“I need website traffic” – What to do when you come to this realization

“I need website traffic”

You quietly whisper this phrase to yourself while looking at your website’s stats.

Your website traffic is low.

Sales aren’t where they could be.

Revenue isn’t where you thought it would be.

You feel like people just DON’T CARE about your business. I know because I’ve been there. Hell, I’m there RIGHT NOW.

Pretty surprising for the person behind a web marketing company to admit that, right? Well, it’s true.

It wasn’t always like this. Since our start in 2007, WebNola has been through periods of slow-but-steady traffic numbers with a few periods of peak traffic. Our peak traffic was due to a few things, but you might be surprised to find that our website stats have nearly ZERO correlation with the amount of sales we’ve gotten. Basically, some of our highest traffic time periods were our lowest revenue periods.

Website traffic doesn’t equal sales. Not by a long shot.

So when you say “I need website traffic”, do you really mean “I need more sales revenue from my website”? That’s an important distinction to make.

Here are a few reasons why our website peak traffic periods didn’t correlate with our biggest revenue periods:

1)  Content marketing (articles, blog posts, infographics, social media, content curation) traffic does drive traffic to your site, but these people are about the farthest thing you can get from “hot leads”. Chances are these people will never purchase your services. If they do, it might take them 10+ trips to your site to finally convert from a visitor to a buyer. Content marketing is a marathon, not a sprint. We messed up here by not maintaining our content marketing as well as we should have.

2) Ineffective paid traffic – some of our highest traffic periods were when we tried some various new paid traffic sources to see if any of their offerings were good at generating leads. The results were dismal. One of these sources gave us hundreds of hits without a single lead and very little (if any) return on our investment. Now that I look back, I shouldn’t have been expecting any leads directly from that particular traffic because it was “content marketing” traffic, not lead-gen traffic. Social shares would have been a better metric to look at than leads. Again, a marathon, not a sprint. Perhaps I’ll give them another try, actually… now that I have the correct expectations.

3) Lack of organic traffic had me going back to old-school networking tactics… and it worked! Before I ever had a respectable search engine ranking, and after I lost that respectable search engine ranking, I did what companies with lots of inbound leads tend not to do. I hit my network hard. I offered friends and family commissions on referrals. I cold-called businesses. I sent advertising postcards. I grinded hard. And it was probably overall more effective than when I had a steady stream of inbound leads coming in. That doesn’t mean the website wasn’t important, I’m sure it certainly played a role when someone wanted to learn more or to check our legitimacy before hiring us.

So, now that you know that just any old website traffic won’t necessarily increase your sales, I’ll point you in the right direction to build the type of traffic that will build your sales.

1) The single most important traffic source is organic search engine traffic for your primary keyword(s). This can vary greatly from local business, national business, magazine, blog, affiliate site, etc. The best thing about organic search engine traffic there’s a chance it won’t cost you a penny except for your time. If your category/niche is low competition, it might not even be that much of a challenge. This is your main goal, the rest of these points are just supporting roles to organic.

2) Content marketing traffic – remember when I said organic SEO is the most important traffic source? Well, you won’t get a good organic rank without a good content marketing campaign. Not unless you’re either really lucky or in a dead niche. The reason content marketing so directly correlates with your organic rank is because great content that gets shared naturally is THE GREATEST signal you can send to a search engine that you’re important in your industry.

3) Paid Traffic – the thing about paid traffic is that it’s either profitable or it’s not. Getting to a profitable level with your paid advertising campaigns isn’t always easy. And if you find a formula that’s giving you a great return on your investment, double your budget. Then triple it.  Then 10x it. Keep this going until it’s no longer profitable, then flip the script and try to find the next formula and repeat as long as you financially can support it. An expert in your corner will help here, big time.

4) Actual networking (including social networking) – If you do social networking right, you can meet a few new people a day and they might just check out your site. Twitter and Facebook groups are great for this. Try to connect with people (in your target market or not) on a personal level and they’ll eventually check out your site, and possibly turn into a lead or refer someone to you. If you do it right, the little traffic you do get will be pretty high quality hits. Just don’t ask them to check out your site, have it be their idea.

5) Directory traffic – Directories won’t give you much traffic, but there are a few you can easily get into without a lot of money or time. You might get a few sales from these, so take a day to make sure you’re in all of them. DMOZ can be hard to get into, but if you do, you’ll have an easier time with #1.

6) Direct mail advertising  – Send out old-school junk mail to drive traffic to your site. Don’t knock it til you try it. Make sure to track campaigns with special urls so you know what worked and what didn’t.

7) Handing out a small stack of business cards to everyone you know – have your friends and family help you out. Eventually you’ll get a couple of high quality hits to your site thanks to a loved one. Quality, not quantity.

8) Get innovative. I once set up an automated macro to advertise some music I was selling to people who liked similar artists on Napster. This was very successful because I was the only one doing it. Of course, once other people caught on and started following suit it was all over. Every day there are new social services being born, check them out and be the first to use it to promote your business and it might pay off big time. Snapchat business advertising is another modern example, albeit now saturated.

Bad ways to drive traffic if you want more sales

1) Traditional radio and tv commercial spots – Frankly, I haven’t seen much success with this approach. People just aren’t watching TV and listening to the radio like they used to, I guess. I’m sure it can work, because we are still seeing commercials. Or maybe people are in denial, or aren’t paying enough attention. In any case, this is an option to drive traffic. I wouldn’t expect much success, though.

2) Misguiding visitors. If a user clicks a link that says “How to get more website traffic” but gets a page that doesn’t do a good job of telling him how to get more website traffic, do you think he’s gonna buy anything? He probably won’t share the content and he definitely won’t be buying what you’re selling.

3) Sending visitors to a broken site – check your site from a mobile device.  If it doesn’t work on mobile you might as well be throwing half of your hard-earned money in the toilet

4) Not having an optimized website – Is your website good at doing what it’s supposed to do? Yeah? How do you know? Do you track the number of phone calls it generates? The number of e-mail contact form submissions? The percentage of people who see one version of a page versus another similar page with a few differences? The percentage of people who respond to a certain call to action? No? That’s ok, most don’t. But the best time to start an a/b test is now, so you’ll get the most out of each visit.

5) Your business niche is dead, dying, or was never alive in the first place. Every great idea has an expiration date. Your idea may have already expired. Make sure people still want what you offer. Don’t ask a friend, family member, or even an acquantance – they might tell you what they think you want to hear. Ask people on reddit in the appropriate subreddit and you should get some quality feedback. Are there any other successful similar companies out there doing what you do? Have you seen a lot of your competition close up shop recently? Your industry might be going through it’s final stages and if so, it’s time to reposition yourself.

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