Organic Traffic 101

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Organic traffic is the creme de la creme of all website traffic. If you want the best, you want organic traffic.

So how do I get this magical stuff, you ask?

Well, you can’t buy it at Whole Foods. You can’t buy it at your local co-op, either. You can’t even buy organic traffic on Amazon!

In fact, you can’t buy organic traffic at all. That’s exactly what makes it so valuable.

Wait, wha...?

OK, let me break it down.

Paid versus Organic Traffic

There’s two types of traffic coming to your website: paid traffic and organic traffic.

Organic traffic is all the traffic that is coming to you through unpaid links and Google searches. Mostly Google searches. (Google has about 90% of the market share in searches these days.)

Paid traffic is any visit coming your way from links in Google Adwords, Facebook Ads, or any other type of affiliate marketing scheme. Although paid traffic can be expensive, it works really well if done correctly.

Paid traffic is great—to a point.

The importance of a diverse traffic strategy

When Google announced in September 2017 that it was pulling nearly all ads related to addiction treatment, many marketers in the industry panicked.


In short, because some folks failed to diversify their digital marketing strategy. The unlucky folks who were all-in on Adwords saw their entire strategy evaporate before their very eyes. For them, no Adwords = no conversions. Bummer.

(Just between you and me? Lots of these folks were scammers, so I’m not too sad about it. I think Google made the right call here.)

But what about the rest of us? Well, people who had a mix of organic and paid traffic through Adwords came out OK. They took a hit, sure, but they already had some organic traffic support and they had the infrastructure in place for getting more.

Now that Adwords is back on the menu as an option for addiction treatment providers, the game changed yet again. As of April 2018, rehabs can apply for a special Adwords certification so that they can start reincorporating Adwords into their marketing strategy - for a price. 

That is, until Google changes the rules again. 

So which strategy wins in the long run? Should you diversify your marketing strategy or should you put all your eggs in something like Google Adwords?

I think history shows us what to do pretty clearly—the diverse traffic strategy is the winner.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to give Google or Facebook or any other entity that type of control over my cash flow.

The lesson here is that having a combination of organic and paid traffic can act as insurance against any future changes to the rules of third-party advertisement providers.

Enough about diversity, tell me how to get organic traffic

The secret ingredient behind organic traffic is SEO—AKA Search Engine Optimization.

SEO is a fancy acronym for the art of getting on Google’s good side. Becoming BFFs with Google, if you will. When you get good SEO and become buds with Google, Google starts showering you with friend-benefits like more frequent indexing and higher page ranking.

This helps leads find YOU before they find anyone else. Great!    

So, how do you get good SEO?

The good news: there’s a very clear-cut, reliable protocol for improving your SEO.

The bad news: it’s not easy, cheap, or fast.

Google’s system for figuring out page ranking is highly complex and somewhat secret. There’s lots of details we don’t know—and that’s OK. We know enough to be dangerous!

Here’s the basics:

Invest in Awesome, Useful Content

“Great, I can buy super cheap content from a content mill in another country!”

Not so fast. Google bots know the difference between great content and BS content. They just do. They know if English is your second language and you’re not really pulling it off. They know if you worked hard on your content or if you sort of half-assed it. They have crazy algorithms, guys. No joke.

In their guidelines for SEO, Google simply says, “write content for humans, not bots.”

Good advice.

Gone are the days when a random list of keywords would help with your Google page rank. Google detects these shenanigans immediately and your page is sent to the bottom of the heap.

What you need is useful, well-written, well-researched, unique, keyword-rich (but not too rich!) long-form content.  

Any content that has even a hint of insincerity to it is a non-starter. Google can smell your BS a mile away. Sprinkle in keywords—especially in headers—but only when it makes sense and feels natural. For pete’s sake, don’t attempt to plagiarize or duplicate content! Google is on to you and will punish you for it—harshly.

And by the way: content means words, plain and simple. Google can’t really “read” images or videos or embedded documents in the same way. Sure, it can read the alt text on images (so be sure to write descriptive, juicy alt text!) but it’s not the same. Avoid pages that are just a collection of images because it basically looks like empty space to Google.

Empty space isn’t “valuable” or “useful.”  

Update Often

Google loves a frequently updated site.

It’s a lot like humans in that way!

(Are you starting to notice the similarities? Google likes useful content...humans like useful content! Google likes frequently updated sites...humans like frequently updated sites! Crazy!)

So, how frequently are we talking here? Well, the bare minimum for content updates (AKA blogging) is 1x a week.

That said, studies have shown that 4x a week is optimal.

This detailed analysis from Hubspot shows that businesses who blog 16 or more times a month see 3.5x the traffic as those who who blog under 4x a month.

Who cares about traffic, though, right? We want leads!

Well, that same study shows that businesses that update content 16x a month net 4.5x the leads.

I hope you’re paying attention: 4.5x the leads. That should be enough to stop you in your tracks. That’s a serious pay off for frequently updated content.  

Choose Your Battles Wisely

You want your site to rank on the first page of Google for the keyword: “addictions treatment?”

Well, join the club. There is going to be a TON of competition for that keyword.  

How do I know?

My awesome secret weapon: the Google Adwords Keyword Planner Tool.

Type in “addictions treatment” into the keyword planner and you can see how many people are searching for that term and how tough the competition is to rank with that term. (Hint: it’s a lot.)

You’re not going to win this one today, buddy.

What do you do now? Simple: find a keyword that fewer people are searching for, that has less competition to rank, and target that keyword instead!

The low-hanging fruit we’re going after here is technically called a long-tail keyword.

Instead of “addictions treatment” try “addictions treatment for women in Redmond, California.” Lots less competition, right?

Long-tail keywords are actually a lot more valuable to us as marketers than short-tail searches like “addictions treatment.” A real-life lead might type “addictions treatment for women in Redmond, California” into Google when they’re trying to find help and they’re actually ready to buy. The random who is searching for “addictions treatment?” They could be looking for information about treatment in general for a school project for all we know. It’s a lot less useful.

Don’t Panic, it’s Organic...Traffic

So. There you have it: SEO and organic traffic in a nutshell. Is that everything there is to know about SEO? Nope. There’s tons more. But these basics are the cornerstone of any worthwhile SEO effort.

In a way, they are very intuitive.

Give the people what they want and you’re giving Google what it wants.


My favorite thing about organic traffic is that you don’t just get to reap the rewards once.

Oh no—you get to reap them over and over again.

Popular content will always be popular. The content you write (or pay me to write) will bring in traffic for years to come—day in and day out.

Talk about a bang for your buck!

Erin Gilday