How to drive millions of sessions with glossaries


Updated on September 30, 2020
Topics: ,
6 min well spent

Back in the day – before Google’s Panda update – glossaries were a fine way to drive lots of traffic. It was the days when you just had to pump as many pages into Google’s index as humanly possible. Then Panda came and destroyed that tactic. The trend went back to having as few pages with the highest quality as possible. Glossaries as a traffic-driver were forgotten like the Jedi in The Force Awakens. But now, they’re making a comeback.

3 Examples of high-performing glossaries

First, Searchmetrics‘ glossary: www.searchmetrics.com/glossary/:

  • 2,500 backlinks
  • 13,000 monthly visits
  • 1,200 top 10 keyword rankings
www.searchmetrics.com/glossary/ in Ahrefs
www.searchmetrics.com/glossary/ in Ahrefs

Not bad for a site construct of only 122 pages. That’s a visitor/page ratio of 106 (I like to look at the ratio to get an idea of the efficiency of the content).

Next: Ryte. This one is a good chunk bigger: en.ryte.com/wiki/

  • 27,500 backlinks
  • 75,000 monthly visits
  • 7,400 top 10 keyword rankings
  • 1,000 indexed pages
en.ryte.com/wiki/ in Ahrefs
en.ryte.com/wiki/ in Ahrefs

Ryte’s wiki has a visitor/page ratio of 75.

And now, let me kindly blow your minds.

Investopedia has this thing with the boring title of “financial term dictionary”.

Well, this thing drives:

  • 18,000,000 (that’s million) monthly visitors
  • 6,200,000 (million again) backlinks
  • 1,270,000 top 10 keyword rankings
  • 22,400 indexed pages
https://www.investopedia.com/terms/ in Ahrefs
https://www.investopedia.com/terms/ in Ahrefs

Again, Investopedia drives millions of visitors and backlinks with their glossary and achieves a visitor/page ratio of 803 🤯.

You thought that’s the limit? Fasten your seat belts. Because I’m going to show you a glossary that drives 40,000,000 monthly visitors.

Mayo Clinic. Their glossary has 13,200 indexed pages and drives 39.5M organic visitors per month. It has 6,300,000 backlinks and 2.3M top 10 keyword rankings.

www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/ in Ahrefs

That’s a visitor/page ratio of 2,990. The glossary drives about 50% of total organic traffic.

Now, what makes a glossary perform well?

The difference between high and low-performing glossaries

A glossary is not a list of word definitions, but a library.

To show you the difference between a glossary that works well and one that doesn’t, let me show you what it shouldn’t look like.

I picked Search Engine Journal’s SEO glossary as example: www.searchenginejournal.com/seo-101/seo-glossary-terms-definitions/.

  • 350 monthly visitors
  • 275 backlinks
  • 40 top 10 rankings
  • 1 indexed page
www.searchenginejournal.com/seo-101/seo-glossary-terms-definitions/ in Ahrefs

I know that I might step on toes with this example and I really don’t mean to offend anyone at SEJ. In fact, I hope that I might be able to help them out a bit with this kind criticism.

From a visitor/page ratio perspective, you’d think they’re doing really well (it’s 350). However, they’re not driving much traffic in the first place.

What are they doing differently? After all, SEJ is a strong authority in the SEO space and has a Domain Rating of 90!

As I said in the beginning, their glossary is a list of word definitions. All of the content is on one page.

SEJ's glossary
SEJ’s glossary

Now, compare this to Searchmetrics’ and Ryte’s glossaries: they explain one term per page.

Ryte's wiki
Ryte’s wiki
Searchmetrics' glossary
Searchmetrics’ glossary

Same for Investopedia. In fact, Investopedia built out full articles for each term, including a Table of Contents, expert authors, key take-aways, and cross-article navigation.

Investopedia's glossary
Investopedia’s glossary

On top of that, internal linking plays a huge role. Besides well-placed links in the body content, Investopedia links to hubpages (all terms with a certain letter) in the footer of the site.

Footer links on Investopedia
Footer links on Investopedia

Searchmetrics links to all letter hubpages at the bottom of term pages.

Letter hubpages on Searchmetrics
Letter hubpages on Searchmetrics

Mayo Clinic’s glossary doesn’t look fancy but has a similar hub structure.

Mayo Clinic's glossary
Mayo Clinic’s glossary

Recap

The best glossaries fulfill 4 criteria:

  1. They cover one term per page instead of listing term definitions on one or few pages.
  2. They are strongly internally linked through hubpages, in-body links, and other link modules.
  3. They’re written by experts in verticals like finance or health.
  4. They have an easy to read content structure and help find useful information with Table of Contents and cross-article navigations.