How Do People Find Websites?
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Traffic Generation Through SEO, Social Media, & More
Having a website is one of the most critical aspects of modern marketing — in fact, in many ways, it’s probably the most important part of your marketing. Your business website is an online brochure, press desk, FAQ hub, contact resource center, and more all in a single location. However, it’s not enough to simply have a professional website that looks and operates by modern web standards. People have to be able to find your website once it’s up and running.
Getting website traffic is an artform in itself, one that is constantly evolving based on many different factors: the algorithms behind search engines such as Google and Bing, the emergence and evolution of social media platforms, the ability to create inbound links to your website. Year by year, new elements add into the website traffic formula, making a successful traffic plan a mix of fundamentals and new experiments.
What are the most critical elements of generating website traffic? Let’s take a closer look.
SEO has been an Internet buzzword for years now, and while its core definition (search engine optimization) is still the same, the means of executing it is a continuously evolving thing. This change is so drastic that if you took SEO gurus from 2005 and gave them a glimpse of today’s algorithms and requirements, chances are they wouldn’t even understand what half of the stuff meant.
But back to basics: SEO is the process of getting found via search engines such as Google and Bing. To get found, you’ll typically want to be on the first page of search results, as statistics show that the click-through rate drops off dramatically after the first page and are statistically insignificant by the third page.
So, how do you achieve that kind of placement? In the old world, meta tags — descriptive elements in your code — ruled the roost. Today, they’re still important but they’re only a piece of a much more complicated puzzle. However, they’re a good starting point because they define what the search engines display.
The headline link is from your code’s title metatag and the summary paragraph is your code’s description metatag. These help factor into your result ranking but they’re also important because they are what the user sees. If you rank high but can’t entice the user to click, it defeats the whole purpose of the process.
Where do we go from there? You’ll want to target specific keywords — drill down as specifically as possible because general one-word terms are usually extremely competitive thanks to prioritized results from resource stalwarts like Wikipedia, WebMD, etc. If you offer a location-based service, be sure to add the cities to your terms, as this is a great trigger for SEO. Integrate this into content, particularly headlines and bullets. You’ll also need external sites linking into yours, including social media. If you update regularly, Google will come by and visit more often, which helps.
Today’s internet experience is driven by content. While much of that is still delivered in the form of text, a richer media experience is part of the expectation for many brands these days. That means that videos, podcasts, and other materials organically find a different audience than typical Google searches — and all of that can point back to your website. Take a look at this infographic from HighQ.
Media requires two different processes: creation and distribution. As recent as ten years ago, creating media was difficult, often requiring special hardware and software. Today, smartphones provide the rudimentary elements necessary to create a video or podcast — hit record on your app and you’ve got your media. Of course, you’ll probably want to rehearse a little bit first and try some free editing software to clean it up, but the simplest elements of creating the media sit right in your pocket.
What does this have to do with website traffic? That’s where the next step comes in: distribution. Whether you upload a video to YouTube or a podcast to iTunes, your distribution platform gives you a profile blurb where you can plug your website. You can (and should) also add some form of plug for both your general website and your other media at the end of your video/podcast. This ensures exposure to an audience that may not have originally visited your website.
Another form of media that is often overlooked is the ebook. Usually delivered in PDF format, this can be distributed through various channels. As with videos and podcasts, an ebook should contain a blurb about your site as a means to generate traffic. PDFs can include live links, so anyone reading the ebook in a browser or tablet can immediately click over to your site for more information. You can even embed a specific URL to a landing page dedicated to the target audience of your ebook.
Social proof isn’t as well-known of a term, but chances are you’ve used a social proof site. Have you ever looked at a restaurant’s customer comments? Searched for reviews of a dentist? Wondered how people rated a gym online compared to its competitors? Social proof sites provide the means for the public to review and rate stores, services, and professionals. If you’ve ever visited Yelp, then you’ve used a social proof site.
For any business, there’s a social proof profile to be had. Even if you’re not in one of the traditional sectors for social proof, you can still get a business profile from one of the major search engine’s business listings. Regardless of the path you pick, this is a way to get traffic funneled to your site. Almost any online business listing will have a field for your website address; thus, the common workflow is for people to:
- Hear about your business
- Search for reviews
- Get more information at your website
The trick, then, is to make sure that your profile gets good visibility in search rankings on each social proof platform (in some cases, these will offer additional paths for ranking in traditional search engine results.) To achieve this, the algorithms behind social proof sites tend to reward activity. The more reviews you get, the better you’ll likely rank when someone searches for your particular category. All of this creates the means to get traffic to your site for further conversion.
In recent years, savvy businesses have adapted to social media platforms as a means of grassroots engagement. Social media provides many opportunities for real-time interaction that simply didn’t exist a decade ago. When used smartly, it can provide a number of benefits, including driving traffic to your site.
For businesses, the primary social media platforms are:
- Facebook: At the very least, a Facebook business page is necessary as a place to gather public feedback and post news.
- Twitter: Many businesses use Twitter to promote content, offer discounts, answer customer service questions, and simply engage audiences. Sometimes brands become better known simply because their Twitter account is memorable and funny.
- LinkedIn: More tuned to the B2B crowd, LinkedIn is a popular publishing platform for articles.
- Instagram: Less popular for business than the others, Instagram focuses on photos, which may not necessarily apply to your business.
How does this drive traffic to your site? If your site is the primary resource for news, blog posts, FAQs, and support, then it’s up to your social media team to get the word out there. One key aspect of this is the need for fresh content: if you’re just constantly regurgitating the same links, it’ll garner far less traction than providing fresh links in between smart and fun customer engagement.
Future-Proofing Your Traffic Strategy
You’ve maximized your SEO, gained a social media following, and have plenty of customer reviews on social proof sites. You’re set, right?
Only for the moment. Internet success can be a finicky and fleeting thing, and that means that future success is no guarantee. The key to long-term effectiveness for any website comes down to continual monitoring, tweaking, and updating of traffic strategy. To achieve this, it’s important to have analytics installed on your website in order to understand the how and why behind your website traffic.
Beyond that, the key to a successful website is simply staying on top of it, whether that means embracing new content trends, trying new social media platforms, or other evolving strategies. With websites, as in life, an open mind and sound effort can go a long way.
By Marc Apple
Marc Apple is recognized as a leader in the marketing industry and has 20+ years of experience helping businesses of all sizes improve their digital marketing. He specializes in website design, SEO, social media, and paid search programs. He is a frequent contributor to other marketing websites and speaks regularly about marketing to small business owners and startups. To learn about Marc and to contact him, visit his author bio page.
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