Driving Web Traffic

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Are you on the Road to Web Success?

You’ve spent weeks, maybe even months, optimizing your website to provide compelling information and a great user experience. Everything is ready to go, but for some reason, you’re having trouble getting off of the starting line.

The problem, in most cases, has to do with website traffic, the engine that really powers Web success. In this instance, traffic can be defined as visitors (users/consumers) that arrive on a website. For many companies, accumulating “enough” traffic is the single biggest roadblock on their journey toward Web success.

Website traffic fuels (or fills) what digital professionals call the “conversion funnel” or the path intentionally set forth by brands to lead users to a successful conversion (e.g. a sale, a newsletter sign-up or any goal that a company defines for its website). It is a “funnel” because the number of participating consumers decreases as they move along the path. Many companies spend a lot of time and energy optimizing for conversion (see Website Magazine’s Feb. 2013 cover story “Optimize” for more details), so too many potential sales don't drop out along the way. However, many Web workers focus so much on optimization and end-results (e.g. conversions) that at times, they forget about the large end of the funnel, and where and how they find and drive traffic to their sites.

The good news is the Internet is full of potential traffic sources. The bad news is that driving quality traffic primed to convert means being on top of your game, leveraging a variety of channels — from search and advertising to email and social media — and continually improving on those campaigns that work best for a particular product or service promotion initiative. Fortunately, there is more than one way to fill the funnel and drive traffic to your virtual doors.

Use the Search Lane

When it comes to generating traffic, most marketers initially turn to search engines and the practice of search engine optimization (SEO) to bring consumers to their websites. SEO is typically the first traffic-producing tactic Web businesses engage in, as it is exclusively dependent on a marketer’s labor (and not his or her wallet). However, SEO has become such a widely utilized practice, that brands must consider some edgy new tactics to get a site indexed and stand out to users on the search engine results pages (SERPs).

Blogging and Microblogging

To immediately increase website traffic from search engines, consider adding a blog or microblog to your website. This provides an opportunity to regularly add new content and increase social interaction, both of which can greatly improve SEO efforts, as search engines do pay attention to the frequency of updates, and even the rate of social citations when determining the ranking of website pages. Plus, relevant, yet keyword diverse content will increase the opportunities available for appearing on users’ searches, particularly for long-tail queries. “As search terms migrate toward the longer-tailed end of the query length spectrum, microblogs give a platform for service or product providers and suppliers to talk about their specific benefits to each of their unique customer bases,” said Jacob Baldwin, SEO manager at One Call Now.

But it shouldn’t be all about you.

“Don’t just use it to constantly sell,” said Robert Hoddenbagh, co-founder of the online advertising agency MesaSix. “Offer value to your community and open up discussions and interactions.”

Microdata Benefits

A more recent SEO tactic for increasing search traffic has been the use of rel=author tags, which associate an author (and their Google+ profile) to a specific piece of content. You may recognize Web pages with these tags when they appear in Google SERPs with the author pictures next to the page titles.

“[Author markup] provides greater visibility for your entry in a sea of other ranked Web pages, which Google has shown helps improve click-through rates on organic entries,” said Janet Driscoll Miller, president and CEO of Search Mojo. “But in my mind, even more importantly, authorship may be able to help fix Panda duplicate content issues. By claiming that you are the original author of the content, it stands to reason that perhaps Google would include the original version of the content in the index over other copies.”

Collateral SEO

In an effort to find new traffic sources for their sites, some marketers are going down the vertical search route, building a brand presence on portals that specialize in a specific information type or on a particular content format.

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ALSO READ: Authorship Markup
If you still haven’t taken advantage of Google’s authorship markup capabilities, you can learn how to get started right now with the Web Pro’s Guide to Authorship Markup.



The usefulness of search as a means of driving traffic is unparalleled, but the practice is becoming more challenging by the day. Largely, this is thanks to Google’s keyword not provided initiative, which conceals crucial keyword-level information about search queries. Don’t worry, though; there are other means of driving traffic available that are just as effective and even more measurable.

Run an Ad Diagnostic Test

Despite the many opportunities to acquire website traffic, advertising remains among the most consistent ways to generate brand awareness and fill the conversion funnel.

It’s fair to assume that a lot of digital advertising's popularity comes from its immediacy and, but more importantly, its measurability. Essentially every Internet advertising campaign enables advertisers to track performance and, over time, determine the return of campaigns in relation to how much is spent on them. This makes advertising (debatably) the safest method of driving traffic, as campaigns can be modified based on their level of success.

Is the Banner Back?

When users think of digital advertising, they often think of banner (or display) ads first. Arguably the oldest form of advertising on the ‘Net, for many, display ads have become all but obsolete and for good reason. Banner blindness remains a very real and pervasive problem (at least in the minds of advertisers).

Concerns aside, display ads aren’t dead, yet; advertisers just have to be smart about how they use them today. Marketers must ensure they’re placing advertisements that are going to be most relevant to the product or service offered. Even more importantly, marketers must use the data they gather from studying their marketing campaigns to improve the performance of their display ads. Success with display, in short, demands control.

“Display advertising can be useful; however, it is only as useful as its tracking,” said Hasaan A. Brown, online marketing manager at Vocus. “The tighter control you have over your display placements, the better. Display can be a bad option when you cast a wide net, but a better option when you tightly control your options.”

Advertisers and/or business owners that are looking for display advertising opportunities should check out the numerous alternatives, including the recently introduced 7Search Display Network. The program offering allows advertisers to choose from graphical or text-based banner ads (as well as pop unders and interstitial Web page advertisements). It’s all wrapped up in a self-service display advertising solution, which is appropriate for both publishers and display advertisers.

Paid Search Gets Better

Pretty much everyone on the Internet will use a search engine at one time or another, and because of this, paid search has become a favorite among many advertisers. Paid search allows marketers to show text-based ads atop (and around) the SERPs for specific keyword queries. Advertiser listings are only displayed when people search for something related to what the advertiser is promoting, which makes the practice a popular and powerful way to drive quality traffic to a website; but it's getting expensive. A recent report from Kenshoo revealed that paid search impressions increased by 18 percent in Dec. 2012, with cost-per-clicks rising by an inspiring 30 percent in the same period.

Internet advertising can be a reliable source of relevant traffic, but only if you keep tabs on how well it is performing (down to the keyword level) and continually improve campaigns for optimal performance. Still, over the years, some Web companies have found yet another solution that eliminates much of the risk associated with soaking resources into advertising: affiliate marketing.

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The New Traffic on the Block
“People crave visual content,” said Bonnie Joy Dewkett, the founder and CPO of The Joyful Organizer. “People are too busy to read your message, and their attention spans are too short to grasp it. Compelling visual content and cues are the way to grab attention. Images can say a lot about your message and your company.” So, if there is one thing that you need to know about driving traffic to your website in 2013, it’s that you have to use images and video, and lots of them! Discover three foolproof ways to make your visual content stand out on the Web.


 

Performance Matters

The no-risk, (possibly) high-reward nature of affiliate marketing is appealing to advertisers, because it allows them to add a non-salaried sales force to target a niche audience or industry, while only paying commissions on traffic that converts into a sale. By diversifying their traffic sources, affiliate marketing gives advertisers another viable traffic source to fall back on. “Online businesses should always work on implementing an affiliate program,” said Reed Floren, president of Business Success Systems, LLC.

“The best thing about having affiliates is they can focus on using new and proven methods to promote your products, and you only pay them if they make a sale for you. It’s 100 percent no risk to the business owner and can be a lot more productive and profitable than spending money on paid advertising.”

Although Internet advertising can help narrow down a marketer’s audience by industry or interest, it can be difficult and expensive to personalize ads and target specific individuals. There is one solution out there, however, that does let you do that; in fact, for the most part, you’ll be reaching out to consumers who have asked for your content and sales/marketing materials.

Turbo Charge Email Marketing

Even though it isn’t quite the hot topic that it used to be (thanks to social media’s popularity), email has steadily remained one of the most reliable traffic drivers for the majority of Web businesses. The truth is that email is still considerably more popular than social media, with 3.3 billion email accounts worldwide (compared to just 2.7 billion social media accounts), according to Attachments.me.

And in case you were worried that younger, more Web-savvy users were ignoring email in favor of social media, 66 percent of users under 30 access their email accounts from a smartphone device (source: Chadwick Martin Bailey). Even today, many consider email to be the most cost-efficient online channel for driving traffic to a website.

Still, the real benefit to utilizing email marketing as a driver of traffic is that it is likely to bring in that quality traffic that every brand wants. A Nielson study from 2012 showed that 50 percent of customers trust the information from emails they sign up for, meaning these customers start out by showing interest in your brand and are opting to receive additional information from your company.

As with any method of acquisition, it is imperative to pay attention to the behavioral data available about an email list, which, when used strategically, can encourage more quality visits and improve the performance of campaigns.

“No one will click if the content is not relevant to their likes or wants,” said Kristin Fernholz, a managing partner at Fashmark, a fashion-focused digital marketing agency. “Fashmark uses Sailthru, because it allows marketers to personalize the email experience based on customer behavior and preferences.”

When analyzing your email traffic, another strategy is to use data to segment your audiences into smaller groups and then send each group more targeted content that will be of particular or specific interest to them.

Head over to WebsiteMagazine.com to get a look at 15 different ways you can segment your email list at wsm.co/15emailseg.

However, you should also take these opportunities to identify email subscribers that aren’t a good fit for your business and purge them from your lists, as these subscribers are only costing you money and potentially harming your sender reputation, which can diminish your total traffic over time. Remember, quality over quantity.

If you’re especially industrious, you will need to get under the hood of your email marketing solution. Campaigner, for example, recently released its Campaigner Elements API, which helps its customers integrate external data (e.g. CRM) directly within Campaigner’s email system, collecting and analyzing big data, which has previously been siloed, to better determine what will and won’t resonate with customers.

Video Watch

These days Web users are far more interested in easily digestible content; that is largely why video has become such a useful tool for digital marketers.

“We ran a test where two emails had the same subject line and copy,” said Steve Young, director of product marketing at SmartShoot. “The only difference between the two emails was that one had video and the other did not. The mail with video drove 2-3 times the amount of clicks of its counterpart. We’ve also seen tests where including the word ‘video’ in a subject line can increase opens by 5-6 times.”

At present, putting videos directly in an email can be tricky because of the technical limitations, so many email service providers take the approach of including an image from the video with a play button over it in the email (sometimes called a “falsey”). This image then links to a landing page where the user can play the video. Progressive email marketing service providers are promoting their video-in-email services, such as Constant Contact, GetResponse and StreamSend, but until Web-based email service providers catch up, true video-in-email needs a workaround.

There always seems to be a newer model or type of engine that captures the imaginations of the masses, and despite the reliability of email marketing, social media seems to be the new favorite among most Internet marketers.

Fuel Engagement with Social Media

Social media has taken over as the preferred channel for driving traffic to many Web businesses (large or small), and nowadays every Internet marketer seems to be introducing himself or herself as a “social media expert.” Of course, the popularity of social media as a marketing tool should surprise no one, because not only does it present an opportunity to engage directly with interested consumers, but it can also aid in search, advertising and email marketing efforts.

The key to driving traffic through social media is having good content (this should be obvious, right?). So, what kind of content works best for driving traffic to a website?

“Free, fun and valuable content,” said Michael Santoro, president of Walker Sands Communications. “People don’t want to give up anything, even their email addresses, unless it’s super valuable content. You get bonus points if you can craft a clever and fun piece of content that’s highly sharable.” Don’t forget that social media isn’t just about pushing your content; it’s also about engaging with your consumers and building trust and brand loyalty. That is why you should also take advantage of specific user-generated content. It is a great way to inspire confidence in your other followers, which means they will come to your website with less hesitation about your brand, automatically turning them into higher quality traffic.

One way to ensure that you strike a solid balance between promoting your brand and fostering engagement with your followers is to adhere to the 80/20 rule. This means that approximately 80 percent of the content you post should provide some sort of value (e.g. asking or answering a question or solving a problem) outside of shilling your brand, while the other 20 percent can be directly self-promotional.

“You saying you’re great doesn’t matter; other people need to say you are great,” said Steve Thomas, president of The Net Impact. “We have a resort client that encourages their social media customers to post pictures of their vacations or time at the beach. That kind of content is the content that a marketer can’t buy. Encourage your audience to participate.”

Looking Good with Visual Content

Much like with video (and images) being useful in email marketing, visual content is also in-demand on social media sites. In fact, the popularity of social networks is a big part of why so many consumers have become accustomed to this content.

“Right now, the content that seems to be most popular on social media is visual in nature,” said Brittany Berger, the content coordinator for eZanga. “This is seen in the way Facebook is weighing posts with pictures and videos more heavily in its EdgeRank news feed algorithm and the popularity of the videosharing app Vine and photo-sharing networks like Instagram and Pinterest. People want content they can quickly digest and visual content is exactly that.”

As a result, the Internet has been seeing the rise of “alternative” social networks that may not yet have a hold on the the mainstream consciousness that Facebook and Twitter have, but which offer different services to users and provide marketers with new ways to interact with consumers. Tumblr, as well as the aforementioned Instagram and Pinterest, are three of the most popular alternatives.

“Pinterest is one of the best platforms for driving new traffic to your website” said Rania Eldekki, Internet marketing manager at Hudson Horizons. “Because Pinterest is an online photo board, the site works best for businesses with visually appealing, original photos. A clothing boutique, for example, could see a substantial sales increase through Pinterest, because the site allows virtual price tags layered on top of the photos.”

“The key is creating helpful, interesting or beautiful images that are formatted for Pinterest and include a Pin It button,” said Anne Buehner, social media strategist at Red Door Interactive. “When pinned — and re-pinned over and over again — the image retains its source URL.”

Embrace Social Alternatives

Not every Facebook alternative is so image-conscious, but that doesn’t mean they cannot still be valuable. There are a lot of smaller niche social networks out there that provide unique opportunities for marketers that know how to leverage them correctly.

“Traditionally, LinkedIn has not been a ‘destination’ social network, but its new content-driven strategy means users are spending more time-on-site on average, which provides an opportunity for marketers,” said Santoro of Walker Sands. “Brands also need to be paying attention to Google+ and Quora.”

Santoro also added, “It’s worth researching niche social networks that match up with your audience. There’s one for almost any interest area. Depending on what you focus on, it’s worth exploring the reach and engagement of that community.”

Start Your Engines!

There are numerous ways to drive quality traffic online, and once you’ve found those methods that work for you, whether its search engine optimization or email marketing, then you’re off to the races, and Web success will be just around the bend. Just remember to maintain a finely tuned approach by monitoring your traffic sources and paying attention to the behavior of your visitors, all while making adjustments as they’re needed. Now what are you waiting for? On your mark, get set and GO!

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