Posted on: 08 Mar 2017
There is no quick way to increase organic traffic to your website that will stick. You can cut corners with shady, manipulative practices to see some quick gains, but that traffic increase will disappear just as quickly and then some when Google penalizes your website. Some businesses couldn’t care less and do them anyways, but if you want a reliable, recurring revenue stream to help your company have a long and fruitful life, you need to do it the right way or not at all.
What is easily built is easily torn down.
I’m not going to lie to you, search engine optimization (SEO) is expensive to do these days, takes a lot of work to do correctly, and takes a long time to bear fruit. However, the longer you take to get started, the longer it will take for you to get results.
If you follow these tips, your website’s inbound organic traffic will improve and develop into a core revenue stream to fuel your company’s long-term growth.
Google Approved Tactics to Increase Organic Traffic
Build Your Website for People, Not Search Engines
While it can be very tempting to follow an SEO checklist to hit on all of the main on-page optimization points for your target keyword, it’s a fine line to walk. Especially if your content, whatever it may be, ends up feeling less organic and informative to human beings and more like it was created strictly for search engines in order to rank highly.
Yes, that last bit is the ultimate goal for every online marketer, but Google’s main purpose is to provide searcher’s with the best content possible to solve their need. Inorganic content that’s difficult to read and doesn’t actually say anything does not do that so neither should you.
Create Valuable Content
At the risk of sounding like a broken record already, no matter what type of content you create, it absolutely, positively has to be valuable and informative. Otherwise, why would a new visitor give you the time of day?
There are literally dozens, if not hundreds, of alternatives literally at their fingertips and if your content is up to snuff, they’ll bounce back to the search engine and go to the next website on the list. If your website / content isn’t head and shoulders above the competition, you’re just part of the pack.
Avoid Keyword Stuffing
For those of you who don’t know about this manipulative tactic, keyword stuffing was the practice of cramming in as many iterations of your target keyword into a page as possible. This was done to try and trick search engines into thinking your page was more authoritative than others because of how many times the keyword was on page.
Yeah, as stupid as it sounds, it worked. (Google’s algorithm hasn’t always been as sophisticated as it is now.)
This let really crappy content rank in the top SERP spots and soak up all of the organic traffic for their target keyword(s). Naturally, this delivered a horrendous user experience that didn’t provide value to users so Google took action to combat it.
When you’re optimizing your content for a specific keyword, be careful to walk the line. You want your keyword to be present on-page, but you don’t want it to be overbearing. There isn’t a set number of times it should be on page or a specific target keyword density so don’t ask.
Good SEO is SEO you don’t see. Have it in the main areas (title, h1, in content, etc.), but not so many times that it’s overbearing. Exercise sound judgment and you’ll be fine.
Promote Your Deep Pages
If you focus on one or two pages ranking, you’re capped on how much organic traffic you can get. A single page can only rank for so many keywords and those keywords only get so much traffic. You can squeeze out some more hits by making your search snippet more clickable, but you’re still capped. The only way to get more traffic is to get more pages to rank to broaden your organic footprint.
Focus on Long-Tail Keywords
It’s easy to get tunnel vision when you see how much traffic short-tail keywords get on a monthly basis. Trust me, when you see 480,000 average monthly searches in the AdWords Keyword Planner, it’s hard not to.
One thing to keep in mind though is the shorter your target keyword, the harder it is to rank for it.
The days of trying to rank for keywords like “hiking boots”, “personal loans”, “western apparel”, or “SEO company” are over because the work is terribly inefficient. You can dump hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars and not see a blip of improvement. It is far easier and a much better use of your money to go after long-tail keywords instead.
The more specific you can be about your page’s content the easier it will be to rank for it. So, rather than making a page for the super broad, highly popular “hiking boots”, make a page that details the “best hiking boot for Appalachian trails”.
While it is highly targeted, searchers are much more likely to click on your site because of said targeting. It’s exactly what they’re looking for, it’s more relevant to them than a generic “hiking boots” page, and it answers an important question. On top of that, this lets you create similar pages for other popular trails in America AND link to them from a page that covers the “best hiking trails in America”.
Make Use of Internal Links
Users and search engines can’t find your content unless you link to it on your site. I know. No-brainer, right? Wrong. You’d be surprised how many orphaned pages we find during SEO audits.
Internal linking is often overlooked because of how far down the rabbit hole you can go. Not only are they important to help search engines crawl your entire website, they help users get to the content they’re looking for while distributing page authority across your domain. We won’t cover that last point since it’s more advanced that we can quickly detail here.
If you’re regularly making content, you’re probably using a blog. While this “links” to your content, you still need to link between relevant content pieces with the best practices below in mind.
Internal Linking Best Practices
- Use only where relevant, i.e. hiking boot example in the last section.
- Link from deep pages to other deep pages
- Avoid using exact match anchors
- Avoid image links, but if you must, have very descriptive alt tags.
- Make your internal links appear organically on page
- Only use follow links on-site
Disclaimer: You do want to be careful with your internal linking since Google will penalize you if you over-optimize it. You’ll be safe if you follow the best practices above.
Follow Google’s Guidelines
Google’s sophisticated search algorithms have evolved a great deal over the last decade and while we’ll never know the secret sauce, we have the broad strokes of what Google’s looking for in a quality website. We won’t know exactly how much weight Google gives each ranking factor, if any at all in some cases.
However, we have a phenomenal resource in their General & Quality Guidelines to help us stay on Google’s good side and have the best chance of ranking well in the SERP. It is quite literally a roadmap for succeeding in their search engine that detailed what you should and shouldn’t do.
Things to Do
- Make content for users, not search engines.
- Focus on what makes your company unique, valuable, & engaging.
- Create content that sets you apart from your competition.
- Prevent & remove user generated spam.
- Make sure all pages are reachable from other pages.
- Submit a sitemap file to Google & have a copy on-site.
- Optimize your page load times to deliver content quickly.
- And much more…
Things to Avoid
- Engaging in deceptive tactics.
- Linking to broken web pages or low quality sites.
- Engaging in manipulative tactics.
- Stealing content from other websites & claim it as your own.
- Buying inbound links.
- Creating pages with little to no valuable content.
- And much more…
Improve On Site Engagement
The true measure on the quality of your content is how your visitors interact with it. You can think it’s great, but what about your visitors? Do they read all of it or do they bounce back to the search engine after the first paragraph? Do they click beyond that first page? Is that their only visit or do they come back later for more information on another subject?
Now, Google has said multiple times that they don’t use those KPIs as ranking factors, but there have been numerous studies correlating positive user engagement signals to favorable SERP positioning.
Regardless of whether or not it’s in the algorithm, Google wants us to provide a positive user experience and that means encouraging positive user engagement signals. At the end of the day, we want our visitors to have a good experience on our website so they come back for more. It’d be silly to not focus on improving it.
Make Sure they Stick Around
One of the main metrics that gauges your organic authority is whether or not visitors bounce back to the SERP after finding your site via organic search.
Let’s say that you’re an ecommerce retailer that sells security cameras and “Visitor A” finds your website by searching for “security cameras”. Visitor A clicks on your site in the SERP and looks around for a bit, but they don’t find what they were looking for and they go back to the SERP to refine their search or check out another company. What this behavior tells Google is that your website was not relevant for their query (regardless of whether or not it is) and whatever website they eventually stayed on is.
Taken by itself, your site would be down ranked (and the other up ranked) for that query. This is a huuuugely simplified version of how it works and it takes more than one bounce to drop your SERP ranking, but the overall principle applies. If your site / pages have a high bounce rate, you will slowly become less relevant and authoritative for your target keywords and you’ll see less and less inbound traffic because of it.
If you see your bounce rates start to climb, figure out the cause and try to fix it before your traffic suffers.
Always Give Them a Next Step
As bounce rate’s polar opposite, you want your visitors to keep clicking once they’re on your website as the longer they’re there, the more likely they are to convert. If you find that your pages per visit metric is close to 1.0, it’s probably because this next step is not clearly defined or is being overlooked because it isn’t drawing your visitors’ eyes.
No matter what type of content you’re creating, you should always have a desired action in mind. Do you want them to sign up to a newsletter? Is there a sale you want them to see? Are you trying to grow your email marketing list? Do you want them to read related blog posts? Are you trying to put a new product in front of your visitors?
One thing to keep in mind is that the desired action needs to be relevant to the page’s content. You don’t want to leverage a hiking boot purchase on a page about soccer rules and regulations.
This isn’t the time to be a delicate and demure wallflower. Make your desired actions obvious and put them smack dab in your visitors’ way.
What is “Good” Site Engagement?
Unfortunately, there are no solid numbers for this. User engagement varies from industry to industry and company to company depending on the value proposition being leveraged on the website. However, if you work on hitting the general data points below, your website will be in good shape.
Positive User Behavior KPIs
- Low bounce rates.
- Long average session duration.
- High pages per visit.
- High volume of return visitors.
- Low exit rate.
Remove / Clean Up Duplicate Content
Plainly put, users should not run into identical content on multiple pages of your website. Not only does this provide poor user experience, it also dilutes the authority of the content and your domain which will result in traffic and ranking losses.
When you have multiple pages on your website with identical content, search engines have a difficult time determining which is the authoritative version to include in the SERP for relevant queries. You don’t want to make it harder for search engines to rank your pages in organic search results.
Now, you can have multiple pages that cover the same topic provided that they don’t have identical content.
Causes of Duplicate Content
The main sources of user generated duplicate content that we run into most often are doorway pages, spun articles, and straight up copy / pasted content to cut corners on a previous project. However, your infrastructure can be causing dup content if your developers weren’t careful / diligent.
Keep an eye out for pages being indexed with session IDs and query strings as these are considered duplicate copies of the original page. You also want to make sure that any staging or development environments don’t get indexed as well.
Fixing Duplicate content
The latter examples in the previous section are the easiest to fix programmatically, but the former require a more hands on approach. The simplest fix is to find every version of the same content, choose which is to the the authoritative version, and then canonical the rest to it to both tell Google that it’s the page to rank and to pass ranking signals from the other pages to it.
This makes it easier for search engines to serve up the correct page and should, in theory, improve its authority and relevancy resulting in a higher SERP ranking.
Have a Healthy Inbound Link Profile
Regardless of whether or not we like it, inbound links are still the gold standard for authority. If you want to rank well in Google and get more organic traffic, you need high quality links. I want to repeat that to really drive home the keyword again. You need high quality links to rank well in the SERP.
It is quite literally a quality over quantity game when it comes to your inbound link profile. Two high quality links will be of far greater value than 200 low quality links. All of those quick, scalable link building techniques that worked 5+ years ago (links in blog comments, buying links, link trading / directories, etc.) are absolute garbage now so don’t bother with them.
The ultimate goal with your link profile is to have high quality links from relevant websites to numerous pages throughout your domain, not just your homepage.
Disavow Bad Links
Unfortunately, you can’t always control who links to you and with the Penguin algorithm, you don’t want to let bad links sit and fester. The tool that you’ll use to get rid of them is Google’s link disavowal tool. When you use the disavow tool, you are literally telling Google that you do not endorse, want, or condone specific links (or entire domains) pointing at your website.
Keep in mind, this is an advanced practice and you shouldn’t do this if you aren’t confident in your ability to do it correctly.
The foundation for the long term growth of any company is a reliable, recurring traffic stream you can count on month in and month out. The best way to do this is to invest in SEO to boost your inbound organic traffic. While you won’t see the fruits of your labor (or money) overnight, it will pay off if you stay the course and stay patient.
Whether your in-house team is handling it or it’s being outsourced, be sure to follow these tips and best practices.
Best Practices to Get More Organic Traffic
- Build content for people, not machines.
- Get deeper pages to the top of the SERP.
- Don’t violate Google’s content / quality guidelines.
- Focus on improving user experience on your site.
- Get rid of duplicate content.
- Earn natural inbound links.