When it comes to growing organic traffic, many people tend to run before they can walk. They read growth stories about silver bullets that returned 10x growth overnight and try mimic those success stories. What those stories don't tell you is that there was a lot of trial and error before they had any success. It is a long and arduous journey that starts with on-page SEO and then working through a content development loop multiple times before any gains in organic traffic occur. In following guide, I will discuss a five part framework that will provide you with a strtuctured SEO strategy that will help you improve your organic traffic.
1. Site Audit
Before you begin writing content and social sharing, you need to go back to Web 1.0 SEO concepts and create a search engine compatible HTML foundation for your website that will allow bots to crawl and interpret your website correctly. If best practices aren’t followed at the site level, then it is very likely that all of your effort further down the funnel will be ineffective in helping your organic growth. In order to do this, you must follow this Google SEO guideline and implement basic HTML tags like meta and h1, as well as upload sitemaps.
Pricing: Free for up to 500 URLs. Subscriptions start at $140 per license per year
Description: Screaming Frog is considered one of the top website spider tools available. It scans through domains, imitating major search engine bots and provides detailed insights on site structure elements like h1 tags, response codes and meta tags.
Data to consider: This tool provides you with all of the essential on-site metrics that you should consider when fixing up your domain strategy. I won’t touch on all of them here, but the following four are what I would say are the most important.
Side Note: If you would like a more detailed of the important metrics to consider, then check out my basic SEO checklist.
Meta Title - Title of a page
Meta Description - Description of a page
H1 - Content title
Response Codes - Status of server requests
Pricing: Free for up to 250 pages. One cent for each page after that.
Description: Siteliner is a good tool to use to check for broken internal links, as well as duplicate content.
Data to Consider: I find that the most powerful feature of this tool is its ability to check for duplicate content and provide you with a detailed report of all of the pages that are similar. Don’t be alarmed if you see a lot higher percentage of duplicate content than you had expected as their tool does its best to match similar keywords and phrases, but doesn’t always correctly label content.
Match Words - Duplicate words or phrases found on other pages within the website
Match Percentage - Percentage of words or phrases that match words or phrases on other pages of the website
Match Page - Amount of pages with matching keywords or phrases
Broken Links Out - Amount of internal links that are broken
2. Keyword Research
Once your website structure is ready to be crawled for information, it is time to determine which keywords and phrases are most relevant to your website. By examining metrics like search volume and competition, you will be able to determine which keywords you should target and how likely you are to rank for those keywords based on current competition.
Description: Google’s Keyword Planner is the best way to gather insights on average search volume of specific keywords or phrases, as well as the paid competition associated with each of those search queries.
Data to Consider: There are really only two main metrics provided by the keyword research tool, but each one contains information that is crucial to each step in this framework.
Search Volume - Traffic estimates of specific keywords or phrases
Competition - Paid search competition for specific keywords or phrases
3. Competitor Analysis
Now that you have a list of keywords to target, it is time to find out who is ranking for those keywords and how strong their positions are. This type of analysis involves understanding the authority of domains and pages, as well as their backlink volume. The information provided by this analysis will give you a better understanding of how your domain and content stack up against current competition.
Description: Moz is one of the leading SEO analytics platforms and their free tool, Open Site Explorer, is a great way to look at keyword competitors and how search engines rate their domain and content.
Data to Consider: The key metric groupings to monitor with this tool is authority and page link metrics.
Domain Authority - Prediction of how well a website will rank on a search engine. Scale 1-100
Page Authority - Prediction of how well a specific page will rank on a search engine. Scale 1-100
Established Links - Amount of external websites linking to the domain
Just-Discovered - Amount of external websites linking to the domain within the last 60 days
Description: Another free tool from Moz that is great for snapshot views of authority metrics for competitors currently ranking for specific search queries. The tool adds an overlay to search engine rankings with information that is provided by the Open Site Explorer tool.
Data to Consider: Same as Open Site Explorer
After all of the build up in the previous steps, it is time execute on what was gathered and then broadcast the news through various social channels. I won’t focus on the content development element of this stage (although I cover it in more detail in my content development for seo article), but I will provide you with tools that will help with outreach. Outreach is a major component of executing a good SEO strategy and getting the content in the hands of the right influencers has high backlinking potential, which can exponentially increase organic traffic.
Pricing: Free trial. $99 and up after the end of the trial.
Description: BuzzSumo is the leader in content insights and is a tool that allows you to see what content has driven the most social sharing, as well as the influencers who shared that content.
Data to Consider: There are endless combinations of metrics that you can use in this tool, but the most relevant metrics to this framework are social sharing and backlinking.
Total Shares - Amount of times content has been shared among the social media networks present in the report.
Sharers - Users or influencers who are sharing the content
Backlinks - Domains sharing the content
Now that the content is public, it is time to track organic performance since changes were made. I won’t go into the specific dimensions and metrics to monitor in this article, but I do have an older article that details content marketing metrics and dimensions. At this stage in the cycle, you should have a way to monitor page rankings for specific keywords, as well as ways content engagement.
Pricing: Free tier. $69.95 and up for full platform usage.
Description:SEMRush is a full-suite SEO and SEM monitoring tool. There are many platforms out there that provide keyword tracking services, but I have found that SEMRush gives you the most bang for your buck by offering detailed competitor analysis and tracking.
Data to Consider: For the purpose of this framework, the most important metric to follow with this tool is the keyword ranking and any week over week trends.
- Keyword Ranking - Where our content ranks for a specific keyword on all major search engines.
Description: Google Webmasters is Google’s organic search reporting tool. It is the only tool that gives you information on every search query that your links have appeared for.
Data to Consider: Every metric provided by this platform is important.
Avg. Ranking - The average search engine ranking position (SERP) for that specific keyword within the selected timeframe
Clicks - Amount of times that users clicked on our organic link.
Impressions - Amount of times that our organic link appeared for a search query
Click Through Rate (CTR) - Amount of clicks per impressions for a specific keyword or link
Description: Google Analytics is an analytics platform that provides insights on data points like audience, acquisition and content.
Data to Consider: There are endless combinations of data points that you can examine to get insights into organic traffic and how content is performing. I highly recommend you read the guide that I mentioned above to understand the important content metrics that you should watch for with this tool.
Pageviews - Amount of times that a page is viewed
Avg. Time on Page - Average length that users stay on a particular page
Bounce Rate - Percentage of users who enter a website on a specific page and leave immediately
With tracking in place, you are ready to monitor your results and should progress back to the start of the framework cycle to get started on growing other keyword rankings. Just because you wrote one piece of content doesn’t guarantee that you will rank highly for your targeted keyword, so it is important that you keep cycling through this loop and generating more content.