How Do I Get Visitors to My Site? Part 1. Traffic from Search Engines
There are four primary ways to get traffic to your website. Oh, yes, there are lots of variations, but for the average small business they probably boil down to only four. In this four-part series I want to outline each of these very simply so you can get the lay of the land. You can always dig deeper later. The Big 4 are:
- Traffic from search engines, known as search engine optimization or SEO.
- Traffic from paid search ads, the pay-per-click or PPC text ads that appear in Google.
- Traffic from other advertising, such as newsletter advertising, solo e-mails, shopping bots, affiliate programs, banner ads, etc. I’ll tell you which I think are the most effective and why.
- Traffic from former visitors, how to develop an e-mail newsletter that helps you keep in touch with visitors and customers so they’ll return to your site again and again.
But let’s start with the most basic and arguably the most important — traffic from search engines.
Search Engine Traffic Is the Cheapest and Best
Far and away, the least expensive traffic you’ll ever have to your site will come through the “natural” or “organic” search results on Google or Yahoo. To get traffic to your site for the search words or keywords that are important to your organization, you need to do what is called Search Engine Optimization or SEO.
Fortunately, this is something that the average small business owner or staff person can do himself or herself. Yes, it takes time and knowledge. But it doesn’t have to take much money — that is, unless you are trying to rank high for very competitive keywords.
SEO has two parts, each equally important: (1) webpage optimization and (2) getting links back to your website.
1. Webpage Optimization
Basically, webpage optimization involves setting up each of your webpages so that it can be easily “understood” and indexed by the search engine robots or “spiders” that come calling.
Each webpage (except your homepage, of course) should be clearly focused on just a single topic. The more focused the better. Then you give the search engines spiders clues to the nature of this focus. The strategy is to use the main keywords for that page in the title tag, description metatag, headline or subheadings, and in your body text. You don’t stuff keywords everywhere; just make sure that you’re leaving a clear trail of clues as to the content. But webpage optimization is just half of the equation. The other half, and the harder task, is getting …
2. Incoming Links to Your Site
Search engine ranking formulas, known as “algorithms,” rank sites higher the more links they have that point to their website. Links are considered a kind of recommendation that a site is relevant, worth visiting. But getting links from sites that Google considers trustworthy isn’t easy. Start by submitting your site to various directories. Provide great content on your site that is worth linking to. Write articles that others would want to host on their sites, each with a link back to yours. Some use blogging to get links. Perhaps the most difficult approach is to exchange links with websites in your industry, called “reciprocal linking.” It is inexpensive, but takes patience and constant work.
Search engine optimization will take several months to get traffic flowing well, but don’t skip this step just because you’re in a hurry. I consider SEO the essential foundation for Internet marketing. It’s well worth the time you spend optimizing your website or the money you spend outsourcing the project to a competent SEO company.
But SEO by itself may not get you enough traffic, at least not right away. You’ll probably need to build on SEO with the next step, Pay Per Click Advertising, also known as Paid Search Advertising, which we’ll consider in part 2 of this series.