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Small, Quick Win: Affiliate Site Gets “Unstuck” After Tanked Rankings + A Long Plateau


Hi there,

I’m Despina 😃

I first got into SEO as a content writer and have swiftly become a fan of all things data-driven SEO.

Using data to leverage organic growth has been my sole focus since 2017 and below is a small case study of my methods in action.

Most of the hands-on work I do these days is revolved around on-page SEO and content strategy.

I help clients identify:
  • Content topic gaps
  • Quick-win opportunities
  • Site architecture issues
  • Cannibalization issues
  • Underperforming content

My consulting services also help clients go from theoretical to actionable in a jiffy.
We do this by streamlining SEO workflows so content teams remove bottlenecks easily.

I hope you enjoy the journey of the project detailed below.

It’s a great reminder that SEO is not about how much stuff you do.

Rather, it’s about doing the right stuff.

Here’s what this case study will cover:

The client wanted to reclaim position 1-3 rankings that were lost or dropped.

This case study focuses on just one vertical of a budding authority site, monetized by affiliate earnings.

Results Overview
Results Overview

The Project

The site had over 600 articles at the time of purchase.

Most were underperforming following past algo hits and due to poor content quality from the previous owner.

There were also some serious cannibalization issues preventing the current content from ranking (even when strategic link building was implemented).

The new owners wanted a content strategy architected that their team would implement.

The goal of the strategy was to prioritize the reversal of their position 1-3 ranking drops.

Important Note

Implementation of the strategy was in the client’s hands.
By using Keyword Cupid, I just designed the best strategy for them to follow to reach their goals and with their available resources.

Let’s just say, they did not have deep pockets to go all out, so their implementation capacity was somewhat restricted.
My role was to help identify the critical actions that would move the needle to allocate their resources appropriately.

TL;DR Results:

~68% of my client's content either created or upgraded (following my recommendations) has already successfully earned/reclaimed position 1-3 rankings since they started implementation.

The initial rankings uptick was 3 days between using KC and seeing a lift in reclaimed rankings.

A small (but quick) win and a steady incline in position 1-3 rankings for the target silo since then.

Overall, so far, this has lead to ~94% increase compared with before using Keyword Cupid.

From 569 to 1,102 keywords in positions 1-3.

Ranking Plateau
Ranking Plateau

Ranking Increases
Ranking Increase

If you want to compare the increase with the highest peak during the plateau, we’re still looking at a ~56% increase (from 708 keywords on July 24th, 2020).

July 20' Status
July 20' Status

The client did not implement any link building or major technical SEO tactics to influence these results.

Results are purely from the content efforts they have started chipping away at.

They are still in the process of executing the strategy and we expect to see continued growth as they work on more content improvements to reverse the deep quality and cannibalization issues affecting their content.

The Process

Any time I undertake a content strategy project, I include a few critical elements.

These are foundational to understanding what content assets a site has and how they are performing.

For this particular project, I started with the following:

Detailed content audit

Assessing the current site architecture and content performance.

Deep, niche-wide keyword research

Leaving no stone unturned to fill in the topical gaps for the vertical we were targeting.

Use Keyword Cupid for clustering

This was essential for overcoming cannibalization issues on the site.

Keyword mapping & site architecture changes

To clean up technical issues affecting content performance.

Content planning

Pulled all the data into an actionable plan my client’s non-SEO teams could easily use.

In a nutshell, my process takes intangible entities and all associated data and turns them into an actionable roadmap.

We go from a loose group of keywords all the way to a detailed action plan and a streamlined workflow to boot!

My service included a checklist of actions and templates for different page types.

From there, a team of non-SEO writers and editors have been working their magic to improve the content quality across the site.

And voila!

Despite attempts to improve rankings through backlinking and general, site-wide technical fixes, the missing link was content.

Once data empowered the team to know what to fix and how to do it, the SEO performance stopped being stagnant.

The Backstory

The client had purchased this site about six months after a big algorithm hit totally tanked the site's rankings.

The seller hadn’t recovered the performance as they weren’t actively working on the site for the better part of a year. The seller had also been looking to offload the site before the rankings dropped anyway.

At the time of purchase (~March 2020), Amazon also reduced their commissions, and Covid hit, further impacting the website's performance for the new owners.

Following the sale, the new owners were at a loss on how to begin finding the opportunities to get the existing content working better for them.

We architected a content plan that included a combination of new content and upgrading old content so they could reclaim position 1-3 rankings in their (previously) top-performing silo.

I identified the cannibalization issues plaguing the silo and offered a roadmap to reverse this issue.

Keyword Cupid was central to my methodology for creating the strategy and reversing the damage of cannibalized content.

Due to the previous owner's neglect, many niche sites in the same vertical had popped up, outcompeting the client’s site.

These sites had significantly more content in the vertical, and it wasn’t just structured better, it was also of a higher standard.

The strategy was clear, given prior link building and technical efforts had not made a dent in the long-standing ranking plateau, the new owners needed to bite the bullet and improve the content on the site.

They needed to address critical issues affecting content qualit and internal competition (cannibalization) as fast as possible.

Given the budget restrictions following Amazon commission cuts, the client has simply reinvested available earnings into the site and has already seen a lift in both rankings and earnings on product sales.

We cannot accurately report on improvements in sales due to the onset of Covid affecting buying behaviors during most of 2020 and the lack of available data before then.

The History of Small Wins

On Oct 15th, 2020 Keyword Cupid was used as part of the keyword clustering and creation of the silo structure for a single vertical on the site (aka just one content hub that had taken the biggest hits).

Between then and March 31st 2021, 79 new pages were created or upgraded by the client’s content team.

However, the reversal of pos 1-3 ranking keywords began immediately from Oct 18th (just 3 days after using KC as the client’s team prioritized content upgrades).

This reversal has continued to increase steadily.

Small Wins
Small Wins

The site has (so far) survived both the Dec 2020 and April 2021 algorithm updates targeting affiliate sites.

Despite these algo updates, it continues to be on a steady growth trajectory and we wish the owners much success as they continue to chip away at improving their content!

Despina Gav

Despina is passionate about all things content and SEO. She runs an SEO consultancy focusing on crafting winning content strategies for websites of all sizes and in any niche. She also helps SEO teams to streamline their processes. Check out her work at and her blog.

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