To help highlight the importance of what I’m about to share, let’s start with a few statistics.
Back in May 2017, the PageCloud Blog was very similar to most blogs on the Web: it had interesting content, but wasn’t really driving any traffic from search.
In this article, I’m going to show you the step-by-step process that we followed to boost our blog performance without relying on a team or budget.
Feel free to use this exact same process to improve your own site or blog’s organic performance.
Let’s get started.
Note: Organic traffic can be considered a vanity metric if your target keywords aren’t related to your business goals, ie: acquiring customers. More on this below.
Perform a proper site audit
The first thing we did was take an honest look at our blog’s content and its performance in search.
Unfortunately, despite two years of active blogging and close to 100 blog posts, basically no one was coming to our blog organically other than people searching for “PageCloud Blog”.
Think of it this way, if Google is constantly showing your page in search for a given query and few people are clicking on it, you might just need to tweak your page title and meta description and to get a ton of additional clicks.
When we found keywords that fit the following criteria, we added them to our sheet:
- Large number of impressions
- Low CTR based on average position
- Relevant to our business
For several pages, there were no keywords added. For others, there were 1-5.
This was an important step as it allowed us to determine what we needed to do next with each blog post.
Next step: we created a color-coordinated dropdown menu with the following labels:
- Delete & redirect
- Change title/meta
- Status Quo
Here’s the criteria we used for each page:
Delete & redirect:
- Doesn’t rank for any relevant keywords. (low volume, no potential).
- The content isn’t used anywhere else or doesn’t drive significant traffic from any other source (email, social media, etc.). We used Google Analytics to determine this.
- The content is of low quality (users don’t get any real value from reading it).
- The page ranks for one or more high volume keywords that are relevant to the post but weren’t included in the page’s meta data.
- The content on the page is relevant and of high quality – doesn’t require modification.
- The page ranks for one or more high volume keywords that are relevant to the business. However, the article does not do a good job of satisfying the user query compared to top ranking pages.
- Two or more posts are competing for similar or identical keywords. Individually the posts are not ranking, but combining them would make for a much better article.
*This is where the “Notes” column came in handy. We used the “find” (CMD or CTRL + F) feature in Sheets to find similar keyword opportunities and note the articles that competed for the same keywords.
- Page has high rankings for multiple keywords that are relevant to the article and the business.
- The content is of high quality and there is no apparent way to immediately improve it.
We worked on writing very compelling page titles and meta descriptions that aligned with the keywords that Google was already ranking us for. For inspiration, we typed in the keywords and looked at what other top ranking pages and ads were using for copy. This quick change had a huge impact on our blog’s performance.
Rewrite & Merge
Although rewriting and merging blog posts together took a fair amount of time, it was definitely worth the effort. This process helped us increase the quality, length, freshness, and relevance of our articles – all important elements that Google looks at when ranking content.
General site health
Another thing that we started taking more time to consider was our overall blog’s site health. Things like page speed, broken links, redirecting pages, incomplete metadata, and missing heading tags were not going to be tolerated moving forward.
We wanted to optimize our pages the best we could so that technical SEO problems would never be an excuse for lack of performance.
There are many free and paid tools you can use to accomplish this type of SEO check. Nowadays, we use Ahrefs Site Audit.
Early results: A couple months later, when we finished the audit and refresh process, we were left with a blog full of high-quality posts that actually lined up with our audience’s search intent. We were now driving thousands of organic visitors per month.
But we weren’t done yet, we still needed to figure out what was wrong with our existing content creation process and come up with a long term plan that worked.
Review the content creation process
Back in 2016 and early 2017, PageCloud’s content creation process was pretty unstructured from an “SEO standpoint”. Like most businesses, the blog was being judged on quantity, not quality.
At the time, we were aiming for 2 new blog post per week.
The articles were typically pretty short (under 1000 words) and covered a wide-range of topics including: a day in the life at PageCloud, employee interviews, customer testimonials, online tips, and coverage.
Content ideas came from everywhere: our writers, management, customers, etc. They were added in a Google Sheet and sorted by gut or by what made sense at the time.
Like mentioned before, they all had one thing in common, they didn’t rank in search.
This had to change.
Develop a long term plan
For our long term plan to be successful, it had to consider the three pillars of modern SEO: keyword research, content creation, and backlink building.
Before adding our target keywords into SEMrush (our SEO tool at the time that we later changed for Ahrefs), we first needed to figure out what keywords to target.
Keyword / Topic
The “parent keyword,” also known as the main keyword the upcoming article would target.
Search Vol (US)
Monthly search volume estimates in the United States for a given keyword. This initial metric gives us a quick overview of whether the keyword or topic is worth pursuing. If there is no volume, there’s no potential for organic traffic.
This is one of the most important columns as it helps determine how closely our business aligns with the potential article we’re going to write. We would ask ourselves: “How important is our product in relation to this article/topic?”