Does getting to the top of Google and gaining more organic traffic from search engines feel like a dim and distant dream? Search Engine Optimisation, or SEO, is the art of improving your website’s performance so that you can gain better search engine results page rankings and, in turn, more organic traffic.
If you follow our 10-step guide to increasing organic traffic, your hard work won’t result in overnight success — that’s just the nature of SEO — but you will see long-term improvements and strong, steady gains. So what are you waiting for? Let’s get started!
The 10 Steps for Increasing Your Organic Traffic
- Step 1: Define Your Organic Traffic and Wider SEO Goals
- Step 2: Assess Your Website’s Current Health and Performance
- Step 3: Identify Your Target Audience and Competitors
- Step 4: Research Your Competitors’ Content Strategies
- Step 5: Create an On-Site Content and SEO Strategy
- Step 6: Increase and Improve Your Website’s Content
- Step 7: Improve Your Website’s Usability and Technical SEO
- Step 8: Create a Content Marketing Strategy and Stick to It
- Step 9: Promote Your Website and Consider Inorganic Boosters
- Step 10: Maintain Your Rankings and Organic Traffic Over Time
Want some free expert advice? Ask Exposure Ninja for a free website review and we will assess the health and performance of your website, and provide a video with personalised advice and suggestions to help you achieve your goals, absolutely free!
0. SEO & Digital Marketing Jargon Buster
This guide, by necessity, includes a fair amount of technical jargon, so before we get started, here’s a quick translation of what those terms mean in plain English:
- SEO (Search Engine Optimisation): The art of optimising your website’s content and technical structure, as well as your off-site content marketing efforts, to improve search engine rankings and increase organic traffic
- Organic Traffic: The volume of people visiting your site following a search on Google, Bing or another search engine, without any paid advertisements being involved
- SERPs: Search Engine Results Pages, which appear when someone initiates a search for a term or phrase on Google, Bing or another search engine
- SEM: Search Engine Marketing is a digital marketing strategy used to improve your rankings in the search engine results pages
- Rankings: Where you currently place or are ranked in the SERPs for your target keywords
- Optimisation: The act of optimising your content for particular key terms or phrases so that search engines recognise your content as relevant to these terms and rank it
- Keywords or Key Phrases: The words, phrases or terms you are optimising your content to rank for in the search engine results pages
- CMS: A Content Management System is the system that holds all of your website’s content and provides you with the administration panel and tools you need to amend, edit and manage your website
- PPC: Pay Per Click advertising is a method of online advertising that gets your website to the top of Google quickly by allowing you to bid on certain keywords you want to rank for in an auction against your competitors
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1. Define Your Organic Traffic Strategy and Wider SEO Goals
If you are going to see long-term success with your SEO campaigns and increase your organic traffic over time, it is essential to have a clear and data-driven SEO plan in place. This plan should lay out your objectives and how you are going to achieve them. The idea is to set achievable, realistic targets that will feed into your wider company goals.
Rand Fishkin, writing for Moz, provides useful advice on how to set organic traffic goals and wider SEO goals for your business. Rand states that it’s incredibly important your SEO goals “tie into both your company goals and your marketing goals, as well as provide specific, measurable metrics you can work to improve.”
If your goal is to increase overall website traffic and it doesn’t matter so much about converting those visitors into customers, you can be pretty broad in your SEO campaigns and keyword targeting. If you need to increase organic traffic to particular parts of your website, you will need a more specific SEO strategy.
Start with one main goal for your SEO work and two minor goals, then split them into three-month, six-month and twelve-month milestones that have your end goal in mind. This will help you tie every action you take to a measurable goal and ensure your strategy stays on track.
2. Assess Your Website’s Current Health and Performance
Later in this guide, we discuss how to fix certain website health issues and improve your technical SEO performance, but before you can take those steps, you need to understand your website’s current status. The best way to get an inside view of how your website is performing technically is to activate Google Search Console. You will need to verify ownership of your website by copying and pasting a small snippet of code into the DNS configuration, but once this is done, you will gain unparalleled insight into the technical structure and health of your website.
Once you’ve run reports using Google Search Console and the free tools available, separate potential actions and fixes into critical/urgent actions, warnings and recommendations so that you know which areas to focus on first.
Dareboost’s Quality and Performance Report is another useful tool to include within your tool list
3. Identify Your Target Audience and Competitors
Finding Your Target Audience
According to Moz, in order to improve rankings and organic traffic, you need to identify your target audience and understand how to attract them. Moz advises you to “take a good look at what sites are meeting their specific needs in search results, and what you specifically can build into the product that will be far more desirable than what everyone else has.”
Google Analytics provides great insights into who your target audience is likely to be, as it allows you to pinpoint exactly who is visiting your website, where they’re visiting from and which pages they’re browsing before leaving your site. Here are our quick steps to identifying your target audience:
- Step 1: Find out who is visiting your site. Look at demographic data in Google Analytics and identify commonalities among visitors — group them into demographics based on factors such as age, location, gender and interests.
- Step 2: Investigate whether those visitors are converting. It’s great to have an audience, but if it’s a passive audience that doesn’t actively purchase, sign up or do what you want them to do, you might need to tweak your marketing efforts and either provide a more enticing offering or look to appeal to a different audience.
- Step 3: Gather in-depth information about the visitors you want to attract. Now that you know who’s visiting your website, how valuable those visitors are and who you want to attract, start gathering as much insight as you can into their location, the devices they use, and their interests, hobbies and preferences — anything that can help you get to know them better.
- Step 4: Segment those visitors into personas. Visitor personas are an excellent way to understand your target audience and know who you’re trying to attract with your website content. UX Planet provides an excellent step-by-step guide to creating personas that can help you develop your own.
Identifying Your Key Competitors
Using your research on which websites currently rank the highest for the keywords you’d like to target, you can start to understand who your “key competitors” are — these are the websites you’ll need to outperform to improve your rankings and dominate.
Take a look at social media too and see which competitors are gaining followers on Facebook, video views on YouTube and actively engaging audiences on relevant forums or networks. Make a note of any advertising you see from them as you do your research; are they promoting themselves using PPC, retargeting or banner advertising methods? How else are they active — do they have partnerships with relevant industry publications, Instagram influencers or magazines?
By doing this important background work, you are building up a picture of the awareness and traction each competitor has. From here, you can gauge how much ground there is to cover to catch up and outperform them.
4. Research Your Competitors’ SEO and Content Strategies
Following on from that great work you’ve just done identifying your competitors, now’s the time to start digging into their SEO and content strategies to really understand what they’ve done to gain the success you’re looking to achieve.
While researching your competitor’s website, ask yourself the following question:
What makes this website better than my own?
Is your competitor’s website more engaging, helpful or visually appealing than your own? Does the website have more authority than yours?
Take a look at the age of their domain using a free domain age checker tool and see whether the website has been around for longer (websites naturally accumulate authority over time, and authority is important to Google when it assigns value to websites).
Based on the insights you gleaned from your website health checks earlier, take a look at the health of your competitors’ websites using the same free tools you used to check your own. Identify areas where they are falling behind and where they are further ahead than you — pay particular attention to the link structure of their website, the quality of content on their pages and the way that their key propositions are marketed. This should allow you to draw some conclusions about their SEO and content priorities and the work they’ve undertaken to achieve their current success.
Research Your Competitor’s Backlinks for Inspiration
Look into your competitor’s backlink profile using Moz’s super handy Link Explorer tool (a free 30-day trial is available) and see where they’re getting their links from. If they have a considerable volume of links from high-authority websites spread over a broad spectrum of websites (e.g. government, education, health and lifestyle), this is a key indicator to Google that they’re a reliable source and, as such, they will gain more traction within the search engine results.
Researching these backlinks will also give you insight into which landing pages on your competitor’s website are the most successful traffic drivers. Take a look at these pages — are they sales-driven? Handy tools or user guides? Use this insight to understand the sort of content your target audience and wider sector are hungry for and actively consuming — then let this insight fuel your content strategy and act as a starting point for potential content campaigns and partnerships down the line.
It isn’t impossible to catch up with competitors like this and build a strong backlink profile that will improve your rankings, but it will take sustained effort on your part or the services of a content marketing agency that can provide killer content that high-quality sites love to link to. Check out Exposure Ninja’s content marketing services to see how we can help you with this.
5. Create an On-Site Content and SEO Strategy
Now you’ve set your SEO goals and identified your personas, competitors and competitor strategies, you’re ready to formulate your own on-site content and SEO strategy. Start by deciding which content priorities come first based on your existing content infrastructure and SEO goals.
Typically, a content and SEO strategy will involve technical improvements and on-page content optimisation happening alongside one another at the same time. In this way, the improvements to a page can be seen as a whole and the sitemap can be resubmitted to Google once all changes have been completed to ensure the optimum chance for improved rankings and organic traffic.
Identify topics that are particularly important to your business and group keywords within those topics that you want to rank for. Pick keywords that are likely to drive conversions or be of high value to your business and that have significant-enough search volumes where a high ranking would make a difference to your SEO campaign’s success (Exposure Ninja will rarely optimise a page for a keyword that has a monthly search volume of fewer than 100 searches). Finally, map the topics and keywords against target pages and determine which pages are priorities based on their prospective value to your business. When you’re done, make notes on the current on-page content and technical SEO setup on those pages so that you can clearly see what work needs to be completed to improve results.
Now, you have a prioritised list of pages to work on, clear topics and keywords to optimise them for and action points to improve performance. Delegate the work, set timeframes and milestones for editorial, upload, checking and maintenance, and you have yourself a workable content and SEO plan that ties into your overall strategy.
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6. Increase and Improve Your Website’s Content
Now, you’re ready to get hands-on and start improving your content using the prioritised plan you’ve put in place. Start by improving your existing website content, as this will naturally have more authority than any new content you place on the site for the simple fact that it has been around for longer. You can repurpose your existing content to make it relevant to the key phrases and topics identified in your strategy, and if it’s possible to retain an existing URL structure rather than implementing a new one, this is advisable.
Improving Existing Website Content
Here are some things to consider when improving existing content:
- Is the metadata optimised? Metadata is the information provided to search engines about the context and content of your pages. It includes a page title and meta description, and these will also be visible to users who perform a search on Google or another search engine. Keep reading for information on writing optimised metadata.
- Is the content engaging and useful? If your content is not helpful and does not serve the purpose of your target audience, it will not rank or receive strong organic traffic.
- Is there enough content on the page? 300 words are enough for a brief description; 600 words is a typical standard page length; 900 words are perfect for an FAQ or help guide, and anything over 1,800 words is considered an in-depth guide or article and typically carries more authority and weight than a standard length page — assuming the quality is there.
- Is the content rich enough? Most high-ranking content today is enriched with imagery, video, infographics and interactive elements, such as quizzes, polls, clickable tools and comment sections that allow for engagement.
- Is the content optimised for users? It is vital that your content is accessible for users on all internet-enabled devices and that they can easily understand how to interact with the content to complete their goals without having to scroll endlessly down the page.
- Does the content have a good amount of internal links going to and from it? Ensure that your content has a healthy amount of internal links to high-value and relevant pages within your site structure.
- Does the content link out to relevant sources? As long as you aren’t being linked to already from the source, feel free to link out to high-value websites that provide relevant information for your target users. Try to avoid exchanging links with another site. This is a practice called reciprocal linking and can be frowned upon by search engines — at best, it will reduce the power of the backlink from their site to yours.
- Have other websites linked to the content? For your page to be considered authoritative on a certain subject, it needs to garner links from high-quality external websites. The content marketing plan you are going to put in place will help with this.
- Is the content visible within internal search and the website footer? If we’re talking about a key page on your website, it’s important that it is accessible via the search function on your website (if applicable) and linked to from your footer.
- Can you refresh existing blog content to make it relevant? A great way to improve the content on your website is to repurpose and republish old content that has become stale or been superseded by new ideas. You can piggyback off the authority of the blog page while rejuvenating it with new content. Our Ninja guide to improving existing blogs will help you do this.
Increasing Website Content
It’s important to keep in mind when creating new content for your website that it’s highly unlikely to immediately start ranking for your target keywords and pulling in vast quantities of organic traffic, regardless of how relevant, useful and interesting it is. Ranking new content takes time; in many cases, new content can take months to start ranking, as top-ranking content is usually linked to by valuable websites and has gained some form of traction on social media before it’s knocked its competitors off the top spot.
When creating new content for your website, here’s how to ensure it’s as search engine and user-friendly as possible:
- Create content that answers your customer’s questions: Use your internal search results and keyword research tools to identify what questions customers have that are currently not being answered. You can also reach out to customers via email or social media and ask them what they’d love to know about your company and have wanted to ask.
- Look at what is ranking and improve on it: Once you know which content on your competitors’ websites is ranking for the keywords you’re targeting, create content that is at least three times better than their offering. This way, you are doing your best to future proof any improved rankings you get — just as you’re improving your content, so too will your competitors, and there is no sense in doing all the hard work just to lose out again when your competitor reinvests in their content.
- Create content that earns backlinks: Now that you know which content on your competitors’ websites has already earned the kind of backlinks you’re aspiring to gain, you know which type of content is most appealing to those websites. Reach out to them and discuss their link to your competitor, pitch your content idea and find out whether it is something they’d be interested in running. If not, why not? How can you refine your approach so that your content gains more backlinks and, in turn, more authority, giving it a better chance of ranking well?
- Experiment with different types of content: Text-only information guides are a bit passé. If you want to gain backlinks and social media mentions, and increase organic traffic for your website, here are some different types of content to try:
- A whitepaper or eBook: Show off your expertise while providing useful, in-depth information that your target audience is actively searching for. Many high-value websites will happily link to a free downloadable ebook if it is truly useful for readers.
- An interactive tool: Many companies set themselves apart from competitors by providing interactive tools that help their customers visualise or interact with their product offerings, such as a virtual changing room where customers can “try on” lipstick shades using the front-facing camera on their smartphone or a simple slider that shows the before-and-after difference of a makeover or cosmetic treatment service.
- Helpful videos: Don’t just tell your customers how to do something; show them how to do it by providing your “how-to” advice in multiple formats of text, infographic and video.
- Email marketing and social media campaigns: Drive email and social media marketing traffic to new or revamped pages on your website that you want Google to rank to speed up the indexing and ranking process. You could do this by holding a competition or special offer that requires email and social media subscribers to visit and interact with the page, for example.
For more information on how to create new website content that increases organic traffic, view our on-page SEO checklist in the Ninja guide to on-page SEO.
7. Improve Your Website’s Usability and Technical SEO
Your website’s usability relates to how easy it is for someone to use and navigate. Google and other search engines reward websites that are fast, accessible and well put-together while largely ignoring sites that are slow to load, confusing to navigate or problematic for users. Naturally, you want to provide a highly usable website that makes taking action as easy as possible.
Often, usability improvements to your website also happen to be technical SEO improvements because what’s good for your users is good for your search engine rankings. Cognitive SEO provides an extensive technical SEO checklist to help you identify areas of improvement, which you can use to supplement our list of improvements below.
- Ensure your site is optimised for all screen sizes: The majority of websites now receive well over half of their traffic from mobile devices. With such a wide variety of tablets, smartphones, laptops, notebooks and computers being used by your target audience, it’s vital that your pages load efficiently and display correctly on all screen sizes and browsers. You can use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test to check whether your website loads efficiently on smaller screen sizes. If not, you’ll need to address the design and structure of your pages to improve the user experience. Building a responsive site or a separate mobile-optimised website that displays on small screen sizes will help you address these issues. You may want to enlist the services of a professional website design and development company to help with this — we’re experts in this area, so why not check out our website development services?
- Reduce page loading times: One of the biggest bugbears of website users is slow loading pages. Your site should load in less than two seconds if you want to avoid impacting the user experience.Pingdom provides a handy page load time tool to help you check how long it takes for your pages to load for the average user. If an issue is identified, you can attempt to reduce page times by optimising the file size of your images, removing any unnecessary redirects and reducing DNS lookups, to name a few technical improvements.
- Find and fix any 404 pages: Visitors who follow links that do not lead to active pages on your website will see what is called a “404 error page”, which lets them know that the page has been moved or is missing and prompts them to visit an active area of your site instead. Search engines frown upon broken links, as this leads to a poor user experience, so if you want to increase your organic traffic, you should find and fix as many 404 pages on your website as possible.The best way to find 404 errors is to log in to Google Analytics and find your website’s 404 error page in the Content > Content by Title section of your dashboard. Explore this data and see how people came to visit your 404 page, which internal pages they originated on, what they searched for in Google and any websites that sent them to your 404 page from a broken link. Combine this insight with the results of a free website crawl tool like the SEO Spider from Screaming Frog or Moz’s Link Explorer.Once you’ve found your broken links, you’re going to need to redirect them to existing, relevant pages on your website, or make the decision to reinstate the URL and provide content on the page (if lots of people are visiting it from multiple sources, this can often be the best approach to retain the benefits of the incoming traffic). To fix a broken URL, you will need to go to the administration part of your Content Management System (CMS) and click “add redirect”. There are several excellent WordPress plugins available that make redirects easier to complete, including Redirection by John Godley — the most popular plugin in this category. All you need to do then is fill in the “from” and “to” fields by specifying the broken link and where the link should redirect to. Select “301 redirect” from the available options, as this signals a permanent redirect rather than a temporary (302) URL change.
- Find and replace any 301 redirects: To ensure that you receive the full benefit of increased organic traffic to your website, you will need to find and fix any 301 redirects. This involves ensuring that your links are directed to a permanent target page from the source, rather than moving through a redirect, which can cause a loss in page authority. As you did when finding your 404 redirects, use SEO Spider from Screaming Frog to crawl the URLs on your website, then export the 301 redirects to a spreadsheet (Northcutt provides a very useful 301 redirect guide to help you do this). Depending on your website’s Content Management System, the URL “search and replace” functionality may show up a little differently, but you are looking for the search and replace part of your administration area and a form that allows you to find URLs and replace them with correct ones. Run Screaming Frog once more after you have completed this process for all URLs to check that you got them all.
- Improve your internal linking: All of the pages on your website should be part of an internal linking structure that signposts which pages are related to each other and which are the most important on your site. Never leave a page with zero internal links (a footer link, navigation menu link, internal search link or link to the page from existing content on your site all count as internal links).
- Remove keyword cannibalisation: Are you optimising more than one page on your website for the same keywords? Stop. This causes something called keyword cannibalisation — where Google doesn’t know which page has more authority on the topic you’re discussing and can’t decide which page to rank. As OnCrawl explains, “Google will crawl your site and will see dozen of different pages being “relevant” for the same keyword. But, Google will have to choose between those pages the one that seems to be the most valuable to the query. If you were expecting to gain SEO value with this strategy and rank your whole website higher thanks to this keyword, you have no chance.” If you want to increase organic traffic by gaining those page-one rankings, you cannot afford to have instances of keyword cannibalisation across the key pages of your website. Instead, focus only on the most relevant term for that single page and make sure that every page, blog post and content asset targets a unique keyword.
- Improve your metadata: Our handy guide to improving meta descriptions will help you write effective page titles and meta descriptions, which can improve your SEO. In general, the rules for best-in-class metadata are:
- Page titles should be unique, accurate and around 70 characters long (600 pixels).
- Meta descriptions should be unique, interesting and “contain all the relevant information users would need to determine whether the page is useful and relevant to them.”
- Meta descriptions should follow the 150/150 rule for length to ensure that you take advantage of the extra SERP space Google sometimes allows for certain queries. The first 150 characters should contain essential information.
The second 150 characters of a meta description are optional. They should contain supporting information as needed.
- Add schema markup to your content: Schema markup is a form of optimisation that involves putting a small piece of code on your page to help search engines return more useful results for users. It can also increase your likelihood of securing coveted featured snippets (or position-zero rankings). It’s easy to implement if you follow the steps in our guide to using Schema markup.
Sometimes, the best way to make sure that all of your technical SEO concerns are addressed is to enlist the help of professionals, and none are more qualified to help than Exposure Ninja’s dedicated team of SEO Ninjas. Check out our SEO case studies to see how we’ve helped businesses just like yours climb up the rankings and succeed in increasing organic traffic by improving on-page elements of their websites.
8. Create a Content Marketing Strategy and Stick to It
Now that you’ve fixed the on-site content and technical structure of your website and set your goals, and you’re starting to track the performance of your keyword campaigns month to month, it’s the right time to turn your focus to off-site promotion and your content marketing strategy.
Content marketing is the act of creating interesting, valuable content and publishing it on authoritative, relevant websites in exchange for a link or a reference to your website. You should never pay for a link — it’s against Google guidelines. Instead, provide your partners with valuable content their visitors will love and encourage them to promote your site in return.
Remember that competitor content research you did earlier before all the on-site work commenced? Now’s the time to take those learnings and refresh your mind on which sites your competitors have received high-value links from and what content they provided to get the link (either hosted on their site or on the external partner’s site), as well as think about what you can offer to attract similar partners or build partnerships with the same sites. Make a list of your top 10 most important link partners, the type of content you might create for them, what budget you have available for creation and how you’ll go about pitching the content. Now, you have a content marketing action plan to take you through the next few months and get you started with improving your backlink profile and organic traffic.
Head Ninja Tim provides some excellent tips on creating a content marketing strategy in his ultimate guide to using content marketing in digital PR campaigns. You can also enlist the help of our Content Marketing Ninjas to draw up a plan packed with creative and valuable content recommendations. Why not let them do the hard work of building your content marketing partnerships and creating the content you need to improve your website’s authority and organic traffic?
9. Promote Your Website: Consider Inorganic Boosters Such as PPC and Facebook Ads
Having a well-optimised website with best-in-class content and exceptional technical SEO is just half of the battle to increase organic traffic. Now that you’ve got your ducks in a row, it’s time to start promoting your website. You will need a promotional budget for your website if you hope to see traffic and awareness improve. This budget should cover a wide range of online advertising approaches, such as Facebook advertising, PPC ads and retargeting to help you reach and attract your target audience.
Make your social media advertisements engaging, visually vibrant and appealing for your target audience. Stick to the guidelines for the character lengths of titles and descriptions and the instructions on the percentage of the ad that uses images versus text. You can test social ads with minimal budgets to see which combination of copy and visuals gets you the best results. Hootsuite provides an excellent guide to getting started with social media advertising that will help you dip your toe into the proverbial water.
PPC is an essential tool in any SEO strategist’s arsenal. Surprised? If you think about it, it makes sense. PPC is a paid advertising medium that allows you to drive traffic to new pages before they start ranking organically in search engines. Driving paid traffic to new pages may not seem like it should be part of an organic traffic strategy, but if nobody visits your new pages, Google and other search engines won’t understand that the page is relevant to the topic you’re trying to rank for and won’t assign any authority to the page. Once you’ve built some powerful external links to the new page and organic traffic has picked up, you can stop paying for PPC ads to avoid cannibalising your own traffic (paying for clicks on a PPC ad that you’d otherwise get organically due to a high ranking). Exposure Ninja has provided a free PPC guide to help you get started with using PPC to enhance your SEO strategy.
10. Maintain Your Rankings Over Time
Well done on taking such great steps towards improving your rankings and increasing your organic traffic! Now that you’ve completed all that hard initial work, it’s essential to reduce the threat of rank loss over time.
Rank loss occurs when you suddenly lose your hard-earned keyword rankings to new or existing competitors. This can be caused by technical issues on your website, competitors improving their offering or algorithm changes leading to your content losing authority.
There’s no definite way to predict rank loss and cut it off at the pass, so you should be continually improving and refreshing your content and working hard to gain additional high-value links and build strong partnerships. That way, you’re doing everything possible to ensure that you can improve your organic traffic for good.
Fancy some FREE expert advice on how to fix your website’s issues and gain more traffic and conversions? Request your free Exposure Ninja marketing review now.