Lesson 7:
How to Double the Traffic to Existing Content

Here's how to revise your existing content to get much more traffic to it, and take over those top spots.

This last lesson is a special one.

In all of the previous emails, we’ve focused on what we’ve done to grow Cup & Leaf to where it is today.

In this lesson, we’re going to focus on what we’ll do next to continue to grow the site, now that it has 150+ articles and over a hundred thousand monthly visitors.

This lesson is perfect if you already have some articles you want more traffic to. It’s how we refine and tweak our content over time to make sure as much of it as possible is reaching the front page of Google.

And even if you don’t have any articles already, this lesson is one you should keep in your back pocket to use in a few months once you’ve got some content up. Not all of it is going to hit #1 on your first try, and this is the lesson you’ll want to revisit to get it there.

Here’s what we’re going to cover:

  1. Identifying content worth optimizing
  2. Prioritizing what content to optimize
  3. Optimizing individual pieces of content
  4. Re-promoting the content
  5. Tracking the results for further optimizations

1. Identifying Content Worth Optimizing

Since we haven’t done this for Cup & Leaf yet, I’m going to use my book notes pages as a sample blog to optimize.

I’ve published these book notes intermittently over the last four years, and in that time they’ve started to rank for some of the book titles or keywords like “[book title] + summary,” resulting in them now bringing in about 44,000 unique visitors per month.

Many of the book notes aren’t ranking yet, though, so there’s a lot more traffic I could be getting.

The first step is to see which pages would be worth optimizing. These are pages that:

  1. Are starting to rank in Google for a relevant target keyword
  2. Aren’t currently in the top 1-5 results
  3. Have a relevant keyword with decent search volume

To figure this out, the first place we’ll go is Google Webmaster Tools.

Once you login and select your site, you need to:

  1. Navigate to “Performance” in the left-side menu
  2. Select “Impressions” and “Position”
  3. Filter by “Pages.”

This shows you all the pages on your site, ordered by how many search impressions they get in Google, along with their average search position.

As you can see from the chart, the “12 Rules for Life” review has a ton of impressions but a low average position. This tells me a lot of people are searching for it, which means there’s potential for that page to bring in much more traffic should it rank higher.

The goal is to find a set of pages where we’re not in a top position, but are still getting a good number of impressions.

We’ll start by exporting the data (the “download” icon in the top left) and uploading it into a Google Sheet. We’ll need to organize and filter our data to make it useful (you can view my final version here if you want):

I’m going to sort it by “Impressions,” highest to lowest, then filter the “Position” column so that we only see rows with a position greater than 10. These are the pages that are, on average, not on the first page.

Next, I’ll add a column called “Target?” and go through and mark a “y” next to the ones that I think would be worth optimizing.

I’ll use some some simple criteria for this:

1: Any page over 4,000 impressions. This is not a hard number, just an arbitrary relative measure I chose here to filter down the list a bit. Anything over 1,000 is worth considering if you want a longer list.

2: Any page I have a Made You Think episode for. For you, this might be pages that are particularly targeted or valuable towards some conversion goal.

Now I have my initial target pages, which for me, came out to 32:

Next up, prioritizing the list.

2: Prioritizing Your List of Targets

Now I need to figure out what the best keyword is that each page is starting to rank for.

I’ll add another column called “Ahrefs code” and paste in a formula that takes me straight to the list of keywords for a given URL in Ahrefs:

=CONCAT("https://ahrefs.com/positions-explorer/organic-keywords/v5/exact/us/all/all/all/all/all/all/all/1/volume_desc?target=",(A2))

This way for each page, I can quickly click into Ahrefs and see what terms it’s starting to rank for:

If you don’t have Ahrefs, you can also look this up manually in Webmaster Tools. It’s just slower and has less other relevant useful data to go with it.

When I click into one of those Ahrefs links, I can see all the keywords a page is starting to rank for.

For “Good to Great,” it looks like I’m close to being on the first page for the “good to great book,” so that might be the keyword I’d focus on optimizing around.

I recommend picking the highest volume keyword that would still be considered relevant to the topic. I’ll add that keyword plus the volume and difficulty to my sheet. I keep going through the other pages until I have all of their target keywords, removing any that don’t have good keywords they’re starting to rank for.

Now I need to prioritize these opportunities. I’m going to do it based on a function of their Volume and Difficulty, using a formula I made up:

SCORE = ( VOLUME / DIFFICULTY ^ 2) / 100

So in this sheet, the formula would be:

=(I2 / J2 ^ 2) / 100

I’ll calculate this for each row, then organize the sheet by it.

The SCORE metric tells us what pages have a very high amount of search volume compared to a very low difficulty. (I square the difficulty since it’s a logarithmic, not linear, rating of comparative difficulty.)

This tells us that pages like “What Every Body is Saying,” “The Goal” and “The Jungle” are very high-potential targets, whereas pages like “Sapiens,” “Defining Decade” and “Daily Rituals” have much lower potential.

If you wanted to filter down to pick a set to start with, the ones with scores above 1 would be a good list. This gives us nine pages to focus on initially.

Now we need to optimize them.

3: Optimizing Your Target Pages

To get the content to rank higher, there are three aspects of the piece you want to check:

  1. The quality of the content
  2. The user experience of the content
  3. The technical health of the page

We’ll start with the quality of the content. I’m going to focus on the first page, “What Every Body is Saying,” for this example.

Optimizing the Content Quality

The first question you have to ask is:

Can I improve this content to make it more competitive?

The easiest way to do that is to look at the other top results for your chosen keyword and see what they’re doing that you could potentially emulate.

For “What Every Body is Saying,” I’ll start looking through the other top competitors, focusing on the ones that dig into the content of the book similar to how I do:

Some things stand out as potential content improvement opportunities:

  1. More images
  2. Better chunking of the material (technically, part of the user experience)
  3. More personal interpretations of the material, right now it’s just my highlights

But there also just aren’t that many other summaries out there, which makes me feel good about getting this ranked quickly.

The next thing I’ll check is Clearscope, where I can run a report on the keyword to see which related terms are associated with it according to Google, and which ones are missing from my post.

This tells me a few things:

  1. My post is probably too long, I could cut some material.
  2. I’m missing a lot of relevant information, like some background on Joe Navarro and what the book is about.
  3. I might need to simplify my language a bit (though, I’m just copying from the book right now).

From looking through these two sources, I can make a good checklist for improving the content:

  1. Make it shorter
  2. Add an intro section about the book
  3. Add some of my interpretation and impressions
  4. Add some images

I focused on cutting out about 1,500 words and adding an intro section about the book. I didn’t want to steal images from the book, even though they’d probably help.

Optimizing the User Experience of the Content

Next up, you need to make sure people stick around and read the article when they show up there. And right now, this article is horribly optimized for user experience.

Before going through these optimizations, this is what the page looked like:

That is a painful wall of text, and I couldn’t blame anyone for seeing that and immediately closing the page.

So to make it more UX friendly, I went through and added bolding and headers, to make sure it was more readable and skimmable, and to highlight the important information.

Some other things I would check for to make sure the UX is good:

  1. Fast page load time
  2. No huge image blocking the initial text section
  3. No funky CSS, styling, inconsistent headers, anything that makes it look sloppy
  4. A catchy intro, something to let people know they’re in the right place

Optimizing the Technical Health of the Content

The last step is to make sure there’s nothing broken on the page.

There are various tools you can use to do this, but I recommend Ahrefs Site Audit.

You’re looking for common technical issues, such as:

  • Broken images
  • Broken links
  • HTTP or HTTPS mixed content
  • Images without alt text
  • Images that are too big
  • Keyword stuffing or underuse
  • Too short or too long meta descriptions and titles
  • Too large of a page size
  • Bad mobile responsiveness

In the case of this page, a few errors stood out:

  1. There are multiple title tags on the page
  2. The meta description doesn’t have the keyword in it
  3. The keyword only appears once in the body
  4. Four images on the page have empty alt text

Once those are fixed up, this part is done!

The content is ready to be republished, by changing the “published at” date to today in WordPress, and hitting “Update.”

4: Re-Promoting the Content

Some steps won’t make sense to do over again. If you send out an email blast for every new post, you might not want to email about an updated one, unless you’ve changed so much in it that you think it’d be worthwhile to blast it to your list again.

But some of the lighter-weight promotion strategies, like sharing on social media, posting to message boards, sharing in any owned online groups, and sending it to anyone mentioned in the piece (especially newly mentioned people) are definitely worth doing.

Getting a bump of traffic to the newly-updated post should help it start to rank better more quickly.

Implement, Evolve, Repeat

With these seven lessons, you now have everything you need to get started growing your site using the exact same strategies we use at Growth Machine.

Strategies that work for new sites like Cup & Leaf as well as established sites with 1,000,000+ monthly sessions.

If you can follow them step-by-step, you’ll be more well-equipped than 99% of other bloggers out there, and much more likely to win at securing the top spots on Google for your business.

But it doesn’t stop there.

You must continually evolve your blog as you learn more about your audience. And we’ll always be here to help.

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