Today I’m trying something new. I spoke to Ariff Munshi a couple of days back. He’s one of the entrepreneurs at Blk71 facing the stiff challenge of growth. He wanted to attend the Hackers&Painters talk that I’ll be doing on 13 December but circumstances won’t allow him to. I thought it would be cool to do a simple SEO audit of Userscout for Ariff, and he graciously agreed to let me. So Ariff, even though you can’t make it for Hackers&Painters, don’t worry bro, I got you covered.
Userscout was formerly known as Referoll. It has dozens of high quality, paying research studies that anyone can participate in and earn a small fee (called an incentive). However we aren’t satisfied with the current level of traffic that we’re getting at Userscout. How can we increase it, and consequently increase revenues?
What needs to be done
To serve the overall goal of increasing traffic and revenue, we will do 4 tasks.
- Check out the size of the market for online surveys to see if we have sufficient traffic to justify putting in effort.
- Research the current competitive landscape.
- Evaluate the effectiveness of the SEO on-site so far.
- Propose what else can be done. Some recommendations to improve on-page SEO, and some suggestions for content creation.
Tools used (all free)
For this post, I’ll be keeping the focus on Singapore, so I’ll be using google.com.sg and limiting keyword research to Singapore as well. Google redirects users in a country to the search engine for their country, and chances are, you are focusing on your local market anyway, so this choice makes sense.
Size up the market
I thought there were at least 3 viable related niches that participants would search for. They are the “make money online”, “online surveys” and the “research or medical trials” niche. When performing a search for some keyphrases in Singapore with exact match, I found that the “make money” niche has high volume, while the other 2 have effectively negligible volume.
|Keyword||Avg monthly searches||Competition||Suggested bid|
|earn money online||880||High||$4.05|
|how to make money online||590||High||$4.66|
|how to earn money online||590||High||$4.65|
|how to make money from home||50||High||$6.06|
|how to make money online surveys||10||Low||-|
|paid medical trials||10||Medium||-|
|paid research studies||10||Medium||-|
We may not find the “make money online” niche tasteful, as it is associated with the seedier side of the internet, but there are a lot of people with the intent to convert who are willing to use your service. I don’t want to make a judgment about whether it is right to focus on the niche. As long as you aren’t running a scam, I really don’t think you have anything to worry about.
Size up the competition
Lets size up the field by performing a search for each of these 3 keyphrases.
How to make money online
It looks like a generally informative, legitimate set of results. However I find it funny that a somewhat sketchy looking lifehacker ripoff is result number 4, and that result 7 onwards are all youtube videos. I think that there’s an unfilled niche here. Quality content from a respected site that is affiliated with the research departments of some universities would be ideal to fill that gap.
Paid online surveys
This niche looks a lot more competitive. There are 2 results that are Singapore-focused, and only the about.com and wikipedia links are generic, informational article. It will be harder to rank well for this niche, but not unattainable. There are still 2 informational articles on the first page, so competition can’t be that intense.
Let’s take a cursory look at the last result on this screenshot though, to see what it might take us to rank above it at least.
Using the Mozbar to examine the page, we can see that the page title is perfectly targeted, and that the meta description contains the critical broad keyword “take online surveys”, and some potentially useful keywords like “earn cash or gift vouchers”, “start earning rewards”. Google says that the meta description is not used for calculating rank, but it is used in the text shown on Google search results. Another thing worth highlighting is that the Alt Text of the banner or hero unit, is present, and long. Clearly whoever made the site took great care to make it SEO-friendly. None of the above-mentioned elements on their own are decisive, but taken on aggregate across all the pages on your site, they certainly make a difference.
The image shows what are the main keywords that drive significant organic search traffic to Mysurvey. It’s not 100% reliable, but it is useful to know, even as an approximation. If the keywords make sense in terms of your niche and monthly volumes, you could even steal them for your own SEO efforts. You can see the full results here.
Now that we’ve surveyed the field of competitors and verified that there is sufficient search volume to make SEO worthwhile, let’s take stock of where we stand at present with regards to our own SEO.
Hammer with toolbar first
The site isn’t well optimized for SEO. There is no meta description and the title tag doesn’t suggest that this site is useful for people who would like to participate in research studies. The focus is only on researchers. Perhaps that is the intention, but it would be odd.
Also, the alt text of the image is not optimized either. This is probably the same for other images deeper witin the website. Fortunately it’s a pretty easy fix while the site is small. Over time, Userscout’s success at growing it’s customer and user base will become it’s own enemy, making it much harder to make changes to the site SEO.
Bringing out the big majestic guns
The Trust Flow and Citation Flow of Userscout is good. There are no fixed numbers that I can offer as a benchmark. What works for you depends on a variety of factors including how good your competitors are, and how many links you’ve earned. Oddly, according to MajesticSEO, the total number of external backlinks for us has fallen by half in the past. This isn’t a problem however, since Trust Flow has more than doubled despite the dip. You only have to click on the “historic index” radio button next to “Verify Domain” to see the change. There is no way to find out which link or links are responsible for this exactly, but chances are good that it is the more recent links that resulted in the increase.
Seeing your shiny profile of backlinks gives you pride, but to really use Majestic or Open Site Explorer, train your sights on the competition. Use both tools to discover where their backlinks are coming from, whether there’s an opportunity for you to earn similar links, or even displace them. For instance, if Userscout has a competitor who is serving a local university research department by supplying research subjects and is listed on the university website, we have the knowledge and opportunity to step in and make a counteroffer to the department. I’ll bet you never thought of using an SEO tool for that. ;)
There is sufficient traffic even within Singapore only to convert site visitors into research participants. Competition is uneven across keyword niches so there are opportunities to exploit. However, basic on-page SEO needs some work. After that, there is the long-ish process of creating quality pages / blog posts / infographics / videos that can educate people about what userscout can do for them. Userscout is a marketplace and has to serve both client groups well (in terms of SEO), and not just researchers.
Feedback from Userscout CEO Ariff
Truth be told, we are not competing in the online survey space. More on the focus group recruitment and usability testing recruitment space. Since this month we have been focusing only on the US trying to get users and projects. We are competing against sites like findfocugroups.com and fgglobal.com. and ultimately Craigslist etc job postings. hence keywords are more like “paid focus groups” “find focus groups” “research participant recruitment” “find research participants”.
Thanks Ariff for the feedback. I felt that it is important to give Ariff’s response to the post above since it is about his company, and not to mislead prospective clients and users.
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