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Organic Search Traffic: One of the Best Reasons for Content Marketing

Updated April 26, 2022

Only one channel satisfies every reason you will ever have for distributing and promoting your content.

Organic search.

That’s not an overstatement. Let me explain.

Organic search traffic is the super KPI of content marketing

You’re creating content for people to discover your responses to their problems, questions, or curiosities, right?

Think about your organizational goals for content marketing.

Ten years ago, CMI’s B2B content marketing benchmark study found brand awareness, customer acquisition, lead generation, customer retention/loyalty, website traffic, engagement, and thought leadership as organizational goals for at least half of the respondents.

In 2022, though the study’s response options aren’t worded exactly the same, little has changed. Over 50% of marketers say their organizational goals include creating brand awareness, building credibility/trust, educating audiences, building loyalty with existing clients/customers, and generating demands/leads.

Let me walk you through how organic search acts as a catalyst to achieve the common organizational goals of content marketing.

Organic search is the biggest source of website traffic

Where do you put your best content? That’s right. On your website.

And which channel, source, or platform – whatever you choose to call it – brings the most visitors to your website?

Most likely, it’s search. Of all trackable website traffic, 53% comes from organic search, according to a 2019 BrightEdge study – a two percentage point increase over its 2014 study.

53% of all trackable website traffic comes from organic search: @BrightEdge #research via @BrennerMichael @CMIContent. Share on X

Whip up your Google Analytics, go to Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels and look.

Go on, do this before you read further.

What did you pay directly for that traffic? Nothing.

Ask yourself:

  • How can we improve SEO to get more traffic from Google?
  • What sections of the site are they visiting? What sort of content appeals to them?

Organic search traffic builds brand awareness

Search queries fit primarily into three types of intent: informational, navigational, and transactional. Keywords for each query can be further classified as branded and nonbranded.

Total Retail research found 88% of B2B sites and 58% of consumer retail sites are found through unbranded search terms. And yet most company websites focus on ranking and paid search for branded terms.

88% of B2B sites and 58% of consumer retail sites are found through unbranded search terms, according to @MyTotalRetail #research via @BrennerMichael @CMIContent. Share on X

But when you build content to target each type of keyword, you can hold your customers’ hands along every stage of their buyer’s journey until they make the decision. Or, as I love to say, you can reach, engage, and convert buyers you would have never seen.

Along the way, you build brand awareness, recall, and eventually, trust.

Ask yourself:

  • Does our content appeal to visitors at different stages of the buyer’s funnel?
  • How is our brand being highlighted in this content?

Organic search traffic cements your thought leadership

Quite simply, the search engine is the best vehicle to build thought leadership. When you create relevant content with a hub-and-spoke approach, your pages start popping up for searches related to that topic.

Search engines are the best vehicle to build thought leadership, says @BrennerMichael via @CMIContent. #SEO Share on X

As people associate your content with the topic more and more, it builds not only awareness but also trust for your brand. It also can help your content get recognized as a featured snippet, answer box, or knowledge panel in Google search results. And that can mean more exposure for your content. Use it to bring in more clicks to the in-depth content you created on the topic.

Ask yourself:

  • How do we create content that answers all our audience’s questions on a topic and associate our brand with that topic?
  • How can we take advantage of Google’s featured snippets to increase our visibility?

Organic search traffic opens vistas for engagement

Your visitors may find a piece of your content through search, but you can take steps to keep them around:

  • Measure types of engagement with each piece of content.
  • Take actions to improve engagement and encourage visitors to explore other relevant content on your site.

You also can use the SERP feature that highlights other related searches to find else what this audience may be searching for on the topic.

Ask yourself:

  • How do we get visitors from organic search to bookmark our pages, share them on social media, or subscribe to our newsletter?
  • Do we have a good CTA and internal-linking strategy that encourages organic visitors to check out other pages on the site?

Organic search has been and continues to be the best reason to do content marketing. It can help us to reach and engage buyers and consumers we would never have reached if we hadn’t done content marketing.

Organic search has been and continues to be the best reason to do #ContentMarketing, says @BrennerMichael via @CMIContent. Share on X

But what about leads, revenue, loyalty, and retention?

Organic search traffic brings quality leads

We know the three types of search keywords: informational, navigational, and transactional. They clarify the intent of the searcher. Intent is one of the most valuable variables in lead generation and sales. Whether a prospect is searching for information, comparing brands, or evaluating a product, all customer journeys begin, progress, and end with intent.

It is easy to dig into your organic traffic analytics and match keywords with intent. Done correctly, you get an exact idea of how far the visitor has come along the buyer’s journey. To illustrate that, here’s an example of progressive long-tail search terms:

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Based on the search queries (and the nature of the queries), it is possible to qualify the organic search visitor as marketing-qualified leads (MQLs) or sales-qualified leads (SQLs) and target them with appropriate content. At the top of the funnel, it could be a blog article or e-book. In the middle of the funnel, it might be a webinar or case study. At the bottom of the funnel, it would be a demo video or landing page.

While that search effect relates to the quality of leads, let us not ignore what salespeople ultimately want: volume. Well, organic traffic doesn’t disappoint here either. A HubSpot study found SEO beats social media, email marketing, paid search, and other marketing channels at increasing new leads.

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Ask yourself:

  • Does our keyword research help us understand the intent of visitors at different stages of the buyer’s funnel?
  • What criteria do we use to classify organic visitors as leads, and how do we nurture and convert them?

Organic search traffic converts better and results in sales

The HubSpot study also found search ranked the third most popular tactic to gain leads. Blogging, which often relates to search, took the second position. (The No. 1 position was landing pages, calls to action, etc.)

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In affecting sales, organic search beats social media and paid search.

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When combining SEO, blog posts, and landing page copy with compelling CTAs makes a 47% contribution to increasing sales. Add a bit of lead intelligence to that, and you have an unstoppable sales machine. One way to go about it is to use compelling conversion points with the promise of more valuable content in your blog posts.

A combo of #SEO, blog posts, & landing page copy with CTAs makes a 47% contribution to increasing sales, according to a @HubSpot study via @BrennerMichael @CMIContent. Share on X

Ask yourself:

  • Are we integrating our SEO efforts with conversion rate optimization (CRO) on our site?
  • Does every piece of content on the site augment our sales process?

Organic search improves customer retention and loyalty

Google delivers personalized results for searchers based on the terms they use and the URLs they click.

While location and device play a significant part in personalization, the nature of previous searches also matters. Search engines place a significant focus on first impressions, brands, and the match of real-world customer journeys and experiences with digital. This AI response mimics natural search behavior – if someone has had a great experience on your website, they tend to click or even seek your brand in search results even when it’s below other listings.

This simply means people who clicked from Google (or any other search engine) to one or more of your pages are likely to see more of your URLs in their SERP for search terms related to similar topics.

This is a virtuous cycle. Organic search keeps sending your customers and brand advocates back to your site. It keeps them consuming your content. Every time they do so, it’s an opportunity to give them more of what they want.

Ask yourself:

  • Do we have enough content that enables our customers to use our product or service to its fullest?
  • Do we create authoritative and informative content that makes people think of our brand for anything related to our industry?

Organic search is the most cost-effective way of distributing content

Let’s make one thing clear: Organic search really isn’t “free.” But it is exceedingly hard to accurately compare the ROI of organic search to paid or any other marketing channel for that matter. (Trust me, I tried and didn’t find a single reliable study.)

There is no such thing as cheap #SEO, says @BrennerMichael via @CMIContent. Share on X

The primary reason is that it’s not easy to attribute “spend” to SEO as you can for PPC or email marketing. Multiple costs overlap – the cost of producing content, optimizing it for search engines, and marketing it via off-page inbound tactics.

That said, once you have an approximate figure for your SEO spend, you can measure the reach and ROI that it gives your brand and compare the ROI with other digital channels. And then set up conversion tracking and goals to determine the ROI of your ongoing SEO and content campaigns.

Ask yourself:

  • How much do we spend on SEO and content marketing every month?
  • Do we have an accurate attribution model to determine which channels deliver ROI for our content?

Organic search spins your content marketing flywheel

Google wants to see structure and metadata for your content. They want that content formatted to suit the devices and methods your audience uses. Further, structured information in the form of lists and tables also can be helpful to searchers (and thus, Google.)

Not only that, provide searchers with quick answers that also draw them to your site. Then, keep them there with great content and CTAs, leading to more virtuous cycles.

The more content you have in different forms on different platforms, the better your chance to dominate the search results for branded terms related to your industry.

You can create blog posts, landing pages, slide decks, social media updates, graphics, videos, slide decks, and podcasts, and have all of them ranking for a given set of related keywords.

Organic traffic gives you a competitive edge and creates a digital flywheel on Google – good, optimized content leads to better search visibility, more clicks increase your site authority, and site authority gives your content better chances of ranking.

Ask yourself:

  • What is our strategy for repurposing and redistributing our best content?
  • On which platforms, publications, and media other than our site do you post content?

Organic content marketing is here to stay

No, SEO is not dead. But it has a constantly changing face. What doesn’t change are the business benefits that organic traffic brings to your digital content marketing strategy. It’s up to you to optimize your content to take advantage of Google’s evolving SERP features, and improve reach, conversions, and sales in the process.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute