Increasing website traffic
There are millions of websites on the Internet, but not all of them provide real value to the visitor. Before promoting your website, you need to have a few fundamentals in place.
Review the website for quality content. The information should be presented in simple, concise and practical language, with particular attention paid to good grammar and correct spelling. Ensure that the navigation is simple. Is it easy for visitors to contact you by phone, email or through a contact form? Your website branding, appearance and usability are a reflection of your business, so make sure your website displays properly In different browsers, and that it loads quickly.
Service and response
Be prepared to respond to inquiries that are left at various spots throughout the website. Your customers won't come back if there is no way to contact the business or if there is no response when contact is initiated. Make sure that phone numbers are correct, that email is answered promptly, and that customer service systems and processes are in place. Make sure that orders are filled properly, with the least possible inconvenience to the customer.
Once your website is ready to go, it may still be a challenge to attract visitors. Here is a look at where website visitors come from and how to maximize each traffic channel:
Direct visitors — These are people who type in your domain name and go directly to your website. Three key tactics are regularly used to increase direct visitor traffic:
- Memorable domain names — Choosing the right domain name to represent your business online can have a significant impact on visitor traffic. An existing business should generally try to use an established name as its domain name. For example, Joe's Beach Pails should obtain a domain name such as joesbeachpails.ca or joesbeachpails.com. By doing so, Joe is taking advantage of the branding that his company has achieved. People who are already familiar with the real world Joe's Beach Pails company will easily remember the domain name, which will make locating the website more intuitive.
- Offline advertising and promotion — Business cards, postcards, traditional direct mail, newspaper ads, flyers, giveaways and brochures that feature a domain name are all excellent ways to promote a website. A good marketing campaign will use a combination of offline advertising techniques to direct a potential customer to your website where you can display more detailed sales information and encourage the visitor to make contact or to buy.
- Viral marketing — The premise of viral marketing is that there is nothing quite as valuable as a friend's referral. On the Internet it is quick and easy to let someone know about a great website, company or product. Like a virus, a good idea can be spread at an incredible rate, passing from person to person and steadily increasing awareness of your website. By turning your own customers into sales agents, your business can implement viral marketing as an effective, inexpensive promotional tool.
Visitors who find you through search engines — Most people find websites through the help of a search engine or directory, so it is important that your website be properly listed and accessible to users.
Search engine services: Since listing a website is a complicated process, you may find it easier to hire a business that specializes in search engine submission and website optimization. When you do, it is a good idea to check into the business' deliverables, follow-up services, customer service and track record.
Paid ads — All major search engines and directories offer a range of advertising options to suit every budget and every type of marketing campaign. Here's an overview of some of the options that are available:
- Buying a higher ranking position — Search engines will provide your business with a higher ranking position if you buy a search term. For example, the term "fishing" may be bought by B's Fishing Store. When a visitor searches for the term "fishing", B's listing will appear at the top of the list, but will be identified as a paid listing.
- Pay-per-click ads — Some search engines and websites offer an advertising option in which you are only charged for the actual number of clicks to your website. For example, when a visitor searches on the term "fishing", the ad and the link to B's Fishing Store website is displayed. If the visitor actually clicks on it, then B's Fishing Store will be billed.
- Banner ads — Many sites offer banner advertising. You can negotiate various deals and models. Banner ads can be set to display based on the demographics or behavioural characteristics of the visitor (such as last few sites viewed) which are tracked through the visitor’s browser cookies. Banner ads are often designed in multiple versions and then tested online to see which ones are most effective.
Linked visitors — By its nature the Internet connects people with other people and businesses, and encourages cross-linking and cross-integration. To drive more traffic to your website, it makes sense to have as many other websites as possible link back to yours. Many search engines also use the number and quality of links directing people back to your website when calculating the ranking position: the more quality links, the higher the position. Note, however, that paid links won’t impact your ranking; only organic (free) ones will.
Depending on the type of website you have, you will have different linking strategies available to you. A website rich in content will be a more valued link than a business website that simply promotes its own product. There are various opportunities to explore.
Free links — Sources of potential free links include:
- Clubs, organizations or business affiliations to which you belong
- Partners, suppliers, resellers, distributors, wholesalers, retailers
- Niche business directories, government directories or non-profit organizations
Canadian Company Capabilities is one such directory that gives you access to a database of more than 50,000 Canadian businesses. You can use this practical, searchable database to find suppliers, or to increase your own visibility.
Paid links — Some of the same sources as above, plus:
- Industry magazines, directories, news sites
- Local government or business associations
- Resource websites, online malls, search terms, retail directories
Banner/display advertising — This is available on a vast range of websites from search engines to portals to industry specific websites. When planning a banner advertising campaign, you need a significant budget in order to sustain the ad strategy. One benefit of banner advertising is that the creative aspect can be tested while the campaign is still running and extensive data can be collected to measure the success of the campaign. The results can be used to adjust the design or the placement of the ads throughout the campaign.
Once your website is listed, you may want to take steps to improve its ranking in search results. Improving visibility is known as search engine optimization, and you can do this as you create your content.
While each search engine uses its own algorithm for ranking, they each examine headings and descriptions. It is therefore wise to focus your energy in these areas.
Tips to improve ranking:
- Use reader-friendly words over industry terms
- Write descriptions that attract readers and that represent your website
- Link to reputable, complementary businesses and have them link to your website
- Incorporate keywords, but remember that keyword flooding can lower your ranking
- Submit your website to topic-specific and audience-specific directories
- Limit your use of images and graphs; consider supplementing with plain text links
- Promote your website and give readers a reason to visit it
Once your website's ranking has improved, keep it that way by reviewing these steps on a regular basis and making changes to your site when needed.
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