This article explains step by step, the exact method that allows you to obtain thousands of visitors (more than 100,000) per month on your website, without spending €1 on advertising.
This technique only uses SEO referencing and content strategy.
Before we dive into the article, let me clarify some points:
- The site reached over 100,000 visitors in just 9 months
- It’s a new domain name, registered just a few months before the launch
- This was done in a language I don’t read or speak (Japanese).
- Japanese is a language that makes it nearly impossible to use the most popular SEO tools
The purpose of this article is to guide you precisely through the steps that my team and I went through. What approach have we chosen? As well as showing you how SEO techniques combined with a content strategy can produce extraordinary results.
The main drivers of visitors’ growth
There were a few key elements that led to the widespread and sustainable growth of the project, they go in the direction of the technical and boil down to three main focus areas:
- The math – We took a mathematical approach to design a valuation model that allowed us to gauge traffic opportunities based on a potential return. This led us to the creation of what we call “Keyword Opportunity”, which is a model that measures the approximate reach of traffic based on a set of words, including things like average DA, number of links/domains, site age, content, SEO footprint, etc.
- Analysis – Using our newly built algorithm we moved on to the testing stage: building websites to test content models and architecture. We quickly concluded that the use of paid referencing was doomed to failure because the costs were too high and the profitability insufficient for the efforts to be made. The algorithm started to take shape and after about 3 months we were able to identify how much traffic we could acquire for a given set (keywords/search volume/competition) as well as assess the costs.
- Hack content – This is a (barbaric) term that seems to describe exactly what we’ve been doing, which is to keep growing our traffic by double digits and even tripling it, month after month. The basic concept is simple: focus resources on what works. What does that mean? We only paid attention to the searches and content that generated the most traffic, the most comments, and the most social actions, and we stopped dead any action that did not bring in enough traffic.
The visitors months after the launch
With zero promotions and no advertising, we had an interesting first month, which generated thousands of visitors. This is mainly due to our orchestrated launch strategy – which I will explain later in this article.
Nine months after the launch
After only nine months we were 3 months ahead of schedule to pass the 100,000 visitor mark with no signs of slowing down.
As you can see from the screenshot above, organic search drains most of our traffic. Referral traffic is almost entirely sent from blogs and publications.
Build a keyword database
This is a no-brainer for all SEOs, however, unlike most search campaigns, this was a large keyword database, to the tune of 50,000 keywords.
The main idea here is to leave no possibility untransformed. Since we had in mind to test everything and let performance metrics dictate how and where to allocate our resources, we had to get creative with query combinations.
We went looking for all of our target keywords, dictated by the top categories that we favor, which was around 19 to start with. The next step is to identify the top 100 keywords with the highest search volume and scrape all the URLs from the top 100.
From there, we began a process of evaluating the possibilities for each keyword to discern which categories we needed to focus on to keep our traffic growing.
Essentially, we targeted high-potential keywords, which could generate significant traffic within 3 months or less, with minimal investment in content writing.
I watched (obsessively) the content and topics that were generating the most traffic.
As soon as a subject started to be interesting, we concentrated additional efforts on researching keywords that were relevant in the context that interested us.
Designing a content strategy
This is the hardest part of any content-driven website.
The key to success took as an example a page from Jeff Bezos’ book, which explains that you have to be obsessed with caring for your customers.
We not only ran aggressive A/B tests, but we also constantly reached out to our users to improve our product.
We interviewed them, to find out what they liked and disliked (colors, fonts, layouts), but also about the specific components of the site. They then issued opinions and comments that allowed us to modify what was not working.
We analyzed the responses, made changes accordingly, trying to build something constructive and rolling out 10 changes per week.
It was starting to bear fruit.
We have seen a marked improvement in our user engagement indicators: time spent on the site, several pages per visit, and direct traffic. We then moved on to analyzing our audience.
Targeting the right audience is harder than it looks.
I can honestly say from the experience of this project, it’s never been the way we expected. We started by targeting a very large number of queries (a keyword database of over 50,000 keywords). But after a few months, it turned out that the largest number (and most active) of our users were finding us from just a handful of targeted keywords.
Information SEO Architecture
Let me start by taking sides; in my opinion, the SEO architecture of a website is essential to its success.
My greatest SEO successes are due to a wide variety of factors, but the 3 basic pillars are:
- Scalable Architecture
- Page indexing
- Prioritization of information
A scalable architecture is a given; you need a system that can grow as easily as you want.
Indexing is nothing new in SEO; it simply means that the structure of your pages and their contents are quickly and easily crawlable and indexable by search engine robots. Your source code must be “clean” and well-built for the robots to analyze your site correctly. So you have to take more care when designing your site.
To do this, you must ensure that the code is well placed and check how each robot sees your page.
Take every opportunity to lighten your code as much as possible.
Prioritizing information is a concept I’ve been advocating for a long time, especially for SEO. This means that your site architecture should be built in such a way that authority flows bottom-up through directories and categories.
For example, if I wanted to build an authority site around a core concept, I would design specific directories, I would structure my site so that all relevant content links to the root of my site, to gain authority.
Let’s say that I want to create an SEO consultant activity in several cities, I would have to create an SEO architecture that allows, through my categories, to raise the authority, via the internal mesh, to the home page from my site.
This would give an internal structure like this: www.consultantseo.com/Marseille/7emme-arrondissement. The content of this page allows us to give authority and transmit juice to the parent directory /Marseille.
The links of the sub-directories bring juice to the parent directories, a bit like the semantic cocoon.
The best way to ensure a successful product or website launch is with an orchestrated launch.
What I want is to build a list of prospects ahead of time.
John Doherty wrote a great post on ProBlogger that talks about the power of orchestrated pitching to build a prospect list. By building a list long before you create your site, you guarantee immediate traffic when it goes live.
Our orchestrated launch allowed us to generate more than 2,000 visits in the first 30 days of the site’s launch.
Our site was not created on WordPress so we did not use a plugin. Instead, we opted for the creation of a web page with a form, which allowed visitors to simply register. For a user to register, you must in the exchange offer him an interesting deal: ebook, free offer, discount, etc.
The main advantages of an orchestrated launch are:
- Your website is already indexed by search engines.
- You start building your user base and audience.
- You get valuable feedback during the creation phase of your site to make changes.
Choose the CMS
Not all CMS are created equal.
It is also useful to know that it can be interesting for various reasons to build a site or to buy a template of a known CMS (WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, etc…) because it can facilitate many things and simplify Development.
However, we have chosen to create our own site.
Once we laid out all the project requirements, including site architecture, URLs, funnels, user experience, template design, and localization, it became clear that to get exactly what we wanted – we had to create a site ourselves.
One of the benefits of building a site from scratch is that we can design a system that helps support our processes. It also means it was going to take longer and cost more money.
Hosting & evolution
This is a known but often overlooked component – hosting infrastructure is essential.
Once we were ready for the site to go live, we chose an affordable VPS server (around $10/month) with enough memory.
From the 4th month, it was clear that we were going to have to make some changes; load times began to swell and content pages expired. We allocated more space and quadrupled the memory, which solved the problem temporarily until…
On June 5, one of the biggest press publications in the world talked about us. We were then unable to process the 40,000 visits at once that resulted from the article, and our VPS “fell”, it did not resist the massive influx of thousands of visitors.
We immediately made the transition to the Amazon Web Services cloud.
We haven’t had a server problem since.
The final result
It’s not really the end result since this project is still relevant, but after 9 months of meticulous work, while listening to the market and our users, we have exceeded the 100,000 visitor mark.
Very good, but is it reproducible?
In case you were wondering, the answer is yes.
Taking everything we had learned and applying the “content hack” concept, we started a new blog at the end of July 2012 to test the portability of our strategy, and here are the results:
We got almost 17,000 visitors in the first 12 days. In the first month, we had over 50,000 unique visitors who came in total over 100,000 times (see below).
And it didn’t slow down…
One of the best ways to increase your site’s organic traffic is to understand your traffic potential and compare yourself to it.
Start by looking at the top 5 sites that rank for the biggest keywords you’re targeting, and get a reading of their traffic. To do this, use the similarweb.com web traffic tool. It provides a good measure of potential traffic, the sources of a website, and some detailed data on the referring sites where the traffic is coming from – and best of all, it’s free!
It is quite possible to achieve the same thing for your site.
With careful planning, SEO focused on content strategy, and powerful site architecture – you too can create a website and get over 100,000 monthly visitors in less than 1 year.