What if I told you that you can increase page traffic without using spreadsheet magic… or any fancy + expensive analytics software?

Sounds too good to be true, right?

Well, in fact, it’s totally possible. I did it. You can do it, too.

And I’ll show you how – right now…

Keyword Optimization –
The Only Thing Reliable About Keyword Research Is It’s Always a Pain in the A$$

Content marketers spend a lot of time coming up with the right keyword for an article, and we’re almost always disappointed because the keyword doesn’t perform to our expectations.

So what if you could outline a strategy to revive poorly performing webpages… improve the performance of good pages… and find hidden keywords in your own content?

The following is the story of a single page on SkilledUp.com

We don’t profess to be SEO experts, but this is the true account of how we took a single page and more than tripled its page traffic with a straightforward keyword optimization exercise.

Wouldn’t It Be Sweet to Get 3x the Traffic?

At SkilledUp, we develop curated learning lists of online courses and related resources for those who seek to enhance their job skills and further advance their careers. In April, we wrote an article called the the “50+ Best Free Excel Templates for Any Occasion” for our readers with a strong interest in business and finance. We built this article with the intent of going after the keyword “best free Excel templates.”

Thus, the keyword is strategically placed in the URL, the title, and in the first paragraph (in bits and pieces), like so:

Keyword tuning at SkilledUp
This is textbook SEO, all the details of which can be found online for free with a few Google searches.

After hitting the publish button, it was time to play the waiting game. How many people would be lured to our little post?

Traffic slowly picked up, as you can [squint to] see here:

SkilledUp keyword tuning analytics

Initially, the page didn’t do much. We first suspected that the lagging performance was due to structural problems with our blog. See, we have different Learning Hubs, each with their own URL folder, and so if we tagged an article for multiple hubs, there were multiple instances of the page – which is not good for SEO. In fact, it’s RFB for SEO.

So in May, we restructured the blog to eliminate duplicate links. Fixed that prob. And in June the piece popped back onto our radar.

It was starting to get 100 to 200 hits a day. Not too shabby for a young content piece, right?

Out of sheer curiosity – curiosity is always a good thing for startups – we did some further analysis to see what was driving the traffic…

The GA Research
That Led Us to a Keyword

That Led More Traffic to Us

Using Google Analytics, we found that, out of the page’s ~5,800 hits, 90% came from Google search. Since we haven’t done any paid marketing via Google or Social, this wasn’t a shocker – but it was still really interesting! I mean, 90% from organic search? Wow.

Better keywords with Google Analytics

HOW-TO DETOUR: Follow these steps to get to a view like the above.

  1. Within Google Analytics, go to the Content node in the sidebar.
  2. The node will expand, providing more options. Select Site Content > All Pages.
  3. Use the search filter (just below the traffic chart, on the right-hand side of the toolbar) to find the target page. You can use URL or page title for the Primary Dimension of comparison.
  4. One the left-hand side of the toolbar, use the Secondary Dimension drop-down to add a second comparison variable. In this case, Traffic Sources > Source.

The fact that people were spending an average of 24 minutes on the page validated that the content was quite useful.

We were curious as to which keyword searches were bringing readers to the page, so we checked out what search queries were bringing us this traffic…

(If you followed the “How-To Detour” above, you’d be able to get to this data by changing the Secondary Dimension to Traffic Sources > Keyword.)

How to find keywords in GA

Bear with me while I dive a bit into the GA data… Looking at the top 10 to 15 records, we immediately noticed the top 2 “queries” amounted to 3,664 clicks (60% of queries).

However, these 2 records are “blanks,” reflecting the effect of secured search – and we were left with only 40% to analyze…

Is this something you’ve encountered?–the frustration of “not provided”?

It’s easy to get annoyed by the lack of info about the majority of your traffic… but there’s actually a lot you can do by analyzing what little Google tells you…

Here’s what we noticed. We saw 4 variations of our keyword in the top 5 keywords: “excel templates,” “free excel templates,” “excel templates free,” and “best excel templates.” The #3 spot was an interloper — “excel dashboard templates.” (Incidentally, a dashboard is a kind of excel template, and the word was mentioned 8 times in the original article.)

NOTE: By default, you will only see the top 10 records. To expand this list, on the bottom right of the traffic readout, find the Show Rows drop down – and toggle from 10 to 25 (or as much as needed) to see more queries and data.

In total, there were 1,542 queries.

We sifted through this list and found that 271 (17.6%) terms contained the word “dashboard.” Interesting… A keyword optimization opportunity?

While 17.6% doesn’t seem like a lot, it’s worth pointing out that after the top 25 terms, the click volume quickly drops off to 1 click per term. Furthermore, in those top 25 terms, the term “dashboard” was present 13 times.

So we felt confident that “dashboard” was a highly relevant term, and we decided to go back and add it to the URL and title. For good measure, we peppered “dashboard” into the introductory paragraph 3 more times. Check it out:

Adding the right keyword

Now it was time to play the Keyword Optimization Waiting Game… again.

This time, however, we didn’t have to wait very long…

In fact, the effects were immediate. Take a look:

Keyword tuning results

Our traffic ticked up rather quickly! Prior to the change, the high water mark was 221 clicks per day. Three days later, the page saw 327 clicks, or a 47% increase.

Six days later, it exceeded 400, representing an 82% increase.

In the following weeks, it continued to hit new highs of 473 clicks followed by 565.

Just last week, we achieved a new record at 761 clicks in one day.

We Achieved a 343% Increase in Traffic – Can You?

Here’s a quick recap of what we did – in case you’d like to try this at home:

How to tweak your keywords

Not only can this technique help you revive a poorly performing article, but it can also help you generate new ideas. Rather than doing keyword query research on a single page, you can do it for your whole site and see how people are finding you. You may be very surprised at the treasure trove of information you will find.

After reading this article, I really hope you’ll repeat the steps outlined here. Google Analytics is filled with hidden keyword opportunities – and now you know 1 more way to find ’em.

The Steps Are Only Good If You Follow ‘Em

Naturally, proceed with caution – because this optimization strategy may not work for every single article out there…

Case in point: we tried something similar on another piece, and it didn’t produce the same wondrous effects. But! But, let me point out that, in that case, we made changes based on intuition, not on data – and the change had a negative effect. So, before going ahead and making some drastic changes to your articles, make sure to consider these tips:

  1. Never make assumptions. Let the data dictate your decisions.
  2. Make sure you have enough data to make a conclusive decision. The more organic search traffic you have, the easier this will be. If the daily traffic is not significant, you can expand the time parameters to get more data.
  3. Look out for articles that could have a cluster of closely related synonym keywords. Google is supposed to catch synonyms but sometimes the intent is different enough to justify a separate keyword.
  4. Don’t get too greedy. If you’ve hit the nail on the head the first time, you may not find additional opportunities. We’ve visited some of our most heavily trafficked pages, only to find 2-3 keyword variations, similar to our first pick.
  5. If your keyword update doesn’t work, sweep it under the rug and keep moving. Revert back to the way it was or try something new.

That being said, there is probably a pot of gold waiting for you in your Google Analytics query data…

So will you take a few minutes today to optimize a post or two?

Or does potentially tripling your traffic to at least one page not sound that appealing?

Share your take in the comments below.

bradz-18Brad Zomick works at SkilledUp.com, a leading curator of online educational content, including over 90,000 online courses from over 300 providers available in areas like Programming, Graphic Design, Content Creation, Marketing and more.
Find the best online courses at SkilledUp.com to get skills and get ahead.