You’ve likely seen these kinds of “traffic growth” articles before. However, this one’s going to be different. Here’s why:
- It’s about real growth, not “a 400% growth without any mention of the initial traffic numbers” (growing 400% from 100 website visitors to 500 visitors is no big deal. Growing from 1.6k to 30k+ is a real deal).
- All the tactics mentioned here really work. They’ve been tried and tested, not copied from other blogs.
- It’s also an honest account of what didn’t work. It’s not just shiny victories that paved our way to 30k+ monthly blog visits.
In September 2015, our startup’s blog had the total of 1,615 organic visits from Google. By March 2017, this number had grown to 31,375 visits.
A quick calculation shows that in the past 12 months, our organic blog traffic increased by 1,843%. This has also translated into a significant growth in the number of leads and sales.
However, the fastest growth has happened in the past 11 months while we grew our traffic from 6k/month to 31k/month.
To be honest, this good-looking growth curve did not always result from a solid SEO strategy. Rather, it was a series of a-ha moments and sudden revelations that guided the process.
We got an abrupt idea, applied it to our website, and kept our fingers crossed to see whether our (often crazy) ideas work. Sometimes, they did.
And that’s how we grew from 1,6k organic blog visits to 30k+ visits.
You know how some people say there are no golden nuggets and it’s only the long-term strategy that leads to goals… That’s not entirely true – the best results appear when a strong long-term plan gets mixed with bold ideas.
This article’s about the hacks and growth tactics we used to build our website traffic. The best part is that they can be easily applied to your marketing strategy as well.
IMPORTANT NOTE: I’d also like to give credit to our brilliant colleague Merily who’s been rocking our SEO, content, and CRO.
Here’s another article you might like: After Guest Blogging 50+ Articles to Top Blogs, Here’s What I’ve Learned
How we got started:
When I joined Scoro, I was eager to get started with content marketing right away.
Up to this point, the SaaS startup had been buying generic 800-word articles from an agency. Nobody wanted to read them, and it showed in the blog’s readership numbers.
Key takeaway #1: Don’t outsource your content marketing to an agency as they can’t see your SEO results nor do they plan for your long-term growth. (At least the agencies I’ve seen in action)
What you should do instead, is to establish a solid content strategy and a growth plan with two main goals:
- Building brand awareness and acquiring fans
- Publishing content that will bring you traffic in the long run
Rather than publishing three short articles per week, we aimed to publish one really good article once a week. This tactic’s also been explained by Rand Fishkin in his Whiteboard Friday episode on 10x content.
Key takeaway #2: Don’t publish for the sake of publishing – focus on quality, not quantity. (I bet you’re tired of hearing this, but it’s 100% true)
Our initial content marketing strategy was simple. It included a topic, headline, keywords, and a publishing date. We’re using a similar approach to this day.
Building a growth-focused content marketing strategy
At the beginning, our content marketing strategy was like a vacant parking lot – there were so many potential keywords and opportunities waiting to be employed.
Not to waste a single opportunity, every article we published had to show a huge organic traffic potential.
According to research by Ahrefs, the average Top10 ranking page is 2+ years old. It takes nearly three years to land the #1 spot.
The fact that it may take 2+ years to have your blog articles rank on Google means that you need to focus on the long-term strategy and build “content bundles” with articles complementing each other.
#Key takeaway 3: Plan and create content with long-term gains in mind. It may take up to two years for an article to start ranking in the TOP10 on SERPs.
Actually, I can assure you that some articles only take a month or two to start ranking high on SERPs. But it doesn’t change the fact that the focus should be placed on the long-term growth.
Instead of brainstorming fun headlines, we defined the five main topics to center our content around. I like to call those overarching topics the “content bundles”.
Creating content bundles as an SEO strategy
When analyzing our past three months’ website traffic, we noticed that 75% of the organic traffic resulted from two types of articles – software lists and KPI-related content.
I’ve never been a big believer in the 80/20 rule, but it sure seems to apply to our blog strategy. Most of our organic traffic comes from two content bundles that we’ve been expanding since 2015.
Just to be clear, here’s how I like to define content bundles:
- A series of articles around one key topic
- Each article focuses on a different (yet related) keyword
By interlinking the articles inside a content bundle, you’re able to create a keyword bubble. And for what I’ve seen, Google loves these kinds of bubbles around a specific topic. After some time, Google will begin to perceive your blog as an expert resource in the given field, assigning your articles a higher rank in SERPs.
Key takeaway #4: Create content bundles – a series of articles centered around one key topic.
For example, we’ve been working on the content bundle focusing on the keyword “KPI dashboard” for over 15 months. It’s a sweet keyword – the exact match has over 1k monthly searches in the US alone.
The other pages ranking for this keyword have a considerably higher domain authority. However, we’re now ranking as the #4 result in SERPs in the US.
Slowly but surely developing the content bundles has certainly been one of our highest-ROI tactics. The best part is that it’s easily applicable even to sites with a low domain authority – to blogs just starting out.
The secret SEO tactics that bring skyrocketing results
Alright, it’s time for the best part of the article – the no-BS tactics that helped to grow our organic blog traffic at a fast pace.
As you might have guessed, it all starts with keyword research and identifying the best opportunities.
?SEO hack 1: Learn to do SEO research the right way
Instead of simply checking the Google Keyword Tool to see the monthly search volume of specific keywords, you can take your research to a higher level. I’ve also written about this method in-depth here.
Step 1: Google your keywords
After you’ve discovered some keywords with a great monthly search volume, head to Google and, well, google. (You can use a tool like ISearchFrom to see the results in specific countries)
Let’s say you want to create a list of Top SEO Blogs.
A quick Google search will reveal a list of results:
While it’s a good general overview of your competition, there’s a simple way to learn a lot more.
Key takeaway #5: Don’t limit your SEO research to the Google Keyword Tool. Dig deeper.
My personal favourite tool for competitive SEO research in the Moz SEO Toolbar.
Step 2: Use the Moz SEO Toolbar for advanced research
Use the Moz SEO Toolbar to get more insight about the articles in search results. Most of the features are free, simply add the extension to your web browser.
The SEO Toolbar will show you the Domain Authority and Page Authority of each website on the search engine results page.
What you want to do is to look for pages with a low domain authority that have managed to get listed among the high-DA pages. This means they’ve published such good content that Google thinks it’s necessary to refer to their site.
For example, an article from a site with the DA of 29 could appear between other pages with a DA of 80+.
The guys over at the low-DA site must have done something right. Analyze what differentiates their content from all other results.
Often, you’ll find that those low-DA pages have 10x more comprehensive content or have an exact keyword match. That’s what you’ll want to copy when creating content to rank for the same keyword.
Key takeaway #6: Find content marketing and SEO opportunities by discovering low domain authority sites that rank among pages with a high domain authority.
Once you’ve discovered that another low-DA site is able to rank in the TOP10 SERP results for a particular keyword, so can you.
?SEO hack 2: Spend more time interlinking
Remember when we talked about the content bundles in the first half of this article?
Adding links in between your blog articles helps to strengthen your keyword bubbles and make them visible to Google (and get your new articles ranking more quickly).
While most websites make an effort to add links to older articles inside the newer content, we took it one step further. After we had published a new article on a given topic, we went and edited older articles around the same subject, and added links to the new article.
For example, when we published this article on KPI Reporting in February 2017…
We went ahead and linked to it in a KPI-related article published one year before.
As a result, the new article picked up more quickly and appeared in the TOP20 SERPs two weeks after publishing.
Key takeaway #7: Interlink all the articles around a related topic to create keyword bubbles and improve your search rankings.
By interlinking our blog articles, we steadily built a network of links, supporting each individual keyword and helping our articles rank higher on Google SERPs.
?SEO hack 3: A/B test new headlines and meta descriptions
The two SEO tactics mentioned previously helped us to grow our blog’s organic traffic by over 1,500%.
However, it’s this third trick that gets credit for the latest improvements in our SERP rankings. It’s about rewriting and A/B testing your article’s headlines and meta descriptions.
Hearing about this SEO hack was definitely one of the few a-ha moments on our journey to 30k+ monthly organic (blog) traffic.
Key takeaway #8: Rewrite and A/B test your article’s headlines and meta descriptions.
Here’s how it works…
Select an article that’s ranking in the TOP20 search results and is optimized for a high search volume keyword.
I like to use Moz’s keyword ranking reports for that.
The keyword “What is a kpi” has a considerable search volume, and the current ranking #15 shows that it has a potential to move up the ranks.
Google the keyword to see what other articles rank next to yours.
In this phase, you’re going to sherlock on your competition, looking for their article’s headlines and meta descriptions.
We like to approach this stage by asking: What would make our article differentiate from the crowd and make people click?
In this case, all the headlines seem pretty generic and boring. What if we could rewrite the headline to make it more noteworthy (and clickable)?
Key takeaway #9: Rewrite your headlines to increase the CTR on search result pages, and thereby raise your SERP rankings.
We usually rewrite both the primary and SEO headline – if we come up with a better solution, we also want to have it in our blog.
The key tactics we use to write powerful headlines:
- Create a curiosity gap so that people will click on the headline.
- Include your main keyword in the headline to be highlighted in search results.
- Create comprehensive lists with odd numbers.
- Make your headlines actionable by using action verbs such as “Learn”, “Get”, etc.
Google evaluates search results based on their click-through rates. It makes a lot of sense to put effort into increasing your top article’s CTRs.
Higher SERP click-through rates = higher rankings
Use the Google Search Console to A/B test and measure results
A marketing tactic is useless without proper measurement.
What if you rewrite your blog headlines, but instead of increasing, your CTR actually drops?
We’ve seen both success and failure with this SEO hack. It’s a good thing we measured the results and were able to restore some changed headlines and meta descriptions to their original state.
By using the Google Search Console, you can easily track your keywords’ and article’s click-through rates on Google.
To get a report that looks like this…
Follow these steps:
- Log in to Google Search Console
- Select “Search Traffic”, the “Search Analytics”
- Tick the box in front of CTR
- Change the columns from Queries to Pages
- Select the dates you’d like to compare
Using these reports has been of tremendous help in optimizing and A/B testing our article’s meta descriptions and headlines.
Key takeaway #10: Measure your marketing experiments’ results to see what actually works.
And now, it’s time for the sweetest part of the article – the fuckups.
You can’t always win – our biggest failures
I promised to also share our failures. While some of them being embarrassing to think of, we can at least say: We tried.
In retrospect, many of these failures make us feel like this…
But there are also the mistakes that make us feel more like…
It’s up to you to guess which failures make us feel in certain ways. (I’ve boldened my favourite ones)
- We tried Outbrain for content promotion, but it never delivered the anticipated results.
- We forgot to add UTM codes and REF codes behind our paid promotions’ links.
- We sometimes created content that stole our landing pages’ place on SERPs. We fixed this by adding CTAs inside blog articles.
- We created a Christmas infographic on productivity that we published 20 days too late.
- We tried some crazy headline and meta description changes that significantly decreased the CTRs to our articles. Luckily, the rankings recovered in a few weeks.
- Once, I mistakenly thought Outbrain’s budget signifies the total campaign budget. It was the daily budget. You might have guessed why I don’t like Outbrain…
- We waited for too long to update our blog layout and redesign the article page.
- We didn’t do enough outreach and collaborate with other industry blogs.
- For the first 8 months, we focused on vanity metrics such as social shares, instead of website traffic and lead conversions.
- We spent 30+ hours on an eBook campaign that returned only 4 leads.
For us, guest blogging didn’t work. At all.
While everyone’s praising guest blogging as a brilliant SEO tactic, I’m going to play the devil’s advocate here.
I would recommend that you do PR, but forget about guest posting – focus on publishing excellent content in your own blog instead.
Over to you
As you can see, nothing too serious went wrong. We were able to happily test away all our new ideas.
If you intend to grow your organic blog traffic, know that there is no instant way to win (Ahrefs’ case study perfectly illustrates it). Use what you’ve learned in this article to accelerate your journey to tens of thousands monthly blog visitors.
I hope this helps and would love to hear the hacks that have helps you to grow your website traffic. Let’s have a discussion in the comments. ???