How Latitude Became an Authority on a Completely Irrelevant Topic
A couple of years ago I decided to try a little experiment.
With the help of our Graphic Designer, I created a blog post. It was called 14 Funny & Weird Collective Nouns from the English Language.
At first it was merely a content marketing exercise - but then I wanted to see if I could optimise it, and begin ranking for relevant search queries.
Even if they have no relation to Latitude as a business.
Essentially, I wanted to measure the effectiveness of certain SEO tactics - before rolling them out for clients.
But before delving into what we did exactly, allow me give you some context:
You know, like a herd of elephants?
Or a flock of sheep?
The post was all about the numerous collective nouns you could have for various animals. It was inspired by simple, funny (even a little silly), but genuinely informative content marketing pieces we'd seen do well at numerous award events.
We had the idea, but not a client it would be suitable for. So we published it on the Latitude blog.
The post featured 14 illustrations, created by Emma, our designer, based on literal descriptions of 14 different collective nouns.
For example, an 'Army of Caterpillars' (yep, that's right) showed a bunch of caterpillars holding weapons - looking ready for a fight.
We thought the humorous angle would help with its appeal.
From Content Marketing Project, to SEO Experiment
But we quickly abandoned the idea of promoting this piece based on its humour - instead deciding to see if we could optimise it for SEO, and earn organic traffic.
Although there were just 14 collective nouns, there were soon more.
In fact, we added in a comprehensive A-Z encyclopedia of pretty much every collective noun for nearly any animal you could think of.
(These new additions didn't have illustrations - Emma hasn't got that kind of time).
This was step one. Provide an answer for every "what is the collective noun for [animal]" question.
I was hoping to see how the inclusion of such an exhaustive list of these nouns (coupled with the fact it added over 2,000 more words to the page) could boost our rankings.
Also, I expected the ‘freshness’ of that particular post to give us a short boost in rankings, but it was always going to be interesting to see how long Google would perceive this ‘freshness’ to last.
Here are a few things we were hoping to learn from this initial part of the experiment:
- The impact of ‘freshness’
- The impact of having lots of content on a page
- How easy/difficult it is to rank for a set of target keywords just off the back of a single webpage
The post went live on August 25th 2016.
How We Optimised the Blog, and Began Ranking for Collective Noun Keywords
Below are a few insights into how we ranked for certain keywords before and after publication of the post.
After the first day, we began to rank for five of the seven keywords we chose to isolate.
After a week, we were ranking for all seven…
After day eight, I made a couple of slight optimisations.
For example, the word “weird” was included in the page title and only once in the copy. So I added it into the H1.
I also noticed the word “funny” only appeared in the body content. So I added it to the page title.
As you can see, the keyword 'weird animal group names' improved by one position the following week.
Meanwhile, the term 'funny animal group names' went from #39 to #8.
By making the page title similar to the keyword 'funny animal group names', we were bumped up by +30 rankings straight onto page 1. The power of the page title, eh?
A few months later, I logged into BrightEdge to get a feel for how the Latitude site was performing organically, and I found that the collective nouns post was actually appearing for a lot more keywords than it was previously.
As of June 2017, the page was ranking for 52 separate search phrases – many of these were question-based queries.
The interesting thing about this was these questions weren’t explicitly answered in the typical Q&A type format. Instead they were shoehorned into a table at the bottom of the page.
It became clear to me that Google reads and understands tables the same way as we do. You can see this when it tries to pull the information into the meta description – putting it into a sentence-type format.
So What Happened Next?
Fast forward to now, April 2018, and the collective nouns blog post is now one of the most-viewed pages on the Latitude site.
The average time on page exceeds five minutes – and collectively, people have spent a total of 579 hours browsing the page.
That’s 24 days!
Even better - the page had over 1,000 page views last month alone…
The ‘freshness’ of the post when it first went live probably did have an initial impact, but page views dropped off pretty much immediately after that.
That being said, there was an algorithm change not long after, so there’s always the possibility that might have thrown things off a bit.
Since the turn of 2017, however, organic traffic has steadily increased. I logged into SEMrush yesterday and found that the post now ranks for over 400 different search terms.
Here’s the first 30…
Yeah, that’s right. We’re in position 1 for pack of wolverines...
Some of the question-based queries even pulled in answers from the post as featured snippets. Like this:
The collective nouns piece has been incredibly successful.
My experiment produced some excellent, if surprising, results.
The analysis we did regarding on-page factors like page titles (and the placement of keywords within it), the inclusion of keywords within page copy and the use of vertical tables to display large amounts of data helped to get Latitude ranking for an extensive list of totally irrelevant search queries.
Not to mention, the post seems to be driving more and more completely unqualified traffic to the Latitude site every day.
It turns out we created a monster!