How to Increase Your Search Traffic Without Building Links

Written by Neil Patel on March 3, 2015

seo traffic

Most website owners and bloggers dream of ranking in Google’s top ten for their respective keywords.

But, many of them are on the verge of giving up, because they’re tired of seeking links through various techniques. There’s no doubt that links are still an incredibly important ranking factor, but that doesn’t mean you have to hunt links from every site you come across.

This in-depth article will not talk about the proven ways to build links without getting penalized, such as scale link building and editorial links.

Instead, you’ll learn some powerful ways to research and write articles that will drive more organic traffic to your site, generating more clients for you and enabling your site to rank in Google’s top 10, without having to lift a finger to build backlinks.

Is it possible?

Absolutely YES!

Download this actionable worksheet that you can use today to increase your search traffic without building links.

Getting Started: It’s Not All About Links

First, though, you’ll need to build a strong base or foundation for your site or blog. If you’re a WordPress blogger, you have a significant advantage, because there are hundreds of plugins and tools that you can use and most of them are free (although some require a one-time investment or monthly subscription payment).

Getting massive traffic is not all about getting links. It is more about the quality of your content. After all, if your content is low quality, then your chances of ranking highly in Google results pages are equally low.

Before you adopt one or more of the strategies that I’ll outline in this article, take the following two steps first.

Rich Snippets Optimization: You can provide search engines relevant or core information about your site. This is very important, especially in this Hummingbird era, when Google is working extra hard to understand what your web pages are all about.

Rich snippets are simply pieces of markup code for your page that appear as text under the headline on SERPs (search engine results pages). They look exactly like this:

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Once Google understands the content (or the meaning) on your pages, it creates a rich snippet – detailed text aimed at helping the end users find exactly what they’re looking for in specific search queries. Moz stated that, “Rich snippets are designed to give the user a sense of what a webpage may contain.”

Remember, the goal is to increase your click-through rates. It’s no longer enough to rank #1 in Google. You need to do everything possible to motivate the target audience (users) to click through to your site. Rich snippets help with this.

Google supports rich snippets for these content types:

  • Reviews
  • Music
  • Recipes
  • Products
  • People
  • Businesses and organizations
  • Music

Further Resources:

Note: The bottom line is that you must consistently create content that aligns with the searcher’s query. Your content, therefore, has to be relevant to the intent of the search query. Most of the time, Google will create rich snippets for you, based on the content of your page. By doing so, Google gets the most out of your site and is better able to satisfy its users.

Pogosticking (Return-to-SERP): The #1 SEO ranking factor is satisfaction. If you want to increase your search traffic without building backlinks, then you have to reduce the effect of pogosticking. According to Foster Web Marketing, “Google hates pogo sticking more than a high bounce rate.”

Have you ever searched for a particular topic in Google and clicked on the first result in the top 10 only to be completely dissatisfied with what you found there? You probably quickly clicked the “back arrow” and went back to either search for another term or to click on a different web page.

That’s pogosticking — where the user is jumping back and forth between the SERPs and content pages, because their needs haven’t been met.

This is how Cyrus Shepard explains it:

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In a nutshell, pogosticking occurs when a particular site or page ranks in Google’s top ten results, but fails to satisfy the exact need of the searcher.

Google doesn’t like pogosticking. The reason why is fairly obvious: when users repeatedly visit your content page, but don’t stick around to read what you’ve written, it becomes apparent that the page doesn’t really satisfy the needs of those users. As a result, you’ll start to lose your organic rankings and traffic.

Note: Pogosticking is different from a high bounce rate. A high bounce rate usually occurs when your site is attracting the right audience, either through the search engine, social media or any other source, but they don’t stick around to view other pages on your site.

Pogosticking, on the other hand, is when search engine users visit your site from SERPs, but then leave your site fairly quickly, because your content, design, or context didn’t meet their requirements.

In other words, pogosticking has to do with search engine traffic, while bounce rate is tied to all traffic sources including search.

When you satisfy users, you’ll greatly reduce the number of people who visit your web page and return quickly to SERPs. After all, why would search visitors return to click on a different search result when your content has provided what they need?

Throughout this article, you’ll learn how to avoid the pogosticking effect by creating content that’s sticky. As a result, you won’t have to worry about building numerous backlinks in order to get results in Google.

Strategies to Increase Your Site Traffic Without Link-Building

Now that we understand the impact of rich snippets on your search traffic and rankings, as well as the need to reduce pogosticking, we can dive into the four proven ways to increase search traffic without building links.

Each of these strategies, when implemented thoughtfully on your site, can bring you tons of search-engine traffic, by radically improving the quality of your content.

#1: Write About the Latest News

Can you write quickly about the latest news in your niche? If so, you can use that skill to improve your search traffic and rankings without building links.

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In his flagship book, In the Plex, Steven Levy described how Google engineers monitor user satisfaction by understanding and mining user behavior data.

Google tracks this data through the “long clicks” — i.e., when a user clicks your web page from the search engine results and doesn’t return to the results page thereafter.

One of the ways to ensure that users don’t return to perform a new search or to click a different result is to employ a simple strategy: the news update, aka “newsjacking.” Articles that are news-like are linkable. If you’re one of the first sites to cover a news item, other authority sites are more likely to link back to that piece of content.

Let me give you an example:

When you search for any query related to Google Panda, Penguin, Hummingbird and Pigeon updates and algorithm changes, what sites will you always find among the top results?

Yes, you guessed right: Moz, Search Engine Journal, Search Engine Land, Search Engine Watch and Wordstream.

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Granted, these are authority sites with high domain authority and page authority. But, the major reason why these sites keep ranking highly in Google for several search queries is because they’re always at the forefront of breaking SEO news. They’re basically the CNN, BBC, Al Jazeera and Forbes of SEO.

They get the latest updates in the SEO and SEM world before other digital marketers and SEOs do. They attend and host SEO conferences and workshops, where they invite Matt Cutts and other respected Google employees to share the latest updates.

Since 48% of searches result in page one organic clicks, your goal is to keep abreast of latest updates and write about them consistently. That way, you’ll be among the first few sites that have relevant information regarding the current news.

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Tech-related blogs are very good at keeping up with the latest happenings in the technology and start-up worlds. For example, TechCrunch has a section on its homepage for news. This is where people go when they want to know what has happened in the last few minutes.

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Remember that when you quickly produce useful and interesting content around a news topic, people will naturally link to you.

So, how do you find your niche’s latest breaking news?

i). Keep your ear to the ground: If you’re a digital marketer, a blogger or a content writer, you’ll have to keep your ear to the ground. In the industry you’ve chosen, look especially for intriguing items that could generate buzz.

But, even if your news item doesn’t generate buzz, you can still benefit from a well-written news piece, by being current and helping your audience find the latest information. Readers perceive writers who consistently provide solid analysis of current events to be experts.

There are hundreds of news topics that you can cover right now. For example, on Search Engine Land, these are the latest headlines, as of the time of this writing. Any one of these topics could provide good content, if you researched it extensively.

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If you’re still not convinced that the news update strategy can help you rank higher in Google SERPs, then consider the experience of Brian Dean, who used it to increase his conversion rates by 785%.

If you’re ready to implement this strategy, start with the headlines. The trick is to spin news items into unique and useful pieces of content for your target audience. I’ll demonstrate how to craft the best titles for news update content by using the above news topics as an example.

Original news title: Google Introduces Rich Medical Content Into Knowledge Graph

Fresh, magnetic titles that get people clicking:

  • How Google’s Rich Medical Content in the Knowledge Graph Can Improve Your Rankings
  • What You Need To Know About Rich Medical Content In the Knowledge Graph
  • 10 Important Things You Can Learn From The New Rich Medical Content In the Knowledge Graph

Original news title: Bing Ads Auction Insights Now Available Globally

Clickable and benefit-driven titles:

  • Good News: You Can Now Use Bing Ads Auction Insights To Generate Web Traffic
  • How The Bing Ads Auction Insights Works For International Users

Original news title: Official: Google AdWords Rolls Out “Upgraded URLs” For Tracking Parameters

Catchy and clickable titles:

  • Official: How To Track Parameters Using The Google AdWords Upgraded URLs Feature
  • How to Use the Google AdWords Upgraded URLs to Lower PPC Spend and Drive Qualified Traffic

ii). Identify viable article ideas: You can find solid news-update ideas on blogs, magazines, article comments and podcasts.

For example, take a look at the hottest magazine cover in your niche. Follow these simple steps:

Step #1: Go to Magazines.com. Type in your keyword (e.g. marketing) and click the search icon.

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Step #2: Study the results. Click the most appealing magazine cover.

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Step #3: Study the magazine cover. Pick out viable headlines, then play with them to develop a compelling headline for your blog post. The trick is to write a clickable headline, not a journalistic one.

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Let’s explore some examples:

Original headline: The Start-up Model That Works For Everyone

Revised headlines:

  • The Best Start-up Models For Content Marketers Who Want More Profit
  • How A Simple Start-up Model Helped Me Build an Audience of 5,600+ Subscribers in 6 Months

iii). Aggregate from different sources: To “aggregate” means “to form or group into a class, cluster or whole.” For our purposes, it means that you find news topics from different trusted sources and use them to craft an in-depth, useful and linkable piece of content.

The first place to find news topics for your site is Google News:

Step #1: Go to Google News. Type in a good keyword for the subject that you want to get the latest news on — we’ll use “email marketing” as an example. Click the search icon or hit “enter” on your keyboard.

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Step #2: Analyze the breaking news items for that keyword.

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You can see that Google indexes new articles and makes them appear in their news section.

Some of the news items in our example were released as recently as a few hours before the search. Some will be released within the next minute. The lesson here is to stay alert.

The moment there is a breaking news item related to your topic (e.g. start-ups, email marketing, content marketing), you could study each piece of content and brainstorm ways you can improve on the original.

Or you could simply aggregate — collect a group of related pieces and aggregate them into a single piece of content for your site.

So, continuing our example from above, your title could be one of these:

  • 13 Email Marketing Experts Reveals How To Increase Email Open Rates
  • How 5 New Blogs Generated 18,977 Visitors Through Email Marketing in 7 Days

Note: Aim for transparency and complete honesty when aggregating. The idea is to use the results or tips from other people’s site/blog to craft an in-depth, original piece of content in your own voice.

Additionally, always link to the original news item appropriately. Never try to pass off an aggregated piece of content as your own. This is very important.

Another great site where you can find news topics and articles to aggregate is alltop.com.

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2. Create viral infographics

Infographics are one of the 15 types of content that generate massive traffic. Regularly sharing well-designed, interesting infographics can take your search traffic to the next level. I’ve been using infographics for a long time to drive targeted organic and social visitors to my blog.

“On average, each infographic that I’ve created has generated 53,000+ qualified visitors and over 800 backlinks from 79 unique domains. Infographics also generate decent social shares; each one generated close to 900 tweets and 400+ Facebook likes.”

If your infographic is high-quality and helpful, people will link to it. Even in social media marketing, using images can make the difference.

For example, this study shows that tweets with images received 150% more retweets.

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In the digital marketing world, individuals and corporations alike have to deal with competition.

But, the truth is that articles and all forms of text-based content are much more competitive than image-based content. After all, it’s easier to write an article (whether it’s high quality or not) than to create a graphic.

The earlier you start using visual information as an integral part of your content plan, the better.

There are more than 10 reasons why you should integrate visual content into your marketing plan. One of those reasons is that “visual content makes up 93% of all human communication.” Also, our brains process visuals 60,000 times faster than text.

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If you’re ready to start using infographics to generate organic traffic and rankings, check out the in-depth guide to creating infographics that I wrote a few months ago. Click this link: 60,000 Visitors and Counting: How To Double Your Traffic With Infographics.

3. Write in-depth top list posts

Top list posts are popular. They can improve your search traffic, especially when you make them in-depth and use data-driven facts to back up every claim.

When you add videos, images and slide presentations, you’ll get 40% of your target audience to respond more favorably to your list-type post.

One of the list-type posts that PopUp Domination founder, Michael Dunlop wrote generated 9,883 visitors in the last 30 days & 106,338 visitors in the last year.

When writing list posts, it’s important to provide numbering for each item on the list and to include the total in the title – specifically, odd numbers.

i). The science behind odd numbers: The Guardian conducted a survey with 44,000 respondents to find out people’s preference for even and odd numbers and particularly the number seven. The findings revealed that seven is perceived as clever, cheery and maybe even divine. This sheds some light on how the human brain works — and not just in Western countries, either. In China, odd numbers belong to heaven.

“Good luck lies in odd numbers.
There is divinity in odd numbers, either in nativity, chance or death,”

W. Shakespeare: Merry Wives of Windsor, Act V, sc. 1

Before writing your top list post, think of an odd number that will appeal to your target audience. According to Harp Social, “Odd numbers outperform even numbers.” Use odd numbers in your blog titles – you’ll get better results, says Diane Rayfield.

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And, don’t forget to search for existing list posts on your subject. You can and should write your own top list post, even if the topic has already been covered in this format.  But, make sure that yours is exceptional and better than what’s already out there.

ii). Going beyond keywords: You can easily improve your SEO by categorizing your keywords to understand the user intent.

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Yes, keywords are still relevant in today’s SEO.  But, you also need to go beyond them, because Google uses the Hummingbird algorithm change to easily measure the relevance and authority of a web page.

Remember that every improvement Google makes to the algorithm is to help users find exactly what they’re looking for.

Keyword intent or user intent is one of the 4 pillars of effective keyword research.

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The user intent of a keyword is the main reason why the user is typing the search query. According to Search Engine Land, the searcher is basically looking to either do something, know something or go somewhere — or, perhaps, a combination of all three.

If you’re selling a product or service, keep in mind that keywords with the word “buy” as a prefix or suffix have the highest commercial intent.

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When you write content aimed not just at keywords, but also at the user intention behind the keywords, you’ll get better results.

For example, when you do a search for “weight loss programs,” Google will use a lot of ranking factors to find the most relevant, in-depth and useful search results, based on user engagement rates for each possible result.

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Here’s another example: “Amazon Kindle e-readers reviews” and “Kindle Paperwhite reviews” are two different, high volume keywords. A critical glance tells you that “Amazon kindle e-readers reviews” isn’t specific. The searcher may be looking to buy the Kindle DX, Kindle Fire HD or the Paperwhite.

When you write a piece of content for that keyword, you can turn it into a top-list post. For example:

  • Top 3 Amazon Kindle E-reader Reviews
  • The Best Amazon Kindle E-reader Reviews

In contrast, “Kindle Paperwhite reviews” is specific and the searcher is more inclined to buy. It’s fair to assume that a searcher using this keyword has already cleared some of the hurdles associated with their buying decision and zeroed in on a particular model.

In other words, this searcher probably knows the different types of Amazon Kindles that are available, and has decided to purchase the Paperwhite.

Knowing this, you might want to create content designed to motivate the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite buyer.

Your headlines could be similar to these:

  • Amazon Kindle Paperwhite Review: 5 Notable Features
  • How to Save on an Amazon Kindle Paperwhite – Reviews and Ratings
  • Where to Buy an Amazon Kindle Paperwhite: Reviews and Discounts

iii). Embed relevant SlideShare presentations: SlideShare.net is the “quiet giant of content marketing.” It’s one of the most popular and trusted Web 2.0 sites out there. It combines the power of YouTube and PowerPoint to add cutting-edge value to your content.

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Despite Google’s algorithm updates, SlideShare still remains strong and continues to grow. You can give your content a boost in the search engines when you embed relevant slide presentations.

Since the human brain processes visual information 60,000 faster than plain text, you can use high-quality slide presentations to your advantage, while giving readers something pleasantly different.

One of my favorite blogs is Traffic Generation Cafe. Ana Hoffman knows how to use multimedia to increase the value of her blog posts and drive traffic.

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After creating nine Slideshare presentations and embedding them in her blog posts, she enjoyed some impressive results:

  • From 0 to 243,000 views in 30 days
  • Dominated Google’s first page for several profitable keywords
  • Got 1,400 clicks to her blog
  • More than 400 new Facebook fans joined her page

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You can use SlideShare for several purposes. You can:

  • Get targeted traffic
  • Improve your search engine rankings
  • Build your email list
  • Enhance your brand image
  • Grow your online network

… and so much more.

Now, imagine combining all of the benefits above in a single piece of content. By embedding a slide presentation in your content, you stand out from the crowd. Google will, in turn, reward you for your hard work.

Follow these simple steps to embed a SlideShare presentation in your content:

Step #1: Go to SlideShare.net. Type in your keyword to search for relevant presentations.

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Step #2: Click and view your preferred slide presentation.

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Step #3: Copy your embed code and paste the code for your blog post.

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iv). Link out to authority sites: I can’t stress the importance of this strongly enough. If you’ve been reading my posts, both on QuickSprout and on this blog, you’ll see how much I value other people’s sites.

Optimum 7 increased organic traffic by 214%, by conducting a competitive backlink search for 10-20 top keywords, as well as by reviewing the site structure and elements of each page 1 result.

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I can link to over 50 authority sites, send traffic to them and in turn improve my organic traffic. Interestingly, linking out to authority sites will directly or indirectly improve your brand online.

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Don’t forget what the web was designed for. It’s very purpose is to connect web pages together and to help end users find what they’re looking for with the help of search engines. That’s how Google came along in the first place.

One of the authority sites that ranks for virtually every keyword in different industries is Wikipedia. They understand perfectly how on-page SEO tactics, like internal linking and authority linking, improve their search traffic, without building any additional links.

Linking to internal pages on your site will become effective when you start linking out to authority sites. That’s what differentiates Wikipedia from the rest – and is the reason for its massive success.

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In summary, when you start linking out to authority and relevant sites inside and outside of your industry, you’ll naturally get link juice. People will gladly link back to your site, tweet the content and even share the published URL on their email list.

4. Upgrade Existing Content to Build Your List

The content upgrade is a simple content strategy in which you find an existing piece of your content (usually an older piece), update it to make it better and then use it to build your email list. Brian Dean, founder of Backlinko, increased his blog post conversion rate from .54% to 4.82% with this approach.

Once you start upgrading content, Google will notice, because the engagement rate for your content will increase. If you’re ready to use the content upgrade strategy to increase your search traffic without building backlinks, follow these simple steps:

Step #1: Use Google to find outdated titles and ideas in your niche that you can improve upon. Once you get to Google, type in a popular keyword and add a date. For example:

social media marketing 2010

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You can see that the content from Social Media Examiner is already outdated. So, here’s a piece of content that needs to be rewritten, upgraded and well-organized.

For example, the post and the report it covered both concerned which social media tools were most popular. The report was written five years ago, though and quite a bit has changed in this field since then.

With all of the changes in social media, SEO and digital marketing, if you can write a thorough and useful article based on current information, a lot more people will want to subscribe to your email list and remain loyal.

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Step #2: Research current information. After you’ve found an outdated topic or piece of content that needs an upgrade, the next step is to research current information on that topic.

For example, it used to be relatively easy to rank in Google top 10, once you targeted a particular keyword with minimal competition. What SEO used to be and what it is now are two very different things, like two parallel lines.

If you want to upgrade a post about “keyword research,” first find out the latest algorithm update to be released. Around 69% of modern SEO is all about conversion rate and performance metrics.

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Example #1: In order to get the latest information about your topic, use Google. Simply type in the keyword that you have in mind, plus the current month and year. For example: “Google panda + December 2014.”

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In the screenshot above, you can read the latest information about Google Panda and other algorithm updates. No matter what your niche is, there is always current information out there that you can leverage.

Example #2: Another effective way to find the most current information about your topic is by checking Amazon. What have authors said concerning your topic in the past year, 6 months and even more recently?

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Let’s assume that you want to write a detailed article on the topic “marketing automation.” You want this content to go viral, drive search traffic to your site and improve your web page rankings.

Just go to Amazon and type in your topic + 2015 (e.g. marketing automation + 2015). Amazon’s search engine will suggest hundreds of Kindle books for you to choose from.

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Next, click to look inside the book. Your goal is to look through the table of contents and the introduction for some current ideas. This is priceless.

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Next, let’s extract some ideas for the content that you want to write. This is simple. Just look through the “preview version” of the Kindle book. I assure you – the ideas will blow your mind.

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This is one way I get ideas to write in-depth blog posts that drive consistent search traffic to my blog. And, don’t skimp on the length of your content — serpIQ analyzed over 20,000 top search engine results and discovered that web pages that ranked in the top 10 have at least 2,000 words of content.

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You already know that blogging is one of the best ways to acquire new clients for your online business. According to HubSpot, “Active business blogging attracts 6.9 times more organic search visitors than any other method.”

When you consistently write useful content on your blog, people will share it and spend quality time on it.

This is engagement and Google tracks how long a search visitor stays on your site, without leaving to click another search result – also known as pogo sticking, as we learned earlier.

As long as you’re consistent with your content strategy, you’ll soon begin to rank for a lot of long tail keywords on the first page of Google – with or without backlinks.

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Step #3: Craft benefit-driven headlines. When using the content upgrade strategy, you have to write magnetic and benefit-driven headlines. This ensures that people click, read the introduction, stay on the page and ultimately join your list.

One of the most important aspects of every piece of content that you write is the headline. A study shows that 80% of people will read a headline, while only 20% of people will read the whole post.

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Upworthy, a giant news and entertainment blog, found that better written headlines will generate over 16% more traffic.

Keep the following tips in mind, when writing a benefit-driven headline:

  • Keep headlines under 75 characters, e.g.:
    How To Build An Email List Starting From Scratch
    Case Study: The 4 Strategies That Tripled My Blog Traffic
    10 Simple Ways To Offer Great Customer Service
  • Use a number in your headline, e.g., 7 Ways to Improve Your Site Load Time. Adding a number in your headline will produce 36% more clicks than a headline without a number.
  • Target the main keywords you want to rank for. For example, “How To Win Your Ex Boyfriend Back” or The Easy Steps To Starting a WordPress Blog.
  • Understand the keywords’ intent, before using them in your headline.

Where to buy Kindle Fire Online

There is only one reason why people search for this keyword. They’re most likely looking to buy the product from an online store, not a physical store.

Waterproof DSLR cameras reviews

This searcher is looking for different waterproof DSLR cameras reviews. The searcher may not purchase the product right away, because no definite choice (e.g., a particular camera) has been specified.

  • A meaningful headline is better than a catchy headline. For example, “How To Start an Online Store with Shopify” is better than “How To Generate Thousands of Dollars With Your Online Store.”
  • Write in an active voice, not passive. For example, “How To Drive Organic Traffic with Content In 30 Days” (active voice) is better than “Driving Organic Traffic Through Content Writing” (passive voice).

Conclusion

By using the right headlines, coupled with interest-grabbing content, you get steady traffic from search engines, even though you didn’t spend time and energy building lots of backlinks.

Keep your focus on optimizing your content to appeal to people, solve a specific problem for them and spoon-feed the Googlebots with the kind of content that they prefer.

True, it may not be easy to improve your Google ranking without going out there to look for links, especially when you’ve been trained to believe that links are the only currency of the web.

But, it’s definitely possible. If you can implement a few of the strategies above, you’ll see a significant increase in organic traffic, especially when you incorporate social engagement, such as encouraging useful comments. You’ll also reduce your bounce rate and speed up your site.

What other strategies have you been using to increase your search traffic without hunting for links?

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