Suppose you’ve taken the time to write down your business’s most pertinent information, selected a SiteBuilder template design and launched your very first business website. You’re ready to open your digital doors, but wait… Where are all the people?
Unfortunately, websites aren’t an “if you build it, they will come,” type of thing. While it’s likely that some potential customers will find your website by Google searching for your business’s name online, this represents only a small slice of the possible web traffic that’s out there. For this reason, your website’s presence must be paired with a solid traffic generation strategy in order to achieve the best possible results.
Typically, visitors reach your website through a number of different channels:
- Paid advertisements
- Organic search engine optimization (SEO)
- Referral websites
Each of these different traffic systems has advantages and disadvantages; it’s important to recognize the strengths and limitations of each alternative in order to target the traffic sources that will best serve your website.
For example, paid advertisements represent the banner ads that are placed in the “Sponsored Ads” sections of the search results pages, as well as any banner ads that are embedded in other websites (either through direct placements or ad buying programs that distribute banners to a large number of sites). Although paid advertisements can be a great way to build quick exposure for your website, they can be costly – and managing a positive paid advertisement campaign ROI is something that’s best left to more skilled webmasters.
Organic search engine optimization (SEO), on the other hand, is a traffic channel that’s available to all webmasters of all experience levels. To understand what SEO is, it’s first important that you understand a little bit more about how the search engines work.
Every search engine – including Google, Bing and Yahoo, among others – uses a series of automated programs that navigate across different websites, processing their content and storing a copy in their databases for later use (this process is known as “indexing”). Then, whenever a user searches for a particular query, the engine utilizes its series of algorithms to determine which of these stored index pages represent the best possible resource for the user’s needs.
In Google’s case, these algorithms consider more than 200 individual factors about a given web page automatically when determining whether or not to include it in the results that are displayed to the user. And while Google and the other engines never reveal the inner workings of their algorithms, savvy online marketers have uncovered many of these different factors through the process of experimentation – revealing a series of techniques that can be implemented both on and off a site to make it more attractive to the search engines’ indexing programs.
As an example, including a phrase for which you’d like your site to appear in the search engine results pages (known as a “keyword”) in the page title tag of your individual web pages is one SEO best practice that demonstrates the relevance of your page to the keyword query.
If that sounds confusing, don’t worry – we’ll discuss SEO techniques in more detail in future articles on this site. For now, what you need to know is that SEO represents a low cost way to get your website found by a number of potential customers, making it a great option for beginning webmasters to explore.
One last general traffic generation strategy you’ll want to be aware of is referral traffic – that is, other websites that link back to your own and funnel visitors your way. A few different examples of referral traffic sources include:
- Social media sites
- Business directories
- Business review sites
- Sites on which you post guest articles
- Product reviews that mention your company
In this case, a potential customer might see your business mentioned on one of the sources described above – say, a post that references your brand on Twitter – and then click through the link to visit your website. Referral traffic can be a very attractive source of new website visitors, given that it’s largely free to generate and that being mentioned by referral sources gives your brand additional credibility that you may not yet have on your own as a new website.
Again, we’ll discuss different techniques for generating referral traffic in the future in new posts on this site. What you need to keep in mind at this point is that traffic generation must be a priority for every webmaster out there – no matter how new or advanced your site may be. And while there are several mechanisms that can be used to fuel the growth of visitors to your site, it’s up to you to determine which technique best suits your needs, your budget and your overall comfort level with online marketing.