So — you have a new website. What now? How will visitors find your website? “Build it and they will come” may have worked for the Field of Dreams, but unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way for websites.
Driving traffic to a website takes time and effort but with attention to the following areas, you will see an increase in visitors over time.
Let’s go over the ways to drive traffic to your website — and to keep people coming back.
1. Google and SEO
There’s more than one search engine (Google, Bing, Yahoo, DuckDuckGo, etc.). But for simplicity’s sake, in this post I’ll just refer to Google. What goes for Google usually goes for the others as well.
First — understand that it takes a while for Google to find a new website, and a bit longer for the site to be included in the search results. Even after that, there’s no guarantee that the site will be shown in the first few results — or even on the first page of results — for any particular search. But there are ways of maximizing your chances.
The process of making sure your website gives Google what it’s looking for is called search engine optimization, or SEO for short. (Sounds intimidating, but it really isn’t.) And what’s better is that when you improve your website with an eye toward what Google is looking for, your human visitors are likely to benefit too.
So, how do you get your site well-ranked in Google?
Google uses over 200 factors when ranking sites in the search results. We don’t know them all. But repeatedly, they have made it clear that a few factors are especially important. Those are the ones to spend time getting right.
On-page content: page titles and text
If you’re using WordPress, it’s possible to attend to each of these things on your post or page’s editing page.
If your site uses a Genesis theme (which I use for all the sites I develop), you can find fields for title and description below the text editor.
If you’re using the Yoast SEO plugin (see below for more on that), click the “edit snippet” button in the Yoast are right below the text editor.
Page title. This isn’t necessarily the title that appears on your web page. That title is important, too! But the page title we’re talking about here is the one that appears in the search results.
They can be the same thing. But it is often better to write an optimized title for the search results. This title should make clear what your post or is about, and, ideally, should be interestingly enough written to catch the searcher’s eye. It shouldn’t be too short, or extremely long.
Page description. It should also be pointed out that writing a good meta description can make a very big difference. This description doesn’t appear anywhere on your website so isn’t truly “on-page content” — but it is the snippet of text that’s displayed with the link to your website in the search results. Having a well-written, enticing description can make the difference between a searcher clicking on your link. Give some thought to your description, and include a call-to-action if you can.
Page text. What you write is important. Consider closely the words you write: Is the topic clearly stated? Have you included words and phrases that people are likely to search for? Is the topic thoroughly covered?
Page organization is important, too. Use headings and sub-headings to indicate to the search engines what topics are covered. Organizing the page in this way, in combination with short paragraphs and clear language, helps your human visitors, too.
Site organization and navigation. Well-organized sites not only make it easier for your visitors to find their way around and understand your content but for the search engines to do that, too. Make sure that your blog and articles are organized in a logical structure, and that it’s easy for them to easily see what’s new. Navigation should not duplicate or hide links.
SEO for WordPress
WordPress powers over a quarter of the world’s websites, making it the most popular software for building websites. If you have a WordPress website, I recommend installing the free Yoast SEO plugin.
Step by step, Yoast SEO takes you through the process of optimizing your website for Google. It gives suggestions for optimizing each individual post, too. You may see a real difference in your pages’ search rankings after optimizing with this highly-regarded and very popular plugin.
I use it on all of my own websites and have written a beginner’s guide to using Yoast SEO for your blog posts.
Off-page SEO: Links
While on-page SEO concerns the things you can control on your own website, off-page SEO concerns how others relate to — and link to — your website.
Linking is very important, for two reasons:
1. People discover links on other websites and follow them to your site.
2. Search engines consider that a page that’s linked to must have valuable information on it (why else would someone link to it?); the more quality links a website has, the more valuable Google thinks it must be.
Google considers links from quality, topically related websites to have more weight; these are called “relevant links.”
For example, if you’re a poet, links from websites about writing, poetry, other poets or publishers would be relevant to your own site. Relevant links are the ones you want to get!
Non-relevant links are okay, too, but don’t have nearly as much impact with Google.
How to you get links?
— Ask anyone you know who has a web page to link to yours (friends, family, colleagues, organizations, etc.)
— If you publish your work online (in guest posts, online magazines, newspapers, photography or music sites, etc.) or your work is reviewed, ask those web pages to link back to your website. If you’re selling books on Amazon, set up an Author Page there and mention your website.
— Ask websites related to yours to link to your site. (You will likely have to link back.)
— Directory links are okay. Stick to legitimate business directories and topically related directories. Don’t overdo directory links; Google et al want to see links from many sources.
The best way to get links is to have excellent content that people want to link to. These are the best kind of links – and always have been.
More info on getting links: How to get links to your website
This is now one of the primary ways that people learn about new websites and web pages, and how they share them with others.
If you’re not participating in social networking, you’re missing out on a enormous opportunity to get the word out about your site.
Social media can sound a little intimidating. But it’s really pretty simple. Though each social site works a little differently, they all have one thing in common: you can find people who share your interests and connect with them.
You can share your website content, and help them get the word out about theirs. They’ll do the same for you.
It doesn’t take long to get the hang of it and social media can reap great rewards. There’s no need to have a presence on all the social sites; just start with one (I’d recommend Twitter, for simplicity, and impact) and go from there.
Social media usually works best when you do it yourself. But if you don’t want to do it yourself, you can hire someone to manage your social accounts for you.
Don’t forget to link to your website from your Twitter or Facebook page!
There are WordPress plugins which will automatically post to social media. I have used Revive Old Post to share past blog posts to Twitter and Facebook and found it to work very well. It’s very helpful in bringing new visitors in, and to renew interest in older blog posts.
Social sharing buttons
Install buttons on your website which will allow your visitors to click to share your content on the social sites or to email a link to others. You don’t even need your own social networking accounts to do this.
Social sharing buttons are a simple and very effective method to encourage others to spread the word about your website.
AddThis.com has free sharing buttons you can install in just a minute or two.
Enable comments on your blog posts; this will encourage visitors to interact with you and to return to follow the discussion.
Giving your commenters a way to subscribe to comments on your posts is also a good idea. That way, when someone responds to their comment – or to others – they can be notified and come back to the page to continue to the conversation. For this, I like to use the Lightweight Subscribe to Comments WordPress plugin to add this functionality; it adds a simple “subscribe to comments” checkbox right under the commenting box.
A regularly-updated, well-designed website
Websites are never really finished. Keep improving and adding to yours. Stagnant websites don’t grow in popularity; visitors and search engines tend to ignore them.
Keep the visual design clean and modern. An amateurish-looking website can make the most accomplished person look like an amateur. Good design inspires confidence. Hire an experienced web designer if this is not your expertise.
Newsletters and RSS
Repeat visitors are gold; they are the people most interested in what you have to offer, and the people most likely to spread the word.
How do you keep them coming back? By regularly posting new content, and giving them a way to find out about it.
Newsletters and RSS keep your visitors notified — and they also remind them to come back to the site.
RSS feeds allow people to see new posts in the news reader app of their choice. All you have to do here is add an RSS link or icon to your website (usually in a sidebar, or at the top of the site) which links to your RSS feed (usually http://yoursite.com/feed). Easy.
Newsletters can take different forms. Perhaps the simplest way is to create an email list that is automatically sent to subscribers on a regular basis (weekly works well for most sites).
A sign-up form can be included on your website; the sidebar is usually a good location to put it.
There are various ways to set up a newsletter. My favorite is to sign up for a free MailChimp account and to create an what they call an RSS campaign. A newsletter with links to your latest blog posts (assuming there are some) will be sent out on a weekly basis to subscribers. This takes a little setup, but once it’s going, you can forget it — everything’s automatic. This is a great way to keep people coming back to your website.
Email signatures and online profiles
Include your web address and a brief description or tag line in your email signature. Do you have profiles on other websites such as forums? If it’s allowed, use the link in your signature there as well.
Include your web address on printed marketing materials such as business cards, letterhead, flyers, bookmarks, advertisements. Distribute these wherever you can. Don’t forget to include the address in any printed books you publish as well. It should also be in Yellow Pages ads, TV or radio advertisements. If you have one of those magnetic vehicle signs for your business, put it there, too.
Be sure to hand out business cards to friends, colleagues, and family. (Give each person more than one card — I usually hand out two: one for the person and one for them to pass on.)
There are opportunities to advertise on related sites for as little as a few cents a day. Even budgeting just a dollar or two a day can be very helpful in getting the word out. Methods include pay-per-click (PPC), banner ads, text links, and paid newsletter inclusions. However, I usually recommend attending to the other things mentioned in this article before diving into paid methods such as advertising.
Check out which other sites are listed when you search for your own, then investigate to see what they’re doing that you could do, too. For instance, learn which websites link to them — can you get linked from those sites as well? Do they have active social media accounts and if so, who do they follow and who follows them? Researching competitors is too big a topic to discuss thoroughly in this post; I’ll write a separate post about it soon.
What methods have you used to drive traffic to your website? What’s worked best for you? Let me know in the comments!