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Amanda Hoadley

Digital Marketing Strategist

As a Digital Marketing Strategist with focused expertise in SEO, Amanda researches and analyzes search trends and best practices, and uses technical, on-page and off-page SEO strategies to help clients optimize their search performance. In addition to SEO, Amanda also focuses on content development and analytics, and is a huge fan of Google Data Studio for reporting. She focuses on understanding each client's needs and providing the best SEO advice to help them meet their goals and objectives. 

SEO Field Guide: Techniques to Drive Organic Traffic

January 26, 2021 | Amanda Hoadley, Digital Marketing Strategist

10 Minute Read

What is Organic Traffic?

Organic traffic, sometimes called “natural search,” is traffic that comes to your site when a user types a query into Google Search or another search engine and then clicks on your site from the search engine results page. When a user lands on your site from the SERP, you have received organic search traffic. You can monitor organic search traffic through such software as Google Analytics, SEMrush, Ahrefs, and Moz. 

Why is Position on SERPs Important?

Organic traffic is important for any website. Most users do not go past the first page of Google results, so you want your site to show on the first page.

Earning and maintaining a top spot in the search results page for your organic keywords is like owning a storefront on a busy street. Potential clients are almost guaranteed to walk through your door and shop for a product or service.  

Organic search is:

  • Cost-effective
  • Has credibility
  • Sustainable
  • Gives a competitive edge

It is also challenging to build and hold organic search traffic. 

Tips to Drive Organic Traffic to Your Site

These techniques will allow you to improve your visibility, traffic, and overall digital presence.

1.    Competitive Analysis

Get to know what your competitors are doing on their sites. Discover how their sites are performing. Get a sense of the source of their organic traffic and what drives that traffic. 

Start by identifying your competitor’s top-performing pages. Doing this can guide you toward:

  • Keyword improvement
  • Content improvement
  • Link opportunities
  • An overall better understanding of your niche

2.    Create Quality Content

Quality content is not a 1,000-word blog hastily written to scatter your message throughout the world wide web. Quality content has value in your business sector. It stands out. It’s useful and trustworthy. It answers the questions relevant searchers (i.e., potential and present customers) ask when they type their queries. 

Your content should rank above that of your competitors. You bring this about by conducting a competitor analysis, researching popular keywords, and finding relevant topics. Software such as People Also Ask, Google Keyword Planner, Moz, or SEMrush provide content topic ideas based on users’ search patterns. 

3.    Use Internal Links

Internal links are hyperlinks that point to another web page on your site. They improve user experience and help Google understand the structure of your site. 

Website architecture is an important factor in search engine optimization. Search engine bots such as Google and Bing use internal links to find pages on your site, to figure out what pages to index, and how your pages relate to one another. 

Internal links encourage users to browse from page to page on your site and thus spend more time on it. Search engines value:

  • Session duration
  • Click-through rates
  • Bounce rates
  • Pageviews 

Good numbers with these metrics raise your rankings and your position on organic SERPs. 

4.    Encourage External Links

When another site links to your site, that’s an inbound external link. When you link to another domain, that is an outbound external link. 

Google weighs inbound external links as a ranking factor. Think of external links as a popularity vote. The more sites that link to you, the more popular you are in Google’s eyes. External links also give Google relevancy clues. They tell Google that your site is relevant and offers information that helps users. 

Not all external links are good. Check your site’s external links to make sure that no toxic sites point to your domain. They can drive down your ranking and  organic traffic.

5.    Know Your Audience

Understanding your audience is crucial to improving organic traffic. Google strives for user satisfaction above all. Your content should be discoverable to your target audience. 

Unless you understand your audience’s interests and search strategy, you will not attract ideal users. Once you understand your customers and their motivations, you can communicate to them. 

This will, in turn, guide creation of content that meets their needs and you will have a better idea of how to get your products, services and message in front of them. To better understand your audience:

  • Use analytic software, such as Google Analytics, which tells you a lot about the visitors on your site.
  • Conduct a competitor analysis for a better understanding of what they are doing. You can adopt the tricks they might be using to beat you.
  • Research your chosen demographic with third-party applications.
  • Conduct interviews with your customers to gather more information to grasp their needs, wants and interests.
  • Do keyword research to align your content with relevant terms and new content opportunities. 

6.    Use Meta Tags

Meta tags are HTML tags that affect your site’s appearance and placement on SERPs. They influence your traffic and engagement rates, which affect your site’s SEO. 

Meta tags include:

  • Title tags: Indicate the title of your page.
  • Meta description: A brief snippet of text about the content on your page; it includes keywords.
  • Hreflang tags: Allow search engines to identify the language and country in which you want content displayed. This is especially important if you have an international audience. 
  • Canonical tags: Help identify the primary page when there is duplicate content.
  • Open graph tags: Specify which image and title to show when sharing links on social media.
  • Alt text: Helps search engines understand the content of an image on your site.
  • No follow tags: A way for webmasters to tell search engines not to follow links on a certain web page. Also known as rel=”nofollow” You should use nofollow tags when you publish paid advertisements on your site, for any user generated content such as comments or forums, and other links that do not add value to your site.
  • No index tags: They notify search engine crawlers not to include a certain web page in the search results.
  • HTML heading tags: H1, H2, H3., etc. They give contextual clues to  search engines, to help them understand the content and overall content structure.

Without meta tags, search engines and users will not know what your webpage is about. Meta tags provide context for people, not just search engines. They affect your brand image and promote click-throughs from search engine results pages. 

7.    Optimize Core Web Vitals

Core Web Vitals are factors that Google deems important in a website’s overall user experience. Core Web Vitals, three pages of speed and user interaction measurements, are:

  1. Largest contentful paint
    • How long it takes from clicking on a link to seeing most of the content on the screen.
  2. First input delay
    • The time it takes for a user to interact with your page.
  3. Cumulative layout shift
    • How stable your page is as it loads elements on your page.

All in all, Core Web Vitals are a part of Google’s page experience score. You can find your Core Web Vitals through your Google Search Console account. 

8.    Turn Brand Mentions into Links

The higher you rank on the search results page, the higher your company brand awareness will be. Turning brand mentions into links is a link-building strategy, which is designed to increase the number of quality links pointing to your domain. The more quality inbound links, the better you look to Google. This proves to Google that you are relevant, trustworthy, and authoritative. 

When someone mentions your brand on the web without a link to your site, you miss an opportunity to raise your domain rankings and domain authority. 

For more information, check out Ahrefs blog post about turning unlinked brand mentions into links

9.    Optimize Your Images

Search engines try make sense of images, just as they do web pages. Like web pages, images should be optimized for SEO.

Images enhance user experience and, when optimized, can lift organic traffic. Also, optimizing images helps visually impaired users, because the audio reader conveys a spoken description of the image. 

What is Google Image Search?

Google Image Search allows users to search the web for image content. Images must be optimized to be readily searchable. Here’s how to optimize:

  • Use descriptive alt text
    • Users understand an image intuitively, but search engines need help from alternative text (alt text) to both understand and index the image. 
    • Good alt text gives context even when there is a glitch, so search engines can still understand the image. Add brand-relevant keywords within alt text boost visibility. 
  • Name the image appropriately
    • Make sure the title of the image has appropriate keywords. Image titles are of less importance when it comes to Image SEO, but they do add content to the alt text and help with user engagement. 
  • Resize the image to fit
    • Image sizes with higher resolution and larger dimensions are great for print reproduction, but they slow your site speed. The right image size will greatly improve your site’s ranking. And users will not wait long for your site to load; they’ll leave.
    • Such early exits raise your bounce rate, decrease your click through rate, reduce average time on page, and impact other important user experience metrics that affect your site’s ranking. 
  • Check image file size and type
    • Most images on the internet are JPEG, PNG, or GIF, each with its own compression method. You must choose the image type that offers best compression for each image. 
      • JPEGs are best for photographs
      • PNGs are best for line drawings, texts, etc. 
      • Gifs are best for moving images
    • The takeaway for file size, per Google: “For best results, experiment with various quality settings for your images, and don’t be afraid to dial down the quality - the visual results are often very good and the file size savings can be quite large.” 

For more information on optimizing images on the internet, check out Google’s extensive documentation

  • Add image structured data
    • Structured data is organized information. The major purpose of structured data is to communicate specific information about a web page so that it becomes eligible for a rich result in Google’s search results. 

Rich results highlight key information on a web page and help search engines understand the purpose of a web page as accurately as possible. Rich snippets display additional data, usually pulled from structured data found in a page’s HTML. Examples of rich snippets are:

  • Reviews
  • FAQ
  • Events
  • Article
  • How-To
  • Local Business
  • Job Posting
  • Image License
  • Home Activities
  • Data Sets
  • Breadcrumb

Adding structured data improves your SEO by qualifying your content for more than 30 rich results. These rich results are also referred to as rich snippets, which maximize the visibility and functionality of your links with more appealing and detailed information embedded directly in the search results page. 

Here is an example of a rich snippet within SERP:

example of a rich snippet within SERP:

To test your site’s structured data, use Google’s new Rich Snippet Test to test a code snippet or a page URL. The test then returns any detected errors and warnings. Displayed errors disqualify your page from showing up as a rich result. 

  • Use sitemaps
    • Google: “Images are an important source of information about the content on your site. You can give Google additional details about your images and provide the URL of images we might not otherwise discover, by adding information to an image sitemap.”

How Important are Image Sitemaps?

Image sitemaps are important for those who have thousands of images on their site. However, image sitemaps are helpful no matter how many images you have, and it takes little time to create one. 

If you only have a few images on your site, other important SEO optimization tasks – content optimization and meta tags, for example -- should take priority over an image sitemap.

10.     Use Social Media

Social media marketing is one of the best tools for driving organic traffic. Building your online reputation also increases your brand awareness. 

Post Regularly

Create a social media content calendar to plan your posts. Don’t spam your followers, but post regularly to maintain online presence. Posting regularly does boost user retention and builds a general interest in your products and services. 

Keep in mind that your posts, like your web content, should be informative. You want your users and followers to like your content and give it their willing attention. Respond to comments, mentions and to those who share posts about your brand.

Use Paid Ads

Brands that fail to post or advertise on social media tend to fall behind their competitors. Paid ads allow marketers to access analytics that provide further insights on enhancing social media marketing performance. Paid ads provide a direct opportunity to drive leads, increase traffic, elevate brand awareness, and boost sales.

Post Engaging Content

Do not bore your users. Grab and hold their attention. Show videos, graphs, or infographics. Visual content can be an effective social media marketing tool,  because it tends to stand out. 

Social media marketing can take time and cannot replace SEO strategies. Social and SEO complement each other. Invest in both. 

11.    Analyze Your Site’s Data and Metrics

Use software, such as Google Analytics and Google Search Console, to track your site’s visitors, overall website performance, and the keywords they use to search for your site.

By analyzing your site’s metrics, you can fine tune your content and ultimately find out what you need to do to give your customers the specific quality information, advice, and insight they want -- and give it to them at your site. 

Need Help to Improve Your Site’s Organic Traffic?

Increasing your site’s organic traffic is not easy and does not happen overnight. It takes time and effort to see long-lasting results. If you need guidance or help developing a digital marketing strategy, Northwoods is here for you. 

To keep up with the latest digital marketing trends, subscribe to our blog emails. SEO is always changing, and we’re here to guide you through it. If you need assistance or answers to questions, don’t hesitate to contact us.