Overcoming Google Penalties to Build a Lead Machine

Executive Summary

Learn how Find8 recaptured the lead-generating results a client’s website once had in its “glory days.” With multiple Google penalties over a five-year period, a provider of extended warranties lost its lead funnel and a major source of new revenues. With a new website properly constructed to be SEO friendly in addition to mobile friendly, combined with a comprehensive national SEO action plan, this company is back on the road to stability and financial rewards.

Company Background

Launched in 2009 as a collaboration between two business partners, this warranty company provides OFFICIAL Extended Protection Plans for vehicle owners according to the brand. In fact, this company was one of the early innovators in the direct-to-consumer warranty market. Historically, it reached prospects through its website, email marketing, and telemarketing to build one of the largest extended, aftermarket warranty companies in the U.S.

The Problems

Increased Competition in a Crowded Market

Ranking Recovery for Google Penalties

In recent years, this company found it increasingly difficult to reach its audience and maintain its market share. The direct-to-consumer aftermarket warranty industry became very crowded. By 2016, Google search results displayed over 1.2 million pages for a short tail query relevant to the warranty industry.

A massive number of consumers began shopping online for extended warranties, perhaps to save money from high-margin auto dealerships. The industry saw a cascade of new entrants to the market, especially unofficial “pop up” brands who were in business one day and out the next. This left consumers with warranties that were worthless, causing a “black eye” on the industry as a whole. On the other side of the spectrum, large powerhouse brands began offering extended warranties online. Over time, this warranty company lost presence in Google – its number one lead generator. From its website visitor peak of monthly visits in 2009, traffic to the site slowed dramatically.

Google Releases Panda…

This particular warranty company historically performed well in search engines, especially Google. At its launch in July 2009, the company’s website skyrocketed for visits per month. Large numbers like this lasted for almost two years, until February 2011 when Google released the Panda penalty. According to Wikipedia, Panda aimed to lower the rank of “low-quality sites” or “thin sites”, in particular, “content farms”, and return higher-quality sites near the top of the search results. This warranty company was hit again by a Panda algorithm refresh, and twice more in 2013. Due to thin content, poor content architecture, and low-quality content pages, Google diminished the warranty company’s traffic by over 75 percent.

warranty company hires seo agency for ranking recovery

….and Penguin

Google, being ever vigilant in delivering the best results possible, launched the first Penguin update in 2012. This algorithm was designed to catch websites deemed to be spamming its search results, particularly those doing so by buying links or obtaining them through link networks designed primarily to boost Google rankings. Again, the warranty company was hit with a Penguin update in late 2013.

….and Mobilegeddon

By 2014, mobile searches exceeded searches performed on desktop and laptop computers. Google began prepping webmasters and web designers about upcoming changes. However, no changes were implemented to make the site more usable on smartphones, tablets, or phablets. As seen in the illustration below, the website was not very usable on these platforms without a lot of pinching and zooming:

mobile friendly web design

In 2015, Google released its first mobile update, which rewarded mobile-friendly websites within its mobile search index. Again, Google penalized search visibility of the warranty company on its mobile searches. Less than 20 percent of traffic originated from a mobile device by May 2016. Bounce rates were higher, and time spent was lower compared to desktop and tablets:

custom google analytics report showing mobile device users

Diminishing Brand Reputation

At the height of its search engine rankings in 2009 and 2010, this warranty company generated thousands of leads per month from its website. Conversion rate from unique visits to complete lead inquiry stood at slightly over 11.5 percent. After the Panda crash, traffic and leads plummeted, with conversion rates hovering under 2 percent. To compound issues, the company’s website started to resemble the spammy “pop up” websites that emerged in 2012 and later, as seen below:

web design services for mobile friendliness

Find8 Solutions & Results

After performing deep analysis on the penalties that the warranty company received in addition to analyzing its competition, Find8 Digital recommended a four-pronged solution:

Solution 1: Overcome Panda penalty

Find8 knew that it needed to correct past problems with the Google Panda penalty since it was the major driver in reducing visibility in results pages. First, the senior team constructed a new site architecture plan to eliminate orphan pages, delete all spammy “exact match” landing pages, and create pages that would be meaningful to future prospects. Furthermore, the team knew they had to create a content plan that shoppers would be able to easily absorb and navigate.

Results

In less than a year after the relaunch, the company has recovered from its Panda missteps. Traffic generated from organic traffic increased from its monthly visits in May 2015 to almost 400% more visits in March 2017:

seo report for national seo clients

The increase in ALL traffic can be clearly seen when compared year-over-year in the following chart from Google Analytics:

custom google analytics reports

In March 2017, the site realized a 168 percent increase in traffic from 2016! This traffic is driven from prominent rankings as shown in the chart below:

seo rankings reports

The warranty company now enjoys a majority of its tracked keywords on page #1 of Google, as evident in the chart below:

moz keyword rankings report

As seen above, many keywords were jockeyed into top ranking positions. Important keywords rank above the fold in Google. In fact, based on the content authority of the homepage AND an interior page, Google ranked two pages in the SERP:

google search engine rankings

The company also enjoys prominent placements in the coveted “Answer Box” position, a box placed directly below paid ads and above organic results. This box attempts to answer questions that users may have and displays the page that best answers it:

gmepp extended warranty answer box search results

Overcoming the Panda penalty allowed this warranty company to reach a larger audience throughout the U.S. The histogram chart below demonstrates how geographic coverage has expanded:

search engine reports by user location

Solution 2: Overcome the Penguin Penalty

The Find8 team uncovered all links pointing to the company’s website. They diligently examined each link, running every page through a spam score algorithm. Any page not meeting high standards was immediately placed into a disavow file in Google Webmasters, essentially telling Google to ignore these pages.

Additionally, the SEO methodically linked the home page, interior pages, and blog pages, allowing site visitors to traverse the site to important pages without having to use the navigation bar.

Solution 3: Overcome the Mobile Penalty

The Find8 web design team built a mobile frame leveraging Bootstrap to design and launch a website that passes the Google Mobile-Friendly test.

Results: The new website passes the test!

audit your website for mobile friendly web design

And it looks fabulous on any device:

find8 performance marketing creates mobile friendly websites

The warranty company’s website is now performing well in Google mobile indexes. Mobile traffic increased over 200 percent from June 2016 to March 2017, and tablet traffic increased by 38 percent in the same time period. Mobile traffic also syncs with the national average of 50 percent of visitors using the mobile platform over desktop. The company’s site sees slightly over 50 percent of its traffic from desktop computers:

google analytics by device category for website mobile friendliness

Solution 4: Develop a “Brand Action” Experience

Brand Action is the process of unfolding a unique story to help engage and connect with a prospect, ultimately making a conversion through an action. The Find8 team expertly built an experience to educate consumers about extended warranties, leading them to request a quote.

The Design and The Brand

The Find8 team not only built a site that delivers a solid visual design, but also a lead-generating machine. Find8 web designs delivered a drastic facelift in the brand identity of the company that creates an atmosphere of trust, professionalism, and expertise:

find8 performance marketing creates brand messaging for company

The Call-to-Action

The client asked Find8 at the onset of the project to regain its footing in delivering traffic and leads. The Find8 lead designer created multiple call-to-action instances, depending on where the site visitor was in the process of collecting information. With some visitors being more “top of funnel” and others being more “bottom of funnel,” prospects now have multiple and convenient avenues to submit a request for an extended warranty quote. A significant portion of leads derive from the online form since 70 percent of prospects are Millennials and GenX who prefer instant gratification and online shopping compared to their Boomer counterparts. For the Boomer generation, all instances of the phone number are programmed to “click to call” from both mobile devices and desktop using Facetime, as well as other virtual phone applications.

custom forms and call to action for website design

The Lead Machine is Back in Business

Today, the warranty company is thriving once again. The “lead machine” is restored and continues to make progress. As of March 2017, Find8 delivered these results (and they’re improving every day).


Onward and Upward

In less than one year, the company reclaimed a massive amount of market share, new customers, and sales, ensuring ongoing success for the company.

With the success of this project, Find8 has been tasked to replicate its SEO prowess on five additional warranty websites from this client. Find8 Performance Marketing is up for the challenge!