Spoiler alert: SEO works.
Strategic, targeted SEO can drive huge results for the right pages. Of course, the catch here is that you need the “right” pages to see the best results. These pages need to be optimized, linkable and most of all they need to have opportunity.
Search opportunity is defined by a variety of factors, such as relevant audience size and competition, and this opportunity determines what results are possible — the greater the opportunity, the greater the results. Essentially, search opportunity boils down to the amount and type (qualified vs. unqualified) of organic traffic you could potentially receive from ranking for a given search term.
Recently we had a project where we were able to work with a client that had a page on their site that checked all these boxes: it was optimized, linkable and focused on a topic with search opportunity. The results from our SEO work on that page were incredible, growing monthly organic traffic from ~200 visits to ~30,000 in just six months!
In this post, I want to walk through the strategies and processes we used to achieve these results to provide you with takeaways for your pages and projects. The steps for this process include:
- Identify organic traffic opportunities.
- Create a new page or optimize an existing page.
- Secure valuable backlinks.
- Rinse and repeat.
Let’s dive in.
1. Identify organic traffic opportunities
The first, and most important, step of this process is identifying organic search opportunities.
Crafting useful content and earning authoritative links are critical elements of ranking well in search, but if you’re not targeting the right opportunity, these efforts could be in vain.
Identifying search opportunities begins with competitive analysis. You need to understand how your competition is earning organic traffic to understand how you can win organic traffic for your site. For our project, we evaluated our client’s competitors’ top pages based on:
- Organic traffic per month.
- Content type or format.
- Volume and types of backlinks.
- Percentage share of organic traffic across the domain.
- Ranking keywords and the associated searcher intent.
Analyzing the top pages on competitor websites helped us better understand our client’s search audience and content marketing strategies, and identify where gaps and opportunities existed for our client’s website.
To learn more about identifying your most important opportunities, check out our guide on how to do keyword research.
2. Create a new page or optimize an existing page
Our competitive analysis uncovered a handful of key terms with the potential to drive large quantities of qualified traffic to our client’s site if they could rank well for those terms.
After identifying these opportunities, we audited the client’s site to see if there were any existing pages that could capture these opportunities with some optimization, or if new pages needed to be created.
We found the client had a page with a useful calculator — typically a highly-linkable page — that was relevant to a key term with a monthly search volume over 20,000 that also happened to be responsible for 11% of a major competitor’s organic traffic. However, the page was under-optimized for the term we wanted to target.
To better optimize the page for this important term, we made simple recommendations:
- Adding the term to headers (H2s and H3s).
- Expanding information on the term’s topic.
- Converting a static image into crawlable text.
- Making organizational changes to the page to increase linkability.
These slight tweaks and optimizations were all it took to position the page to better answer the search query we were targeting.
Some other common recommendations we make include:
- Optimizing internal linking.
- Adding new formats (visual, video, audio, etc.).
- Deprioritizing promotional language from informational pages.
- Including more variations and long-tail versions of a key term.
- Adjusting site structure and moving pages.
- Link externally to trusted sources (scientific studies, governmental departments, educational institutions, etc.).
Often, there will be a page on your site that has the potential to capture new search opportunity but is slightly missing the mark. Typically, small tweaks are all that is needed to help your page better target new terms.
However, some opportunities will require you to build an entirely new page. In these instances, ask yourself the same question you would ask when optimizing an existing page: how does this answer searcher intent? How am I using the target keyword on my page? What variations of the term can I leverage?
For more information on optimizing content, check out Nate Dame’s checklist here.
3. Secure valuable backlinks
Once you have an optimized page, it’s time to earn some links.
Useful content and on-page optimizations will set your page up for success, but links will solidify your page as a worthy resource and secure visibility in the search results.
For the project we’re highlighting here, we set a quarterly goal of fifteen links. This goal was based on competition levels, linking tendencies in the niche, and the knowledge that we had a page that was optimized for intent and citation (links).
Since our client’s page featured a tool, we were able to leverage resource page link building as a tactic: the process of promoting an existing resource to earn links on third-party resource pages. Resource link building isn’t always an option — your page must be inherently valuable as a resource — but the utility of the calculator made this a viable option.
Of course, if we limited our prospecting to resource pages focused on the client page’s main topic (sleeping and the sleep cycle), we would quickly exhaust our opportunities. To broaden our prospect pool, we targeted tangential niches where our client’s tool would be applicable — health-related resource pages, resource pages for students, parenting resource pages, etc.
Connecting these niches with our client, through the need for adequate sleep, opened the door to many more opportunities. This ability to find tangentially relevant audiences is critical to expanding your opportunity and securing enough links to move the needle.
Additionally, we identified blog content on the client site where internal linking opportunities existed. These blog posts expanded our link building opportunities, and through internal links, we directed link equity from these pages to the target calculator page.
4. Rinse and repeat
The best part of the process I’ve laid out here is that it’s scalable.
This case study focuses on one target page on our client’s site — which experienced tremendous results — but the process can be applied to multiple pages. In fact, we leveraged the same process to grow another page from essentially no traffic to over 500 visits per month in a similar timeframe.
The key component is identifying the most critical search opportunities available to you. Once you’ve identified these opportunities, and the pages that could address them, you can use this process to improve their organic performance and drive large amounts of relevant traffic.
If you can execute this strategy consistently, and across multiple pages, over time your entire site will grow in leaps and bounds.
Keep in mind that competition will dictate how long it takes to see results. Even if you already have an optimized page that deserves to rank, you’ll still need to secure enough links to be competitive — which takes time — and then your rankings should improve, as Google begins to recognize the authority of your links — and then traffic will start to flow.
SEO is not a short-term process, but if you’re strategic and consistent, the results should have a compounding effect on your website’s organic performance.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.