07 Aug Search Engine Optimization Doubled Our Website Traffic in Four Weeks
You designed and launched an impressive new website with your web development firm. Congratulations, you should be proud and excited about your work. But, did you forget search engine optimization (SEO)?
You built consensus, got departments to cooperate and launched the new website in less than six months, a heroic effort for some organizations. Pat yourself on the back and celebrate. But after sending the launch email and posting it on social, the traffic went back down to an anemic trickle. What happened?
Social media preferred to search engines
In 2014, social media dominated digital strategies. That year, BrightEdge Research produced a study claiming that 51% of web traffic came from organic search. The same study put social traffic at 5%. The study was updated in 2018 with the same results.
Why the obsession with social media strategies? Ten times the traffic comes from solid on-page SEO techniques.
We love social media – or did before the 2016 election – because of the potential for “going viral“. We’re all attracted to vanity metrics and the slim possibility of getting huge buzz. It sounds impressive to have 125,000 Twitter followers. But that audience is useless if you’re receiving 100 retweets.
Would you rather be the player who hits a game-winning grand slam home run? Or would you rather get on base consistently with a base hit?
What if you only had a 5% chance of that grand slam and a 51% chance of a base hit? That grand slam would be thrilling, though highly unlikely to happen. String a few of those base hits together and you can build a consistent team capable of winning games, though without excitement or drama.
Slow and steady wins the race
There are no shortcuts in digital strategy. “Quick wins” don’t come from aggressive social media strategies. We operate in an attention-based economy and everyone is a purveyor of information.
Your organization’s value isn’t the information you share. It’s the ability to capture the right audience, at the right time, to share that information.
Social media is one way to do that, but often your success is limited. Pay-per-click search engine marketing (SEM) is also often the focus before SEO. Appearance in search engines is too often ignored by organizations looking to capture attention.
Organic social media reach has declined significantly since 2012. Too many content creators are competing for an ever-dwindling market of attention. And, the main social networks are public companies that need to generate revenue through ad dollars.
Social media is still a terrific platform for reach and engagement, but it’s going to cost you to drive those eyeballs through hyper-targeted campaigns.
SEO is the overlooked long-tail strategy that needs to be regularly tended like a garden. Why? Because visitors Googling a term are expressing their intent to seek information, rather than scrolling through a social feed. Search queries are powerful because they demonstrate a person’s intent.
SEO leverages intent
I rejoined 720 Strategies four weeks ago. The first thing I wanted to do was tighten up the search appearance of our own website. When you’re busy focusing on client needs, sometimes you don’t have enough time to focus on your own needs.
I started with Google Analytics and Google Search Console, tools your digital team should be using regularly. I added in a mixture of other tools – SEMrush, Ahrefs and Moz – for deeper analysis.
We wanted more organic search traffic because they’re better visitors. If someone searches for “best pr firm in dc” and lands on our website, they’re clearly looking for a public relations company in DC.
I also know empirically that visitors from search are better because Google Analytics showed that they stayed on our website twice as long as a social visitor, looked at twice as many pages and had half the bounce rate.
Our search numbers for the month of June were fine, but not great. With some work around the edges to optimize keyword density, title length, and meta description, I knew we’d be boosting important ranking factors.
Minimum SEO led to maximum traffic increase
At the end of July we had nearly a full month’s worth of data to measure our results. User behavior from each channel stayed the same. They stayed as long, looked at the same number of pages and bounced at the same rate. The difference was that we doubled out search traffic in just a few weeks.
The impressive results evident after looking at the Google Analytics graph of organic search traffic above, comparing June (orange) to July (blue). The changes to pieces of content started to impact traffic to our website about half-way through the month. You can see that reflected in the graphic.
Google Search Console showed similarly impressive numbers. Going back three months to May, total impressions (light blue) remained fairly consistent up through mid-July. The same could be said for total clicks (blue).
As soon as total impressions started picking up, total clicks increased and even spiked on occasion.
5 Things You Should Do
So, how do you boost your own search appearance? Here are the five things you should focus on in order of difficulty.
- Run a free analysis on your website like Neil Patel’s Ubersuggest.
- Do some keyword research to identify the right key phrases you’d like to target.
- Ensure your website is responsive and mobile friendly with a great user experience.
- Clean up your content and focus on creating high-quality content – that means making sure you have the right keyword density.
- Clean up title tags, meta tags and anchor text for pages on your site.
It’s not quite as simple as doing these five things, although it’s a good start to focus on these ranking signals. You’ll certainly start to see movement in the right direction with organic traffic. Your long-term strategy should focus on more complicated tasks like link building to grow your backlinks.
Reach out to us and we’d be happy to walk you through more advanced methods of improving where your web pages land on search result pages.
Tom Cochran is partner and chief growth officer for 720 Strategies. He is a former Obama administration appointee, having served both in the White House and Department of State between 2011 and 2016. He also serves as a digital transformation keynote speaker, writer and adjunct professor at American University.