How to get SEO traffic to your blogJo Harris-Cooksley
Writing a blog that no one ever reads is the internet equivalent of throwing a party, where half the people who’ve marked themselves as attending on Facebook don’t turn up.
That moment when you log into Google Analytics and see that your posts have had three visitors in the past month, and two of them were you, is exactly like watching the hummus you decided to make from scratch (that’s a thing) remain untouched by the four guests that come to your house; two of whom are already claiming they’ve got another birthday party to go to and are making for the door.
There are two questions here. The first is whether Facebook RSVPs can ever be an accurate way of knowing how many people are actually coming to your event (absolutely not). And the second: what’s stopping people turning up?
Let’s now transfer this clunky metaphor to the marketing world and get to the point of this post: why is no one turning up to read the content on your blog?
We’ve all seen brand and company blogs that lean too far towards being salesy, unrelatable and self-serving. They answer the company’s needs (here’s why you should buy hummus!) rather than those of potential readers (how do I make hummus from scratch?) – and the amount of organic traffic they get suffers as a result.
Which is why getting people to arrive on your blog requires planning, research, and having a bit of a clear out. And a lot of this needs to happen before anything even goes live.
So if you’re wondering how to get organic traffic to your blog, here are some steps to follow. Done right, it’ll increase visits over time, build your company’s reputation as an authority on topics within your niche, and help your site’s SEO as a result.
(Disclaimer: I can’t guarantee it’ll also make people come to your party).
1. Audit your existing content
This is the necessary bit of cleaning before you invite people over.
Except in this scenario, you’re using a big spreadsheet to work out what needs to stay, and what needs to go. My colleague Ben has helpfully created a content audit template which makes life a lot easier, so take a look at that before you get started. But I’ll go through some basics below.
Hopefully, you’ll already have Google Analytics running on your blog, so head to:
Behaviour > Site content > All pages
…and change the date range to at least the last year. This should bring up a list of all your blog posts, and the traffic they’ve received over that time. Export it. You’re going to use this list to find out what blog posts are already getting traffic, and which ones aren’t.
You might also want to check other metrics on these posts, like whether they’ve got any backlinks – because that might also inform what content you want to keep. To do this, you could combine backlinks detected in Google Search Console with data from either Ahrefs or Majestic.
Then, starting with the highest to lowest traffic, one by one, go through each of the posts in terms of content and note/look out for the following:
- What posts are getting consistent traffic?
- Which posts have seasonal spikes in traffic?
- Which posts get no traffic at all?
- Are there any popular topics/themes/categories?
Make a note to fix:
- Outdated content
- Broken images
- Strange formatting
- Broken links
And ultimately against each one, mark whether to:
- Keep it
- Keep it, but update/repurpose it
- Delete it completely
- Delete it + redirect to a more useful post
By the end of this stage, you’ll have a list of actions to go through to help your existing content work harder.
2. Keyword research
Next, you need to find out which topics it makes sense for your brand to be writing about in the future. And within that, the specific terms people are actually actively searching for.
Spoiler alert: it might not directly relate to whatever you sell.
There are a number of tools you can use to do this (free and paid) – and we’ll go into those in a future post. But essentially, it’ll involve using tools like Ahrefs, SEMrush and Keyword Planner to identify:
- Relevant search terms within your niche
- Their monthly search volumes
- What your competitors are writing about
- Seasonal trends where traffic might spike
And once you’ve got a list of search terms to write content around, it’s time to start turning these into long tail ideas for evergreen blog posts. It’s these that, little by little, will build up traffic to your blog over time.
3. Brainstorm topic ideas
Your keyword research will leave you with a list of questions or informational non-branded terms and their search volumes, and an idea of when they peak.
But the tricky bit is turning those terms into useful, relevant blog post ideas that fit neatly into a content calendar and align with your brand’s demographic. Remember, your aim here is to answer queries, become an authority on a particular topic, and provide relevant information.
No one wants to come to a party and have the host do a hard sell.
To rank in the SERPs, the posts will need to be detailed and well researched – so keep your business’ expertise in mind when you’re coming up with ideas. Don’t be afraid to go niche.
Let’s take an example: you’re a hotel brand, and your keyword research says that “things to do in London” is a good, high volume keyword to target.
But it’s also a highly competitive term. So perhaps there’s a better way to narrow things down even more:
What other things dictate someone’s need for a hotel in London?
- Time of year / seasonality
- Specific interests, activities or events
- Location: particular areas/boroughs
Your list of potential blog post ideas could a bit like this:
- Things to do in London when it’s raining
- Baby-friendly museums in London
- Where to take mum for her birthday in London
Do this until you’ve built out a big list of blog post ideas covering all the different topic areas you identified in your keyword research. Next step: plan it out.
4. Plan out the content
Once you’ve got a huge list of blog post ideas and an idea of when their search volumes peak, use a content calendar to plan out what you’re publishing month by month.
When you’re planning out your content, consider:
- Resource and time: to stand a chance of ranking, these posts will be comprehensive, well researched, and detailed (more on that next)
- Posts will need to be written and published before the search volume peaks
- Aim to publish at least 4 weeks beforehand, e.g. a post about Halloween outfit ideas would need to be published around mid September to catch the upward tick
5. Research the competition
Ok, let’s see what’s happening at that party. Not yours; no one’s at yours. The other, better one your guests are off to instead. You do some digging, and find out that party’s got a proper DJ and a decent sound system, while you’re putting your iPhone speaker in a wine glass. Where would you rather be?
Basically, before you start writing: know what you’re up against.
Take the blog post title you want to rank for (e.g. “things to do in London when it’s raining”), Google it, and see who and what is already ranking.
- Format: are they numbered listicles (if so, how many ideas do they list?), long form pieces, or step-by-step guides?
- How recent is the article?
- Who currently has the featured snippet and what could increase your chances of getting the top spot?
- What’s the word count? How many items are they listing?
Remember: depending on your niche, your blog content competitors might not be your direct business competitors.
So, Booking.com might be your competition when you’re selling hotels in London, but when you’re informing people about things to do in London, you could be up against established authorities like Time Out, travel magazines, or tourist boards. This gives you an idea of how detailed and well researched your post needs to be to compete.
Once you’ve got an idea of what your blog post needs to include, write a strong brief.
5. Training for copywriters
Unless you’re working for one of the media outlets above, the chances are you don’t have a team of journalists working in-house.
And as I said, depending on your niche and industry, your competition might be lifestyle publications staffed by journalists.
The shift to writing more editorial-style content can be tricky if you’re working with in-house copywriters who are used to writing quite short, salesy product-focused copy.
Depending on the competition, these evergreen, organic traffic driving posts are going to need to be more than 500 words of generic fluff. It’ll require research, sometimes resulting in upwards of 1,000 words, to be able to compete with whatever’s ranking on page 1.
So if you don’t have the expertise in-house, consider where you might be able to get it.
- Who in your company can add expertise?
- Can you interview them and shape their answers into a post?
- Do you have the budget to source external freelance resource?
- Can you invest in basic SEO training for your copywriting team to help them along?
If you’re stuck, here’s a post on how to write high quality content to get you started.
7. Optimise, optimise, optimise
Before you publish, there’s a last bit of admin. Here are some things to check:
- Whether you’re linking to other relevant blog posts (internally or externally)
- If you’ve included a call to action at the end of the post
- Whether your titles and meta descriptions are optimised for search (if you’re using WordPress, a plugin like Yoast allows you to specify different titles and descriptions for search and social)
- Avoid putting dates in the URL (i.e. best-things-to-do-London-winter-2019) so you can update the same post next year without it looking out of date
- Images are consistently named, spaced and formatted, the file sizes are low
8. And last but not least, keep it updated
Kind of like getting people to turn up to your party, having an organic content strategy requires planning and work along the way.
It’s not a short term plan. It can take a good few months for a blog post to start getting organic traffic, and you might find you need to revisit the posts every so often to keep them updated and relevant.
So once you’ve written a post, keep a calendar note for seasonal posts that can be updated each year / as appropriate instead of creating new ones.
That’s just an overview of the steps you need to take, and we’ll be going into more details in future guides.
If you’ve got any questions in the meantime, or are wondering why your blog isn’t getting the organic traffic you think it should, get in touch and we’ll be happy to help.