SEO Strategy / Jul 23, 2017 / Zack Reboletti

Fastest SEO Results: 5 Ways to Increase Search Traffic FAST!

You don’t often see the words “fast” and “SEO” in the same sentence, and for good reason; SEO is typically viewed as an investment where your time, money and effort get put towards something that will pay off over the long-term (i.e. months or years vs. days or weeks).

That said, there are some “quick wins” to be had in the SEO game. That is, low resource activities that can produce meaningful and measurable results in a relatively short time-frame.

What follows are five of my favorites… each of which I review and consider for all of my SEO clients. My hope is that at least one of them will be something you haven’t tried before, and can implement quickly for some fast SEO results.

Note: this should go without saying, but each of these tactics is based on above-board, “white-hat” SEO practices that are fully compliant with Google Webmaster Guidelines. They are meant to not only improve your rankings and traffic, but also your website and user-experience. Spammers and other shysters need not read on!

Still with me? Great! Here we go…

1. Optimize title tags

One of the first things I look at when evaluating a client (or potential client) website is their title tag structure.

For the SEO noobies reading, the Title Tag refers to the blue “headline” that gets displayed for your website in search results. It appears between the <title></title> element in the HTML markup of every page on your site, and is one of the most important ranking factors used in search engine algorithms.

Title Tag Example

The reason I mention it in an article about ‘fastest SEO results’ is because very minor tweaks to your title tags can impact your rankings and search traffic within days of implementation.

Beginner

At the most basic level, you want to make sure that all of the important pages on your website have unique and descriptive title tags associated with them. In other words, you don’t want the same title tag repeated across multiple pages of your website – and, you do want them to accurately describe the content of the page.

Most content management systems have a setting where you can set the default title tag structure of your website.

A good starting point is simply:

[Page Heading] | [Business Name]

For example, using this format on my SEO Consulting page my title tag would be:

SEO Consulting | Web Focused

And this blog post would be:

Fastest SEO Results: 5 Ways to Increase Search Traffic FAST | Web Focused

Examples of what you don’t want:

  • The word “HOME” in your homepage title tag
  • Your business name appearing at the beginning of the title tag
  • Your entire homepage title tag being used across other pages of your site
  • Extremely long title tags (ideally all title tags are less than 70 characters)

I regularly come across websites making these mistakes, where simply updating their title tag structure to the default Page Heading | Business Name would make a big difference. If you’re one of them, you have a massive opportunity for improvement!

Intermediate

Once you have a good basic format in place, you can further improve your title tags by:

Using the best keyword(s) for each important site page.

(read: What Makes a Good Keyword)

The long and short of it is this: you want to make sure your keywords 1. Match the intent of the people searching them, 2. Are searched for consistently (i.e. “search volume”), and 3. Are not overly competitive to rank for.

Keyword Criteria: Search Intent, Search Volume, Competition

Adding keywords that are tightly related to the main one.

This might include a variation of your main keyword, a singular or plural version, a synonym, a city or state, or a modifier.

For example, if your “root” keyword was Accounting, your default title tag would be:

Accounting | [Business Name]

That’s better than nothing, and certainly better than something unrelated to the page; however, we can help this page rank for more search terms by adding one or more of the following:

  • Variation: Accountants
  • Singular/Plural: Accountant
  • Synonym: CPA
  • City/State: Chicago, IL
  • Modifiers: Top, Firm

So, a new and improved title tag for this page might be:

Accounting Firm – Top Chicago Accountants | [Business Name]

You don’t want to go over the top with adding keywords in your title tags. Just keep in mind that you want to keep them under 70 characters, and you want people to actually click on them.

Speaking of which…

Optimizing for clicks – a.k.a. optimizing for human beings.

Ranking for your top search terms is great, but only if it actually brings people to your website.

Your Title Tags get used as the “headline” for each page on your site – and those headlines get displayed in search results surrounded by other headlines. In order to make your title tags stand out and get clicked, you want to make them appealing to the people that are searching for your keywords (i.e. your prospective customers).

How do you do that?

Well, including keywords and keeping them to a reasonable length is a great start – but to take things to the next level, try one or more of the following:

  • Make it compelling
    Listing 3 near-identical keywords in a row may help you rank, but it won’t make people click. Write for users, not just search engines!
  • Convey a benefit
    In just a few words, why should someone choose your offer over the competition? Common examples include free shipping, years of experience, and low price points.
  • Add a call-to-action
    This doesn’t just work for pay-per-click advertising. Try adding a CTA such as ‘Shop Now’, ‘Start Today’ or ‘Speak With an Expert’.
  • Use numbers or special characters
    Of course, only if and when it makes sense. Examples include ‘Starting at $299’, ‘As Low As 4.5%’, and ‘Top 10 Rated’.

The goal is to write title tags that include one or more keywords you want to rank for and get people to click your title tag over the ones around it. It can be challenging, but also kind of fun (at least for an SEO nerd, like me 🙂

Advanced

Once you have solid title tags in place and want to take things to the next level, you need to test your title tags similar to how you’d test a pay-per-click campaign. It’s a slower, less efficient process than say, an AdWords campaign, but still something worth going through – especially for particularly competitive keywords and/or important site pages.

There is already a fantastic post on the topic of title tag CTR optimization which I highly recommend reading (I’ve referred back to it multiple times since it was originally published), but here’s a high-level overview of the process:

  • Step 1: Export a list of your top ranking landing pages from Google Search Console (Search Traffic → Search Analytics → Pages).
  • Step 2: Pick a page you’d like to test the title tag for. This should be a page with an Average Position between 1 – 15 or so.
  • Step 3: Update the title tag on that page and wait for it to get updated in search results (or ask Google to recrawl your url for faster re-indexing).
  • Step 4: Give it two weeks to collect data (and ideally 2000+ impressions).
  • Step 5: Record and compare the Clicks, Impressions, CTR, and Position for a comparable date range (i.e. June 1 – 14 vs. July 1 – 14).
  • Step 6: Determine whether your new title tag increased or decreased the CTR (and therefore, traffic) to the page.

Title Tag CTR Test Results

The most straight-forward result would be that your Position stayed roughly the same, but your CTR went either up or down. If the Position changed as well, it will be harder to determine the effectiveness of the test, and further testing might be necessary.

Of course, if both the Position and the CTR went up, it would still make sense to leave the new title tag in place, even though you can’t say for certain that one caused the other.

Positive test results can start sending additional traffic to your site within days (basically, as soon as it gets updated in search results). Pretty cool!

2. Find “almost” ranking terms

The idea here is to identify specific search queries in which you are almost ranking at the top – specifically, terms in which you have a web page ranking between positions 5 – 20 in organic search results (i.e. the middle of page 1 through the bottom of page 2, typically).

Once identified, these terms can often be “pushed” onto page 1 (i.e. results 1 – 10), or moved from the bottom of page 1 to the top with little effort.

Two important (and interesting!) notes:

  1. As you might expect, a very low percentage of users click past the first page of search results. The numbers vary depending on who conducted the study and when, but they all find that somewhere between 80 – 95% of clicks go to the results on page 1.
  2. Once you’re on the first page of results, the percentage of clicks on your web page vs. the others around it increases exponentially with each position you move up. For instance, it is estimated that the first organic search result gets around 30% of the clicks (and I’ve seen this as high as 50%), whereas the second result gets around 15% and the third result gets around 7%.

Takeaway: if you want to increase search traffic FAST, improving an already ranking page by just a spot or two can yield much faster and more significant results than trying to go from page 15 to page 1 – or, creating a brand new page for a term you want to target.

So how do we do this?

First, we need to find high search volume keywords in which we have web pages ranking between positions 5 – 20 in search results. Second, we need to improve the relevance of those web pages for those keywords.

Let’s get started…

Finding Keywords

There are two different tools I use to find almost ranking keywords – one is paid, and one is free. I like to use both as each one will often come up with terms the other one didn’t. That said, even using just one should uncover some great opportunities for our purposes.

SEMrush (Paid):

Login into SEMrush and input your root domain (e.g. YourWebsite.com). This will search for ranking keywords across your entire domain, including sub-domains. Scroll down a little and click the ‘View full report’ button under the ‘Top Organic Keywords’ section.

Top Organic Keywords - View full report

What follows are a list of keywords driving traffic to your website via Google’s top 100 organic search results. By default, it’s sorted by the ‘Traffic %’ column – meaning, keywords driving the most amount of traffic to the least.

Sort by the ‘Position’ column – lowest to highest – and create the following Advanced filters:

  • Include / Pos. / Greater than: 4
  • Include / Pos. / Less than: 21

Pos. Filters in SEMrush

Now you have a list of all traffic-driving keywords in which you have a page ranking between positions 5 – 20!

Before we move on, there are two other Advanced filters you might consider using at this point:

  1. URL: if you want to filter by keywords specific to your blog or other section of your website, set a filter to: Include / URL / Containing: blog. Where the word “blog” would represent whatever word(s) you’re using as the sub-directory or sub-domain for a particular section of your website.
  2. Volume: if you want to filter by keywords with a minimum monthly search volume, set a filter to: Include / Volume / Greater than: XX. Where “XX” would be the minimum number of monthly searches a keyword generates. I usually set this to 99 so I’m only considering keywords with 100+ monthly searchers.

Next, export this list and open up the file. Delete all of the columns except for the few we need, including: Keyword, Position, Search Volume, and Url. I like to do a custom sort by Url so that I can see ranking keywords grouped by page.

Export & Sort Keywords

Finally, review each keyword and highlight the ones that are relevant to your business and the audience you’re trying to reach.

You may find that you rank for a lot of random, odds and ends keywords that aren’t very relevant to what you do – and therefore, will not be terms you want to rank higher for. This is completely normal, especially for larger websites with lots of content.

Google Search Console (Free):

A similar process can be done (for free!) using Google Search Console.

First, make sure your website is set-up in Search Console, including a separate property for each version of your domain (with and without ‘www’ + https, if applicable):

  • http://YourWebsite.com
  • http://www.YourWebsite.com
  • https://YourWebsite.com
  • https://www.YourWebsite.com

Then set the preferred domain to www or non-www.

To see the keywords driving traffic to you site, simply click on your preferred web property, then go to Search Traffic → Search Analytics (or, if you synced your Search Console property with your Google Analytics account, you can access this via Acquisition → Search Console → Queries).

Near the top of the page, check the boxes next to Clicks, Impressions and Position. Then click on Dates and set the range to ‘Last 90 days’ (this is farthest back you can go in Search Console), then click back to Queries.

Search Analytics Queries & Settings

Lastly, scroll to the bottom of the page and click to show as many rows as you can (lower right), then click Download to export this list to a CSV file (lower left).

Search Console doesn’t have a way to filter your keywords by search volume or position, so you’ll have to do that in your CSV file; however, if you use Google Analytics you can apply an advanced filter similar to what we did with SEMrush:

Note: Impressions are similar to search volume; however, an impression is only triggered when your website is displayed in search results. This means that your page 2 (positions 11 – 20) rankings will likely show low impression numbers, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a high search volume keyword. Make sense?

Increasing Relevance

Whether you use SEMrush or Google Search Console, you should now have a handful of keywords that meet the following criteria:

  1. There’s a page on your website ranking between positions 5 – 20 in Google’s organic search results for it;
  2. It gets searched at least 100 times per month on Google (if you set this filter with SEMrush);
  3. It’s relevant to your business – meaning, the people who search for it are likely to be interested in your content, and presumably, your products or services.

This is great information to have (especially with only 10 – 15 minutes of work!), but now we need to increase the relevance of our ranking pages to the terms we want to rank higher for. Don’t worry, this is quick too!

The simplest thing you can do – which is often enough to bump up your rankings by a few positions or more – is to make sure that your keyword appears, verbatim, in a couple key areas of the page, including:

  • Title tag and meta description
  • Headings and sub-headings
  • Body content (i.e. not counting the header, navigational links, sidebar, or footer)
  • Image alt text

Start by using Control+F (windows) or Command+F (mac) to see if or where your keyword already appears on the page. Then, read the content carefully and look for a few places in which you can work your keyword in naturally.

Indicating Keyword Relevance

When going through this process, it’s very common to find that the keyword(s) you’re ranking well for don’t even appear on the page. This is actually a good thing, as adding them in the areas mentioned above may be enough to boost your rankings and see a nice lift in traffic.

Important: be careful not to de-optimize your page for other already ranking keywords. In order to check which other keywords you might be ranking for, go to SEMrush and enter the full url of the web page – e.g. http://www.YourWebsite.com/content-page/. Sort by Position – high to low – and make sure you don’t remove any of the already ranking keywords from this list while incorporating the new terms.

One other very simple tactic I almost always use when going through this process is adding 2 – 3 internal links from other pages on the same site to the page I’m trying to rank. An easy way to find internal linking opportunities is to go to Google and enter the following search string:

site:YourWebsite.com "target keyword"

This will return a list of pages on your domain in which your “target keyword” appears within the content. Visit a few of these pages and hyperlink the keyword on the page, to the page in which you’re trying to rank for that keyword.

You can also run the same search string without quotes around your target keyword, like:

site:YourWebsite.com target keyword

This will return a list of pages on your domain in order of relevance to that term, according to Google. Visit the top 3 – 5 pages and see if there’s a keyword similar to the one you’re trying to rank for to hyperlink to your page.

Pro Tip: use Open Site Explorer to find the most authoritative pages on your website to link from. Simply search your root domain, then click the ‘Top Pages’ report. You can see the top 5 pages with the free version, and all of your pages with a paid plan.

This whole process shouldn’t take more than a few minutes per page, and ranking results can usually be seen within a week or two (sometimes even less!).

3. Consolidate root domains

Did you know that the following urls are considered separates websites by search engines?

  • http://CompanyABC.com
  • http://www.CompanyABC.com
  • https://CompanyABC.com
  • https://www.CompanyABC.com
  • http://CompanyABC.com/index.html

Even though the root domain (CompanyABC.com) is the same and the web pages themselves appear identical to the end user, the other attributes of the url such as www vs. non-www, http vs. https, etc. technically make them different websites.

Why does this matter?

A few reasons:

It dilutes your backlinks.

That is, the value that gets passed to your website from other websites who link to you.

For example, if Website A links to the www version of your site and Website B links to the non-www version of your site, the value of having two sites linking to you gets divided across those two different domains.

Link Dilution

It creates duplicate content.

To search engines, it looks like some or all of the pages of your website have duplicate versions of them.

While Google claims that they don’t penalize a website for duplicate content, it can hinder that content’s ability to rank as well as it could in search engines – and, with multiple versions of your root domain, this could potentially impact every page on your site.

It creates 404 errors.

If different versions of your domain don’t redirect to one primary version, people may receive a “Page not found” error message when trying to visit them.

This of course leads to a poor user experience, which may in turn be viewed as a poor usability signal in the eyes of search engines. At scale, this can negatively impact your rankings.

How to Test

If you’re using a modern content management like WordPress, this shouldn’t be an issue for you; however, the “test” is fast and simple. Just enter each variation of your domain in your browser’s address bar and see if they redirect to a “primary” version. You can also perform a search for site:YourDomain.com to see which version Google considers to be your primary.

Alternatively, you can use this free HTTP Status Code Checker to check all the versions of your domain at once.

How to Fix

The implementation for this is fairly technical, but it should be fast and easy for most web developers.

If you just tell them what you want (e.g. “Please make the www version of my domain 301 redirect to the non-www version of my domain”) they should know what to do. If in doubt, feel free to send them the following resource for htaccess Snippets.

Once complete, be sure to set your preferred domain (www or non-www) in Google Search Console.

If you find that multiple versions of your domain are not redirecting to a primary one, and you’re website has been online for several years, this could be a massive “win” for you. You could expect traffic increases within a couple weeks, and depending on the size of your site, they may continue for months to come.

4. Republish blog content

Writing a really great blog post takes time. Often, a LOT of time. And the sad truth of it is, unless that blog post ends up ranking for some good keywords, only a small fraction of your audience ever ends up reading it.

Republishing and repromoting your blog content is an easy way to get a bigger return on the time investment you made to write it. Not only will more people see it the second time around (especially if your audience has grown since you originally published it), but it can boost your search engine traffic due to the following:

How Republishing Blog Content Leads to Improved Rankings

  1. When you republish a blog post, it appears higher in the website architecture. For example, instead of appearing on page 7 (and requiring 7+ clicks to get to it), it will appear on your main blog page – typically just 1 click from your homepage. This gives it an instant authority boost!
  2. Re-promoting a blog post on your social channels creates extra social signals around your content, which at the very least has an indirect impact on rankings. It’s also not uncommon for re-published content to earn even more social engagement than the original content.
  3. The extra visibility on your website, as well as the additional social promotion increases opportunities to earn backlinks.
  4. Most blog posts display a published date in search results, which can either help or hurt its click-thru-rate. For instance, if you were searching for “laptop reviews”, would click on a post from 2012? Probably not! Updating your published date improves CTR from search results, which has a growing correlation with rankings.

How to Re-Publish Blog Content

Decide which blog post(s) to republish.

I recommend starting with one that performed well when it was originally published and/or is already ranking well in search engines. I also recommend considering posts that are at least 6 – 12 months old.

Consider the following metrics in Google Analytics:

  • Pageviews, Avg. Time on Page and Bounce Rate (Behavior → Site Content → All Pages).
  • Impressions and Clicks from search results (Acquisition → Search Console → Landing Pages).

These are all simple indicators of ‘top performing content’, right at your disposal.

Update and improve your content.

This is an optional step, but it’s worth it! Simply review the post and consider:

  • Updating any outdated information;
  • Adding recent examples;
  • Providing extra ideas and insights;
  • Including extra images; and
  • Citing recent resources.

This will make the post worth re-reading for the people who read the original, and will also help improve your rankings for this page.

I’ll also typically include a note at the top of the post explaining that this is an updated version of a previous post.

Updated Post Note

Republish and promote your post.

The specific instructions for republishing a blog post will vary depending on your content management system, but it’s typically very easy. For example, in WordPress simply navigate to the post, click the ‘Edit’ link next to the ‘Published on’ date, select the date you’d like it to be re-published, then click ‘Update’.

Your post will be re-published on that date, which basically just means it will appear at the top of your main blog page as a new post, and the date that’s displayed on it will update to the new date.

Important: make sure the url of your post doesn’t change. If you have the date in your permalink structure, it likely will. If that’s the case, make sure you 301 redirect the original post url to the new one.

Finally, give your post some promotional love! This might include emailing your list, sharing it on your social channels, and potentially even reaching out to super relevant websites and bloggers to help you promote it.

Expect to spend maybe 1 – 2 hrs per blog post, and you could potentially see your blog post jump in rankings and traffic within a few days after republishing.

5. Reclaim earned links

There are, quite literally, an infinite amount of ways to build links to your website – but because this is an article about fastest SEO results, I’m including a form of link-building that is:

  1. High value – i.e. links that can actually move the needle in terms of rankings and traffic.
  2. Relatively easy to acquire – i.e. they don’t require a large investment of time to get them.

It’s most commonly referred to as “link reclamation” and it involves finding and re-claiming broken links (i.e. links to missing / 404 pages on your website), as well as mentions of your brand without a link to your website.

Broken Links

If you work at or for a company that has been in business for more than a couple years, it is very likely that there are websites linking to non-existent pages on your website. And, if you’ve gone through at least one major website update, I’d even bet on it!

What causes them?

The two most common causes are:

  1. A page with one or more external links pointing to it was removed or taken down and not redirected.
  2. A typo in the external link itself – meaning, the website linking to you is using an invalid url.

How to find them

The best free method is with Google Search Console.

Simply click on your web property and go to Crawl → Crawl Errors and click the ‘Not found’ tab. This will give you a list of 404 pages on your site, which means there’s a web page either on your domain or on another domain that’s linking to it. By default, these are sorted by ‘Priority’.

What you need to do is view each one and click the ‘Linked from’ tab to see which web page(s) are linking to it.

404 error caused by a type in an external link.

How to reclaim them

First, you want to determine if it’s a web page that was taken down by accident – in which case, you’d want to consider putting the page back up. Again, this is especially common after a significant website update.

If it’s a url that either never existed, or existed but you don’t want to put it back, you have a couple options:

  1. For internal links (i.e. links from other pages on your site), it’s best to update the url on the page that’s actually linking to it.
  2. For external links (i.e. links from other websites), you’ll want to reach out to the site owner and kindly ask them to update the link for you. If that doesn’t work, you can 301 redirect the non-existing url to the most relevant existing url on your site.

Note: for external links, it’s only worth going through this process for preserving high value links. That is, links from relevant, good quality domains and web pages.

Brand Mentions

More specifically, “un-linked” brand mentions, are another commonality of the web and represent some of the easiest and highest quality links you can get.

What causes them?

Un-linked brand mentions are “caused” by people simply neglecting to link your business name (or sometimes a specific person’s name) to your website.

Sometimes it’s unintentional, and sometimes sites have a general rule that they don’t link out to other websites (this is most common amongst news sites).

How to find them

I can often pick up some quick wins for a client by simply searching variations of their business name, like this:

"Company XYZ" –site:companyxyz.com

(the latter part removes mentions of their business name on their own website)

Don’t forget to use common variations of the business name, and try searching a few of the business owners and/or other public-facing figures.

Comb through the first 10 or so pages of search results, opening pages that look relevant in a separate tab. Then visit each page, find the mention of the business or person, and see if it includes a link back to the website.

Common examples include:

  • Press mentions
  • “Expert” quotes
  • Business Directories
  • Sponsorship pages
  • Donations pages
  • Partners pages

Unlinked brand mention from "expert" quote.

How to reclaim them

Simply reach out to a direct contact or look for contact information on the web page or site, and request a link back to your website.

Here’s an example of an email I’ve used on behalf of a client (names have been changed):

Hi John –

I work with Dan Smith from Smith & Associates.

I recently came across two articles Dan wrote for The Public Relations Strategist section of the PRSA website, and was wondering if we might be able to link our business name (“Smith & Associates”) in Dan’s bio at the bottom of the articles to our website.

Here are the two articles I’m referring to:

1. [insert specific web page in question]

2. [insert specific web page in question]

And here is our website:

http://www.smithassociates.com/

Please let me know if this is something you could assist us with, or if there is someone else I should reach out to.

Thanks in advance,

– Zack

It’s really important that you keep track of your outreach, especially because you’ll want to follow up at least once or twice if you don’t hear back. It’s very common not to hear back on the first try, so leave yourself a reminder to follow up in a week or so.

I keep this outreach organized in a simple spreadsheet – but if you have a CRM, that’s even better.

For my follow-up, I’ll reply to my original email with something as simple as:

Hey John –

Just following up on this request…

Please let me know if it would be possible to add these links to our site.

Thanks!

– Zack

This is a slightly slower process than the others in this post, as the follow-ups could go on for a few weeks – then you’ll need to wait for Google to re-crawl the pages.

That said, for smaller businesses with fewer existing backlinks, picking up 5 – 10 links like this can seriously improve your rankings and traffic in 1 – 2 months time.

Bottom line

These are five of the best methods I know for getting fast SEO results. While they may not be as fast or as dramatic as a big press mention, a large email broadcast, or going viral on social media, the results from these methods are typically long-lasting.

I’d love to hear your experiences with the methods above – and, if you have any other methods for increasing organic search traffic fast, let me know in the comments section below.

Happy Ranking!