Organic search is the name given to websites which appear at the top of search engines like Google, that are not paying for each click to arrive on their website (though results will often show below paid adverts known as PPC).
The website ranks this high thanks to search engine optimisation (SEO) and having a high-value helpful content strategy in place, along with well-chosen targeted keywords.
SEO is the practice of optimizing web pages, entire site architectures and blog posts for specific keywords. This helps improve organic search traffic from major search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo and means you don’t have to pay for the traffic and leads you receive to your website. People are finding you naturally, organically.
If you’re not sure why this form of digital marketing is important, then these numbers will show you the important role it plays today for anyone with a website:
- More than 93% of online interactions start from a search engine.
- About 95% of search queries go to the first page of Google’s search result pages.
- More than 70% of searches use at least three words.
- Organic traffic from search engines drives 51% of website visits.
- According to a survey by HubSpot, 39% of marketers believe keyword research is the most challenging aspect of SEO.
Many ignore optimising their websites for this form of traffic and instead opt for pay-per-click. This provides a short-term fix, but if you rely on it heavily you will miss opportunities for free traffic and your authority will take a hit. Rest assured your competitors will take full advantage of this.
Equally, if you have never performed in-depth keyword research (or don’t know how), then you are probably missing out on high-value targeted keywords that could be bringing you online leads and potential sales.
This article will cover how organic optimisation can bring free traffic and leads to your business or organisation, how it differs from using paid search and what factors you can mitigate to optimise your website and rank higher.
What is Organic Search?
Organic search (also known as natural search) is the process of getting traffic to your website from the “free” search results on a search engine. This is in contrast with paid search, which gives you visitors after you have bid on certain keywords and each time they click the ad you have to pay.
All organic search refers to any search result that comes from an individual search engine’s own algorithm. Each search engine has its own algorithm for determining which websites appear at the top of their results pages. This means the results page from Google may be different from the results page from Bing or Yahoo for a particular query.
Here’s an example of organic search results for the keyword entry of t shirts:
These results are usually obtained by using search engine optimisation (SEO) techniques such as backlinks, domain reputation and content relevancy to the search keyword. In Google, these websites are then ranked according to their quality, relevancy to the user’s query, and many other factors.
Organic search is one of the most important factors for your inbound marketing campaigns. Once you succeed, it’s an ongoing source of new visitors.
An organic approach to marketing takes time but is more likely to generate results than a disruptive one such as paid advertising, as some overlook these results as they feel fake. Organic search results provide relevant traffic because you’re providing answers to people who are searching for answers about your product or services.
Organic searches differ from PPC (pay-per-click) searches because organic results are not determined by how much advertisers are willing to spend on them.
This means if someone lands on your site, they are already interested in what you have to offer and you don’t have to pay them to arrive.
What is PPC?
PPC stands for pay-per-click, which means advertisers bid on certain keywords to appear higher in SERPs (search engine result pages). You can easily spot them in the search engine results because they have a bold Ad next to the title.
Paid search ads are displayed alongside or above organic listings. They are typically sponsored by businesses looking to increase their visibility or sell something directly to consumers.
Here’s an example PPC result for the keyword entry of t shirts:
Benefits of Organic Search and Why You Should Keep Working On It
The main reason for using organic search is that it provides free traffic and allows you to show your expertise in a subject if done well. In order to rank highly, you need to ensure you are focusing on these three core areas of SEO which are:
- On-Page SEO: This is all about focusing on the elements on a specific web page in order for them to rank higher in the search rankings. This includes things like ensuring your use optimised URLs, images, internal and external links, optimised metadata and page performance issues (amongst others).
- Off-Page SEO: This focuses on building up traffic and link building to your website such as via social media channels, guest blog posts, email marketing and promoting the content of your website. You can also use other techniques such as podcasting, reviews and online forums to promote your site.
- Technical SEO: This is all about focusing on the quality of your website. This covers areas such as does it meet the required technical standards, whether is it mobile friendly for mobile users, does it have the required security, whether is it loading quickly, do you have a sitemap enabled, whether are you using the appropriate schema and a whole host of other factors.
In relentlessly improving these and optimising your site as much as possible, you will then achieve the following benefits:
Increased Online Exposure
By creating consistent, high-quality content you are increasing your brand awareness online. You are also increasing the areas where people can find you by providing high-value relevant content for relevant keywords entered online into your business or organisation.
Too many focus on highly competitive keywords that bring in the highest volume of traffic such as the and aiming to get 100,000 hits a month off one phrase, but you should really focus on being number one for niche keywords which leads to a high-value sale.
By optimising your site for targeted keywords, you end up with a higher value, better-fit customer for your business.
In achieving free traffic to your website, you are not having to pay continuous clicks for your chosen keywords. PPC can work very well short term, but over time these costs add up and unless your website is optimised for conversion, could be money poorly spent. It’s much more cost-effective in the long run to optimise your website based on longtail keywords and gaps in the market.
Organic SEO takes time and that’s why many give up. But in doing so, you are just handing your advantage to the competition. This means if you are continuously optimising for organic growth, you will be pushing your competitors down the ranking for your chosen keywords. This can also improve customer loyalty too.
You Can Provide Answers Others Can’t
The thing about being human is that we’re all unique. We are not robots (despite how some of us may look – thinking Metaverse here, sorry Mark!). This means that people will find you in different ways. They won’t just land on your homepage and take it from there.
They might have seen a leaflet, heard of you via word of mouth or attended a webinar, it doesn’t matter, what does matter is that they then find you in Google. If your branding has worked, then they will likely type in your business name (which is why brands focus so much on getting their name out there).
If not, then they will probably go ah! What did they do? Then try and find you perhaps via a local search, such as typing in Lighting Cotswolds.
If you have researched your customers and what they are looking for, you can create content to answer their questions and fill the gaps that competitors haven’t even thought of meaning you capture a greater share of the online search market. Again – all free traffic when you know where to look.
You Receive Increased Qualified Leads
When someone searches for a keyword in Google, they have an interest in that topic. This is known as user intent. Therefore they already have an interest in what you have to offer. This is a double-edged sword, however. You might increase your website traffic but may attract through user intent, users which are not interested in your site and are just browsing. This is why it’s important to perform your keyword research and to look around the whole topic online not just search volumes.
For example, let’s say you’re a doctor and you’re looking for a new case management system.
You head to Google and type in “cms system” into google.
All of a sudden you are presented with cms systems, but not quite what you had in mind. And that’s because CMS in tech talk also stands for a content management system.
This is why creating targeted longtail keyword content allows you to attract greater qualified leads because you can really focus on the type of keyword people are entering when they come to your website to make sure you capture the right customers.
You Increase Trust
Many now know an Ad when they see one and they will often scroll past them to the top of the genuine search results. The reason for this is that they know higher-ranked content is of higher value. This means that if you rank at the top, then your trust and credibility have been achieved (even at a subconscious level). It means you have taken the time and care and attention to produce high-value content where others have taken a shortcut. People don’t like being sold to, and seeing Ad screams advert which means they know it’s been placed and paid for.
You Provide Higher Value
When someone clicks on an Ad, they will be sent to a landing page, specifically designed to capture their intent to buy. But what if the user doesn’t want to buy? They will jump right off increasing your bounce rate and feel like they have been conned into clicking.
The Internet still remains an infomediary source (despite stepping into the entertainment sector with streaming), which means it is a place people go to seek out information. Your organic strategy will also deliver you further long-term value too.
Once you put the initial work in, you can improve your content over time, without the same level of input required on the initial article creation.
You Build Deeper Connections
By providing content which is relevant and of high quality, you are cementing yourself and your business as a place that knows what they are talking about. There are so many techniques to get a quick fix on Google but ultimately these will fail and let you down and you will tumble down the rankings.
By keeping your website relevant to your niche and your audience, you are providing Google and other search engines with a great source of information which they can send to users who are looking for the same content. Your rise up the ranking is your benefit in kind, which means you can then talk in greater depth to customers that get in touch with you once they have found you.
You Can Adapt Your Strategy and Reuse Your Work
One of the best things about organic search is that you can change your strategy. It is not set in stone. This means that as the markets move or the trends for keywords relating to your products and services change, you can adapt. You can also reuse work you have done previously and repurpose it into new, better more optimised content, or combine it with other articles to create a more authoritative piece. You can also reuse your content across other channels such as via social, podcasts, videos and offline marketing material too.
Perhaps your search campaign strategy initially didn’t quite work. Don’t panic! Look at the data and work out what went well and what didn’t work so well. This can be really helpful for your next campaign and you’ll be much wiser this time around. This is what’s known as growth hacking and embracing iterative improvements or what’s known in Japan as Kaizen.
How to Use Reporting to Track Your Progress
To report on your website, you should install Google Analytics (one of if not the best analytics tools available) and Google’s Search Console.
- Google Analytics: This helps you measure your ROI as well as keep track of your video, social networking site, and application traffic as well as show you your acquisition.
- Google Search Console: These tools and reports allow you to measure your sites’ search traffic and performance, identify issues, and improve your sites’ visibility in Google search results.
By setting up these two tools, you can track your progress along with keyword intent for your website as well as any issues Google finds with your site. You can also dig deep into the data and improve your decision-making too about how to improve your website and how to adapt.
You can also monitor how content is being engaged online via your website too. For example, by looking at how far down customers are scrolling you can tell where you should put particular banners or offers. If people are jumping off your site, where are they going next and why? This all helps build greater content engagement so you can help people by providing improved content.
At OJE Technology we use insights to optimise your content and track it over time to see which forms of digital marketing are producing the highest results. In understanding customer engagement our clients get to see how their website is performing at a user and human level too including what’s getting attention, and what’s not.
What is Organic Traffic in Google Analytics and How Does it Show Up?
When you see this in your Google Analytics reporting, this is reporting on the organic search traffic that comes from unpaid search result listings on search engines from Google.
Why is Organic Search Engine Optimisation important?
Organic search is still the number one source of website traffic, bar perhaps links from an email marketing campaign (which should be used in conjunction to grow your organic search traffic and rankings).
According to a BrightEdge study, 53.3% of all website traffic comes from organic searches within search engines. It remains the dominant source of trackable web traffic and remains the largest digital traffic source.
It is one of the best ways to build brand awareness online and to build your website audience, no matter how large or small your business is. This is why it remains so important today.
Organic SEO is at the heart of all efforts in SEO. Whilst it is becoming increasingly difficult to achieve high rankings in the presence of strong competition it’s still possible to do with the right strategy in place. Furthermore, as Google updates its algorithm frequently, websites need to adapt accordingly in order to maintain high rankings. This is where many websites go wrong and think SEO doesn’t work. Once you are ranking highly, you have to keep the content up to date to remain there and keep pushing it out there.
Search engine algorithms are constantly changing to ensure they continue to provide high-quality answers to user questions. This means that sometimes it may be necessary to undo previous SEO measures to prevent penalties too. This is why you should analyse your articles and content every 3-6 months to check relevancy and to respond to what other articles have since been written.
By knowing the search terms that people are asking for you, you can position your website to provide the answers they need and in the process grow your brand and your website traffic, without necessarily paying for the privilege.
This form of digital marketing doesn’t necessarily mean you are competing with your offline competitors directly online either.
In some cases, you may even be competing against websites that aren’t even relevant to your industry. This is good news because you can research and find out why they are ranking so high and build a strategy to knock them off their perch over time. This is why small businesses can all benefit from optimising their website for this form of search engine optimisation as long as they build and optimise their website accordingly.
Another reason it remains crucial is that the moment you end a PPC campaign, you lose all momentum, but with a content strategy, you can keep improving your content assets over time and adapt them to any changes that happen online.
By building your website domain authority the right way, your website continues to keep working for you day in and day out and builds your credibility and trust. Both are important factors for anyone doing business online.
What Factors Impact Organic Search Rankings?
A primary goal of SEO is to influence where a site appears in search results. However, this requires lots of patience and hard work, and for organic searches, there is no guaranteed way that a website or webpage will rank at the top. But if you put in enough effort, it’s worth it in most cases.
If one were to use paid search ads to obtain the same number of visitors as they could get from optimizing their organic search results, the cost would be many times higher. The cost per click (CPC) for SEO is usually much cheaper than for paid advertising.
On-site optimization and off-site optimization. On-page optimization involves making changes to your website. It might affect the contents, internal links, navigation or page load time.
Off-site optimization involves optimizing external factors, including links from websites outside the site, for example by using paid advertising or social media marketing.
There are a number of different variables that can affect a website’s rankings in search engines.
Here’s a selection of the factors which impact your website’s ranking:
1) Performing Keyword Research
You need to perform your keyword research to focus on what you can realistically rank for. This will help you focus on what’s achievable and not waste time building and writing content that is not relevant to your products, services, business or industry. Also, if you’re creating content that isn’t helpful, then you won’t rank as well as you can.
Imagine you are selling candles, and you have a website with 5 pages. You optimise those 5 pages and think great; job done. How do you think your website will perform against someone like Yankee Candle, who has a large website, an international brand and an established brand? They don’t need to work as hard on their website as they are already established, but, this leaves gaps for others to take advantage of if they wish and know where to look.
With proper keyword research, you can actually compete against large companies through organic search if you do your research, build consistently and keep on topic and answer what people are searching for online. You can also do this by analysing through natural search which helps you create content which is also more helpful, and more human.
Your keyword research should form the basis of your digital marketing plan which will then support all your other online marketing and digital marketing efforts. You can then create a content calendar and consistently publish new content at appropriate time frames for your industry. It also means you won’t be keyword stuffing your content which will negatively impact your ranking as you will “over-optimise” your content and it will make your website look spammy to search engine robots.
2) Internal and External Link Structure of the Website
Your internal linking and external linking play a major factor in how your website links. If you link and have backlinks to a website with high domain name authority, your website will benefit from an increased ranking.
The higher the domain authorities of the websites linking to yours, the better! Google generally associates links from sites with high domain authority as being of higher value than links from sites with lower domain authority.
3) The Quality and Level of Content for Your Targetted Keywords on Your Website
Anyone trying to get their website to rank today knows that content is king.
A well-formatted, keyword-rich, value-adding service page or post achieves a number of objectives. They improve search-query relevancy, increase conversions, and generally provide opportunities to be seen as an expert authority on a particular subject.
Content creation is a core principle of any SEO campaign. The more targeted content you create, the better your website will rank in search engines.
4) Topic Relevance
How on topic is your website? is it helpful to your audience? You need to ensure your content remains readable and is helpful to humans, but also accessible to search engine robots in order to be able to rank your content easily.
This is why when planning your content you should look around the entire topic and what people are asking for online. The reason is that you can then create more helpful content which is answering their questions directly. This will provide ideas and gaps that competitors may not have answered or covered in their content, thus giving you the authority and ultimately the higher ranking.
Your content should also be spread across multiple articles each written to the related depth required at the time. For example, some keywords may require shorter articles than more competitive keywords but over time these metrics may change.
5) Links and Anchor Text Within Articles
You should always strive for links from websites that are industry-specific keywords instead of generic ones. It’s much better if the linking happens naturally within the structure of the article which provides greater emphasis on the linking article.
Using a wide range of different anchor text variations is also important, because if there’s too much overlap between them, then it could be an indication of an unnatural linking strategy.
6) Use Location-Specific Keywords for Improved Local Search
If you want to search locally, then make sure you have a Google business profile enabled. This will show your office locations and general contact information which will help localise you to your community.
With this in place, you need to ensure your content then reflects your location. For example, if you want to appear for searches such as shops near me, then you need to include your town name in the content in order for search engines to know which town your shop is in.
7) Grow Your Domain Name Authority
The higher the domain name authority you can achieve the better. If a competitor has a higher domain name authority than you, then they will rank higher than you as they are seen as more authoritative on the Internet than you. This doesn’t mean you should give up though, as you can grow your online authority by:
- Improving and optimising your content.
- Improving your internal linking, backlinks and social media content.
- Optimising your loading times and end-user experience.
- Improving your localised links to your community if you wish to improve your local search.
- and more …
8) Optimising Your Titles and Headlines
You need to make sure that your page title and headlines match up with the keyword you are targeting. This doesn’t mean you just create URLs with your targeted keyword necessarily, as you need to keep things natural, but you need to make sure Google knows your canonical URLs and pages of most important. You also achieve this by using the correct header tags and ensuring your content reflects the title you are talking about.
9) Grow Your Inbound Links
You might have loads of links, but if they’re all coming from spammy directories this isn’t going to look good. You need to ensure your website is receiving inbound links (incoming links) from as wide a variety of sites in your industry as possible. This means appearing in online directories but also appearing in links from other websites, blog content, reviews and even via online videos in the description tags. It all helps send the right signals.
The more inbound links you have to your website, the greater the perceived quality of your site in a search engine’s eyes. There’s just one caveat. Make sure that the domain name authority and quality of the site linking to you are trustworthy. You don’t want spammy sites linking to you.
The more industry-level domains you can get linking to you the better, such as from trusted bodies, accreditations, suppliers and more and even client websites from work you’ve completed.
10) Optimise Your Loading Speeds
Make sure your website loads as quickly as possible. The faster the better. This means don’t use large, un-optimised images that take ages to load, compress your code, compress all images on the site such as your logo (but make sure they don’t pixelated) and make sure you optimise your website’s core vitals relating to visual load time, page stability, first input delays and cumulative layout shift.
This is because Google places a high emphasis on high-level user experience and loading times are a major factor in this.
11) Website Security and Trust
12) Ensure Your Website is Stable
If your website keeps going offline or gets overloaded, it’s a sure signal to search engines like Google that you don’t take your website seriously. Not only that, it means your content is consistently offline and now crawlable.
Websites can go down, but you need to be up and running as soon as possible and definitely within 24 hours following an outage. If you are consistently offline for long periods of time, this will never go well and your ranking will decrease. The customer experience on your site will also be poor which will not serve your business well either.
13) Update Old Content or Remove It
Believe it or not, updating your old content also plays a key role. If for example you have a post about engineering trends in 2022, and you’re now in 2024, you can keep this page updated and just give the article URL of /engineering-trends
This means over time you are improving on the information and retaining the ranking position and in some cases likely improving it over time. The longer the article is there, the better.
It sounds counter-intuitive, but actually removing irrelevant content can also help. Now, if you only have 10 blog posts and you remove 5 irrelevant pieces that are not going to help, but if you have over 100, in removing old pieces which no longer serve, this can actually focus your website and tell search engines what you’re all about much clearer.
14) Link Back to Your Content
As you grow your content, you also need to make sure you are linking to old and new content. For example, your latest blog post won’t be linked to old content. Simply go back to your old content and link to your new piece (if it’s relevant), this will help get your new content noticed and improve its ranking. It also shows you are updating your old content too and showing what else is relevant to the piece.
15) Make Sure Your Website is Mobile Friendly
If your website is not mobile-friendly today it will never rank well. This is now a major ranking factor for any search engine, so make sure all your website pages and content work fully on mobile phones and tablet devices.
16) Keep Updating Your Website
Search engines don’t like stale websites. You will notice that most websites ranking in the top 10 (though there may be some extremely niche websites that rank highly that are years old), all have relatively new content added on frequent occasions. Each time they are adding to their keywords and relevance within their industry.
17) Time on the Website
The longer someone stays on your website the better you will do. This is why it’s important to keep your readers engaged. Some quick tips for this are:
- Embed some related videos or better still make your own content and embrace video marketing,
- Add voice to text so they stay on the site to listen to it,
- Use graphics every 300-500 words.
- Write long-form relevant content,
- Add content to your article.
18) Optimise Your Images
Make sure your images are fully optimised and that you use alt text on your images so that search engines know what the image relates to. You can also have them served faster across a content delivery network (CDN) too.
19) Domain Name and URLs
Your domain name will play a ranking factor too. It’s always advisable to use country-specific top-level domains, such as .com, .co.uk and .org. Make sure you can use your primary keyword in your domain name. It will help but is not a necessity.
When building your content, the way to build your online presence is to ensure your URLs are user-friendly, easy to read and understand and are relevant to the topic you are talking about. For example:
domain.com/how-to-lose-weight-healthily vs domain.com/2/2022/health/weight/lose-weight-healthily
Ultimately, organic search is one of the best SEO strategies to increase long-term traffic to your website. Completing valuable keyword research can provide you with a highly competitive edge in the future.
Over time your keyword density and relevance will increase meaning you can start to begin ranking for high-value keywords that initially would have been unobtainable.
The key is to create in-depth content, especially in a competitive industry and ensure that your website’s technical issues are squared away such as fixing broken links and slow-loading pages.
The biggest difference organic search will bring is in the time users will spend on your website and the quality of leads you will achieve over time.
Whilst creating content can take time if you have done your research and know your market and what your customers are searching for, then each piece of content you create will keep working for you day in and day out. Once it’s written you can always improve it over time which will keep seeing returns on investment that are just not seen in other forms of traditional marketing.
If you completely ignore organic search in your marketing mix, in the online digital age this is like steering a ship without a compass, you’ll get lost at sea. Keyword research should form the foundation of everything you do online, including your social media campaigns, not doing so, is one of the biggest website mistakes you can make today.
You need to remain patient as your site builds up, but just like a snowball, it keeps getting bigger and bigger and starts rolling faster the more and more you push.