Extreme Makeover SEO Edition

Extreme Makeover SEO Edition. They gave webmasters 3 months to take a site from nothing to high rankings. Here are the results.

Moderator: Rob Kerry, Head of Search, Ayima


Richard Baxter, CEO, SEOgadget.co.uk
David Burgess, SEO Consultant, Ayima
Rob Kerry, Head of Search, Ayima Search Marketing
Stephen Pavlovich, CEO, Conversion Factory


David Burgess from Ayima

Was told if he couldn’t get the site ranking #1 he’d be sacked. So this is his first and last conference presentation. 🙂

Took him a month to find a charity to let them try this. So he only had 2 months. Challenge was turned down by some of the top UK SEO’s who thought the timescale was too tight.

Single Homeless Project, London’s oldest homeless charity. Goals: Increase:

  • Donations
  • Sign-ups

Ranked below 100 for “homeless charity” when he started.

Started with backlink analysis of charity sector.

Crisis.org.uk backlink profile. Very natural anchor text distribution. In a more competitive space you’d see much more focused anchor text on the ranking sites.

SHP.org.uk backlink profile was also pretty good, also natural anchor text distribution, some good links.

Market intelligence report. Traffic score, occurrences of each domain. #1 site just had 28 occurrences.  SHP didn’t even make it on to the report.

On-site changes carried out

Redirecgts, optimizing internal linking, customizing page titles, improved indexation by blocking some URLs (Drupal site, used plugins to fix).

Found “Kick Start London” which they had merged with, but weren’t passing any link value over. So a little PHP code put a permanent 301 redirect so SHP’s pages now get power from there.

Fixing canonical issues and broken links.

Used Webmaster Tools. Looked at Crawl errors.

Drupal SEO:

  • Installed & customized “Link to us” plug in to offer optimized alt tags
  • Page Titles module let them customize titles
  • Updated framework to remove security flaws

Off-site optimization techniques:

  • Competitor link analysis
  • Sought links using an SHP email address
  • Converted existing citations into links
  • Link re-acquisition
  • Customized plugin to allow users to easily link to SHP
  • Relationship link development
  • Successfully created SHP page on Wikipedia
  • High quality directory submissions

Link acquistion process:

Created a link of sites to target, split them out. Some sites SHP wanted to contact themselves.

Useful link acquisition tips:

  • Personalize everything. Find an individual to contact
  • Find a connection
  • Include a link to the page you want to link to

Major link wins:

  • Drupal
  • met.police.uk/missingpersons/links.htm

General SEO techniques:

  • Google Place page optimization
  • Training on link acquisition (11 links in 1 day!)
  • Content writing & internal linking training
  • Initiated out-reach ot businesses for competition prizes and to generate buzz

Drive to improve conversions. Added a nice large button. Made a big difference.

Social media outreach:

  • Facebook Fan page on vanity URL
  • Facebook events for SHP Art Fair


  • 59% increase in non-branded organic traffic from Google
  • Bound rate decreased by 9%
  • Page 1 ranking for most of the key competitive terms

There’s more:

  • 165% increase in visitors to Donations page
  • Acieved listing in the 7 pack for Local Charity (?)

Ranking #7 right now for homeless charity.

Dramatic long tail improvements (Shows keyword chart)

How far will they go?13 7/64 miles! They’re running a half-marathon to raise money for the charity. They go the extra mile (then shouldn’t they go 14 7/64 miles?).

Get involved with SHP on Facebook. (Why? The challenge is over. Oh, right).

And now Richard Baxter is up. They dealt with a more established charity.

Helpage.org. Helps older people claim their rights, challenge discrimination, and overcome poverty so they can lead dignified, secure, active and healthy lives.

The charity found the SEO. Which is good. Because charities are suspicious of SEOs offering free services, for good reasons.

Started with a technical review. They only started rolling out the changes 2 weeks ago, they’ll work for them for another month.

Started with Open Site Explorer Top Pages. Lot of 302 & 404 errors on top pages.

Some of the work was convincing developers that 404s were bad when they could be redirecting to relevant pages. Took time.

Navigation: Increase the links on the homepage. Common problem, sites not linking strongly to their best pages. Wanted dHTML menu links on each page, but client wouldn’t go for it.

News XML Sitemap. Compliance with Google News.

Big problem with excessive duplication of content via paginated navigation & faceted navigation.

Canonicalization: Classic issue.

Many PDFs on the site had no HTML pages.

12% of their visits came from IE6,and those people didn’t see the donation button. So they’re fixing that. In some sectors you need to support IE6.

Changed the call to action, and reduced from 6 steps to 4.

Finally, badges & social calls to action.

And our last speaker is Stephen Pavlovich from Conversion Factory.

People say “Test everything.” You can’t. It would take them 82 days to get reliable results for just a few combinations. Unless you have a lot of traffic.

“Choose your battles wisely. ” Asks if anybody knows the source. It’s Sun Tzu. Guy behind me gets a beer for knowing that.

Don’t just test the homepage because it’s the homepage. Test the goal funnel. Shopping baskets, donation buttons, etc.

Asks how many people are working on a charity now. A few are. But the tactics work for other sites as well.

Start with why people aren’t converting.

  • Overcome skepticism. People aren’t sure how their money is going to be used. We’re not trying to win awards, we’re trying to drive conversions. “For every Pound you donate, 99 pence will be used for …” Spell out the benefits. He shows sites where it’s really hard to find the Donate button.
  • Split-test “controversial” elements. Examples: minimum donation, no option for a 1-time donation
  • Keep reminding people why they’re there. SOS does a good job here, with a persistent right panel listing the benefits.
  • It doesn’t end with the donation. Upsell to a regular donation. Post to friends on Facebook. Phonecalls to say Thank you (and upsell). Refer a friend …

And we’re done. Good session, but only David accomplished the challenge. It was a great premise for the session, but only one presenter delivered on that premise.

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