In the deep ocean of SEO data, knowing where to be actionable can feel a little like treading water in a choppy sea.
We set out to determine, quickly, what tried-and-true tactics the best SEOs rely on to increase their site traffic.
What we learned wasn’t necessarily surprising but indicates areas of rising awareness in the industry that all SEOs, regardless of expertise, should consider in their own processes and strategy.
Recommended Reading: SEO Forecasting: How to Identify Your Organic Traffic Potential
The survey originated as a poll on Twitter, where I asked my audience:
What are the top 3 things you do regularly you think most contribute to increasing traffic to your site(s)?”
The survey was also sent out via email to a few seoClarity clients and our blog subscribers and was open for about a month. We received nearly 100 responses and relied on self-identification as a professional SEO.
Compiling the Results
In organizing our qualitative results, we consolidated similar responses. For example, responses such as “Create the best content possible for your main topics,” and “Use long tail/high volume keywords to flesh out content in your main topics“ were all categorized as: “Adding quality content based on data.”
Responses fell under six categories:
- Technical SEO
Overwhelmingly, respondents cited site indexing and crawlability as their top tactic for increasing traffic (21 responses) with regular site audits (4 responses) and log file analysis (1 response) also receiving some support.
The respondents who cited content as a top traffic-driving move had multiple tasks associated with content for SEO, with adding quality content based in data (54) as the leading task, followed by on-page optimizations (titles, metadata, keywords in titles, etc.) (32), and content optimization (improving existing content, gap analysis, topical hubs) (18) as additional content-related traffic-boosting tasks.
When it comes to links, respondents felt that external link tactics (28) took precedence over internal link tactics (19) for improving traffic.
Respondents who cited research as a top tactic noted that keyword research (15) specifically was a driver toward improving traffic, with market research (4), assessing user intent (3), and competitive analysis (3) also receiving several votes.
Promotion & General Marketing
Though lower in responses gathered, some SEOs noted that social media promotion (14) and brand building and awareness (4) are also traffic-driving tactics they frequently employ.
By individual responses, the most frequently named tasks named were:
- Adding quality content (58)
- On-page optimization (32)
- External link building (28)
- Site indexing & crawlability (21)
- Internal links (19)
- Fixing tech issues (19)
- Content optimization (18)
- Keyword research (15)
- Page/site speed optimization (14)
Content Comes First
Content building and optimization was mentioned about twice as much as any other task, both as a category and the individual task, “Adding quality content.”
Building external links remains a high priority, but it takes third-place behind creating quality content and on-page optimization. While link building might have been top priority years ago, it’s no longer the top tactic implemented by SEOs today.
Why? SEOs have bought into Google’s emphasis on high quality, relevant, authoritative content in recent years, and many believe content can now rank without a lot of links Also, link building has become a lot harder.
Recommended Reading: 7-Step Guide to a Complete SEO Content Strategy
When we consider traditional SEO fundamentals, however, four of the top ten tactics reported are in the category of technical SEO, indicating that addressing technical site issues is still very much a part of the work of SEO.
Recommended Reading: The Best SEO Audit Checklist to Boost Search Visibility and Rankings
Links Turn Inward
Lastly, it was interesting to me that internal links are almost as important to these SEOs as external links (backlinks). There seems to be a rising awareness that a well-optimized internal linking strategy can have a significant impact on organic rankings.
Why? Because a good internal linking structure helps search engines better understand the importance of various topics on a site and how thoroughly a site covers them.
Our survey shows that professional SEOs believe they get the most return on achieving their traffic goals by concentrating on three fundamental areas: content, technical issues, and links. Here are our recommendations for each of those:
Content: Professional SEOs place a high value on quality content these days. They take a much more active role in guiding what content is created for a site as well as improving existing content. Topic Explorer and Content Fusion in seoClarity are valuable tools to help SEOs discover what content could bring more organic traffic and what topics they should focus on.
Technical SEO: Maintaining the technical health of a site is still table stakes for SEO. However, SEOs dealing with medium-to-large sites continually battle against Time to Insight, the time it takes before a technical issue is discovered, let alone be dealt with. Clarity Audits opens up more time for execution.
Links: While earning and building backlinks to a site are still valuable, those tasks are harder than ever to do, and therefore more costly. Improving internal link structures can lead to much faster gains. To learn more about internal linking and how seoClarity can help you optimize it, see The Ultimate Cheat Sheet on Internal Link Analysis for SEO.
Be like the pros and spend most of your time on those fundamentals. Not only will they create new traffic gains for you, but paying attention to them regularly creates a flywheel effect that should keep growing the search engine power of your site.