Trust me; I know the feeling.
You have this killer new website that’s flush with neat features, great aesthetics, and an amazing UX. But, you’re stuck.
After pouring all of your resources into this website, you still don’t have any traffic!
Why is that?
Here’s the thing — a website is a teeny-tiny piece of the traffic equation. I don’t care if you’ve built (or had built) the single best, most intuitive, customer-centric, flashy, and smooth website on the planet. It’s not going to magically suck tons of traffic into your pipeline.
It just doesn’t work that way.
Sure, a great website is absolutely critical for maintaining consistent traffic, and it definitely helps to pull in some traffic. But, only if you have all of the other traffic drivers developed.
When I approached this subject, I wanted to make this post useful for both businesses and agencies. These aren’t “disruptive” strategies that will “growth hack” your traffic. This is the buzzword-free basics. These are things you absolutely HAVE to have if you want to get a decent flow of traffic. From C-level marketing execs to the agencies in the trenches, these are the basics that you need to get good, consistent traffic on your website.
The Three Hidden Truths of Traffic
Look. I’ve been in the agency game a while now. I’ve run agencies, consulted with agencies, and built both failures and successes over my career. And, there’s one thing I can tell you for a fact — agencies love to leave out the details.
Agencies are a business. They want you to convert, but they also want to convert you. So, when you’re sitting down to build that great new website, they may leave out a few critical details. Like the fact that your new website isn’t going to be the traffic magnet you think it will.
Here are three hidden truths of traffic that you need to know.
- Traffic is all about the long game: If you walk away from this post only taking one point home, it should be this one — traffic takes time. We aren’t talking about 1 month or two months, we’re talking a bare-minimum of 6–12 months before you’re seeing great traffic returns. There are two reasons for this. 1) It takes a while for you to rank on SERP. 2) You have to build up enough content to keep people coming back. There’s no way around this rule. Sure, some websites are able to do this in a few months. They’re the exception, not the rule.
- Getting traffic requires trial-and-error: Here’s something you might not know. You’re going to fail… A TON. You have to be ready to adjust your strategies on a whim. That new Facebook ad may not be working so well. Your content may not be appealing to your audience. You have to be willing to throw the bathwater out. Keep the baby, sure, but don’t keep filling up the bathtub if it’s already full.
- You can’t buy killer traffic: You can buy traffic. It’s expensive, but you can buy it. But, you can’t buy great traffic. If you want a tornado of non-stop traffic, you need the organic content and strategies to get that traffic. Paid ads are a great booster shot of traffic, but they aren’t consistent and long-term enough for you to think about paid ads as the primary source for your traffic — that’s your content.
We’re not going to spend too much time on this one. This is the “throw money at it” solution to traffic. But, it doesn’t work as well as it used to. Social ads still absolutely dominate. In fact, you could probably make a decent argument that they are super underpriced right now, despite the recent increases.
But, SEO ads (think AdWords) aren’t cheap. Let’s say you want to rank for the word “attorney” in AdWords. You’re going to pay $47.07 per click. That’s crazy expensive. And, it’s not just super-obvious keywords either. AdWords is expensive. It still works. Most companies can expect a $2 return for every $1 spent on AdWords. But, here’s what they’re not telling you.
It doesn’t scale!
AdWords will only bring that small percentage of users who actually click Google ads to your website. Not to mention, AdWords has a restrictive character limit and it can be hard to find the perfect audience (even with the right setup and Broad Match configuration).
PPC works. But, it isn’t a good long-term solution.
It can be a great lead generator for big businesses. But, small businesses are going to have to fork out crazy money to compete, and the long-term results might not be worth it.
The Quick Tips
Before we start going hard into the specifics, let’s quickly talk about the stuff that you can rapidly set up and start using to drive more traffic. These are the really simple things that you can tackle in an afternoon or two.
- Use Google My Business. Make sure you sign up for Google My Business. This is extremely important for business with physical locations. These are the results with stars and contact info that show up when you Google “Panda Express near me”. It’s completely free to sign up, and it’s a really quick process. Plus, Google My Business is basically a necessity to make it into local pack listings — which is a story for another blog post.
- Get into major directories. Technically Google My Business counts as a major directory (it really deserved its own section.) But, there are plenty of others. These directories work like this. You sign up for one, and you get free traffic. Boom! That’s it! There’s Apple Maps, FourSquare, Yelp, and a bazillion others. Here’s a great list. Basically, you are signing up for websites with tons of domain authority and using their traffic to send some good traffic vibes your way. It’s a win-win.
- Don’t buy links. If you’ve stumbled onto some of the less-than-genuine marketing blogs out there, you may have seen some posts about buying links. NEVER do this. All of those blackhat methods will come back to bite you. Don’t even think about it. You’ll get caught, and your website will get penalized so hard that you’ll basically never rank again.
- Play around with emojis. This isn’t going to work with every business — especially if you have a serious tone. But, emojis technically rank, and they actually have quite a decent chunk of volume. So, a post or two with an emoji couldn’t hurt — especially if you’re a local business. 😜
There are some other quick-tips that get into the technical stuff (like that you shouldn’t use AJAX-Crawling, etc.) But, we’re going to jump straight into the juicy stuff.
While we’re talking about traffic, let’s touch on those websites. This the straightforward stuff. The makeup of your website. This section is less about strategy and more about the technical aspects. We aren’t going to touch on CRO or growth-driven design here. But, they can both certainly help.
There are 5 components that should go into building an SEO-friendly, traffic-driven website.
- Speed: Do you feel the need for speed? You should. Did you know that a 100-millisecond delay in page load speeds can drop conversions by 7%? Or, that 79% of people will leave a website and never return if it takes too long to load? Speed is a big deal. People want a reliable website. Our attention spans are at an all-time low. Not only are slow websites annoying, but they break that oh-so-critical impulsive purchasing behavior pattern — which is something you definitely want to keep intact.
- Mobile-friendly: Don’t make the mistake of thinking mobile comes second. The vast majority of internet traffic comes from phones, and Google uses a mobile-first indexer. I’m going to set this straight. Desktop comes second. It may sound like a sad fate for the old Goliath, but it’s true. Mobile is king. You want to build your website around mobile-useability.
- Design: Humans are visual creatures. We can identify an image in as little as 13 milliseconds, and if we don’t like it — we leave. In fact, over 60% of people will leave a website immediately if they don’t think it’s visually stimulating. We all love things that look great. Make sure that your website captures users attention by gluing aesthetic needs to your build.
- UX: While UX is a component of design, it’s also its own beast. It’s also the single most important element of your website. This is the way that your users interact with your website. It certainly includes your UI and your template design, but it also includes the way you structure your content, the link structure, and all of the other “stuff” that goes into creating a flowing site. You want to make sure that you work hard to make each and every interaction on your website intuitive. 97% of B2B customers say that usability and ease-of-use are the single most important quality for websites and mobile apps.
- SSL: I’m going to touch on this simply because it’s a must-have. You need SSL. You can quickly set this up through your domain host. Do you know that HTTPS sign you see next to virtually every website? That’s the SSL. If you don’t have one, Google will now mark your site as unsafe. That’s a surefire way to completely destroy your credibility and traffic potential. Get SSL. Enough said.
If your website is the engine that powers your digital efforts, your content is the fuel. Make sure you’re not pumping diesel into an E10-optimized engine. Content will drive traffic to your site like nothing else. And, it’s not just going to drive traffic, it will drive traffic consistently and with purpose.
Here’s the big secret about content that no one wants to tell you — build your content for people, not search engines.
When you read about content, you’re always reading about ranking. Rank this, rank that. Everyone is obsessed with your Google rank. You should break the status quo. Your Google rank matters. But, you’re not going to rank if you’re obsessing over ranking analytics.
Here’s what you want to do instead — put out killer content that people like.
It’s really that simple.
If you’ve accepted hidden truth #1 (you’re in it for the long haul) then you should be thinking about the content you put out in terms of value, not rank. Don’t go researching keywords that rank well. Instead, research keywords that you want to be associated with and your customers will get value out of.
That’s not to say that you won’t have to get analytic, you definitely will. But, you should think about your content in terms of what your user is getting out of it, not your brand.
Here are some content tips that will have users come back again-and-again.
- You should be leveraging video. If you aren’t plugging videos into your content, you’re making a mistake. Over 85% of marketers are using videos for a reason — they work. In fact, you’re going to 49% faster with video than written content, and over half of all marketers think videos give the single best marketing ROI. But, it can be tough to work videos into every piece of content if you don’t do it right. Here’s the trick. You don’t have to put out high-quality videos every time. Your video library doesn’t have to be Hollywood’s greatest hits. You can go low budget. In fact, low budget often outperforms high budget, especially if it feels rustic and personal.
- Use the skyscraper model. Brian Dean from Backlinko uses the skyscraper technique. It goes like this. First, you find competitor (or non-competitor) content that ranks high. Then, you create similar content that’s twice as good. Then, you share it on your social accounts and wait for results. Seem too simple, right? Here’s the thing. If you make better content than your competitors consistently, you will definitely drive tons of traffic to your website. Of course, this is easier said than done. You have to put a ton of commitment to creating best-of-breed content every single time. But, if you can pull it off, you’ll rank and roll around in all of that sweet traffic.
- Leverage the sales funnel. Remember that handy-dandy sales funnel? You should. And, you should start using it. Think about what kinds of content your customers want at each stage in the funnel. Don’t just give them introductory content. Some of your content should be mid-funnel and bottom-funnel. You can do this with blog posts, sure. But, you can also create whitepapers, eBooks, webinars, etc. that really appeal to those more informed customers with last-second jitters.
- Be consistent and scheduled. Having a schedule helps you in life. It also helps your website. It doesn’t really matter if you post once a day or once a week, but, make sure that you’re posting consistently and on the same timeframe weekly. Your customers will expect it, and you’ll develop a habit of creating content — which can really help during those first few months when you’re not ranking well.
- Don’t underestimate links juice. Google really wants you to link in your posts. You want to stack both internal (your blog) and external (anything that’s not your blog) in each post. The external should be used to back up claims and the internal should be used to logically guide users to other posts.
- Watch your competitors like a hawk. Creating killer on-page content requires you to keep an eye on your competitors. What kinds of posts are they making? What keywords are they targeting? How could you do it better? Watch what they do, and always make better content than them.
- Sell through value. Don’t make your blog about your business. This is a super common mistake with serious traffic consequences. You want your posts to be all about value, not how great your business is. Leave the sales pitch to your sales team. Build an email list and plug a CTA, sure, but don’t spend every post talking about how you can solve every problem.
So far, we’ve covered your website and your content. Now, let’s cover the final element of the ranking trifecta — social media.
To get started, let’s put social media into perspective. 3.48 billion people (over half of the entire world’s population) use social media, and the average consumer spends 2.5 hours on social media every day! That’s a gold mine of prospects. Really, social media acts as its own unique ecosystem of leads and customers. But, for now, let’s focus on using social media to get people to your website.
There are 3 primary ways to go about this.
- Promote your blog content on your social pages. This is the simplest way. You use social media, generate a following, and then share blog content with your followers that redirects them to your website. Your tapping into your follower base to generate more website visitors.
- Link back to your website on social media. So, if you’re using LinkedIn to grab B2B prospects, you want to make sure that your profile itself quickly shows people where your website is.
- Use content. Videos, eBooks, articles, whitepapers, whatever you use, you should plug a CTA that links back to your site within the content itself. Then, when you spread it around social media, some prospects (most those who are interested) will follow your CTA back to your website.
You should certainly combine all three of these techniques to tap into your social traffic. It’s important that you understand that you HAVE to be active on social. You need to be posting, sharing, commenting, answering questions, and engaging with your followers. Social media should act as its own unique hub. You can definitely use it to generate site traffic, but it’s also useful alone in lead generation.
Here’s the big tip — use visual content. Whether its images or videos, people love visual marketing. In fact, visual content gets shared 40x more often!
You’re not going to get a steady flow of traffic on that new website in a day. You’re looking at months (maybe even years) before you start generating good traffic. Between social media, your website itself, and the content you’re putting out, you want to make sure that you’re hitting the basics of traffic generation.
Don’t blame your new website for your lack of traffic. Sure, it could be part of the problem. But, honestly, you need at least a few months before you can start pointing fingers at anyone. You need to be in the trenches grinding for each and every visitor. You didn’t build your business in a day. You’re not going to build your digital brand in a day either.