SEO Case Study: Using Content (Only) To Dominate A Niche

by Jason Smit

SEO Content Site Case Study

Find out how we used keyword clustering, fast publishing velocity and clever internal linking to 


  • This case study covers a personal site of mine called Climb Kilimanjaro Guide. I started the site in 2013 to help with my summit hike preparations.
  • What started as a fun project got traction and at one point the site ranked in top positions for primary keywords like "Climb Kilimanjaro" and "Hike Kilimanjaro", and I was getting between 20,000-30,000 monthly visitors.
  • By 2016 though I was focused on many other projects and Climb Kilimanjaro Guide got neglected. The site ticked along nicely for a few years but slowly lost momentum.
  • From it's highs of 30,000+ monthly sessions pre 2019 (see screenshot below), traffic for the past few years has sat consistently at 6000-8000 monthly sessions (see second screenshot below).
  • There has been no penalty. I was just slowly outcompeted by tour operators and other bloggers in the niche. Although it's worth noting that the pandemic in 2020 also negatively effected traffic.

Traffic in the good ol' days (October 2016 to December 2018)

seo case study traffic-ckg-oct-2016-to-dec-2018-2048x745

Traffic more recently  (June 2020 to May 2021) 😢

seo taffic-ckg-jun-2020-to-may-2021


  • Our goal with this site is to take traffic from 6,000-8,000 monthly sessions to 20,000+ monthly sessions in 6-8 months using SEO content writing only.
  • The project kicked off in April 2022 so we expect to see results by the end of the year.
  • This is a controlled case study to test the effectiveness of high volume (100,000 words - 70-80 new articles) and quality SEO content that is published at high velocity (all content was written and published by end of May 2022).
  • We did not invest in any link building or technical SEO efforts beyond what is already on the site, although if content alone doesn't move the dial we'll invest in HARO links (see our tutorial on how to use HARO to build DR 80+ links).


  • $12,000 (includes content planning, creation and publishing). We used our article writing team for the content and publishing. 

Key Milestones

  • 7th April 2022: The team kicked off the project.
  • 9th April 2022: Keyword clustering and content plan complete.
  • 19th May 2022: All content written, proofread and edited
  • 31st May 2022: All content published


Our content strategy followed four main steps: 

  • Advanced keyword mapping and content planning
  • Industry specific writer recruitment, onboarding and training
  • Creation of detailed content briefs and assigning work to writers
  • Editing, proofreading and publishing at high velocity with advanced silo'ed interlinking

Advanced keyword mapping & content planning

  • The site had already covered the Kilimanjaro niche comprehensively. We realised creating more Kilimanjaro content wouldn't help significantly so instead we decided to target two adjacent niches that are directly related to Kilimanjaro and Tanzania. They are going on Safari and beach holidays in Zanzibar.
  • In the past we would have done basic keyword research using Ahrefs to generate article ideas, but with the advent of keyword clustering like KeyClusters we were able to create detailed content plans that covered the two adjacent niches in their entirety.
  • Here's how we generated the 80 article ideas we will be writing for this campaign.

Industry specific writer recruitment, onboarding and training

  • This is where many companies go wrong in their content strategy. They outsource to general writers and hope for the best. Sometimes they get lucky and find a good writer, but more often than not the quality and depth of insight they were hoping for is just not there.
  • At Contentellect we've screened and tested 1,000s of writers. Over 80% of applications we receive, we reject outright. Of the remaining 20% we only end up recruiting around 10%. That means for every 1,000 applications we recruit around 20 writers.
  • We're able to do this as we have a highly efficient and streamlined writer recruitment and onboarding system. I'll write a more detailed blog post on this in the near future, but in summary our process follows these steps: 
  1. Niche Specific Job Ads: Instead of placing general writer job ads, we place adverts on job sites like Indeed that specifically target writers that have industry expertise or niche knowledge. For example, our advert for this campaign had the headline: Travel Writers Needed. If we were working in the medical, automative or finance niche we would just switch out Travel for the niche we're working in. This allows us to get a much more targeted and higher quality writer for our specific campaigns and clients.
  2.  Shortlisting Round 1: We use our job ad copy to screen for two key metrics. 1. Attention to detail, 2. Basic writing ability. We ask applicants to submit a CV and short writing test task (200 word blurb on their favourite book, movie, documentary, podcast etc.). We include a detailed requirement in the test task like: make sure to write in American English in font Times New Roman (font size 12). Most applicants just ignore the test task and submit a CV and cover letter. These are rejected outright. Some do the test task but don't follow the instructions or demonstrate that they can write. These are also rejected. This get's us down to our first shortlist.
  3. Shortlisting Round 2: With our 1st shortlist lined up we send applicants a detailed email saying that we liked their application and would like to proceed to a full test article. As part of this process we give them access to our writers guidelines and training videos. We ask them to read and watch these and then use a detailed brief that we have assigned them to write a full article on a niche specific topic. Often we use live articles for this. The information they receive is exactly what they will get if they get recruited so if they can follow instructions here and create a good quality output we know we have a winner. We are testing for three things: 1. Ability to follow detailed instructions, 2. Ability to stick to tight deadlines and most importantly 3. Ability to turn a detailed content brief into an awesome article. They need to score well on metric 3 + one other to be recruited, otherwise they are rejected.
  4. Onboarding and Training: Once recruited we onboard writers using our detailed training videos and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). There is too much to go into here, but basically we supercharge our writers so they can hit the ground running.

We followed this process to recruit, onboard and train 4 amazing writers for this campaign.

Creation of detailed content briefs and assigning work to writers

  • Even if you have the best writers in the world, without clear and detailed content briefs the output from writers is often sub-standard.
  • Our project management team used to spend at least 1 hour creating a single content brief for writers. This would entail using Ahrefs to identify who is ranking for a keyword and reverse engineering their content structure, word length and style to help brief a writer.
  • With the advent of AI content tools like Surfer SEO and, we are now able to generate insanely detailed briefs that make sure our writers can hit their outputs out the park every time. And the crazy thing is we can generate a brief in 5 minutes.
  • Here's a video that shows how we create detailed briefs and assign them to writers.

Editing, proofreading and publishing at high velocity with advanced silo'ed interlinking

  • Coming soon...

Jason Smit

Jason Smit is the CEO of Contentellect and believes that marketing success lies at the intersection of great content and quality links. With 15 years spent in agency environments, including Saatchi & Saatchi, Publicis Media and Performics, his experience is distilled into Contentellect's service offering. He holds a B.Com Marketing from the University of Cape Town and a PGDip. in Entrepreneurship.

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