As featured on the www.smallbusinessbc.ca website.
Have you launched a new website only to be underwhelmed by your traffic statistics? Fear not, you are not alone. Many new website owners struggle with low traffic numbers. Afraid their investment has failed, they comb the internet desperate for a solution, only to find an overwhelming amount of information on promoting through social media and achieving higher page ranks in Google. It can feel impossible to know where to start!
As with most problems, the best solution comes from planning and forethought. Look at your demographic, your competition and most importantly, your customers and their browsing habits. A solid understanding of how these interrelate will help you determine how best to drive customers to your site. There are many free ways you can increase your website traffic; most fall under one of two categories:
- Referral traffic: Driving traffic to your website from other online sources.
- Organic search results: Search results from a search engine like Google.
It’s important to understand the difference between these two streams as many businesses only see a significant return through one. A business that sells to a small niche market over a wide geographic location may do better to optimize their website to increase their page rank in search results. On the flipside, how many plates of spaghetti would a restaurant owner need to sell to show up number one for the search term, ‘Vancouver restaurants’?
Traffic Driven by Referral Links
Referral traffic is driven to your website from third party websites. Creating referral links involves promoting your business with existing websites. By increasing the ways people can find your business, you are widening the mouth of the funnel that leads traffic to your site.
Referral links also add value that paid ads or a search engine results do not. Referral links exist on pages containing information on your business so when users arrive at your site, your brand is being reinforced and not introduced. Social media the perfect example of this. By engaging people in Facebook, Twitter and other social media websites, you are building a relationship with clients before they arrive at your website.
Writing articles for other websites or organizations is another great way to capture your viewers’ attention, as are press releases which link to your website. Online directories like Urbanspoon.com, Tripadvisor.com or 411.ca allow you to create profiles about your business. Websites like TripAdvisor have a tremendous following and creating profiles with these tools are additional avenues users can take back to your site.
There are many free online tools available to set-up referral links. Research will reveal which are appropriate for your business. Want to hear the best news yet? A happy by-product of referral links is an increased page rank in search engine results pages, or SERP’s.
Traffic from Organic Search Results
Many business owners think being number one in Google is a magic bullet and with the buzz around search engine optimization, it is logical for a business owner to perceive this as the nextstep. That top rank in Google is not always feasible and many business owners pour time and money into this effort only to be disappointed by the low return on the investment.
Most website owners are familiar with the term search engine optimization (SEO), which is when you optimize the construction of your website, (on-page factors) and use third-party websites, (off-page factors) to increase your rank in search engine results pages. For many businesses, being found in Google is key, especially for those whose products or services may not lend themselves as well to social media. People searching, “emergency hot water tank replacement” are likely not in a shopping mood and the first resource most people turn to, phone in hand, is Google.
Search engine optimization usually requires more technical know-how from a professional and for that reason, its cost can increase quickly. Take the time to determine your needs and calculate how many sales you’ll have to make to see a return on that investment.
It’s important to understand these two streams and how they impact your business to ensure you invest correctly. Efforts to increase awareness either take considerable time and in some cases money, if you plan on hiring a person or a firm to manage the effort. Consider the advice of others carefully to ensure it is in the best interest of your business. Develop a plan and keep your goals clear as the tasks involved in both of these methods overlap and it is easy to become distracted and follow the wrong path. No matter which method or combination of both you choose, remember to analyse your results to find out if your strategy is working for you. If not, adjust your strategy and try again.
Remember, there is more than one way to measure success. If after some effort you are not meeting the goals you had originally set out, but your Facebook page has a lot of Likes, or your TripAdvisor profile has great reviews, you are still winning. Adjust your strategy one piece at a time and keep going until you find what gives you the best return on your investment.