We cheated. Ok, not really. Here’s the whole story.
I moved to Hong Kong in June, 2013 to open an Asia office of my US-based online marketing firm MWI. The plan was to launch a separate Hong Kong website, and have it ready to go a few months before arriving. Then we wanted to focus heavily on getting a top ranking for the keyword phrase “hong kong seo,” which we felt would drive more of the kind of traffic we wanted than any other single keyword. As it happened, we were about a year behind and didn’t have the site ready for public consumption until January, 2014. But the first way in which I cheated was that we actually had the website up and running before June, 2013, so the search engines have known about it for several months, not just two months. But when I say it wasn’t ready for public consumption, I mean it. There was hardly any content on it and we were doing major tweaks to the design and site structure. There were many pages with no content. As recently as October, 2013, we ranked at #80 for “hong kong seo.” Here’s our ranking report since we started tracking it for “hong kong seo” in September, 2013.
By January, 2014, when we started optimizing in earnest, we were already up to #20. This is the second way we cheated. We entered a market that was very uncompetitive when it came to our top keyword. Yes, this is counter-intuitive, given that Hong Kong is a major world city, but there are reasons for it, which I explore in more depth in a blog post linked below.
But even if you take the “cheating” aspect out of it, I’m still quite pleased with the results, and there’s more to it than just having a website up in an uncompetitive market for several months. Here is exactly what we did. The secret sauce.
1. Homepage title tag = “Hong Kong SEO – MWI.” If you have a keyword that is super important to you, then you dedicate the entire homepage title tag to it.
2. Highly optimized SEO service page. After the homepage, the most critical page for this keyword is our services page about SEO. Do you think we’ve spent some time optimizing that page? You betcha.
3. Targeted blog posting. We created blog posts that focused on Hong Kong and SEO with titles like The State Of SEO In Hong Kong and What Hong Kong Companies Need To Know About SEO. Other blog posts also include the words liberally.
Up until this point everything we’ve done is pretty easy. Anyone could do this. The reason I don’t mind sharing our “secrets” is because the next part is harder to duplicate.
4. Link building. If there’s a secret weapon MWI has, it’s our access to top tier publications, which tends to give us access to mid tier local publications as well. I write for Forbes, and I’ve been asked by my editor to write specifically about my experiences getting this Asia office up and running. It’s hard to do that without mentioning my business, so naturally MWI Hong Kong has gotten a few links from Forbes. We also have links from Entrepreneur, PolicyMic, Hong Kong Business Magazine, Education Post, and Startup Grind. All of these are either top tier publications, or top tier within their market or niche. Having these types of links let’s Google know that MWI Hong Kong is a legit entity.
I could also talk about social signals and a number of other factors I believe have had minor effects, but those I’ve mentioned are the big ones.
Now you might be saying “That’s great you’ve done some SEO and got a good ranking, but is that turning into business?” Before answering that, let me answer another question–is it turning into traffic? Now, the unfortunate thing is that we had an issue with our Google Analytics account that was only fixed at the end of February, so we’ve only got two weeks worth of stats. Still, it seems fairly clear there’s an upward trend.
Of course this isn’t all coming from rankings just for searches performed for “hong kong seo.” MWI’s Hong Kong website ranks well for a lot of other related terms.
The real metric, of course, is qualified leads. At this point we only get a trickle of leads, and bear in mind this top 10 ranking only came about in the last few days. We have indeed gotten more unsolicited leads this past week, but the next few weeks will be a much better indication of what we can expect. Onward and upward.