Increase Traffic By Osmosis: How To Absorb Content To Gain Over 200,000 Organic Visitors Per Month

by Nick · 38 comments

in SEO

How I Increased Traffic From 100,000 to Over 200,000 Organic Visitors Per Month, Overnight

This is a case study on how I doubled organic traffic to an existing website from 100,000 visits per month to over 200,000 visitors per month, overnight, using technical SEO and the osmosis technique.

This was done using a strategy that involves absorbing another operating website’s content, rankings, and ultimately traffic.

Here’s the website’s traffic the week before, from July 25, 2014 to July 31, 2014:

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And here’s the same website’s traffic the week after, from August 1, 2014 to August 7, 2014:


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And here’s what the lift looks like:

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Here’s the website’s traffic for the month of June 2014 (prior to absorbing the other site):

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And here’s traffic for August 2014 (with the osmosis taking place on 8/1/14):

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Want results like these for your website? Request a SEO analysis right now!

So What is SEO By Osmosis

Just like in science where one membrane absorbs the property’s and molecules of another membrane during osmosis, this SEO strategy involves absorbing the content and rankings of another website so as to inherit it’s organic traffic.

So how do you do this?

The concept itself is actually very simple, but the implementation needs to be spot on or you could torch both websites, at least temporarily.

The process involves using one of two methods to essentially swallow the content of the other website, and then inherit it’s organic rankings and thus traffic.

If you’re not an advanced professional, it’s best you involve an experienced team of SEO experts and developers prior to applying this technique. That way you’ll be able to minimize the eventual damages caused by a domain migration.

How To Absorb All The Traffic

As mentioned earlier there is 2 ways to do this:

  1. Using 301 re-directs, or
  2. Using cross-site canonical tags

Both involve the same process of preparing for the cut-over; the content needs to be duplicated on the destination website by being uploaded to the destination site’s database.

If you’re going to use 301’s then it’s best to try to replicate the URL structure of the old site’s pages and if possible place these all in one new directory, so you only have to write one mod rewrite statement to repoint all of these URL’s to their new home.

In the example I use for this post I used a sitewide 301 re-direct to sub-directory on the destination website.

If you are going to use cross-site canonical tags the process has a few extra steps:

  • The canonical tag needs to be added into the head of every page that you will be absorbing.
  • Generate a fresh sitemap to make sure all pages are included.
  • Brute-force submit this sitemap through webmaster tools 3+ times each day to forge Google to crawl and index those canonical tags.
  • Keep an eye on the URL’s ranking for those pages and once you see 75%+ you need to set the old domain to return a  403 Forbidden Error.

What Makes A Good Osmosis Website

Finding a website that is a good fit for this strategy has a lot of implications, for example:

  • The website needs to already have sufficient natural rankings and a sustainable base of organic traffic, although sufficient is a relative term here and will vary depending on your comfort level for risk and investment.
  • The website should have content that is at least tangential or in some way related to that of the target destination website.
  • Ideally the website will be built on a stack using the same kind of database, for example if I was going to do this for *this* website I would look for a site running a MySQL database (even more ideal would be if it was wordpress), so I could download and then simply upload to my database.

Finding websites at this scale (~100,000+ visits per month) available for acquisition is not easy, it’s much more likely that you will be able to find sites in the 10-30k visit per month range that you will be able to pick up for a few thousand dollars based on:

  • Age of the domain
  • Authority of domain (PageRank / DA)
  • Number of unique visitors
  • Monetization and revenue

 Is This Traffic Sustainable?

You tell me, here’s the traffic numbers for September 2014:

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Something To Be Aware Of..

It seems there is a somewhat rampant problem in Google with continuing to index old domains that have been 301’d, here are a few examples:


However, the meta attributes, i.e. page titles and meta descriptions as well as URL targets (destinations) are all pointing to the correct version and bringing click-throughs to the right place, so in terms of traffic this still works – but in terms of continuity of user experience, this seems way off.

With that said in my experience this problem is less significant when you go the cross-site canonical route to absorb the traffic. Thank you to Ross Hudgens for providing me with Rishi’s tweet and examples.


Do you want to make a domain change but fear of losing traffic? Contact us for an SEO analysis!

For Future Updates

I plan to continue to acquire more sites and fold them into this same site to see if I can grow through traffic acquisition to over 1,000,000 visitors per month. To stay tuned on my progress (including sites I’m looking at buying and details on traffic and bids/offers) that I won’t share here, join my mailing list (it’s free).

Lastly, if you enjoyed this post, and especially if you didn’t, please consider taking a moment to leave a comment – I use comments as my number 1 indicator on how well a post topic or concept resonates with readers.

Thank you.

If you’re dealing with an ecommerce website and want to apply the osmosis technique, it’s important that you cover the ecommerce SEO for advanced users in my previous posts.

About Nick
Nick is the Co-Founder of an ecommerce consultancy company and the author of this SEO Blog.

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  • Nice post, Nick.
    Consolidating sites also strenghten link profile but one should pay attention since 301 and canonical pass Penguin or manual penalty risks.

    Anyway, I’ve experienced issues as well with merging sites: many months ago I moved my old SEO site to and still the first one is in index (hating Google for this).

    • Thanks Giuseppe – Absolutely, I would definitely recommend making sure any sites you’re even considering “folding in” are clear of any penalties, whether manual or algorithmic.

      Yeah I had no idea how bad this was until Ross gave me the heads up today, whenever possible I’ve been using the cross-site canonical implementation and deprecating the old pages, which Google seems at least receptive to pulling out of the index once you set them to 403 Forbidden and then submit remove requests though WMT.

  • Though not really technically in-depth on 301 issues, would love take this great knowledge on board, soon i get enough rates on PA and DA. Some of my old optimized pages wasn’t properly index by google but quite surprising to have good serp on targeted keywords. Thanks you Nick!

  • I was actually planning on doing this soon.

    Did you check if the site had any content copied etc, or did you just go with overall top level checks?

    • Hey Krystian –

      That’s great! Would you tell me a bit more about your sites? Do you already own the site(s) you’re going to fold in? I physically copied all of the content over to the destination site, i.e. added it all to the database, before adding the 301 to move all the URL’s (matched on URL structure) to the new sub-directory.

      Which implementation path are you going to take; 301 or cross-site canonical? And why? (hope you don’t mind all the questions, I’m excited to start discussing this more).

      Thanks man,

  • Great stuff, Nick… Sending this over to a client who’s been asking for proof that the concept is sound. I’d love to see an article some time on the in-depth process you use to acquire websites as well. Nice post as always.

    • Thanks Ryan.

      The big differences here are 2 fold (IMHO):

      1. The destination content stayed the same, but was *absorbed* by the new site versus simply re-directing the traffic and pages to existing pages on the destination website, and
      2. The URL architecture was kept the same and all content was moved to one sub-directory, mirroring the architecture of the osmosis site.

  • One other way you can do this is to migrate the site you have acquired to a sub-domain of your existing site (if you are anxious about penalties) There is a big news paper that acquired a web forum and did this, but I cannot remember which one it was now… I’m getting old.

    • Hey Stephen – Yes you can absolutely do it that way, the main point here is making sure you absorb the content (or at the very least properly set the DNS to cascade downstream) before setting the re-directs or canonical tags.

      Cheers man!

  • Victor Pan

    How do the on-site metrics compare after the osmosis?

    Should a different set of standards be set in place to benchmark site engagement?

    If persona targeting is part of your digital strategy, would you reject potential acquisition if the target website’s demographic is too different from yours or would you create a new persona?

    Just throwing some questions to get some discussion going.

    • The literally averaged to nearly a hundredth of a percent between the 2 sites.

      That’s a really great question – I hadn’t thought about how to adjust the existing site’s KPI’s to account for the newly absorbed visitors; and while the audiences were very similar, they are still different.

      I think you would have to, it wouldn’t make any sense to fold in a fashion to a directory for local plumbers.

      Really great questions man, I appreciate you jumping in and getting it going 🙂

  • From an acquisition standpoint, where are the sources? Are you using services like Freemarket, Flippa, etc. or going to the direct owner. Thanks Nick!

    • Hey Matt –

      I work with a mix of private brokers, keep tabs on Flippa and QuietLight, but the most successful acquisitions have come from keeping an eye on sites in the space, building a relationship, and working out fair terms for a deal direct with the owner.

      In some instances the acquisition agreements have included keeping the current site owners on-board, paying them a retainer plus a percentage of revenue and having them help manage the transition of the site/audience over time.

      Thanks for reading man.

    • i think its comes from any referral traffics or any spam sort of activity done on the website.

  • What a nifty little trick … I am leery of using such a technique since Google’s new update is due to come out any week now…

    • Hey Vicki –

      This is absolutely, 100% legitimate in the eyes of Google.. this literally violates ZERO guidelines, so you have nothing to worry about with respect to updates.

  • Nick you did a great job!

  • Perfect idea, if only for that there is no penalization by Google??

    • Hey Magnus – Absolutely not, this is not the slightest bit black hat so you don’t have to worry about any penalty’s from almighty G.

  • What about Duplicate Content? Am I missing something here? You must be closing the Original Site down, correct? Was that part of the article and I didn’t read it?

    Since “absorbing all content” you write the article as if this isn’t duplicating work. But this is in fact the case?

    What does the long term chart look like for this same site? Can we see that?

    • Hey Samuel –

      Duplicate content does not come into play at all here. No, you do not need to close down the original site, although once all of the rankings have been transferred you certainly could. I did actually speak to to this a bit in the article, talking specifically about making sure you set the old URL’s to a status of 403 (Forbidden) once the rankings have transferred to the destination website.

      This is, in fact, not at all the case. Both strategies used 1) 301 redirects or 2) cross-site canonical tags, tell search crawlers that the content has moved permanently thus eliminating any duplication issues.

      The site has only continued to increase it’s organic traffic, I don’t have a long term graph for this yet as I just did this the end of july, but I can tell you that for the month of October 2014 the traffic will be over 230k for this site.

  • Nick you did a great

  • Great post Nick!

    This is a great idea for using the 301 re-direct without breaking any of Google’s terms. Only problem I can see is that this is a very expensive idea. Unless you are aware of a way to purchase a high traffic site inexpensively, I would only use this on a site that is already generating a bunch of traffic or a client that is paying big money :).

    • Thanks a lot Justin!

      It’s relative I guess. I have been able to pick up sites with 5-15k visits/month that only have ~20 posts and a few pages but haven’t been updated in over a year, or sometimes 2! The time and due diligence required here is definitely a major factor in the success of this strategy.

      The main takeaway here is it’s sometimes easier to acquire traffic through acquisition than by building it all yourself from scratch.

      Thanks again!

  • Hello Nick, this is my first time visit. I like the concept you shared here. I am not a techie person and that’s why I am particularly interested in this statement of yours: “I plan to continue to acquire more sites and fold them into this same site to see if I can grow through traffic acquisition to over 1,000,000 visitors per month.”

    Suppose a user knows about abc site but now abc site is xyz site (after the acquisition). So when that user tries to visit abc site he landed in xyz site. In this scenario isn’t there high chance that he will bounce?

    • Hey Jewel –

      If the site has a high amount of returning traffic and the visit was through a branded search, yes it’s very possible. However, in the scenario I used as my example the traffic was nearly 100% organic search with almost 85% being new visits – the content focused on solutions and information and visitors were finding the posts as references to learn more about the specific topics, so there wasn’t any brand affinity.

      If abc site has a brand following you could still keep the site intact with design, branding, etc. and still absorb all the traffic by simply moving it into a sub-directory or onto a sub-domain, which would all depend on what would make the most sense for those visitors.

      In any case this is an important consideration.


  • Thanks Nick for sharing this helpful information. 🙂

  • Luke Jordan

    I like the concept but I think defining this as organic growth is misleading/incorrect. I’d say it’s only organic if the sites that are merged were all built up over time by yourself, your acquisition method above means these visitors lie in a grey area somewhere between organic and paid. Thoughts?

    • Both sites were built up over time by me. The first is a UGC site and the second was a blog in the same space, but a completely separate website. All traffic to both sites is 100% from organic (unpaid) search.

  • Learned something out of the box after a very long time. I will be definitely trying out this method to see if it works for me. It is a harsh truth in terms of SEO and traffic that, what works for you, may not work for me. 🙁

  • Joe

    I´m not sure if these visitor will generate conversions or not :/

    • In this case the website is monetized via ad-revenue, so more pageviews = more conversions. Win.

  • oh’ this wonderful article and Thank you for the guidelines. it’s very useful for me.Thanks for sharing this helpful information.

  • Good read… I am actually planning out the merging of two sites at the moment.

    I need to merge the two sites, then redesign the main site and launch that. It is very difficult trying to plan out all the 301s. I have thousands to go through with no real structure to the urls, with the previous site being on an old custom built system.

  • Like the idea.,,i dony know how do this,,can you do .nick for me.?

  • Nice article thanks for share it with us great idea without break google rules.

  • Great idea Nick. I will implement this soon.

  • Great Idea Nick because this is the method that google also Allowed. And -using tagging site map will help me to increase my blog search ranking or not ? Please Reply Because i’m facing Some Problems while trying to increase blog Organic Traffic.
    Jitender Sharma

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