I have a confession: I’m a professional.
Don’t take that statement as an exemplar of arrogance. In fact, that statement is meant to reflect my desire to be the exact opposite.
When I first started to hawk my own project and traffic together, I hadn’t yet adopted the language of a professional and spoke more plainly about advertising things online and generating web traffic.
Terms like “Cost of Acquisition”, “The Funnel”, and – the ever dreaded – “Return On Investment” were not yet part of my regular vocabulary; at a certain point I really didn’t give a shit what people thought, and I’d just do things that seemed to result in a lot of traffic, quickly.
I love reductive language. Simple, raw, declarative language that states the genuine feelings of the speaker. It’s an efficient way to communicate, but not always the most effective.
An example I’m stealing from an episode of Back to Work a few weeks back comes to mind. Imagine that your boss asked your opinion on a particular project and you said “I don’t care,” a potentially reductive way to say “I have no opinion either way about this project.”
I don’t think it would be out of the question for your boss to sound displeased with your answer. This goes to the heart of the efficient and effective concept of reductive speech.
But, why am I off on this tangent rather than explaining web traffic to you? It’s to demonstrate that both marketing and search-engine optimization professionals are paid to market things seductively, and often speak in ways that are, not surprisingly, seductive when they sell you their services.
This is what we’re trying to avoid.
Speaking Plainly About Web Traffic
This article is one of three that I have designed to break through the murky waters of digital marketing and explain, plainly, what you need to do to get human beings to your website, shop, or store.
People will say this article is for beginners, because it is. I will purposely use the language of the clients that make up 80% of my consulting business: small-to-medium size businesses that are, I think quite rationally, more concerned with the day-to-day of what produces money versus discussions on “influencers” or “growth hacking” or other terms that come as luxuries.
Some people believe these terms, by their existence, are the meta equivalent of someone talking to themselves in a mirror. Skeptics.
I won’t condone this viewpoint, but I certainly can empathize with it. A viewpoint I understand when marketing discussions get heady. We’re dealing with bills, deadlines, bosses, and a multitude of other things that are real, versus a bunch of marketing hooey.
A Quick List Of Definitions
This may seem silly, but I think that terms can be confusing when you’re first learning them. Here’s a fast list of synonyms and associated terms.
|Traffic Type||Other Names|
|Organic||Search Engine, Search Engine Optimization, Google, Bing, Keyword Traffic|
|Paid||Digital Advertising, Paid Digital Media, Pay-Per-Click, Display, Remarketing, Native|
|Referral||Links, Backlinks, Referring Sites|
|Social||Social Network, Social Media, Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Tumblr, StumbleUpon|
Getting people to come to your website, typically, isn’t easy or cheap. Every method for creating traffic has a trade off of either time or money.
1. Pay For It
Paying for digital advertising is one of the easiest and often most overlooked ways of getting traffic to your site. Many business owners are skeptical of paid advertising methods like pay-per-click or display advertising because, frankly, they’re confusing to understand at first.
The wonderful thing about paid advertising is that it’s fast. If you have the budget, you can get quality traffic to your website or landing page quickly.
The downside of this method is that it can be expensive. Expensive is a relative term depending on the business type, but few businesses can afford to bring all their traffic via advertising.
This becomes especially true when you have a business that involves selling something online. Online sellers will ultimately have to confront their “Cost Per Acquisition.” The basic formula behind cost of acquisition is what you spent to generate traffic / the number of sales you received from that traffic.
It is difficult, especially at the start of all paid campaigns, to reach the cost per acquisition you need to be profitable. That process could quickly outstrip your ability to turn a profit.
Some good starting points for paid traffic sources include Google’s AdWords, BingAds, AdRoll, The Deck, and BuySellAds.com. Other good avenues are social advertising on Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit.
I should also note that most of these networks are self-serve networks — meaning they are designed for you to create your own campaigns and manage them on your own (in contrast to getting help from an advertising agency or web marketing company).
If you feel overwhelmed by these networks, it might make sense to contract-out to someone to manage these services for you (until you get the hang of it).
2. Make Things That People Want To Read or Watch
This method centers on making things that people either want to read or watch. This is the heart of what is called “inbound marketing” or “content marketing.”
The idea is you produce something awesome and people want to experience it. How do they experience it you ask? By coming to your website. By extension, this idea works with sub properties of your site or brand as well (e.g. a Tumblr account or YouTube Channel).
There are three great reasons to produce good content:
- It’s always good for organic traffic; there are few situations in which producing original content for your brand results in any net negative for organic development.
- You’re creating a sharable asset. People aren’t interested in sharing your landing page about your business, but they might like a particular post or video you created.
- You’re creating an opportunity for conversation. Sites with content are ones that have links, which thus produce both physical traffic and enhance your search engine profile.
What type of content you should produce and the subject matter of that content are best left for another day. Obviously you should attempt to create things you thing your target audience would want to read. If you’re in the craft beer business, it makes sense to write a post on how you brew beer since people who drink craft beer might like to read something about that.
For ideas on what to create, look at the communities of people who are interested in your product and are discussing your competitors. Some of my best blog posts were mined from specific communities on Twitter and Reddit.
No matter what you sell, there’s something (a video, blog post, article, infographic, quiz, tool, calculator, checklist) that you can produce to create traffic.
And when you produce that thing, don’t be afraid to promote your content. This is very website/channel specific, since it can be well-received within some communities or sites and not as much on others.
3. Use E-mail, But Don’t Be A Jerk
Oh e-mail. So overly spammed and mistreated, yet intricately connected to the way we communicate to others in the professional world.
E-mail is a powerful way to engage traffic and bring people to your website. E-mail visitors are typically high engaging visitors. This means these visitors stay on your site longer, visit more pages, and can be counted-on for steady, consistent traffic.
However, the quality-of-visitors factor assumes an e-mail list created using the most noble of methods: getting people’s permission to e-mail them.
There’s nothing worse getting than spammed with e-mail that you don’t want; pretty much everyone feels this way.
Inversely, people love receiving e-mails for lists they’ve “opted into.” This means they’ve confirmed that they want to be on the list through some type of web process (typically a sign-up form).
Without an opt-in (or, even better, a double opt-in) it’s probably considered spam. This not only turns people off of your brand, but can get your e-mail flagged as spam — meaning it will be hard for people to receive your messages on certain platforms.
The problem with e-mail is that it’s hard to grow a list. One initial source is providing an e-mail form (like the one located at the end of this post). It gives people the chance to sign up, if they like the content of your site.
Another good source is to contact your current and past clients or anyone you’ve had a business relationship with. There’s nothing wrong with e-mailing a contact to ask them if it’s okay if you add them to your list.
This is extra okay if your list or software provides an option to unsubscribe.
These are really basic things that focus on — generalities vs. specifics. That’s the point of this piece.
Stay tuned for more depth in a Part 2 of this series on generating web traffic.