SEO Lensing: How to Climb the SERPs with Content Consolidation
Imagine thousands of new visitors arriving to read your articles and blog posts, and possibly buy a couple of things, each day. They’re interested in what you have to say. They browse around, reading multiple articles. Some of them click on ads (and bring in some revenue), others click on affiliate links and drive more revenue there, still others make purchases via your online store.
For many Internet entrepreneurs, that’s the dream – a stable flow of valuable traffic that drives growth and profits.
The reality is that most small business websites simply can’t make enough of an impact to cut through the clutter and start ranking at the top of page one for decent keywords, high traffic or long tail. And regardless of whether you have a great social media network, or email marketing list, it’s tough trying to make ends meet online without having a steady flow of high converting traffic from Google organic search.
But just because it’s not easy to dominate search, doesn’t mean there aren’t some low-hanging SEO fruit that will help you pick up any conversions you’re currently missing out on.
While aspects of this strategy have been referred to by a number names, such as PageRank sculpting, I call this strategy SEO lensing because it takes diffuse traffic and focuses it into a beam, like a magnifying lens.
What Is SEO Lensing?
Think of how a magnifying lens can focus the diffuse rays of the sun into a tight beam of light, strong enough to burn through a leaf or blade of grass. That’s what we’re doing – only the light is replaced with organic traffic, and instead of being focused on a leaf it is being directed to a high-converting landing page.
The idea is to take a bunch of poor to average ranking pages and use them to:
- Create a single outstanding page
- Better match content with user intent
- Offer visitors a better experience
- Flow PageRank from multiple URLs into a single page
- Remove low quality pages to increase trust and authority in the domain
- Provide additional opportunity to generate buzz and backlinks
Here’s how it works…
1. Identify Diffuse Traffic
Almost every site, no matter how big or small, has some articles or pages that drive plenty of traffic and many that don’t. Not every site can send every piece of content to the top of page one. So, those that do get there drive lots of traffic and the numbers quickly drop off as we move down to the least popular pages.
The thing is, most of this “weak“ content that doesn’t drive much traffic might be of decent quality. It may not have generated enough backlinks to convince Google to rank it highly or Google may simply decide not to rank it, for whatever reason.
A good way to find these pages is to look at Search Analytics data in Google’s Search Console (or whatever analytics software you use) over the last 90 days or so and view impressions in ascending order to see the pages that perform poorly:
Because all of this content forms part of the overall blog/content strategy, many webmasters are reluctant to play around with it, much less get rid of it. But here’s the thing; if it’s not driving traffic what value does it bring anyway?
And, because most blogs tend to focus on topics within their niche there is quite a lot of overlapping information between posts. Any reasonable sized blog can probably find more than 2 or 3 overlapping articles on almost any topic.
The net result is that your content generates diffuse organic traffic, much like the rays of the sun before they have been focused by the magnifying glass. In other words, traffic arrives in small amounts across a large number of pages.
This is really bad from a search optimization perspective, and it’s even worse for conversions.
Having five pages that rank on page 2 or 3 of the search results is far less valuable than having one page that appears on page one. It is much better to dominate a single search term than to compete poorly across many.
Not only that, but with traffic trickling in across a range of pages you either have to add repetitive calls to action, add conversion elements to every page, or be inconsistent and have some posts optimized for conversions and others not.
Wouldn’t you rather get all of this traffic onto one top page and funnel it to a conversion from there?
2. Focus the Beam
Identify pages that are performing well in Google search and add these to a big list of the pages you want to keep. Maybe they’re not quite at page one, but if they’re the best performing page on your site for that topic, that’s the one to keep.
For each of these “keepers,” build a list of overlapping, weaker pages and call ‘em “weakers” – these are the pages that you will borrow from in order to upgrade the keepers. Take what unique, relevant and interesting content you can from them and rework it into the keeper version.
The goal of this step is to produce one single page that is unbelievably awesome and useful for the readers. Often this type of page ends up being quite long, so you might want to add a navigable index at the top to help readers find their way around. This can improve the user experience and is especially effective in list type articles, like this one that covers the top 10 new business ideas from University entrepreneurs:
Once all the weaker pages have been cannibalized for their quality parts, you can get rid of them. But, once they’ve been deleted it’s important that your server redirects that weaker URL to the new keeper URL so that any PageRank and links gained by the weaker page will be passed onto the keeper, making it stronger and more likely to rank well.
This update also gives you an additional marketing opportunity because you can re-share and amplify the newly updated content with your social media followers, tell influencers about it, share it with the media, etc.
The new social buzz, combined with a higher quality page and a few 301’s coming from established older pages (that may also have referral traffic and backlinks) will focus the dilute PageRank shared across all the weaker pages into your keeper page, helping it to climb the rankings.
For example, we stripped out a number of weaker forum pages related to a keeper page about website builders and SEO, used their content, and redirected them. After a week or two we noticed a significant improvement, as shown by the increase in search impressions for this page:
Repeat this process until you have reworked and improved all your keepers while redirecting all your weakers. By the end of this stage you’ll have a much smaller, leaner and meaner page ranking machine.
Google has stated several times that the presence of low quality pages can affect the rankings of your entire site – so having no weak content (even if it means having fewer pages) is ultimately a better SEO strategy.
Watch the traffic patterns on your new pages. Monitor visitor behavior closely in order to better understand what is happening on that page. Are people bouncing? Are they searching for something else? Are they converting, browsing away or doing something else completely unexpected?
Think about the page’s performance in terms of how well it meets the average user’s intent. In fact, I think the single most important SEO tweak you can make to any content is to ensure that it is pitched perfectly at the target audience – taking user intent into account. Understanding user intent is extremely important, and quite tricky. Google often gets it wrong and sends mismatched traffic. You have to do a better job, otherwise conversions will suffer.
Talking of conversions…
Often, because we view articles and blog posts as content and not a landing page, we neglect to provide strong, clear calls to action on those pages. Sometimes we include links in text to related resources we want people to visit, we use sidebar content to encourage newsletter signups, but more than that… our content is left to fend for itself.
If you have created a good quality piece of content that has a strong, logical and relevant call to action then don’t be afraid to make it stand out. Give visitors a clear and visible next step.
For example, our website builder & SEO forum post contained text links to free step-by-step guides on how to get started with each one. Unfortunately, these links simply weren’t prominent enough in the rather lengthy body of content, so very few visitors clicked through. Since the guides are something aspiring webmasters should be using, we decided to make them more visible:
The results were immediate; the bounce rate dropped and clicks through to the beginner guides shot up.
Many visitors skim read content looking for a specific nugget of information, in order to move forward. Making these actions easily findable means they can achieve their objectives quicker.
Here’s a snapshot of the visitor flow through this page:
There’s always room for improvement, but hopefully you can see how the vast majority of traffic is funneled to specific pages (our beginner guides).
Not every change you make will necessarily match the user intent or improve things in the way you hoped. Watch traffic patterns carefully all the time. Have the changes lead to better conversions? Have they led to a higher bounce rate? Have you made the content meet the expectations and intent of the user better, or worse?
By repeating this process:
... you will eventually create a page that is pitched perfectly, absolutely useful and relevant to visitors, and converts extremely well. With happy visitors comes a happy Google and the net result of this is often improved page rankings – due to an overall increase in mentions, referrals, and editorial backlinks.
So that’s SEO lensing or content consolidation in a nutshell. The goal is to take diffuse and poorly matched traffic that brings diffuse PageRank with poor to average rankings in the search engines, and focus it all into one unbeatable quality resource that ranks well and meets (and exceeds) visitor expectations.
What do you think of this strategy?
About the Author
David Mercer contributes to SME Pals, a blog dedicated to helping entrepreneurs and small business owners thrive online by turning creative business ideas into profitable startups. He is a tech entrepreneur and published author with programming and Web development books translated into over 13 languages worldwide.