The Impact of Growth-Driven Design on your SEO Strategy [Case Study]

by Ryan Shelley — Originally feature on blog.smammarketing.net on Nov. 6th, 2015

Peanut Butter and Jelly. Starsky and Hutch. Bacon and Eggs. Batman and Robin. All of these duos have something in common. Together, they are awesome, but apart from one another, they’re just ok (Aside from Batman. I’m pretty sure he can hold his own). The power of a perfect combination can take something that pretty good and make it incredible. The same is true when talking about your online marketing strategy. So let’s take a look at how growth-driven design impacts your SEO strategy to determine if they’ll be another classic pair or just awkward acquaintances.

If you want to increase the traffic, interactions and the visibility of your business, organization or personal website, you are going to have use a number of different strategies. Just having a website isn’t enough and trying to optimize and promote a bad website using SEO will just help you fail faster. Merging strategies and allowing them to work together results in a more effective online marketing plan that produces real business results.

As far as website design and redesigns go, I am totally sold on the growth-driven design method, see my other posts here, but as someone who has been in the SEO world for quite a while, I wanted to see the full effects of GDD on my on-going SEO strategy. Was is helping? Was it hurting? Did it have no effect at all?

A Quick Rant on SEO

So I hear and read a lot about what SEO is and is not. Needless to say, the search world has changed a ton over the pass few years, but good SEO agencies have been doing it right for years. SEO is not all about rankings and it’s not just about diving organic traffic either. An effective SEO strategy is focused on driving targeted leads to your site and then helping to convert them using compelling content. SEO is not a one-time solution. SEO is important in every phase of the marketing funnel. SEO must be user focused first, search engines second. Ok, rant over.

The impact of GDD on SEO

We launched our growth-driven design site in August of this year. The purpose was to create a better experience for our users with the end goal of creating more connections and leads for the agency. Notice, the main focus of GDD is user experience. For years the people over at the Big ‘G’ have been telling SEO’s to do the same. Here is an older, but still relevant video from Matt Cutts. Over the past 3 months of growth-driven design, our traffic has grown exponentially. But was there a correlation between my new, living and evolving website, and my search strategy?

Let’s take a look at the data.

The first graph is focused on all of the site traffic from July 2015 to October 2015. The second is on organic search only. I added the month prior to starting our GDD build to get a better picture of where we were before we implemented our new site.

Note: While SEO impacts more than organic search, I am using organic as my based line for this study because organic is directly impacted by SEO.

All Site Traffic:

Organic Search Traffic:

In the “All Site Traffic” graph you can see a large spike in September’s traffic. This is primarily due to an increase in our paid search. (Full disclosure, it was not very effective in bringing in quality traffic. What a waste.) As you can clearly see, our organic search has grown each month. But, also note our organic was going up before we launched our GDD site. Now, we are an inbound marketing agency and SEO and growth-driven design are just a part of what we do. So this data alone was not answering my question. What I wanted to know is, does GDD improve your SEO. Looks like we are going to need more data.

Organic Search for the Year 2015:

Ok, now that’s more like it. This data starts to tell a better story. You can see the impacts of blogging and other inbound traffic methods start to really takeoff in June. July you see a slight drop in organic, which is totally normal when you do a redesign, but my new site didn’t launch until August 1!

Many times during a website redesign, you see the organic traffic drop because the crawlers are having to go through your new site and re-index the content. But for our new GDD site, we didn’t see a drop in traffic at all, in fact we saw our organic traffic start to grow faster. This was the correlation I was hoping to see. But know I had to come up with a reason why… how was GDD improving my SEO strategy?

I believe it’s because growth-driven sites are “living”, the content and site elements are always being adjusted to meet the needs of the users. Growth-driven sites are built using a comprehensive and thoughtful planning process and each phase is done with a lot of intentionality. This minimizes mistakes that often take place in a traditional website redesign. Not to mention, GDD sites are hyper user focused and Google wants you to think user first. Couple this with a solid, white-hat SEO strategy built around great content and link earning and you have a recipe for success!

New Keyword Opportunities

So ranking isn’t everything, but it is important for obvious reasons. 60% of all organic clicks go to the organic top 3 search results. –Business2Community With so many people searching online, finding the most productive long tailed keyword phrases to target can be an overwhelming process. But, with more traffic, comes more data. Using Google Search Console, you can see the search queries for your site and how people are interacting with them. (Read here why rank checking tools are useless and why GA and Search Console are better.)

By merging the Growth-Driven Design process with your SEO strategy you will have a better understanding of the keywords your users are actually searching for and interacting with. Then you can use that data to better hone in your site. You may even get some new ideas that you didn’t find in your initial keyword research. Each month I find new terms that I can use and implement into my SEO strategy to continue to growth my sites organic reach. If done right, your site can naturally and organically become a trusted source in your niche. This means better and more qualified traffic that converts.

In Conclusion:

While I can’t give growth-driven design all of the credit, there clearly is a direct correlation between creating and adapting your website around your users and having success in your SEO strategy. No matter what type of marketing you do, users have to be the focus. After all, they are the one who experience our sites, products and services.

Another conclusion from this case study is the importance of integrating your marketing efforts. There is no “one strategy solution” to generating more targeted traffic. You have to look at your buyer personas and determine what is the best way for your company or organization to reach them. There is no way these result happen by just focusing on one thing and forgetting the others.

As we continue in our very own growth-driven journey, we’d love to hear your feedback and your challenges. The more we connect with and learn from each other, the better off we all we will be. Thanks for reading, and if you don’t mind, share this article with a friend.

Show your support

Clapping shows how much you appreciated Ryan Shelley’s story.