SEO case study (2022): programming niche (+5117% increase)
Since I started in September 2022, clicks on Google increased by 5117%.
I’m programming for a living, not doing SEO. But I’m a fast learner and like to learn by doing. In this article, I’m sharing every best practice I try to apply to rank my blog as high as possible with many keywords.
Why should you care about SEO?
For me, traffic is like money; it should be as passive as possible. Let me explain.
When promoting your content on social media, you might get two or three visitors, or maybe thousands depending on your popularity. But no matter who you are, this will be a short traffic spike.
Writing content people search for on Google and others will drive traffic for a potentially indefinite time. And trust me, it’s actually not that hard. It just requires patience. Lots of it.
What to do to get more traffic from search engines
Don’t wait for Google to crawl your pages
The Google Search Console is a precious tool. You can get valuable data about how your pages are doing in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages).
But did you know you can actually “force” Google to crawl your pages as soon as you publish them?
In the search field at the top of the console, enter any new or updated URL, and Google will (most of the time) crawl it and update its index in a matter of hours.
Your technical SEO should be good enough
As a web developer, I have the luxury of not having to use WordPress or any other platform.
My blog lays on a completely custom platform I coded from A to Z. (Excluding open-source components I use like everyone else.)
Therefore, I can guarantee maximum scores on various benchmarks (Ahrefs, Lighthouse, etc.). It’s natural for me to apply all kind of web performances best practices.
If you’re using something like WordPress, I recommend being careful when choosing themes and plugins, as most are low quality and can significantly impact your site’s performance and, therefore, your rankings.
Good news, though. Google doesn’t require perfection. It cares about:
- Good usability;
- Performances (your site should load under 2 seconds).
One other thing before I forget:
- Inside your articles, use only one
- Use lower level headings for sections (
<h3>, etc., always in descending order).
- Use relevant keywords inside your headings (abuses are penalized, so be wise).
But there’s more to technical SEO. Keep on going using Google’s SEO starter guide (which is a goldmine for those who are serious about SEO).
You should do keyword research
Keyword research is the process of finding words and phrases that people use when searching for information on the internet.
By doing it, you can learn what people are looking for and how to make your website more visible to them.
To do keyword research, you can use free means like:
- Google’s autocomplete suggestions;
- “People also ask” on the SERPs.
Then, put your findings in Google’s keyword planner. You’ll be able to see:
- The monthly search volume;
When you’re just getting started, it’s better to try to rank for low-competition keywords. Because Google don’t trust your website and they don’t want to show it to too many people yet.
Once you have everything you need, you can start writing blog posts around them. This will help your website frequently show up in search results, and ultimately, get more traffic without lifting a finger.
Write a bunch of articles and update them regularly
- I pick a main keyword;
- I write a minimum viable version (using Jasper AI when I lack inspiration) and change it to make it better and more personal;
- I structure my articles to be as Google snippets-friendly as possible, which is a great way to jump to position #1 quicker. (The official documentation for snippets is vague, unfortunately.)
- I wait and see how it’s doing in the search console after a few weeks.
Link building isn’t most people’s cup of tea. Myself included. But it needs to be done, because it’s one of the most critical ranking factors.
What are backlinks?
Backlinks are links from other websites to your website.
The more you have backlinks from quality websites with high authority, the higher Google can rank you in the search results.
For a backlink to be followed by Google’s crawler, it has to be an
<a> tag without the
nofollow value in the
rel attribute. Otherwise, the authority won’t be passed to the target.
How do I get backlinks?
I essentially get them by posting community links on various popular websites in the niche (these links are also reused in newsletters, which is an additional channel of traffic).
It’s a passive way to build links, but it works.
Bonus: use premium tools for speed of execution
Successful SEO can be achieved by just analyzing Google’s SERPs, the search console and the official keyword planner. You can stop there if you don’t have extra money to invest.
But you can do more a hell lot, quicker, thanks to the tools below.
Semrush is a digital marketing suite that provides a wide range of tools for SEO, PPC (pay-per-click), social media, content marketing, and competitive research.
Keyword research is the reason why this blog is growing so fast and if I had to keep only one premium tool, that would be it.
I’m often stuck with a blank page when I start writing, and having an AI that generates good enough content in a matter of seconds is invaluable. The process of making it better and add my personal touch naturally flows once the hardest part is done.
Jasper is another AI content generator. I wouldn’t be able to tell which one is better and I recommend you to try it as well and make up your own mind. 👍
Surfer is a tool that helps you write content that makes Google’s algorithm happy. It also analyses competitors gives you advices on how to outrank them.
You can see it as a very effective spell checker for SEO.
Reports for each month since the beginning
- Clicks: 2.4K (+365%);
- Impressions: 45.8K (+60%);
- Average CTR: 5.2% (+420%);
- Average position: 29.3 (-13%) (it decreased because I rank for more keywords now).
For this month, my strategy almost didn’t change. I still wrote more articles and still tried to acquire new backlinks.
What I did differently though is to write titles differently. Now, I put the main keyword I want to rank for at the beginning. For instance, this article is called “SEO case study (2022): programming niche (+x% increase)”, because I try to rank for “seo case study 2022”.
As always, we’re never sure about anything that’s not officially documented by Google, but it seems to produce good results (but not for this article… yet).
- Clicks: 516 (+1021%);
- Impressions: 28.5K (+454%);
- Average CTR: 1.8% (+100%);
- Average position: 25.5 (+67%).
What I did:
- I wrote new articles based on keyword research;
- I updated articles based on what the competition was doing and when I felt I could structure them better;
- I naturally got high-quality backlinks from authorities in this niche by writing about emerging topics ahead of anyone.
The Google Discover effect
I recently got picked up by Google Discover.
I’m not a Google guy outside of their search engine, so I didn’t know much about this service until they gave me 1.08K visitors in a day and a few hours.
I read about how it works on the official documentation and things became more clear. My Laravel best practices: the definitive guide for 2022 showed up because:
- I became kind of an authority in the niche, thanks to a few very high quality backlinks;
- I have an attractive image that makes you want to click (it’s the only image I have by the way);
- I wasn’t clickbaity in the title.
The traffic from Google Discover dropped substantially the next day. I guess it’s like spikes on social media: it’s not worth it on the long run. But what do I know? Time will tell.
- Clicks: 1.08K;
- Impressions: 19.3K;
- Average CTR: 5.6%;
- Clicks: 46;
- Impressions: 5.14K;
- Average CTR: 0.9%;
- Average position: 42.7.
What I did:
- I set up a new site on a 7-year-old domain that was never used for anything good;
- I wrote a few articles based on keyword research;
- I “forced” Google to crawl them;
- I constantly updated all those articles whenever I noticed mistakes or improvements opportunities;
- I tried to build a few links on relevant websites.