As someone responsible for the success
of your website, you know what you
need — you just need to go get it, right?
Well, sort of.
Acquiring website visitors from the myriad available
opportunities on the ‘Net, each with its own intricate
rules and best practices to follow, is nearly always easier
said — or suggested by others — than actually done.
If you’ve spent any time at all marketing or promoting
a website, company or brand — even an “idea” applies
here — on the Web for the purpose of acquiring
visitors, you know this to be true. It is not, nor has it ever
been, a matter of flipping the digital switch. Although,
once you become skilled at generating website traffic,
feel free to tell everyone you know that it indeed is actually
All kidding aside, acquiring website
visits, for most, just isn’t an easy
task. It can be expensive in some
cases and time consuming in others.
Getting your website in a position
where it can be found and discovered
by a user with an implicit interest in
what your business provides — be it
product or service or a combination
of the two —requires creativity and
diligence (and deep pockets never
hurt). Nothing less will do.
The hard truth (even for the most
resource rich and savvy enterprise),
however, is that even if you have
managed to follow all the rules and
implement every best practice, you
still may miss your mark. Your mark is the number of visitors your enterprise needs to remain
sustainable in today’s highly competitive digital landscape.
Fortunately, the view toward visitor acquisition on
the Web has evolved and, at least from our perspective,
All right, so what are these acquisition strategies?
How can you improve the volume and quality of website
visitors? You are likely already quite familiar with many
of the destinations and channels available to find new
visitors, but perhaps unfamiliar with actual tactics to
make it all come together. In Website Magazine’s feature
article this month, readers will find several practical suggestions
to help websites position their digital properties
for greater ‘Net success.
Just a quick note before you proceed: This isn’t your
typical article on how to grow website traffic. There’s an
important thread throughout that demands your attention;
the secret to being found is to be worth finding and optimizing
every discovery opportunity. How in the virtual
world do you accomplish that? In a word, relationships.
Organic Search Objectives
In a perfect
world, you’ll be found through the organic results of popular
search engines, including Google and Bing, with little
effort and as a natural extension of the fine products
and services you provide and the natural brand virility
that results from your organizational awesomeness. In
the real world, you’ll need to be on good terms with the
search engines, giving more than you take.
Search engines have changed over the past few years.
They are more capable of assessing quality, more in tune
with the mischievous behavior of spammers, and even
better at providing resources to help the white hat and
penalize those with no hat at all. So what does all this
mean for those responsible for search engine optimization
If there’s one trend that will shape and define the SEO
landscape in 2013, it is undoubtedly microdata. By
adding another layer of detail upon the information you
create, distribute and make available on your website,
Google and Bing (and yes, Yahoo too) will be able to understand
not just what the page is about, but its context
as well. That’s important as millions upon millions of new
text documents, images and video are added to the Web
each day. Your enterprise needs a way to stand out.
Fortunately, there’s a new tool available within Google
Webmaster Tools, which makes marking up data far
more accessible, meaning that enterprises won’t have to
utilize expensive developers to hand code this information
The new Data Highlighter from Google, released in
mid-Dec. 2012, allows Web workers to create structured
markup/rich snippets using a far simpler point-and-click
method rather than a traditional, error-prone method of
HTML coding. The tool, which provides Google with information
about the pattern of event-related data on a
website, makes it easy to tag a page with rich snippets by
highlighting data items including event name, date, and
location or tagging a set of similar pages all at once. Expect
additional forms of data to be added to the tool in
the near future.
So what does that have to do with relationships?
Quite a bit actually. When you consider the popular
search engines as living, breathing digital entities, it’s
simpler to understand how to treat them. In the case of
being a good content partner to the search engines, the
more relevant data the better. When you treat your
friends well, they are sure to repay the favor and in some
potentially lucrative ways.
It’s not just the search engines that need to be treated
well, but also the customers of those search engines —
the users. The best opportunity to
do that? For millions of websites,
it’s authorship markup.
Google’s author tag markup enables
websites to publicly link from
their site (within content) to author
pages. Authorship markup uses the
rel attribute (part of the open
HTML5 standard) in links to indicate
the relationships between a
content page and an author page.
While there may be little evidence
to suggest that using authorship
markup improves ranking, it does improve the user experience as listings featuring this additional
layer of information are easier to spot (and click)
on the search results. In essence, that’s how some publishers
are being found more often.
Directing Direct Traffic
With all the technology available to Web-based enterprises,
a brand may believe that their analytics account
would always feature an actual source for every visitor,
but that’s not always the case.
Often, users may type in your website URL directly.
But those users need to be aware that your business exists
to do so. For this reason, catering to the casual
passer-by could prove beneficial. Business owners and
marketing managers fortunate enough to have an actual
physical location are positioned to drive substantially
more direct traffic than their virtual counterparts do, because
more opportunities exist.
Prominently featuring a website URL on every printed
corporate brochure and every banner that hangs in front
of your store, is an easy way to make potential customers
aware of your brand and maybe even score a few website
visits as well. Routinely auditing creative assets to ensure
they are consistent and up to date are important elements
of offline marketing, so don’t forget them.
There are other, far more visible methods to acquire
traffic, however. Emerging from the least likely of places,
the email signature line can serve as a strong catalyst to
driving website visits. The best part? The responsibility
can be spread out across your enterprise — from the
sales team to customer service personnel, all the way up
to the C-Suite.
Email signatures lines have been treated in the past as
little more than an opportunity to showcase a social
media profile, provide a direct phone number or maybe
even casually include a personal quote. What would result
if the website URL of the company was prominently
displayed? Also, what would happen if each individual
within your enterprise used a signature line with a trackable
URL, that could be used to determine just how effective
each person is at driving website visits through
the use of email?
While it won’t move the proverbial needle much, traffic
can add up.
Rethink Social Engagement
There were numerous developments in 2012 that will
forever change brands approach to social media as an
The first was a change to
Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm,
which for most major brands,
caused a reduction upward of 50
percent of the activity (likes,
shares, visits) from their profile
page. While some brands openly
criticized Facebook, claiming the
change was made to force those
brands to pay their way through the social network, others
changed course and started leveraging networks to
bolster their social media engagement goals. That’s right
— there’s been a notable increase in the number of platforms
that, experimental or not, promise to shift the balance
of power back to the brands (and compensate
publishers for their advocacy).
Popular Q&A site ChaCha, for example, recently released
its Social Reactor offering, which compensates influential
bloggers and social media participants of the
program for sharing advertisers’ messages. Yet, they
(ChaCha) are not remotely the only vendor that is influencing
social media discussions and helping advertisers
drive awareness and website visits. Virurl and
OneSpot are two other companies, with slightly different
approaches, which offer the same acquisition opportunities
for information publishers and advertisers.
But social media isn’t (at least theoretically) about
“paying to play.” It’s a conversation, an engagement opportunity,
and a meaningful way to connect with a
prospective and existing audience, simultaneously. Hope
remains among social media pundits that the broader
channel of social media will remain an effective means to
acquire visitors, but it may not come from the big four
social networks. Rather, acquisition may come from
smaller, yet more nimble, richer communities of likeminded
and like-acting consumers. The evidence is in
Pinterest’s popularity, the loyalty of Tumblr users and the
sustainability of niche-focused forums.
Engagement opportunities are everywhere, don’t let
them pass by.
Should your enterprise’s search and social campaigns
just not work out like what was initially planned, for
whatever reason, or are simply taking too long to see results from, perhaps it’s time to
explore the use of affiliates and
to drive website visits.
The ability of a robust affiliate
network is nearly unmatched as
an acquisition strategy — it’s also
cheaper and easier to manage (if
you know what you’re doing).
Regular Website Magazine readers
should not be unfamiliar with performance
marketing after the release
of our book Affiliate 360 and
the Website Magazine issues addressing
performance marketing in
general, yet so few merchants and service providers engage
in any noteworthy level of the practice that the number
of opportunities to drive traffic at a relatively modest
cost are staggering.
Yet it is not enough just to have a program available
for affiliate marketers. Websites must think strategically
if the aim is to drive new visits and have affiliates maintain
a certain level of activity
There are several methods that can be used immediately.
Website Magazine’s Dec. 2012 issue, for example,
published “Keeping Affiliate Tactics in Check” wherein
it was suggested that much of one’s energy and resources
should be spent developing programs that reward the
highest performers through higher commissions, extending
cookie durations and even adding special bonus
payouts for those responsible for a predefined level of accomplishment.
The reason these tactics are useful when it comes to
driving website visits is that affiliates tend to be attracted
to promote individual programs based on a one-time interest.
If you can find a way to encourage them to repeatedly
promote a product or service, you can expect to
receive a consistent level of new website visits, which is
obviously something all Web workers are interested in.
Providing a virtual nudge through email, instant messaging
or a phone call could be the catalyst required to
have affiliates reenergize their marketing efforts (whether
it be through paid search, content development for SEO
or social media) on a merchant’s behalf. Further, adding
a personal touch, making those hard-working affiliates
feel valuable and fostering that relationship over time, is
another lane in the fast track to Web success.
Media & Referrals
The trend that has all but captivated the attention of digital
marketers over the past few years is content marketing.
The term itself, however, may
be misleading. It’s not about marketing
the content exclusively, it’s
about thorough research, creative
ideation, message distribution
and analysis. Calling it “content
marketing” does a disservice to
anyone that consumes that information
(in whatever form it may
come), as well as the millions of
Web workers that have leveraged
“content” for years to promote
their products and services, as well as those positioned to
distribute it for your benefit.
The relationships you have with both traditional
media and new media (bloggers and other Web-only information
publishers) are as important as any in your professional
career. Those enterprises with active (and
accurate) media lists of bloggers and journalists who can
and will regularly profile your company and its news is
important to long-term success. The discovery of your
enterprise by new visitors is arguably the most valuable
form of traffic you’ll be able to acquire — better than
search and social when done thoughtfully and effectively.
Digital marketers must have content ready, a strategic plan
in place and the resources to make it happen.
For example, if you’re looking to engage in guest
posting on popular blogs, turn to services including
MyBlogGuest.com, BlogSynergy.com or, the many
other alternatives (which are referenced in Website
Magazine’s Guide to Guest Blogging available at
http://wsm.co/GuestBloggingGuide). Perhaps you’re
looking for a more traditional citation, as in garnering a
mention or appearance on television, radio or within a
print magazine like this one. If so, using the HARO (HelpaReporter.
com) service from Vocus or the Cision media
database may be just what you need. Seeking to establish
yourself as an expert and willing to speak at industry conferences?
Platforms such as SpeakerFile or SpeakerMatch
may just do the trick.
There is certainly no shortage of opportunities to spend
your advertising and marketing budget. Paid search, display,
social — the list goes on and on. Advertising as a
means of acquisition is expensive, but with the amount
and depth of control over these paid promotional campaigns
today, more and more digital businesses are considering
digital advertising as a practical and measured
approach to acquiring new website visits. And the savviest
are thinking “mobile” first.
Kenshoo’s 2012 Global Online
Retail Holiday Shopping Report
indicated that the average paid
search cost-per-click (CPC) rate
increased 11 percent year-overyear
(YoY) to $0.48. In many
ways, advertisers are being effectively
priced out of the market, but
that doesn’t apply to mobile. Ad
clicks through mobile devices
have historically been far lower.
This is good news for enterprises
looking to acquire visitors with a local presence or larger
organizations that can act locally. There is also a noticeable
increase in mobile activity. According to Kenshoo,
2012 saw a rather sizable increase in the number of mobile
clicks. Mobile phones, according to its analysis of 24
billion paid impressions, were responsible for 20 percent
of all clicks. That’s impressive no matter what way you
E-commerce retailers specifically may be surprised to
discover that some of the most valuable traffic they can receive
comes not from traditional sources, such as comparison
shopping engines or affiliate referrals (although
both are undoubtedly effective), but also from coupon
sites including RetailMeNot.com, Coupons.com or
CouponFollow.com. What is compelling about using
these networks as sources of traffic is that users have a specific
intent in using them for saving money and discovering
merchants and product sellers. The coupon vertical
should not be left out of the traffic acquisition strategy and
in some cases your brand may already be participating.
Will You Be Found?
More opportunities are present to promote your website
and drive new visits today. Yet marketers today must
consider the role their relationships play in each and
every potential interaction, including adding a familiar
face on the SERPs with the use of author tags, promoting
a brand offline with non-digital consumers in mind,
establishing connections with old and new media, leveraging
affiliate/performance marketing, and even opening
up your wallet now and again to consistently drive
awareness and visits.
What’s unique about the Web of today is that the
community of Web worker share the same opportunities
to drive websites visits and have their enterprises found.
Failure to look at the Web as an opportunity reliant on
positive relationships will ensure you’re never found.
Take the necessary steps, many of which are included
here, and you will be found.