They say the best things in life are free. This applies to website traffic, too.
What digital marketing experts don't tell you is that those “free” things usually require a lot of work. And that's especially true when we talk about organic traffic and taking up prime real estate on search engine results pages.
As of January 2020, there are 1.74 billion websites online. Google regularly introduces new algorithms designed to make search results more relevant to its users so that anyone using this search engines finds exactly what they're looking for.
What does it mean to marketers? It's becoming increasingly difficult to drive organic traffic to your website.
In order not to get lost in the abyss of search results, but also your organic search traffic, you have to fine-tune your search engine optimization strategy on three levels: content creation, technical SEO, and link building.
Increasing organic traffic requires you to target all the keywords that are relevant to your users, provide real answers to their search queries, blog regularly and make sure your content is optimized for mobile devices.
You can also include behavioral factors, like time spent on a page or bounce rate, which also says a lot about the overall quality of a landing page, or user intent for more direct traffic.
Yes, that's a lot. Online marketing is a jungle!
If you're new to SEO or you want to validate your current strategy, this article is for you.
I'll show you a few no-brainer tactics that will help you drive more organic traffic to your website and hopefully help you experience the power of free traffic.
Nowadays, brands are fighting to create content that lands in the first position in Google. To stand a chance in this fierce battle, site owners need to use the best SEO “war” tactics.
#1 Work on Your Website Credibility
I called getting a high Google ranking a “battle” for a reason. You'll have to compete with big brands and their big websites to increase organic traffic.
Since some sites offer a kind of analytics tool for metrics that describe domain strength in Google's eyes (usually with a scale from 1 to 100), you don't need an artificial score like this to understand just how authoritative a given website is.
Let's dig deeper.
Some indicators of this include high estimated domain traffic, number of backlinks, and the number of keywords they rank for.
According to data from the Keyword Surfer Chrome Extension for the “how to adopt a puppy” keyword, the top pages are mostly domains that get millions of visits every month:
Why does domain strength matter?
Simply put, because it's an indicator of how well the website will perform in search results. The more authoritative your domain is the higher your chance of winning a decent position on Google.
In the love-hate relationship between Google and publishers, trust is everything. Earning this trust boils down to two things: 1) content production and 2) link building.
Producing high-quality content regularly and distributing it effectively is key to attracting more traffic to your website.
Promote your content pieces via email and share it with the rest of the world through your social media channels to boost traffic. Only after sorting out your content marketing, you can move on to link building.
Right.... but how to approach link building if you don't have a strategy yet? Here are a few techniques most site owners can use:
- Create an expert roundup where you feature multiple experts. They get a backlink and a space to build their brands, you get a chance to get your link back too. If you play it right, they'll most probably share it with their audience which will drive more traffic to your website. They might even link to you on their own website. SEOButler team knows how to get this done. This roundup of SEO expert tips brought them some nice visibility:
- Answer questions relevant to your niche in online communities, like Quora or Reddit. Usually, those social networks are moderated and don't accept any sort of spamming activity. Be helpful and bring real value to the table at the same time!
- Find websites with broken links and reach out to them asking to replace their broken links with your content on the subject.
- Use guest posting – contact publishers willing to accept guest articles and offer them your content. High-quality publishers keep their standards high. Your content will need to be outstanding.
- Try to come up with a free resource that your target audience could benefit from. For example, at Surfer we designed a free SEO extension for Chrome, which speeds up keyword research for targeted traffic. Brian Dean writes long, data-driven articles on SEO-related topics like SEO traffic, keyword search volume and search engine optimization to increase direct traffic. HubSpot creates content hubs on everything related to marketing. Look for your big idea and bring it to life!
- Use Surfer to check common backlinks that your competitors have and you don't. You will need to use the SEO Audit feature to get a handy list of domains that can be a great to-do list for your link building activities.
At the beginning of this section, we mentioned producing high-quality content as a necessity for building trust with your domain and getting more traffic to your website. Which leads us to…
#2 Set Up a Blog If You Don't Have One
If you've been reluctant towards running a blog on your website, it's time to reconsider.
Blogging lets you SEO optimize your website for as many keywords as you see fit. By writing high-quality content, you can compete for hundreds of relevant phrases. If you rank highly for them in search results, you can bring in more organic traffic to your domain.
Here's the catch, though – you need to play the long game. Don't ghost your blog just because users didn't flock to your website after you'd written an article or two.
It will likely take months before you notice the first effects on your site's traffic.
Marketing consulting company Weidert makes a great point:
Gaining traction with content publication is a lot like scaling a mountain. You probably won’t reach the summit in a day but you will eventually, provided you’re committed to a slow and steady climb.
So, here are a couple of things you need to be aware of if you want to embark on this blogging endeavor:
Understand your niche
If you sell weighted blankets, you're probably not going to bring in relevant traffic by writing about screwdrivers and chainsaws. But not every article needs to be strictly product-related. For example, you might write lifestyle content on subjects like stress reduction or meditation – both of which relate to the product.
You don't need to guess what to write about. There are better ways to determine winning topics. You can:
- Ask your email subscribers what they would like to hear about next,
- Spy on your competitors' content that attracts the most engagement,
- Take frequently asked questions from your customers and write articles based on them.
More than likely, your competitors are ranking better than you for a reason. Clearly they’re doing something right. Why waste time trying to figure out what content will work when you already have the answers in front of you?
When you know what your website visitors or current customers want to read about, you'll get one step closer to creating unique content on the subject.
Create an SEO-friendly blog structure
Have you ever heard of content topic clusters or SEO silos? If you haven't, let's just say you've got some reading to do. A good structure can determine your success in blogging.
If you're serious about bringing organic traffic to your blog, you have to pick strongly related categories for your articles and stick to them.
For beginner bloggers, it comes down to these four steps:
- Pick 3-5 categories related to your niche,
- Plan articles around those categories,
- Write content that will stand out from the crowd,
- Take care of internal linking between blog posts.
According to Michał Suski, these are the rules of internal linking:
Make sure that anchors leading to your pages include phrases your pages rank for and nothing more (don’t confuse the search engines!) Make sure that the anchors leading to different pages don’t overlap. Be consistent—always use the same anchors for each article.
Put out SEO-optimized content regularly.
It’s up to you how often you’ll publish new pieces, be it once a week or once a month – experiment with your publishing frequency to find your sweet spot.
For example, Neil Patel switched from publishing 1 blog post per week to 2. This resulted in a monthly traffic increase from 46,134 to 59,787 sessions. It’s a huge simplification but you get the idea.
You can publish less if that means that the quality of your content will be top-notch. But less does not mean less consistently.
By publishing regularly, you’ll be able to target new keywords, build more internal links, develop your blog structure, and build a real audience. That won’t go unnoticed by Google.
Use the right tools for content creation
Here’s our Golden Trio – Surfer for SEO optimization of your content, Grammarly for checking your grammar, and Hemingway Editor for readability.
Surfer Content Editor will let you screen your content before you write and publish it.
For example, if you’re writing an article optimized for the phrase “how to become better at blogging”, it will let you compare your post to up to 10 competing websites from the top 10 search results.
As you write your content, Content Editor will tell you how to write an optimized piece that will outrank the competition, specifically:
- which keywords you need to use and how many times
- which questions to answer
- whether you’ve used enough headings, paragraphs, bold words, and images.
Surfer Content Editor also lets you screen your text through Google’s NLP (Natural Language Processing) feature.
We discussed in depth how NLP impacts SEO in another article. For now, let’s just say this – NLP lets Google’s BERT algorithm analyze the context, entities, and sentiment of the content you’re checking. This will further help bullet-proof the piece you’re about to publish.
#3 Use Historical Optimization
Producing high-quality content is time-consuming, which is why you should continuously optimize it to drive more traffic to your site.
This means revising your older blog posts i.e. published a few months ago or so.
Your competitors don’t sleep. You published an article in January and ranked in the top three? Great. But the situation may be completely different in February and March. For money keywords and high-volume terms, there’s always someone trying to outrank you.
Updating your content will pay off! Google rewards freshness – it’s been one of their ranking factors since 2011 and you shouldn’t neglect it.
Use Google Search Console to identify articles that rank high in Google and try to optimize the content by enriching it with additional keywords, adding new data, graphics, etc.
You can also include the publication date, the last review date, or add the year to your title to make it look more relevant, for example, “10 Tips for Optimizing Your Content in 2020”.
You may have noticed that publishers update their content by adding a year to the titles of their older articles, for example:
It’s a nice trick but it takes much more to make sure your article is up to date.
You can bring your historical content optimization to a whole new level by using Surfer to audit your content. It will tell you what you need to improve to rank higher in search engines, including content length, phrases to use (based on Natural Language Processing), page speed, meta tags, keyword density, etc.
If you pick your competitors wisely for the analysis, your chances to get a spot-on optimization will rise significantly!
Here’s what it looks like:
#4 Target the Right Keywords
High volume keywords are usually not the best choice. Keyword research is more than just looking for phrases that fit your niche – that's why the whole process is trickier than it may seem at first sight.
Selecting the right keywords goes beyond the search volume. Some top-ranking websites have a huge domain authority, which means it can be super hard to outrank them for a given phrase.
How can you check if you stand a chance?
One way is to use our free Keyword Surfer extension for Chrome, which shows the monthly traffic of each search result. For example, these are the top 2 sites ranking for the “how to become better at blogging” you’d have to compete with:
Each of them receives over 4 million in monthly traffic in the US alone. If this feels like big shoes to fill, you can always look for alternatives. Focus on long tail keywords instead.
Surfer analyzes phrases in context – it doesn’t show separate results for each word, but for entire phrases. For example, running a search for “how to become better at blogging” will provide you with a list of results that include all of these words.
It will also show you SERPs’ similarity. If there is a 55% SERP similarity between “blogging” and “blogging guide”, it means that 55% of pages from the top 20 rank for both these terms.
#5 Spy on Your Competitors to increase organic traffic – Check Their Keywords & Run a Content Gap Analysis
Spying on your competitors is another great tactic for getting more traffic to your site. This involves checking the keywords they rank for and conducting a content gap analysis.
Identify the relevant keyword(s) --including long tail keywords--your competitors rank for and you don't, and include them in your content. You can use the HOTH to run a free content gap analysis.
After identifying the keywords you’re missing on your site, run a SERP analysis in Surfer to identify the content which ranks well, and see why. Pay attention to:
- The most important words and phrases as well as their search intent, i.e. what the users expect when typing the keyword into the search engine. Make sure your content meets the intent. For example, if the top pages for a given keyword are mostly blog posts you will have a hard time ranking with a product page.
- Blog post word count. Check if there’s any correlation between the number of words and position in SERP. Make sure your content has a similar length to the competition –Google doesn’t like outliers.
- The number of high-authority domains in the top 10. This will help you evaluate if you’re able to outrank the competition.
- The title structure. Check if it includes the exact keyword.
- Feature snippets. Are there any? And if so, what kind? Apply the right schema markup.
- Keyword density in the headings and body. Think about both the exact keywords (for example, how to become better at blogging) and partial keywords (like better and blogging).
#6 Check Your Website Performance (and Fix Any Issues You Find)
If you leave any technical SEO issues unaddressed, Google might penalize you and all your content efforts will be in vain.
If you’re not a tech person, there’s still a lot you can do by using free tools and your website’s Google Analytics and Search Console.
Keep an eye for the following: site speed, mobile search optimization (both can be checked in tools like Pingdom and DareBoost), as well as your bounce rates (which can be found in your Google Analytics panel).
If you notice that your pages record extremely high bounce rates, investigate further and find a reason for that.
Go to Google Analytics dashboard -> Behavior -> Site Content -> All pages to get a view like this:
If you find pages with a bounce rate of 80% or higher, it’s time to optimize.
Remember: Bounce rates tend to be higher for organic traffic. Many users who visit your page via Google want to solve a single, specific problem with their search. Once they get the information they need, they bounce.
Make Google Search Console your best friend. Regularly check performance, coverage, and enhancement suggestions.
#7 Pay Attention to the Right URL Structure
Your URL structure may impact your rankings. If you want to drive more traffic to your website, make sure it’s short and includes your target keyword. If you use SEO silos, reflect it in your link structure.
Clean URLs enhance the user experience too. Your users should know how deep they are in your website and how to get back to the previous page.
Here is an example of a well-structured URL: https://surferseo.com/category/sub-category.
Other good practices you should always keep in mind:
- Use hyphens to separate words in the URL.
- For long-form pages, allow users to link to a specific section. The URL will contain a hash (#) in such cases
- Add your target keyword to the URL
#8 Work on Your Organic CTR
When you’ve already made it to the first search result page, there are a lot of things you can do to increase the number of clicks you get. You won’t make it to the top three every time, so make sure you squeeze the most out of the position you have.
The first position in Google results records an average CTR of 30%, while the third only gets 10%. Even if you’re ranking on the first page, a lower position might attract very few organic visitors.
This research by Advanced Web Ranking demonstrates it perfectly:
Here are a few simple steps you can take to boost your CTR:
- Add a number to your title like, “25 Tactics to Get More Leads Using Content Marketing,”
- Write a compelling meta description, letting your readers know what your content is about – this will decrease your bounce rate,
- Write highly emotional titles with words like “best”, “exceptional”, “surprising”, and similar,
- Include your target keyword in your URL.
You can also spend a small budget of Google Ads to get qualitative data on which titles and descriptions work best. Sławek Czajkowski, the CEO of Surfer, described this process in his free Advanced SEO course:
- Create a Google Ads account, or use an existing one to configure a PPC campaign. Choose a language, location, etc.
- Prepare the list of keywords you're targeting and include them in the titles in the exact form (exact match).
- Write down as many value propositions for your website as you can think of.
- Prepare text ads that will be alternately displayed.
- Use a prepared value proposition; try to distinguish each ad’s content.
- Check the results and verify CTRs.
- Choose a VP from the most attractive ads to implement into meta title and description.
Finding the most attractive proposition is easier and less time consuming than it appears at first glance. Most companies that invest in SEO are running Google Ads campaigns anyway.
It’s possible that the Google Ads team in the company you work for has already tested a lot of combinations. Ask them about running a simple, small budget test for the client. They may already have some conclusions and be willing to share.
Here’s an example of different value propositions in SERP for the query “SEO agency London”:
How to drive more organic traffic to your website and make sure that your website appears with its relevant keyword or keywords? The question that most of us, marketers, think about all the time.
With Google making it harder to compete for the 1st position, it's even more important to implement strategies that will help you boost your SEO presence.
Write high-quality content regularly, optimizing your old blog posts, targeting the right keywords, and addressing any content gaps that you have are some of the tactics you can use to generate traffic to your website, and also avoid spending tons of your hard-earned money on paid traffic!