By Ruth Ann Hogue
A website without traffic is like a knickknack on the shelf — pretty to look at, but otherwise nonfunctional except for collecting dust bunnies.
Now, imagine that same knickknack on a shelf with hundreds, thousands, even millions of other curiosities, each vying for attention. Which ones will get noticed, and which ones will be virtually invisible?
The simple answer is that it depends on who is looking, and what their purpose is in viewing the collection. A potential buyer who is focused on original Hummels will be able to spot them immediately, whereas someone else might be drawn to anything remotely shabby chic as inspiration for their next crafting project.
Much like in the world of collectibles, the traffic a website attracts will vary, based on a few simple factors. The good news is that there are some controllables, and despite the overwhelming competition for eyeballs, even small websites can boost performance by optimizing for search engines, using social media channels, and implementing a paid advertising strategy.
It all begins with Search Engine Optimization (SEO, which has always included having a good website, complete with an uncluttered, organized design and a sitemap to help search engines crawl and index your content. If the bots can’t find your content because spiders are blocked or pathways drop off suddenly in unexpected places, your-otherwise amazing site will likely fail to get the attention it deserves.
In 2017, effective SEO includes making your site user-friendly — especially for mobile. Because a high percentage of online buyers research their purchase using a smartphone, it makes sense to design eCommerce sites for mobile first, with desktop usability being secondary.
Other SEO tips include securing your site with a Secure Socket Layer Certificate (SSL). While the certificate itself provides a minimal boost, its presence can provide assurance to potential site visitors, making it less likely that they will avoid your site for security reasons.
Another key point of effective SEO is to research the keywords and phrases your target audience uses to search for the products or services you provide. Knowing which keywords are being searched most often, when and where the traffic originates and more can help you create content tailored to their behavior.
What you don’t want is to create content artificially stuffed with keywords, in an attempt to impress Google, Yahoo! or Bing. Instead, use keywords in places of importance such as headlines, subheads and a few other places within the context of the page content. Words in such positions of authority are a bold signal to search engines that they matter, and help determine whether your content is a quality match to someone’s search.
Other factors — including the quantity of content, whether it is presented in an interesting manner, and its freshness — contribute to organic (unpaid) search rankings.
Paid ads work
Search Engine Marketing, (SEM), can also play a significant role in driving traffic to your website. Consider paid ads on social media such as Facebook and those designed for search including Google AdWords, Bing Ads and Yahoo! Gemini.
The big daddy of them all is Google AdWords, which accounts for a significant portion of all online advertising. Tips and tricks for success from experts both within and outside of Google are easy to find, but they do change so keeping up to date matters. Google offers video tutorials, landing pages and certification training programs that can teach you how to write and manage advertising accounts.
This is where your keyword research will pay off again, because it’s important to target words that will bring the most value for their cost. Targeting expensive words that will run out your budget within just a few clicks would be less wise, for example, than choosing a medium-rated word that can draw in twice as many visitors for the same cost.
Facebook ads are gaining momentum because they are cost-effective and highly targeted. Your ads are presented only to those mostly likely to convert, based on your settings.
In any paid advertising campaign, be sure to test a few ideas, to see which ads rise to the top. Tweak as you go, and then cut the lower-performing versions.
Leverage social media
Finally, make sure your brand strategy includes social media. While it is true it does not cost to open a Facebook Group or a Snapchat account, presentation matters and the content you post does, too. Don’t skimp on how you develop content.
Make sure to research what works for your audience, and monitor and respond to feedback. If the conversation is one way, your social media presence could do more harm than good.
Again, keep in mind that quality matters. Even the smallest business that does social media well can keep up with bigger brands.
In the end, it all comes down to making sure your website is the most relevant on the virtual curio shelf. By implementing SEO, social media strategy and SEM, you’re sure to shine.
A regular contributor to the GoDaddy blog, RuthAnn Hogue is the owner and founder of Whiptail Publisher’s Syndicate and a published nonfiction author. The recovering journalist occasionally breaks out her 1979 Gibson Les Paul Custom Deluxe Silverburst rock ‘n’ roll guitar when she wants to let loose. A devoted fur mother, RuthAnn makes time to spoil all four of her Jack Russell terriers when she is not tweeting from @MyWhiptail or posting on Facebook @whiptailpublishing.