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 5-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 5 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
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
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.
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.
SEMrush’s Competitor Research tool is great for finding your competitors, but a simple search for your target keyword phrases should be enough to find yours
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.
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.
Bonus: 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.
We have some excellent tips on creating a content marketing strategy in this ultimate guide to using content marketing in digital PR campaigns. You can also enlist the help of our Content Marketing Experts 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?