Ah, the curse of the non performing site! As experienced by literally every single website owner in the world…….
And it goes something like this. You launch your new website and get a flurry of visitors (such as your friends, former colleagues, and, of course, your mum).
Two days later, you check your bank account, hoping to see the £1 million in cash said new website has just generated. And you discover your balance hasn’t changed at all…..
I write that fairly tongue in cheek because it’s process that almost everyone I work with/know/come across/talk to goes through….. And I do myself and have done since 2008 since I launched my first online business, Talk to the Press.
It’s like standing on a busy road – think M25 – but at three in the morning; you know what it would look like in the middle of the day, cars bumper to bumper, teetering on gridlock, but instead you wait for ages just for one passing car – and when it comes it’s only your Mum making sure you’re ok.
So if you’re looking at your website thinking ‘This site isn’t performing‘ then these are the things that you should be considering first.
1) Is it the site, or is it you?
In many ways, the launch of a new website feels like the end of the road.
It’s most likely been a long time in the planning and organisation and everyone is fist pumping the air with joy.
But in fact, the launch of a new site is really just the beginning of a new project or new push for an existing one.
But for many new bloggers/business owners/talented people with a new website, as long as your site looks good, has clear calls to action, is responsive, says what you do…. the problem isn’t site performance, it’s traffic.
(NB: If your site is dated, non responsive, and fallen victim to time then ignore everything that is about to come and get your site sorted!).
Often, if the site looks the part and has the right functionality, then it’s not about the site performing, it’s about the site owner or the person/people behind it performing!
Large corporations spend thousands on internet marketing experts who are able to tell them how to increase their traffic – and indeed, this is exactly what I spend part of my working day doing. So getting traffic is big business – but fortunately there’s no great mystery or secret to it.
Either throw a ton of money at it or get going with content creation, socialising & promotion.
Think of traffic-acquisition as a simple wash, rinse and repeat process – a never-ending cycle of publishing content, repurposing content and sharing content on social media. And alongside this you’re continuing to build a profile, make your website findable by the search engines (based on your niche and topic), and doing what you can to make people choose to look you up on the internet (ie getting publicity).
2) Embrace the fact that high traffic doesn’t happen overnight
There are exceptions – celebrities or people/businesses with large social followings ready to be funnelled to your website, or official organisations with an announcement on your blog that will make news headlines and get every journalist and interested party in the world hitting your site to find out what you are saying.
But for most of us, it’s about managing expectations. The key is to embrace the fact that traffic takes a while to build – and once gained, it needs to be actively maintained.
See it as a game! A bit like Tetris, it can have moments of immense frustration and also moments of immense joy.
3) Remember traffic is not as complicated as it sounds
All that said, the good news is traffic is not as complicated as it sounds. And this because there are only a few ways that people will discover your website
1) They google the actual topic or name of your blog/website, and yours pops up in the results;
2) They google something that is related to your website’s niche, and a relevant article from your blog pops up;
3) They stumble across it on a social media platform, either in their own feed (triggered by something similar they’ve previously looked at) or shared from a friend;
4) Someone else recommends it (either verbally or via the share or ‘tell a friend’ functions);
5) Another website recommends it or links to it;
6) They read about the website in the mainstream media or see it on TV;
7) They see an advert on Google;
8) They see an advert on their social media feed;
Now, if you think of each of these as pathways to your website, you need to ‘reverse engineer’ them to make sure it’s your website that people find at the end of the pathway.
However, if you look back again at numbers 1 – 6, and then at numbers 7 and 8, see if you can spot the difference…
Numbers 1 – 6 are free traffic strategies, but numbers 7 and 8 involve paying for the adverts that generate your traffic (and we’re not talking about that in this blog post, I’ll save that for another day).
One of the main keys to free traffic strategies are your blog posts and content creation. Every single post you publish has a positive impact on attracting free traffic – making your website discoverable.
So, let’s look again at the six free routes by which people find you and how exactly the content you create impacts on them:
- They google that particular website: regular blogging increases your chances of being found and prioritised by search engines, and can especially help brand new blogs (which take a while to appear in the search results), be ranked quicker.
- They google something else that is related to that website’s niche and a relevant article on that website appears in the search result: SEO has a layering impact. Creating content with carefully selected keywords that are important to your niche are is absolutely essential to good search engine ranking – and using the right keywords has a compound effect.
- They stumble across it via content on a social media platform that they either see in their own feed or that someone else has shared: People gather on social media platforms in numbers so vast it’s hard to get our heads around, and each post you share on social media is a tentacle reaching out into this pool of people to attract those who might be interested to hear more. You’ve got to be in it to win it right, and if you are not sharing your content on social media, you’re missing a potential source of traffic.
- Someone else recommends it (either verbally or via forwarding an email from that website that they know their friend will connect with or enjoy reading): Again, its a question of letting it be known that you’re in the game. It’s about standing up to be counted. You must promote your own content over social media so that other people can tell other people about it and you will most likely want to consider building an email list.
- Another website recommends it and links to it: If your content is good, relevant, helpful, enjoyable, engaging, funny, moving, sentimental, informative (one or all of them) other sites will link to you. You can also guest blog on other sites, at which point they will link to your own site.
- They read about the website in the mainstream media or see it on TV: Journalists are always hunting for people to comment on stories, or give strong feisty opinions on whatever it is they are working on. Television channels are always looking for people to be experts or commentators. They tend to turn to social networks to find these people. If you’re sharing interesting content, then journalists will be more likely to find you and you’ll appeal more to them when they do find you as they will see you are the sort of person who knows what they are talking about and has a viewpoint on the subject.
So content creation, aka blogging, is in itself a key traffic strategy that any digital marketing person, myself included, would instantly put in place for any business or person wanting to raise their own profile and get more visitors to their website.
4) Consider you probably don’t need as much traffic as you think
There are three main traffic strategies to consider, based on the sort and size of business you want to grow with your website.
If you’re launching an online magazine, and selling advertising, then you are going big. You’re thinking ‘I want millions of views and millions of people coming to my website – I want to build a multi-million dollar empire!’.
But if you’re not doing the above, then stop worrying about that sort of level of traffic.
Most bloggers, for instance, go for more of a rewarding traffic strategy, in which you build a personal brand-based business, and cultivates a more intimate audience through which more niche-specific brand deals can still be made.
A recent survey by Vuelio conducted in February 2016 to explore how bloggers work, their activities and the commercialisation of their work found that of the bloggers who have commercialised their blog, and are blogging professionally, had over 10,000 visitors per month.
Now, I don’t have 10,000 visitors per month on this site (one day eh!) but I have built client websites to much high levels than that! It’s not ‘that’ hard to do! BUT it does take effort, content generation and consistency over time.
The last of the three traffic strategies is to generate customers for your business, whether that is yourself as the provider of a particular freelance service, or for a bigger company.
And you don’t need that much traffic to be successful. If, for example, you are a local business offering plumbing services, you might be run off your feet with just 30 clients per month.
For business-generation, traffic is not about pushing for as many numbers as possible but about your expert positioning, enabling you to grow your business to whatever size you want.
5) Consider multiple sources of traffic
Whichever goal you have it still pays to have multiple sources of traffic. Having a website with just one source of traffic makes you are as vulnerable as a business with just one customer.
I know it’s hard to imagine a world in which Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pintrest are not dominant players but we have seen social networks disappear before – look at My Space!
If all your traffic comes from one social network for instance, and that social network goes out of trend, then your traffic will dry up.
And increasing your overall traffic helps secure your site’s long-term viability.