Results From the Ultimate Small Business SEO Experiment

small business seo experiment

Are you wondering how the heck your small business is supposed to make money from the Internet?

Results from the Ultimate Small Business SEO Experiment | @RyanHanley_ComDo you tell yourself that Digital Marketing is a waste of time because you haven’t seen any real results?

Well, I’m about to show you REAL RESULTS from an SEO Experiment I did with my own small business (an Insurance Agency).

I’m not going to throw theory at you or tell you something that could happen, possibly, if the Moon aligns properly with the sign of Aquarius.

This blog post is a testimonial to exactly what I did, how I did it, why I did it and the SEO driven Dollars the experiment put in my pocket.

Does that sound like something you could use in your business?  More dollars?

Sure it is.

Keep reading…

The Baseline for the SEO Experiment

For background, The Murray Group Insurance Services is an independent, family-owned insurance and financial services firm located in Albany, NY.  From 2002 until March 7th of 2011 we had a brochure style website with four web pages that hadn’t been updated since sometime in 2008.

In March of 2011 I convinced ownership that we needed a blog and to start utilizing social tools and that WordPress was the solution.  They listened and we updated the site to Studiopress’s Genesis Platform and the Streamline Theme (affiliate link).

However, after our initial post announcing the switch to a more modern website (with built in blog management system… love WordPress) we didn’t post another blog article, not one.  The website just sat there, (me frustrated for internal political reasons), sucking…

Baseline Traffic

What I didn’t realize at the time was this inaction was setting up the perfect case study in small business SEO success.  The inaction created a baseline for traffic when fresh content isn’t being added.

As you can see, after the kickoff traffic died down and we continued to do nothing, our website got ~90 visits a week.  The vast majority of those visits were people looking for our address, directions to our office or our contact information (I know this because of the web pages visited).

During this time period we wrote ZERO New Business from the website.

Internet Scientific Inference:

If you do nothing Online… You get nothing in Return. – Click to Tweet

Picture me banging my head off a wall for six plus months… That’s what I would do every week when I checked our Google Analytics and stared a flat, lifeless line.

The Plan for SEO Success

In December of 2011, fed up with the lack of results I went back to ownership and pleaded my case to begin blogging on the The Murray Group website.  They relented and conceded that it was time to see what I could do.

So I came up with a plan.  Our website needed a Pulp Fiction Style Adrenaline Shot to the Heart.

My plan… 100 Insurance Questions Answered in 100 Days in two minutes or less on a YouTube video.

I would then take that YouTube video and embed it on The Murray Group website and share the blog post across the Internet.  For social media sharing I mostly focused on Twitter, Facebook (uploading videos directly to Facebook and adding blog post link), LinkedIn and Google+ (Google loves Google).

I did this every single day for 100 Days.

The Questions

If you read Why No One Buys From You Online then you know that the real secret to getting found Online is content that aligns with how consumers actually search.

So I got all the questions from my current clients.  I tweeted, posted on Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and I also emailed a lot of clients as well, one simple question:

“If you could only have one insurance question answered what would it be?”

I got about 135 responses… I paired down the list and  took the questions I thought would work the best and used them exactly as they were asked.  I added a couple more that I thought needed to be in the list and Boom… I had my questions.

So Does SEO Work?

Look at the chart below from my Google Analytics account and tell me if SEO works…

SEO Experiment Begins

You see an immediate spike in traffic as of Day #1.

Now to be real, most of that initial spike in traffic is the Social Media action.  Sharing our first post for the first time on different social platforms brought attention just because people to see what we’re all about.

So it’s easy for me to say that SEO works and then show you results that are tainted by Social Media activity.

But wait we have the technology to pull out specific search related results…

The Blue Line is search traffic.

See where that blue line starts to rise?  See how it’s still rising?

That is SEO my friends.  That is an Insurance website designed to capture insurance related search traffic.

And the beauty of SEO… It just keeps working for you.  Now every post I do is Gravy on top of my initial SEO experiment adding to the authority of The Murray Group website.

This is the power of Long-tail Keywords (setting up search keywords for phrases instead of single terms).  In the insurance industry I have to compete with some pretty stiff competition for search engine real estate.  Names like GEICO, AllState, State Farm and Nationwide spend Billions of dollars on advertising.  Our entire website including hosting has cost us less then $1,500.

If it wasn’t for Long-Tail Keywords I would not be able to compete.  I will never rank for the term “Insurance.”  There is simply too much money thrown at that term.

However, I can and do rank for the Long-tail Keyword phrase, “When do I drop collision coverage?”

…you know what, I think that is just the coolest thing about the Internet.  The little guy is given a voice and power the compete against Big Box competition.  And not just the opportunity to compete but by doing the right things the possibility of winning.

Results That Matter

I know what you want.

You want the numbers… You want to know how much money we made.

The answer is $4,975 in new business revenue.  Not Gross Premium… Revenue to our business.

15 minutes a day

7 days a week

100 days

$4,975

That’s $3.32 cents a minute or…

$200 an hour

I was doing $200 dollar an hour work.  That’s pretty stinking good if you ask me.  Additionally that’s just the business that was closed during the 100 days I’ve done a bunch more since then…

That’s Success Online People…

Ryan Hanley is showing me how SEO works for Small Business | Click to Tweet

The Rub

I have two topics for The Rub today.

The first one is for all the Independent Insurance Industry peeps that read this blog.  This Stuff Works!  It works and it’s repeatable… Don’t tell me you can’t build relationships Online and don’t tell me you don’t have time.  You have time at $200 a Hour!

You want more details… You want to know how your business or Association Members (Hint Hint) can see these results?  Hire me to speak to your organization.  You will not be disappointed.

Number two… I know you’re all wondering what that huge spike in traffic was about a month ago… I would want to know as well if I was you and that story is coming so subscribe to my blog and get the posts in your email.

You can have small business success Online.  It’s very achievable.

Seriously, the 100 Day SEO Experiment was not that hard to do.  You need to understand some relatively simple principles behind getting found Online, after that it’s just cashing checks my friend.

No go kill it Online!

Thank you and Good luck,

I am Ryan Hanley and this is Content Warfare.

Join the club, it's free.

About Ryan Hanley

Ryan Hanley is founder of Hanley Media Lab, an advanced content marketing agency helping companies grow their audience, to grow their business. He is also the creator of one of iTunes top content marketing podcasts, Content Warfare TV.

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  • Andrew

    Another great blog. So simple but it takes dedication, persistency and the will to be a major presence, no, the number one presence in your market for your business industry!

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  • http://www.probloggertips.com Yeremi Akpan

    Hi Ryan,
    You write with such character and wisdom that I have always imagined you to be a long time blogger. It is inspiring to see that just a year ago, you were hitting your head on the wall, trying to figure out this blogging thing. Just goes to show how much can be achieved with the right information. Great job!

    • http://www.ryanhanley.com Ryan Hanley

      Yeremi,

      Thanks for stopping by! Yeah it’s all about defining the topics that you want to talk about and really focusing on them. Trying to go deeper than everyone else helps too…

      Ryan H.

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  • Matthew Byers

    Ryan,

    Great post and great info! Digital marketing in the insurance world is tough and you have boiled it down to a simple, actionable battle plan. I for one am going to run with it! (5 videos recorded, 95+ to go) It’s hard to boil down all the info out there into a single plan that will drive real results. This info is invaluable!

    Thank you!

  • http://www.nichesiteadventures.com Johnny Bravo

    Hi Ryan,

    Great post and awesome breakdown on the benefits of doing your 100 videos. Videos are a great source for building up your SEO and search results. You’ve proved that.

    Thanks again for the post.

    ~Johnny Bravo

    • http://www.ryanhanley.com Ryan Hanley

      In my opinion Johnny… Video is best form of content for small business SEO.

      Thanks for adding your thoughts buddy!

      Ryan H.

  • http://outcareyourcompetition.com Jordan J. Caron

    Ryan,

    People are still turning to Google with their problems and I love what you’ve done. You’ve used the blog to answer questions that people are asking.

    I don’t see a future in SEO for short keywords (competition and people ask their social networks) but the long tail will always survive!

    • http://www.ryanhanley.com Ryan Hanley

      Jordan,

      Appreciate you stopping by buddy. The short keywords are getting destroyed by Big Corporate but Long-tail are still very very viable.

      Thanks

      Ryan H.

  • http://www.workerscompclasscodes.com Elaine Yue

    Hey Ryan,
    I found your link from the Insurance Journal article. (See, social media DOES work!) Your site is great, and I’m totally on board with the philosophy. BTW, did you do any keyword research on those long-tail keywords? (like with Market Samurai, a la Pat Flynn?) That might be useful for future videos.

    And have the owners of your agency done a 180 on this social media thing?

    • http://www.ryanhanley.com Ryan Hanley

      Hi Elaine,

      I very much appreciate you stopping by!

      I did Keyword Research but I used Google Keyword Tool not market samurai. I’ve heard mixed reviews about Market Samurai since the latest Google updates so I’ve been hesitant to make that move and Google Keyword Tool works pretty good.

      I would not say a 180 but they have been more interested in what I’m doing and the results. I don’t think the change will be overnight HOWEVER change is happening. Which good and positive.

      Thanks for connecting here!!

      Ryan H.

  • http://www.nichesiteadventures.com Johnny Bravo

    Hi Ryan, great post.

    This is the first time I’ve ever visited your site and I’m really impressed. You have some great content up and this case study is AWESOME. I’ve been working on getting my companies blog going and now I think I have a solid idea to really make their eyes pop. Thank you for that.

    To your success,
    Johnny Bravo

    • http://www.ryanhanley.com Ryan Hanley

      Go kill it dude… Glad to help and thanks for stopping by!

      Ryan H.

  • http://brettcohrs.com Brett

    You getting all ‘Pat Flynn’ on us w/ those real numbers? :-)

    Great stuff! And kudos on fighting the inner-office politics. We insurance folks know what that’s all about. Anything from, ‘You’re setting us up for an E&O case’ to ‘what’s the ROI? Get back on the dang phone!’ or ‘Our website is just fine. You kids and all your FB and your Twittering’

    • http://www.ryanhanley.com Ryan Hanley

      Brett,

      Love the Pat Flynn reference and appreciate it!!

      Also you’ve basically listed verbatim the most used excuses for not making the move to Online.

      Thanks buddy!

  • http://www.aaronbeaudette.com Aaron Beaudette

    This is really awesome IMO. Commonly asked questions directly from consumers in a user friendly format. Youtube being the 2nd most used search engine is the perfect platform too (hey does anyone even remember lycos or askjeeves?)

    • http://www.ryanhanley.com Ryan Hanley

      I was listening to a Podcast by Pat Flynn the other day and he was talking about how things have changed since the days of Lycos and Hotbot… It’s incredible how much more complex things are now.

      Thanks!!

  • http://waltgoshert.com/seo-website-consult-financial-services/ Walt Goshert

    Ryan,

    Excellent stuff.

    For insurance agents or any professional services firm with recurring income from existing clients, the long term equity value to the business is much more than the $200 per hour from the first year commissions.

    It’s not only long tail keywords. It’s also long tail income building. This is the secret to building real wealth in a business.

    • http://www.ryanhanley.com Ryan Hanley

      Walt,

      Could not have put it any better myself… And that is a fantastic observation about the recurring income of an Insurance Business… Other time the $200 an hour might be $1000 an hour…

      Thanks,

      Ryan H.

  • http://www.reallygoodwriting.co.uk Mike Garner

    Kudos.

    I worked for an insurance company a while back and it’s really hard to provide useful content but what you’ve done here is an FAQ on speed! I feel a blog post coming on (I will link, promise) and maybe a whole series!

    • http://www.ryanhanley.com Ryan Hanley

      Thanks Mike!

      I’m interested to see what you put together.

  • http://www.mitprof.com John Ernest

    People will basically like to look for something new. They don’t want to see anything ordinary or anything they have already seen. Just like how I am with your blog. The new design is really great and I notice you still use the same picture that people like me have long associated with the professional and knowledgeable blogger that we know. ;) Great post!

  • http://affectselling.com/ Peter Sandeen

    Hi Ryan,

    Truly a great post; simple, actionable, strong.

    I actually started a new video series just a couple of days ago. Well, actually the first post will come live tomorrow, but still ;) You can see the first video at http://affectselling.com/landing-pages if you can’t wait :D

    I hope I’ll see similarly great results as you’ve seen…

    • http://www.ryanhanley.com Ryan Hanley

      Peter,

      From everything I know about your work I’m sure you will… And more.

      Thanks for stopping by.

  • http://dawnbarclay.com Dawn Barclay

    Nice Ryan,

    Met with someone last week who doesn’t see the point in blogging for their local business, sent them in here.

    Dawn

    • http://www.ryanhanley.com Ryan Hanley

      Dawn,

      Let me know what they see in the results? If they see repeatable success.

      Thanks!

  • http://mightywisemedia.com Eric T. Wagner

    Ryan — this is really good stuff.

    Seriously: Real. Actionable. Proven.

    Nicely done. I think I want to hire you to come speak to me… :-)

    Thanks my friend.

    Eric

    • http://www.ryanhanley.com Ryan Hanley

      Eric,

      Thank you that’s a really big compliment! I’m glad you found some value in the information!

      And I appreciate you stopping by.

      Ryan H.

  • http://www.craigmcbreen.com/ Craig McBreen

    Ryan,

    What a great idea and it’s nice to see the snapshots of a good plan in action which brings in new business. I do a ton of work with accounting and other professional services firms and am trying to get them on board with this and think beyond traditional branding.

    Convincing them that quality content based on specific problems you solve is key. But like Jackie said, half the battle is selling ‘em on content marketing. Thanks for the ammunition … walking in with a simple phrase they can understand: “Long tail keywords work” helps :)

    • http://www.ryanhanley.com Ryan Hanley

      Craig,

      For small business or even medium size firms in the professional services community the idea that someone could want to do business with you because of something you write Online is definitely going to be foreign. For generations these people have believed in Relationship and Referrals and getting them to understand that those two things are not only possible but the BASIS for success Online is Game.

      Thanks again Craig!!

      Ryan H.

  • http://evenminds.com Jason Anthony

    I love me some REAL numbers. Much respect to you for sharing your case study, and congratulations on those results. There is certainly some value there – wonder if they’re kicking themselves for being so resistant at first?

    • http://www.ryanhanley.com Ryan Hanley

      Jason,

      Yeah probably not… But the results keep coming in so I believe they are now seeing the light. Appreciate you stopping by buddy!

      Ryan H.

  • http://ryzeonline.com Jason “J-Ryze” Fonceca

    Ahhhh, so good, Ryan!

    This is gold.

    Gold!

    And I love how the Pulp Fiction post still has traction, like timeless, evergreen content should.

    As for the story, I’m already subscribed ;)

  • http://chiropractoromahanebraska.com/chiropractic-techniques-chiropractor-omaha/ Tim

    Good article Ryan. Sometimes we forget how important it is to just post good stuff.
    Thanks.

    • http://www.ryanhanley.com Ryan Hanley

      Thanks Tim!

      Great content is the minimum bar for success Online!

  • http://www.ryanhanley.com Ryan Hanley

    Thanks Anton… I couldn’t agree more buddy. It’s a tough landscape out there!

  • http://www.jackiepurnell.com Jackie

    Ryan

    Half the battle is convincing small business that this stuff really works. Imagine putting one of your existing empolyees to work on a campaign or learning a skill that will return that kind of revenue…you’d be crazy to ignore it or not to scale it for that matter.

    Now imagine what would happen if the moon did align with Aquarius ;)

    • http://www.ryanhanley.com Ryan Hanley

      haha… Seriously you got to watch the stars!!

      I know Jackie… When you put things in these terms I think it helps convince small business that the Juice is Worth the Squeeze.

  • http://www.bloginginfo.com/ BlogingInfo

    Hi Ryan, i thinks long tail keywords was a good way to optimize a site, but now search engines loves to the point keyword according to me. But you share a nice post, thanks for sharing.

    Zaheer Abbas
    Bloginginfo.Com

    • http://www.ryanhanley.com Ryan Hanley

      Thanks! Appreciate you stopping by…

  • http://www.appsblogger.com/about/ Jeanne Pi

    I’ve been wondering how your 100 videos in 100 days experiment turned out. Despite the proven success of video marketing, SEO and the power of long-tail keywords, I’m surprised that more local businesses aren’t doing it. I think small local business owners are slow to adopt because they want tools that target locally…that they can understand. Internet marketing can be very daunting to an offline business owner. I guess that’s where you come in :-) Great work, Ryan. I know putting all those videos together was hard work. I hope you finally got the credit you deserve from the owners.

    • http://www.ryanhanley.com Ryan Hanley

      Hi Jeanne!

      I think this concept, in theory mind you, seems daunting to someone who is inexperienced or naive to the Internet. When in reality it is the simplest method for getting your name and content in front of qualified customers.

      In the end Jeanne it’s all about creating a profitable business and that’s all that matters.

      Thanks so much!

      Ryan H.

  • http://www.ryanhanley.com Ryan Hanley

    Go get’em Duffie! Thanks for stopping by!!

  • http://www.guideandnews.com Ehsan

    Awesome experiment Ryan. Thanks for sharing the results and step by step process with us.

  • http://www.socialmediaillumination.co.uk Gemma Thompson

    Love this post Ryan, will share it madly in just a minute!
    I really appreciate how transparent you are with your data, and I can confirm That long-tail keywords DO really work!
    Of course getting them to the site is halfway to winning their custom but a good call to action and clear easy to understand instructions on how to take the next step … Both of which you clearly illustrate at the end of your post … Bravo!

    • http://www.ryanhanley.com Ryan Hanley

      Thanks Gemma!

      And I can’t believe we hadn’t connected on Twitter yet. Thanks for that as well.

      Ryan H.

  • http://notordinaryblogger.com Okto

    Hi Ryan,

    Very great case study. And thanks for sharing it. I hope you don’t mind if I take note of values from your post. I like to give it a try in my own blog.

    • http://www.ryanhanley.com Ryan Hanley

      Try away Okto…

      Good luck and thanks for stopping by!!

  • http://mobile-development.spinxwebdesign.com/iphone-application-development Allen@iphone application developer

    Hi Ryan….Really nice experiment. I hope if I steal your plan, you don’t mind…. Actually I believe the effectiveness of long tail keyword and this post makes it stronger and give emphasize on using long tail keywords to make business better result-oriented. Thanks for useful study case.

    • http://www.ryanhanley.com Ryan Hanley

      It’s all about Long-tail Keywords buddy… Do your thing and Good luck!!

  • http://bloggingwithsuccess.net/ Ishan

    Great case study. I really like how the long term keywords provide small guys an opportunity. But what will happen when big companies start targeting them?

    • http://www.ryanhanley.com Ryan Hanley

      You know I had that same thought when I was writing this article… I guess we’ll have to cross that bridge when we come to it…

      Thanks for stopping by!

  • http://peggybaron.com Peggy Baron

    Love it, Ryan! I can see how this would work for my business and I thank you for sharing.
    Is there anything you’d add or do differently, in hindsight, to this 100 question experiment?

    Thanks,
    Peggy

    • http://www.ryanhanley.com Ryan Hanley

      Peggy… If I could have done one thing differently it would have been doing about 25 of the posts before I actually started Publishing them live… Because days come up and things come up and get behind…

      It’s not a lot of time but life happens… So if you have some in reserve you never have to worry about that.

      All the best!!

      Ryan H.

      • http://peggybaron.com Peggy Baron

        That’s a great idea. I imagine it’s better for productivity as well – doing a batch while you’re already there mentally.

        Thanks,
        Peggy

        • http://www.ryanhanley.com Ryan Hanley

          Absolutely it is… Good luck Peggy!!

  • http://www.rancorinfotech.com Aasma

    By offering solutions to your potential customers easily build trust for your business.(that you did by answering 135+ questions related to insurance). Plus by answering any question you can easily target long tail keywords which promises to give high conversion rate and that’s what your experiment shows.

    • http://www.ryanhanley.com Ryan Hanley

      No doubt Aasma!

      Showing results definitely builds trust and that what I’m trying to do

      Thanks for stopping by.

  • http://www.brentmkelly.com brent Kelly

    Awesome study and results Ryan. Its great to have real world application and data vs theory. Keep it up.

    • http://www.ryanhanley.com Ryan Hanley

      Thanks bro… Results are motivating so my goal is to accumulate as much real world results as I can to share with people.

      • http://www.lindamelone.com Linda Melone

        Good tips, Ryan! I like that your advice can be used for any type of business, not just insurance. Great stuff.

        • http://www.ryanhanley.com Ryan Hanley

          Thanks Linda!

          I’m glad to stopped by to check this article out!!

  • http://www.webwisedom.com Mike Wise

    Great share, Ryan. Really appreciate the detail. I can affirm that this has been my experience as well.

    Question: On a typical day, understanding that in small-biz-world there are no typical days, how much time do you spend on Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and the Blog, if you had to add it all up into one block of time? For me, I’m in and out of these Networks at least a few times a day, Blog once a week, email a few times a day.

    PS. Have you found that Social Tech activity has decreased your volume of email (not including notification emails, etc.)? I’m hearing that a lot.

    Thanks again.

    @MikeWise07

    • http://www.ryanhanley.com Ryan Hanley

      Mike,

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Answering your second question first… I would say YES less email because of messaging within the social space.

      Because I view Digital Marketing as a crucial piece to the long-term success of my Agency I would say that I spend ~hour and a half a day… Maybe more depending on what I’m trying to do.

      Thanks!!

      Ryan H.