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What is Organic SEO? [And Why You Should Focus on it]

Stewart Dunlop


Chief Link Building Strategist

Organic Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the holy grail of website traffic.

It can help you generate a consistent stream of targeted visitors to your website. And you won’t have to pay a cent beyond the initial investment you make in your strategy.

To do it well you just need a good understanding of what organic SEO is and the strategies behind it.

That’s what we’ll explore in this article.

What Is Organic SEO?

Organic SEO is the strategy websites use to rank highly on search engines like Google. It involves creating articles, webpages, and blog posts then optimizing them so they have the highest chance of ranking.

Organic SEO Is Extremely Beneficial to Site Owners

There are three main reasons why organic SEO is coveted by website owners.

It Generates Highly Targeted Traffic

A good organic search engine optimization strategy generates highly targeted traffic.

Rank for the right keywords and people will find your website at the exact time they are ready to buy.

Think about people who search for the term “sneakers.”

It’s reasonable to think that many of them are interested in buying footwear.

The three sneaker ecommerce stores that rank at the top of the search results get a steady stream of potential customers visiting their website.

SEO ranking positions

There are many types of organic search terms that suggest strong buyer intent. Ranking for terms like these in your industry will likely generate sales.

Here are some of these terms related to sneakers:

  • Best sneakers
  • Where to buy sneakers
  • Online sneaker store
  • Designer sneakers
  • Sneakers under $100

Websites that rank for these terms are bound to make money.

But organic SEO isn’t just about generating sales. It’s also a good way to build brand awareness and demonstrate expertise in your industry via search engines.

When people search for topics related to your industry, they will find your blog in the search engine results pages and become aware of your brand.

This is especially important for products or services that have a longer sales funnel.

The article you’re reading now is a good example of this.

LinkBuilder is a link building service. By ranking an article about organic SEO on Google, we can draw visitors who might be interested in our service.

It’s Low Cost

Organic SEO can be a low-cost way to generate traffic, especially when compared to other forms of digital marketing.

That’s because once you’re in the results, you don’t pay anything when people use Google to find your site.

All you have to pay for is the cost of content creation, strategy, and link building. And you can do this yourself if you have the expertise.

Compare that to other forms of advertising.

If you use PPC advertising, you have to pay every time someone clicks on your ads.

The cost varies drastically depending on the terms you are targeting. A term for a high-value product in a competitive industry will typically cost a lot more than one for a cheaper product in a less competitive space.

But it’s typically expensive. In fact, Wordstream discovered that over half of advertisers spent over $2,500 per month on their PPC advertising campaigns.

Other forms of advertising are the same.

Whether it’s TV, billboards, radio, podcasts, or sponsorships, you’ll always have to pay to be seen.

It’s Consistent

Once your site ranks in search engine results pages, it can stay for a long time. You’ll keep generating traffic for months or even years after you created the content.

Often you won’t have to do anything to maintain your rankings. For more competitive terms you might have to update the article every so often.

Here’s an example from a site we’ve been working with called SentryOne. Since one of the site's product pages began ranking it has consistently stayed in position.

It generates traffic (and therefore leads) every month with minimal maintenance.

SEO traffic organic

You can think of organic SEO as an investment.

The cost comes at the start of the process. But when it’s successful you’ll reap the rewards for years to come.

A Good Organic SEO Strategy Has Three Main Parts

A successful organic SEO strategy has three basic components:

  1. Keyword research
  2. Optimization
  3. Link building

Do these stages right and you’ll set yourself up for the best chances of success.

Keyword Research Helps You Find Suitable Article Topics

Keyword research is when you discover terms related to your product or service that people are searching for.

You then create content based around these terms.

Many terms already have established websites and brands ranking for them. These keywords are typically hard to rank for unless you have a website that matches the authority of these sites.

Take the keyword “sneakers” that we looked at above. The highest-ranking page was Nike. It will be very hard, if not impossible, for a new site to knock this website off the top spot. That’s because the company is a global brand and the website is authoritative.

Instead, you should aim to find terms that are related to your product and that you have a good chance of ranking for.

These are often long-tail terms.

Long-tail keywords are those that are more specific than general keywords. The downside is that they usually have a lower search volume.

But they can be just as targeted, if not more so. And they are often easier to rank for.

The key is to think about other terms people might be searching for. In the sneaker niche, this could include:

  • Informational queries related to sneakers: “How to clean suede sneakers”
  • Terms targeting specific products: “Nike Free Run 2”
  • Keywords related to buying specific products: “Where to buy nike air max 97”

How to Find These Keywords

There are many strategies you can use to find long-tail keywords.

Here are some free methods:

  • Put the term you want to rank for into Google and then check the “People also ask” box.
  • Use a free tool like AnswerThePublic to find questions people search for that are related to your keyword.
  • Sign up for a Google Ads account and use it to find keywords related to the ones you want to search for.
  • Use a free version of a paid tool like Moz or Ubersuggest to gain limited access to SEO tools.
organic SEO results page

Competitor research is one of the best SEO techniques for keyword research.

But you’ll need a paid tool.

Ahrefs is a popular choice that provides in-depth information. Or use a cheaper alternative like Ubersuggest or Mangools.

The idea behind competitor research is that you find a site in a similar niche to yours. You then put the URL into your SEO tool, which shows you all the keywords the website ranks for.

You can then target these terms yourself.

If the site you choose has similar authority to your own, you should have a good chance of ranking for these terms.

Optimization Gives Your Article the Best Chance of Ranking

Once you have your list of keywords, the next part of organic SEO is creating articles and optimizing them.

Article optimization consists of two main parts.

Matching Searcher Intent

The first part is to create an article that matches searcher intent. This means you want to create an article similar to those currently in the search rankings.

The idea is that because search engines use algorithms to decide what type of content to rank, you should produce content that matches what the algorithm already likes.

The easiest way to do this is to search on Google for the term. This will show you all the pages that currently rank.

Just look at what each of these pages has in common and create a similar one.

You’ll typically see several types of pages in the search results.

These include:

  • Product pages
  • Blog posts
  • Sales pages
  • Tools

If you decide upon a blog post, make sure that it matches the topic that ranks on Google to have the best chance of ranking.

Here are some sneaker-related examples.

  • Website homepages rank for the keyword “sneakers.”
  • Product pages and reviews rank for the keyword “Nike Pegasus Trail 3.”
  • Blog post listicles rank for the keyword “Popular sneakers.”
  • Instructional blog posts rank for the term “How to clean suede sneakers.”

Optimizing the Article or Page

Once you’ve written your page or post, you need to optimize it so it stands the best chance of ranking. Optimize for keywords and length.


The easiest way to optimize for keywords is to add your main terms to your title, headings, introduction, and URL.

Don’t overdo it, otherwise search engines will think you are keyword stuffing. This is when you add more keywords to a page than is necessary.

Or you could use a tool like Surfer SEO or Clearscope to analyze your article and compare it to others that already rank.

Surfer SEO tool suggestions

These tools will show you exactly which phrases and keywords to include in your article and how many times you should do so.


Make sure your article is the optimal length to rank on Google. Check out the top-ranking pages and aim for a similar word count.

You can do this manually by copying and pasting the content from each page into a tool like WordCounter.

The tools we mentioned in the section above (Surfer SEO and Clearscope) calculate the optimum article length for you.

Link Building Shows Google That Your Content Is Authoritative

The final part of an organic SEO strategy is link building. This is when you encourage other sites to link to your website.

It’s important because the Google algorithm uses the quantity and quality of links pointing to a page to decide where to rank it. The idea is that people are more likely to link to pages with valuable content.

There are many ways to actively generate backlinks. And as a link building agency we have a ton of content on this topic.

Our latest article on generating high-quality backlinks dives into the topic in more detail.

The key strategies we mention are:

  • Guest posting: Write content for other websites and link back to your site.
  • HARO: This is a service that matches journalists with sources, and these writers will often link to sources in their articles. It’s a great way to generate backlinks if you have expertise in a particular area.
  • Link exchanges: This is a simple link building strategy. Just reach out to people you know who have websites and ask them to link to you. In exchange, you link to them from your site or in a guest post.
  • Linkable assets: This is when you create a great piece of content and ask people to link to it. It’s tough to get right but can generate many links.

There Are Challenges to Overcome

We love organic search engine optimization, and it’s a great way to generate traffic.

But it's not perfect. Here are two factors you need to be aware of when trying to rank your site.

Some Industries Are Very Competitive

If your product or service is in a competitive industry it can be tough to use search engine optimization to rank for keywords likely to generate sales.

That’s because high-authority websites already rank for these keywords.

It will require a lot of time and investment in content and links to rank higher than these industry leaders.

The good news is that there are almost always relevant long-tail keywords you can rank for.

Results Take Time

The other issue is that search engine optimization takes time to generate results. If your website is new it can take months to start showing up for even uncompetitive terms.

This means the feedback loop is very slow.

If you’re new to SEO it’s hard to know if you aren’t seeing results because you need to wait, or because you are doing something wrong.

But a Good Organic SEO Strategy Will Help

Despite these issues, organic SEO is a great way to generate traffic and brand awareness for the majority of businesses. If you put in place a good strategy and work on it over the long term, it’s very likely that you will see results.