Case Study: 9,600 Monthly Visitors ($164,000 Traffic Value) with 1 Article

Almost $2,000,000 in organic traffic, per year, from 1 single article! 

In today’s case study we’re diving deep on an article from NerdWallet, that’s doing serious SEO business.

And we’re pulling back the curtains to reveal exactly how & why it’s hitting these numbers.

The article: Betterment vs. Wealthfront: Which is right for you?

The article’s top-line performance stats (data from Ahrefs)

  • Attracting 9,600 monthly visitors from organic search (Google)
  • Ranking in Google’s top 100 positions for 320 keywords 
  • Has 82 different websites pointing to the article (referring domains)
  • With 213 backlinks (individual links) to the article
  • All driving an incredible $164,000 monthly traffic value 
    • That’s the amount it would cost to buy the same traffic via Google Ads

We also see some important stats on the URL and the domain (more on this later in the case study): 

  • UR (URL rating): 33/100
  • DR (Domain rating): 87/100

Ok let’s break down this article and see what we can learn.

Jump to the insights: 

So, what does a $164,000/month article look like?

Some things I like about the style and structure of this content: 

  • Plenty of white space
  • Large, easy to read headings breaking up the content
  • Short sections (content is chunked so it’s easy to scan)
  • Table of contents at the top of the article (usability)
  • Clean table structure to display the comparisons
  • Bullet points with bolding make it easy to consume
  • Expandable content provided even more detail
  • Strong Call To Action (CTA) buttons close out the 

Notice that virtually all of my points (with exception of the last point) are simply designing content that’s easy to read

Usability is everything. 

If people can’t easily consume your content, they won’t – simple!

Here’s a view of the full length article:

A few comments about the information this article provides:

  • Sums up the top features of each platform
  • Offers notable features of each service
  • Provides short guidance on which platform is right for you

All in all, the article does a good job cleanly comparing the main features of each platform. 

The analysis is good, but nothing exceptional.

So, how is it attracting 9,600 monthly visitors, with a traffic value of $164k?

To answer that, let’s look at the keywords it’s ranking for.  

320 keywords driving $164k in traffic value

Click here to access the full spreadsheet – you’re welcome 😉

As you can see, the keywords being ranked for (many position #1) are pretty straightforward: 

‘wealthfront vs betterment’

‘betterment vs wealthfront’

‘wealthfront or betterment’

Notice the estimate Cost per Click (CPC): $20

That’s a Cost per Click estimate of $20 – if you were to bid on those keywords using Google Ads (which is not uncommon in the finance space). 

Let’s have a look at the keyword ‘wealthfront vs betterment’.

It has a CPC of $20 and a monthly search volume of 7600.

And this article ranks in position #1 for that keyword. 

A position #1 ranking on an unbranded term typically gets a 28% Click Through Rate (CTR)% – as per this research chart from Advanced Web Ranking:

So if we used this average, for 7,600 searches they get 2,128 visitors (7,600 * 0.28).

With a traffic value of $42,560! (2,128 * $20)

Now, in column H you will see the traffic volume that Ahrefs reported as 3,447 (this works out to a CTR of 45%). 

I like to take all data from 3rd party tracking tools with a grain of salt.

However, due to NerdWallet’s strong brand, it could be getting a pretty strong CTR. 

So my guess is that the monthly traffic is somewhere between 2,128 and 3,447 visitors (with a traffic value of between $42,560 and $68,940). 

Note: this is just for a single keyword (out of 320)!

Why is this article ranking #1 in Google?

Now we come to the million dollar question.

Although there are reported hundreds of factors influencing SEO, I find that trying to think about 200 different factors is completely exhausting. 

So I’ll break it down into 3 key areas: 

  1. On-page content and performance
  2. Website strength
  3. Backlinks and referring domains to the page

If you get all these areas right, the rest naturally falls into place. 

On-page content and performance

Firstly, the page content (and meta-content) needs to be optimised for the target keywords.

Here’s you’ll see from this Serpworx screenshot that the NerdWallet team have certainly deliberately optimised for the main keywords:

But more important than the on-page optimisation for target keywords, is the usability of the page. 

Today Google’s ranking algorithms use machine learning and AI to optimise their ranking for the best possible content. 

That means they look at some of these factors: 

  • Click Through Rate: from search results to the page
  • Time on page: how long are users staying on the page?
  • Scroll depth: are users reading the whole page? 
  • Bounce rate: do users quickly go back to Google? (a negative signal)
  • Click Through to other pages: click to other page or recommended website (the CTA buttons at the end of the article, for example)

In short, Google is optimising for human experience: trying to deliver the best possible piece of content for the search query. 

The lesson here is to forget all the technical and blackhat SEO hacks, and focus on creating high quality articles, that are the best content online for any given search term you’re targeting.

Website strength

Next, the strength of the website as a whole matters a lot. 

Remember, these factors from Ahrefs: 

As a general rule, the best performing websites in organic have a high Domain Rating. 

The Domain Rating is a logarithmic rating out of 100 (the higher the better) that estimates the strength of the website (in the eyes of search engines).

Ahref creates Domain Rating by:

  1. Looking at how many unique domains have at least 1 dofollow link to the target website
  2. Taking into account the DR values of those linking domains
  3. Taking into account how many unique domains each of those websites link to

You can think of it as a popularity contest – Google figures, if many quality websites are linking to this website, it must be decent.

So typically, Google ranks articles from high DR websites higher than low DR websites. 

Therefore, it’s important for the long term success of your website to produce quality content that’s good enough to attract links from other websites.  

As for this NerdWallet article, the actual article page URL Rating of 33/100 is not that high, but it’s being supported by a very strong DR of 87/100. 

Backlinks and referring domains

Now let’s take a look at a critical factor in the performance of this page, the backlinks:

Click here to access the full spreadsheet.

First thing that you’ll notice is that the backlinks coming to this article are from very high DR websites (column C), ranging from DR 90-70 in the screen above. 

So if I was working for a client to compete against this article, I’d be analysing what backlinks they have, and making a list of which I could also get. 

I’d also look at all the backlinks to competing articles to build a long list of viable backlink options. 

For this article, I noticed that the NerdWallet team are using a guest-blogging backlink strategy. 

(That’s when you pay to post content on another website, for the purpose of putting a backlink to your webpage inside the content). 

Have a look at rows 8 and 17. 

From Nasdaq’s news

And this news website: 

 

Yes, it’s the same article used as a guest blog (paid placement).

In the second paragraph you’ll find the link back to NerdWallet (‘Wealthfront and Betterment’).  

This is a highly effective, 100% white hat, link building strategy. 

How does NerdWallet make money from this article?

Did you notice the Call to Action buttons at the end of the article? 

Each of those buttons link directly to Wealthfront and Betterment. 

It’s highly likely that both platforms implement an affiliate program, where referring partners are paid on commission when a new paid user signs-up based on their referral. 

In the case of Wealthfront, they even made a specific offer for NerdWallet readers (smart marketing): 

What to take away from this case study

Ok here’s my top takeaways for financial advice firms wanting to use content marketing to attract more clients: 

  • Aim at publishing really helpful content – obvious right – make sure it’s easy to consume, insightful and actionable
  • Simple articles can work as long as they satisfy the above criteria
  • If your website has a low Domain Rating, you may need both a content marketing strategy and link building strategy to help build it up over time

For smaller advice firms, don’t look to compete for topics against websites that have high Domain Ratings (70+), you’ll just be wasting your budget & time (these guys have teams of SEO specialists working around the clock)!

Instead, as I recommend in my Content Marketing for Financial Advice course, pick a niche (or geography), define your Ideal Clients, and start producing content specifically for them – it will be so much easier to dominate a well defined space. 

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