Click to hear an audio recording of this post
If your site is gaining views slower than, well… Slowpoke, stick around to find out how you can catch ‘em all with Supple.
Constantly creating high-quality written content can be difficult, especially on an ongoing basis. And if you own an eCommerce website, you’ll know how difficult it can be to incorporate written content into your category pages.
So at Supple, we decided to experiment with something a little different.
We wanted to test how effectively a well-structured site with no written content could rank on Google.
And because testing strategies using our own sites is what we do best, we built one, especially for this experiment. We’ve also used these strategies with our own eCommerce clients to great success.
I’m sure you’ve heard the overused expression “Content is King” before. And arguably yes, quality written content can make or break a site’s success. But sites with little to no written content can still be incredibly successful if done well, as this case study shows.
Find out how we achieved amazing results with some creative linking, clever use of keywords, and well thought-out site structure. Oh, and Pokémon Go.
So how did Pikachu, Jigglypuff, and Bulbasaur help us increase site traffic from 0 to 200K page views per month?
Finding a unique way to experiment with internal links for SEO
If you have some experience with SEO, you’ll know that internal links are an essential part of a good SEO strategy.
And you’ll know that reading about linking strategies can be as interesting as watching paint dry. At Supple, we like incredible SEO results, testing strategies on our own sites, and playing games.
We don’t like watching paint dry.
That’s why we came up with a way to combine all the things we do like into a practical, but fun experiment in driving traffic to your site through creative internal links, smart site structure, and SEO best practices.
And yes, it involves Pokémon.
Why Pokémon Go?
Because we’re a little bit nerdy, we decided to create a site to serve as a platform for the experiment that would help us play one of our favourite mobile games – Pokémon Go.
Now, we know what you’re thinking – we just wanted an excuse to play Pokémon at work. And you may be right. But there were a couple of strategic reasons we chose this particular subject for our site:
- It’s a highly popular game, played all over the world, with an already dedicated fan-base. This means lots of people would be searching the specific keywords we wanted to rank for.
- Our particular idea would enable us to create multiple pages at scale within the site, giving us the opportunity to experiment and play around with site structure and find out more about its impact on SEO.
The purpose of the site would be to give players of the game a place to check their Pokémon’s weaknesses and strengths against other Pokémon types. If you’re not already familiar with the game, players and their Pokémon battle against other players.
All Pokémon are sorted into categories, including Grass, Fire, Water, and Electric, amongst others. Water Pokémon are usually weak when defending against Fire Pokémon, Electric Pokémon aren’t very effective defending against Grass, etc.
The site would help players to find out their Pokémon’s strengths and weaknesses in order to battle more effectively.
The game launched in July 2016, and our site followed shortly after seeing a demand for this type of content from players.
We called it “Pokeweakness”. But more on that later.
Creating and optimizing the site for search engines
We created the Pokeweakness site using WordPress, making sure to follow SEO best practices. Initially, it could only be accessed through our own Supple website. But this would later change.
In order to utilise our Pokémon idea to its full potential, we wanted to create a high number of functional, valuable internal links within the site.
The Pokeweakness site lent itself to this naturally, with the option of over 100 Pokémon, plus their individual categories and attacks. We created separate profile pages for each of the individual Pokémon, and separate pages for their different categories (Water, Fire, Grass, etc).
This type of structure is also perfect for eCommerce websites, with all their individual products and product categories.
Keen Pokémon fans will know that there are currently 7 generations of the animal-like characters, but for the Pokeweakness site, we started with just 1 – the original generation of Pokémon, of which there are just over 150.
Doing this would create a site structure that would end up being extremely SEO friendly – even with the overt lack of unique written content.
Transferring the site to its own domain
Due to the traffic that Pokeweakness was receiving, and the impact it was having on the topical relevance of Supple’s own site’s ranking, we moved Pokeweakness to its own domain at the end of March 2017.
There are a few important things to consider when creating a new domain for an existing website, including optimizing the domain URL and passing on the link equity.
This migration process is a delicate task that needs expert attention. If you find yourself in this position with your current site, make sure you know exactly what you’re doing, or find someone who does.
Passing on Link Equity
During the site migration process, we were careful to pass on the link equity that had been built up from when Pokeweakness was on Supple’s website.
When migrating, it’s crucial to redirect the old URLs, and check that all links lead to their correct page on the new domain.
In order to transfer maximum link equity for Pokeweakness, ALL pages were redirected to the matching destination and not just redirecting all old pages to the new homepage.
Here are some before and afters of our URLs after migration:
Current URL: https://pokeweakness.com/profile/pikachu/
Current URL: https://pokeweakness.com/Pokemon-type/rock/
As you can see, the current URLs are more succinct.
Picking the right domain name
When picking your domain name, it’s important to consider the keywords people use when searching for the type of content your site offers.
Rushing into choosing a domain name can lead to headaches down the track. You may pick something that’s not relevant to your website’s content, or that doesn’t contain relevant keywords. If you then decide to change it, your visitors end up being redirected all over the place. This can severely affect your site traffic.
We avoided this with Pokeweakness by thinking ahead – and using some handy tools.
When picking a domain name for Pokeweakness, we made sure to include a highly relevant keyword which matched the content of the site, so that users would be able to easily find it, and Google would favour it in search engine rankings.
Otherwise known as an “Exact Match Domain” (EMD), the effectiveness of matching your domain name with a search query likely to bring up your content is still up for debate.
However, we wanted to test the idea that using EMDs alongside a number of other SEO best practices and strategies would yield positive results.
The keywords we ended up deciding on were “Pokémon” and “Weakness”. But why “Weakness”? Why not “Strength”?
Conducting a search using Ahrefs showed us which of these terms had higher search popularity. The results were more than clear:
Because Google recognises “Poke” as relating to Pokémon, we could use this shortened version for our URL.
Merged together, our keyword was “Pokeweakness”, so our URL ended up looking like this:
Each page’s URL within the site was simple, clear, and included the most relevant keywords. See the URL example below as taken from the Fire Type Pokémon page.
Collecting analytics to measure the site’s success
Of course, to be able to measure the success of our efforts, tracking our site’s views and activity was essential.
To do this, we used Google Analytics, which enabled us to view all of our analytics on a clear and detailed dashboard from Google.
Page views and site traffic skyrocket
We started to really see an increase in page views around April 2018, with the site reaching almost 10K views for the month.
A few months on, monthly site views had tripled – reaching over 30K in July.
A month later – in August, they doubled again.
By September, we had 100K views coming in.
And by December, Pokeweakness had over 200K monthly views. This coincided with Pokémon Go introducing trainer battles.
But even when the hype of this new update died down, site views were still going strong, with over 200K monthly views in January 2019, 146K in February, and 181K in March (94% of these were new users).
Just one week into April 2019 and Pokeweakness has already reached 49K views – which puts us on track to continuing these figures for the month. Best of all, over 80% of these users were new visitors.
Overview of site traffic from April 2018 – Jan 2019:
While Pokémon Go is more popular now than ever before, the Pokeweakness site is still proving relevant to new users month after month – even with no significant updates being undertaken at this stage.
Our Pokeweakness site currently ranks as the number 1 Google search result for the following keyword phrases:
“Fighting Pokémon Weakness”
“Fairy Type Pokémon”
With the lack of unique written content on the site, being able to maintain a page 1 ranking for these keyword phrases is no small feat.
For example, all other first page results for the keyword phrase “Fighting Pokémon Weakness” included substantial written content.
Undoubtedly, as supported by our analytics, the popularity of Pokémon Go and the Pokeweakness site is at its highest right now in 2019, so the question of how to maintain these results is another challenge in itself.
Maintaining site traffic and ranking
As many of us know, an important part of maintaining site traffic is to keep the site updated, or to keep adding new content. So how can this be done without written content?
To continue to drive traffic to Pokeweakness, we now have the option to build on the site by creating additional pages for new Pokémon.
Since creating the site, generations 2, 3, and 4 have all been released on Pokémon Go. This means we could potentially add an additional 300+ Pokémon profiles for Pokeweakness.
We could also consider adding any of the following:
- Additional filter options (by generation, by number, etc.)
- Stats and Combat Point (CP) values
- Damage Per Second (DPS) & Total Damage Output (TDO) from move sets
- ‘How to acquire’ info (symbols for catching, raids, research, eggs)
All of these options present further opportunities for updating the site, which in turn, will keep its visibility high. And with the exception of the last point, they don’t require any unique written content.
The importance of a great user experience
Whilst creative linking, clever site structure, and the growing popularity of Pokémon Go have all contributed to a surge in site traffic, user experience is ultimately what keeps users on the site, and coming back time and time again.
The different factors Google uses to prioritise content are constantly changing. Time spent on page is a huge ranking indicator for Google. It signals to the search engine that users have found what they’re looking for in a search query, which in turn boosts the site’s ranking.
If users don’t find what they’re looking for on a site and click out straight away, Google takes this into consideration and registers the page as less relevant.
Make sure the content you’re creating is relevant and interesting to your audience, and not just content for the sake of content.
The Pokeweakness site shows that a website with little to no unique written content can absolutely thrive in search engine rankings – and attract high traffic – over a sustained period of time.
As demonstrated in this case study, site structure and internal linking should not be underestimated as important factors in the strategy contributing to the success of a page’s search engine ranking, particularly for eCommerce sites.
We’ve proven that written content isn’t the “be all and end all” of a successful website.
Rather, paying attention to your site structure, employing relevant keywords tactfully, and utilising internal links to your advantage can be just as effective. It’s this combination that created such amazing results for our Pokéweakness site.
However, what’s really important is knowing your audience’s needs and wants, and knowing exactly how to satisfy those intents with the right content – whether written or otherwise.