How to Grow Traffic When Your Content Resources Are Scarce
Are you struggling to keep the momentum going with your organic traffic while stripped of resources? Budgets cut, content production team reduced to a meager fraction of previous levels?
We’ve seen what happens to websites when they stop publishing content regularly.
It’s not pretty.
Months, sometimes years of steady progress, can unwind quickly.
In this article, we’ll walk you through a strategy that will help you keep that precious organic traffic trend up and to the right.
We have a 3-part solution that is perfectly achievable, even with reduced resources. Here’s what’s in store for you:
- How to get more eyeballs on your existing content with minimal effort.
- How to boost organic rankings and help crawlers understand your topical authority faster.
- How to get fresh content up at no additional cost, using the content you already have.
But first, let’s get something out of the way.
Content Marketing Is a Never-Ending Process
When it comes to the content you are producing for SEO and marketing purposes, this is a long game that simply never ends.
To keep attracting new customers, you need to keep engaging them with fresh and relevant content. A content strategy isn’t merely something you can develop, implement, and then rest on your laurels. It’s always on. And so are your competitors – constantly breathing down your neck in the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) and snatching the attention of your audience.
So, you need to keep the wheels turning and continue spiraling through the content marketing lifecycle: Plan, produce, promote, analyze, amplify, repurpose, and repeat.
When you stop fueling your content marketing campaigns, this is what we’ve seen:
- You lose organic traffic, visibility, and rankings.
- Your competitors get your share of the SERP.
- Your other marketing channels suffer, including PPC and paid social campaigns.
- You lose conversions and potential customers.
Months, even years of steady progress, can unravel quickly when you take your feet off the gas. So, what can you do when you are short of resources but need to keep doing content marketing?
You turn your attention to the content you already have.
To get more out of your existing content, there are some things you can do with no additional resources that will boost your traffic and keep the momentum going.
Investigate the Search Intent and Align Existing Content With It
Google’s aim is to provide users with the most relevant result for their queries. In fact, Google states that its mission is to “Organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”
What this means for marketers, is that if we want our content to rank, it’s not enough to invest in high-quality copywriting, visuals, and optimize it for search. It has to be relevant to our audiences. In other words, it has to answer their questions and truly satisfy their search intent.
The search intent is the why behind a search query. It’s the reason why the person did this search. Did they want to learn something, are they looking to make a purchase, or are they looking for a particular website?
There are 4 types of search intent:
Searches are simply looking for information online.
Informational intent modifiers (telltale signs the searcher’s intent is purely informational): Why, what, who, how to, list of, guide, tips, example.
2. Commercial investigation
Searchers are trying to compare their options. They’ve narrowed down their focus and are now investigating products, brands, or solutions further to find the best fit.
Commercial investigation intent modifiers: Best, top, compare, reviews, online.
Transactional searchers are looking to make a purchase. Users are no longer researching the product, they are in buying mode and are looking for a place to purchase it.
Transactional intent modifiers: Buy, cheap, price, cost, voucher, brand names, product names.
These searchers are looking to navigate to a specific website or a location.
Navigational intent modifiers: Near me, local, actual places, brand names.
In reality, though, the search intent landscape is much more diverse. When you consider the 1st-page results for any search as Google’s attempt to satisfy the searcher’s intent, you’ll see there are a lot of options to consider.
From knowledge cards and answer boxes to video or visual results, landing pages, head-to-head comparisons, listicles, and editorial articles – all of these content types are Google’s best guess at what the searcher is looking for.
Here is a useful visual from Semrush to help you identify intent using Google Search. Just the fact that some search features appear for your query can imply the searcher’s intent – shopping results instantly show commercial intent, while a local pack implies there is some local intent of the searcher.
How to Optimize Content for Search Intent?
To put this knowledge to work, you need to analyze the specific Search Engine Results Page (SERP) you want your page to rank for. You can do this using tools such as Ahrefs, or simply by typing your query in Google’s search bar.
First, look into content types and formats. Do you have a how-to page when the SERP favors listicles? Or a blog article that should be a landing page? Does video content dominate the first page? Simply changing your content format to match the type of top-performing pages can boost your organic performance immediately.
Next, skim through the top 8 pages in the SERP to get an idea of their length. Perhaps your content is simply too short to rank?
In 2016, Brian Dean researched which factors correlate with first-page search engine rankings. Content length was one of the characteristics examined, and the result was that the average word count of a Google top 10 result is 1,447 words. The study also found that comprehensive content outperforms content that didn’t cover a topic in-depth and that long-form content generates more backlinks than short-form content.
Content length alone is not a ranking factor. It’s quality, though, definitely is. Rather than fixating on the length, make sure you’re covered what’s important to the searcher.
While analyzing the SERP you want to rank for, ask yourself if you have covered the topic thoroughly. Do you need to add a section or more to address all the related questions people might have? A read-through of the 1st-page results will show you the common sub-topics and the unique content angles.
When you research the competitive landscape, pay attention to the ‘People also ask’ and ‘Related searches’ sections. They are a dead giveaway of what people actually want to know on the topic. If you’ve missed any, add them to your content piece. Again, it’s a simple way of satisfying the searcher’s intent.
Optimize Your Content for Voice Search
If your users are interacting with your website mostly on mobile devices, it’s worth optimizing your content for mobile and voice search.
To see what percentage of your users are on mobile, open up the Audience tab in Google Analytics, and select Mobile and Overview. If you decide to invest your time in voice search optimization, here are a few things to keep top of mind.
Voice search queries tend to be longer than average text search queries – 3 to 4 words, compared to 2 words on average on desktop. Not surprisingly, most of them contain question phrases. The top 3 keywords in voice search are ‘how,’ ‘what,’ and ‘best.’
More importantly, voice searches differ in their conversational tone. When users speak out their searches, they tend to use more colloquial phrases. In fact, Google Assistant stated that 70% of the searchers are using natural language.
With their length, question words, and natural language, voice searches give us a much clearer understanding of the searcher’s intent.
To optimize your content for voice search, the lowest hanging fruit is to provide a concise and clear answer. While this is an excellent rule of thumb for any content you create, a study has shown that Google tends to answer voice search queries with short, 29-word results.
Similar to aiming for Google’s Answer box, content structured as questions and answers would perform better for voice searches. Keep it clear, helpful, and to the point. If you haven’t tried it, the Hemingway app is a great tool to clean up your content from unnecessary adverbs and adjectives.
Another easy fix is to match your content tone to the voice search. Simple, easy-to-read content performs better, so keep in mind that the average Google voice search result is written at a 9th-grade level.
Refresh Your Evergreen and Outdated Pages
While you’re at it, take a look at how your existing site content is aging.
All websites have a few pieces of content that keep on giving. They perform even better with time and continuously drive traffic and engagement. You can identify them quickly in your Google Search Console – the evergreen pages have a stable upward chart of impressions and clicks.
To keep them healthy, brush up on their content – check the outbound links, visuals, alt text, titles, and meta descriptions. Make sure other strong pages are linking to them internally. Update any content that may be outdated.
For those other pages that have not aged like fine wine, dive in a little deeper to optimize them for search. Are they aligned with the search intent – it could be a question of format and type. See what queries people use when they discover these pages. Perhaps you need to add more content to address their questions better.
Any page with the year in the title or the meta description, of course, has to be revisited and regularly. Update, refresh, and outreach them again – getting new eyeballs on your content will help it get some traction in the SERP.
If you have duplicate content, by all means, fix it. But also look into cannibalizing pages, ranking for the same queries. Merge them together into one comprehensive page.
Boost Your Content With Smart Internal Links
Another way to re-energize your content at no additional cost is by making the best use of your internal links. Your website’s internal link structure is instrumental in three ways:
- Internal links allow users to navigate the website and discover your pages.
- They help establish the information hierarchy for a given website.
- They spread link equity (ranking power) to the different pages of the website.
Links pass value and authority from one page to another. This value depends on the linking page’s authority, topical relevance, and more. Links that pass equity are one of Google’s major signals to determine a page’s rankings in the SERPs.
While backlinks act as a vote of confidence for your website and are a strong ranking factor, internal links are also a powerful (and underutilized) tool to pass link equity and boost pages.
This is how to make the link architecture work for you.
First, crawl your website to see how links are organized. This is what Hop Online’s site looks like, crawled by Screaming Frog. This visualization does not show you all the internal links to and from pages, yet you can also crawl your most important pages and see the list of internal inbound links.
With the crawl, you want to make sure you don’t have any ‘orphan’ pages with no internal links, so the search engines can easily discover and index all your content.
More importantly, it allows you to audit your internal links to make sure that:
- High-ranking pages are linking to other relevant pages that need a boost.
- Important pages get enough inbound internal links to help them rank.
- Your anchor texts are short, specific, and optimized for the page they’re linking to.
The best way to restructure your internal links is to implement the pillar-cluster model.
Apply the Pillar-Cluster Model for Better Site Structure
HubSpot shared research in May 2017, which showed that search engines favor websites with clear and relevant interlinking around several main topics. They introduced the concept of topic pillar pages that help establish the overarching themes of a website. These pillar pages are surrounded by cluster pages with more detailed information, linking to the pillar and supporting them.
Using the pillar-cluster model gives you 3 main results:
- Help the crawler understand better what the site is about.
- Establish topical authority in a few areas.
- Distribute link juice to important pages in a structured way.
To apply it, you’d need first to identify your website’s broad topic areas and support this with thorough keyword research for each.
Next, review your existing pages and map each of them to one of the topic areas. Analyze the top-performing pages for each topic. Is there a page that can serve as an umbrella for the related cluster pages? If so, this is your pillar page. If not, you need to create a new page that broadly covers all the relevant points for this topic.
How to Create a Pillar Page
Pillar pages are longer than blog posts but not as in-depth as their supporting cluster pages. The pillar page should answer all questions about the topic, yet leave room for more detail in the cluster.
You’d start with choosing the core topic. It should be broad, but not endless, central to what your website is about, and useful for your persona’s user journey. At this point, you should also decide which product/category pages this pillar will support with internal links.
To build the pillar page, research the topic – search intent, keywords, all relevant sub-topics – and flesh out these findings with content. Once you’ve created or optimized an existing page into a pillar, map out the individual cluster pages that link to and from the pillar page.
Each pillar page should link out to all the cluster pages, and they should also link back to the pillar. Avoid linking across different pillars – this would defeat the purpose of the model.
A useful interlinking tool we use to scale this process is LinkWhisper.
Applying the pillar-cluster model is an effective way of making the most of your internal link assets, claim authority on certain topics, and help individual pages rank better. But there is something else you can easily do with your website content to get more for less.
Repurpose, Reuse, Recycle Your Content
Yet another simple way to make use of your existing content is to recycle it into new formats. Plus, this is much easier to scale.
When you use old content to drive new traffic, the opportunities are endless. This article, for example, is repurposing a webinar we hosted on the same topic. If you’re interested, here it is, on-demand.
While most of the content repurposing has to do with either written to video content and long-form to short-form, this still gives you a multitude of options. You can recycle:
- Presentations and webinars into blog articles, whitepapers, e-books
- Articles into videos or social media posts
- Video content into blog posts, gifs, social media posts
- Explainer posts into infographics
- Custom templates, proprietary data, and research into lead magnets and whitepapers
- Client feedback into case studies
When you repurpose content, you need to match the right content format. A YouTube video could work for a blog article, but not on Facebook – the channel favors shorter videos, and the specs, such as aspect ratio, are different. You need to cut, edit, and adapt to fit your content in the channel-specific needs.
There are cheap and easy-to-use tools for any content repurposing tasks. Here are just a few we use daily:
- YouTube’s auto-generated transcripts
- Lumen5 video generating tool
- Rev.com transcript tool
- Attract.io for easy lead magnet generation
Another thing you shouldn’t skip when recycling old content in new formats is outreach. Treat your repurposed content as a separate content campaign – share it on your social media to get the word out there.
Repurposing content should be part of your content calendar, in parallel to your new content tasks. Once you make it an integral part of your content strategy, it will be much easier to see each piece of content’s recycling potential even before you’ve produced it.
Here is a sneak peek of what our editorial calendar looks like:
Ready to Create Content for Less?
Ok, this was a bit long. To leave you off with some actionable advice, here is a list of next steps:
- Focus on your most important pages first.
- Check their performance in Google Analytics & Google Search Console.
- Crawl them to see inbound and outbound internal links.
- Check the search intent for the topic to see if they need optimization.
- Decide on their repurposing potential.
- Build an editorial calendar for content optimization, interlinking, and repurposing.
- Stick with it.
Hope this was useful. Next, see how to prepare a clear and useful brief for your content writers.