You’ve manufactured your product, paid the talented artists at Go Media Inc. to build your website, posted it live on the internet and then sat back, put your feet up and waited for the cash to start flowing in. But there was a problem. It didn’t. What the heck went wrong? You constantly heard about the fortunes being made on the internet. Where is your slice of the pie? You know you have a good product and the website design is top notch (naturally.) So, what’s wrong?
What’s wrong is that nobody is visiting your website. Nobody even knows it’s up.
Myth: Once I post my website the search engines will find it and automatically and start sending me tons of traffic.
Fact: Search engines know your site is new. They see that nobody is visiting it. They assume it’s unimportant, so they leave your site buried at the bottom of their search results, sending you little or no traffic. You have to WORK HARD to drive traffic to your website. It’s not automatic.
So how do you get your website noticed? How do you “drive traffic?”
This is where you will have a thousand SEO (Search Engine Optimization) experts tell you, or try to sell you a million different things – all guaranteeing tons of web traffic. Let me take this moment to say that I am NOT an SEO expert. But I’m also not an SEO idiot. I’ve been building and helping people market their websites for over 7 years. So this article will be a beginner’s guide to driving web traffic.
1. Tell people you have a website. Now this seems obvious, but every little bit helps. So make sure you put your web address on all your marketing materials. Put it on your ads, on your business cards, on your letterhead, etc. etc. You get the idea.
2. Natural Search Results. This is the very first way people will find your website. The search engines are constantly scanning the web for new content. When you post a new website – they will find it, read your content and rate your site based on a closely guarded mathematical equation. Then, when people search the web for something and your website (content) matches what someone is looking for – your site will be listed in the “natural” search results. Of course, most new websites will rank fairly low. Odds are that the person doing the search will never even see your website. So, how do you increase your page rank and get more natural search results?
Now this might sound like your typical SEO jargon, but I’ve boiled it down to the basics:
2a. Make sure you have header tags and meta tags that match the search terms you want to rank well on.
2b. Make sure you have good, well written content on your website. Make sure to use the words in your content that you want the search engines to find. So, if you are a muffler repair shop – you should probably say the words “muffler” and “repair” frequently in your copy.
2c. Add MORE content. Any way that you can add content to your site will drive more traffic. This GoMediaZine article you’re reading RIGHT NOW is a perfect example. I’ve written a long article about the basics of driving web traffic. The search engines are going to find this article and send more traffic to our website! (Clever huh?)
A blog like this is an easy way to add content, but it still takes work. Obviously I had to spend several hours writing this article about SEO basics.
2d. Get more traffic. …. Huh? I know – this is confusing. Obviously, you’re TRYING to get more traffic, but I just wanted to also mention that the search engines pay attention to how much traffic you’re GETTING…. …and increase your page rank based on the number of your visitors. So, the more traffic you drive, the more traffic the search engines will send you, which in turn drives more traffic! It’s a bit of a catch 22. If you can get traffic, they’ll assume you’re important and send you more visitors. If you’re not getting traffic, than they’ll assume you’re not important and won’t send you much traffic at all. You’ll need to work very hard at first to drive traffic, but the longer you’re at it the easier it will be.
2e. Links back to your site equal more traffic. Not only do links back to your website on other websites drive traffic to your site, they also make the search engines think your site is more important. This, once again, increases your page rank in the search engines, which drives more natural search results. So, ask your friends if they’ll post a link back to your website. Or “exchange” links with people who share your target market. And another trick is to have them write a few descriptive words along with the link. It sounds silly but more words, more content, more links – it all adds up to more traffic.
3. Invest in real-world marketing. Just because your website is online does not mean you cannot utilize real-world advertising like magazine ads, flyers, posters, etc.. People seem to forget about this and confine themselves to web-based advertising only. Obviously you want to maximize your advertising dollars, so this might not be the best option, but it IS an option. Don’t forget about the REAL world.
A good example is getting your business cards and brochures out to people. We’ve tried leaving stacks at various social hotspots around town because we know where our potential clients hang out. Go to events, conferences or corporate parties and network.
Advertising in magazines is expensive, but it’s a good way to brand your business as well as let a specific target market know about you.
4. Get listed for FREE. There are millions of places online where you can post your web address for free. You will have to do a little searching around to find places for your company. In Go Media’s case I did searches on “Designer list” and “Design Resources.” I found lots of websites that have databases of design firms. It was free to add our company to their database. If you own a restaurant or bar, I would suggest starting with your city’s primary website; like “Cleveland.com” Or social websites for your area like “clevescene.com.” As I said, you’ll have to look around on the web to find free places to post your website information. Obviously start with websites that cater to your target market.
5. Buy it. Did you know you can PAY to be #1 on the search engines? It’s called Pay-Per-Click. If, for instance you want to be #1 on Google for the search term “design” – you can buy it. You basically bid on how much you want to pay for each “click” (a click is a unique visitor your website). Depending on how much you’re willing to pay, the higher your page rank. The person willing to pay the most gets the #1 spot. To learn more and sign-up – here are the two primary systems you’ll want to use: https://adwords.google.com/select/Login or http://searchmarketing.yahoo.com/
These two systems cover most of the major search engines on the web. The first one is obviously for Google – the largest search engine online. So you may want to start there. This is a good way to start – but you ARE PAYING for your traffic, and it’s much better to drive traffic for free. So, you should always be looking for other ways to drive traffic.
Other food for thought.
Volume of web traffic alone is not necessarily as important as quality of traffic. Imagine that you own a bar in Cleveland Ohio. You want to drive lots of traffic to your website so that people will read about your bar and come in to buy a drink. Well, obviously, the only visitors to your website that will also buy a drink need to be within driving distance of your bar. So, if an SEO salesman says: “I can drive ten million visitors to your website”, but they all live in China, what’s the point? This doesn’t help you. What you are after is web traffic that only lives in the Northeast Ohio area. Pay-per-click systems like Google Ad Words will let you regionalize where your traffic comes from.
In the same way that locality is important to some businesses, any number of other factors may be important for you. If, for instance you are selling rollerblades, you may not want senior citizens visiting your website. The point is, whenever possible, work hard to target your market as precisely as possible. Don’t be enticed by advertisements that promise millions of visitors. Size isn’t everything. Make sure you know who these “millions” are.
Tips from Jeff, Go Media’s Internet Nerd:
Bill went over a lot of useful tips about SEO and how to get your website listed in the natural search results. But I never rely on the natural search results. In my opinion, if you are busting your butt writing quality content and are an active participant in your industry, then the natural results will naturally occur – that’s why they’re called natural results! The more popular links at the top.
Here are some tips to drive traffic to your site without relying on search engines.
1. Start a blog and write daily. If your site is already a blog, then just keep writing – and write GOOD material. Why should anyone visit your site? So many people start a blog with the goals of selling ad space. Bad idea. Their goal should be to inform, educate, or entertain. That’s like wanting to be in a band because it will get you famous. Not likely going to happen. You should be in a band because you want to make music and perform. Same goes for blogs. But if you’re site isn’t a blog, it’s a good idea to create a blog as a companion to your real site.
2. Put your website links in your signature of emails, forum posts, blog comments, etc. Drop the link everywhere you can. Do it tastefully, otherwise you’ll have trouble making friends on the Internet.
3. Make friends on the Internet. Just like in real life, it pays to be popular. Haha, I hate myself for saying that because I wasn’t one of the popular kids in school. Maybe that explains why I’m writing an article about the Internet. Anyway, network with people. Post messages in forums. Email people that might be interested in your product. Communicate with others. But do so in a well educated and respectful manner. And do not try to sound like a salesman. The Internet is about being social. Find online communities that cater to your demographic or target audience and participate heavily in them. Be nice and be assertive in what you say, people will believe you and naturally want to know more about you or your company. This starts word of mouth, which we all know is critical to your business’s growth. So get started!