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With SEO a lot of people look at rankings.

And ranking number 1 for a keyword really depends on a lot of factors.

And it is much harder to control.

But in general, if you are spending time and money on SEO you should see your traffic go up.

At least your organic traffic, right?

Well, you should.

Let’s look at the data to see how long SEO really takes to see results.

Organic search data

We currently track over 100 million domains from an SEO perspective.

Of those 100 million domains, a bit more than 1 million have given us direct access to their analytics.

Of those 1 million sites, we know through our software that 42,391 are actively focusing on their SEO.

And when I say actively focusing on their SEO, I mean they are continually pushing out new content on a monthly basis, focusing on optimizing their code, growing their backlink count, optimizing their load, etc.

In other words, they are putting in energy to get more organic search traffic.

So, let’s look at what happened to their traffic:

  • In the first 6 months, they saw an increase in organic search traffic by 11.4%.
  • In the second 6 months, they saw an increase of 9.58% over the first 6 months.
  • And in the second year, they saw an increase of 49.4% on average over the 1st year.
  • In year 3 they saw an increase of 30.7% over year 2.
  • And in year 4 they saw additional growth of 13.5%.

To sum it up in a visual format, check this graph out:

Now we don’t have data past year 4. And it is tough to decipher when a site actually started its SEO efforts, so it’s not perfect, but it gives you a good sense of growth to expect over time.

Keep in mind this data is averaged out. There are drastic outliers.

And for fun, we decided to look at the outliers… the 1%. The sites that grew the fastest and had a baseline visitor count of at least 10,000 organic visitors a month.

And technically it wasn’t 1% of the 42,391 sites that we looked at. It was only 138 sites that made the cut that had at least 10,000 organic visitors a month and were growing at least 50% per year for all 4 years.

Here are the 5 most common traits we found with their SEO strategy:

Trait #1: Large focus on keeping content up to date

People talk about creating content. And yes, you need new content to rank well on Google. But you also need to keep your content up to date.

Just ask yourself, would you rather read an article that is a week old or 5 years old? Chances are you prefer updated, fresh content over stale content.

Google knows this.

Here’s how often the 1% spent time updating their content versus creating new content.

Trait #2: They have built a brand

You may not be able to build a brand like Nike, but something is better than nothing.

These sites are leveraging omni-channel marketing. In which they are leveraging social, email marketing, and sometimes even paid ads.

By being everything, and creating a good product or service, you are more likely to build a brand over time.

Search engines (and even social networks) prefer ranking brands because they know they are less likely to create fake news.

Here’s a quote from Google’s ex-CEO, Eric Schmidt.

Brands are the solution, not the problem. Brands are how you sort out the cesspool.

The easiest way to measure a brand is through search queries. What percentage of someone’s traffic comes from their brand name versus random keywords?

Here’s the difference from the top 1% and the 99%.

Trait #3: Trends

One commonality we saw with the 138 sites (1% as we call it) that performed exceptionally well is that they had spikes in organic traffic.

Some months were notably higher than others and in most cases, it wasn’t due to algorithm updates.

It was more related to news. In which they were riding the waves of trends to gain more search traffic.

It’s not hard to ride trends, you just have to do it within your space.

For example, a dentist talking about politics isn’t advised because it wouldn’t be on topic. But a tech blog talking about Apple’s latest releases is a good fit.

And it is a great way to get more traffic.

If you are struggling to find trends in your industry, check out:

Those 3 sites will help you find relevant trends.

Trait 4: Fast load time

Faster load times clearly lead to more search traffic.

Here’s how fast the 1% loaded versus the rest

You can always put in your site URL here to get data on your load time.

Trait 5: Big TAM

TAM stands for the total addressable market.

The more people who can buy your products or services or even read the content you are putting out, the more potential traffic you can get.

In marketing, they say the riches are in the niches.

That is far from true.

The bigger sites tend not to be a small niche.

They tend to go after big markets that appeal to a lot of people or companies.

Because the more people that are interested in the category you are going after, the more potential traffic.

But you must be careful with TAM. A big audience size doesn’t always mean more revenue. This article will help explain TAM a bit more and break down how to focus on revenue and not just audience size.

Conclusion

If you spend enough time on SEO you will get good traffic.

Just look at the data above.

But what that doesn’t talk about is the people who don’t do well.

The most common reason a site doesn’t do well is they aren’t consistent and patient.

SEO takes a lot of work. But the ROI is huge. You have to be patient, put in the years, and be consistent over those years.

That’s how you win in the long run.

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