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Hilton Smythe: SEO Case Study

Hilton Smythe have been working with Optus since June 2017. They are one of the UK’s top business brokers, with massive experience in buying and selling businesses. Founded in 2011 by Gareth Smyth and Craig Graham, they have grown from a company turning over £60k a year dealing with small businesses such as cafes and pubs, to now turning over £1.5m and helping thousands of business owners every year find buyers for their businesses across a multitude of sectors. Small businesses are the spine of the British economy and the process of moving a business on can often be a lengthy, expensive process. Hilton Smythe are helping fill a gap in the market by offering a personalised, innovative approach to the buying and selling process.

To ensure they got their message out to the most people possible, they approached Optus Digital to find out how they could reach more people organically and optimise their paid campaigns for better visibility. We took one look at their site and saw all the missed opportunities and relished the chance to help them on their way to organic success! Here is our case study on how we helped better sell the business of buying and selling businesses!

SEO Goals:

Hilton Smythe had a few goals in mind. Namely, they wanted to increase rankings for key buying/selling terms and in turn increase conversions of people enquiring about the businesses that they are selling, or increase applications for business valuations and people looking to sell. With this in mind we looked at how these goals could be better achieved and what the main barriers to success were.

What We Found:

– User Experience Issues: One main component of SEO is how engaging and relevant your site is for a user. This rides a lot on the content, speed and usability of the site. Hilton Smythe previously had a very standard, functional website which did the job, but was a little old fashioned. Luckily it was responsive and relatively quick because of this, however the lack of a good user experience hindered dwell time, increased the chances of bounces and also made it more difficult for people to convert.

– Security & HTTPS: The site was also non-secure, with no HTTPS certificate, which meant no HTTP/2 in turn and the site was seen as more risky due to the forms that were required to be filled out which also impacted user trust and ranking potential against competitors.

– On-Page: Many pages were thin and did not meet best practices on the content side. The localised search pages contained no content whatsoever and many of the page titles and meta descriptions were not optimised. The site was struggling with cannibalisation and poor content.

– Technical & Crawl Issues: The site had hundreds of crawl levels, many broken or empty subfolders and an unnecessarily high number of pages. Internally there were 302 redirections and a lot of broken pages which had not been addressed.

– Broken Sitemaps: The sitemap structure was poorly set up, with one large sitemap of 50,000 URL’s which was filled with a number of broken pages.

What We Did and SEO Results:

After our first review, we identified the obvious issues and started our work fixing the main problems. We fixed the sitemaps issue by creating new country specific sitemaps for business listings, a separate main sitemap for key pages and a blog sitemap. We fixed the thousands of redirections. We updated directives for a number of subfolders and updated the robots.txt file to block large parts of the site which were not necessary for the crawl. We added content to the city and sector specific landing pages and used our keyword research to optimise the meta data.

This was only the beginning of our work and we monitored results to see what kind of impact this had.

The Results

Immediately, we started seeing positive movements for a number of key terms. At its peak, Hilton Smythe ranked 1st page for the term “business for sale” with 50k search volume and picked up a number of highly important 1st page positions for highly relevant terms related to the sectors they serve:

ranking improvements for hilton smytheSource: SEOMonitor

graph showing seo success

The ranking improvements had a direct impact on traffic as can we seen from the graph above taken from SEMRush. The number of high ranking keywords increased greatly and the site directly benefited from this. We also see this in Google Analytics:

google analytics stats for hilton smythe

Since our initial work, we’ve seen a 60% increase in Sessions, 67% increase in New Users and a big increase in goal completions which included searches on the business page as well as phone calls, email enquiries and valuation requests.

The industry is dominated by 3-4 big players with 2-3 large entities also using their own resources to target market share, including eBay and Gumtree. This makes it difficult to break into the 1st page because of the massively high competition and stronghold from the competition. Nonetheless, Hilton Smythe has made massive strides in moving forward and challenging for these top positions through our knowledge and expertise.

Over 50% of Hilton Smythe’s current traffic is now coming from organic and it has now become one of the most important channels alongside Direct and Paid.


Recently, Hilton Smythe have released a new site with a brand new design and internal structure. Optus Digital have been involved throughout with the migration and is continuing to work with the new structure to ensure that the site is performing at it’s optimum and regaining positions. Despite the challenges that the previous site and new site has brought, it is evident that a proper SEO strategy can bring a strong ROI. Digital marketing and especially organic search is spearheading growth for a large number of companies and websites. 

Interested in learning more? Get in touch today!