Web traffic is the heartbeat of any website or other digital property.
You can always pay for traffic, and PPC (or paid search) is an excellent way to reach your potential customers. However, if you want your web marketing efforts to achieve long-term success with a relatively small upfront investment, organic traffic is also crucial.
Search engine optimization (SEO) has the greatest influence on organic traffic, generated when users type a search term in Google and click on your organic listing in the search results (SERPs). Most people never scroll past the first or second page of results, which is why marketers covet top spots.
Here are 15 SEO tips to increase organic traffic to your website:
1. Write for your audience.
Identify your audience’s problem or need and deliver content that helps lead them to a solution or answers common questions. Also, remember that your audience may not refer to products or subjects in the same way as your organization.
For example, if you reference smart homes as “connected homes,” but your audience is more likely to search for “smart home technology” versus “connected home technology,” you will have more success incorporating smart home language into your content.
Keyword research is essential to determine how people phrase their searches, and you should always write content to respond to those searches.
2. Create an editorial calendar—but be flexible.
Depending on how often you publish, you may want to plan topics for an entire quarter or more. However, leave room in your plan to shuffle article order as needed or add topics to capitalize on industry trends or user searches.
3. Jump on industry trends and timely topics.
Think about industry or seasonal trends that may incite your audience to seek out relevant information online and create content to support those searches.
4. Develop evergreen content.
Content that can drive traffic to your site over an extended time is the bedrock of a successful SEO strategy. However, this doesn’t equal a one-and-done approach. Freshness is key, particularly if you’re in a competitive industry, so make sure to balance evergreen content with more timely topics.
5. Be unique.
Don’t simply regurgitate content that already exists elsewhere. If you want to grow organic traffic to your site, you have to offer a unique or different solution to a question or problem.
6. Be better.
If people are looking for information on a particular subject, you likely aren’t the first company to publish relevant content. Peruse any sites that have already published and consider what they do well and where they have room to improve. What can you offer that they don’t already provide? What can you add to the conversation?
7. Conduct advanced keyword research—and have realistic expectations.
Choose keywords you can rank for, not just those with the highest volume. Is your audience interested in niche topics that are underserved or lightly covered?
8. Include keywords in your title, headlines, subheads and bold copy.
Google scans content much the same way humans scan content. Make it easy for search engines to determine what your content is about by including relevant keywords in places that are easy to spot. If it makes sense, you may also want to consider putting keywords at beginning of your headlines.
9. Build relationships with subject matter experts and industry influencers.
When you invest the time to partner with true subject matter experts, your content will be higher quality and more useful to your audience.
You may want to rely on a mix of experts within and outside your organization. The former can help further your organization’s profile as an authority, while the latter can cast a wider net and help get your content to people you may not already reach.
10. Have a link building strategy.
This is a two-way street. Selectively linking to other trustworthy sites can encourage links back to your site.
Internal link building gets less attention but is also an important step. Lots of orphaned blog posts don’t receive traffic as they age, because the site has no links guiding visitors from one evergreen content post to the next. Your mission is to keep people engaged and on your website by feeding them more relevant content instead of dead ends.
11. Use back-end features such as title tags and meta descriptions.
Your content should always include title tags (which appear on SERPs as the clickable headline) and meta descriptions (which summarize the content on a page).
12. Don’t forget image file names and alt tags.
Search engines can’t see images, but many people still forget to assign image file names and alt tags—which are crucial for helping search engines understand what the images—and the pages where those images live—are about.
13. Avoid careless technical errors.
Never move your website or delete a blog post without doing your due diligence on the back end. A few simple and necessary steps, such as creating 301 redirects, can help you avoid a damaging rash of broken links.
14. Provide a great user experience.
Search engines are amazing, but they still can’t consume and understand content the same way humans can. Instead, they monitor the way humans interact with websites to infer the quality of those sites — and reward the sites that perform better on these metrics with higher search rankings. If your site provides a poor user experience or doesn’t have a mobile-friendly design, its potential for organic growth will suffer.
15. Remember that there are no shortcuts or secret formulas.
Content marketing can pay huge dividends, but it won’t happen overnight. Proceed with the understanding that you’re unlikely to close the sale the first time a person lands on your site—and treat SEO and organic traffic growth as an open-ended goal.
This article originally ran on PR Daily in September of 2018.