There are few websites in the world with higher domain authority those hosted on .gov and .edu domains.
In fact .edu domains are so powerful that a lot of spammy link builders (not us) go out of their way to try and cheat links off of them.
In this case study we look at a company that was drowned out of Google’s search results by these powerful domains, despite having superior content.
The client in question runs a website which helps students apply for (and successfully get into) colleges and universities across the globe.
Their in-house researchers and content team spent a full year putting together the best resources online to help potential students get accepted. They wrote custom guides about each institution’s criteria, giving practical advice to gain an edge over candidates who haven’t done the research.
However, they were puzzled as to why when they searched for their target keywords they were nowhere to be seen. So they hired an SEO consultant. After a thorough technical, link and competitive audit the answer was clear.
They needed to work on their link game… In a big way.
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Planning the Battle
Both the client and their advisor were under no illusions. This was a David and Goliath battle.
Just like in that biblical bout, the company was going to have to be accurate, strategic and not try to compete on a strength Vs strength basis.
They were never going to be able to build links to become a higher DA site than a .edu or .ac.uk domain. So they had to take a guerrilla approach – fighting the battle on their own terms.
Their SEO consultant drew up a plan for a sustained and long-term link building campaign. However, it had some specific requirements:
- All links had to be in-content and editorial – no author boxes or guest post footprints.
- Only blog posts with high ‘reverse relevance’ were to be published. This means the blog post topics were all to be focused on admissions and not just a vaguely educational topic.
- The publishing blog had to be high authority AND high topical relevance.
By taking this strategic approach the brand was competing on the topic they wanted to, and not trying to like-for-like outgun a much bigger opponent on a domain-level.
The company sent out inquiries to several of the ‘big name’ guest posting companies in the SEO space. Unfortunately they all came back and told them their requirements were too specific and it wasn’t something they were interested in taking on.
When they inquired with OutreachPete it wasn’t a problem. We’re flexible to client’s requirements as long as they are reasonable – which in this case they absolutely were!
Between their independent SEO consultant and our internal team we drew up a package (similar to our new monthly subscriptions) that gave them a consistent level of quality links over a period of 6 months.
As per our advice, they decided to keep anchor texts mixed between branded, URL, generic and partial match. This ensured that no exact match links were caught up and ignored by Google’s penguin algorithm.
This was a campaign where every link counted, and so they couldn’t risk wasting any links or getting caught up by filters/penalties.
We kept link velocity at a steady pace, spending a budget of around $3500 per month for 6 months and then tapered onto a ‘maintenance’ package thereafter.
This was really an ‘all or nothing’ strategy, so we expected to see either a massive breakthrough or no result at all.
Thankfully due to careful planning and high quality execution the strategy paid off in a huge way.
Google decided to give the content the merit it was due after a sustained amount of external validation from our link building campaigns.
The brand broke through to the top half of page 1 for almost every key term they were targeting!
Sometimes in a niche where hyper-relevant and huge authority sites have content on a topic (even if it’s thin and poor) Google will rank it above others. That is what was happening here and we really needed to drag Google kicking and screaming to understand that the client’s content was worth ranking.
Can You Replicate These Results? (Yes)
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