Traffic is the lifeblood for any online business. Without it – you die. It does not matter how great your products or services are, or how great your people are, or how super great you are. Unless you have enough traffic running to your website, your business will likely die.
Most new business assume once they launch their website, customers will come. Unlike the movie “Field of Dreams” with the famous line “Build It and They Will Come”, in real life, this is just not true. This passive marketing strategy naively depends upon customers wanting what you sell, knowing that you sell it, knowing how to find you, and then knowing how to order from you. Newsflash! You are going to be required to work, and perhaps spend some money, to get traffic to your website. Prepare for success or prepare to fail.
First things first – do customers really want what you sell?
Make sure that you do your market analysis before you get deep into the creation of your business. Investigate how many businesses are providing the same product or services. How are those businesses doing? Do you see a lot of newcomers in this space, or do you see a lot of those businesses going out of business? You want to be on the leading edge of something growing, and not on the trailing edge of something in decline. If the market looks favorable, then you need to figure out how to best market your company so you get a healthy share of the proverbial pie.
If you’re selling a new type of product or service, then you may need to double down on the branding effort as well as your direct marketing effort to stimulate online searches for what you are selling. You should target your marketing effort toward those products and services you hope to displace. If you are launching something new, perhaps you will become dominant in that market, but expect to work harder and spend more on marketing than you would if you were following someone else’s lead into the market.
Do customers know what you sell and do they know how to find you?
- FREE SEARCH
The usual way that your customers will learn about you and what you are selling, is from the search engines. Google accounts for most, but not all of that search traffic. To get your share of the search traffic, you need to build a strong search engine footprint, so your website will rank high in the organic (free) search results on as many keywords as possible. This means your website must be Search Engine Optimized (SEO) to with the right architecture and content to give your website its best chance of getting ranked. You will also want to get trustworthy external websites to link to you, which in turn increases your trust factor at Google, which in turn will boost your chances of ranking high in a customer’s search results. Do not expect immediately see your website getting tons of SEO traffic for a while. It takes time and a lot of work to rank high using SEO.
- PAID SEARCH
A quicker way to get search traffic would be to pay for it with Google AdWords. This is called Pay-Per-Click (PPC), which essential means that you bid on traffic from people’s searches. The higher you bid relative to all others bidding, will mostly determine your position in the search engine results. There are four PPC spots at the top of each search result page in Google, followed by ten free SEO results, followed by another three PPC results. This is repeated for every result page thereafter, so long as there are advertisers. If there are no advertisers, you will only see the SEO results. Sometimes you will also see three Google Map listings for local businesses. These Map listing are also free, but it requires meeting specific Google Local requirements and getting great ratings from users. The top three companies with the best scores are shown, providing they meet Google’s minimum requirements. When using PPC, best practices suggest that you not send the results to your home page, but instead route it to a specific landing page, optimized for some action, such as “click or order”, or “make your reservation now”. Since you are paying for this traffic, it should be optimized to convert into something of value, as oppose to sending them to your home page where they can get lost in the brand positioning content. You should also experiment with different landing pages to see which ones perform best.
- SOCIAL MEDIA
Use social media to create traffic to your website which is independent from the search engines. Create active social media sites on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and others with links back to your website. Post frequently to build followers and traffic. Learn how to effectively use hashtags on Twitter to draw customers to you. Write short “commercial free” articles on LinkedIn that educate your prospective customers about how to make educated purchasing decisions. Facebook has a PPC program that works very well for some categories of products. Facebook has a lot of knowledge about their users, so you can target your PPC campaigns to specific geographic areas, gender, age, education, occupation, and interest groups.
Create a YouTube channel for your business and post new videos often and be sure to link your channel back to your website and include your website in the video description. Google owns YouTube and loves to see businesses use it. Lots of people prefer video over text. Younger people spend more time on YouTube than on TV, so take advantage of this free resource. Be sure to cross post your YouTube videos onto your website, and provide a text summary of what the video is about.
- EMAIL LIST
This includes buying email list and sending offers by email (spam). I do not advise this at all, although I know many that use this method with no remorse. It really comes down to what kind of business that you are in. It is best that you build your own email database with people who explicitly requested information from you or requested to receive a newsletter from you. You should use a professional email service to administer the emails, to reduce the chance that your email might get blacklisted and causing problem with any kind of email communication with external addresses.
- DOMAIN TRAFFIC
Another alternative traffic source is from companies offering redirected traffic from domain names. This traffic tends to be both immediate and inexpensive. How does it work? Huge networks of domain names participate in their own version of PPC, which enables advertisers to buy traffic based upon keywords contained with the domain name. Many of these domain names are defunct businesses that still have legacy traffic going to them. This traffic gets redirected to your website, based upon keywords you choose, and the budget you are willing to spend. There is also traffic from generic domain names in these networks. This traffic occurs when people guess at the domain, based upon the keyword. It is highly suggestive of intent and can be high quality targeted traffic. The downside of buying domain traffic is that the networks have fewer safeguards than Google’s Adwords, making the traffic more subjectable to click fraud. The operators of these networks have become more diligent watching for abnormal click behavior and they work to protect your interest, which is also in their best interest.
- AFFILIATE NETWORKS
If you are launching a new product concept, then expect very little search traffic to capture. Affiliate networks offer you an inexpensive way to get your products in front of targeted customers. Affiliate networks number in the hundreds, and range in size from Amazon to boutique type services. The power behind Affiliate networks, is the network of publishers who each run independent marketing services designed to promote products and services that their subscribers would be interested in. The Affiliate Networks facilitate the click tracking mechanism from the subscriber’s website, to your business. The Affiliate Network handles payment to the publisher and billing with you. Your arrangement with the Affiliate Network might be a cost per impression, cost per lead, or cost per sale. I suggest that you work with the Affiliate Networks with good reputations, and who have been around for a while. These companies run clean networks and diligently watch for click fraud.
You need traffic to your website if you are going to sell products or services, get new accounts, fill seats at an event, get sign-ups to a petition, fill seats in a classroom, conference or seminar, or anything else which drives success for your business or organization. Do your homework on what your competitive landscape looks like, then develop a plan and a budget for marketing your website. Plan for success and then work to make it happen.