How To Increase Website Traffic (Without Building Links Or Adding New Content)

David McSweeney
David is the blog editor here at Ahrefs, the owner of Top5SEO and a white hat SEO evangelist. SEO case studies make him a lot happier than they should, and he has a tendency to overuse ellipses...
    You want to increase traffic to your website from the search engines right? So how do you go about it? 

    Well…

    Building links and increasing your domain rating is one way to do it.

    Adding new content is another.

    But… it’s also possible to increase your search traffic without having to do either.

    Today, I’m going to show you how with 3 case studies:

    1. How we Increased search traffic 51% using ‘The Merger Method’
    2. How David Attard increased his search traffic by filling gaps in existing content
    3. How I increased search traffic 54% by switching ‘main’ keywords

    Let’s get started!

    Case Study 1: How We Increased Search Traffic 51% Using ‘The Merger Method’

    You might have heard the phrase ‘keyword cannibalisation’.

    Basically it means multiple pages on your site are targeting the same keyword.

    It’s not the end of the world, but it’s far from ideal SEO wise.

    It can confuse Google (which page should they rank?) and splits link equity across multiple pieces of content.

    The Merger Method is a way to solve your keyword cannibalisation issues and boost your search traffic in the process.

    The Merger Method is one of the best tactics to capture quick organic traffic gains. I’ve been using it a lot lately for client content audits. By merging competing pieces of content into one asset you avoid keyword cannabilization and centralize all the authority in one place. This often results in almost immediate rankings and organic traffic gains. 
    Robbie Richards
    Robbie Richards robbierichards.com

    Here’s how to do it.

    Implementing The Merger Method On Our Anchor Text Posts

    At Ahrefs we had 3 posts on the blog targeting the same keyword: ‘anchor text’.

    Back in June, they received a combined total of 1,093 visits from Google.

    traffic3

    The first post (which received the most Google traffic) was a guide.

    anchor-text-guide

    The other 2 posts were data driven studies of anchor text influence on search results.

    anchor-text-study

    The studies had some really cool data, but there was a problem:

    The guide post was gobbling up all the search traffic so hardly anyone was getting to see them!

    As for the guide itself, it was reasonable quality, but probably not worthy of a top ranking.

    So here’s what we did.

    Combining 3 Posts Into 1 Mega Guide

    We figured that if we:

    • a) rewrote the guide from scratch
    • b) added our unique data

    We would truly have the best content for the keyword.

    And that’s the crux of The Merger Method.

    Combining multiple pieces of ‘so-so’ content and creating the best possible resource on the web for your keyword.

    Here’s what we ended up with.

    anchor-text

    If I zoom in on the menu, we can see that we have the rewritten guide, followed by the data from the other 2 posts.

    menu

    To nail our keyword targeting, we published the new guide under the URL ‘anchor-text’.

    Redirect The Old URLs

    The final step (yes, this is a super simple process!) was to 301 redirect the old posts to the new URL.

    I’m sure you already know that that’s SEO best practice.

    But here’s what’s super cool:

    All 3 pages had already acquired some backlinks. Which means that before The Merger Method, the link equity was split three ways.

    After combing the posts…

    All those links were pointing at 1 piece of content — effectively supercharging it!

    Pretty sweet right?

    The Results

    Firstly, we had a nice burst of traffic to the new guide as we ran through our regular promotion strategy.

    traffic4

    The guide was featured in the Moz Top 10.

    moz-top10

    We picked up a load of social shares and fresh links (data from Ahrefs Content Explorer).

    content-explorer

    And most importantly…

    The Merger Method has boosted organic search traffic by 51% (compared to original posts).

    Here’s a recap on the June search traffic for the original posts.

    traffic3

    And here’s the organic traffic for September.

    traffic6

    A pretty nice increase!

    When To Use The Merger Method

    If you have multiple pages on your site targeting the same keyword, then consider combining them into one piece of mega content.

    When you’re done, make sure you 301 redirect the old URLs to consolidate all that lovely link equity in one place!

    As you can see it’s a simple process and highly effective.

    For the next case study I’m going to hand you over to David Attard (yes, another David) of Dart Creations.

    Case Study 2: How David Attard Increased His Search Traffic by Filling Gaps In Existing Content

    Editor’s note
    david-attardThis case study was provided by David Attard of Dart Creations, a site specialising in WordPress, Joomla and web design tips. Follow David on Twitter here.

    We go to such lengths to get more traffic to our website.

    I know I’ve written thousands of words, and hundreds of outreach emails with the intent of getting more backlinks and boosting my organic search traffic.

    Yet sometimes we forgot that traffic to new content isn’t the only traffic that’s available.

    Here is a simple trick I’ve used many times to increase the traffic to existing pages on my website.

    The good news is, there’s ZERO link building required.

    The Results

    To demonstrate I’ll be using a recent success story we had for the keywords “Joomla SEO”.

    At the beginning of 2016 we ranked at position 40+ and were getting little to no traffic. This process has pushed up the organic traffic significantly.

    organic-search

    Here are the steps I took to increase the page’s traffic:

    Step 1: Identify Existing Keyword Rankings

    The first step is to identify which keywords the page is currently ranking for (and the positions it ranks at).

    I’ll start by entering the URL of the page into Ahrefs Site Explorer and running the “Organic Keywords” report.

    Site Explorer > Enter URL > Explore > Organic search > Organic keywords

    Ahrefs will return a list of all keywords where the page currently ranks in the top 100 results.

    organic-keywords

    Looking at the results, we can see that users are searching for:

    • Joomla seo tutorials
    • Joomla seo tips
    • seo tips for joomla
    • joomla google optimization
    • seo for joomla sites
    • etc

    It is evident that our user’s search intent is optimizing a Joomla based website for search engines.

    Now, our article was already pretty much focused on Joomla SEO.

    But even though our content was good, it just wasn’t ranking high enough. Critically looking at it, we saw that there was much potential for improvement.

    And now we had a card up our sleeve:

    We knew which keywords and keyphrases the article was already ranking for. I’ll show you how we used that information in a moment.

    Step 2: Identify The Competition

    Before we go and start updating our content, we have to know what we are up against.

    If you’re not ranking in the top spots, the chances are there is content out there which is doing a better job than yours.

    Do a Google search for your target keyword:

    google-search

    Visit ALL of the pages in the top 10 results.

    For each page you’ll need to make an intelligent judgement call on which parts of the content are better than yours.

    The following are some guidelines you can use:

    • Make an educated (non-biased) judgement: Is your content’s quality “worse” than this content?
    • Do you cover the topic in enough length and sufficiently in-depth?
    • Which aspects of this content is your page not covering completely?
    • Which “user intent” queries is your content not answering?
    • How can you make your content better?
    • Can you use any great imagery or diagrams to supplement your content?
    • Are there any YouTube or other videos which can add value to your content.

    Iterate and do the above for all of the pages which are outranking yours. The first few are going to be the hardest — it’s likely that the rest will follow a similar pattern.

    There are no short cuts. You’ll have to review all the pages which are outranking you to ensure you leave no gaps.

    Step 3: Update Your Content To Fully Answer The User Search Query

    Once you’ve seen what you are up against, you need to update your content.

    To put it simply, your content needs to be better than the competition. It also needs to fully answer the user search intent which we have identified previously.

    Make it the BEST content out there.

    Given that you’ve already analysed your competitors’ content, you should have a pretty good idea of what your content is missing.

    Supplement your existing content with that additional content, but

    • Don’t rewrite it completely. You’ll likely lose the precious content that Google was ranking you for.
    • Don’t write a new post with the hope that this will rank better. It’s a much longer and harder journey than pushing up your already existing content.
    • Of course, don’t change the URL.

    As Benjamin Brandall discovered in his recent 468% traffic increase case study, Google will reward you for your efforts.

    Use the judgement calls from your competitive research to plan what needs to be added or updated.

    Enhance it with any missing content

    Whilst looking at the organic keywords which you are ranking for you might come across user search intent keywords for which you have no content.

    Let’s say for example, your content discusses enabling Joomla SEF urls.

    If in your research you find that you are ranking for “disabling Joomla SEF urls”, make sure that your refreshed content answers that query also.

    These queries are pure gold — make sure you are answering them.

    Don’t be a fool. Keywords still rule.

    You might have recently been reading a LOT about user search intent. There’s so much talk about user intent, that you might be tempted into thinking that keywords are no longer relevant.

    Well, think again.

    Keywords are still key for Google to understand what your content is all about, and WILL be used to rank it. Ranking signals of course have increased, but don’t for a moment think that keywords are not relevant.

    Keywords still rule.

    Use (more) the keywords which you are already ranking for

    This of course should be pretty obvious. In your content use keywords which you are ranking for, but for which you have not yet achieved the top spaces.

    If it makes sense for the content (and without keyword stuffing), use the keywords in headings and subheadings.

    If using them in headings makes the content feel spammy, use them in the content.

    Of course, the lengthier and more in-depth the updated content, the easier it will be for you to include plenty of the organic keywords you’ve seen above.

    Add Engagement Content

    Dwell time (or ‘the long click’) is a ranking factor which is becoming increasingly important to Google.

    It makes sense that Google would want to rank higher the pages which users appear to be more engaged with. One way they can measure this engagement is by recording the time spent on-site.

    For Google that would be the time between a user clicking a search result and returning to the search page.

    So what can you do to increase a visitor’s time on page/site?

    Here are some pointers:

    • Content length — clearly longer form content (which remains engaging) will result in a longer time on page. Numerous studies (including Ahrefs’ 2m keyword study) have shown that longer content correlates with rankings.
    • Embedded media — embedding youtube videos related to your content can help to increase time on page and also make your content more engaging.
    • Interlinking — linking to other articles and encouraging exploration will help to increase time on site.

    Step 4: Give Your Content An Extra Kick

    Here are some ways you can help your content climb those extra few positions:

    • Write an enticing search title that encourages click-throughs — Google will reward your page with higher rankings if you have a solid click-through rate from the search results.
    • Give the content some internal link love — Internal links are so much easier to obtain than external links. You’re also in total control of the anchor keywords you want to use.
    • Get some fresh eyeballs on your content — Use social media marketing, email blasts and other methods of promotion. This will send good signals to Google.

    When To Use This Strategy

    We’ve used this tactic successfully to boost several content pages on our site. It’s especially useful for content which focuses on advice, tutorials or other educational content.

    Carry out this exercise on a regular basis and you’ll see a marked improvement in your organic search results… which of course means more traffic to your website!

    Thanks to David Attard of Dart Creations for this case study.

    Case Study 3: How I Increased Search Traffic 54% by Switching ‘Main’ Keywords On Existing Content

    As David (the other one!) detailed above, analysing your existing rankings and filling in gaps in your content can be a great way to boost your traffic.

    But sometimes you might want to take things even further.

    I recently ran an an audit on one of my own sites and decided to completely switch out the main target keywords for some of the old articles.

    In many cases this also included changing the URL.

    The result: a 54% increase in organic search traffic.

    increase

    First I’ll explain the ‘why’, then I’ll get on to the ‘how’.

    Background (The Why)

    I run a reasonably high traffic, viral type site. I’ve previously mentioned it here and here, so I won’t go into specifics.

    The site is multi-author and, as the majority of its traffic comes from social media, keyword research has been a little neglected.

    Which means that traffic was being left on the table.

    I figured it was time to right that wrong!

    The Process

    In total I changed the targeting for around 40 existing pages. While the search volumes on their own aren’t huge, cumulatively this has lead to a nice bump in traffic.

    Here are a couple of examples.

    Switching the target keyword and URL for this page lead to a 108% increase:

    up2

    While this one saw an increase of 162% (don’t worry, it’s clean!):

    up1

    In this case I kept the URL the same, but changed the on-page to target a different keyword:

    up3

    As I said, multiply this over a number of pages and it soon adds up.

    And traffic should continue to increase as the pages age and move up the rankings for the new keywords.

    Even better:

    Using keyword data from Ahrefs, the whole process took around 2 hours.

    To illustrate the process, I ran an experiment for a page right here on Ahrefs blog.

    Step 1: Analyse Existing Keywords

    The first stage in the process is exactly the same as in David’s example — only this time we’re looking for keywords for which a page already ranks (somewhere) with higher search volume than existing targeting.

    I decided to use the method on this article on selecting a username for Twitter:

    twitter-username

    In April, the page received 69 visits from Google.

    traffic1

    Here is a list of keywords the page was ranking for back in April.

    Ahrefs Site Explorer > Enter URL > Organic search > Organic keywords

    twitter2

    The good news was that the post was hovering on page 2/3 for quite a lot of keywords with decent volume, so there’s was definitely potential for improvement.

    Step 2: Select A Potential New ‘Main’ Keyword

    The page was targeted to the keyword ‘Optimize Twitter username’.

    Which if we run a check on Ahrefs Keywords Explorer (using phrase match) we can see is a poor choice:

    keywords-explorer

    From the keyword analysis in step 1 it seemed clear to me that ‘Good Twitter Username’ would be a much better keyword to target:

    Ordering the report by keyword volume and filtering to results including ‘good’ confirms this:

    good-twitter

    If we add up the 7 highlighted keywords, there’s a combined volume of 690 US searches per month.

    But wait…

    Is ‘username’ the best keyword here?

    Step 3: Conduct Some Keyword Research To Find Out If There Might Be A Better Option

    This is where you’ll need to get your thinking cap on a bit.

    Why?

    Because we might have been way off track with our initial targeting.

    In this example, is ‘Twitter username’ the keyword that searchers are most likely to use? How about ‘Twitter name’ or ‘Twitter handle’.

    Let’s check the volumes in Ahrefs Keywords Explorer. I have put them together into one screenshot:

    twitter-handle

    Woah!

    As we can see, turns out way more people search for ‘Twitter handle’ than ‘Twitter username’.

    So, we might be tempted to switch our keyword targeting to ‘Twitter handle’.

    But actually, in this case I made the decision to stick with twitter username. Here’s why:

    twitter-choose-username

    I made a judgement call that many people who that article would be a good fit for will conduct their search while signing up for Twitter.

    And as Twitter calls it a ‘username’ I think that’s what they are most likely to search for.

    Although, perhaps we can use both…

    Step 4: Optimise Your Article For New Keyword

    To really rock this 100% we should combine this process with David’s process from the first case study. Fill in the blanks and make it the best possible article for the keyword.

    But for purposes of this experiment, I simply switched the target keyword.

    Here’s the process.

    Change the post title and URL

    Before:

    url-and-title

    After:

    url-and-title-after

    As you can see, I couldn’t resist putting ‘handle’ in there too 😉

    Change the SEO settings

    Before:

    snippet1

    Notwithstanding what we are doing in this process… that meta description sucks!

    After:

    twitter-handle2

    Much better right?

    Step 6: Setup A 301 Redirect

    If you change the URL, don’t forget to 301 redirect the old address to the new one.

    At Ahrefs we use a cool free plugin called ‘Redirection’ to manage redirects.

    Just enter the old URL, set the new target URL and you’re done.

    3012

    Step 7: Force Google To Re-Crawl The Page

    You could wait for Google to re-index the page naturally, but to expedite the process just use fetch as Google > submit to index in Search Console.

    recrawl

    And, we’re done! The post is now optimised for the new keyword.

    So let’s see how the results. How did the post perform in August?

    The Results

    To recap, the page with original targeting received 69 visits from Google in April.

    traffic1

    Here’s the organic traffic for August.

    traffic2

    Which means we have more than doubled the page’s search traffic, simply by switching the keyword targeting.

    In exact terms, it’s up by 114%.

    I’m calling that a win!

    When To Use This Strategy

    This process is great for pulling in extra traffic to pages that are not currently performing in search.

    When you implement it on multiple pages it can quickly lead to a tangible lift in search traffic — particularly on large sites.

    When Not To Use This Strategy

    It’s not exactly a high risk strategy, but if a page is already performing well in search, then I would stick to the process in case study 2.

    Increase Your Website Traffic By Implementing These Strategies

    So that’s 3 strategies you can use to increase traffic to your website without building links or adding new pages.

    Audit your content regularly and look for opportunities to improve your existing rankings.

    If you don’t, then you’re leaving traffic on the table!

    Over To You

    Have you used these strategies on your own site? Any questions,or insights you would like to share? As always, all feedback is welcome, so please leave a comment below!

    David McSweeney
    David is the blog editor here at Ahrefs, the owner of Top5SEO and a white hat SEO evangelist. SEO case studies make him a lot happier than they should, and he has a tendency to overuse ellipses...

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    • my guess it that the rankings won’t improve just because of plugging the new keyword into Title/URL/H1 🙂

      IMO you need to update the content itself using the methodology from case study #1 — research who ranks in top10 for that keyword and make your content better and more in-depth from the searcher’s perspective

      I personally believe that Google is smart enough to somehow measure the authority and “depth” of the content.. and changing Title/URL/H1 doesn’t add any “depth” for sure 🙂

      so I’ll be very surprised if changing the keyword alone would do the job 🙂

      • I do agree that:

        a) We would get much more out of this by updating the content, filling in the gaps etc (per case study 1). Of course that would be my preferred method 🙂
        b) This is a bit ‘old school’ SEO

        However…

        This is meant as a quick boost for non-performing content and in my experience it does work. Although not necessarily every time, which is why I recommend trying it out only on content which isn’t currently bringing in traffic. What is there to lose?

        Google is getting smarter, but is still open to, not exactly manipulation, but pointing it in a direction we want it to take.

        I guess we’ll see if there’s any effect on the traffic/rankings for that page 🙂

        There is of course the fact that the title/meta description is much better for click-throughs now, which could indirectly influence rankings. But indirect, or direct, does it really matter? On that note, I liked this Whiteboard Friday regarding that very subject: https://moz.com/blog/seos-direct-ranking-signals-google-whiteboard-friday

        • yeah.. I like that we’re doing this as a little experiment 🙂

      • Ken Villegas

        I agree with Tim! But changing or optimizing the Title, URL and H1 with your target keyword makes really sense. I’ve actually tried it to some of my clients blog post because it wasn’t properly optimize before. Before optimizing their content, you can’t actually search the content on Google for their target keyword but after I optimized the content by changing the Title, URL, H1 and added relevant term on h2 tag and of course LSI keywords, the blog starts ranking up on Google for the target keyword and relevant keywords as well.

      • It really works. Checked many times.

    • OMG!! This is awesome post.

      I liked the 1st case study similar to mine.

    • Useful! Thank u so much for this post! <3

    • Gourav Manuja

      Very Nice Post! 🙂

    • Tom

      Sounds like good tut, anyone tried this (except the author). Any results?

      • It’s quite incidental, that I (author of the first case study), have used the technique of 2nd case study very successfully too.

    • i’m wondering if millions of people follow this tutorial .. how it would be ?

    • Really a very useful article David. But here i want to know that how much time it will take for pages to get an improvement in traffic after filling gaps and inserting keywords in content?

      • it really depends on the competition. If you have improved the article significantly I would expect to see results pretty quickly, but giving it a round of promotion should help to speed things up. In David Attard’s case, you can see that he had good results within the first couple of months.

    • Damarco Lampkin

      Nice post. I like the part about looking at other sites in the same niche and analyzing their content and then filling in the gaps. I aslo think the YouTube videos would be a nice touch to increase on page time.

      Damarco Lampkin
      Epic Interactive Media Inc.

    • Bilal Safdar

      Hi, No.1 case study is actionable. I also did same experiment and comes in Google 1st page for main keyword.

      • Glad you were able to replicate the results too Bilal.

    • Nice post 🙂

    • Kuba Kzz

      Some time ago i read Matthew Barby’s article about optimizing existing content and Ive been doing that regularly. So far I have been using Search Console to find keyword opportunities but it shows only keywords that are already bringing traffic. It’s awesome Ahrefs can show all the keywords that we rank for in the first 100.

      I also tried the second strategy — my blog post ranked third for one of the most converting keyword from Adwords. So I swaped it with a sales page. Oh boy, that worked:)

    • so if you have a page that sells a mobile phone, except the description, reviews and video, it is good to paste the manual (it is good information) tricks how to use the phone, template sms messages that can impress your girlfriend, and an infographic about how many people use the smartphones in the toilet.. 😛

    • TradeMySite

      hello David,
      I love the points that you have mentioned David , though in simple words the traffic of your website. I Write this comment regarding way to increase your website traffic:
      1.Advertisements
      2.Social networks
      3.Make it interesting
      4.Write irresistible headlines
      5.Pay attention to On-page SEO
      6.Target long tail keywords
      7.Start guest blogging
      8.Go after referral traffic
      9.Post content in Linkedin
      10.Implement schema microdata

      Thanks

    • Interesting article, i started few days before reading this article to follow this strategy and still not remark any results.

    • Khalid Farhan

      Not only ranking, got ideas for keyword analysis too. I will try some of my post.

    • Mohammadreza Hamedi

      1.can we change the title of post ?or title mustn’t be change anymore

    • Etienne Clergue

      Congrats on an extremely insightful post. One of the main frustrations I face with seo clients is that they very often do not understand why content matters so much and therefore refuse to invest in it. This makes it extremely difficult to implement some great techniques like the ones you mention. Guess there’s still a lot of education to be done out there

    • Thanks for your informative post.

    • Przemek Zmuda

      Hi just wondering is it ok copy and past old content to one main article, and do only little changes or have to by completely rewrite ? How google see it if i copy and past 300 words from one article and add to another . Thanks

    • Great point David…I’ll keep that in mind as I move forward. Thanks for your informative post..

    • Dear David and David 🙂

      This is something our team had just been discussing recently (inspired by a post on backlinko). I hope we get to see some rise as well. I’ll get back to you with the stats if it works 😉

    • Thank you David. I am following your posts for some time and every time i get great tips. I will try to follow your advice and hope it will work. Thank you, again,

    • worthy article. Looks very effective and i’ll try it.

    • Wow. Great post as usual.

    • Very useful, thanks guys for sharing such useful things.

    • NCode Technologies

      Great, you have shown us something unique which is very simple and known by almost all SEOs but not applied to get good traffic. I just research keywords for on-page optimization and make the page perfect for any keyword but not for traffic.

    • Nathan Elward

      I must admit, these traffic strategies are completely new to me. I plan to execute a couple of them as part of my marketing strategy. However, are there any other proven strategies I can use that will get me immediate traffic. Currently I am using a tool named Easysendy pro which helps me out with email marketing to provide good conversion rates.

    • gadgetssai

      Hi David Sir…
      your case studies are so good to learn more this type of tips and information. as a beginner i want to know all this kind of knowledge

    • Trendy Inners

      You are saying is right and content is the main key to get succeed in digital world. Keep on updating the content is the good activity.