Billions of searches are made everyday on Google and other search engines.
While paid advertising, social media, and other online platforms can generate traffic to websites, the majority of online traffic is driven by search engines.
Which means if you get SEO right, you can benefit in huge ways - organic SEO alone can often double and triple the size of businesses.
How do you actually “do” organic SEO, though?
In this article, we’ll teach you just that. Read on to learn:
- Organic SEO 101 - all the basics you need to know.
- The benefits of organic SEO (including compounding traffic and leads on autopilot)
- Our exact organic SEO process we use to grow our clients to 200k monthly organic traffic and beyond
- Organic SEO FAQ
Let’s get into it.
What is Organic SEO (And Why It’s Important)
Organic SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is the process of optimizing your website and its content in order to rank highly on search engines like Google, Yahoo, Bing, and others.
There are two ways to approach marketing on search engines: you can invest in search ads and pay for traffic or you can earn traffic organically through SEO.
As you can see above, the top four results are paid ads (positions paid for via Google Ads), and the ones beneath are the organic results (rankings achieved through SEO).
Organic search traffic makes up 56% of all web traffic, while paid search accounts for only around 15%.
What Are the Benefits of Organic SEO?
Organic SEO, other than being the #1 traffic source on the internet, comes with a lot of benefits for your business:
#1. The Compounding Traffic Effect
Not only is the traffic opportunity huge, but organic SEO tends to have a compounding effect on site traffic.
If you focus on SEO for a stretch of time and see success, you’ll probably notice continued traffic growth rather than a single increase and then plateau.
This is due to the fact that as you invest in SEO, your rankings increase. As your rankings increase, your visibility increases alongside it. This leads to organic links, shares, and more trust from Google, which only results in higher rankings, leading to even more traffic to your website.
Here’s an example of ad traffic over time. It will remain relatively stagnant unless you increase or decrease your spend (and you’re paying for every click).
And here is an example showing the compounding effects of organic SEO for a client of ours:
#2. Save on Ad Spend
When investing in ads, you’re paying for each and every click. These costs can add up fast. And the moment you quit paying, you quit appearing in searches.
Most competitive keywords can be seriously expensive, and it really adds up. Cost per click for most industries is at least $4 or $5 USD, and can be as high as $20 per click in some industries.
Let’s say you’re paying $5 per click. If your product makes 20 bucks profit per sale, this means that for your ads to be profitable, you'll need to sell to 1 in 4 visitors – a 25% conversion rate – which is extremely difficult to do.
Organic SEO can also be an investment, but your traffic is entirely free. And the cost to hire an in-house team or outsource to an SEO consultant will still be far less than paying for ads.
#3. Leads on Autopilot
SEO results last you for a very long time, even if you stop doing it.
Blog posts that haven’t been updated in years can still get traffic and generate leads.
Once you’ve put in the work, the traffic and leads will often keep coming on autopilot for a long time afterwards.
Obviously, though, this doesn't mean that SEO is something you do once and stop - to get the best, long-term results, you’ll need to keep doing it regularly over years.
Our Organic SEO Process - 0 to 200,000 Monthly Organic Traffic
Now that we’ve explained the “What” of organic SEO, let’s talk about the “How?”
What do you need to do in order to drive tens, even hundreds of thousands in traffic to your website?
At Apollo Digital, we’ve helped several of our clients drive over 200,000 monthly organic traffic, and in this section, we’re going to teach you the exact process we followed to make that happen.
Let’s get started:
1. Start with Keyword Research
Keyword research is the first step of any successful organic SEO campaign. This is the process of identifying the keywords you want to rank for.
The goal of this process is to generate a list of targets you want to target.
In the next steps, we’ll help you build a keyword list, prioritize your keywords, and then use it to help you plan your content calendar.
Step #1. Begin with Topical Research
First, you’ll decide on which topics to cover. No need to get too complicated here – start with the products and services you offer.
For example, if you are an HR SaaS, your primary topics might be payroll, hiring, culture, and management.
If you’re a productivity app, on the other hand, you’d focus on topics like the pomodoro technique, task prioritization, task management techniques, etc.
Once you have a starting point, you can begin to drill down to specific target keywords.
Step #2. Find Specific Target Keywords
SEMRush has their “Keyword Magic Tool,” Ahrefs has their “Keyword Generator,” and Ubersuggest has “Keyword Ideas.”
You’ll simply input one of your topics and get a long list of keyword ideas. Add any that make sense to your list.
Step #3. Find Keywords from Your Competitors
Your competition can be a great source of keyword research inspiration, too – especially if they are prioritizing organic SEO in their marketing efforts.
Lots of Google ranking software have competitor analysis features, including Ubersuggest. In the left hand sidebar, there will be a section of features related to competition. Navigate to “Keywords by Traffic,” plugin a competitor, and find out what keywords they rank for.
The tool will give you a list of every keyword your competitor ranks for. Skim through the list and add any relevant keywords to your own.
Step #4. Prioritize Your Keywords
Once you’ve got all the keywords listed, you need to prioritize them.
You’ll want to focus on keywords that get you results fast over the ones that are overly competitive.
We recommend prioritizing your keywords as follows:
- High - These are your top priority keywords with high search volumes and low competition. These keywords are to be prioritized over the rest.
- Medium - These are keywords with potential, but can wait until after your top priority keywords are covered. Usually these have medium search volume and medium to high competition.
- Low - These are the nice-to-have keywords. They’re either low volume (but relevant) or high competition. Target these keywords last.
Other than the priority, we also recommend filling in the following information on your keyword sheet, as it will help you plan your content publishing:
- Keyword: this is the target search phrase you’re trying to rank for
- Search Volume: # of searches your keyword has per month
- Status: This is the stage of content creation for the target keyword. Here are the stages:
- 1 - Not yet written
- 2 - Writer has chosen the topic for writing
- 3 - The article is being worked on
- 4 - The article is being edited
- 5 - The article is complete and published
- Topic cluster: What category does this article fit into?
- CPC (low & high bid) - Cost per click for the keyword: If you’re considering running ads to the article, this gives you an idea of cost. It can also indicate how likely the keyword is to convert. Higher cost per clicks let you know it’s a valuable keyword with conversion intent.
Once you’re done with the sheet, it should look something like this:
If you don’t want to create a sheet from scratch, you can steal our sheet template here.
Keyword research is rarely a one-time initiative. Throughout the next year or two, add new keywords whenever you find ones that are relevant for your business.
2. Create SEO-Focused Content
Now that your keywords are prioritized and your content is planned, it’s time to get started with content creation.
Your SEO-focused content will fall into two primary categories: landing pages and blog content.
You will create landing pages for transactional keywords like “hr software” or “payroll solution,” and you will typically create blog content for educational keywords such as “how to build an hr department” or “how to manage payroll.”
A good rule of thumb is this: If the intent behind a keyword is to seek more information on a subject, you should create an educational blog post. If the intent is to purchase a product or service, you should create a landing page.
In this section, we’ll teach you how to create both.
SEO Landing Pages
Let’s start with landing pages. Again, these will typically be product or service landing pages targeting searchers who are looking for a solution.
For example, check out our SaaS marketing agency page.
Rather than being 3000 words of informational content, it’s focused on detailing our service and why you should work with us.
Creating web pages isn’t rocket science, but it is a bit of an art. You’ll want the page to be well designed, able to convert, and optimized for your target keyword.
The optimization part is super simple - all you have to do is use Yoast or RankMath. Just install either plugin, input your target keyword on the given web page, and it’s going to walk you through the process of optimizing it.
Once you’ve created your landing pages, you need to work them into your site. The highest priority landing pages more than likely belong in your primary navigation.
Lower priority landing pages can live in your footer or simply be internally linked from your high priority pages (more on internal linking below).
The main goal for this priority content is that it wouldn’t be more than 2-3 clicks away from your homepage. Search engines rely on links to crawl your site, so the closer a page lives to your homepage, the quicker it gets crawled and the more link juice gets passed to it.
As we mentioned, blog content will be your preferred type of content for your top of funnel, informational keywords.
There are two very important steps when it comes to creating a great SEO blog post:
- Create a detailed outline
- Write high quality content
An outline, also known as a content brief, is a general run-down of what a given blog post needs to cover in order to rank well on Google.
If you just hire a random writer and ask them to “write SEO content,” chances are, they’re not going to give you something that’s actually going to rank (unless they’re an SEO expert, that is).
Rather, If you want a writer to write content that ranks consistently, you need to give them specific instructions on what this article needs to cover.
A great outline covers a number of items:
- Your target keyword or keyphrase
- Topics to be covered, headings, and subheadings
- Target word count or length
- What’s to be covered in each section (give some context here)
- On-Page optimization requirements
Or, to give you a practical example:
Even if you are writing your own content, an outline can keep you focused and save you from getting off-track.
Simply giving the writer an outline, though, is not enough - they also need to:
Create Quality Content
Good content is at the heart of SEO. If you’re competing against long-firm, well-designed, easy-to-read articles, you won’t beat them out with generic 500 word blog posts.
Here are some helpful tips for creating high quality content that ranks:
- Focus on your reader. Write everything for your target audience. Cater not only to what information they want, but what tone they prefer as well. Make sure any examples you use are industry specific and easily understood.
- Don’t use filler. Every sentence you use should be filled with purpose – even if the purpose is to crack a joke. No need to draw things out or use ten words where you could use just five.
- Utilize a writer guideline (or you use ours). This is the best way to make sure you and your writer are on the same page.
- Consider your audience’s knowledge. Explain terms they may not be familiar with, but be careful not to waste too much time explaining anything unnecessarily. If your audience has good knowledge of the topic at hand, there’s no need to explain the basics. But if you’re covering a basic topic for a beginner audience, be sure to explain any jargon that’s not general knowledge.
- Hire good writers. You’re probably too busy to write your own content – or at least your time would be better spent elsewhere. We recommend using boards like ProBlogger to find the best writing talent.
- Use tools like Grammarly and Hemingway. Grammarly will help you ensure your grammar and punctuation is on point, and Hemingway will ensure your content is easy to read.
3. Start Earning Backlinks
Backlinks are links from other sites pointing to your own. Google uses them to gauge a website’s expertise, authority, and trustworthiness. If you have links from other sites that are authoritative, Google will view you as an authority.
So, how can you build links?
At its core, link building is all about reaching out to other websites and asking them to link to your content.
There are countless tactics and strategies for building backlinks, but we’ll just look at five here:
- Creating Valuable Content. Many organic SEOs believe this is the only way to truly build backlinks: creating awesome content and earning links because readers find it worth sharing. This passive approach can work, but to really earn links quickly, you may need to promote your content as well. This can take the form of email outreach, sharing on social, or just notifying your audience of new content.
- Skyscraper Technique. The idea behind skyscraper technique (a term first coined by Brian Dean) is to research the top ranking post for your keyword, create a similar – but much better – piece of content, and then pitch it to the right people. Your post will have to be more detailed, more actionable, or include more examples.
- Guest Posting. Guest posting means identifying websites that cover relevant topics and pitching them a piece of content to post on their site. You pitch them an idea, write the piece, link to your site, and have them publish it. When first beginning to focus on organic SEO, it’s one of the easiest ways to start building credibility.
- Broken Link Building. Broken link building is the process of identifying dead pages (those with 404 status), and taking note of all the sites who link to this page. Then you reach out to the site owners to notify them, and then pitch either an existing or new piece of content from your site to link to in its place.
- Create Unique Assets. Unique assets tend to earn links. Unique assets might include games, calculators, tools, original research, or anything else that would be a magnet for links. Create something unique and then promote it.
4. Internally Link Your Content
Internal links don’t carry as much weight as external backlinks, but they’re still crucial to organic SEO success.
One of the biggest functions of internal links is helping search engines crawl your site. Crawlers from Google and other search engines use links to navigate the web.
When crawling your site for indexing, proper internal linking will indicate to these crawlers which pages are most important and which pages are topically related.
Internal links also help pass link equity through your site. Meaning, if one page gets a ton of links, all the pages it is internally linked to will also get some of that link juice..
So internal links are very important, but how can you optimize your internal links for organic SEO success?
Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Consider your user journey. Focus on creating an awesome user experience by considering what else a user might want to explore while on your site. For example, your product pages might include internal links to relevant blog posts.
- Know your most powerful pages. Most SEO tools have a feature that identifies your top pages based on # of backlinks. Link these pages to the pages that don’t have a lot of backlinks, but are about a topic that’s likely to drive conversions for your business.
- Link to relevant pages. Linking to other relevant pages helps establish which topics you’re an expert on. If you have an article on SEO, you would want to link to other relevant blog posts on keyword research, link building, and creating good content.
- Interlink to new pages. Anytime you publish new content, it likely won’t have internal links. When you publish new pages or articles, you should go through your old pages and articles and link to them. Find existing pages on relevant topics and link them to your newly published page. Google search operators are a huge help for finding relevant pages on your site. For this article, you might search [site:apollodigital.io “organic SEO”] into Google to identify all the other pages on your website that mention organic SEO.
5. Monitor Rankings and Make Updates Regularly
Following the process above will set you up nicely for high organic SEO rankings. But you can’t just “do” SEO for a few months and then move on and expect to see results.
SEO is a continuous process. You can’t set it and forget it.
First, you need to monitor your performance on an ongoing basis. The two biggest aspects of organic SEO to keep an eye on are organic traffic and average rankings.
You can find both within Google Search Console under Performance.
When it comes to rankings, your best bet is to use a rank tracking tool found in SEMRush or Ahrefs.
Not only should you monitor your performance, but you should be regularly making updates and problem solving. Here are a few things that should be updated regularly, despite performance:
- Content: With the exception of some evergreen topics, most of your content should be updated on a regular basis. Updating yearly is a good rule of thumb, but you can also ask yourself, “Is there more up-to-date or useful information available on this topic?” If the answer is yes, it’s time for an update.
- Keyword Strategy: Search trends change over time and new topics become popular overnight. Are you still targeting the most relevant keywords for your industry? Have new keywords grown in popularity?
- Title Tags: You can use Google Search Console to monitor CTRs (click through rates) for your search terms. If you see low rates, consider updating your title tags and meta descriptions for higher chances of earning clicks.
- Backlinks: Do you have as many backlinks as your competitors? Do you have pages struggling to rank that need more links? Do you have low quality links that need to be disavowed?
- Internal Links: Does your content interlink to an adequate number of other pages? If you’re not sure, you can see how many internal links a page has in Search Console > Links > Internal Links.
Work with Apollo Digital - An Organic SEO Agency
The process of earning and keeping organic SEO rankings is tough. It can quickly consume tons of time and resources.
If your marketing team doesn’t have the time to devote to organic SEO, working with an agency is a great option to save time and money in the long run.
We’re Apollo Digital, a full-service marketing company specializing in organic SEO and content marketing.
We’ve helped many companies improve their organic SEO and skyrocket their traffic thanks to our proven process and experience.
Some of our top case studies include growing a SaaS company from 0 to 200,000 monthly organic traffic, as well as taking an HR tech startup from 1 to 1.8 million monthly organic traffic.
Interested in working with us? Get in touch here!
Organic SEO FAQ
#1. Why is organic SEO important?
There are plenty of benefits that set organic SEO apart from other marketing channels:
- Traffic Opportunity: Billions of searches are made everyday. Even if your industry isn’t the most popular, there are search terms out there you can capitalize on.
- Free Traffic: You may pay for in-house experts or outsource to an agency, but at the end of the day, the traffic is free. It’s a much more sustainable approach to traffic than paid ads.
- Higher Conversion Rates: Because your audience is searching for something, they’re more likely to be interested in buying or having a conversation. SEO tends to drive warmer leads than other marketing channels.
#2. Is SEO paid or organic?
SEO is 100% organic.
You may have to spend money on writers, developers, link building, and more – but the traffic is free.
Your other option for marketing on search engines is Google Ads where you will pay for traffic.
When running paid ads, you will target keywords and choose how much you’re willing to bid for each click.
This approach, however, can be quite costly, and the moment you stop paying for the clicks, your traffic will dry up.
#3. Does organic SEO cost money?
Google does not charge for organic rankings, only for ad placements.
You may have to spend money in order to execute SEO processes, but the rankings and traffic are completely free of charge.
#4. How do I “do” organic SEO?
There are a lot of ways you could do organic SEO to earn rankings and traffic, but our SEO process looks something like this:
- Perform topical and keyword research to develop a keyword strategy
- Create SEO-focused content
- Build backlinks to your pages and blogs
- Develop an internal linking strategy
- Monitor performance and make updates over time
#5. Should I use organic SEO or Google Ads?
Google Ads can get you results quickly, but the moment you stop running them, you your traffic will stop.
SEO, on the other hand, is generally better for long-term results. Once you’ve begun ranking, even if you quit focusing on SEO, it could be some time before your rankings and traffic start to slide.
Here’s how you can decide between paid ads and SEO:
- If you’re looking for results ASAP, use Google Ads.
- On the other hand, if you’re looking for long-term results over the long-term (think, 1-2 years), go for SEO.
For best results, we recommend doing both.