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Second citizenship website creates topic cluster-focused SEO strategy to grow traffic by 1,033% in 10 months

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“We needed to build out our SEO capabilities in every area, from content to backlinks. Semrush offers a huge suite of tools to handle every SEO need you could imagine. It’s been an invaluable partner along our growth journey so far.”
Samantha North, Head of SEO at Digital Émigré

Business Challenge: Grow online presence around a broad region-specific topic

In the spring of 2022, Digital Émigré, an online emigration platform, wanted to improve its online position for its major service offering: residency visa support in Portugal. 

The company needed more leads in this area, but, as a young company (founded in 2020), it didn't want to spend a lot of money on paid advertising. Instead, the company decided to focus on SEO. 

They set a goal of building out a comprehensive topic cluster around all areas of getting residency in Portugal. These informative top-of-the-funnel articles would then drive new leads to the company’s partner network of local immigration lawyers, real estate specialists, and tax professionals. 

Solution: Identify suitable keywords around the broad topic, then build out topic clusters covering all relevant aspects

Digital Émigré’s Head of SEO, Samantha North, was already familiar with the topic cluster content approach, which she had used for building her personal blog about SEO and profitable blogging. 

As a Semrush affiliate partner, she shares the ways she uses the tool for easy and effective SEO. You can follow her lead and try Semrush for free

1. Finding suitable keywords reflecting the typical relocation journey

Samantha’s first step was using the Semrush Keyword Overview tool to research relevant keywords for building the Portugal cluster. Here's an example of one such keyword (which she eventually turned into a pillar page).

Samantha took into account the following factors when deciding which keywords to target:

  • Keyword relevance: This helped maintain high relevance and gave the new site a better chance of building topical authority quickly.
  • Keyword difficulty score: As Digital Émigré was still a fairly young site with low domain authority, Samantha targeted keywords with a difficulty score of 50-60% or less – to maximize the chances of ranking for them. 
  • Search volume: As the keyword "moving to Portugal" seemed a good fit for a pillar page, she wanted to make sure it also had a healthy search volume. She’d targeted many long-tail keywords in the past, for example, those with Semrush reported search volumes ranging from 10 to 100. While these are typically easy to rank for, the site needed to grow beyond the modest traffic they were bringing.
  • Search intent: the goal here was to build an informational topic cluster for users in research mode, which she could then monetize either by: 
       1. getting them to sign up for our email list or 
       2. directing them to affiliate partners. 

Semrush’s search intent categorization was invaluable for filtering informational intent keywords. As you can see below, the keywords in this list are tagged as “informational.”

Samantha followed this process to build out a list of long-tail keywords around the broader topic of moving to Portugal. 

These formed the content calendar for the next 8-12 weeks. Armed with that information, Samantha embarked upon the next step: creating the content.

2. Building out the content pillars and hub pages

Once the content creation process got underway, it soon became clear that one person couldn't write content fast enough to meet the kind of velocity Samantha was aiming for.
That’s when she decided to bring on several freelance writers to support the workload. One Semrush tool that she found really useful in this process was the SEO Content Template.

This handy feature analyzes the top 10 ranking competitors for the keyword and provides a snapshot of SEO recommendations based on their pages.

SEO Content Template helps enhance your text with semantically related words, recommends the target length for each article, and offers backlink suggestions.

All this information was put into content briefs for the freelance writers. They could follow the instructions with ease, even without having extensive knowledge of SEO. 

In addition to creating new briefs, the SEO Content Template also played an important role in further optimizing the company’s existing content. In particular, they used it to improve content that had dropped or stagnated in the SERPs. 

3. Light link-building to boost clusters

Once Samantha started building a strong base of published content on the blog, the next step was to get some quality external links to give the clusters that all-important visibility boost.

It's important to note that heavy link building wasn't a top priority in her SEO strategy at this point as her efforts were better spent on creating great content in tightly niched topical clusters. 

But Samantha recognized the need to build at least a few backlinks, as this is particularly important for establishing credibility and trust.

She approached the link building process in two main ways:

  1. HARO: Signing up to Help a Reporter Out (HARO) and responding to journalist requests whenever something relevant came in. This resulted in several high-DA branded mentions sending powerful links to the Digital Émigré homepage. However, it's more challenging to acquire backlinks to specific pages, so HARO wasn’t a good fit for this task.
  2. Guest posting: The team researched the top competitors to see what sort of websites were linking to them. Their goal was to see if these websites would link to their content as well. The SEO Content Template offered some useful recommendations here. The team also used the Backlink Analytics tool to dig deeper into the backlink profiles of websites that seemed especially relevant to their own content. 
A competitor’s referring domains list shown in the Semrush Backlink Analytics tool

This was also invaluable for screening potential link partners, to avoid falling victim to link farms or other toxic websites that could harm Digital Émigré’s link profile.
Finally, the team kept an eye on their own backlink profile using the Backlink Audit tool. Although they haven't yet used the disavow feature, they may do in the future. 

That’s because the website has started to attract its fair share of low-quality links (which tends to happen naturally over time as organic traffic levels increase and the site becomes more visible across the search ecosystem).

The team understood the importance of having a good internal link structure, so the Semrush Internal Linking report helped them keep an eye on any pages that didn’t have enough links, so they could make sure they got what they needed.

In particular, the "Pages passing the most Internal Link Rank” report was essential for informing us which pages were best to link from when individual posts needed an extra boost:

4. Tracking the results over time

The last piece of this puzzle is tracking the results of Digital Émigré’s content efforts. Semrush offers several great features that they used extensively in this area. 

Digital Émigré’s traffic by type report in the Semrush Traffic Analytics tool

First, Position Tracking, which the team used to keep an eye on the progress of their most important keywords as they worked their way up the rankings.

Second, Semrush’s SEO Dashboard, which provides an all-in-one snapshot of the site’s current situation. It brings together key information such as the number of backlinks, Domain Authority (DA) score, visibility, and much more.

Key Takeaways

Digital Émigré has published over 60 new blog posts between June 2022 (when the company began building out its Portugal relocation content library) and April 2023. 

Those efforts started to bear fruit within a matter of months, with traffic taking a firm upward trajectory from July 2022 onwards. The website has seen:

  • 1033.33% increase in traffic between June 2022 and April 2023. 
  • 47.83% increase in the website’s average position.
  • Valuable new leads coming in daily, which are easy to convert thanks to high-quality informational content.  

Samantha’s Actionable Tips

  • When your website is new, you’ll get the best results by focusing on long-tail informational keywords, which typically have lower competition (you can easily check out your competitors in Semrush).
  • Aim to build out ‘topic clusters’ by writing about multiple aspects of a single topic in your niche, rather than targeting random keywords. Then link all your topic posts back to a single overarching ‘pillar’ post. Semrush’s Keyword Magic Tool is a great place to start with this. 
  • Don’t forget – a strong internal linking strategy is an excellent way to boost your site in the rankings. When you publish a new post, make sure to add 4-5 incoming links from existing posts. Use the Semrush Site Audit tool to help with this task. 
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