“If you build it [they] will come.”
This may be true for baseball diamonds in cornfields but unfortunately it’s not the case for websites. To make a website successful is more about what you do once it’s built. If you’re no good at marketing then get ready to learn – you’ll need at least a basic marketing strategy in place if you want web traffic to come your way.
Even bloggers can benefit from having a strategy in place. It’s rare (if not impossible) for a company to succeed without a business plan and a marketing strategy, so why should it be any different for bloggers?
Whether you’re a large business, a sole trader or a casual blogger, you need to think about who you want to target, how you want to reach them and what you want to say. If you know who your audience or potential customers are, this is much easier to do.
The first thing to do is create a strategy.
Antony Young, CEO of Optimedia International US Inc., writes superbly on the subject of integrated communications planning in his book Brand Media Strategy: Integrated Communications Planning in a Digital Era (Advertising Age). I defy anyone not to learn something of value.
In fact, before you do any of the above you should have some clear objectives in place. Think hard about what you want to achieve and develop a strategy to support your goals.
Have clear objectives – know what you want to achieve.
Before you start driving traffic to your site is it exactly how you want it to be? Is it error free? Head to http://validator.w3.org/ to check your website and make sure errors are resolved. You’ll also want to be prepared so you can test your site and see what works and what needs improving. If you don’t already have Google Analytics installed, get it now – it’s free. Whilst you’re at it sign up to Google Webmaster tools.
If you know who your audience/customers are then you should be able to make a website that is visually appealing, easy to navigate and loaded with relevant and valuable content. If you’re not competent on the design side, invest in a professional.
There is no such thing as a good, cheap web designer. A good web designer provides a valuable service and charges accordingly; you really do get what you pay for – you wouldn’t want the cheapest dentist or the cheapest doctor…would you? Bite the bullet, be realistic and set your budget accordingly. If you can’t afford it, don’t do it – simple!
The same is true of copywriting – if you aren’t a copywriter by trade then don’t make the mistake of creating content yourself. For some reason everyone thinks they can write – but it’s just not the case. No content is better than bad content! Put it in your budget and have a professional content writer or copywriter help realize your media strategy.
If it’s really early days and you have more time than equity, you might want to look into setting up a website using WordPress. There’ll be a learning curve but with the right theme you can have a reasonably professional site for a very low price. Head to StudioPress to find out how you can improve your current WordPress site or set up a new one with a more professional look.
Do the best you can with what you’ve got.
Many people think that it’s as easy as putting up good content and using keywords – not so. Firstly you need to determine what keywords you’re targeting – if you’re competing with the exact same keywords as other companies you might find that your message is drowned out.
So you need to think hard about your keyword and SEO strategy. You’ll need to be creative; being number one in a Yahoo search engine for a specific keyword might be more lucrative than being number ten on a Google search. You can also pick up customers by targeting search strings that are less commonly used but just as relevant. There’s a wealth of information on this subject – head over to SEOMOZ and pick up a copy of their free SEO Starter Guide.
SEO and keyword strategy is a huge topic – get a book and get reading.
You need more than just content and keywords.
Once you start building your content in line with a workable keyword and search engine optimization strategy, you need to market your content. Think about your market. If you’re a small technology business, get on LinkedIn and join groups where your target customer is likely to be. Start posting your relevant and (hopefully) valuable content in these forums on a regular basis. Establish a presence and build connections with people.
You might find Twitter to be a useful medial channel for your business. You’ll need a basic strategy in place; think about who you want to engage and what information they will find useful. If you’ve got 10,000 followers that’s great but if they have no interest in buying from you, then it’s just a number. You need to make real connections with real people.
There are plenty of media channels out there – Facebook, Google+ etc. You need to think about which ones will be the most relevant and useful for your business/blog and your customers/audience.
Choose your media channels in line with your business objectives – think quality not quantity.
When you know where your customers are you can communicate with them far more efficiently and effectively. For instance, the fashion industry is still very driven by print magazines. Technology companies like to keep abreast of new technology so generally subscribe to blogs like Techcrunch .
Therefore if you write an article for an e-zine, blog or website where your customers frequent, you’ll get instant PR, you’ll drive traffic to your site and you’ll gain credibility. Test it out – write an article, pitch it to an e-zine of your choice and once published watch the spike in traffic (you’ll need Google Analytics to do this).
Your web traffic will increase dramatically when other popular sites link to your site – so it follows that you should also have a link-baiting strategy in place. Make sure you are listed in all the relevant search engines and ideally you should be linked by other sites from your relevant industry or topic – the value of your links is just as (if not more important) than how many sites you’re linked to.
Linking is a huge topic that deserves it’s own article, but you can read more at SEOBook.
Once you have the traffic, you’ll want to capture business leads – again this subject deserves its own post, but a great way of getting leads is by having an email capture form. Think what you can offer your customers that is relevant and valuable – in return they’ll be happy to give you permission to email them.
Finally, to maximize your web traffic and sales leads, make sure you are gathering information on how you can improve your website. It’s not good driving a load of traffic to your site and having a high bounce rate – you want your audience to stay a while and remember you.
If your site is relatively established you might want to think about using eye-tracking metrics to see what your readers look at when the go to your site. Crazyegg offers a relatively low cost heat map service or have a look at Gazehawk; there’s plenty of companies that can help you achieve better customer conversion.
Don’t expect instant results – but with the right strategy your input will pay off.
Creating a successful website takes time – but if you do your homework and have a workable strategy in place you’ll be able to manage your time effectively and your web traffic and sales leads will increase. Nothing worth doing is easy, but with a plan you won’t feel overwhelmed and you’ll have far more confidence about what you’re doing, how you’re doing it and why.