I’ll cut right to the chase on this for you. I am not going to tell you paid traffic is “bad” or not do paid search. You should use both paid and organic search in an integrated digital marketing strategy. Paid search is also called Pay per Click, PPC or Adwords, and though there are other types of paid search, Google Ads make up the vast majority. Organic traffic is from unpaid, natural rankings and is also referred to as organic search or organic SEO.
The advantage of paid traffic from ads is that your results will show up at the top of the search engine results page (SERP). However, organic traffic can build authority and brand trust, as well as drive website traffic. And a big disadvantage of paid ads is that your leads dry up when you stop paying and there are instances where click throughs are better on organic. In addition, an organic strategy can drive traffic for a long time. I have a blog I wrote several years ago that’s still brings in new visitors each week!
So why bother driving organic traffic? It can be a lot of work and takes time to build up momentum. And while it’s called “free” the time and effort it takes means it’s definitely not free.
Let’s step back and think about your digital marketing strategy, content marketing goals, and benefits of organic traffic. Here are just a few:
- Competitive differentiation – offer more relevant and interesting content than your competitors. Use your thought leadership to stand out.
- Moving buyers through the decision process – help your buyers with the information they need to make a decision
- Demonstrate your authority on topics that are important to your buyers and partners
How to Increase Organic Traffic
Here are the two things I tell all my clients that are the minimum you should be doing. Check out the resources at the bottom of this blog for more indepth reading.
First, come up with a keyword strategy. This has evolved from the days of blatant “keyword stuffing”. Today you can actually use a word too many times on a page or in your site. Even though we call them keywords, they are really key phrases – groups of words that have meaning that people use when searching (see some of my favorite tools and you’ll get the idea). When you set up your site or think about blog topics, it’s a good idea to think in terms of Pillar pages. Pillar pages broadly cover a particular topic, and cluster content should address a specific keyword related to that topic in-depth. For example, you might write a pillar page about content marketing — a broad topic — and a piece of cluster content about blogging — a more specific keyword within the topic. HubSpot has some good reading on Pillar pages. There are a number of terms used for this idea, but in general, think about the core topics of your site and how to build out from there like a hub and spoke.
Second, take a look at your keywords no less than once a quarter. I remember when BYOD because a hot topic and I needed to jump on that with some blogs on it. Your industry and competitors evolve. Your buyers’ taste changes. You need to keep up.
Third, and this is the biggie: blog. I don’t care what industry you are in. There are topics you can be blogging on each week. If you are just starting out, make a goal of doing two blogs a month. And I don’t mean cheesy, spammy things. I mean deep authoritative, information rich blogs of 500 to 1,000 words. Blogging is the best way to add fresh content to your site that drives organic traffic.
For ideas on building your keyword strategy or your weekly blog topics, here are a few of my favorite SEO tools that you can use for free.
Moz Keyword Explorer – the paid subscription is best if you are serious about SEO, but for small projects or a quick lookup, you can get up to 10 searches for free per month.
Yoast WordPress Plugin – Even if I’ve done my research, I love Yoast’s plugin to help me remember all the ancillary elements like my meta description and alt tags. Plus their score reinforces my good SEO writing habits.
Keywords Everywhere Chrome Extension – this is a useful free resource. It gives you a count on searches and other variations that people use. I often find phrase ideas and variations I might not have considered.
Answer the Public – I can put in any keyword and instantly get content and title ideas. This is a fun tool! Try it if you don’t know it.
Lay a Good Foundation with Technical SEO
Driving organic traffic through SEO is about more than just authoritative content. You can have the best content around and if your site is hard to crawl, you’ll be out of luck. This means you also need technical SEO.
Technical SEO refers to the process of building your website to optimize the ability for search engines to crawl and index your site.
Why is it important? When a webmaster sets up a site, they need to ensure certain things are done properly so that search engines can easily crawl and index the site:
- Use alt tags on images
- Don’t have duplicate pages – these confuse search engines
- Create good link structures – a poor link structure might not be understandable to a search engine and they might not be able to reach of your pages
- Ensure that your site is mobile responsive
- Optimized images help load speed
The Future is Here: Voice Search, Conversational and AI
Before I go, I want to point out that search is not static. Not only do you need to be paying attention to news and trends that your readers and buyers care about (think #MeToo) but how people search changes too. A few years ago mobile had a huge impact on search as people started to use a different language to search on their phones.
The next wave is Voice Search and Conversational AI. Think about how you talk to Alexa or Cortana or Google. You phrase your questions differently when you talk than when you type, don’t you? In future posts, we’ll be spending a lot more time with Virtual Assistants and Chatbots. In the meantime, you an read what Search Engine Land says about this in their recent blog.
Our Favorite Experts
Marketers have a lot to keep up with when it comes to organic traffic and paid traffic. These are some of the leading blogs and resources on search engine optimization to help you keep up.
About the Author: Kathleen Glass is a strategic advisor for WyeComm, a Stagwell Company, and founder and CEO of Oinkodomeo, a B2B sales and digital marketing agency. Follow on Twitter @KathleenGlass