Understanding Organic Search Engine Traffic + How to See Your Traffic Soar

Ellie Diamond
Published: Nov 17, 2022
Last Updated:
Table of Contents
Sign up for our newsletter to get exclusive content marketing news and resources.

Somewhere out there, your target customer has realized they need something. They pick up their smartphone and start a search — maybe "{your business type} near me" or "ways to fix {pain point you solve}."

A few seconds later, there it is — your website. Maybe your homepage, a product page, or your blog. They click, and voila! You have organic traffic.

In today's business world, understanding organic search engine traffic is key to getting those new visitors. This article will explain how organic traffic works and, more importantly, how to get it.

What Is Organic Search Traffic?

Organic search traffic happens when someone finds your website via a search engine — usually Google. It allows new audiences to discover your brand without a cent of ad spend and with minimal effort beyond your initial setup.

Yes, creating a page and doing your search engine optimization (SEO) takes time. But once your page is up and in the world, the rest is in the internet's hands. Your page will keep getting organic traffic if you keep ranking for the right search queries.

Organic traffic also helps you build robust digital marketing strategies. It's easier to analyze which pages get the most organic traffic, so you can tell which campaigns are working. In that way, duplicate traffic is the most accessible form of traffic.

Key Ranking Factors That Impact Your Organic Search Traffic

Up-to-date SEO knowledge is key to understanding organic search engine traffic. The higher you rank on someone's results page, the more likely you are to earn their traffic.

According to recent Backlinko research, the top organic result on Google is ten times more likely to get a click than the tenth result. Each movement up the rankings gets you an average of 2.8% more clicks, but the effects are stronger when you get close to the top.

Check out the click-through rates for spots one through four:

  • #4: 8.4%
  • #3: 11.0%
  • #2: 15.8.%
  • #1: 27.6%

So, how do you get those coveted positions?


Backlinks are popularity points in the search engine game. A backlink is any link to your site from a third-party website. Each one represents someone who thinks your site is worthy of traffic.

Sites with more backlinks rank more highly on search results pages, especially if the links come from multiple sources. According to Backlinko, the top result on Google has almost four times as many backlinks as results two through 10.

You can earn backlinks by filling your site with valuable content — the kind other bloggers and content creators will want to link to. The more effectively you promote your content, the better.

That said, be careful who you pursue for backlinks. You could drop down the results page if you have too many links from disreputable sites. Avoid any "business" that tries to sell you links, and focus on getting genuine backlinks from reputable sites.


More than half of all Google searches happen on a mobile phone. You won't get as much organic traffic if your website is slow, confusing, or hard to read on a mobile screen.

To test the mobile-friendliness of your website, pick up your phone and type your URL into the browser. It should load quickly (within three seconds). The page should fit the screen and be easy to read. Poorly optimized websites are confusing to read on mobile, with text that bleeds off the edges and images that are the wrong size.

Next, pretend you're a customer and try to navigate to a significant page — maybe an About Us or product page. Is it easy to find using a touchscreen? Make sure it loads fast and is easy to read, just like your home page.

Average Time and Bounce Rates

Google cares about the quality of users' experience on your site. If people spend a lot of time exploring your various pages and reading your content, that's a good sign. If not, you might need a redesign or some fresh content.

The easiest way to check user engagement levels is by looking at average time and bounce rate.

Bounce rate is the percentage of users who visit your site, then click away without interacting with it. They don't sign up for a discount code, click to explore another page, or enter their email address for more information.

According to a recent study by creative agency RocketFuel, average bounce rates range from 41% to 55%. Mobile bounce rates usually trend a bit higher than desktop. If you get a lot of mobile traffic, don't worry if you're at the top of the average scale — or even a bit above.

If your bounce rate is too far above average for comfort, it might be a sign that your visitors aren't engaged. There are multiple reasons this might be happening, from poor design to products that aren't what searchers are looking for. Consider digging a bit deeper to find out.

Average session duration also tells you about your user experience. The term refers to how long people spend on your site per visit.

A session is one visit, from the moment your page loads to the time the visitor clicks away. (A session can also end after a certain idleness, usually half an hour.)

Global Media Insights quotes a typical session duration of three minutes based on findings from various studies. If your time is much lower than this average, especially if your bounce rate is high, consider a website review.

Traffic Sources

Traffic is key to a healthy website, but avoid putting all your virtual eggs in one basket.

It's essential to understand the primary types of website traffic and the differences between them, including:

  • Direct traffic vs. organic traffic. Direct traffic happens when someone types your URL into a search bar or uses a bookmark. You get organic traffic when someone searches Google and clicks on your (non-ad) result.
  • Organic vs. paid traffic. You earn organic traffic from search engine results that Google chose to rank. Paid traffic comes from ads (Google search ads, Facebook ads, banner ads, etc.).
  • Referral traffic vs. social traffic.: Referral traffic includes click-throughs to your site from other domains — via a backlink, for example. Social traffic is referral traffic specifically from a social media page (yours or someone else's)

The more traffic you get, the better your chances of boosting your SEO. Traffic isn't a direct ranking factor, but each pair of eyes on your site is another opportunity for backlinks.

Diverse traffic also allows you to analyze where your visitors come from. Your chosen analytics tool should tell you which terms get you the most search volume, so you can invest your time and money there.

Link Equity

Link equity — sometimes called "link juice" — is the reputational value your site receives from internal links and backlinks. The more links a page gets from high-quality sites (including your own), the better that page's rank will be.

Each link gives a certain amount of equity. That number depends mostly on factors related to the referring page (the page that links to yours). Those factors include:

  • Page rank. Higher-ranking pages give more equity.
  • Relevance. The more closely the referring page relates to yours, the more equity you get.
  • Site authority. You get more equity from well-respected sites.
  • Link quantity. A page has the maximum amount of equity it can pass along. The more links it includes, the less equity each linked page gets.
  • Anchor text relevance. When anchor text relates more closely to the linked page, that page gets more equity.

More linked equity helps you rank higher and get more organic traffic.

Relevant Content

You can't rank well without relevant content. Google says so directly in its explanation of automated results generation:

"our systems analyze the content to assess whether it contains information that might be relevant to what you are looking for."

You can't get much clearer than that. The right content tells Google that your site aligns with user intent — the reason someone searches Google for a particular term. When you produce content related to specific user intent, you tell Google that you know your stuff.

Common Mistakes Companies Make When It Comes to Search Engine Optimization

Understanding organic search engine traffic also means knowing what not to do. These three traps catch too many digital marketers — don't be one of them.

  • You are ignoring page load speed. Load times have been a confirmed Google ranking factor for over a decade. A faster site improves your user experience and can reduce bounce rates.
  • You are failing to optimize for relevant keywords. Include primary keywords in your page URLs, headings and subheadings, and body content where appropriate. This helps Google match your content to the right searches.
  • Neglecting older content. Old, sparse, or duplicate content can hurt the user experience on your site. Do a content review and find out what pages need a build-out or refresh.

5 Ways You Can Get Started on Improving Your Organic Search Traffic

Understanding organic search traffic is only the first step. You need to take that knowledge and make the changes that will drive traffic to your website.

1. Set Up Google Analytics and Google Search Console

Your website generates data with every visit. Google's free tools, including Analytics and Search Console, turn that raw data into valuable business insights.

Google Search Console exclusively analyzes search traffic and performance. It gives you information about the following:

  • How often your site appears in search results
  • Which queries your site ranks for
  • How often searchers click on your results
  • Whether any technical errors prevent Google from crawling your site

Google Analytics tells you how people use your site. It can tell you how many people visit your web pages, how they get there, and how long they stay. It's easy to find your bounce rate and average session duration.

Learn to set up both Google Analytics and Search Console by following the step-by-step developer instructions.

2. Analyze Your Current Traffic Sources

Google Analytics is the perfect tool for comparing traffic pathways. Use it to visualize how much of your traffic comes from which source, or go deeper into user behavior across different channels.

If you have a Google Ads account, you can connect it to your Search Console tool to learn how much traffic you get from your choice of keywords.

3. Conduct an SEO Audit On Your Website

The Digital Marketing Institute calls an SEO audit " an essential starting point" for any marketer. It involves a complete review of everything that contributes to your rank.

Elements of a comprehensive SEO audit include:

  • Technical site crawling
  • Page speed analysis
  • Site architecture review
  • Content check
  • Backlink and tag analysis

You can do an SEO audit yourself using free or paid tools, but this can be time-consuming and risky — particularly if you're new to the task. Consider hiring an expert who can quickly and efficiently find what you're doing well, identify potential issues, and suggest effective improvements.

4. Execute Keyword Research

You need to know what your audiences are looking for to get more organic search traffic. That's where keyword research tools come in.

Keyword research helps you build your organic traffic by delivering key insights, including:

  • Which search terms are popular with your audience
  • How many people search for different keywords
  • How difficult it is to rank for competitive keywords
  • What keywords your competitors successfully target

Like SEO auditing, keyword research is something you can do in-house or outsource. If you choose in-house, many free and paid keyword research tools can help.

5. Couple Your SEO Strategy With Content

Content is one of the most powerful SEO tools in your toolbox. It's a chance to showcase your topic expertise and the value you offer readers, which are key ranking factors.

It's also your opportunity to rank for a variety of keywords. Each content piece can target a different primary keyword or group of keywords — a significant benefit if you have multiple audience segments or a variety of product or service offerings.

There are so many types of content available. You can create months' or years' worth of offerings without ever repeating yourself.

Improve Your Organic Search Rankings With Content

The right content strategy can help you to grow your audiences, reach new buyers, and strengthen your existing connections.

Start your journey today with a personalized keyword research report from Compose.ly. Your report will tell you how you're currently performing, what new keywords you can target, and

Each research report includes a personalized review with a Client Success Manager, who will talk you through your results and suggest next steps. Order your report today and take your content to the next level.

Learn how to work with AI tools, not against them. 

Download our free guide to AI content creation and discover: 

✅ The benefits and limitations of generative AI
✅ When to use AI tools and when you still need human assistance
✅ Tips for writing effective ChatGPT prompts
✅ 6 ways to leverage ChatGPT for content creation
Download Now

Speak with us to learn more.

Let us make content marketing easier for you. Fill out the form below, and a content specialist will get in touch with you in 1 business day.
Close button icon