SEO

17 “No-BS” Ways to Rapidly Increase Organic SEO Traffic in 2019 (with Case Studies & Examples)57 min read

Traffic…the lifeblood of any online business.

Think about it:

No traffic = ZERO sales.

And ZERO sales = ZERO revenue.

Now:

There’s always the option to pay for traffic (i.e. PPC).

BUT:

In some industries, the cost of PPC traffic is so high it’s damn near IMPOSSIBLE to turn a profit.

The solution?

Organic traffic.

I know what you’re thinking…

“I’ve read a million blog posts about getting more organic traffic…what’s so different about this one!?”

Simple…this ISN’T the fluff and “because-I-said-so” BS that gets regurgitated time and time again with zero application or data to back it up.

This is an actionable guide filled with step-by-step playbooks to help you increase organic traffic in both the short and long term. Anyone should be able to take away at least one strategy and implement it immediately in their business.

I’ll be sharing case studies demonstrating how I’ve used the strategies outlined below to get real results for clients and personal projects across a number of different industries.

To help make this post super actionable, and speed up the implementation on your end, I have included a downloadable toolset below. It contains several videos and templates for some of the strategies outlined in the post.

Bonus materials to increase organic traffic

Because this is a monster 11,000+ word guide, I have included a table of contents below. There are also jump links at the end of each section of the post that will bring you back up to the top of the post.

Here’s a list of 17 proven strategies to get more organic traffic:

  1. Eliminate “organic anchors” with a data-driven content audit
  2. Prevent (and remove) keyword cannibalization
  3. Find quick-win keyword opportunities
  4. Perform subfolder keyword analysis
  5. Target the long tail for faster gains
  6. Piggyback on existing list posts
  7. Expand your organic footprint with secondary keywords
  8. Boost authority with internal linking
  9. Scale question-based keyword research
  10. Land featured Snippets
  11. Improve SERP click-through rates (with Console data)
  12. Identify lost link equity in 404 pages
  13. Create Content Silos and AVOID Orphaned Pages
  14. Identify high-volume keyword gaps
  15. Use “Barnacle SEO” to boost SERP visibility
  16. Use “Parasite SEO” to Rank for Ultra-Competitive Keywords
  17. Propel backlink acquisition (3 simple tactics)

Let’s dive in!

#1: Eliminate “organic anchors” with a data-driven content audit

Lots of low-quality pages = bad news for SEO.

Why?

Because they weigh down the rest of your website. This causes (better) pages to underperform in the SERPs.

The solution?

Pruning.

In simple terms, pruning involves auditing and removing “dead weight” content from your site.

I.e. any pages that have ZERO links, ZERO traffic and ZERO conversions (and/or contain irrelevant/tin content) are prime candidates to be deleted.

These types of pages offer nothing of value to your site, and are actually weighing down other important assets by eating up precious crawl budget (meaning new or updated content gets crawled less often).

Note: There are some outliers in the pruning process. For example, if you have an important resource on your site that gets little traffic or inbound links, but does get a lot of internal links, you might want to still keep it.

Here’s an example:

At the start of 2017, my agency started working with one of the nation’s leading defamation attorneys.

When he came to us he was getting around 3,500 organic visits and 130 new leads a month from organic traffic. Not too bad. But, he wanted to do better.

So – the first thing we did was follow the content audit process outlined below:

At a high level:

  1. He had two different websites competing for the same keywords, so we consolidated the two sites and merged all competing assets. (More on this in tactic #2 “”)
  2. He had dozens of the “dead weight” pages we discussed above, so we removed those pages from the site
  3. He had a bunch of pages on the site already ranking page 2 for valuable search terms, so we improved those assets (More on this in TACTIC #4 “”)

Here are the results 10 months later:

Content audit case study

He’s now getting over 20,000 organic visits and 400 leads a month. In fact, business is so good he has now started his own firm.

Note: These results were achieved writing very little new content, and building only a handful of new backlinks.

Here’s an overview of my decision-making process during a content audit:

Content audit decision matrix

During the audit phase, we’ll make one of four page-level strategic recommendations:

  1. KEEP content that is relevant and getting a lot of traffic and conversions.
  2. IMPROVE content with the potential to either get more traffic (tactic #4), or more conversion from the existing traffic.
  3. MERGE content with backlinks that is competing for the same keywords as another higher ranking piece of content on the site.
  4. REMOVE content with no links, traffic or conversions.

Now:

For all the visual learners out there, think of this process in terms of an iceberg analogy (hat tip to Everett Sizemore over at GoInflow):

Content audit iceberg

Pages appearing above the water line are top-performers (keep these!), whereas those just below the water line have potential, but need some improvements – updated content, re-promotion, conversion optimization etc – to reach their “full potential”.

Any pages deep down at the bottom of the iceberg are the ones you need to get rid of—they’re generally low-quality assets providing no added value, and weighing down the rest of your website.

Ok:

So, how do you identify which pages to keep, improve, merge or remove?

Follow this workflow:

Note: there are a few different ways you can pull the data for this audit. I am going to focus on one that allows you to scale the process relatively quickly, and avoid having to use a lot of paid tools.

You can grab a copy of the content audit template used in the example below:

Bonus materials to increase organic traffic

First, you need to check whether or not the pages/posts on your website have any inbound links. You can use URL Profiler and Ahrefs to quickly scale this part of the process.

Here’s how:

Copy the URL of your sitemap (hint: this is usually found at yourdomain.com/sitemap.xml or yourdomain.com/post-sitemap.xml)

In URL Profiler, right-click on the URL list area and hit “Import from XML sitemap”:

Import XML sitemap into URL Profiler

You’ll then be prompted to paste your sitemap URL in the box:

Adding sitemap into URL Profiler

Hit “Import” and URL Profiler will automatically pull in every URL it finds in the sitemap.

URLs scraped from the sitemap

Note: If you have more than one sitemap (e.g. pages and posts sitemaps), you’ll need to repeat this process to pull every page/post into URL Profiler:

OR:

Use a tool like Screaming Frog to extract all the indexed content on your site with a single crawl:

Screaming Frog site crawl

The free version of Screaming Frog will allow you to crawl 500 URLs. But, you will have limited configuration options.

Here are the basic settings I use when collecting the indexed content from a website:

And the “Advanced” settings:

SF - advanced settings

You’ll be left with a list of the URLs that can be crawled and indexed by search spiders like Google Bot.

Regardless of which approach you take above (sitemap extraction or Screaming Frog crawl), the next step is to export all the URLs and paste them into URL Profiler:

Connecting services in URL Profiler

Next, connect your Ahrefs account (instructions on doing so can be found here) to URL Profiler.

Check the Ahrefs box (under URL level data), then hit “Run profiler”.

Within a few minutes (depending on the number of URLs), URL Profiler will spit out a spreadsheet that looks something like this:

URL Profiler export

This includes a lot of data, including the number of referring domains pointing to each page/post on your website.

Copy/paste all the data from this spreadsheet and paste it into the sheet labelled “URL Profiler” in this Google Sheet:

Content Audit document

OK, so now you know how many inbound links (if any) are pointing to each page on your website—the next step is to check which of these pages actually have traffic/conversions in Google Analytics.

Go to Google Analytics > Customisation > Custom Reports > New Custom Report:

Create a custom report in Google Analytics

Set up your custom report so it matches the screenshot below (note: I’ve highlighted the super-important parts!)

Configuring Custom Report

Hit “Save” and view the report—it should look something like this:

Note: I recommended setting the date range for the report to the last 3 months.

Export the report—just make sure to set the number of visible rows to the maximum amount (5000) first:

Copy/paste all data from the exported .csv into the sheet labelled “2. GA Export” in the Google Sheet:

Content Audit doc

Finally, navigate to the “DONE” sheet and you should see something like this:

Final audit findings

This compiles all the data and gives a recommended action (e.g. “keep”, “consolidate”, etc.)

Note: This recommended action doesn’t take into account the relevancy of the page, so you will need to double-check that manually before making a final decision

BONUS: This is a modified version of my content audit process. If you want to get access to exact processes, templates and tools we use at our agency, I’m including a “playbook” in my new course. You can find out more about it here.

#2: Prevent Your Website from Competing with Itself by Identifying (and Removing) Keyword Cannibalization

“Keyword cannibalization” occurs when two or more pages on your website are competing for the same keyword.

Here’s why this is such a BIG problem:

  • Google will struggle to figure out which one of your pages actually deserves to rank, so they’ll often choose to rank neither of them.
  • Links/shares/etc will be split between two or more pages, leading to less authority for each page (this is bad, as pages with higher authority tend to rank better).

To put it simply, because your website is effectively competing with itself, you’re significantly diluting your chances of ranking at all!

Keyword cannibalization should, therefore, be avoided at all costs!

This process captures the “MERGE” aspect of the content audit covered above in greater detail.

Here’s how you can identify (and fix) keyword cannibalization issues in 3 simple steps:

  1. Use SEMrush to see which keywords your website is ranking for
  2. Look for keyword duplication (i.e. multiple pages ranking for the same keyword)
  3. Solve the issue by either merging the two (or more) resources together, OR deleting/404 one of them (note: only do this if there are ZERO links/traffic to that page!)

Example:

One of my clients had an article targeting the search term “marketing technology stack” that suddenly fell from position #4 in Google, to page #4.

At first, the client thought it might have been some kind of page-level algorithmic penalty.

After running the process outline below we found 5 different articles competing for the same keyword. Each competing article had links pointing to it.

So, instead of spreading the link equity across 5 different pages we took all unique content from the lower ranking pages and merged it into the canonical (highest ranking version), and then 301 redirected all the other posts into it to consolidate the link equity.

The page became a much more in-depth authoritative resource on the subject, and got added authority from the links that were 301’d from the other articles.

The result:

SnapApp consolidation

The page has gone from ~200 organic pageviews to almost 1,000 /mo. And, it now ranks #1 for it’s target search term:

Rankings gained from keyword cannibalization removal

This is without writing any new content or building any new links.

Now, imagine what happens when you scale this process across websites with lots of competing articles 🙂

Let’s walk through the process:

To begin, enter your domain (e.g. robbierichards.com) into the Organic Keywords report in SEMrush, then select “Positions” from the sidebar:

Finding keyword rankings in SEMrush

This will show you every keyword your website is ranking for. It also tells you which page ranks for each keyword and the position in which it ranks:

Export this entire report to a .csv:

Exporting Keywords from SEMrush

Next, copy/paste all the exported data into the sheet named “1. SEMRush Export” in this Google Sheet.

It should look something like this:

Finally, navigate to the “DONE” tab and it will show you all keyword cannibalization issues on your website.

Cool, right!? 😀

Here’s are a couple of ways to solve these issues:

  1. If the two pages competing for the same keyword are very similar, and both offer unique value, consider merging them into one canonical resource. Just make sure to 301 redirect one of the pages to the new canonical resource (especially if it has links pointing towards it!)
  2. If the competing page offers nothing of unique value, delete it. If the deleted page has links pointing towards it (check this in Ahrefs), add a 301 redirect to the competing resource, otherwise just let it 404.
Bonus materials to increase organic traffic

#3: Uncover Low-hanging Ranking Opportunities by Performing Keyword Research for an Existing Website

Keyword research only needs to be done when you’re starting a new website, right!?

NOPE!

This couldn’t be more WRONG.

Improving rankings for keywords you’re already ranking for is the quickest and easiest way to get a TON more traffic to your website.

Want proof?

I increased organic traffic 402% to this post 30 days after implementing this strategy:

Increased organic traffic

It went from position #8 to #2 overnight, which is why the traffic shot up like a rocket!

Here’s another example of an article getting an 86.88% boost in organic traffic month-over-month:

Google Analytics screenshot showing organic traffic increase

And this was after optimizing ONE page…if you were to do this across your entire website, traffic would go through the roof!

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Identify “low-hanging” keyword opportunities (i.e. those that you’re already ranking for on page 2 of the SERPs, OR low down on page 1)
  2. Optimize the pages and relaunch for MASSIVE traffic boosts

Here’s the process:

Go to SEMrush, enter your website, then go to the Positions report:

Finding keyword rankings in SEMrush

This will show you EVERY keyword you’re ranking for, along with the ranking position.

BUT, we’re not interested in every keyword—we want to focus on the ones with the most potential. To do that, apply these filters to the report:

SEMrush report filters

Note: Set the search volume threshold to something that makes sense for your industry. i.e.
You may need to lower it a bit more to find more opportunities.

Export the results to a .csv, then copy/paste the data into the sheet labelled “1. SEMRush Export”in this Google Sheet.

Now, go to the next tab labelled “DONE” and you should see something like this:

Keyword opportunities template

All of these keywords are low-hanging opportunities, but the rows that are the most green are the opportunities that are likely to yield the BEST results with the LEAST amount of effort.

After you’ve found keywords that have (1) search volume, (2) existing rankings, and (3) can be realistically ranked for in the next 60-90 days, you need to prioritize.

When I do this final part of the process, I always rely on a bottom-up view of the funnel.

(i.e. start with the “money” keywords at the bottom of the funnel , and work my back up to the top):

Funnel

(Source)

Here is a quick overview of how I would optimize these posts to move up the rankings:

  • Update existing tactics with new screenshots and additional information
  • Add 3-5 new strategies to the post
  • Re-promote the post across social media
  • Run a paid social media campaign to build social signals
  • Launch a light outreach campaign to capture additional backlinks
  • Add internal links from several other related posts on the site

To find the best internal linking targets, navigate to the “Best By Links” report in Ahrefs and filter by either URL Rating or Referring Domains. This will surface the most authoritative pages on your site:

Best by links report in Ahrefs

For example:

Since this post is about increasing organic traffic, you bet I’m going to add a few internal links from this post and this post.

Note: I have a full post dedicated to this strategy here. But, if you want to go deeper into specific keyword research and relaunch tactics I use for clients, check out my SEO training course here.

#4: Perform Keyword Research at the Sub Folder Level (and Find Your Highest Value Targets)

Not all keywords are created equal.

A site that monetizes through AdSense revenue will prioritize high volume informational intent keywords to drive more ad impressions and clicks:

Example of a site monetizing with AdSense revenue

Check out the search volume and traffic numbers for this article:

Keyword data in SEMrush

An affiliate website like Wirecutter will prioritize investigational intent keywords searched when people are evaluating different solution for a specific problem or need.

Think“best tool for x”, “product x vs product y” or “product x alternatives”:

Keywords with best modifiers in SEMrush

Ecommerce stores will prioritize transactional terms since these have the highest degree of direct buying intent.

Because different business models will prioritize different search intent, it makes sense to mirror this during the keyword research process to ensure you are only focusing on the search terms that have greatest potential bottom line impact.

This applies for both new and existing websites.

One of the easiest ways to perform this type of laser-targeted research (for both new and existing sites) is to analyze keywords at the subfolder level.

Important: this strategy works when your site has a clean URL structure with content types organized into dedicated subfolders.

Here’s how to do it:

1) Find your highest value existing keyword opportunities

In the previous step we looked at how to find ALL the quick-win keyword opportunities for your site across ALL intent buckets.

This approach works great if you only publish content with a single form of intent. For example: a blog that only publishes high volume informational content to monetize through adsense revenue.

But:

If you have an eCommerce site, you’re going to be publishing informational, investigational AND transactional intent keywords across assets like blog content, comparison pages and top-level product/category pages.

While each level of intent serves a specific purpose for this business, its the investigational and transactional keywords that drive direct bottom line value.

Therefore:

It makes sense to prioritize the keyword research process around commercial intent terms. And, this is where subfolders come into play.

For example:

Most eCommerce sites are going to house products under some type of top-level URL subfolder:

Image showing product subfolder

So, instead of starting the keyword research process by looking at ALL the keyword opportunities (like we did in the previous strategy), start with the keyword opportunities inside commercial intent subfolder(s).

Here’s how to do it for an existing site:

Open SEMrush and enter your domain into the SEO Toolkit:

SEMrush SEO Toolkit

Go to the Organic Research >> Positions report. You’ll once again see all the keywords your site is ranking for in the top 100 search results:

SEMrush Organic Search Positions report

Since you’re only interested in the existing keywords with commercial intent, add an additional filter to only include keywords targeted within the /collections subfolder:

SEMrush filters

Click “Apply” and you’ll have a list of all the commercial intent keywords your site is currently ranking for bottom of page 1, or top of page 2:

Commercial intent keyword opportunities in SEMrush

These are the most valuable quick-win keyword opportunities for an eCommerce site like Beardbrand, and should always be prioritized when it comes to updating and relaunching content for organic traffic gains.

But:

Once Beardbrand was done with the commercial intent terms, they could then move onto the higher volume informational terms by analyzing the keyword opportunities housed inside the /blog subfolder:

Example of informational content

Which would return hundreds of high volume informational keyword opportunities:

Bottom line: use subfolder to focus in on your highest intent terms, when possible.

2) Mine competitors for new high value keyword opportunities

Subfolder research can also be used to find NEW high value keyword opportunities.

The process is exactly the same, but instead of entering your site you’ll drop in the commercial intent subfolders from 3-5 direct competitors:

For example:

Scotch Porter is one of beardbrand’s top organic search competitors. All their products are housed under the /products subfolder:

Products housed in subfolder

On the other hand, a competitor such as Beardaholic has all their products housed on the shop.beardaholic subdomain:

Product page

So:

Beardbrand would set the following filters to see all the commercial intent keywords their site is ranking for:

Filtering subdomain traffic

Repeat this process for 3-5 of your top organic search competitors and export the results into a aggregated master excel file.

Set a filter to highlight all the duplicates, and focus in on the new commercial intent opportunities you are not already targeting on your site.

This is one of the fastest ways to find loads of high-value keyword ideas that align directly with your site’s monetization model.

#5: Target The Long Tail for Faster Organic Traffic Gains

Tired of going after high-competition keywords that you struggle to rank for?

Then it’s time to focus on the long tail and increase your traffic.

Long tail keywords have a low monthly search volume, but a higher probability of conversion. They get their name from the “long tail” of the search demand graph:

Search demand graph

For example, the keyword “tomato plant” has a high search volume with a low conversion rate. While the long tail keyword “why are my tomato plants turning yellow” has low search volume but a higher chance of conversion.

Here are two ways to quickly find long tail keywords.

Tactic #1

In SEMrush:

  1. Navigate to the SEO Toolkit and enter a competitor’s domain – e.g. healthline.com.
  2. Select “Organic Research”.
  3. Click the “Positions tab”.
  4. Filter by Top 20 positions for the most relevant terms.
  5. Filter for 2+ keywords to show long tail terms.
Finding long tail keywords in SEMrush

Now from your list of results check the long tail terms that are driving the most traffic:

Sorting long tail keywords in SEMrush

Tactic #2

In SEMrush:

  1. Enter a seed term into the Keyword Magic Tool – e.g. “beard oil”.
  2. Use the advanced filter “Words count” to include keywords with 3 or more words:

Now you have a list of additional long tail keyword opportunities related to “beard oil”:

Keyword results in SEMrush

You can add more filters (e.g. Volume, Keyword difficulty, etc.) to drill down further.

#6: Piggyback Off Ranking List Posts

Sometimes it just doesn’t make sense to target a term on your site.

Say you’re trying to position your product as the top solution for a specific need, it may come across as too self-promotional if you write about it on your site; e.g. “Best XX Tools”. Plus, you’re drawing attention to competing products in the list.

So, another way to get quick brand or product exposure is to piggyback on existing list posts. For instance, you could find other third-party posts already ranking for mid-funnel investigational terms and see if you can get featured there.

For example:

I wanted to get some quick exposure for my SEO training course. Rather than promote the course on my site – alongside a bunch of other competing courses – I reached out to this site that was already ranking for loads of terms such as “SEO certifications”:

Example of page already ranking for target terms

I offered a free license in exchange for a possible feature, which they accepted. And now I’m listed number 5 in their post.

Bottom line:

Every month I get targeted referral traffic from that post that results in sign-ups for my course waitlist:

Google Analytics screenshot of referral traffic

Sometimes it makes more sense to leverage the rankings of external assets, instead of target terms on your own site.

#7: Expand Your Organic Footprint with Secondary Keywords

One of the fastest ways to increase organic traffic is to get your content to rank for more keywords.

Wirecutter is a site that reviews a bunch of tools and gadgets. It ranks for over 3.1M organic keywords and brings in 4.4M organic visits a month:

The Wirecutter organic traffic screenshot in Ahrefs

The founder, Brian Lam, sold the site to The New York Times for $30M in 2016:

One of the reasons this site was able to scale its organic footprint so much was because most of the articles on the site ranked for thousands of secondary keywords.

For example:

The site’s highest organic traffic page on “best cell phone plans” ranks for 42,478 different keywords:

Ahrefs screenshot showing organic traffic from secondary keywords

Note: The primary keyword “best cell phone plans” (48,000 monthly searches) only brings in 5% of the page’s overall monthly organic traffic. The rest comes from the other 42,477 semantic and long tail secondary keywords.

Here is another article from Digital Trends targeting the topic “best laptop backpack for travellers”:

The post ranks for 4,800 different keywords and rakes in 5,800 organic searches a month.

But:

Similar to the Wirecutter example above, its top 5 keywords only account for ~20% of the total organic traffic:

Digital Trends secondary keywords example

Rather than target the same keyword repeatedly, Digital Trends has sprinkled secondary keywords – slight variations, re-wordings, or alternate ways to say the same thing – throughout the post:

Using long tails and semantics helps Google see the post as being relevant to a range of queries.

Ok:

So, how do you expand the organic footprint of your content?

The first step in the process is finding a list of secondary keyword targets with some kind of search volume.

Here are a couple quick ways to do this:

1. Mine competitor articles

Go to the Keyword Explorer tool and enter primary topic for one of your existing articles. Scroll down to the SERP Overview report to see all the top ranking articles along with a number of metrics, including Domain Rating, # of Backlinks, Traffic, # of Keywords etc:

Keyword metrics in Ahrefs

Click the “Kw” link to view all the keywords the page/post is ranking for (and getting traffic from):

Ahrefs keyword filters

Here is another example from the coffee products niche:

Ahrefs keyword ideas

If I was going to equip myself with affiliate links and write a post comparing coffee grinders, I’d know to include sections on burr grinders, grinders for french press, conical grinders, etc.

Without mentioning these kinds of grinders in the post, I’d be missing out on thousands of extra visits when the post started to rank.

Before you hit publish (or ideally before you start writing), run the top 10 competing posts through Ahrefs and add their best long-tail keywords to your list.

Export all the secondary keywords and remove any duplicates.

Note: This strategy is not only good for finding secondary keywords to include in on-page elements such as a title tags, headings and body copy, but they can also give you ideas for new sections or topics to cover in the content too.

2) Perform URL-level content gap analysis

If I enter “how to increase organic traffic” into the Ahrefs Keyword Explorer I can see my article is only ranking for 67 different keywords, compared to the hundreds of different terms many of the competing article are ranking for:

Ahrefs Keyword Gap Analysis tool

So, how do you quickly identify all the keyword gaps?

The Ahrefs Content Gap Analysis tool.

Here’s how to do it:

Head over to the Site Explorer and enter the URL of your content:

Ahrefs Site Explorer tool

Navigate down to the Organic Search section and click the Content Gap Analysis link:

Using the Ahrefs Content Gap tool

Next – enter up to 10 competing articles:

Entering competitors into the Content Gap tool

Note: make sure you have the URL selected from the drop down next to each URL since you are specifically interested in all the keywords those competing pages/ posts (not whole domain) are ranking, but you are not.

You’ll have several filter options to choose from:

Filtering in the Content Gap tool

I recommend keeping “At least one of the targets should rank in top 10” selected as this will help return the most relevant results.

Hit search and you’ll see a list of all the keywords the competing articles are ranking for, but your article is not:

Content Gap results

Bonus tip: as you scan down the list of secondary keyword opportunities, focus on the the opportunities where at least two of your competitors are ranking in the top 10 for a given keyword. These will typically be the most relevant targets.

2) Perform long tail (and semantic) keyword research

Open Keyword Explorer >> Enter primary keyword >> View Keyword Ideas:

Scan the list of keyword ideas and add any relevant terms with decent search volume to a dedicated list:

Finally – export the keywords and remove any duplicates.

How to quickly incorporate secondary keywords into your content

You’ll probably find a handful of secondary keywords were naturally included in the article as it was written.

But, it’s always good to revisit the content and make sure all the bases are covered.

With your secondary keyword list in hand, make sure to include them in headings.

Headings — wrapped in h1, h2, and h3 tags — are essential for signalling content relevance to Google.

“We do use H tags to understand the structure of the text on a page better” – John Mueller, Google

Looking back at the earlier coffee grinder example…

Ahrefs keyword ideas

You could derive the entire article structure – including headings – from that list alone:

  • What is a grinder

  • Best burr grinder

  • Best espresso grinder

  • Best manual coffee grinder

  • Etc..

Next, go back through the post once it’s written and ctrl+f secondary keywords and words that comprise them (“grinder”, “coffee grinder”) — you’ll find you can vary the wording to cover more keywords in the body copy and still keep a smooth content flow.

Example of using secondary keywords in the body copy

(Source)

Finally, consider updating older content to include entirely new sections (or subsections) targeting the new secondary keyword/topic opportunities.

Again, work the keywords into the headings (one H2 and a few H3s should do the trick) and weave into the body copy where it makes sense.

Here is a short video that walks you through the process in more depth:

#8: INSTANTLY Boost New Pages by Linking to Them from Existing High-Authority Pages

Want to give EVERY new piece of content you publish an INSTANT boost!?

As soon as you publish your new post, add a link to that post from an existing, related piece of content on your website that already has a TON of authority (i.e. a high UR).

This is tactic was briefly mentioned above. Below, we will outline several ways to mine solid internal link sources for your new content.

Example:

Because this page is clearly about increasing organic traffic, it would make perfect sense to link to it from this SEO case study on the date of publishing.

Why? Because that post is ALSO related to increasing traffic, and already has some authority:

Ahrefs page authority

Linking to my newly published post from that one would be sure to give it a nice boost!

Easy, right!?

BUT, how do you find worthy pages from which to add internal links from?

Here are a couple of methods:

1. Use the “Best by links” report in Ahrefs —this will show you every page on your website ordered by number of inbound links (as mentioned above). Work your way down the list and find a suitable post from which to add your link!

Ahrefs Best by Links report

2. Use the Search Console “Links to Your Site” report — this will show you all the pages being linked to from other domains:

Search Console links report

2. Use the “top pages” report in Google Analytics — this will show you the pages with the most traffic on your website. This can be accessed via: Behavior > Site Content > All Pages.

You know pages getting a lot of organic traffic are ranking highly in the search engines, which is a good indicator they have authority (and links) attached to them.

4. Use search operators to find solid internal link sources. While tools can make this process easier, you don’t need them to find some good targets.

Here’s a workaround:

Search for the following:

site:yourdomain.com + keyword

Basically, just replace the “keyword” with a keyword related to the content you’ve just published.

So, if I wanted to add an internal link to this page, I could use the following Google search:

site:robbierichards.com + increase traffic

This will show me the pages on my website that are most related (in Google’s eyes) to increasing traffic:

Search results

Add a link from one or two of these pages (note: don’t force it in, make sure it’s natural!) and you’ll see a nice boost to your new post.

#9: Scale Question-Based Keyword Research (and Drive Targeted Traffic)

Every question is a problem.

Understanding which specific questions (and keywords) users are searching for online provides an opportunity to:

  1. Drive more brand awareness (and traffic) at the exact moment your ideal customer is experiencing a pain or need.
  2. Boost conversion rates by identifying (and overcoming) objections at the point of conversion.

Question-based keywords can be used for many different mediums, including blog posts, videos and FAQ sections on ecommerce product pages. Not to mention, they are the most common types of queries that trigger featured snippets:

Featured snippet study

(Source)

So, how do you find all the questions your ideal customers are searching for answers to online?

Here’s a simple method:

Scrape “People Also Ask”

The first thing you’ll need to do is install the free Scraper chrome extension:

Scraper chrome extension

Next, you’ll take one of your top-level product category terms and enter it into the search engine. Since I’m working on building out a keyword strategy for a fictional beard products ecommerce store in my newest course Playbook, I’ll use “beard oil” as a working example:

Typing beard oil into Google

Scroll down to the “People Also Ask” box:

Google's People Also Ask box

These are the exact questions your customers are typing into Google.

You’ll notice there are only a small handful of questions showing. Start clicking on the accordions and the list will begin to expand:

Keep clicking until you have 30+ questions in the list.

Next – right click on one of the questions in the list, and select the “Scrape Similar” option:

Select Scrape Similar from options

This will open a window with the question and answer you clicked on:

Scraper window

Since we want to scrape ALL the questions, you’ll need to navigate over to the left side of window and remove the [1] from the x-path query:

Altering x-path query

Once you’ve altered the x-path, click enter and the Scraper extension will pull in all the questions and answers from the expanded “People Also Ask” list:

Expanded results in the Scraper window

Copy the data to your clipboard.

At this point, you’ll have ALL the questions and answers in the spreadsheet.

But, for the purpose of this keyword research strategy, we’re only interested in the questions.

So, the next step is to remove all the answers. An easy way to do this is to add a 0 for the questions, and a 1 for the answers:

Scraper results in excel

Highlight the two cells and drag it down to the bottom of the results. Hover over the drop down arrow and click “copy cells”:

This will add a 0 for all the questions, and a 1 for all the answers.

Next – add a filter and select 1 to only show the answers:

Delete all the answers and you’ll be left with a list of questions to target with your keyword research strategy:

Clean keyword results in excel

This strategy can be used to generate hundreds of question-based topics for eCommerce stores, affiliate websites, and service-based companies:

Question queries for service-based companies

Question-based queries will get your business in front of potential customers at the exact moment they are searching for answers to a specific problem related to the products or services you sell.

Bonus tip:

Here’s how to find more question-based keywords with a couple other tools and tactics.

Answer The Public + Keywords Everywhere Chrome Extension

For this tactic, you’ll first need to install the free Keywords Everywhere chrome extension. Then follow these steps:

  1. Open Answer The Public in your browser and enter your seed term – e.g. “beard oil”.
  2. Scroll down to the Questions section and switch to the Data view.
  3. Check the volume and CPC data from Keywords Everywhere alongside each potential question-based keyword from Answer The Public:
Using Answer The Public

It’s a handy free alternative.

SEMrush

Here’s how to quickly surface loads of question-based keywords in SEMrush:

  1. Enter your seed term in the Keyword Magic Tool – e.g. “beard oil”.
  2. Select the Questions tab.
  3. View the list of question-based keywords – e.g. “what does beard oil do”, “how to use beard oil”, etc.
Using the SEMrush Keyword Magic Tool

Now you can export the relevant keywords from the list and them to your spreadsheet.

#10: Land Featured Snippets and Win More Traffic from the SERPs

Imagine increasing the amount of organic traffic to one of your pages by 20-30% overnight.

And then repeating the same process for other pages.

Sound good?

Well, it’s achievable with Featured Snippets.

What is a Featured Snippet?

A featured snippet is the “special result” that appears at the top of the SERPs. It bypasses the Top 10 organic positions to claim what’s known as Position #0.

The snippets come in different formats. The three most popular are:

Paragraph

Paragraph featured snippet example

Bulleted List

Bulleted list featured snippet example

Numbered List

Numbered list featured snippet example

But whatever format they have, the snippets look more appealing at the top of SERP, and as a result, they get a lot more impressions and clicks:

Ahrefs study showing average CTR for featured snippets

How to find existing & new snippet opportunities with Ahrefs

Tactic #1 – Existing featured snippet opportunities

The quickest way to get a featured snippet is to target the keywords you’re already ranking for on the first page that contain featured snippets.

In Ahrefs:

  1. Enter your domain, e.g. thewirecutter.com
  2. Click on “Organic keywords”
  3. Open the “SERP features” filter and select “Featured snippet”:
Finding featured snippet opportunities in Ahrefs

Now you have a list of all the keywords your site ranks for on the first page that contains a featured snippet. These are your “quick-win” opportunities.

For example, the keyword “best wireless earbuds” is in position 7, but Tom’s Guide (from position 4 in the SERP) has the featured snippet:

Example of a featured snippet opportunity

Tactic #2 – New featured snippet opportunities

In Ahrefs:

  1. Enter a seed keyword into Keyword Explorer, e.g. “beard oil”.
  2. Click on “Phrase match”.
  3. Open the SERP features filter and select “Featured snippet”:
Looking for featured snippet opportunities in the Ahrefs Keyword Explorer

From the list, click the SERP dropdown to reveal the site currently occupying the featured snippet:

In this example, “baldingbeards.com” has the featured snippets for the keyword “best beard oil”.

Editor’s Note:

Here’s how SEMrush users can also find their competitors’ Featured Snippets, and then optimize content to steal Position #0 from them.

  1. Enter a competitor domain in the Organic Research report – e.g. healthline.com.
  2. Select the “Positions” tab.
  3. Use the “Advanced filters” to find “Featured snippet” opportunities:
Finding featured snippets in SEMrush

Now you have a list of all your competitor’s featured snippets content plus the keywords to target.

Note: For more information on the different types of featured snippets, plus how to optimize your content to land more of them and increase your organic traffic, check out this in-depth guide.

#11: Boost Traffic by Increasing SERP CTRs (with Search Console data)

Not only is SERP click-through rate (CTR) a proven ranking factor, it’s also super-important for translating rankings into traffic:

CTR ranking factor

Example:

Let’s assume you ranked on page 1 for the term Best SEO Tools (btw, I do rank for this!):

Ranking position 5

According to Ahrefs, this keyphrase has 1,500 searches/month:

Ahrefs keyword search volume

BUT:

This doesn’t mean I’m going to get 1,500 visitors a month from that search term — it all depends on CTR:

SERP click through rate

In the search engines, you’ll see around 2/3 of all the clicks going to the top 3 positions. Anything outside the top 3 and you’re looking at a single digit CTRs.

Back to our example:

If 10% of searchers click my website in the SERPs, I’ll receive roughly 150 visitors/month.

(Pretty sweet!)

However, if only 2% of searchers click through to my website, I’ll receive a measly 30 visitors/month.

(Not so sweet!)

So, the question is: how can you increase your CTR?

Two ways:

  1. Improve rankings—pages that rank higher are generally clicked more. For example, most searchers will click the 1st or 2nd result in the SERPs, and virtually nobody will click through to the second page of results.
  2. Sell your content in the SERPs—use your title and description tags to effectively “sell” your content in the SERPs and entice a click through.

The second method is the one I want to focus on right now, as it’s super low-hanging fruit most SEOs never think about!

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Identify pages on your website receiving below average CTRs for their ranking position.
  2. Change your title/description tags to entice more people to click through to your website from the SERPs.

OK:

The first task is to identify the pages getting lower CTRs than they should be—this can be done by analyzing search console data.

Go to Google Search Console > Search Traffic > Search Analytics, then set up the filter to match this:

Search Console data

Download the results (note: the download button is at the bottom of the page).

Copy/paste the data into the sheet titled “1. Search Console Data” in this Google Sheet:

Low hanging CTR wins in Search Console

Finally, go to sheet labelled “DONE” and you should see something like this:

Basically, this shows you the CTR for each page (column B) ranking in position 10 or under. It also shows the Average CTR for rankings in that position (note: these numbers were taken from here).

SERP CTRs

If the row is highlighted green, the CTR for the page is better than average for webpages ranking in that position. LEAVE THESE ALONE!

If the row is red, the page is performing worse—consider optimizing the title/description tags for these pages.

Here’s a guide on exactly how to do that.

Bonus materials to increase organic traffic

#12. Identify lost link equity in 404 pages

Links have a HUGE impact on rankings:

Domain authority

If you want to rank for any keyword, you need page authority. And, the way you get authority is by building quality links.

Now:

There are a million and one ways (depending on your niche) you could go about building backlinks to your website.

And, it’s tempting to dive right into a new campaign and go after the big wins. Why not, right?

Big wins are great! Everyone loves them – clients, the boss, the team. Nothing better than landing a massive link from a site like Huffington Post or NBC.

While those links really move the needle and should be a focal point, they require a lot of time and hard work.

So:

Before you start directing all your energy into landing BIG links, make sure you are first collecting all the “quick links”. This will get you some quick wins for your client, and help build trust at the beginning of your campaign.

One of the easiest ways to do this is reclaim lost link equity from 404 pages.

Websites change over time. Products come and go. Information is updated. URLs are modified. Pages are edited, shifted, and moved.

While all this sounds like on-page SEO, it affects off-page SEO as well – specifically links.

For example:

If you’ve ever landed quality links to a piece of content on your site and then updated the URL or folder structure, you’ve just affected that link.

Where it hurts you is when you make such a change and don’t put in the right 301 redirects. Basically – the links you worked hard to get are still pointing to the old URL.

The result is lost link equity.

So, one of the best things you can do when starting a new link building campaign is to ensure there aren’t any dead/404 pages with external links pointed at them.

Reclaiming even a few of these links can give your content a nice bump, and provide a significant win that builds trust with your clients.

Here’s how to do it:

Head over to the Ahrefs “Best by Links” report. Filter by “404”, and sort referring domains (RD) in descending order:

Finding 404 pages with links pointing to them

The first result in this example has 6 referring domains pointing to a 404 page.

After clicking the RD link, I find out some of these links are from high authority domains like Search Engine Watch (DR 71):

RD report in Ahrefs

This is a MASSIVE link that would normally take a lot of time and effort to get, if at all.

Once you’ve identified the 404 pages with external links pointing to them, the final step is to reclaim the link equity.

Note: You should first examine the quality and relevance of the external links before reclaiming them.

Some things to look at:

  • Domain/ Page authority
  • Page relevance
  • Page quality
  • Link placement
  • Anchor text
Low DR sites

This is a screenshot from a backlink audit we’re working on for a client. There were a lot of low DR sites link from irrelevant content. Not links we’re interested in reclaiming.

The last thing you want to do is start redirecting a bunch of garbage links to your site.You’ll likely do more harm than good.

Ok:

Once you’ve identified the linking pages and verified they are safe to reclaim, you have a couple options:

  1. ​​​​301 redirect the 404 page to another relevant piece of content on the site
  2. Contact the author of the page linking to your site and notify them your page has moved. Ask them to update the link.

I usually go for the first option 🙂

#13. Create Strong Content Silos and AVOID Orphaned Pages

Google HATES messy, disorganized websites.

Why? Because it makes it very difficult for them to understand what a webpage is about. And if they don’t know what it’s about, they probably aren’t going to rank it highly!

So, how do you solve this?

Silos.

In simple terms, “siloing” is nothing more than the act of grouping content into distinct categories, ensuring a clear hierarchy that makes sense, and linking logically between the pages.

Here’s a simple example of a silo structure for a yoga website (taken from this post):

Example of a content silo

You can see there’s a clear content hierarchy—the pages are grouped into main categories (i.e. silos) and linked-to from the main category page.

This is commonly referred to as parent and child hierarchy.

In this example, the “new york”, “chicago, “dallas”, and “orlando” pages each have the same parent: “yoga studios”. They’re all children of the “yoga studio’s” page:

Note: It’s good practice to link back to the parent category from child pages, too.

This hierarchy will help dictate the URL structure.

Example:

http://www.yogawebsite.com/studios

  • http://www.yogawebsite.com/studios/new-york/
  • http://www.yogawebsite.com/studios/chicago/
  • http://www.yogawebsite.com/studios/dallas/
  • http://www.yogawebsite.com/studios/orlando/

http://www.yogawebsite.com/classes

  • http://www.yogawebsite.com/classes/yoga-rx/
  • http://www.yogawebsite.com/classes/pilates/
  • http://www.yogawebsite.com/classes/vinyasa/
  • http://www.yogawebsite.com/classes/hot-yoga/

Note: It is best practice to have support pages linking back up to the silo landing page (as shown by the red links above in the Yoga studio silo).

Cross-links between silo sub pages should be avoided because they weaken the “theming”, and relevance of the silo:

Content Silo 2

This graphic from Search Engine Land further illustrates how content silos can help better organize site content:

Silo vs flat information architecture

A couple more reasons why siloing your content can improve the user experience, and help boost your organic traffic:

  1. It increases relevancy: Siloing ensures all topically related content is connected, and this in turn drives up relevancy. For example, linking to each of the individual yoga class pages (e.g. Pilates, Yoga RX, etc) from the “Yoga classes” page helps confirm—to both visitors and Google—these pages are in fact different types of yoga classes. Google can then feel more confident ranking these pages for related terms, as it is clearer the pages are relevant to the search query.
  2. It helps the flow of “link juice” around your website: Because you’re creating a hierarchical structure, siloing ensures authority flows around your site more efficiently. (i.e. links to blog posts and sub service/product pages can flow up through the website to the “money” pages.

BUT:

What happens if you don’t implement content silos?

You’ll end up with “orphaned pages”:

Orphan pages

(Source)

An orphan page is a page with zero incoming internal links, and thus can’t be reached by users or crawlers while navigating your website. This usually hurts UX and ranking performance.

If you have a page that is underperforming, it’s worth running it through Search Console to check for internal links—here’s how:

Search Console > Search Traffic > Internal Links > enter your page URL:

Looking for internal links in Search Console

It will then show you the number of internal links the page has; it even shows you exactly where these links come from:

If the page has no internal links, check to make sure the relative URL paths are not being used on the site.

Relative URLs

You can find out more about relative vs. absolute URLs in this Moz Whiteboard Friday:

Bonus tip:

You can use a tool like SEMrush to scale the process of identifying orphaned pages across your website.

Go to the “Site Audit” report and enter your domain:

SEMrush site audit

Wait for the website to be crawled.

Go to the ‘Issues’ tab and click the ‘Select an Issue’ button. Check the ‘Notices’ section to see whether any Orphaned Pages have been detected on the site:

SEMrush site audit check

You can also use the tool to detect Orphaned Pages through your XML Sitemap or Google Analytics data. Check out the full tutorial on how to do that here.

Ok, we now know:

Content silos = good.

Orphan pages = bad (unless deliberate).

In a nutshell, here’s how you can silo your website:

  1. Identify the overarching topic groups of your website. What content do you have, or plan to have? What products or services do you plan to promote on your website? What are the main categories on competitor sites? Your keyword research should help flush this out.
  2. Plan your link structure. Start with the main navigation and decide how to best connect pages both physically (URL structure) and virtually (internal links) to clearly establish your content themes. Try to include at least 3-5 quality subpages under each core silo landing page. Link internally between the subpages. Link each subpage back up to the main silo landing page.
  3. Strengthen silos with relevance and authority. Continue to add contextual content into your silos. One of the easiest ways to do this is to add related blog categories. Add content into the categories, build links to the content, and channel it back into the silo subpages through targeted internal linking.

#14. Identify Keyword Gaps (and Quickly Scale Organic Traffic)

Keyword research is the foundation of most successful SEO campaigns.

Rank for the right keywords, and you’ll drive a passive stream of targeted traffic to your website.

But, keyword research is a MASSIVE topic. I mean, just google it and you’ll get 16M results!

Search result

So, where do you start?​​​​

The competition.

Or more specifically, all the keywords your competitors are ranking for, but you are not. This allows you to plug any holes in your current content strategy, and start capturing more organic traffic.

Here’s how to do it:

Open up SEMrush, and go to the “Keyword Gap Analysis” report.

Keyword gap analysis

You should now see space to enter up to 5 domains for comparison. Enter up to 4 competitors, followed by your own website.

Example:

If I was doing a keyword gap analysis for my blog (robbierichards.com), I could enter ahrefs.com, backlinko.com, and webris.org as competitors, followed by my own website:

Entering competing domains into the keyword gap analysis tool

IMPORTANT: You MUST enter competitor domains first, with your own domain last on the list.

Once you’ve got your top organic competitors entered into the tool, you’ll notice a venn diagram icon listed next to each of the domains.

Click the icon and you’ll see four different options to choose from – (1) All Keywords, (2) Unique to the first domain, (3) Common keywords, and (4) Unique keywords:

This UX isn’t super intuitive, so let’s work through a couple of quick examples of how you could use this tool to find untapped keyword opportunities for your business.

Note: Regardless of the keyword option you select, when performing a keyword gap analysis make sure the last venn diagram icon between the last competitor and your website is set to “Unique to the first domain’s keywords”:

With the settings shown above, I’d get the following results:

Keyword gap analysis results

All of my competitors are ranking for these keywords, but I am not.

This insight is extremely valuable because if all your competitors are able to rank for those keywords, there is a high probability you can too (provided each site has a comparable domain rating).

You can export these keywords and start prioritizing which ones should be added to your content calendar.

Ok:

That’s just one use case. Let’s pretend I want to broaden the scope and look at all the keywords ANY of my competitors are ranking for.

Easy – I’d use the configuration below:

Now I can see all the keywords at least one of my competitors rank for:

Now, I know what you’re probably thinking. Most of the results in the examples above are keywords ranking super low in the search results.

One might argue this information is pretty useless.

So, use the filters shows below to find all the competitor keywords ranking in the top 10 results:

Keyword gap analysis filters

This search will return some great topical keywords for you to explore further, and possibly incorporate into your content calendar:

When performing your competitor keyword gap analysis, start with competitors who have similar domain authority ratings as your site. This way, you know any keywords your competitors are ranking, you can too.

Important: Don’t focus your entire keyword strategy around your competitors. You want to go after opportunities they are missing out on too.

One way I do this is using the keywords identified in the gap analysis to seed ongoing topical keyword research.

Basically – enter the competitor keyword topics into the SEMrush “Keyword Magic Tool”:

SEMrush keyword magic tool

It will return a list of hundreds or even thousands of related long tail keyword variations.

You can even filter out the question-based queries:

Question-based keywords

As you enter in different seed topics, simply click the box next to any keywords you think might be a good target and they’ll be added to a master list which you can export once finished with your keyword research.

This is an easy way to leverage your competitors to rapidly expand the keyword set:

#15: Use “Barnacle SEO” to Align Your Brand with Authoritative Sources for High SERP Visibility

“Barnacle SEO” is a term coined by Will Scott of Search Influence.

He describes it as: “attaching oneself to a large fixed object and waiting for the customers to float by in the current.”

BUT, what does this mean in relation to SEO?

Simple…rather than competing with the BIG sites that dominate your niche, you instead align/attach your own brand with them.

That way, you can effectively piggyback on their success!

Example:

Let’s assume you were a lawyer in Brooklyn, NYC…

You would probably want to attach/associate your business with sites such as:

  • Avvo.com
  • Superlawyers.com
  • Justia.com
  • Etc.

This is because the websites absolutely DOMINATE local search:

Big brand sites dominating local search

So, whenever anyone is looking for the services you offer, chances are they’ll end up on a website like Avvo.com.

BUT…

I know what you’re thinking…“why not just rank for these terms with my own website!?”

Simple…these BIG brands will be almost impossible to outrank with your own website (because it’ll have much less authority!):

Barnacle SEO

In this case, it’d be better to simply piggyback on the authority of the larger sites to rank for highly competitive keywords, at least in the short term.

Here are some of the big brands that dominate search in other verticals:

Real Estate: Zillow, Rent.com, Trulia, Zoopla (UK), RightMove (UK), etc:

Hotels: TripAdvisor, Hotels.com, Timeout.com, etc.

Obviously, some of these websites are more difficult to associate your own brand with than others.

For example, TripAdvisor rankings can’t really be manipulated (unless you’re providing EXCELLENT service), but you can easily post on forums like Warrior Forum or Quora; you just have to sign up and post an answer.

That’s why I recommend looking for keywords in your niche where forums (e.g. Quora) or niche directories dominate the SERPs.

Here’s a quick hack for doing this:

First, go to SEMrush, enter quora.com in the search box, then go to the “Positions” report (located under “Organic Research” on the sidebar):

This will show you each of the 29 million keywords Quora.com ranks for!

BUT…

Most of these keywords will be completely irrelevant to your niche; that’s why you need to use the filtering options to find keywords that fit the bill.

Example:

Let’s say you were a lawyer…

Just filter for threads containing the word “attorney” that also rank in the top 5:

Filtering SEMrush keyword reports

This will result in a TON of threads that rank well for industry related terms:

It’s then a case of plucking out the ones most related to your business, signing up for a Quora account, and answering the questions:

Do this right and it can drive A LOT of targeted traffic back to your website!

Now:

In industries dominated by aggregator sites, my advice is to leverage them, not fight them. They have already done all the hard work to rank for you:

Avvo rankings

You just need to “attach” yourself to the appropriate category of the site, and optimize your profile for high placement.

If you can get your profile ranking in the aggregators, you can quickly build visibility for a lot of your “money” keywords.

For example:

Here are the listings on Avvo for “personal injury attorney” in Boise:

This keyword is an ultra-competitive in both local and organic search. Plus, you could be paying up to $100 per click in AdWords.

Take a close look at how businesses in ultra-competitive markets are optimizing their profiles to rank. It might even make sense to pay for top placement in some of the niche directories.

Here is a helpful checklist from Phil Rozek to follow when deciding if barnacle SEO is a good strategy for your business:

Barnacle SEO sheet

The most critical things to consider are:

  • Does the site rank top of page one for the target search term?

  • Does the site allow visitors to leave reviews?

  • Does the site allow you to link to your page?

  • Are your competitors already present on the site?

  • Can visitors contact you directly from the site?

  • Can you pay to elevate your listing on the site?

#16. Use “Parasite SEO” to Rank for Super-Competitive Search Terms

Ranking for BIG “money” keywords isn’t always possible with your own website.

That’s because the BIG keywords are often super-competitive and ONLY super-authoritative brands stand a chance at ranking for them.

Example:

Take a keyword like “SEO tips”

According to Ahrefs, it has a KD score of 60:

Ahrefs keyword competitiveness score

And unsurprisingly, the SERPs are dominated by big brands:

Bottom line: you probably ain’t going to stand a chance at ranking for this keyword with a DA30 website….no matter how great your content is!

So, what’s the solution?

Parasite (or Tenant) SEO.

In simple terms, parasite SEO is where you piggyback on the authority of other websites to rank for super-competitive, “money” terms.

But wait, how is this different from Barnacle SEO?

With Barnacle SEO you are basically adding profiles or comments to top ranking aggregators, directories and forums in your industry/market.

With Parasite SEO, you’re publishing new content (i.e. blog posts NOT profiles) on high ranking sites and publications.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Identify key industry publications that accept guest posts (with CRAZY authority!)
  2. Pitch an article targeting a money keyword

Example:

Let’s go back to the “SEO tips” keyword I mentioned earlier…

You might remember that one of the pages ranking in the top 3 was this post on the Ahrefs blog.

Here’s the interesting thing about this post…

It’s actually a guest post!

Ahrefs guest post example

Yes, guest posting means you’re effectively ranking for the keyword on their website (rather than your own), but it’s still a GREAT tactic for the following reasons:

  1. It’ll send a TON of referral traffic your way
  2. It’ll generate leads/sales
  3. It’ll help you build a name for yourself (i.e. authority by association)

Want proof?

Ryan Stewart wrote this post (which now ranks #1 for the value search term “SEO services”) a couple of years back and it still generates leads for his business:

Ryan Stewart tweet

​Here is another example:

Steve Webb wrote this SEO audit article on Moz to rank for the highly competitive search term “SEO audit”.

This article has been ranking #1 for over 4 years!

Matt Barby used parasite SEO to rank his client for the keyphrase “app makers” (22,000 monthly searches).

The Business News Daily article generated 74,783 referral visits and almost 4,300 user registrations:

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Find a list of websites in your niche accepting guest posts
  2. Pitch them posts relating to competitive keywords you want to rank for

Note: Obviously, you’ll need a list of competitive keywords you want to rank for in order to do this. If you don’t have that already, check out my post listing a TON of ways to find keywords with SEMrush.

Or, watch the video below:

OK, first things first…you need to find websites accepting guest posts.

This is easily done—just enter the follow search operators into Google:

KEYWORD intitle:”write for us”
KEYWORD inurl:”write-for-us”

Scrape the results with this Chrome extension and you’ll have a huge list of industry websites that accept guest posts:

Scraping URLs from the SERPs

It’s then just a case of pitching them your topics.

IMPORTANT: Make sure the website you’re pitching is actually authoritative enough to rank for the keyword you’re targeting. The quickest way to do this is to check the KD score in Ahrefs, then check to see if the website is already ranking in the top 5 for other keywords with a similar KD score. If it is, you’re good to go!

Example:

Let’s say we wanted to publish a guest post that ranked for the keyword “long tail keywords”.

According to Ahrefs, this has a KD score of 52:

KD score in Ahrefs

So, we need to publish our post on a website that is capable of ranking for keywords with a KD score of 52 (or higher).

We can do this with Ahrefs Site Explorer.

Just enter the domain of the website you want to publish the guest post on (e.g. AgencyAnalytics.com), go to the “Organic Keywords” report, then filter by keywords ranking in positions 1-5.

If you spot the website ranking for keywords with a KD score of 52 or higher (or whatever number you’re looking for), you’re good to go:

In this example, we can see that they’re ranking in the top 5 for a KD 72 keyword.

Perfect!

Here’s another alternative method:

Get DR for target site (using Ahrefs Site Explorer):

…then compare it to the average DR of the top 5 ranking sites in the SERPs for the target keyword. This can be done with the SERPs report in Ahrefs Keywords Explorer:

Checking competing domain ratings

If the average is similar to the DR of the target guest post website, go for it!

#17: Propel Organic Growth with Ongoing Backlink Acquisition (+ 3 Simple Tactics)

As mentioned earlier in the post, links are MEGA important when it comes to ranking.

(Google actually confirmed this a few months back!)

And both domain-level and page-level backlink factors consistently top the ranks in Moz’s search engine ranking factors survey:

Ranking factors

BUT…

You aren’t going to rank by acquiring a few backlinks and leaving it at that…

You NEED to be acquiring backlinks on an ongoing basis!

Unfortunately, this is the exact opposite of what most people do!

Most people focus all their time and effort into content creation and ZERO effort into link building.

It looks something like this:

Graph showing importance of link building

No authority is being built to help rank all the content being reduced. #facepalm

So, what should you be doing?

Simple. You need to put most of your resources into acquiring links in the early stages of a website.

Why? Because without building some authority, you aren’t going to rank for anything (not even low competition keywords!).

Here’s a great illustration by Matthew Barby showing how every SEO campaign should begin:

(Source)

The initial focus is seeding site authority in parallel with content creation efforts.

Here are 3 “quick win” link building strategies to get you started:

  1. Steal your competitor’s links
  2. Keep a database of people likely to link to you (with custom search engines)
  3. Perform outreach

These three tactics have propelled the growth of my link profile over the last 6 months:

Link growth

OK, let’s start with the first link building tactic…

1. Steal Your Competitor’s Backlinks

There are TONS of ways to steal links from competitors (I even wrote a full post about it here) but here’s a quick and dirty tactic to get you started:

Go to Ahrefs Link Intersect tool and set it up like this:

Ahrefs link intersect tool

The first three domains should be domains of your competitors, and the “But doesn’t link to” field should be your own website.

Hit “Show link opportunities”.

Ahrefs will now show you who’s linking to any of your competitors, but not your own website.

Reach out to these people, build a relationship, and see if you can get them to link to your website, too!

2. Keep a database of people likely to link to you (with CSEs)

People who have linked to you before will probably be open to doing so again in future.

So, wouldn’t it make sense to keep a database of these people, then reach out to them whenever you publish something that may be of interest to them?

(YES. Yes it would!)

Here’s how:

Go to Ahrefs Site Explorer, enter your own domain, then go to the Referring Domains report:

This will show you EVERY domain currently linking to your website.

Export the results to .csv:

Export backlinks in Ahrefs

Next, import all the domains into a Google Custom Search Engine (CSE).

Note: You can find instructions, along with a bunch of templates for automating this process in this post.

Once you’ve done this, you will have a custom search engine that searches ONLY the websites that have linked to you in the past.

So, whenever you publish a new blog post, you can simply go to your CSE and search for a keyword related to the post (e.g. if I published a SEMrush review, I would type “SEMrush” into the search engine):

You can then reach out to these people, tell them about your post, and ask if they’d be happy to link to you!

Here’s a video with a more in-depth demonstration:

3. Perform large scale competitor link outreach

​This strategy is designed to scale the traditional approach of analyzing competitors to find quality backlink opportunity.

Specifically, it piggybacks off the concept of Brian Dean’s popular Skyscraper technique.

Here are the basic steps:

  1. Find a piece of content with a TON of links
  2. Make something even better
  3. Reach out to websites linking to the old piece of content, tell them about your new improved piece, and ask them to change the link

Simple, right!?

Doesn’t sound too different from normal competitor link analysis.

But, here’s the kicker:

Instead of trying to steal links from just one piece of content, you instead steal links from many pieces of competing content. And, this is how we scale the competitor link building process.

Here’s a screenshot from one of the link tracking templates we used for a client in the customer support industry:

Competitor link doc

We managed to build over 60 quality links to the client’s website within a 60 day period.

Pretty cool, right?

Let’s go through a quick working example…

I recently published this in-depth SEMRush tutorial/review.

But, a quick search in Google shows TONs of other (much less comprehensive) SEMrush reviews:

And according to Ahrefs, a LOT of these pages have a good number of backlinks:

BUT:

I believe my review is more comprehensive than ALL of these other review.

So, I can use this outreach approach to steal links from ALL of these pages.

I’ve been using this tactic to build links to several of my articles over the last few months:

I’m seeing about a 3-4% conversion rate.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Export the backlinks for ALL the pages your improved content is better than (using Ahrefs)
  2. Find the contact details for each of the websites
  3. Reach out to them and ask them to replace the old link with a link to your new and improved content.

Ready to Get More Organic Traffic?

There you have it – 17 actionable strategies to get more short and long term organic traffic growth.

Always start with the quick win opportunities – content audits, removal of keyword cannibalization, link reclamation and quick keyword wins. Then, build on the moment to scale up for long term organic traffic increases.

Also, make sure you leverage the bonus templates and videos to get a quick start on things.

This article was originally published by our friend Robbie Richards.

 

About the author

Steve Hutt

I'm obsessed with entrepreneurship, commerce, and Shopify. If you have the desire to implement what's working today for direct-to-consumer brands on Shopify, I'm excited you're here! Get the Shopify help you need. This industry blog and podcast is my digital brain where my guests and I share cutting-edge marketing strategy, must-have Shopify apps, and marketing platforms that will help you build and scale lifetime customer loyalty. To do this, I'm part of the Merchant Success Team at Shopify Plus and host of the eCommerce Fastlane Podcast.