How to increase search traffic with content optimization
February 20, 2023
Search traffic gets a bad rap – labeled as mere ‘vanity metrics’ by a lot of marketers.
But here’s the thing: you can’t convert any leads until people visit your website. In this way, search traffic is foundational to any effective content marketing strategy.
And there’s tons of quality content out there which never gets any meaningful amount of views. Sometimes a technical, back-end issue is to blame (and content marketers can’t do much about that). Just as often, it’s a content issue.
Countless B2B blogs contain well written pieces that simply aren’t aligned with the search intent of their readers. This is something that in-house content marketers can identify and fix. That’s what we’ll focus on in this post.
Why traffic matters
Ideally, we’d all be reporting on the exact number of leads generated by organic search. But, alas, we live in a fallen world. Attribution is complex and most companies don’t have any meaningful system set up for it.
Search traffic – pageviews especially – is the element of content performance over which a content marketer has the most control.
Traffic isn’t the only metric that matters, of course. But it is significant. And if you’re building a content program from scratch, traffic is going to be the only meaningful metric you can track for a while.
Why isn’t my page generating traffic?
If you want to better understand the cause of subpar traffic numbers, ask yourself the following three questions:
- Is it focused on a subject that people are searching for?
- Does it substantially answer the questions readers have?
- Can people actually find the page?
Is it a subject that people are searching for?
If you wrote the post simply because it was interesting to you… that’s not going to be enough.
You need to choose subjects that interest your audience. You can do that by targeting keywords that have significant search volume. (It also helps to choose keywords that aren’t too ferociously competitive.)
If the goal was to increase clicks on social, or email, the approach would be different. But when it comes to organic search, keyword data is your North Star.
At Ercule, we wrote a “Guide To Content Optimization” and it never got any significant traffic. We realized afterwards that hardly anyone was searching for the phrase “content optimization.”
But they were searching for this query: “How to increase search traffic.” So we decided to rewrite the post with this new angle. And that’s what you’re reading right this very moment.
Does it substantially answer the questions readers have?
This is the “intent” part of “search intent.” The post needs to address the specific concerns that readers have when they search a given term.
This manifests in a few ways:
- Acknowledging those questions
- Providing substantial answers
- Writing with quality and clarity on par with your competitors
The quick way to gauge intent is to search Google for your target query or keyword. Look at the top ranking pages. Do the pages use narrative angles that set them apart from competitors? Does the content have depth that your page lacks?
If you search the phrase “build a shopify store,” you’ll see some immediate commonalities among the top ranking pages. First off, the top ranked posts are dominated by Shopify itself. This is going to be a tough subject for your company to dominate on search.
Looking at the non-Shopify competitors, we see that they include step-by-step guidance for Shopify admin tasks – but they also address questions beyond that. They provide context on using Shopify stores and advice on how to prepare for the entire process. If you want to compete with these pages, your content will need to be pretty comprehensive.
Can people actually find the page?
There’s a technical aspect to any page’s baseline visibility. As a marketer, you won’t be able to fix all of these things, but they’re worth looking into, to make sure that your page has a fighting chance.
- Is the site speed okay? – Look out for any large images, uncompressed files, or lack of browser caching. Drop a URL into Google’s PageSpeed tool to verify this.
- Is it indexed? A page needs to be indexed in order for Google to see that it exists at all. If your traffic is at zero, then it’s worth looking into.
A marketer does have some control over engagement and distribution issues:
- Is it being distributed? Are you talking about it on social media, or even mentioning it? That’s part of the view also. Remember the rule - create once, distribute forever.
- Is it linked to other pages on your site that are relevant? – Make sure to properly link the page with relevant content from your site.
Use these metrics to understand why traffic is down
So you already know that traffic numbers are down. We’ll look at these alternative data to figure out why those traffic numbers are down:
- Search rank metrics
- Impressions & Clicks
- Bounce rate
Search rank metrics
Log in to Google Search Console. How well is your page ranking for relevant queries?
A page ranked at position 1 gets exponentially more views than a page at position 3. Similarly, there’s a huge difference between ranking in position three and position 10.
If you’re ranking number 15 for a relevant keyword, that’s a good sign, but you need to get that post way up. You can do this by revising the content to be as useful, readable, and thorough as those pages ranking above you.
If you’re ranking well for your target query, but the query doesn’t get much search volume, then you may have tapped out on the potential of that subject. Consider adapting the page for an adjacent subject that has higher search volume.
If you’re not ranking for anything relevant, then you probably need to rebuild the page from the ground up.
Clicks & Impressions
Clicks and impressions aren’t a huge deal on their own but, when analyzed together, can give you a sense for how compelling your page is when it’s presented on a search engine results page. (You can get all of this data from Search Console.)
Clicks tell you how many times people actually clicked on your search listing. You can get this data from Google Analytics. Impressions tell you how many times a page has shown up in search. In other words, the most possible clicks you could have gotten.
Divide the impressions number by the clicks number to get click-through rate.
A high click-through rate means that people find your Google listing compelling. The title is relevant and the meta description is intriguing. Not much to fix here.
A low click-through rate means that your title and meta description need work. The title is especially important. Again, this is a search intent issue. Check out your top-ranking competitors to see how they’re presenting.
Engagement & bounce rates
You’ll find both of these in Google Analytics. They both tell you the same thing, from different angles.
Engagement rate measures how often a visitor spends significant time with your page and clicks through to other parts of your site. Bounce rate is the inverse of engagement rate: how often people left the page without doing any of those things.
If people are not engaging with your page, Google takes notice. Engagement rates affect search ranking. The best thing you can do to improve your engagement is to align with search intent as we described above.
Tips for increasing page traffic
You’ve consulted the data, identified the weak spots in a given page. Here are four strategies for optimizing:
- Choose a viable keyword
- Align with search intent
- Revise to meet the competition
- Optimize for click-through
Choose a viable keyword
There are different schools of thought on how to choose keywords for organic content. We’re big believers in the search data approach. Specifically, aiming for relevant keywords that have substantial traffic and are not prohibitively competitive.
Other teams might suggest aiming for long-tail keywords that have lower search volume but speak to higher intent.
Regardless of your method, you need to choose some keyword, and do it strategically with a tool like SEMrush or Ahrefs.
Align with search intent
First, understand the search intent of a keyword by reviewing the top ranking pages.
Based on what you find there, you might decide to revise a page to meet that search intent. You might also decide that your existing page is better aligned with a different query.
For example, let’s say you sell accounting software. Your blog post is ranking 15th for the query, “accounting software.”
The pages that rank above yours are top-funnel, introductions to the idea of accounting software. Your page is more focused on the process of assessing an accounting firm’s software needs. You might instead optimize the post for a query that fits better – something like, “how to choose accounting software.”
Revise content to meet the competition
The goal is to make it as useful as possible for the target audience. Check out the top ranking pages to see what they’re doing right – and also what they’ve overlooked.
You might find that some key talking points have been ignored by these pages. That’s a great opportunity to differentiate your page.
Make notes about all of these content quality issues and address every one of them in your rewrite. And don’t talk about your brand too much! That’s a big mistake marketers make. Stay focused on the reader and their needs.
Optimize for search (SEO)
Search engine optimization is not a fast track to page one of search results, but the finer details will help you edge out competition.
- Update the page title and heading tags to meet Google’s recommendations. Make it easier for search engines to see, comprehend, and promote you.
- Update the meta description. Each Google result is like a little ad for your content, so make yours descriptive and engaging.
- Include relevant internal links on your site’s page. It’s an effective way to improve a site’s visibility.
How Ercule can help
We believe that organic search is where B2B brands get the most bang for their buck.
As an agency, we help brands monitor performance and strategically update pages every day. But we also want to make those processes accessible to anyone.
So we created the Ottimo app to make it a breeze for marketers to figure out which pages are really delivering, which ones have room for improvement, and which ones just aren’t cut out for it.
If you want to chat about what’s possible with your content library, just give us a shout!