You have a killer website with all the latest features, great aesthetics and an ah-mazing UX. But after pouring all your resources into the site, you still don't have any traffic. You're stuck. I know the feeling.
Here's the thing—a website is a tiny piece of the traffic equation. It doesn't matter if you've built the most intuitive, customer-centric, flashy, smooth (or any other impressive adjectives) website on the planet. It won't magically bring traffic into your pipeline, because it just doesn't work that way.
Sure, a solid web experience is critical to maintaining consistent traffic. It even pulls in a little traffic. But this only works if you implement other measures.
When I started thinking about this subject, I wanted this post to be useful for both businesses and agencies. These aren't disruptive strategies that will growth hack your traffic. Instead, I'm going for the buzzword-free basics. Whether you're a C-level marketing exec or an agency in the trenches, think of this guide as your go-to for what you absolutely need if you want consistent website traffic. I'm laying out all the basic traffic drivers to dominate SERPs so you get audiences to your site.
Three Hidden Truths of Traffic
I've been in the agency game awhile. I've run agencies, consulted with agencies and built both failures (ouch) and successes (yay) along the way. So if there's one thing I can tell you from my travels, it's that 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 discuss building your new website, your agency may leave out critical details. Like the fact that your site won't be the traffic magnet you want.
There are three hidden truths of traffic that you need to know:
- Traffic is about the long game: If you walk away from this post and just take one point home, make it this: traffic takes time. Not a month or two, but at least six to 12 months before you see major traffic returns. That's because it takes time to rank on search engines and you have to create content to keep people coming back. Only a fair few websites see results in a couple months, and they're the exception, not the rule.
- Website traffic requires trial and error: You're going to fail...A TON. That's why you have to be ready to adjust your strategies on a whim. Your new Facebook ad may not work or your content may not be appealing. So, sometimes you have to be willing to drain the bathtub. Don't just keep filling the tub if it's already full.
- You can't buy killer traffic: You can buy traffic. It's expensive, but you can buy it. But the sticking point is you can't buy quality traffic. If you want a tornado of traffic, build up your organic content and stick to proven strategies to earn it. Paid ads are like a booster shot for traffic, but they aren't consistent enough to be your primary traffic source. Let your content do that instead.
PPC advertising is kind of a "throw money at it" solution, and it doesn't work as well as it used to. Just don't confuse it with social ads, which still dominate.
We're talking about SEO ads (think Google Ads), which aren't cheap. Let's say you want to rank for the word "attorney." This super-broad term is $47.07 per click. That's an extreme example, sure, but the point remains: it's expensive. That said, it still works...to a degree. Companies get about a $2 return for every $1 spent on Google Ads. But here's a secret: it doesn't scale!
Google Ads is only effective for traffic when that small percentage of users who see your ad in the SERPS click it to go to your site. On top of that, there's a restrictive character limit to get your point across and it can be hard to find the perfect audience (even with the right setup and Broad Match configuration).
TL;DR: PPC works, but it isn't a long-term solution.
Honestly, PPC is a solid lead generator for big businesses. But small businesses have to fork out crazy money to compete and the results might not be worthwhile.
Outside of major initiatives, there are a few things you can do in just a day or two to boost your SEO and drive more traffic:
- Use Google My Business. Sign up for Google My Business so your company has a snapshot profile right in Google. And it's really important for brick and mortar businesses, too. Think of the right-hand results that show reviews and contact info when you Google "Panda Express near me." That's Google My Business in action. It's free to sign up and is a quick process. Plus, Google My Business is a necessity to make it into local pack listings.
- Get into major directories. There are SO many online directories, and they work like this: sign up and get free traffic. BOOM! Think Apple Maps, FourSquare or Yelp (and a bazillion others). What the heck; here's a starter directory list. It all amounts to signing up for websites with tons of domain authority and using their traffic to send traffic vibes your own way.
- Don't buy links. If you've stumbled onto less-than-genuine marketing blogs, you've probably seen posts about buying links. NEVER do this, because black hat SEO will come back to bite you. How? Google will penalize your website so hard that you'll basically never rank again.
- Play around with emojis. It won't work for every business, especially if you have a serious tone. But emojis do technically rank, and they actually have get a nice chunk of volume. So, a post or two with an emoji couldn't hurt—especially if you're a local business. 😜
There are plenty of tips that get into technical areas (don't use AJAX crawling, etc.), sure. But, ' skip ahead and jump straight into the juicy stuff.
Technical SEO for Your Website
While we're talking about traffic, let's go back to websites. I'm thinking more about the technical aspects, like the makeup of your website. Don't worry about CRO or growth-driven design for now. But hey, they both help.
There are five components that go into building an SEO-friendly and traffic-driven website:
- Speed: Do you feel the need for speed? You should. It only takes a 100-millisecond delay in page load speeds to drop conversions by seven percent. On top of that, 79 percent of people leave a website and never return if it takes too long to load, so speed is a big deal. Folks want reliable websites, and it doesn't help that our attention spans are about as short as Dory's. Not only are slow websites annoying, but they kill impulse buying—something you definitely want to keep.
- Mobile-friendly: "Mobile first" is a common phrase for a reason. The majority of internet traffic comes from phones, so Google uses a mobile-first indexer. Repeat after me: desktop comes second. Mobile is king, so build your website around mobile usability.
- Design: Humans are visual creatures. We can identify an image in as little as 13 milliseconds, so if we don't like it, we leave. In fact, over 60 percent of people will leave websites that aren't visually stimulating. We love things that look appealing, so capture attention by meeting aesthetic needs.
- User Experience: UX is a component of design, but it's also its own beast. Actually, it's the single most important element of your website (Maybe I should've made it number one?). UX comes down to the way users interact with your website. It includes your user interface and your template design, but comes all the way down to how you structure your content, link structure and your other "stuff" on the site. It's hard work to make every interaction on your website intuitive. 97 percent of B2B customers say usability is THE most important quality for websites and mobile apps.
- SSL: You need SSL, and it's easy enough to set up through your domain host. Remember the HTTPS sign you see next to most credible websites? That's the SSL. And if you don't have one, Google will actually mark your site as unsafe. That destroys your credibility and traffic potential.
If your website is the engine that powers your digital efforts, your content is the fuel. Content will drive traffic to your site like nothing else—consistently and with purpose.
The thing no one wants to admit about content is that it isn't all about search engines. Build your content for people, not search engines.
Anything you read about content talks about ranking. Rank this, rank that. Everyone is obsessed with Google rank. Color outside those lines and break the status quo. Yeah, your Google rank matters. But obsessing over ranking analytics won't get you anywhere.
Do this instead: put out killer content that people like. It's that simple.
If you've accepted my first hidden truth (you're in it for the long haul), you should be thinking about the value of the content you put out, not rank. Resist the urge to chase keywords that rank well. Instead, focus on keywords you actually want to be associated with and your customers will get value out from.
That's not to say that you won't have to get analytical; you definitely will. But think about your content by what your user gets from it, not your brand.
I live by a few simple content tips to get my audience to come back again and again. They'll work for you, too.
- Leverage video. If videos aren't part of your content, you're making a mistake. Over 85 percent of marketers use videos for a reason—they work. In fact, you grow 49 percent faster with video than with written content. That's why half of marketers think videos give the best ROI. But it's hard to work videos into every piece of content. Here's the trick: you don't have to put out high-quality videos every time. It's okay to go low budget here and there. Actually, low budget often outperforms high budget videos, especially if they feel rustic and personal.
- Use the skyscraper model. Brian Dean from Backlinko uses the skyscraper technique. First, find competitor (or non-competitor) content that ranks well. Use that as inspiration to create similar content that's twice as good. After, share it on your social accounts and wait for results. Seems too simple, right? Well, if you consistently make better content than your competitors, you'll drive tons of traffic to your website. Of course, you have to commit to creating best-of-breed content every. single. time. And if you pull it off, you'll rank well and reap the benefits.
- Leverage the sales funnel. Never forget about your sales funnel. Instead, make a point to start using it. Think about the content your customers want at each stage in the funnel. Don't just churn out introductory content. Some of it should be mid-funnel and bottom-funnel. Blog posts are good starters, but go further and create whitepapers, eBooks and webinars that appeal to more informed customers.
- Be consistent. Schedules help you in life, so why wouldn't they help your website? It doesn't matter if you post once a day or once a week, but do it consistently and on the same timeframe. Customers grow to expect it, and you'll develop a habit of creating content—which really helps in the first few months when you're not ranking well.
- Don't underestimate link juice. Google really wants you to link in your posts. Stack both internal (your blog) and external (anything that's not your blog) links in each post. External links back up your claims and the internal links logically guide users to your other posts.
- Watch your competitors. 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 your own content better.
- Sell through value. Don't make your blog about your business. This is a super common mistake with serious traffic consequences. Make posts about value, not about how great your business is. Leave the sales pitch to that department. Small sales efforts are fine, like building an email list and plugging a CTA, but don't spend every post talking about how well your company solves problems.
Your website and content are invaluable to SEO, but this is really a trifecta. So, let's cover the last of the basic traffic drivers to dominate SERPs—social media.
Put this into perspective: 3.48 billion people (over half of the world's population) use social media, for an average of 2.5 hours every day! Just think of the prospects (Sorry, the salesman in me LOVES that). For now, focus on using social media to get people to your website.
You can post anything on social, but that doesn't mean people make it to your website. To get traffic, try three strategies:
- Promote your blog content on your social pages. Easy peasy. Use social media, generate a following and share blog content that redirects to your website. What's cool is that you're tapping into your follower base to generate more website visitors.
- Link back to your website on social media. Let's say you use LinkedIn to grab B2B prospects. Your profile won't live up to its potential if it doesn't show visitors where your website is, though, so drop in your URL to snag that engagement and traffic.
- Use content. Whether you opt for videos, eBooks, articles or whatever else, plug a CTA that links back to your site in the body of your content. Then, when you spread it around social media, the most interested prospects will follow your CTA back to your website.
Combine all three of these techniques to tap into your social traffic. And never underestimate this: you HAVE to be active on social. Posting, sharing, commenting, answering questions and engaging with your followers really counts. Social media is its own unique hub. Use it to generate site traffic, get leads or both.
Oh, and one last tip: use visual content. Audiences love visual marketing, whether you use images or videos. It gets shared 40x more often!
Put in the Hard Work for Website Traffic
You won't get a steady flow of traffic on your new website in a day. It's a long-term investment, and can take months (even years) before you start generating quality traffic. But between social media, your website and your content, you can get a head start with the basic traffic drivers to dominate SERPs.
A new website alone doesn't secure traffic. Get in the trenches and grind for every visitor.