91% of online content receives no organic traffic from Google search, according to recent research by Ahrefs, one of the largest data companies in the search marketing industry.
Ahrefs undertook a massive study across almost 1 billion pages on the Internet, to find out how many pages get traffic from organic search and why.
The results are eye-opening, and disconcerting for publishers.
A whopping 90.88% of pages in the ~1 billion pages sample get zero traffic from Google, and 4.5% of them get less than 10 visits per month.
In an era when Facebook usage is dropping and publishers are becoming more dependent on Google, this is quite a cause for concern for content creators.
While there may be hundreds of SEO issues that responsible for low traffic, Ahrefs isolated the most common factors that determine how the minority 9% ranks well, and gets organic search traffic from Google.
According to Ahrefs, when they focus on the most common scenarios, there’s only two of them.
Reason 1: The page doesn’t have any backlinks
Why does most of the content online get no organic traffic via Google? The research indicates it’s partly because most pages are not linked to from other sites.
Over half the pages sampled don’t have any referring domains pointing to them, and almost a third have 3 or fewer backlinks.
Reason 2: The page doesn’t target a topic with enough search traffic potential
There’s another scenario where content doesn’t do well on Google search in spite of having a ton of backlinks pointed at them.
For example, Ahrefs found more than 30 thousand pages that have backlinks from over 200 referring domains, yet don’t get any search traffic whatsoever.
On manual review of such pages with some backlinks but no search traffic, the Ahrefs analysis indicated two general trends:
- They went overboard with “shady link building” and got penalized by Google;
- They aren’t targeting a topic that people are searching for in Google.
For most publishers who are not into black hat SEO practices, the second indicator is the most relevant for low traffic conditions.
“If nobody is searching for whatever you talk about on your page, you won’t get any search traffic.
You’ll notice this happening quite often with news-based articles. They easily obtain a lot of links from around the web, yet rarely get any long-term traffic from Google.
This is because people can’t search for things they’re unaware of, and most people don’t care about things that happened long ago and thus never search for them.”
— Ahrefs Organic Traffic Research, 2018
So what’s next?
Knowing the factors most responsible for low traffic (as determined in the Ahrefs study), how do publishers take steps to increase their overall rankings on Google and drive more search traffic to their content?
Ahrefs suggests a few quick actions that can give publishers an immediate boost:
- Find the pages on your website with the most referring domains.
- See if they are targeting and ranking for any good topic(s) with high search traffic potential.
Once you find the pages with lots of backlinks but little organic traffic,
- Analyze what they’re about.
- Do a bit of keyword research to see if there’s scope to re-optimize those pages for relevant topics with decent search traffic potential.
In the final analysis, Tim Soulo, marketing and product strategist at Ahrefs, concludes:
“The bottom line is painfully simple and obvious to anyone familiar with SEO:
If you want to get traffic from Google, you need to publish pages about the things that people are searching for (i.e., do proper keyword research) and make sure those pages get links from other sites (i.e., do some link building).
In the grand scheme of things, that’s really all you need in order to show up in Google search results and get organic traffic to your site.”
You can find the full Ahrefs study by clicking here.