Our Content Explorer tool discovers 10 million new pages every 24 hours while being very picky about the pages that qualify for inclusion. The “main” Ahrefs web crawler crawls that number of pages every two minutes.
But how much of this content gets organic traffic from Google?
To find out, we took the entire database from our Content Explorer tool (around 14 billion pages) and studied how many pages get traffic from organic search and why.
How many web pages get organic search traffic?
96.55% of all pages in our index get zero traffic from Google, and 1.94% get between one and ten monthly visits.
Before we move on to discussing why the vast majority of pages never get any search traffic from Google (and how to avoid being one of them), it’s important to address two discrepancies with the studied data:
- ~14 billion pages may seem like a huge number, but it’s not the most accurate representation of the entire web. Even compared to the size of Site Explorer’s index of 340.8 billion pages, our sample size for this study is quite small and somewhat biased towards the “quality side of the web.”
- Our search traffic numbers are estimates. Even though our database of ~651 million keywords in Site Explorer (where our estimates come from) is arguably the largest database of its kind, it doesn’t contain every possible thing people search for in Google. There’s a chance that some of these pages get search traffic from super long-tail keywords that are not popular enough to make it into our database.
That said, these two “inaccuracies” don’t change much in the grand scheme of things: the vast majority of published pages never rank in Google and never get any search traffic.
But why is this, and how can you be a part of the minority that gets organic search traffic from Google?
Well, there are hundreds of SEO issues that may prevent your pages from ranking well in Google. But if we focus only on the most common scenarios, assuming the page is indexed, there are only three of them.
Reason 1: The topic has no search demand
If nobody is searching for your topic, you won’t get any search traffic—even if you rank #1.
For example, I recently Googled “pull sitemap into google sheets” and clicked the top-ranking page (which solved my problem in seconds, by the way). But if you plug that URL into Ahrefs’ Site Explorer, you’ll see that it gets zero estimated organic search traffic:
This is because hardly anyone else is searching for this, as data from Keywords Explorer confirms:
This is why it’s so important to do keyword research. You can’t just assume that people are searching for whatever you want to talk about. You need to check the data.
Our Traffic Potential (TP) metric in Keywords Explorer can help with this. It estimates how much organic search traffic the current top-ranking page for a keyword gets from all the queries it ranks for. This is a good indicator of the total search demand for a topic.
You’ll see this metric for every keyword in Keywords Explorer, and you can even filter for keywords that meet your minimum criteria (e.g., 500+ monthly traffic potential):
Reason 2: The page has no backlinks
Backlinks are one of Google’s top three ranking factors, so it probably comes as no surprise that there’s a clear correlation between the number of websites linking to a page and its traffic.
Same goes for the correlation between a page’s traffic and keyword rankings:
Does any of this data prove that backlinks help you rank higher in Google?
No, because correlation does not imply causation. However, most SEO professionals will tell you that it’s almost impossible to rank on the first page for competitive keywords without backlinks—an observation that aligns with the data above.
The key word there is “competitive.” Plenty of pages get organic traffic while having no backlinks…
… but from what I can tell, almost all of them are about low-competition topics.
For example, this lyrics page for a Neil Young song gets an estimated 162 monthly visits with no backlinks:
But if we check the keywords it ranks for, they almost all have Keyword Difficulty (KD) scores in the single figures:
It’s the same story for this page selling upholstered headboards:
You might have noticed two other things about these pages:
- Neither of them get that much traffic. This is pretty typical. Our index contains ~20 million pages with no referring domains, yet only 2,997 of them get more than 1K search visits per month. That’s roughly 1 in every 6,671 pages with no backlinks.
- Both of the sites they’re on have high Domain Rating (DR) scores. This metric shows the relative strength of a website’s backlink profile. Stronger sites like these have more PageRank that they can pass to pages with internal links to help them rank.
Bottom line? If you want your pages to get search traffic, you really only have two options:
- Target uncompetitive topics that you can rank for with few or no backlinks.
- Target competitive topics and build backlinks to rank.
If you want to find uncompetitive topics, try this:
- Enter a topic into Keywords Explorer
- Go to the Matching terms report
- Set the Keyword Difficulty (KD) filter to max. 20
- Set the Lowest DR filter to your site’s DR (this will show you keywords with at least one of the same or lower DR ranking in the top 5)
(Remember to keep an eye on the TP column to make sure they have traffic potential.)
To rank for more competitive topics, you’ll need to earn or build high-quality backlinks to your page. If you’re not sure how to do that, start with the guides below. Keep in mind that it’ll be practically impossible to get links unless your content adds something to the conversation.
Reason 3. The page doesn’t match search intent
Google wants to give users the most relevant results for a query. That’s why the top organic results for “best yoga mat” are blog posts with recommendations, not product pages.
Basically, Google knows that searchers are in research mode, not buying mode.
It’s also why this page selling yoga mats doesn’t show up, despite it having backlinks from more than six times more websites than any of the top-ranking pages:
Luckily, the page ranks for thousands of other more relevant keywords and gets tens of thousands of monthly organic visits. So it’s not such a big deal that it doesn’t rank for “best yoga mats.”
However, if you have pages with lots of backlinks but no organic traffic—and they already target a keyword with traffic potential—another quick SEO win is to re-optimize them for search intent.
We did this in 2018 with our free backlink checker.
It was originally nothing but a boring landing page explaining the benefits of our product and offering a 7-day trial:
After analyzing search intent, we soon realized the issue:
People weren’t looking for a landing page, but rather a free tool they could use right away.
So, in September 2018, we created a free tool and published it under the same URL. It ranked #1 pretty much overnight, and has remained there ever since.
Organic traffic went through the roof, too. From ~14K monthly organic visits pre-optimization to almost ~200K today.
96.55% of pages get no organic traffic.
Keep your pages in the other 3.45% by building backlinks, choosing topics with organic traffic potential, and matching search intent.
Ping me on Twitter if you have any questions. 🙂