White Hat SEO Experiment

Today is day zero of an experiment. An experiment which, for want of a better name (and feeling tired after a late night gym session last night) I’m going to dub my ‘White Hat SEO Experiment’.

Regular readers will be aware that I bang on a lot about white hat SEO. Specifically: –

  • Quality content
  • Networking
  • Attracting Editorial Links
  • Outreach For Your Best Content

Now, I’ll admit that back in the late 90s/early 2000s I would stuff keywords in my title tags and swap links with the rest of them, but I would say that since around 2003 (i.e. for the last 10 years) I have been 90% white hat, with the other 10% being perhaps what you could call grey hat.

Certainly I have never indulged in what would currently be considered black hat SEO and have never had a need to, as every site I have worked on (either personal sites or for clients) has ranked strongly and consistently across a broad range of terms.

What Is My White Hat SEO Experiment?

Well, despite the huge number of sites being penalised and banned for employing black hat techniques, there is still a load of poor quality information out there saying that to rank in the search engines you need: –

a) A load of links (thousands, millions of the things)
b) Lots of anchor keyword anchor text

And to get these links you need to either…

a) Blast out loads of links through comment spam, wiki sites etc using automated tools such as scrapebox or link emperor.
b) Build your own link wheels, or tiered link structures to artificially inflate your own authority

Or both of the above.

And worse still, there are lots of SEO companies who will take great pleasure in taking your money to do this for you.

This is a load of nonsense and the result is that your site ends up falling victim to google Penguin, drops like a stone down the rankings and that SEO gets a bad name.

So, what I’m going to do with my white hat SEO experiment, is take a site which is currently receiving very little traffic from the search engines and use white hat methods to increase the traffic over a 6 month period. And the owner of the site has given me permission to share the stats, progress and techniques I use along the way!

Introducing Michael Sherry & Planet Wax

planetwaxPlanet Wax is a mobile car valeting and detailing business, based in Bearsden, near Glasgow. The Companies Managing Director, Michael Sherry has been a personal friend for a number of years.

Over a cold pint last week we were chatting about his site and the fact that he wasn’t currently getting much in the way of search engine traffic. I offered to take a look for him to see if I could come up with some suggestions.

Michael gave me access to his analytics and to be blunt, they didn’t make for fantastic reading.

Let’s take a look at the stats for October 2013…



There were 281 visits to the site in October, an average of just over 9 a day. The average number of pages per visit, bounce rate and duration are actually pretty decent, which would suggest that once people are on the site they like what they see. The problem is there are just not enough of them!

Traffic Sources


The biggest source of traffic was organic search traffic – good, but there’s not a lot of it!

The main sources of referral traffic were gumtree and yell.com + a smattering of traffic from facebook.

So, huge room for improvement!

Now let’s take a look at some other key metrics.

Indexed Pages


There are currently 22 pages indexed by google.

Incoming Links, Pagerank, Domain Authority etc


A search for the domain on Open Site Explorer gives us the following: –

Domain Authority: 15/100
Page Authority: 27/100
Linking Root Domains: 6
Total Links: 25

For those of you concerned about things like toolbar pagerank and alexa rankings (you shouldn’t be, but…), they are currently: –

Toolbar Pagerank: 0
Alexa Ranking: 18,150,335

Technical Specs

The site runs on wordpress with a custom theme and already has the SEO basics in place (running the excellent and highly recommended YOAST SEO plugin). There are however room for improvements in internal linking and content, which will be one of the first things I address.

In fact, if you haven’t already, you might want to nip over to the site just now to check it out in its existing format before I start work on it next week.

What Are Our Aims?

The White Hat SEO experiment will run for a period of 6 months (I’ll explain why shortly!) and has the following goals: –

  • Increase organic search traffic to the site
  • Increase referral traffic to the site
  • Increase social media traffic to the site
  • Improving rankings/traffic for local searches (Glasgow and surrounding areas)
  • Position Michael Sherry as an authority/expert in the niche
  • Increase enquiries and bookings!

Clearly, there is one further aim outwith the site itself, which is…

Proving that white hat SEO works!

So, how Will This Be Achieved?

Increasing Traffic

To increase the traffic to the site I will be working on the following:-

Existing On-Site SEO Audit

I will review existing content, site architecture and internal linking and make improvements where required.

Development Of Content Strategy

I will prepare and implement an ongoing quality content strategy, which will target a broad spread of phrases/keywords across the niche.

This will be partly on-site and partly off-site.

Link Bait

Opportunities for developing ‘link bait’ style content, which can be pitched to targeted sites/webmasters will be explored.

Competitive Analysis

I will analyse the backlink profiles of competing sites and look for high quality link opportunities.

Social Media Strategy

I will develop and implement a strategy for increasing engagement through social media.

And a few other tricks that I’ll share with you along the way!

Positioning Michael As An Expert

While the content ideas (i.e. the titles and rough outlines) will primarily be developed by me based on keyword research, the articles themselves will be drafted by Michael as he in the expert in the niche. For the record I know absolutely nothing about cars!

I will of course optimise/edit the articles where required, however in general, I am a big believer in writing naturally to get the best results across a wide range of long tail phrases.

In addition to the on-site content, I will be looking for guest posting/interview opportunities for Michael and helping him to build his profile/circles on google+.

Why 6 Months?

You will undoubtedly have seen lots of SEO companies that promise to rank you at number 1 for your keywords within 4 weeks, 2 weeks, 1 hour whatever…

Well, firstly, you should read my article on why I don’t worry about specific keywords, what I worry about is building traffic and conversions.

Secondly, if the above sounds like a lot of work, then that’s because it is.

White hat SEO is not an overnight fix; it is a commitment to building a website business/brand for the long term, which will continue to enjoy traffic no matter what future google updates throw our way.

For the record I believe we will see decent traffic gains within the first 3 months, but after a 5/6 month period of hard work the increase will be substantial (and lasting).

Follow Our Progress

So, today is day 0 and work begins in earnest next week!

I will post a progress update on the 10th of each month, with the first update on the 10th December 2013 and the final update on the 10th May 2014.

Each update will detail exactly what I have done (actionable steps that you can implement for your own site) and contain screen shots of google analytics stats, open site explorer updates etc.

In between updates I will of course continue to post my usual white hat SEO and affiliate marketing tips and tutorials.

It’s going to be a lot of work, but I believe the final results will be a strong testament to the effectiveness of white hat SEO and proof that you don’t have to resort to black hat tricks (that will get your site penalised or banned) to increase traffic to your website.

And that’s it for update 1, my white hat experiment is underway! The next update on the experiment will be on the 10th December 2013.

To follow the progress of the experiment, you can sign up for email updates below and if you have any questions/thoughts on the experiment then please leave a comment!

About the Author

I'm a web developer, programmer, blogger and SEO expert from Glasgow, Scotland, with over 15 years experience in the industry. When I'm not writing about marketing and SEO you'll find me strumming the guitar in my band or listening to Revolver on repeat. Follow me on twitter, connect with me on google+ and add us on facebook to keep up with all the latest trends in SEO and online marketing.

Brandon Bear - November 8, 2013

This should be interesting — it’ll be cool to see how you do with this company because they are basically starting from scratch with those traffic numbers.

On top of that, I’ve always been curious if you need to take a different strategy for an offline business rather than affiliate marketing (or more traditional internet marketing products). But it looks like you’re doing the same whitehat strategy that would work for any website — as long as it’s implemented very well over a long period of time.

    David McSweeney - November 8, 2013

    The only difference really will be targeting local search, which I wouldn’t normally do with a fully online brand. Other than that… a business is a business!

Logan Thompson - November 8, 2013

Very interesting case study. I’ll be interested to follow this one through. It looks like you’re already giving him a solid link through this post. 🙂

Do you have a set budget at all for this project? Best of luck.

    David McSweeney - November 8, 2013

    Yes, after looking at his stats last week I thought he would be perfect for this. Budget is, essentially £0 (ignoring the fact that I am giving a lot of my time for free).

    Haha, yes, that’s link #1 in place I guess 🙂

Lewis Ogden - November 8, 2013

Hi David, great idea for a case study, looks like you will kill 2 birds with 1 stone on this one!

Just a quick thought r.e traffic.

You will most likely see a spike in traffic which comes from this blog. Will you eclude those from the progress reports?

– Lewis

    David McSweeney - November 9, 2013

    Good question! I’ll include it separately. What we’re looking for is traffic that converts… and i don’t think many of my readers will be based in glasgow and looking for a car wax!

Alec - November 9, 2013

Funnily enough I looked at this very site when I was looking at local search (I live a few minutes away) – was amazed at the lost opportunities for effectively free, high ranks from the local search results box that people miss on for the lack of getting some reviews (‘Glasgow car valet’ has got to be begging for attention :)) – looking forward to the study.

Anoop Sudhakaran - November 9, 2013

I can’t wait to see the progress. I hope to learn a lot from this case study. Can you write a post detailing about Content Strategies?

Thank you.

Lisa - November 10, 2013

I’d love to see a step-by-step process on the SEO audit. It is always a more vague term used by many. I understand the internal linking structure but not as sure on the existing content, what you would look for, etc. This will be an interesting experiment to follow – thanks for sharing with us David.

    David McSweeney - November 10, 2013

    Hi Lisa, I’ll be going into a lot of detail in each of the monthly updates, but this may also be a good idea for a separate post.

Adam Brewer - November 11, 2013

Wow this is awesome!

After building websites, clients always ask SEO advice and I could never tell them what works, only the things I know that do not work or the things that work now but may not after an update. I have always been a promoter of great content so this will be awesome!

Will you be giving us details or an overview of what you/ how you do it or just the results or your work?

Looking forward to seeing the results!

    David McSweeney - November 12, 2013

    Hi Adam, I’m going to go into as much detail as I can of exactly what I do each month; any changes made on site, the content we have added, links acquired (and how) etc.

Anirudh Karthik - November 15, 2013

Great post! The post is really informative with lot of new tips which i don’t know. The first tips in white seo category is internal linking and social media promotion. However our main aim is to increase the traffic of a blog so the steps would vary from person to person.

thanks for sharing.

Andrew - November 27, 2013

Looking forward to seeing the results, also what is the ratio of people accepting the guestposts/link bait?

    David McSweeney - November 27, 2013

    Hi Andrew… all will be revealed 😉

Mike Huiwitz - December 3, 2013

Looking forward to seeing your results. Good luck!

    David McSweeney - December 5, 2013

    Thanks Mike!

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