The truth about owning a successful website can become harder to fathom the more you surf about the internet. You start out with a simple enough query, but there’s just one heck of a lot of information out there. It’s very easy to reach information overload after not too much research at all, and that’s where most people give up and decide that improving traffic is a mysterious and unreachable place.
In reality, that elusive truth is a very simple one. Websites which work well for a business, are websites which work well for visitors.
There’s so much content available for users on the web that it’s easy to just move straight on if an experience isn’t good. Most people who search the internet are either looking to be entertained, or looking for information – perhaps on a service or a product.
The best way to promote anything on the internet is to provide entertaining, interesting and engaging content which satisfies a user’s need for information.
Easier said than done? Well, that can be true to varying degrees. Some techniques take more time or effort than others. Some measures cost a lot, and others are free. What’s not in doubt is that with a little know-how and not too much time out from running your business, you can make immediate improvements to the performance of your website yourself.
1. Make your website a great website
This may sound obvious, but it’s true. We’re going to look at how you can turn your website from a non-performer into something which improves your business, by being attractive to users.
Concentrate on content:
One of the best ways to make improvements is by looking at your content. If you don’t enjoy surfing your site, reading the copy, looking at the images and moving around the design – then your users won’t either. Some websites can be improved by removing content and concentrating more effort on less material, making sure that it’s good quality.
There is nothing more necessary for improving your search engine ranking than having great content. It’s the most fundamental way in which you can improve how you generate traffic – because every other method you use to promote or optimise your site will lead back to a need for good content. We’ll read more about this throughout this article.
Speed it up:
If your site is slow, that’s fixable. Often, all you need to do is switch to a different server. Users don’t like to spend time waiting for a website to load, and increasing speed is a great way to set out on the journey to improve your website.
Get the right tools for the job:
So, you want to improve your user experience and content, but you feel like you don’t have a handle on what your users want and need? You can use Google Analytics to get some real information about where your clicks are coming from. It’ll reveal how long people are staying on your site, and where they visit most.
If you really want to get into the heads of your customers and visitors, try using Hotjar. Knowing how your users interact with your site is probably the most valuable feedback you’ll ever get. Hotjar gives you the ability to look over the shoulder of your users as they surf your site. By using heat maps and even recording user visits, you can see exactly what your customers like about your site. Maybe, more importantly, you can see where they tend to lose interest.
Using analytic tools like Hotjar and Google Analytics will set you up with a place to start improving your website. You can also use these tools to start thinking about other practical ways to get your site doing more for you, and we’re going to look at that.
2. Improve your content: why a good read means a good rank
Almost everything we’re going to look at in this article needs great content to make it work. A site with great content is a great site. It really is that simple.
True, you may need to tweak your SEO, go looking for leads, or even do some advertising. If you don’t get your content right however, you’re mostly wasting your time, money and effort on everything else you do to improve your traffic. Here’s why.
Content and users:
No matter how you get a user to visit, you want them to stay a while and for that, you need content that’s relevant or useful to them. What will set your site apart from other websites which do similar things is how entertaining and informative it is. You can spend a lot of time and money having a technically brilliant and visually stunning website, but if you fill it with drivel, you’ll have wasted your efforts.
Search engines: ranking your relevance
Search engines index your site and record what you’re about. They rank you on how interesting and useful your content is. The more your site gets linked back to from other reputable sites, the more important you’ll be considered. To get organic links and to appear higher in search results, good content is required.
To keep your site relevant, entertaining and informative, consider outsourcing content creation. Regularity and quality are key to content. Refreshing your site on a regular basis will see your readers returning. It can also keep them up to date with your products and services, as well as with trends within your area of business. A regularly maintained site sets a tone that says attentive, relevant and current business.
3. Meta Tags, header tags and hierarchy
Many people avoid meta tags – they sound a little technical. However, you don’t need a degree in computer science to sort out your own meta tags.
Meta tags are your website’s way of directly communicating with the search engine crawlers which classify web pages. Tags exist to let these bots know exactly what your website contains, and how relevant the information on your site is to a user search query. To get yourself amongst the organic search results, you need to pay close attention to your meta tags. This can be a relatively easy way to improve the performance of your website, especially if your site doesn’t have a large number of web pages. Some of the tags on your site appear only in HTML, but some tags appear on the page too.
The Title Tag:
This is probably the most important tag. It appears at the top of your web page, it’s the title of the result when you come up in search engine results, and it’s also what the crawler uses to figure out how to classify your page. The title tag needs to contain keywords that are relevant to your content. It also needs to be attractive to users in search results, so describe what your text is about accurately.
Meta Description Attribute:
This tag can also be very useful when you’re looking to make users choose your page within a search result list. This tag contains the snippet of text that ultimately ends up below the title line of your page description. It should accurately describe the page content and be welcoming to users.
If you have a site with many pages, you might want to consider using a plugin like Yoast to generate meta tags and headers.
Header tags and hierarchy:
Heading says much about paragraphs. With web content, this goes for search engines AND for visitors to your site.
In some ways, header tags go beyond their intended function. They give a physical and recognisable structure to written content, which is pleasing on the eye. People often scan web pages quickly, and headers make it easier for them to spot useful information.
Let’s look at how you can use headers H1, H2 and H3 to improve SEO and make content more engaging:
<h1>Using headers for SEO and readability </h1>
Your H1 heading is the title of your piece. It’s the most definitive guide to both search engines and humans as to what the text underneath it means; how relevant it is, and how useful.
Your H2 header isn’t as authoritative as the H1 heading, but it’s a place you can include keywords which reinforce your message to both crawlers and readers.
<h2>Search engine optimisation and headers which improve content </h2>
It’s important to think up good headings which are relevant. Both readers and search engines will use headers to some degree. Skim readers on the internet will ignore chunks of text without regular headers.
<h3>I can include variations of keywords in headers, to make my page more findable</h3>
Headers provide a practical mix of good SEO, and great readability. Spending time on headers will improve both how your page ranks, and how useful people find your site.
4. Social media: getting connected
Here’s the thing. Almost everybody is on social media these days, so it’s a good place to go fishing for website traffic. There are ways to use social media to generate traffic which is a good match for your product or brand. Social media is a good place to showcase something that attracts the type of people who fit one or more of your customer profiles.
Competitions and giveaways:
The best thing about giving away a prize isn’t that it will attract entrants, it’s that you can attract the entrants you’re most likely to sell to.
Competitions and giveaways aren’t just a way to get people to visit your site either. With a good landing page, you can use a prize, free offer or interesting content to coax some basic information out of a user, turning them into a lead.
The key with competitions is to offer something which relates to the service or products you sell. That way, you’ll be attracting the type of people who are a good match.
Gated website content:
The same goes for gated content. If you offer something that’s going to be useful or interesting enough to get someone to visit your website and then part with their name and email address, you’ve just generated a viable lead. Once again, good content is key here. Gated ebooks and industry tips offer useful information which will impress users, and get you bookmarked.
Free trials work very well on social media. Make your offer snappy, informative, and be sure to create a great landing page back on your website. Offering a trial period is a great way to instil consumer confidence and attract relevant leads.
There’s also the fact that people tend to value a product more once they’ve gotten hold of it, and you’ll likely retain a good portion of these new users to boot.
5. SEO (Search Engine Optimisation): simplified
SEO is another one of those things which tend to get people’s eyes glazing over – pretty quickly. As a lay person, try to look at SEO in a lay person’s terms. Let’s see what we can do here.
- Let’s forget tags, code and even the internet for a second. Look at this like there’s a huge archive of information which people want to access, via specific queries. Your website is just one book within this archive, among millions of others.
Back on the internet – the archivists and gatekeepers of this archive are the search engines. If it helps, imagine them wearing sensible shoes, a cardigan, and eating a stale cheese sandwich. I find that this helps a great deal.
- The archivist has an automated system in place, to scan this massive archive – based on queries The archivist will never have time to read the whole archive, so they have to use basic information you give them – your book title and a snippet on the back of your book.
Back on the internet – this system is the crawlers. They use the meta title and description to rate the quality and relevance of your content.
- You want the archivist with the cheese sandwich, sitting at the front desk of the archive to be matching your content to the query.
Back on the internet – Search engine results pages (SERPS) are the front desk at the archive. You have to rank on the SERP in order to reach traffic.
In our imaginary archivist’s world, the meta tags of the real world are kind of like choosing a title which describes accurately what is within a book. This helps the archivist find relevant material for queries. Great content means the SEO attracts users who stay a while, and see your site as authoritative – maybe even linking back to it.
You want everything to be accurate. Titles are descriptions and they need to match the keywords within your content. The body of your content then needs to be relevant to the title and the keywords. This is basic SEO.
You also want to spread the word about your website. Think of the archivist and of other archives just like it. The easiest way to raise awareness is by using something called link building. This sounds very scary, but it’s important – and it’s very simple.
Post your website entry on the local Yellow Pages catalogue, ask your partners to link to your website, add a link on your social media or a private blog. Don’t buy links, though. The archivists are smart, and they don’t like cheaters.
SEO can be a very effective and readily available way to improve traffic. When you use SEO, you’re essentially signposting your website. It’s all about making it easier to find out there on the internet.
It’s often advisable to enlist specialist help when it comes to optimising your website. This is especially true when you’re thinking about going beyond the basics, as the effects of a mistake can be very costly, and extremely difficult to put right.
6. Online advertising
Social media sites and search engines like Google also provide the option to pay for promoted posts and advertising. Google Ads is regarded by many to be a system which is hard to fathom. Let’s take a look at how it works.
The mysteries of Google Ads explained
When you’re doing SEO, you’re essentially looking to improve your ability to rank well in organic search engine results. There are two ways to appear on Google’s SERP however, and Google Ads is all about getting featured within the paid ads.
The bottom line here is that Google generate 97% of their revenue with their ads service – which equates to tens of billions of dollars, annually. That’s relevant because it means that although Google Ads can be a quick way to see improved traffic, it’s costly when compared to other measures.
Google make a phenomenal amount of money from their ads service because they put their phenomenal infrastructure to work. This does an unrivalled job of matching ad content to relevant publishing opportunities on the web – and that service costs a lot of money to access.
If you want to use Google Ads, it will be cheaper and more effective, the more knowledge of the system you have. Let’s try to put cost per click advertising in simple terms:
- You place bids on chosen keywords which you feel are most relevant to your business. You enter a maximum amount you’re willing to pay on each keyword. The more popular a keyword is among your competition, the more expensive it’s going to be to achieve a high rank.
- Someone out there in internet land enters a query in Google which matches one of your keywords. The system then matches the most relevant bidders and there’s an auction.
- Where you rank in the auction, and the results for that Google Ad, is based on the following calculation:
Your rank = Your maximum bid x Your quality score
- Now, here’s the clever bit. The final price you eventually pay per click, is:
The Ad Rank of the advertiser below you in the ranking, divided by your own quality score, + 1 single cent.
What you’ll realise when you take the time to examine how Google Ads works, is that once again, content matters. The long and the short of it is that you’ll pay less money to advertise on Google Ads if your site has a higher quality rating.
If you’re planning to make Google Ads a regular part of your marketing strategy, then the better the content you have, the less it will cost.
In addition to content, another key to making Google Ads successful for you, is bidding on the correct keywords for your product or service. Reaching relevant internet users is in itself an expensive pursuit using Google Ads. Reaching irrelevant internet users is going to cost you far more.
Because you’re limiting your budget yourself, you can start advertising immediately. Google have heaps of tutorials and videos for new advertisers. Just bear in mind that the more you spend, the more careful you should be about who you advertise to, keywords and ad relevance, and the quality of your landing page. This all comes down to return on investment. In the end, you want to earn more than you spend on advertising.
Promoting posts on Facebook
Promoting posts on Facebook is relatively simple. It also offers some targeting with regard to the demographic you look to reach. Again, to make sponsored posts work for you on Facebook, you need a great idea that’s tailored to the audience you’re trying to reach – and you need the content to be great.
As with Google Ads, Promoting posts on facebook is a quick way to generate improved traffic. The trade off is that it’s expensive when compared to the free forms of social media posting we discussed earlier in this article.
Promoting posts on Facebook is simple. Just write a relevant post which might bring you business, and then click the “promote” button underneath. This is a much cheaper method of advertising than Google Ads. However, as we all know, it’s far harder to find a relevant audience on Facebook than on Google, so be careful with your spending and put effort into finding your target audience.
Maintaining the momentum
Hopefully this article has given you a better sense of the things you can do yourself to improve how your website works for your business. The aim here is for you to have fun, and gain real satisfaction from increasing your business, on your own terms. Like most things in business however, how much work you do yourself will come down to how much time you have available.
Try to work out when time spent begins to outweigh any cost saving. The truth about improving website traffic is that there is very little that is not worthwhile – if you combine it with great content. Maintaining momentum is the key to keep traffic flowing towards your site. It’s an ongoing job and the businesses who are most successful at it, do it regularly.
When you run out of spare time, consider enlisting the help of an expert. Your website is your number one asset, and it’s always a better idea to increase the rate at which it generates leads, rather than to operate as per the staus quo.