Did you know that the average web page that ranks on page 1 of Google has at least 2,000 words of text?
That means if you want more organic traffic, you have to create tons of content, right?
What if you don’t have a content bone in your body—does that mean that you are out of luck when it comes to your rankings?
There has to be another solution…
Luckily for you, there is. Before we get into that, let’s first dispel the myth that you have to generate more content to grow your organic traffic.
Does More Content Mean More Organic Traffic?
When you think of the best ranking sites on the web, which ones come to mind? Sites like Wikipedia, The New York Times, Huffington Post, and Mashable, right?
The reason all of these sites rank so well is because they have thousands—if not millions—of pages with unique content. In general, if you create more content, you’re giving search engines more keywords that will help them rank your site.
If you look at the image above by SerpIQ, you’ll see that the average web page that ranks on page 1 of Google contains at least 2,032 words. And when you look at the top three positions, you’ll notice that those web pages have at least 2,400 words.
When you start dissecting the keywords that most of these content-rich sites rank for, the majority tend to be long-tail keywords. Just look at Quick Sprout: 91% of my organic traffic is generated through long-tail terms due to the fact that I write content on anything related to marketing.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t get rankings if you don’t produce content. Take UpWorthy as an example: they get millions of visitors from search engines when they rarely write more than 100 words of content on a page.
If you search for the phrase “unrealistic bodies,” you’ll see UpWorthy with the first spot on Google.
What’s even more impressive is that the body of the post contains only 55 words.
You may say that “unrealistic bodies” isn’t a popular search term. And it isn’t. But UpWorthy is competing with 19 million other web pages that also rank for that term. Which means they must be doing something right.
Plus, it’s not the only search term they rank for. They rank for 17,112 more popular terms according to SEMrush. And some of these terms are indeed popular such as “Rosa Parks” or “Robin Williams.”
But UpWorthy Still Generates Content
I know what you are thinking, UpWorthy only gets organic traffic because they generate content. And sure, they may not create as much content as Wikipedia, but to some extent they still create text-based content.
Airbnb, on the other hand, also generates millions of organic visitors a month, and they rank for competitive terms like “vacation rentals.”
If you look at Airbnb’s home page, what don’t you see? You don’t see much content.
Even when you look at listing pages, the only content you see is short descriptions and reviews, both provided by users. The user-generated content might be helping them rank, but it doesn’t perform as well as it would if it were Airbnb generated content.
Just look at this warning I got from Google last year…
It shows that Google knows the difference between user-generated content and content created by the website owner. Still, Airbnb ranks for long-tail terms like “Brookstone apartment by Central Park.”
And if you want to see a site that ranks well but contains little to no content, check out WhitePages. Just perform a search, and you’ll see that their listing pages contain little to no content, yet they rank for competitive terms like “people search.”
So, what’s the secret to ranking high if you don’t want to focus on content generation? It’s backlinks.
Do Backlinks Help With Rankings?
What Upworthy, Airbnb, and WhitePages have in common is they have a lot of natural backlinks pointing to their websites. When I compared them to QuickSprout.com using my analyzer tool, I saw that both sites have more organic traffic than Quick Sprout even though Quick Sprout contains web pages with more in-depth and longer content—over 2000 words per page.
If that doesn’t help convince you that links are important, consider this: Moz asked 120 search marketers what they felt impacts a site’s ranking on Google. Can you guess which factor they listed as most important?
As you can see from the chart above, links are the most important factor. Twelve out of the top 15 ranking factors were all link-related.
When you look at these popular sites that contain thousands of backlinks and little to no content per page, you’ll also notice that they have something else in common.
So, how can you grow your organic traffic without generating more content?
How to Grow Your Organic Traffic
Just like Airbnb, Upworthy, and WhitePages, you can get hundreds of thousands—if not millions—of organic visitors per month as long as you do the following:
- Build more pages – whether your pages are content-rich or not, you need more web pages. The more pages you have, the higher your probability of ranking for more long-tail terms.
- Make your pages count – if Google doesn’t like the content quality on your web pages, you will get slapped with a Panda penalty. To avoid this, you want to utilize technology that helps you create valuable web pages, like White Pages has done. Or you can choose to focus on creating user-generated content such as reviews, like Yelp and Airbnb have done.
- Press builds links – UpWorthy, Yelp, and Airbnb all did a wonderful job of getting media exposure. By getting mentioned on sites like The New York Times, not only were they gaining traffic but they were also building up their backlink profiles, which helped their search engine traffic. To get media exposure, you can either hire a PR agency or use a free service like HARO.
- Be proactive – there are dozens of ways to build links if you are willing to put in the time. This article I wrote recently breaks down seven tactics such as leveraging Quora or using broken link building.
- Be patient – if you aren’t writing in-depth articles, your search traffic won’t grow that quickly. In the long run, you can still gain organic traffic, but don’t expect miracles overnight. I remember when I first started checking out Airbnb, they were getting over 100,000 visitors a month from search, and most of the organic traffic came from people searching their brand name. Things are different now, but it took time.
You can grow your organic traffic without generating content. It won’t be as easy as leveraging content marketing, but it is still possible.
Just look at companies like Apple, Microsoft, IBM, and Amazon. They all receive millions of organic visitors a month, and none of them truly focus on blogging. Instead, they focus on creating great products or services.
If you want to grow your organic traffic and you don’t want to create content, focus on building backlinks. It’s the best way to generate more search traffic, even though it is hard work.
How many backlinks does your site have?
Editor Note: Neil was the opening speaker for our SEJ Summit in Santa Monica this year. Want to learn more from speakers like him at our Summits throughout the year: in NYC, Chicago, Dallas, San Francisco, Miami, and London? Sign up for a FREE ticket, covered by our partner, Searchmetrics.
This post originally appeared on Quick Sprout, and is re-published with permission.