Search is the #1 driver of traffic to content web pages, beating social media by more than 300%. According to an experiment conducted by the Groupon marketing team, 60% of direct traffic is actually organic search traffic.
These statistics are pretty exciting, right?
But, what if you’re a small business and unable to rank highly in Google’s search engine results? Does it mean that you have no hope of generating organic traffic from it? You’ll learn the truth about search engine optimization in this article.
How was I able to rank in Google’s top 10 results for several high-volume keywords? Well, it didn’t happen overnight. I’ve been actively blogging since 2007.
In that time, I’ve written and published well over 600 posts on Quicksprout.com and a handful on Neilpatel.com. I also create content for several other industry blogs.
Yes, organic search can generate more – and more valuable – clicks than paid search.
In fact, one ContentMX client who was using both paid and organic traffic methods to generate traffic saw an 84% boost in organic clicks, which was far better than the paid results.
It’s true that my blogs generate over 700,000 visitors per month, but it took hard work and endurance. I keep learning and I find it difficult to quit.
Most of the posts that I wrote back in 2010 are the ones showing up in organic search. So, you see, content marketing with SEO is not a short-term marketing strategy – it works for those who will put in the effort and remain patient.
Organic traffic boils down to providing useful content for your target audience, so that they’ll share it with others. When you consistently do that, your organic traffic will increase each month.
You could employ black hat SEO techniques and quickly boost your web page rankings, but think about tomorrow. Sooner or later, Google will definitely find out, penalize your site and push your rankings down to page 91.
Personally, I’ve seen white hat SEO outperform black hat tactics. This simply shows that content marketing has the potential for long-term organic success for any business, even a small business with limited content marketing resources.
I know a lot of bloggers and content marketers who generate thousands of organic search engine visitors to their blogs each month, yet they don’t rank highly in the search engine results pages (SERPs).
Let’s explore 7 strategic approaches you can take if you want to generate organic traffic from your target audience, even if your blog is new and you have no hope of getting Google to send you traffic from the top 10 search results positions.
Strategy #1: Syndicate Infographics on Community-Based Networks
Infographics are powerful traffic, lead and sales drivers, because they’re visual marketing workhorses. According to The Content Cloud, “People remember 80% of what they see and do, compared with just 20% of what they read.”
From 2010 to 2012, KISSmetrics enjoyed more than 41,000 retweets referencing its infographics. Unbounce recorded that, in just 2 years, the search for infographics increased 800%.
Whether you’re planning to build a new site or to grow your existing one, infographics are great for attracting organic visitors from search engines.
Whenever I release an infographic, it’ll receive 22.6% less traffic in the first three months than regular blog posts. But, over the course of 12 months, infographics receive 35.1% more traffic.
You may be tempted to use one of the free infographics tools out there, but the quality of the resulting product may not be as good as either a professionally designed one or one built with premium tools.
I use Visual.ly to design all of my infographics. It’s great, but it’s not cheap.
If you’re a small business on tight on budget, there is another alternative – Dribbble.com. This is a freelancer site where you can find a professional graphic designer with skills in infographic design. Just follow these simple steps:
Step one: On the main site, type “infographic designer” into the search box. Hit the enter key:
Step two: Analyze your results: Click one of the results to learn about the designer. If you’re satisfied with the copy, completed project, customer ratings and reviews, great – if not, you can choose another designer. There are thousands of them on dribbble.com
Note: you should click the designer’s name, not the image. If you click the image, you’ll see reviews from other customers. But, if you click the name, it’ll take you to a page where you can learn more about the designer and see completed works.
When your infographic is ready, you’ve got to promote it. That’s where the real benefit comes from. Your infographic may be highly useful, well-designed and practicable, but, if no one sees it, you’ve wasted time and money.
There are several ways to promote an infographic – for example, blogging and social media marketing. But, the most effective method is sharing it on community-based networks. These are sites where lots of bloggers come together to share content and tips.
Most people on these community-based sites are looking for content to curate and republish. Sites like the GrowthHackers community allow you to syndicate your content. Embed your infographic on the blog page and share.
If you’ve ever launched an information product, you’re probably already aware that recruiting affiliates to promote your product is the easiest way to guarantee consistent sales.
In the same way, when you share your infographic on community-based sites, you’re recruiting bloggers, content marketers and digital entrepreneurs who are looking for helpful content to curate. Link building helps organic traffic.
The more shares and natural links to your web page, the more influence you’ll have and your organic search traffic will skyrocket. An inbound link is the currency to search engine growth.
Another community-based network where you can share your compelling infographic is Blokube.com. It’s free, but you have to register.
Strategy #2: Tactical Competitive Auditing
If you keep seeing your competitor’s web pages rank highly in Google, while you still struggle, then there’s something you can learn from them regarding content marketing.
According to Cicada Online, you need to discover the on-page factors that make your competitors successful.
A significant driver of organic traffic is social engagement. In other words, if your competitors have influence on social media, they can get thousands of people to share their content. In turn, that prompts search spiders to crawl, index and rank the web page. Even a small business with a limited budget can use social engagement effectively.
Here’s proof through a case study that having social influence and engagement counts: Simply Measured compared several booking sites and discovered that engagement for Hilton Worldwide’s Twitter account beats other chains, hands down.
It’s possible that your competitors are targeting keywords that you’ve never discovered. And, you may not find those keywords when you use the Google AdWords Keyword Planner or any other keyword research tool out there.
Before you can successfully spy on your competitors, you’ve got to know who they are. So let’s start there.
Step one: Go to SimilarSites.com. Plug your site URL into the search box. Then click the search icon at the far right.
Step two: Scroll down the page. You’ll see the blogs and sites that usually write on similar topics.
In the example, if you scroll down further, you’ll see my major competitors. These are blogs and sites that my readers usually visit before or after reading the content on Quicksprout.com. So, they’re my major competitors:
Now that I know who my major competitors are, as well as their site URLs, I can spy on them. In the next step, I’ll pinpoint the exact keywords that are generating organic traffic for my competitors, and show you how to do the same. Those same keywords will help me market to my target audience more competitively.
Step three: Go to Alexa.com. This tool can show you whether your competitors’ best performing keywords are ranking in Google’s top 10 results.
On Alexa’s homepage, plug your competitor’s site URL (e.g. copyblogger.com) into the box. Click “find.”
Step four: Analyze audience geography. Alexa gives you detailed information about your competitor’s audience, where they came from and how engaged they are when they visit your competitor’s site. This is truly important, particularly the “daily pageviews per visitor” section.
You can see that the majority of Copyblogger’s readers live in India. What does this mean to you?
Well, if you’re based in the United States or the UK and you want to get more attention and customers from those regions, you need to tell Google’s spider what your site is about and optimize your content for geo-specific keywords.
For example, if you’re a small business web developer based in the U.S., you could set up separate landing pages and create more in-depth articles for keywords like:
- Web developer in California
- Web development company U.S.A.
- Web design Los Angeles
The more you optimize for keywords that are relevant to any location near you, the more Google will associate your site with the relevant area and reward you with the right users.
Also, the data on daily pageviews in the screenshot above is very important. Alexa tells us that Copyblogger has a 2.13% retention rate.
This figure tells you how many web pages or blog posts visitors read on separate pages. You may want to aim for this goal or try to exceed it. It all boils down to useful content, user engagement and the speed of your blog.
Step five: Analyze organic keywords for optimal search results. When you scroll down further, Alexa shows you what keywords visitors are searching for that lead them to your competitor.
Note: These are the top keywords that grow Copyblogger’s blog. You can see in the above result that “content marketing” sends 5.49% organic search traffic to them. If the site attracts over 500,000 visitors per month, 5.49% organic traffic is equivalent to 27,450 visitors per month.
Any blog that receives half that much search engine traffic will be successful. I’m showing you this in order to prove the effectiveness of those top keywords. But guess what? Most of the articles ranking for these top keywords aren’t even ranking #1 or #2 in Google’s top 10 SERPs. Let’s see:
You can know the exact position of your target keywords in the search engines without checking them one by one. To save time, plug your competitor’s site URL into SEMrush.com and click the search button:
Next, scroll down and you’ll see the organic keywords (including some keywords that Alexa.com didn’t display). You’ll also see the live positions of each keyword. This is one of the reasons why I recommend SEMrush – everything is live!
It’s high time you start digging into your market. Find out exactly what your competitors are doing, then decide which of those strategies you want to use for your small business.
By implementing the findings from your competitive audit, you’ll definitely see a significant improvement in all areas. Several companies have proven how valuable competitive analysis can be. For example, Everest Group conducted a competitive analysis for a Fortune 500 service provider.
The client had several challenges. But, the major one was how to deliver metrics that impact the overall cost and pricing for service providers, including staffing pyramids and the onshore-offshore delivery mix.
With the help of Everest Group, the company was able to understand the data and analysis requirements resulting from the benchmarking initiative. The results of the competitive analysis provided two major benefits.
First, the analysis enabled the client to identify areas in which its pricing was potentially misaligned with its competitors.
Second, the client was able to understand fully how its project staffing strategy compared with its competitors, which enabled them to better leverage offshore locations.
By conducting a competitive audit, Daniel Gonzalez, a CRO (conversion rate optimization) specialist at SingleGrain, was able to determine the market potential of the “puppies for sale” sub-niche in the puppies market.
He discovered that his competitors were generating over 10,000 monthly organic search visitors by running their site URLs in Quantcast.com. That information was a huge motivator for him to reassess his search engine marketing strategy.
For example, if I want to know how many unique pageviews that Muscleforlife.com has, I’ll simply go to Quantcast, plug the site URL into the search box and hit enter:
Next, I’ll see the traffic statistics page:
Knowing more about your market, your competitors, the emerging trends and the popular tools, you’ll be able to outsmart your competitors or at least get a percentage of their organic traffic.
To do that, simply target their “top keywords” in your blog posts and social media postings. Use those keywords to craft powerful headlines that will captivate your target audience.
Above all, pitch your competitors high-quality guest articles and make sure that you optimize for the same top keywords.
Since Google has already identified the topic of your competitor’s site, your guest article will likely rank highly in Google’s top 10 results within a short while, which means more organic traffic for you, too.
Strategy #3: Optimize for Long-Tail Keyword Variations
If you want to drive organic long-term organic traffic, you’ve got to target long-tail key phrases. I know that you’ve heard this over and over, both here and on other industry blogs. But, there’s a reason why it’s so commonly discussed: It works.
Out of the 262,169 visitors that came to Quicksprout.com in February 2014, 238,195 came through long-tail keywords. That’s a whopping 91%.
Do you think that all of these long-tail keywords that generated thousands of organic visitors to my blog came from posts ranked #1 in Google’s top 10 results?
Of course not. To be honest with you, only a handful of my long-tail keywords ranked highly at that time. Yes, I’ve seen much improvement since 2014, no doubt about that.
The long-tail keyword strategy is actually a trending SEO best practice. So far, Google hasn’t expressed any problems with it. Of course, you could get yourself into trouble by overdoing it, but that’s true for many legitimate SEO strategies.
A few years ago, Amazon made 57% of sales from long-tail keywords (product searches). I’m sure that figure has only increased.
I found that when you target long-tail keywords, you may not rank in Google’s top 10 for them, but, as time goes on, you’ll actually rank for related keywords that you didn’t optimize for.
For example, when you search for “build blog traffic,” you’ll see one of the posts I published earlier on this blog, targeting the long-tail keyword “how to increase blog traffic.”
That’s the power of a long-tail keyword variation. You’ll start generating organic traffic for related search engine keywords. This is known as LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing). We’ll deal with it in the 7th strategy below.
But, for now, let’s start by finding some long-tail keywords. I like to start with Google’s keyword tool to find seed keywords with thousands of monthly searches. Then, I’ll dig deeper. Just follow these simple steps:
Step one: Go to Google AdWords Keywords Planner. Once you log in, type your main keyword (e.g., “online store”) into the box. Click the “Get ideas” button:
Next, click the “keyword ideas” tab to reveal related keywords.
Step two: Select high-volume keywords. These are head keywords that receive at least 1,000 monthly searches. This is important because you still want the long-tail variations to have a decent search volume.
Step three: Find long-tail variations. Copy all of the highlighted keywords above, then find the longer variations using KeywordTool.io – a free keyword research tool that’s an alternative to Google’s keyword tool and Übersuggest.
Here are your long-tail keywords:
The highlighted section shows your long-tail keyword variations for the head keyword “online dress shopping.” If you observe closely, you’ll see that some of these keywords don’t flow well. In fact, most of them look spammy. For example:
- online dress shopping delhi
- online dress shopping free delivery
- online dress shopping worldwide delivery
- online dress shopping europe
Create content that flows and makes sense. Don’t force long-tail keywords or phrases.
If you integrate any of these long-tail keywords verbatim into your headline, your users won’t be happy. So, what do you do instead?
Use punctuation marks to integrate the long-tail keywords into your headline. Here’s an example:
- Online Dress Shopping – Delhi Stores Have Amazing Shopping Deals
- Online Dress Shopping: Free Delivery to Your Doorstep Within 48 Hours
- Online Dress Shopping (Free Delivery That’s Fast)
Note: In each of these examples, I used a hyphen (-), a colon (:) or parentheses () to write compelling headlines.
The keywords are still the same. Google is going to treat “online dress shopping – free delivery” the same way it’d treat “online dress shopping free delivery.”
There are lots of headline formulas that you can use to entice your target audience, but this “punctuation” approach is very popular – it’s used by authority blogs like Mashable:
If you’ve been reading my posts on Quicksprout.com, you know I use this headline formula a lot:
Strategy #4: Utilize LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing)
SEO is risky. You may think that your strategy is foolproof, only to find out that Google doesn’t agree and you can wind up shooting yourself in the foot.
To minimize your chances of getting penalized for stuffing keywords and manipulating search engines through long-tail keywords, use LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing). What does it mean? Google tells us:
LSI is all about identifying patterns. Google uses LSI to gauge the value of keywords that appear in your web page content.
When Google crawls a web page, the most common keywords and phrases are pinpointed and collated. LSI then looks for closely-related words or synonyms that are relevant to the title of the page.
For example, if your title was “drive web traffic,” the search engine spider would expect to find related keywords for that topic in the content of the page as well. Some of the synonyms for “drive web traffic” it expects are:
- generate online visitors
- drive online traffic
- drive web visitors to site
- get website traffic online
- attract visitors online
If you keep repeating the same keyword (whether long-tail or head keywords) in your content, no matter how smart you think you are, Google will definitely find out and penalize you. The only way out is to use the synonyms for your main keyword.
For example, if the headline is “How to Drive Organic Traffic to Your Blog,” the main keyword is “drive organic traffic.
You could start your introduction like this:
If you want to drive organic traffic to your site, this post was written with you in mind. Most people never step out of their comfort zone after they launch their blogs. They think that visitors will appear like magic.
No, it doesn’t work that way. There are a few things you should do if you want to generate search visitors to your website – let’s explore 5 of them:
Did you notice how I used a synonym at the end? I replaced “drive organic traffic” with “generate search visitors.” To Google, you’re basically saying the same thing both times, but you’re staying off of the radar to avoid getting penalized.
When you use the LSI approach, you don’t have to repeatedly mention your head or long-tail keywords in your content. Keep the main keyword in the title and the synonyms in the body text and you’ll be fine.
If you consider my recent post, where I wrote about “link building tactics,” you’ll notice that I didn’t mention the target keywords several times in the article. Rather, I used words that mean the same thing:
Using synonyms and related keywords is second nature for most prolific writers and professionals. For example, Moz’s authors use the LSI method while writing high-quality blog posts. Consider the underlined synonyms, just in the first paragraph:
If you can help Google understand your web page better, then it’ll send the right users to your site, whether you’re on the first results page or not.
Strategy #5: Resource Page Organic Outreach
Email outreach is popular. When done right, it can lead to more incoming links. But, there are limitations, especially if you come off as an aggressive link builder. According to Moz, 31% of bloggers will never open an email that contains a link request in the subject line.
However, the same study found that detailed emails that offer value to the recipient are more likely to be opened. Here’s the chart:
The resource page organic approach is just a way of researching web pages that are ranking highly in Google’s top 10 and offering to upgrade them.
In the first place, resource content is the type of content that offers plenty of value. “Resource” in this instance doesn’t mean a page that contains links to other blogs or internal pages. Basically, any web page that’s ranking highly right now in Google’s top 10 search engine results is a resource page.
What if you could improve on the post, ask the author to publish it, then include a link to it on the popular post?
I’ll show you what I mean. Let’s start by finding a post that’s ranking highly right now in Google for the keyword “email list monetization”:
The first organic listing is a post from GetResponse. Yes, this post is useful and has value, perhaps largely because of the GetResponse brand and domain authority. But, I can improve on that post. GetResponse accepts guest posts, which makes it a lot easier to get published on their blog.
Since their title is:
- 4 Ways to Monetize Your Email List and Achieve Profitability
I can simply improve on the title by adding a number and power words:
- 7 Smart Ways to Monetize Your Email List and Achieve Profitability
Better yet, I could make it the ultimate resource:
- The Ultimate Guide to Monetizing Your Email List and Achieving Profitability
With a compelling headline, GetResponse may very well say “yes” to your pitch. But, don’t disappoint them when you start to write the post.
Here are simple ways to improve the value of your blog post before sending it to the editor:
- Craft irresistible headlines.
- Start the introduction with a bang (by making a bold statement, showing a typical result, asking a question, etc).
- Show examples of blogs and marketers who have successfully monetized their email list and how they did it.
- Add plenty of charts, screenshots, and custom images (but avoid stock photos).
- Reference authority blogs that are relevant to your topic.
- Tell the editor or blogger that you’ll promote the guest post massively on social media networks.
- Write as if your life depends on it. Do your absolute best work.
Remember that when pitching your guest article idea (in a bid to improve the quality of a popular post), don’t include “link building request” in your subject line. In reality, you’re not after the links – you’re after the traffic. Learn from the worst guest post pitch ever and don’t make the same mistakes:
The purpose of pitching an article idea is to give value to a new set of people. Never ask for anything in return, not even links.
If you succeed at inspiring the editor or blog owner (for GetResponse, it’s the editor), then you could simply ask that they reference and link to your guest article from the first paragraph of their popular post that’s already sitting at the #1 position in Google.
You’ll drive significant organic visitors to your small business site on a consistent basis. Instead of going on a guest blogging spree without knowing whether you’ll succeed or not, learn how to leverage resource page email outreach and you’ll drive better traffic.
Strategy #6: Build Awareness of Your Site Through Public Speaking
There are a few things you may not know about me. I’m 30 years old now. And I’ve spoken at over 239 conferences during my career.
Most marketers, bloggers, and business owners dread public speaking.
But, public speaking is a powerful way to build your personal brand. When done right, it can prompt a lot of people to start searching for your name in search engines.
You don’t even have to optimize for your name. Once Google finds out that more and more people are noticing you, it will push your site to the top.
If you’ve never spoken to a group of marketers and entrepreneurs, you’ve got to start somewhere. This means that you may want to take any speaking gig that comes your way, at least initially.
When I started speaking actively, searches for my brand name took off. Right now, over 4,000 people search for “neil patel” each month. And when they do, the first result that pops out is my blog.
Highly successful public speakers start out telling a story. Recount your success stories and use them to give direction to your listeners. “Success stories are a great way to share what you’ve achieved,” says Jezra Kaye, founder of Speak Up For Success.
Strategy #7: Boost Your Digital Reputation
Isocial Reviews recently stated that “a one-star increase in Yelp rating leads to a 5 – 9% increase in revenue.” What’s more, “88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.” This helps any small business owner.
In this era of intense competition, you’ve got to optimize the “you” in you. In other words, who you are affects every other aspect of your small business.
If you’re the type who doesn’t respect people or appreciate your blog readers, you’ll find it hard to get organic traffic, unless you hide under a pseudonym. Your online reputation is your currency. If you lose it, you’ll work extra hard to get it back, assuming you can get it back at all.
Building an online reputation takes either time or money. If you ask an online reputation management company to help you remove or reduce negative reviews, low-star ratings and complaints, be ready to spend some money.
According to Holiday Mag, when it comes to making buying decisions and actually taking action, 90% of people rely on online reviews.
But, improving your digital image isn’t something you just do once and then forget about. Rather, you have to continually monitor what people are saying about you and encourage positive feedback, reviews and ratings as much as you can.
If you’ve got a Kindle book that you offer for sale on Amazon, you could give away some copies and encourage people who downloaded it to leave an honest review for you.
Blogging is another sustainable way to build your online reputation. Make sure that you’re consistent at blogging and that you keep on top of new challenges your audience is facing, so that you can provide the best solutions to their problems.
Since Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are the social media giants, you should also be active on those platforms. At a minimum, you should do the following:
- Build your own Facebook page (using your personal name or website name).
- Use your personal name or website name to get a Twitter handle.
- Join Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, iTunes and so on, to secure your brand name.
- Build more optimized pages. The more pages you have on the web singing your praises, the easier it’ll be for your target audience to find you.
- Get mentioned on PR authority sites such as Mashable, CNN, BBC, Inc., and other high-quality sites. You’ll drive organic traffic to your site, because, within a few hours of publishing a new article with few competing web pages, those sites will dominate the search engine’s top results and start sending you traffic.
Note: You want to secure your virtual presence so that when a user, prospect, friend, colleague or customer searches for your site or brand name in the search engine, only your web pages and profile will be shown to them. Here’s an example:
I hope that you’ve enjoyed reading this definitive strategy for driving organic traffic to your site without ranking in Google’s top 10 SERPs.
Google may have penalized you in the past and destroyed your hope of dominating the the top 10 organic search results, but you don’t have to let someone else control your business success.
You have options. If you can’t make it to the top, then leverage other people’s web pages and funnel the traffic to your site.
If you embrace social media marketing and pay more attention to serving the user, you’ll drive lots of organic and referral customers to your business. There’s no shortcut. It requires hard work and smart decision-making.
Have you tried any of these methods to drive organic traffic without ranking in Google’s top 10 results? I want to hear from you.