will be hesitant to contact you due to the differing information found online.
Have Systems to Generate Positive Reviews
Online reviews are crucial to ranking your business and generating qualified leads. Social proof and testimonials are the number one factor when it comes to conversions.
It’s easy to tell how much weight Google gives to positive reviews when recommending businesses because that is the only metric they display on the local results aside from the business name and contact information!
Being that reviews are such a heavily weighted metric, you need a system in place to generate these positive reviews for your business.
This could be personally asking every client after their training sessions to leave you a review or having an automated system in place to filter out only the positive reviews to Google.
Implement a Solid Link Building Strategy
To effectively utilize all the effort you put into building a structured site, relevant content, and an optimized Google Business Profile, you need to deploy a robust link building strategy that helps build your authority and propel your rankings and traffic.
Out of the 200+ ranking factors that comprise Google’s search ranking algorithm, link building is considered one of the most important factors.
Anchor Text Analysis
Before executing your link building strategy, it’s worth auditing your site’s existing backlink profile to ensure that you don’t have a bunch of spammy links pointing to your site and to analyze the anchor text distribution.
The anchor text is the actual text that a user would click on to land on your website.
During the analysis, you want to make sure that you have a fairly even distribution of branded, targeted (exact match or phrase match to your primary keywords), and naked URL anchor texts.
Being that this client’s website was fairly new, we were able to control the anchor text distribution from the start of the campaign.
A quick way to check your domain’s anchor text distribution is to plug it into Ahrefs and scroll down to the anchor section.
You should always aim to have a variety of the following anchors to strengthen your site:
- Branded – matches your brand name.
- Naked URL – matches the URL of your website.
- Exact match – the specific keyword you want to target (i.e. dog trainer in ‘city’)
- Partial and compound match – expanded variations of the primary keyword (i.e. professional dog training programs in ‘state’)
- Miscellaneous – anchors like ‘click here’, ‘more information’, etc.
Be careful when building anchor texts to adhere to a logical anchor text ratio. If you are building too many exact match anchors, it could tank your rankings.
Once you’ve completed the analysis it’s time to build out high-quality links.
But how do you find these links?
Competitor Gap Analysis
You can view this in Ahrefs by plugging in your competitor’s domain and analyzing their backlink profile.
Another way you can achieve this is by using the link intersect tool:
This tool can compare common backlinks that multiple competitors have that your website doesn’t. This will output a great list to start analyzing which links you can potentially build for your website.
However, just because there are websites linking to your competitors doesn’t mean that they are necessarily good websites to get links from. You’ll need to do some manual analysis to see if they are high-quality, trustworthy sites.
Once you’ve compiled a list of websites that you are confident will help bolster your backlink profile, the next step is to perform outreach.
You can perform outreach manually by finding the emails of these different websites and making an introduction to see how you can build a link back to your site.
There are a variety of tools to help you find the email address and help you perform outreach.
Some tools we utilize are:
- Hunter.io – This tool helps you identify email addresses associated with a website or company.
- Pitchbox – This is the primary tool for your outreach campaign
- Ahrefs – To analyze whether it is worth getting a link from the sites you find from the other tools
Once the outreach has been completed, it is now up to you to discuss with the website owners the best way to build a link back to your site.
By consistently building links in this manner you can achieve a similar result to our client’s steady increase in the number of referring domains.
After consistently executing the strategies outlined above, the website has experienced considerable growth in the past 12 months.
Below is a keyword graph from ahrefs showing the client’s organic keyword growth:
This is also reflected in their search console performance showing the increase in impression share and clicks over the same 12 month period:
But most importantly, the increase in the number of leads the client was receiving on a monthly basis was amazing.
When the client signed on with us they were mainly receiving leads from referrals and around 4 cold leads a month.
This number has now increased to 90 leads a month consistently.
In December of 2021, the client received over 90 leads! There were 15 leads that came in for a single day as you can see in the screenshot above!
This case study demonstrates the importance of a consistent, targeted SEO campaign with a plan that works.
Not only are rankings important, but what this translates into for your local dog training business is game-changing. This kind of lead generation can allow your business to grow and scale to the next level.
By applying the complete strategy outlined in this case study, you’ll also be able to grow your business and dominate your local area.
If you need help boosting your search presence and increasing your lead flow just like this, don’t hesitate to reach out to my team over at Pomelo Marketing.