Learn9 SEO Leaders Reveal Their Most Significant SEO Wins


Eric Siu
writes on January 21, 2013

SEO isn’t going anywhere.

In fact, it’s such an efficient customer acquisition channel that companies such as Amazon and Airbnb have specifically carved out SEO roles to make sure their organic search efforts are going at full speed. However, SEO continues to be a hot topic of debate. The recent Google Panda and Penguin updates are certainly steering people in the right direction of how SEO should be done (hint: provide value instead of spam) and I thought it would be helpful to get some examples from a few respected SEO experts to help make SEO a little less scary.

Hopefully this input will help you spark a few organic traffic ideas of your own:

1. Rand Fishkin, CEO, SEOmoz

I think our biggest win on the consulting side (back when we did that sort of thing, pre 2009) was our work for Etsy (Yelp was a close second). The best part of that project was working to create a formal guide to SEO that Etsy sent out to their store owners, followed up by several big webinars, and lots of forum participation directly from me. It was phenomenal to see the transformation that Etsy sellers underwent going from unsophisticated to more knowledgeable marketers, and the impact on their traffic was not only massive, but sustained, and my understanding is that the guide and ongoing help continues to deliver ROI.

2. Will Critchlow, CEO, Distilled

One of our biggest SEO wins of 2012 was a content-driven link building project for Simply Business.

Simply Business are a small business insurance broker in the UK. Insurance is a tough niche and we needed to build links in order to continue to compete with other much bigger insurance players.

Since 2008 Simply Business have been investing in content creation to support small businesses in their endeavours via the knowledge section of their site. There they create content covering a wide range of topics including tax and finance, insurance, marketing and HR.

We wanted the content we were creating to sit comfortably within the knowledge section of the site and to complement the blog posts and podcasts they were already creating. As such we embarked on creating a number of guides that would be both link worthy and support their positioning as the small business champion.

A selection of the guides and links achieved are detailed below (all link stats are taken from Open Site Explorer):

Translation: Distilled achieved great success and had the metrics to prove it 🙂


  • 137 Linking Root Domains
  • 532 Tweets
  • 200 Facebook Likes
  • 165 Google +1s


  • 122 Linking Root Domains
  • 1600 Tweets
  • 1000 Facebook Likes
  • 527 Google +1s


  • 67 Linking Root Domains
  • 410 Tweets
  • 178 Facebook Likes
  • 183 Google +1s


  • Ranking improvements to head terms
  • 23% increase in organic traffic (February 2012 v September 2012)
  • 28% increase in conversions (February 2012 v September 2012)
  • 24% increase in Twitter followers (February 2012 v September 2012)
  • Our first piece, the Guide to Social Media success won Marketing Campaign of the Year at
    the UK Broker Awards & was shortlisted for the NMA Awards 2012.

3. Adam Audette, Chief Knowledge Officer, Rimm Kaufman

It’s actually a tough question to answer. There have been so many! (just kidding). My perspective is from the agency side of things.

One of or biggest SEO wins has probably been hiring very talented and creative people. Our team works hard, but even more importantly they work smart, and we expect a lot from them. It’s a very close group that works together collaborating on projects and problems, and with the power of many minds they can do amazing things.

I believe it’s crucial to have sustainable, intelligent SEO practices, to have the best technology in place, and to have reliable processes that ensure delivery to your clients. But even more importantly, you have to hire the best people, and that’s easier said than done. We’ve learned a lot about what it takes to be a great SEO over the years. While technical chops are essential, we’re also keen to bring in great writers and people experienced in public relations and other types of marketing. We’re looking for creative thinkers.

It’s trite to hear this, but it’s absolutely true in any agency or service organization: your people are your most important asset. It’s essential that you hire great people and treat them right if you want to last in this industry. My team is what motivates me to spread the word about RKG, because I know what they’re capable of bringing to the table.

The team we’ve built is absolutely our most significant SEO win!

4. Neil Patel, Co-founder, KISSMetrics

My biggest SEO win has been through content marketing. By creating almost 50 infographics, we were able to drive over 2 million visitors and 41,000 backlinks for under $30,000.

Plus unlike paid advertising our traffic continually climbs as we focused on creating evergreen infographics versus ones that were based off of timed events.

5. Sujan Patel, Co-founder, Single Grain

Edu.com was a brand new domain that was being built out. While doing competitor analysis I looked at the backlink profiles of the strongest players and while comparing them to edu.com realized that there were 1000s of .edu links already pointing to various subdomains of edu.com, none of that actually existed on edu.com. After further investigation I discovered that people often type .com extension when they link out to harvard.edu or any school website by accident. I suggested to create schoolname.edu.com and through that they were able to instantly get 1000s of .edu links and compete in a very difficult industry. On top of that it helped edu.com get natural links for years to come.

6. Ross Hudgens, Founder, Siege Media

The biggest SEO win I’ve had came from WPMU.org. WPMU was hit by the infamous Penguin Update, and with some small assistance from me, they managed to come out of the update 100% – from 1.3k organic daily back to over 9k daily. However, that wasn’t the end. This recovery happened at Penguin iteration 1.1, so I knew our recovery was one of the first if not the only, so I jumped to write a blog post to leverage the recovery as news. I wrote the post on SEOmoz, which then got WPMU tons more links, shares and brand impressions, which of course also contributed to the overall lift, and got the site 4,000+ visits to this day. Within a month WPMU also jumped from 9k a day to 11k a day organic visits. It was a huge overall coupe for WPMU and a great combined effort to leverage SEO best practices to also then get positive PR online.

7. Wil Reynolds & Adam Melson, SEER Interactive

You might be looking for a big win or crazy strategy, but for every one of those that works, there’s several more on the “our time will come if we do this right” train.

The contact lens client had a brand new site in 2008 and wanted to be on page 1 for contact lenses. Not the highest converting keyword, but the longtail combined with discount, deals, cheap etc was huge. It took 3 1/2 years to get there with a really great trend going up & to the right.

What they did that got them there:
1. Scrap the industry descriptions. Write 150+ new contact lens descriptions from scratch. Not the most thrilling task, but it was just one more indicator that they had a little more quality than the next guy.

2. We saw some eyeglass donation links that we thought we could get. If we could get the contact lens client to have their customers send in their old frames, we could get a few links now and then create a great story in the future when we reach 1000 or 5000. Customers that opted during checkout to send in frames received a return label with their lenses. The box is large enough to put a pair of glasses in there. When our client received their glasses, they got $5 refunded to their card. Wasn’t hard to implement, it received a few quality links, customers were left with a better experience and received some money back.

3. Create a blog. Not a crazy idea. Publish some articles that can pick up longtail traffic like “why do my contact lenses ……”. Some contests were held there too.

4. Create a scholarship. Trusted links flowing to the site with varied anchor text. We named the scholarship a keyword to help focus that varied anchor text WITHOUT being aggressive about it. If a school linked with the URL, great. If they linked using the scholarship name, sweet.

5. Donate to charities that meant something to them. We didn’t spam the site with charity links, but a few really relevant eye related charities helped.

6. Give away lenses to bloggers. They can use them however they want, contest, review, etc. If they hold a contest, send them the lenses you’re comfortable giving out so long as the winner can send a prescription for that lens. Get links to all the deep pages through the lenses you’ve made available to give away.

7. The company has great customer service. That helps their business grow even more and get coverage on sites like inc.com. That’s a nice link.

Consistent link building with content and a few medium sized linkbait ideas helped get this client onto the first page for the main industry term.

8. Paddy Moogan, Global Associate & SEO Consultant, SEOmoz and Distilled

My most significant SEO win was when I helped on a client project where they’d been penalized very badly by Google and lost a massive chunk of their organic traffic overnight. For a change, they actually hadn’t done anything wrong (that they knew) and weren’t using any shady tactics. It was one of the first big projects I worked on shortly after joining Distilled so it gave me a chance to learn new stuff and really dive into big datasets. After a lot of digging and hard work learning what the client had done wrong, we submitted our reconsideration request to Google.

It took a while but one day we saw a lovely uptick in the client’s Google organic traffic. A week later there was another one and the great thing was that they actually returned to traffic levels greater than they’d had previously! It was also right before their busiest time of the year and they had their best ever organic traffic levels as a result.


You can see in the examples above that there isn’t any blatant black hat SEO tactic aimed gaming the search engines. With SEO, the most important thing is that you’re adding value for people and making your work accessible search engines at the same time. Here are some common traits you can see from the SEOs above:

  • Be creative – if it makes sense for you to create an eBook on marketing for your audience, do it! They’ll remember you for helping them make more money and that should help you make more money in the long run.
  • Be analytical – sometimes you’ll really have to dive into your analytics or crawl your site to spot any major issues that aren’t visible to the naked eye.
  • Be consistent – all SEOs understand that getting high levels of organic traffic takes time and nothing is overnight.

What are some of your biggest SEO wins?


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