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#373 Building Organic Traffic Responsibly

Friday Ship #373 | November 10th, 2023

Parabol Organic Traffic November 2023 (1)

Last week The Verge released a piece of content claiming SEOs have ruined the internet. As a company whose main top of funnel growth lever has been SEO content, our ears pricked up. It turns out, we agreed with a lot of points in the article. Search engine results do feel unsatisfactory, overly biased, or are just wrong, and it’s a real shame. It shouldn’t be that way, and we’ve always tried to buck that trend in our content.

In the past three years, Parabol has explicitly targeted Scrum Masters and other members of Agile teams. The Agile community is opinionated, highly educated, and has a finely-attuned bull**** detector, which has led to us developing very high standards for the content we publish. There’s frankly no way we’d win the trust (or a sign up) from such an audience without knowing our topic space inside out. 

Our high standards are continuously evolving, so we can serve the internet with information that’s accurate, engaging, helpful, inspirational, and that builds trust. Here are a few ways we’ve added new standards and approaches to elevate our content and differentiate it in the search results.

How Parabol differentiates its SEO content 

SEO content often gets a bad rap because there are people who have gamed the system. But here are a few things we’re doing at Parabol to make sure our content is top class and trustworthy:

We bring in expert voices

For the past couple of years, we’ve actively sought out expert voices to provide a deeper and unique level of expertise to our content. Most recently, we’ve even experimented with adding video snippets of our expert interviews into content to add legitimacy and a diversity of real lived experiences, beyond just our own. We call this “content journalism” since the approach gives readers access to a broad range of insights and perspectives from our content that they can’t find collected in one place anywhere else.

We have a peer review process for some articles

One of the big criticisms of SEO content is that misleading articles can end up ranking very highly on Google. To make sure our content stands the best chance of being accurate, fair, and trustworthy, we’ve started asking experts to peer review our content. This gives us and users peace of mind, and it allows us to create referral traffic streams for the experts we involve.

We broke the mold of SEO listicles

One of the most dreaded pieces of SEO content is the “tool” listicle, where every retrospective tool writes an article on “best retrospective tool” and shamelessly places their own tool at the top. We’ve resisted making these articles for a long time. We made our first one recently, but included a disclaimer at the top drawing attention to our bias, and actually independently tried all the tools to give a truly fair assessment. 

We act on feedback

We don’t always get things 100% correct. But when someone gives us feedback that a sentence or paragraph doesn’t read quite right, we listen and correct it. We see this as continuous improvement in action. Content marketing isn’t exempt from the process of inspection and adaptation! This process extends to including expert viewpoints in our content that we may disagree with. Being a convening place for diversity of opinions is more helpful than towing one line. 

SEO content will likely continue to help us grow and bring new people into Parabol, but we have a duty to readers to do our very best to be transparent, open, and competent in this work.

Organic traffic trends and learnings

Arguably one of the hardest things for startups is to build a user-base. This comes even before monetization and trying to become profit-making. Companies can use network effects, throw money into ads, build partnership programs, do SEO, or any of the above in combination. We’ve relied on SEO as our main growth engine. It’s delivered the goods for us, but it’s been a rocky road.

The graph above shows our organic traffic over time. In June 2020, we hired our first marketer to work on content (that’s me 👋). We started out pulling in just 2000 organic page views per month. 2 users later, we saw an all time peak in September 2022, where we were pulling in 175,000 monthly organic page views. That’s now come down to ~80,000 monthly organic page views. It’s a big jump up from where we were back in June 2020, pulling in 2,000 organic page views per month, but it is still a lot lower than last year. 

It‘s hard for any content marketer to see organic traffic figures drop lower than they were in the past. The currency your average content marketer thinks in terms of is:

  • Organic pageviews
  • Organic as a % of total website traffic
  • Organic traffic to sign up rate

It’s really easy to get hooked on seeing the organic traffic pageviews and % of total traffic going up. But it’s not a good metric to look at for evaluating whether content is doing its job: winning trust, winning brand recognition, and eventually winning sign ups.

Despite our traffic dipping to a level that’s 50% lower than last Autumn, our last trimester saw the greatest number of sign ups we’ve ever seen in a trimester period and a big increase in organic sign ups. 

While we pulled in less overall organic traffic, more of it was qualified, resulting in increased sign ups. You can see this reflected on the graph above. Even though organic traffic is lower, the traffic value (in terms of commercial intent) is much higher.

We’re doing everything we can to keep this trend pushing in the right direction, despite being in a highly competitive topic space. 

Help us serve the Agile community even better!

We’re always looking for people to help provide expert insight for our content or to peer review articles. If you’d like to get involved, here’s a form we’ve put together.

We have a bunch of different collaboration options and we’re committed to growing together with the people we feature, by giving you opportunities to share your services, adding a link to your website, and sharing on social media and tagging you for extra visibility.


Web sessions saw a decent tick upwards as Google rolls out its November core update. In recent weeks this has been going up and down like a yo-yo, so we’re hoping to see some more consistent growth towards the end of the year. The stand out metric this week was meetings run, where we saw a 9.4% uplift.

This week we…

Next week we will…

  • Hold a virtual team retreat (Wednesday 15th) so we can connect as a team and tackle some meaty problems together.
Gareth Davies

Gareth Davies

Gareth is the Content Lead at Parabol. He has spent his career helping people and organizations around the world communicate better. He likes learning languages, cycling, and journalling. He originally hails from Wales, but lives and works in Munich, Germany.

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