The single most effective SEO technique to grow your organic search traffic

By: Ilkka Mäkinen | Published: 11 August, 2016 | In: SEO

Wondering how to get more traffic coming your way from Google?

Most people seem to think the answer is following on-site SEO check lists to the detail. Sure, this might improve your position in search engines to a degree, but only if your competition hasn’t done a good job establishing their positions. The truth is, all that technical on-page SEO will never get you in the top 10 of search results.

In this article I am going to tell you how you can significantly grow your organic search traffic, but first, let's look at how Google has changed in recent years.

You mean to tell me I didn't meet the needed koala-fications?

In the past few years Google has seriously been focusing on serving the best possible content for it’s users. To achieve this, it’s focusing on serving content to the intent behind searches instead of just matching keywords.

You see, when searching for things, we often have varying intentions of what we are trying to accomplish. For example, when you search for “summer holidays”, your intent might be:

  • get information about school holidays in your area
  • get ideas for your upcoming summer holiday or
  • to compare holiday package deals
  • and so on

So simply focusing on keyword targeting is not going to work. Google has gotten very smart. Already in 2010 Google revealed that 70% of search terms were synonyms, not the exact keywords, which they had to recognize in order to direct the users to the right place.

Throughout the years it has become so good in determining which terms are commonly associated with other terms that you don’t even have to do a good job searching in order to find the thing you are looking for.

But that’s just one side of the story. Google is not limited to analyzing just search terms and content on web pages. They are also looking at things like search location, device used and the user’s history, which matter a great deal when figuring out what might be the intent behind an individual search query for a massive amount of people in different contexts.

To figure out who is serving the best content for the intent behind searches, Google is looking at the click through rates, the time people spend time on page and the share of users leaving or returning back to search.

If people quickly leave or return to search, it’s an indicator of content that is not serving to the goal of the search.

This means for website owners and content creators that they need to create content that:

  • matches to what people are searching (this is just the buy-in)
  • is so interesting/compelling/promising that people want to click to it
  • most importantly, delivers what it promises and keeps people glued to it (you can’t cheat Google, because you can’t cheat people to read low quality content)

Now just having a site with static pages like “services”, “products”, “about us” will never attract enough traffic to persuade Google’s algorithm to make changes in search results.

Most probably there’s already so much content talking about the same things online that those pages are lost somewhere behind the third search results page.

And there’s just not enough traffic there.

So in this environment the single most effective method for growing organic search traffic is publishing new quality content regularly.

In practice this means: start blogging regularly, covering all the relevant topics in your niche. Create content that matches to what people are searching, makes them want to click through and keeps them on page long enough to read the content.

This is why industry infuencers like Neil Patel are saying that SEO today is content marketing.

Here’s how you can create content that actually works:

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1. Change your point of view to that of your audience and do your background research.

You can’t succeed if you don’t know the interests and goals of the people you’re trying to reach.

So use Google’s Keyword Planner to find out what search queries people are using to find information and ideas about the topics in your niche.

After you’ve discovered search queries that are relevant to you and to your audience, look for the long tail keywords (containing at least three keywords) that might include an specific intent, because you have way better chances ranking well with those than with general queries such as “fitness” or “fitness guide”.

A search query like “how to get fit at home” is much more specific and involves a clear learning intent which you can go after.

Long tail keywords are usually low on search volume but this is the tradeoff for better quality traffic & leads and good rankings.

You’ll also want to know how difficult it is to rank well with your newly found keywords. Google’s Keyword Planner isn’t giving out more than the competition amidst advertisers, which can’t be used as an indicator of organic search traffic, so you can use Moz’s brilliant keyword explorer to check the search volume, difficulty and the opportunity (the relative click through rate if you rank in the top 10).

Here are the results for "how to get fit at home" in Moz's explorer:

Keyword research moz results

After you’ve refined your keyword lists it’s time to plan the best way to approach the topics. This brings us to the next point:

2. Focus on creating compelling content that makes people want to click and read instead of writing for search engines.

Nobody wants to get lost amidst the noise of the competition, so a good way to start is to see what is your competition doing.

Start by looking at the SERP analysis in Moz that lists top ranking content with the search query (in the image above).

By looking at how your competition is covering the topic you can always find ways to differentiate yourself. Look at the ways to be more interesting, specific, comprehensive or better in any way possible.

We can see from the top ranking articles that none of them contain a clear program we could follow. Not seeing any promises either (how long it would take, difficulty level, etc), which are a powerful way to stimulate curiosity. So that’s something we can definitely use.

Also, even when a search query for “how to get fit” already implies it’s for beginners, we could still explicitly say our content is for beginners. Being 100% clear and removing all doubt when addressing our target audience can be a powerful way differentiate us from the crowd.

So we could go for titles such as:

  • The foolproof program to get fit at home without equipment in 6 months
  • How to get fit at home with 20 simple bodyweight exercises anyone can do
  • Proven 10 week program: how to get fit at home for absolute beginners

Spend time on the headline. Usually the first few ideas are not the best ones, so I suggest you write down at least 20 different headlines per article, think how your target audience would react to them and pick the best one.

Lastly a few words about the content.

First, opposite to what people like to think, longer articles outperform shorter articles in many ways. It has been a persistent myth that people don't like to read long-form online, but in fact, there is no such thing as content that is too long, only content that is too boring.

From SEO point of view, longer articles are good for rankings. According to study of 1m articles by Backlinko, top 10 ranking hits on Google contain on average about 1890 words.

So longer articles get clicked more often, people like to spend more time on them and link/share them with their peers. This is what gets content to the top of results.

Google ranks these articles high because people want to read and talk about them. What matters to people matters to Google. Comprehensive in-depth articles, stuff that provides value for readers will outperform the short quick reads.

Remember, you can’t cheat Google as you can't make people to read and share poor quality content.

It’s also good to note that the top ranking content in Google is not the best content. Google doesn’t have a huge panel of experts reviewing the content that earns the spot in the top.

Only thing that matters for Google is what people think is the best content.

So you can be a the leading expert in the topics of your niche, but if you can’t create content people want to read, you’re not getting that position at the top.

Write in a friendly conversational way to keep people interested. Use facts and show your expertise, but avoid writing in a complex way that your readers have to struggle to understand your message.

But before anything, do your background research to see what people are interested in, target those search queries that are specific and offer something better, different or more specific than your competition.

That is it for this article, I do hope you have enjoyed it. Until next time!

By: Ilkka Mäkinen | Published: 11 August, 2016 | In: SEO

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