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Getting People to Your Website

All right. You're super jazzed about your new website. Now it's time to drive traffic to it. Traffic? Well sure. The whole point of building a website is to get your message out, right?

Whether you're using the Internet to advertise a brick-and-mortar location, marketing an online business, or just trying to get people to read your personal blog, driving traffic to your website is an ongoing process. Doing this sometimes costs money, but mostly it takes time and patience.

Website traffic comes in various forms. How do you want people to find your website? Some people might locate your site by doing a Google® search. Others might hear about your website from their friends. Or, people might type in the website printed on your business card. It's your choice how to attract visitors.

Driving traffic to your site begins before you even publish it. The most important thing is making sure people can find your site when they look for it.

Driving Traffic with Search Engines

When you're trying to locate a business online, where do you start? Think about it. If you're like countless other Internet users, you probably start with a search engine, like Google. Search engines help people locate information on the Internet.

For example, someone goes to Bing.com and searches for tamale recipe. Behind the scenes, Bing® searches through its databases for anything relevant to tamale recipes. Then, hundreds and thousands of results display. These pages might include video tutorials on cooking tamales, pictures of tamales, or tamale aprons for sale. You get my drift?

These suggested pages display in an order based on high-tech search engine algorithms used to determine Web page ranking. Search engine optimization (SEO) describes the process of refining a website to gain a higher search engine ranking in organic search engine results. (Organic means you didn't pay for search engine placement — more on that later.) In fact, if you do a Google search for how to SEO, the results are practically limitless. But, when you cast aside the techy SEO jargon, there are a few simple things you can do to increase your website's search engine ranking.

First, it's important to understand how search engines read your website. Because search engines use computer programs to list your site, it's vital to write part of your site's content specifically with search engines in mind. A good first rule of thumb is Relevant content is king! You should include a few pages with descriptive text (such as "about" pages or even adding a business blog to your site). This makes it much easier for the search engines to find and rank your site.

Meta what? SEO Behind the Scenes

After you evaluate your content, you can add SEO HTML tags, also called meta content, to your website to give search engines a helping hand. Don't worry. We know HTML might be intimidating. That's OK. You don't have to do this to get your site listed on search engines. It just helps give your page rankings a boost. The basic SEO HTML tags you should consider including on your site are:

  • Title tag: This defines each of your pages' names. It displays in the top bar of a Web browser. For example, the top blue bar in Internet Explorer®.
  • Description tag: These are the few lines of text that display under every search engine result. For example, when you Google something, typically a list of Web pages display with a brief explanation of each page. This is the description tag hard at work.
  • Keywords: These are a complete list of words and phrases related to your Web page.
  • Rich snippets: This is Google's term for the enhancement of search results to include information like user reviews and price ranges. Sites with rich snippets embedded in their HTML display on Google like this:

    Rich Snippet
    For more information, see support.google.com.

You can learn the basics of adding these tags to your website from W3Schools here.

Open For Business

Once you've designed your site and the meta content is in order, it's time to let the search engines know your site is ready for indexing. This process is called search engine submission. By default, most search engines eventually index websites published on the Internet. But, actively submitting to each search engine definitely speeds up the process. You'd be amazed how easy it is.

To submit to Google, go to http://www.google.com/submityourcontent/ and complete the requested information. Easy, right?

Let's try another. Go to http://search.yahoo.com/info/submit.html and submit your site to Yahoo!®.

Don't stop there. Use a search engine to query submit my site to search engines. There are thousands of search engines and directories available on the Internet. You set the limits. Not all search engine listings are as easy, or free, like Google and Yahoo. But, you decide how far you want to spread your reach.

Example SearchPaying for Search Engine Traffic

If you're looking for the biggest bang for your buck on search engines, you should look into paid advertising. Paid listings display separately on search result pages and are generally listed as "Sponsored" results. You've probably noticed them before.

Simply put, paid search engine advertisements let you bid for the top search engine ranking for a given keyword. The highest bids are ensured top ranking for that keyword until they are outbid. In most cases, you're only charged when someone clicks your ad.

If you are willing to pay for it, and perhaps even engage in bidding wars with other advertiser, paid advertising can be an enticing option. Many large-scale e-businesses rely on a combination of paid advertising and targeted SEO.

The Art of Social Media Marketing

Enticing traffic to your site through the use of interactive social platforms like Facebook® and Twitter® is called social media marketing. You can use social media networks (Facebook, Twitter, Google, LinkedIn®), social media sharing (Pinterest®, YouTube®, Flickr®), and social bookmarking (Digg™, StumbleUpon®) to announce news about your business, and generate excitement about your website.

Social networking can help you build an online community around your product line or business. Add a Fan Page to your existing profile to establish a relationship with your customers, and then link your social media profiles to your website. This encourages viewers curious for more information to visit your site.

Why social media? First off, it's inexpensive and immediate. Most of your customers already have accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and more. You can use business profiles to make meaningful connections with a diverse network of people who are curious about your product or service. Social sites are ideal for receiving instant feedback, weighing in on discussions, and answering questions. Plus, your presence helps keep your brand alive in the minds of your customer base.

Stay relevant in the social sphere and add social media icons to your website. Just do a quick search engine query to locate icons you can use on your site. These icons help remind your readers to share your content with their friends and followers. This invaluable word-of-mouth marketing is a more organic way to spread your message among friends.

An effective social media strategy is one that is active and up to date. Use your social media profiles to promote events, share special discounts and deals, and keep your customers current on the latest trends in your industry. When you share engaging, interesting content with your audience, you'll establish your brand as a leader and become a vital part of the online community.

Blogging for More Business

Nothing holds more weight than relevant information. Incorporating a blog into your website gives you a forum to post timely and relevant information to your site. Use a blog to add value to your website content by staying on top of current events relevant to your products and business. Become the subject-matter expert for your industry, and use your blog to deliver updates to visitors.

There are several blogging platforms you can choose from to get started: WordPress®, Text Pattern, b2evolution, take your pick. Just be sure to pick a platform that matches your skill set. If you know some coding and HTML, you'll want software that supports custom coding. On the flip-side, if the Internet is still foreign territory for you, you should choose software that's ideal for novice users.

Entice visitors by publishing thought-provoking — even controversial — content, and then gain added momentum by publicizing this content through social media outlets. One example is a top-10 list. Simply summarize your concept in 10 neat little bullets you've identified as the "best of the best." You might even compel your readers to poke holes in your absolute findings.

Harness the power of comments on your blog. Engage your readers and respond to their comments. The more involved they are in your blog ecosystem, the more likely they are to return frequently and bring guests.

Everyone Likes Free Stuff

Offer free products, services, and even information to generate excitement about your website and help you stand out from your competition. You can offer freebies in a variety of ways. Ideas include offering free entries into drawings and sweepstakes, software downloads, blueprints, how-to videos, e-books, demos, and free online classes and seminars.

Aside from offering goods and services for free, you can also consider running promotional events strictly for your online audience. Research deal-of-the-day websites, like Groupon™ and Living Social®, to see if they're worth the investment to get featured.

Once you decide on your online promotion, get the word out and share it on your blog and social media profiles. You see how this is all starting to come together?

It's All about Who You Know

The Internet is all about being connected. Build relationships with other websites or businesses that complement yours. Post on each others' blogs, and run cross-site promotions and referrals to boost traffic to both sites. Links not only help refer people from one site to another, but they also help you with SEO.

Keep in mind that just like in the real world, the sort of friends you hang out with can affect your reputation on the Internet, especially when it comes to trading links. Try to build relationships and trade links with related sites that provide good value, instead of unrelated, low-value, or spam sites.

Web links from other sites are also important clues search engines use to figure out what your page is about. In a search engine's view, a link from one page to another is basically a "vote" for that page.

If you have a page about cows, and a local farmer's Web page links to your page from their website, that is an extra vote for your page.

More links = more votes.

Not all votes are equal votes, however. The relevancy of the link is most important. For example, a link from a page about video poker software doesn't have much to do with dairy products or cows, so a link from that page to your website about cows does not count for very much, if anything at all.

Some Web page owners put a lot of time and effort into chasing down links from other Web page authors, swapping links or trying to get listed on directories or have articles posted to sites like Digg or Reddit®. This can be helpful for your site, but you have to remember to focus on your own page content first. If your Web page doesn't have much value to other websites' authors, they are unlikely to link to it.

If It Seems Too Good to be True, It Probably Is

There are a few things to avoid when trying to generate more traffic to your website:

  • Don't purchase leads or traffic. While you might get an immediate increase in your site traffic from a purchased lead list, these customers aren't your target audience. There is no long-term benefit from doing this.
  • Avoid sending spam. Most people are savvy to spam schemes. The only thing you might gain from using this tactic is a blacklisted domain name with popular email providers. It's OK to send advertisements, but it's always a good idea to make sure your recipients have opted-in to receive your email campaigns.
  • Use your own content. Plagiarizing is illegal, and it wrecks your search engine rankings. When search engines detect duplicate content, they discount the page's validity, which affects the page's rankings.

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