You’ve likely seen these kinds of “traffic growth” articles before. However, this one’s going to be different. Here’s why:

  • It’s about real growth, not “a 400% growth without any mention of the initial traffic numbers” (growing 400% from 100 website visitors to 500 visitors is no big deal. Growing from 1.6k to 30k+ is a real deal).
  • All the tactics mentioned here really work. They’ve been tried and tested, not copied from other blogs.
  • It’s also an honest account of what didn’t work. It’s not just shiny victories that paved our way to 30k+ monthly blog visits.

 

In September 2015, our startup’s blog had the total of 1,615 organic visits from Google. By March 2017, this number had grown to 31,375 visits.

A quick calculation shows that in the past 12 months, our organic blog traffic increased by 1,843%. This has also translated into a significant growth in the number of leads and sales.

blog organic traffic growth

Our blog’s 20-month growth curve

However, the fastest growth has happened in the past 11 months while we grew our traffic from 6k/month to 31k/month.

organic traffic growth chart

A chart from Moz’s organic traffic report

To be honest, this good-looking growth curve did not always result from a solid SEO strategy. Rather, it was a series of a-ha moments and sudden revelations that guided the process.

We got an abrupt idea, applied it to our website, and kept our fingers crossed to see whether our (often crazy) ideas work. Sometimes, they did.

And that’s how we grew from 1,6k organic blog visits to 30k+ visits.

You know how some people say there are no golden nuggets and it’s only the long-term strategy that leads to goals… That’s not entirely true – the best results appear when a strong long-term plan gets mixed with bold ideas.

This article’s about the hacks and growth tactics we used to build our website traffic. The best part is that they can be easily applied to your marketing strategy as well.

IMPORTANT NOTE: I’d also like to give credit to our brilliant colleague Merily who’s been rocking our SEO, content, and CRO.

How we got started:

When I joined Scoro, I was eager to get started with content marketing right away.

Up to this point, the SaaS startup had been buying generic 800-word articles from an agency. Nobody wanted to read them, and it showed in the blog’s readership numbers.

Key takeaway #1: Don’t outsource your content marketing to an agency as they can’t see your SEO results nor do they plan for your long-term growth. (At least the agencies I’ve seen in action)

What you should do instead, is to establish a solid content strategy and a growth plan with two main goals:

  • Building brand awareness and acquiring fans
  • Publishing content that will bring you traffic in the long run

Rather than publishing three short articles per week, we aimed to publish one really good article once a week. This tactic’s also been explained by Rand Fishkin in his Whiteboard Friday episode on 10x content.

Key takeaway #2: Don’t publish for the sake of publishing – focus on quality, not quantity. (I bet you’re tired of hearing this, but it’s 100% true)

Our initial content marketing strategy was simple. It included a topic, headline, keywords, and a publishing date. We’re using a similar approach to this day.

Building a growth-focused content marketing strategy

At the beginning, our content marketing strategy was like a vacant parking lot – there were so many potential keywords and opportunities waiting to be employed.

Not to waste a single opportunity, every article we published had to show a huge organic traffic potential.

According to research by Ahrefs, the average Top10 ranking page is 2+ years old. It takes nearly three years to land the #1 spot.

It takes 900 days to rank on #1 place – Image source

The fact that it may take 2+ years to have your blog articles rank on Google means that you need to focus on the long-term strategy and build “content bundles” with articles complementing each other.

#Key takeaway 3: Plan and create content with long-term gains in mind. It may take up to two years for an article to start ranking in the TOP10 on SERPs.

Actually, I can assure you that some articles only take a month or two to start ranking high on SERPs. But it doesn’t change the fact that the focus should be placed on the long-term growth.

Instead of brainstorming fun headlines, we defined the five main topics to center our content around. I like to call those overarching topics the “content bundles”.

Creating content bundles as an SEO strategy

When analyzing our past three months’ website traffic, we noticed that 75% of the organic traffic resulted from two types of articles – software lists and KPI-related content.

I’ve never been a big believer in the 80/20 rule, but it sure seems to apply to our blog strategy. Most of our organic traffic comes from two content bundles that we’ve been expanding since 2015.

Just to be clear, here’s how I like to define content bundles:

  • A series of articles around one key topic
  • Each article focuses on a different (yet related) keyword

By interlinking the articles inside a content bundle, you’re able to create a keyword bubble. And for what I’ve seen, Google loves these kinds of bubbles around a specific topic. After some time, Google will begin to perceive your blog as an expert resource in the given field, assigning your articles a higher rank in SERPs.

Key takeaway #4: Create content bundles – a series of articles centered around one key topic.

For example, we’ve been working on the content bundle focusing on the keyword “KPI dashboard” for over 15 months. It’s a sweet keyword – the exact match has over 1k monthly searches in the US alone.

moz keyword rankings

We use Moz for SEO tracking

The other pages ranking for this keyword have a considerably higher domain authority. However, we’re now ranking as the #4 result in SERPs in the US.

kpi dashboard in serps

Ranking as the TOP4 result

Slowly but surely developing the content bundles has certainly been one of our highest-ROI tactics. The best part is that it’s easily applicable even to sites with a low domain authority – to blogs just starting out.

https://www.mindtitan.com/?utm_source=aggregate&utm_medium=paid-ads

ai agency

This is a sponsored post from a brand I believe in.

The secret SEO tactics that bring skyrocketing results

Alright, it’s time for the best part of the article – the no-BS tactics that helped to grow our organic blog traffic at a fast pace.

As you might have guessed, it all starts with keyword research and identifying the best opportunities.

you win gif

Here’s how it all ends – Image source

 

💥SEO hack 1: Learn to do SEO research the right way

Instead of simply checking the Google Keyword Tool to see the monthly search volume of specific keywords, you can take your research to a higher level. I’ve also written about this method in-depth here.

Step 1: Google your keywords

After you’ve discovered some keywords with a great monthly search volume, head to Google and, well, google. (You can use a tool like ISearchFrom to see the results in specific countries)

Let’s say you want to create a list of Top SEO Blogs.

A quick Google search will reveal a list of results:

Google your keywords

Always google your keywords

While it’s a good general overview of your competition, there’s a simple way to learn a lot more.

Key takeaway #5: Don’t limit your SEO research to the Google Keyword Tool. Dig deeper.

My personal favourite tool for competitive SEO research in the Moz SEO Toolbar.

Step 2: Use the Moz SEO Toolbar for advanced research

Use the Moz SEO Toolbar to get more insight about the articles in search results. Most of the features are free, simply add the extension to your web browser.

The SEO Toolbar will show you the Domain Authority and Page Authority of each website on the search engine results page.

moz toolbar results

Moz toolbar, you’re a blessing

What you want to do is to look for pages with a low domain authority that have managed to get listed among the high-DA pages. This means they’ve published such good content that Google thinks it’s necessary to refer to their site.

For example, an article from a site with the DA of 29 could appear between other pages with a DA of 80+.

low page authority pages

Compare the DA metrics

The guys over at the low-DA site must have done something right. Analyze what differentiates their content from all other results.

Often, you’ll find that those low-DA pages have 10x more comprehensive content or have an exact keyword match. That’s what you’ll want to copy when creating content to rank for the same keyword.

Key takeaway #6: Find content marketing and SEO opportunities by discovering low domain authority sites that rank among pages with a high domain authority.

Once you’ve discovered that another low-DA site is able to rank in the TOP10 SERP results for a particular keyword, so can you.

💥SEO hack 2: Spend more time interlinking

Remember when we talked about the content bundles in the first half of this article?

Adding links in between your blog articles helps to strengthen your keyword bubbles and make them visible to Google (and get your new articles ranking more quickly).

While most websites make an effort to add links to older articles inside the newer content, we took it one step further. After we had published a new article on a given topic, we went and edited older articles around the same subject, and added links to the new article.

For example, when we published this article on KPI Reporting in February 2017…

kpi article

This article’s part of our KPI content bundle

We went ahead and linked to it in a KPI-related article published one year before.

interlinking seo hack

We either use in-text anchors or add a suggestion

As a result, the new article picked up more quickly and appeared in the TOP20 SERPs two weeks after publishing.

Key takeaway #7: Interlink all the articles around a related topic to create keyword bubbles and improve your search rankings.

By interlinking our blog articles, we steadily built a network of links, supporting each individual keyword and helping our articles rank higher on Google SERPs.

https://www.mindtitan.com/?utm_source=aggregate&utm_medium=paid-ads

ai agency

This is a sponsored post from a brand I believe in.

💥SEO hack 3: A/B test new headlines and meta descriptions

The two SEO tactics mentioned previously helped us to grow our blog’s organic traffic by over 1,500%.

However, it’s this third trick that gets credit for the latest improvements in our SERP rankings. It’s about rewriting and A/B testing your article’s headlines and meta descriptions.

Hearing about this SEO hack was definitely one of the few a-ha moments on our journey to 30k+ monthly organic (blog) traffic.

Key takeaway #8: Rewrite and A/B test your article’s headlines and meta descriptions.

Here’s how it works…

Step 1

Select an article that’s ranking in the TOP20 search results and is optimized for a high search volume keyword.

I like to use Moz’s keyword ranking reports for that.

moz rankings report

Sry, can’t show you all our superstar keywords

The keyword “What is a kpi” has a considerable search volume, and the current ranking #15 shows that it has a potential to move up the ranks.

Step 2

Google the keyword to see what other articles rank next to yours.

In this phase, you’re going to sherlock on your competition, looking for their article’s headlines and meta descriptions.

We like to approach this stage by asking: What would make our article differentiate from the crowd and make people click?

google SEO research

How could we make our headline shine out?

In this case, all the headlines seem pretty generic and boring. What if we could rewrite the headline to make it more noteworthy (and clickable)?

Key takeaway #9: Rewrite your headlines to increase the CTR on search result pages, and thereby raise your SERP rankings.

We usually rewrite both the primary and SEO headline – if we come up with a better solution, we also want to have it in our blog.

The key tactics we use to write powerful headlines:

  • Create a curiosity gap so that people will click on the headline.
  • Include your main keyword in the headline to be highlighted in search results.
  • Create comprehensive lists with odd numbers.
  • Make your headlines actionable by using action verbs such as “Learn”, “Get”, etc.

Google evaluates search results based on their click-through rates. It makes a lot of sense to put effort into increasing your top article’s CTRs.

Higher SERP click-through rates = higher rankings

Step 3

Use the Google Search Console to A/B test and measure results

A marketing tactic is useless without proper measurement.

What if you rewrite your blog headlines, but instead of increasing, your CTR actually drops?

We’ve seen both success and failure with this SEO hack. It’s a good thing we measured the results and were able to restore some changed headlines and meta descriptions to their original state.

By using the Google Search Console, you can easily track your keywords’ and article’s click-through rates on Google.

To get a report that looks like this…

serp ctrs in google search console

You can compare SERP CTRs from multiple periods

Follow these steps:

  1. Log in to Google Search Console
  2. Select “Search Traffic”, the “Search Analytics”
  3. Tick the box in front of CTR
  4. Change the columns from Queries to Pages
  5. Select the dates you’d like to compare
google search console results

Change the chart’s settings accordingly

Using these reports has been of tremendous help in optimizing and A/B testing our article’s meta descriptions and headlines.

Key takeaway #10: Measure your marketing experiments’ results to see what actually works.

And now, it’s time for the sweetest part of the article – the fuckups.

You can’t always win – our biggest failures

I promised to also share our failures. While some of them being embarrassing to think of, we can at least say: We tried.

In retrospect, many of these failures make us feel like this…

funny gif

That’s us at a marketing meeting – Image source

But there are also the mistakes that make us feel more like…

 

How could I be that stupid? – Image source

It’s up to you to guess which failures make us feel in certain ways. (I’ve boldened my favourite ones)

  • We tried Outbrain for content promotion, but it never delivered the anticipated results.
  • We forgot to add UTM codes and REF codes behind our paid promotions’ links.
  • We sometimes created content that stole our landing pages’ place on SERPs. We fixed this by adding CTAs inside blog articles.
  • We created a Christmas infographic on productivity that we published 20 days too late.
  • We tried some crazy headline and meta description changes that significantly decreased the CTRs to our articles. Luckily, the rankings recovered in a few weeks.
  • Once, I mistakenly thought Outbrain’s budget signifies the total campaign budget. It was the daily budget. You might have guessed why I don’t like Outbrain…
  • We waited for too long to update our blog layout and redesign the article page.
  • We didn’t do enough outreach and collaborate with other industry blogs.
  • For the first 8 months, we focused on vanity metrics such as social shares, instead of website traffic and lead conversions.
  • We spent 30+ hours on an eBook campaign that returned only 4 leads.

For us, guest blogging didn’t work. At all.

While everyone’s praising guest blogging as a brilliant SEO tactic, I’m going to play the devil’s advocate here.

We did lots of guest posting on other sites, like here, here, and here. However, considering the time and resources spent, this is not a high-ROI way to grow your blog traffic.

I would recommend that you do PR, but forget about guest posting – focus on publishing excellent content in your own blog instead.

Over to you

As you can see, nothing too serious went wrong. We were able to happily test away all our new ideas.

If you intend to grow your organic blog traffic, know that there is no instant way to win (Ahrefs’ case study perfectly illustrates it). Use what you’ve learned in this article to accelerate your journey to tens of thousands monthly blog visitors.

I hope this helps and would love to hear the hacks that have helps you to grow your website traffic. Let’s have a discussion in the comments.  🤜💥🤛

  • This is a fabulous post. Much needed, since our website needs to grow its traffic too. Badly.

    Could you shed some more light on how-to’s for content and keyword bubbles?

    • I’ll also copy my answer on Inbound.org here for future readers:

      The first step when creating content bubbles is defining the keyword opportunities.

      1. Think about which keywords would bring high-quality organic traffic to your website
      2. Check the keywords’ monthly search volume to ensure they’re worth working on
      3. See what your competition’s up to and evaluate whether you can reach the TOP10 SERP results, considering your Domain Authority

      Next, think about the topics that would match with your chosen keywords, and look for more related keyword opportunities .

      🙌

  • Katie Moss

    Typo above. ‘Advenced’ instead of ‘Advanced’ in one of the sub-headings. 🙂

  • Totally awesome post

  • Love this piece! Congrats on the quick success.

    I’ve been recently playing around with Taboola and Outbrain for content promotion, similar to you, results have been meh. I stumbled upon another site a few weeks back that is focused solely around business content (I forget it at this moment) but I think that’s what plays a huge role in these two sites not working that well. In a world where the articles being promoted next to marketing pieces are: “You won’t believe what Mary Kate & Ashley Olsen Look Like Now” — It results in people putting up their blinders. I think there’s an opportunity for these content distribution networks – I’ve just yet to crack it…

    Thanks for sharing this – Really enjoyed the analytical approach.

    • Hey Ross!

      I agree that there’s probably a way to hack the content promotion platforms – maybe it’s writing even more clickbait emails or maybe it’s increasing the budgets.

      But IMO, the ROI of Outbrain’s paid promotion still seems too little compared to other content promotion opportunities (e.g. Facebook promoted posts) to spend time and resources on the platform.

      Thanks for sharing your insights. 🏆🙏

  • Sherman Smith

    Hey Karola,

    Sounds like the journey I’m on. I have figured a few things out as far as generating more targeted traffic, but still it’s not enough. I need to go back to do more interlinking and also I haven’t been using the search console, just google analytics which at the time was enough, but I’m going to side with my greed to get better results 😉

    Thanks for sharing! Have a great weekend!

    • Thank you Sherman! 😌

      Have you been testing the SEO research method described in this article (With the Moz SEO Toolbar)?

      Hearing about this tactic was a real eye-opener to us.

  • hi
    thank you for this great post really awesome info helped me a lot

  • Finally! An original article on increasing blog traffic! 🙂
    But I have a doubt. Guest Blogging gives you backlinks right? Even though the direct traffic can be stupendous, Google will give value to those juicy backlinks, won’t they?

    • Hi Arvind! Glad you enjoyed the article! 🤜💥🤛

      That’s what everyone advocating for guest posting says – you’ll get great backlinks. But think about it – you’ll spend around 10 hours writing a stellar guest posts. In that time, you could publish another 10x article in your own blog and get both the immediate traffic and later, the organic visitors.

      You should rather focus on acquiring your own fans than helping other businesses get theirs. Some guest posting’s great for personal branding. However, I would not recommend it as an SEO tactic.

      • Kunal Sampat

        I keep hearing from Neil Patel and Brian Dean that backlinks are super-important. One way to get backlinks is through guest blogging. When you wrote the guest blogs, did the linked keyword on the guest blog post match the “focus” keyword for the page you were trying to rank for? What I’ve heard is that random links to your website homepage don’t matter for SEO – which is where you are absolutely right.

        • Hey Kunal,

          We never did guest posting to get a single backlink to an article. Think about it… You spend hours of time producing quality content for another blog. If instead, you could spend 10 hours creating a 10x post on the topic on your own blog.

          I know everyone’s suggesting to write guest posts. I’m not saying it won’t help you rank. However, we never used this tactic and focused our resources elsewhere. It worked out just swell.

  • Caio Amaral

    F****cking good!! The best SEO article with applicable tips I’ve ever read!

  • It’s a really actionable article, Karola. Keep up the good work. Cheers!:)

  • Angelos Perlegkas

    Thank you for the great article. Is content bundles the same concept like yoast seo’s “cornerstone conten” ? Thank you!

    • Thx Angelos! 😌

      As I’m not familiar with the “cornerstone content” concept, I can’t tell for sure. Could you explain what that concept means?

      • Angelos Perlegkas

        Hey thank you for the reply. Yoast describes it here: https://yoast.com/what-is-cornerstone-content/
        I am not affiliated with yoast in any way, I am just curious to learn more about the general concept.

        • Checked the article and yes, I think the two concepts are pretty similar.

          • Angelos Perlegkas

            Thank you for the clarification. In any case, the article is a really nice piece of content in today’s noisy web. Keep up the good work.

  • Great article with some sensible ideas. You’ve focused on your organic traffic in this article. I’m interested to learn more about how you converted this traffic into leads and also into repeat visits. Did you collect email addresses? Did they click on your emails and come back to your site and read articles? Do you have a social media presence? Did you find that traffic from other sources increased as time went on?

    • Hey Allan,

      GREAT questions.

      We also focus on turning as many website visitors into leads as possible. To do that, we started adding in-article CTAs that lead people to our landing pages selling our product. It has increased the number of new leads significantly.

      We also use pop-ups and optin forms to collect email addresses and nurture those leads with newsletters.

      Traffic from other sources has also increased over time, both from AdWords and social media as our brand name has become more widely known by our target audiences.

      Did this answer your question?

  • Gustavo

    Hi Karola! Nice post!
    I’m just getting started in the SEO world, so I struggle a bit to get a few things:
    – How your A/B test works? You just change the headlines and measure the CTR in each period? Depending on the result you restore the previous?

    • Well thank you Gustavo! 🌵

      We do A/B testing by replacing the headlines and/or meta descriptions and then checking after 30 days how it has affected our SERP CTRs. We also measure the average SERP rank at the beginning and the end of the test – so that we’ll see whether it has increased + we can evaluate the effect of a higher SERP ranking to the CTR.

      Hope this made sense. Feel free to ask more specific questions 😉

  • Haven’t enjoyed a post this much in a long time. You just acquired a new fan!

  • I would mirror all the other comments above – great practical insight @Karolakarlson:disqus.

    I have a similar question to a couple other people. If you were not happy with the Outbrain or Guest Posting results, what other methods did you use to gain quality backlinks? ( I see you did FB promoted posts, but that does not provide backlinks)

    Thanks!

    • Actually, we did not focus on getting any quality backlinks just for the sake of getting backlinks.

      Our strongest backlinks to date are the ones I added into my personal contributions to marketing blogs, mentioning Scoro as an example 😉

      However, if you’d ask me what’s the best way to get quality backlinks, it’s not guest posting. It’s publishing original research that’s “so good it can’t be ignored” and will be referenced in many other blogs in the future.

  • Kristian Jønsson

    Hi Karola,

    Thanks for a great article!

    Regarding tip 8 – How long time do you wait from you publish the article, to you decide if you should change the headline? For how long time should the test be?

    • Hi Kristian,

      Thank you for your kind words! 😊

      We usually change the headlines after 2 or 3 months of the initial publishing date. We want to get the article ranking in the TOP50 of SERPs and then use the headline hack to boost the rankings and move up on the SERPs.
      We usually run the test until the article has 10k SERP impressions (you can check it in Google Search Console) or if we don’t have the time to track the exact number of impressions, we usually let the tests run for 30 days.

      Hope that’s helpful!

  • Tony Faccenda

    Hey Karola, great article! I’m curious as to why the guest posting strategy didn’t work, especially as you featured on such influential sites. Do you think it was because the audience was too general, or was the CTA/link to your own blog not strong enough?

    • Thank you Tony! 😌

      It depends on what you define as a “working guest posting strategy”. If the goal is getting backlinks, it does not work. I truly recommend and article by Time Soulo of Ahrefs where he analyzed the ROI of 273 guest posts and found that if you want to increase sales, guest posting is kind of useless. http://bloggerjet.com/guest-post/

  • Working on email subscriber is the key instead of guest posting.

    • Hey Jigar,

      Actually, I do not agree with you 100%. Building an email list for the sake of building an email list and sending people weekly newsletters is not a high-ROI marketing activity. How will you turn those email subscribers into sales?