Case study Hello Toby


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The Challenge is a Hong Kong-based B2C service marketplace for professional personal services like tutoring, manicures, home repairs, etc., similar to Angie’s List or Thumbtack in the U.S. The site is bilingual with the majority of searches conducted in Traditional Chinese.

The company was a first-mover but it was no longer a startup and its business was flatlining. The founder, a savvy former investment banker, had just closed a round of funding and was under pressure to grow the business into the next Dianping of Asia (ex-China). (Dianping is like a mainland Chinese version of Yelp.) HelloToby had loads of service categories and listings, but not enough traffic or business. Despite HelloToby’s efforts to do some SEO internally, they realized they needed outside help and got in touch with Cogney.

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The Strategy

Since this site is a directory with an encyclopedic listing of different services, traffic is not based on dominating a single “golden keyword” (a keyword which is, by far, the most popular search query for a given product category or industry). Rather, traffic is the accumulation of many long tail search queries (“Italian tutor”, “nail artist”, “aircon repair”).

Therefore, Cogney’s strategy was based on optimizing Google’s “crawl budget”, that is, the maximum permissible number of pages crawled by Google at any time, so that more rather than less of the site’s content was crawled by Google, with Cogney prioritizing optimization of those portions or pages of the site most likely to lead to booking revenue based on the existing composition of keyword queries.

The first order of business was an SEO audit, to ensure that the site was easy to use and navigate for a human user and its pages easy for Google to find and index. Some of the routine matters typically required after an audit include deduplication of content, efficient internal linking, (re)naming of image files and modification of URL structure.

On top of the frontend changes (most of which improve the human browsing experience), Cogney requested highly technical code changes specific to increasing Google’s crawl efficiency. Such changes, although invisible to the human reader, reduce the amount of time and energy required for Google to move from one section or page of the website to another.

The next step was analyzing actual search behavior and nomenclature against how the site was actually signposted and indexed. For example, users searched for services by MTR stations yet the website’s geographical filters were stated by district. Similarly, Cantonese terminology and linguistic nuances were not properly mapped to their English language counterparts, resulting in search results which did not meet the needs of the searcher. For example, the translation of the Cantonese phrase for cleaners and maids resulted in a HelloToby page entitled “Home Assistants,” a term Google equates with home automation devices like Alexa or Google Home. In short, Cogney ensured that site content matched user intent more accurately.

Finally, Cogney repackaged the site’s customer reviews so they would receive maximum weighting under Google’s algorithm. Specifically, Cogney highlighted reviews with keywords most relevant for their service page, introduced machine translation of Chinese reviews on pages with insufficient review content and ensured that reviews were displayed with star ratings alongside their original text.


SEO audit + implementation (~12 months)

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The Keys to Success

The client understood that the linchpin of their business was SEO and cared deeply about it, ensuring a speedy and conscientious implementation of our action plan. It helped that they had a professional and reliable development team.

Our experience with big marketplaces (like Airbnb and was crucial because it allowed us to recognize patterns and opportunities in both traffic and user behavior which may have eluded agencies with scant exposure to such businesses. For example, marketplaces require continuous, ex-post analysis of content because new listings are being added all the time. That means new keywords must be optimized and new hub pages created all the time. Similarly, user behavior can evolve, requiring new pages or internal links.

This exercise entailed a significant amount of traditional marketing analysis about how consumers look for personal service solutions. Thus, we conducted an exhaustive review of the entire site’s taxonomy and content, taking into account the specific cultural and linguistic norms and behaviors affecting each service offered.

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The Results


Increase in organic search traffic


Increase in keywords ranking in positions #1-3

"SEO is a critical component and [Cogney’s] advice and recommendations are really helpful."
Jason Zheng

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