In today’s post, we’re going to be talking about one of my favorite subjects of all time: getting more search traffic.
There’s a lot of schools of thought, and lots of different approaches to achieving this goal – but the fact of the matter is: SEO can be boiled down to a series of fundamentals.
Executing on these fundamentals may change (say: a focus on content, or a focus on link building) – but the heart of the practice remains constant.
Today we’ll be addressing these topics:
- Website Design
- Site Architecture
- The Relationship Between Backlinks & Search Engine Performance
This analysis will be entirely data-driven, and by the end, you will know exactly what you need to do to to improve your search traffic…
II: How to Rank in Google
1: Website Design
The design of a website is often overlooked, I feel, when it comes to search engine performance. At the very least – it’s not emphasized enough.
There are three major reasons why web design has a huge impact on search:
#1: A great looking website is often deemed as more authoritative. This helps conversions and sales greatly.
Look at the examples below:
The site on the left is much more aesthetic, pleasing to look at, and even features an attractive woman smiling up front and center.
The site on the right looks older, isn’t very well put-together, and seems cheap.
Now, is the website’s design what caused the ranking disparity? No, absolutely not.
But the site’s design, as we’ll examine later, does play a role in the acquisition of links and conversions of visitors into sales.
Question: if you were a prospective customer, would you be more likely to call the site on the left or the site on the right?
I answered left.
That’s funny: because we know nothing about either dentist other than the look on the website.
The doctor on the right could have 40 years experience and be world-renowned, while the doctor on the left could be fresh out of med school – yet, despite that, we’re ten times more likely to give the site on the left a call.
Crazy how that works, right?
Because: people see a great looking site as more “authoritative and trustworthy”.
This is imperative. The same goes for people – attractive people are deemed as more trustworthy, according to science.
#2 – A great looking website is easier to navigate and boosts user engagement signals (time spent on site, conversions, sales, bounce rate, CTR, etc…)
Take it from Google:
They didn’t just get to a $700 billion market capitalization by “having a great idea” – they understand the nature of user engagement and how that relates to design and navigability.
This obsessive focus on user engagement has been the driving force behind Google’s growth and is deeply embedded into everything they do: as evidenced by Eric Schmidt, Google’s former CEO, in How Google Works.
As if you needed further proof…1 billion hours of video watched daily on YouTube.
Indeed – quality of videos; quality of search results displayed; continuous improvement of their algorithms; among other factors, also played a part, but these decisions are all guided by one technical insight: improvement of user engagement on the platform.
And minding website aesthetics is critical to this goal.
#3 – A great looking website gets more links
Playing on those previous concepts of attraction, authority, trust, and user engagement: it’s much easier to drive links to a website that looks great.
The benefits of having more links, which will be further explored later, are clear: more visibility, more search traffic, more conversions, and more revenue.
Often, even if a site ranks well, users will leave it quickly (this is called: “bouncing”) because it doesn’t look very good.
The next time you’re browsing the internet, pay attention to the designs of the sites you most often use. Chances are: they’re intuitive, orderly, and easy to navigate.
Never underestimate the power of web design on search, traffic, and ultimately: sales…
2: Site Architecture
Another aspect of search engine optimization that doesn’t talked about nearly enough: website architecture.
This goes hand-in-hand with web design and development, the benefits of which have been well-noted above.
But let’s talk about the more implicit benefits of site architecture on SEO.
#1 – Navigability
A site that is well-structured will often be very easy to navigate. That’s because all the pages and posts will be inter-linked in a way that is logical and makes sense.
Take a look below:
Amazon has an incredibly robust site architecture. This allows them to not only ease the use of their website; but also it’s a huge reason for why they’ve sold over $100 billion in the last fiscal year, and account for 40 cents per every dollar spent online.
In the book, The Everything Store, which chronicles the early days of Amazon – one of the crowning achievements of the fledgling startup was the personalization of the user’s shopping interface.
This meant that which ever page the user was on, Amazon’s algorithm would show them related items they’d also be interested in – sure enough, this provided a huge boost to their sales growth and is often quipped about in TV:
A properly implemented website architecture accomplishes the same goal – to promote user engagement and ease of navigability by displaying related links on the website.
I like to use the sidebars to accomplish this, as does YouTube:
If you’re watching a Jimmy Kimmel video, chances are – you’re probably interested in other Jimmy Kimmel videos.
Look at the top websites in the world: Google, YouTube, Facebook, Amazon, Wikipedia, etc..
They all use site architecture to improve the ease of navigability, and another major factor:
#2 – User Retention
Social media has a “knack” for keeping people glued to their phones and computers.
This is no coincidence. As you probably know by now, user engagement is vital to the success of online giants.
And the reason is simple: more user engagement (and retention) means that the platform (Facebook, Google, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram) can serve more ads to their users, which is beneficial to advertisers (they gain more impressions and sales) and beneficial to the platform (more revenue).
It’s also beneficial to their users as they’re exposed to content they might be interested in.
The way platforms improve user engagement is through the use of user interface (design and navigation), display of quality content (keeps people engaged and on the platform), and the study of their behavior to optimize their experiences for that social network.
This helps in getting more search traffic because by analyzing your website’s user behavior signals (time spent on site, bounce rate, user interaction, social activity); Google is able to discern whether or not your site would be beneficial to the users of its platform.
The sites with the best metrics quickly advance through the search engine results:
The key here is to think like a social media platform: the chief object of On-Page SEO is to retain and engage visitors on your site to send Google “the right signals”.The key here is to think like a social media site: the chief object of On-Page SEO is to retain and engage visitors on your site to send Google 'the right signals'.Click To Tweet
Proper site architecture accomplishes this by leveraging internal links, making efficient use of website real estate, and easing the promotion of related content.
#3 – Link Equity Distribution
The third big benefit of site architecture (and perhaps my favorite 🙂 ) is the distribution of link equity.
Link equity refers to the total link power of your website.
In the past, this has been referred to as “Google PR”, today they call it “Domain Authority” (Moz) or “Domain Rating” (Ahrefs) depending on the platform you’re using.
The concept here is simple: when leveraging a proper site architecture, any one link that is built to your site will be properly distributed through the use of internal links.
This augments the power of one link to attain the power of ten. Following a successful SEO campaign, the results would be astronomical.
Masterful performance, I know.
The key is this: for as long as your website is implementing a site architecture, the power of the inbound links will be augmented in a ripple-like effect which can triple your search traffic overnight.
One page can receive link equity through many different sources (from other websites, and from other pages in your website) and outrank pretty much every single website with ease:
This was the thought pattern for the original “PageRank” formula that still drives most of Google’s search results to this day. If you love math:
Practically: the PR (link equity) of a website is the sum of all inbound links (link power) divided by the number of outbound links on its linking pages.
Yes – linking within your own website can dramatically improve your own search traffic, hence, the power of site architecture.
It maximizes your own link equity by leveraging internal links – if executed correctly.
For a visual summary, refer to my oeuvre d’art above 🙂
There’s specific ways to achieve this which I’ve talked about in other posts: Technical SEO.
In short, to make this tactic effective – ensure management of internal links through site architecture and maintaining a tidy design.
So, how does content play into this entire equation?
It’s definitively very important – you might even say, the foundation. Or, the core that everything revolves around.
Point blank: if your site doesn’t have great content – it won’t get very far.
And great content is very hard to come by. It’s very expensive, and time-consuming to produce.
Mind you – we’re not talking about a 3,000-word post, or even a 10,000-word post: we’re talking about a magisterial piece of work that can be leveraged as a “link asset”.
A link asset is a piece of content that ranks head and shoulders above the rest, that can be utilized to conduct outreach email campaigns to attract visitors and links to the site.
It works in this fashion:
Indeed, this is not easy to do, but that’s why it works so well: if it were easy, everybody would be doing it.
We’ll examine some such examples as we go along.
But now, here are three reasons for why great content is the cornerstone of an SEO campaign:
#1: Great content boosts user engagement and retention
We’ve talked much about user engagement and retention in this post, so their importance should bear no repeating.
How content boosts these metrics should be self-evident: it’s like music.
Nobody likes to listen to bad music, but great music disproportionately gets much more attention and engagement.
The same way: nobody likes to consume poor content – whether that’s video, music, written, or audio.
If you’re not having much success with your current content strategy, now you know why: it sucks! And you need to adjust accordingly.
#2: Great content attracts tons of links
This should then go without saying, if you want more search traffic you’re going to need excellent content.
- High volumes of search traffic is a result of having tons of pages + having tons of links
- Having tons of links is a result of having excellent content
- In order to get a huge volume of search traffic, you therefore need a great deal of great content.
Now two things:
1: Your content strategy will revolve around your business model.
Meaning: there’s no reason why a local business should ever spend $5,000 / m on a content marketing plan.
On the other hand, if your business revolves around content, then $5K / m would most likely be too small a budget.
An example is an attorney firm (only needs several “link assets” to build 50 – 100 links); and on the other side of the spectrum: an online-based business (say: e-commerce) would benefit greatly from publishing tons of content regularly.
2: You need to know how to promote and distribute your content in order to get links.
Again: self-evident. If you don’t know how to get eyeballs on your content, no matter how great it is, it won’t get much traction.
The second part of the training will focus on just that: how to promote and distribute content in order to get tons of links, and therefore: tons of traffic.
Here are some examples of what a “link asset” looks like:
Backlinko: 200 SEO Ranking Factors
2.77K Referring Domains!
Most websites, with just about 250 – 500 referring domains, can do well over 5 million organic searches per year. Let alone 2,770 links in one post!
Here’s an example:
I spoke with their marketing director, they told me they were doing over 500K organic clicks per month with half the referring domains as the above example!
What can an extra 6 million visitors do for your business?
Here’s another highly successful “link asset”:
Nomadic Matt: The Ultimate Guide to Traveling With No Money
This post landed him a cool 123 referring domains.
Again: when following this link asset strategy, you only need several such pieces to land 250 – 500 referring domains which will put you on the upper echelons of search performance.
This is especially true if you are a local business owner: you only truly need about 25 – 50 referring domains to dominate an entire industry.
Even on the most competitive verticals like finance, insurance, law, construction, and medicine: 100 referring domains and above will put you up in the clouds compared to the rest.
Even an uber-competitive term like “Brickell Condos for Sale” – the top result only has about 50 referring domains:
Don’t be fooled: a ranking like this would be very tough to beat, and at least a year’s time of content production, promotion and distribution, and methodological link acquisition would best it – but the point is this: link assets are OXYGEN when it comes to search performance.
What matters most is the site’s aggregate link equity:
Domain Authority matters exponentially more than “Page Authority”.
This is especially true if you have strong site architecture and the inbound links your site receives are distributed all throughout.
More on backlink profiles later on.
#3: Great content sells!
Last reason you need great content on your site: it sells!
Another paragraph on “user engagement” and “retention” would be redundant so I’ll bequeath you with this:
If you plan on pursuing SEO as a core element of your marketing strategy – you’re going to need an excellent content strategy in place.
And that’s final.
4: Backlinks Profile
And so – saving the best for last: 95% of your search performance will be chiefly dictated by your backlinks profile.
Nothing – not content, not design, not architecture..nothing will impact the search performance of your site like its inbound links will.
For that reason, in all search engine optimization campaigns, 90% of the efforts will revolve around link acquisition.
Content, design, and architecture are great assets to have, and are indeed imperative, but only link building will bring you the results you want.
Think of it this way: backlinks are to search traffic what leads are to sales.
You may have a great product, an excellent sales team, and a beloved brand: but if you don’t have leads, you will not sell anything.
Here are two sites with no other differentiating factors, besides their backlinks profile, and its effect on their respective search traffic:
In this instance, the relationship is clear: the amount of referring domains is directly correlated to search performance.
And just to really drive that point home:
Like I said earlier: there’s no secret to SEO, rather, it’s about the execution of sound fundamentals over a period of time.
And that brings us to the end:
The entire point of this post is this: in order to get more search traffic, you need to a reliable way to get high quality backlinks consistently.
If there’s anything you can take away from this post, it’s that high quality backlinks are directly correlated to search engine performance.
In order to aid the acquisition of backlinks you need:
- Great website design
- Bolsters authority and conveys trust in your readership
- Strong site architecture
- Distributes link equity, and maintains high levels of user engagement and interaction
- Excellent Content
- Attracts tons of links, boosts user experience, and aids in sales
- Strong methodology
- Ensures consistent acquisition of high quality backlinks
The fourth point we’ll be addressing in the next training: How to Get High Quality Backlinks.
For now, let these ideas marinate in your head and think about what you can do with all that extra traffic you’re going to be getting.
Until next time!