Recently I’ve been asked by several people for advice on driving more traffic to websites, without spending a lot of money. Given the current state of our economy, I thought this would be a good topic to cover here on Search Matters. Some recommendations focus on search marketing, others don’t, but all are online marketing resources that will get traffic moving in the right direction.
The first step in increasing the number of visitors to your website, is to know how much traffic you currently have…and how they got to your website…and the search terms they used to find you…and much more. Google Analytics is a robust web analytics application and it’s free. Create your Google Analytics account tied to a URL and add a small line of code to the pages of your site. You’ll be able to see the positive changes your traffic-building efforts will have. Learn more about using Google Analytics on their YouTube channel.
Google Webmaster Tools
Use Google Webmaster Tools to improve the performance of your site. Webmaster Tools will ensure the crawlability of your site. It will show you the keywords Google found in your site. It will even show you all the sites that are linking to your website. And more. Even if you don’t know anything about search engine optimization (SEO), you should set up Google Webmaster Tools on your website to see any areas where you can improve.
To get people to your website, whether from search engines or social networks, you need to know the related keywords. Keyword research can be a very complicated, scientific process. But here are just a few high-level tips to get you headed in the right direction.
Check your website logs to see what search terms people are already using to find you. Visit several competitors’ home pages and view their page source. (Right click on home page and select view source). This will show you the HTML of the page. Look for their listing of meta keywords and see what they consider to be their keywords.
Use a free keyword research tool to see what the estimated search volumes are for terms and to uncover additional or alternative terms. There are several available, but here are two of my favorites:
The goal with keywords is not necessarily to try to be at the top of organic search for the “obvious” keywords — generic terms like industry, product, or service categories. Rather, try to find “long-tail keywords” – multi-word terms that get more specific, including a location, an action verb, or a descriptive adjective. For example, “swine flu” (40,000,000+ results) vs. “swine flu vaccine” (13,000,000+ results) vs. “swine flu symptoms” (4,000,000 results) . The higher the number of web pages indexed for the term, the more difficult it will be to compete in organic search. If you’re a real geek and want to learn more, check out 10 Steps to Advanced Keyword Research.
Depending on your product or service, LinkedIn may be an effective social network to reach prospective customers. LinkedIn is the top social website for connecting business people. If you do not already have a profile, set it up. Then create a Group for your product, service, or brand. Invite people to join your group. Post news updates, interesting articles, and discussions. LinkedIn also has company profiles. Conduct a search to see if LinkedIn already has your company listed. If you find it, you may edit the profile. If it’s not there yet, add your company’s profile. There are a number of other ways to market your personal or business brand on LinkedIn.
Your customers are on Facebook and so should your company or brand. Create a Facebook Page for your company, product, or service and build a community. Post updates, announcements, and share links. Invite friends, families, and colleagues to become a fan of your page. Start discussions. Not only will Facebook help you connect with your customers and potential customers, but it’s fun! Read more about marketing on Facebook in this article.
Get on Twitter and connect with people who are interested in your related field or topic. On twitter you post little “status updates” – like on Facebook – but you are limited to 140 characters at a time. Follow people who may be interested in your service or product. Post valuable information and people will start to follow you back. The more followers you gain, the broader the audience your “tweets” will find.
To find targeted followers on Twitter, go to http://search.twitter.com and conduct a search using your keyword(s). You will be presented with all of the conversations on Twitter that mention that keyword. The key is to connect with people of similar interests, and begin interacting. You may also try to connect your followers with your website and/or other social media communities like Facebook. Just be careful not to use Twitter to just put out little “ads.”
Another effective resource is YouTube. Open an account and upload some videos. The videos do not have to be expensive or professionally produced. Potential topics are how to’s, or product demos, or even video newsletters. Be sure to use keywords and add tags to the videos with your keywords. Google will often include video results on page one of organic results. So if you get some videos on YouTube for your keywords, it increases your chances of being on page one of organic searches.
Blogs are also very good at building web traffic…providing you are publishing stories on a regular basis – at least weekly. Center your blog’s theme around one subject or topic and publish helpful information about that topic. This builds your authority in the industry and helps to increase your website traffic. WordPress and Blogger offer free hosting for their blogging applications, but are not necessarily as search engine optimized as downloading the WordPress free software and hosting on your own server. Blogs are more of a long-term solution because they take 6 months to a year to build traffic, so don’t expect overnight results. Once you get started, you will see a steady increase over time. If you are interested in starting a blog, here’s an article that goes into more detail.
Just Add Time
While all these resources are free to use, they do require an investment of time. If you are short on time, prioritize your efforts. Start with the one-time tools like setting up Google Analytics and Google Webmaster tools. Then select one social network where you will find the largest number of your potential customers. There are planty of stats availble on the demographics of social networks. Do a little homework, get involved online, and give website traffic the green light.