This post is the 4th in a series to help you develop an exceptional content marketing strategy. Feel free to read ahead – you’ll still get great information. If you intend to incorporate these traffic building strategies into your overall marketing plan, though, it’s a good idea to start with this post about content marketing.
Building up your traffic numbers is a major part of your content marketing strategy. After all, what good does it do you to create a bunch of brilliant content that nobody reads?
If you do a good job creating branded content, you’ll gain momentum over time. Traffic numbers will steadily increase, your loyal fan base will become more vocal, and your reach will keep growing. You’ll soon reach a point where money invested into marketing goes exponentially farther than it does now.
Before you enthusiastically start sending traffic to your website, though, it’s wise to put some thought into how that traffic fits into your overall plan. Why do you want people to come to your website? Determine how your website visitors fit into your overall plan before you start investing time and money.
Free Vs Paid Traffic – Which Is Better?
Let’s assume you don’t have loads of money to spend carelessly, nor do you have years of experience in digital marketing strategy. You need to start generating more income from your website, and you have neither the time nor money to waste. Buying traffic sends the most people to your site in the shortest amount of time. Free traffic sources take a little longer, but don’t eat up your financial resources. Which should you pursue?
Well, that depends. Your decision is rarely as simple as free traffic versus purchased. Attracting traffic to your website takes two primary resources: skill, and money. In most cases, the less money a particular traffic source requires, the more skill you’ll need to succeed. Usually, you’re going to need to invest some of both to get your desired result. Few good strategies are effective with either skill or money. Here’s the big question:
What do you do when you have neither?
Between the two, skill is more important. Even if you purchase traffic, you still need enough skill to find quality readers and then get those people to take the desired action on your site. You could hire someone to handle that for you…but that’s just paying for someone else’s skill, so the point still stands.
Learning to market your site is the same as every other skill in life: in order to learn to do it well, you have to spend a lot of time doing it poorly first. As your skill gradually improves, your audience slowly increases in size. Your growing audience means that your business reaches more people, thus giving you more opportunities to make sales. Those sales generate money that can be reinvested in expanding your audience, and so on.
Start with what you have. Do your best to learn from others with more experience, and understand that no amount of knowledge will prevent you from making mistakes. You cannot achieve success by reading about it.
When Should You Pay For Traffic?
Skill will continue to be important, and money helps you magnify your reach and accelerate your results. Many online entrepreneurs mistakenly believe that paying for any tool is a mistake. They think that the whole point of an online business is to keep overhead low, and they’d rather spend weeks and months searching for a free alternative than spend a few hundred dollars on a tech tool or an ad campaign. That attitude prevents growth.
Invest money for your growth whenever it makes sense. If a lack of website traffic is hurting your sales figures, then purchasing some traffic is the practical thing to do, right? However, there are times when paying for traffic doesn’t make sense. Unless you have a viable plan to generate a return on your investment, there’s no reason to waste money just to see a spike in your stats.
Only invest in more website traffic when you’re ready to do something with it, whether it’s getting people to sign up for your mailing list so you can advertise to them later or sending them through your sales funnel to create profit.
Where To Start – Build Good Habits
Figuring out how to use your resources effectively is a common struggle. You already know that building an audience takes time and effort, and you’re probably willing to put in the work to do it or you wouldn’t be reading this post. The trick is knowing what effort will actually produce results and what’s just a waste of your time.
Ultimately, your day-to-day habits will be the biggest factor determining the size of your readership. Quality and consistency matter most. When you’re creating a content strategy, be realistic about your ability to stick to your schedule and plan accordingly. If you can only consistently publish one good blog post and a couple of valuable social media updates each month, that’s fine. With your content schedule planned, you can focus on learning these productive habits:
Start Learning Basic SEO
Search engine optimization can get complex quickly. Between Google updating its algorithms on a regular basis, all the technical details that can give you a slight edge, and the fact that Google tries to prevent people like us from figuring out and manipulating their system, trying to learn SEO can be quite the headache. Here’s what you need to know:
Google’s goal is to help people find exactly what they’re looking for. Every indicator they use to rank search results is intended to help Google figure out whether or not their results are relevant and useful.
It doesn’t always happen the way it’s intended, but the idea behind SEO is supposed to be that the best and most relevant content wins. In other words, if you write your website pages and blog posts with the reader in mind, it’s more likely to perform well in search engines.
Start thinking about keywords – what would someone type into the search bar if they were trying to find your blog post? Make sure you include those words and phrases in your post while you write. From there, find ways to get other good websites to link to yours, and you’re doing SEO! Moz offers an excellent free beginner’s guide to SEO to help you learn how to do that.
Claim Your Social Media Territory
Like SEO, social media strategy can take years to perfect. As your business grows, you can hire staff that specializes in each area. For now, focus on doing the basics well. Start by claiming your brand name on all social platforms whether you intend to use them or not. This protects you from name squatters and allows you to easily adjust if you discover that your community is active on networks other than the ones you expected.
Based on how much time you have, where your consumers hang out and what skills you already possess, choose a couple of networks where you’ll focus your energy. Pay attention though – just because you like Twitter, that doesn’t mean you’re going to get the best results there. Allow your audience to drive your actions and go where they want to talk to you.
Nobody reads their junk mail for fun, and nobody will want to engage with you on social media if all you do is talk about yourself and the things you sell. The essence of social strategy is community-building. Respond to comments, including both the positive and the negative. Encourage people to start conversations. Respect your audience and treat them like people, since they are, in fact, people.
Build Your Email List
Whether you have a thriving online business or you’ve just launched a new website and need to find your first few followers, collect email addresses on your site. Adding an email signup is the difference between someone who finds you once and forgets you and a future raving fan.
Once you start getting email signups, begin some basic outreach. Like all the other content marketing strategies mentioned in this series, the key here is to focus on value. Give people a reason to want to open your emails and your followers will stick around until you’re ready to ask for a sale.
Network In Real Life
For online entrepreneurs, it’s tempting to sit behind a computer all day trying to find ways to connect. You’ll get better results faster by connecting person-to-person instead of computer-to-computer, so get out there in the world and network. Networking gets a bad reputation largely because people do it incorrectly.
For the record, networking does not mean standing around awkwardly in a room full of strangers and exchanging business cards with estate agents and people selling vitamins. While a skilled networker can get plenty of value out of these kinds of events, most people just end up frustrated and uncomfortable.
The kind of networking that grows your business is something else entirely. Mostly, it just means that you take an interest in the people around you, offer help whenever you can, and ask for help when it’s appropriate. Public speaking and teaching get results far more quickly than any amount of business cards you exchange. Since you’ve already given the audience valuable knowledge, they’re more likely to visit your website or partner with you in marketing efforts.
Participate In Your Online Community
Supplement your person-to-person networking with healthy participation in your greater online community. Write great guest posts for other websites and accept guest posts on your own blog to give more value to your readers and reach new people. A guest writer brings some of their followers with them, your current readers get even more good information, and you get a blog post without needing to write it yourself.
The same principle applies to interviews. Interview people that can say something valuable or interesting to your audience and feature them on your blog, podcast, or YouTube channel. By being featured on your site, they get your third party credibility to boost their reputation and perceived value with their own audience. That’s a strong motivator for those people to share with their following, thereby sending lots of new traffic to your site or channel. You can give interviews and get a major credibility boost, too. The content marketing world is mostly win-win.
Start Learning Facebook and Instagram Ads
Facebook’s ad platform is a perfect starting place when you’re ready to start spending money on marketing. Begin with the basics and grow from there. Running ads is easier than you think, and there are lots of people willing to help you learn. Facebook Blueprint is a series of free online courses directly from Facebook that teach you how to use the ad platform, including which methods and strategies produce the best results.
Your social media ads get immediate feedback so you can tell exactly how well your marketing performs. You’ll know when you’re getting the hang of it because results are tracked in real time. Costs are low compared to other media, and as your skill grows, you’ll find it easier to recover your costs.
When You’re Ready To Get More Advanced
The traffic-building methods listed above build up your skills for the lowest financial risk. When you’re confident in your ability to attract the right people to your website with the lower risk strategies listed above, you can move on to these methods that take more investment.
Though influencer marketing is a trendy term right now, this strategy has been around for a long time. Whenever a blogger writes a sponsored post or a podcaster is paid to talk about a brand, that’s influencer outreach. Outreach works when you pay an “influencer” to endorse your brand to their audience. That influencer might be an Instagram account with a large following, a popular blog, a person with lots of Twitter followers, or pretty much anyone else with a healthy and relevant audience.
Influencers with genuine audiences have fantastic credibility with their followers as they’re not selling anything. Their recommendations are like the expert opinion of a knowledgeable friend. The larger their following, the more valuable their endorsement. At the same time, if an influencer makes too many paid recommendations or releases too much marketing content, they can lose the trust that makes their voice so valuable. That’s why getting an influencer’s attention can be tricky.
Lots of brands want to sponsor the same few influencers, and if they’re smart, those people won’t accept all the offers they receive. The high demand for their attention drives the price higher – if you want to be featured by a YouTube channel with 250,000 subscribers, for example, you’re probably going to be expected to offer between £10,000 and £75,000 before you’re even considered.
For most businesses, that’s not an attainable goal. Fortunately, there are other niche blogs and social accounts with a few thousand followers that will accept sponsorships at a much lower price. If you’d like to make influencer outreach a part of your traffic strategy, be sure that there’s a close match between your ideal consumer base and the audience you can reach through that partnership. Start by building relationships with influential people in your field, and when you actually make the offer for sponsorship, be sure that your budget is realistic and competitive.
Other Sponsorships And Partnerships
Online influencers aren’t the only people with large audiences. Other brands, organizations and events will happily accept your financial support in exchange for a marketing boost. Unless you have millions to spare, choose your sponsorships and partnerships strategically. Again, look for the audience to be a close match to yours.
Since partnering with other for-profit brands doesn’t give you the same level of third party credibility as an influencer, you should also look for ways to get more out of your sponsorship dollar. For events, can you send a salesperson to talk to attendees? For brand partnerships, will they send an exclusive offer for your products to their email list? Exposure alone usually isn’t enough to grow your audience, so be smart about your sponsorships and only invest when you can reasonably expect a return.
Pay-Per-Click and Pre Roll Advertising
Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising and pre roll ads on YouTube charge you a certain amount of money each time someone clicks on your ad. Running PPC ads that convert is one of the more difficult advertising methods to master, and buying ads that don’t produce sales can get expensive quickly. Pre roll ads can be costly too – you’re paying to promote a video, which adds to your expenses and makes it more difficult to tweak your message if you’re not getting the results you want.
In order to start producing enough of a return to make a profit, your PPC spending will need to pass a tipping point. That means that you have to spend enough money on those ads and get enough attention in order to make enough sales to recover your costs. It’s a different number for every business, but most PPC experts recommend spending no less than £2,500 per month on pay per click advertising, and they often advise businesses to invest much higher amounts.
When you’re spending thousands on a single ad strategy, it’s often a good idea to bring in a specialist to help. Don’t be afraid to outsource this kind of advertising to a qualified agency.
As one component a smart content marketing strategy, buying ads in print publications like magazines and newspapers can drive traffic to your site and produce sales. Direct response copywriting techniques work particularly well in print ads. You can also use print to reinforce a multi-channel marketing campaign in a specific geographic area. Design matters in print, so if you don’t have any design skills, work with a professional graphic designer that specializes in print.
The term media covers all the other stuff we think of as “traditional” advertising like TV and radio ads and billboards. Advertising your website on some of these channels might make sense for your business model, or it might just be an expensive way to make your business feel a little more important.
For most mid-sized companies, advertising through these channels means going through a media buyer and working with a professional ad agency. You’ll be competing with major brands that have big budgets and the cost of entry is high, so these channels aren’t the place to cut corners.
At the same time, you shouldn’t feel like you’re too small to run a powerful ad on TV or radio. If the cost makes sense and you’re confident you can generate a return with the broad, unfiltered audience of these kinds of media, go for it. Keep in mind that response rates are usually very low for general media and reinforce your marketing message with more targeted channels.
Get creative with your traffic strategies. You’re limited only by your own creativity and your willingness and ability to execute your plans. One of the most brilliant things about content marketing is that your brand takes you new places. Brands centered around an ideal might find philanthropic opportunities that magnify their message, while a quirky tech brand might get great results with a monthly hackathon. You don’t have to find things that work for “everyone.” Do what works for you, and don’t worry too much about what other businesses are doing.
Whenever possible, find ways to get face to face with real people in your audience, because those person to person connections can’t be replaced by any amount of digital interaction. You’ll always get the most impressive results when a real human from your company forms a genuine relationship with real humans out there in the world. Go where the people are, whether that means attending a big industry conference or posting on Reddit.
And finally, the key to all of this is consistency. You could spend the entire day online reading about the different traffic generation strategies that experts recommend, and you’d keep finding more proven methods and foolproof strategies that might work for you. Be careful not to spread yourself too thin. The more stuff you try to do at the same time, the fewer things you’re going to do well.
In the next post in this series, we’ll go over what to do with all this traffic once it gets to your website. Let’s take a closer look at your analytics to determine the quality of your traffic, and we’ll look for red flags that indicate possible website issues that might stall your online sales.