Jul 16, 2012
Table of contents:
For many website owners, getting the number of visitors to increase is their only goal. However, for everybody else, this is a complete vanity metric that disguises the true success or failure of your website or web application.
Many business owners I’ve spoken to in the past obsess over getting their graphs in Google Analytics to go up and to the right without any thought of their website as a true mechanism of growth for their company.
What’s worse is the incorrect linking of cause and effect of traffic and success or failure of the website.
Just about any change you make to your website will make some aspect of Google Analytics move up and to the right, but it is not necessarily the right thing to do.
In this post I hope to tackle some of the issues surrounding traffic, how to approach the topic, how to correctly measure success or failure and how to create a strategy for future growth and success.
If you are a business owner looking to improve your company’s website, this post should hopefully be perfect for you.
I think there is a fallacy around online traffic that has incorrectly become accepted as the truth. The general consensus is that the number of visitors is the most important metric to track.
This is completely wrong however because it only touches the surface of the problem. Whilst the number of visits is of course important, it does not show the true success or failure of your website.
Tracking the number of visits to a website is only the most important metric to track if you are monetising page views.
Ultimately, if your website is attracting traffic but not converting that traffic to sales your website is going to fail.
I think a lot of the problem surrounding the fallacy of traffic can be traced back to The Digg effect. Digg was one of the first websites that could very quickly send a huge influx of traffic to a website. Very quickly people started to try and game Digg to get traffic to their business websites. However, it is one thing to game a system to gain traffic, it is quite a different thing to get value from that traffic.
As I mentioned above, concentrating on page views and visits is only important if you are monetising your website through that metric.
99% of small business websites are created to advertise or sell products or services, so obsessing over a metric for monetising traffic is clearly completely pointless.
I’ve written previously that conversions are the foundations of a business website but it’s worth making the point again. If your company website is not creating value for your business, what is the point in investing time and resources into it?
Having a clear set of goals and an actionable plan for achieving them should be your only thought when making decisions on the design, development or future modifications to your website.
If you are reading this as you are about to start creating your business website, or if you are re-thinking your current website, first go away and think of the 1 - 3 actionable things you want to achieve from your website before reading on.
In order to achieve your goals, you need to design and develop your website to specifically target them.
The first thing you need to look at is how are you going to turn traffic into acquired customers or sales leads? To do this you must create a sales funnel that will catch new traffic on either your home page or a landing page, and then lead those prospective new customers through a series of steps to either become a new customer or register interest in finding out more. This is an actionable goal that you should be tracking. Whats more, each aspect of this funnel will require optimisation and improvement to increase the percentage of traffic that you are turning into sales. These are the types of metrics you should be tracking!
To get you started, refer back to these previous posts:
Websites fall into a wide variety of categories with an even wider array of goals. Small business websites do not have the same goals as national publications and business to business websites do not have the same goals as business to consumer or consumer to consumer.
One of the most important aspects of building traffic to your website is finding it from the right source. There is no point in building a huge following on Facebook if you are never going to convert that type of traffic.
This is another area where you need to delve much deeper into your analytics package to find the real truth.
Is it really worth spending your time on that Social Media strategy if you only convert 0.5% of traffic, whilst that link and endorsement from that influential blogger had a conversion rate of over 30%?
The goals of your website and how you can achieve them are going to be very unique to your individual circumstances. Do not try and copy what other people are doing, and don’t blindly expect the same tactics to work for you.
The way you acquire users, customers or leads is highly likely to be very unique to your individual business. Acquiring consumers to a Software as a Service application is very different to acquiring clients for an enterprise level product so you can’t treat it as the same process.
Your website should be the culmination of the clearest and simplest way to allow cold prospects to become acquired customers or become potential leads. If you are focusing on selling in any other way you are doing it wrong.
The Internet allows anyone in the world to land on your website, and so you should treat new traffic as users who have never heard of your business. The start of your funnel should be at it’s widest to allow anyone who lands on your website to follow your sales process without prior knowledge of your company, products of services. If you make this part of your process ambiguous in the slightest you will be losing sales as soon as they land.
The user must then be taken on a logical series of steps that ultimately has them take some kind of action to either purchase your product or request further information. If they do not complete either of these actions, this is a lost sale.
Finding the right sources of traffic for your website is again completely down to your unique situation. It makes no sense to try and get links from Mashable or Reddit if the users of those websites are not your target demographic. This is a classic case of targeting traffic growth purely for the numbers.
Search Engines will be an important source of traffic, however, I firmly recommend that you build your Search Engine traffic growth organically by not trying to game the system. Buying links is a quick fix for getting higher rankings, but you leave yourself exposed to Google changing their algorithm and therefore destroying the value of those links. Whilst there will never be a permanent way of getting the most from Search Engines, the only strategy you can trust is to create extremely high quality content that provides value to your audience. By aligning your strategy with the goals of Google, you will protect yourself from future disruptions and having your previous investment rendered pointless.
Probably the best way of building the right kind of traffic is to approach influential bloggers in your niche. Traffic from influential bloggers is likely to be both high in numbers and extremely qualified for your product or service. Influential bloggers have put a huge amount of time to build an engaged audience based on trust and curated content over a long period of time. The value of their audience can be immense for your business and so you should treat it as an opportunity that is even better than a TV advertisement.
Part of building the right traffic will largely come down to getting your content strategy correct. Blogging remains the absolute best way of building an engaged audience that allows you to predictably grow your revenue. I’ve written previously on how to get the most from your business blog, but i’ll cover the topic again here.
The first thing to be aware of is, you must be producing the right kind of content to meet your goals. If you are producing the wrong type of content, you wall fail in achieving your goals, no matter how high quality your content is.
For example… A Software as a Service company should be producing content that offers ways to use their service to solve problems, and how what they are offering can benefit users.
A Business to Business company again should be producing content that shows the problems they are solving and how their product offers a solution, how to use their product and related tutorials in the industry. This type of content is targeting a very specific group of buyers and decision makers within an organisation, and so the content should suitably target those people.
A Business to Consumer company should be producing viral type content that will be passed through Social Networks and websites like Reddit. Most consumers are unlikely to read long blogs posts, and so investment in video is likely to produce better results.
Whatever content strategy you choose to adopt, it is important to have a clear and consistent message. If you are offering a Software as a Service accountancy package, you will likely producing content on how to file your taxes, manage your accounts and understand complicated legislation. If the Government makes changes to accountancy law that will affect your audience, you can use that as an opportunity for growth. If the proposed changes are good for your audience, get behind them and create targeted content to guide people searching for that topic to your website. If the changes are bad, start a campaign to oppose them and offer your product as a solution to potential future problems or failings.
As I’ve talked about previously, content creation is a long ball game where you might not see return on investment for years. Creating high quality content is time-consuming and difficult and it is sometimes hard to see the immediate reward. However, it is clearly the best way to build an engaged audience that will protect your business from the future ups and downs.
Traffic strategy should be one of the top priorities for your website. At the end of the day, if you are not effectively growing the right kind of traffic and converting it into the value you seek, your website is failing. Building a clear and logical path for your traffic to convert into either sales or leads should be the top priority of just about every business website.
Building traffic is not about seeing what works for others. It is also far more in-depth than looking at the main dashboard of Google Analytics. Finding sources of qualified traffic will be critical to success, but ultimately you need to be building your own audience that will grow slowly over time and support your future growth.
Traffic and growth strategy is critical for every type of website, but it differs from case to case a huge amount. Approaching it the right way from the start will fuel your online growth and success. Trying to cut corners or being naive to it is a sure-fire way of running your website or application into the ground.