“If you build it they will come” may have worked for a baseball diamond in the middle of a cornfield in Iowa, but when it comes to your local business website, it’s a non-starter. No matter how terrific your website looks and functions, no matter the quality of the content, if you don’t actively work to drive traffic to it, all of that effort will have been for naught. Optimizing your site with the right keywords in the right places is, of course helpful, but even the best SEO techniques take a long time to affect your search results, and by then who knows what the state of your business will be. So in the meantime, here are some effective ways to drive more traffic to your local business website.
Network, Network, Network
Leverage your existing customer base to get the word out, with emails and/or SMS texts urging customers to visit your site. Offer special coupons, discounts and sale notices that can only be found by visiting your webpage. Consider having a “find the code” game whereby customers have to browse through your entire site to find a special hidden code that will entitle them to a discount on their order.
Start a forum on your site to build a community of active users. This will decrease your site’s bounce rate and increase the amount of time users spend there, improving your search ranking. Start a niche-specific Facebook group where you can offer tips and advice, and refer users back to your site for more information.
Maintain an Informative Blog
If it doesn’t already, your site should include a helpful and informative blog. This keeps your site’s content fresh, which makes it more relevant to Google’s search algorithms. Feature guests’ posts on other relevant sites, and encourage others to recommend guest blogs on yours. This will provide useful links that will not only drive more site traffic but also help improve search ranking. Promote your blog to your customer email lists, on your social media pages and on sites like StumbleUpon.
Stumble Upon StumbleUpon
StumbleUpon is a social site that offers to help the user discover — or stumble upon — a variety of different and unusual websites related to interests they list during the sign-up process. Already the site is driving more website traffic than both Facebook and Twitter. Sign up for free and list your blog to see who stumbles your way.
Stumbleupon also provides an advertising platform called Paid Discovery where advertisers pay from .05 to .25 cents for each user that stumbles onto their web page. The desired web page is then prominently featured in each of the selected categories to users who have expressed interest in them. For more targeted advertising, however, you may wish to invest in Facebook or Pay Per Click (PPC) type advertising.
Advertise on Facebook
For small businesses, Facebook also offers an advertising platform. Similar to traditional PPC advertising, you pay only when someone actually clicks on your ad, but unlike many PPC programs, Facebook allows you to add an image to your text. This gives you great visibility with thousands of targeted Facebook users, while you only pay for the ones who actually visit your website. As with any of the tips on this page, the limitation is that you’ll need to convert enough of those website visitors to real customers to see a return on your investment.
The gold standard of online advertising, Google Adwords is the largest PPC marketing platform in the history of the World Wide Web. Like Facebook, Google Adwords lets you create ads with text and images, but unlike Facebook, these ads can be much more specifically targeted, based on chosen keywords. It’s a bit more complex to set up, as you have to bid on different keywords in a sort of auction, and select when and where your ad displays based on the geographic location of the searcher. To simplify the process for small businesses, Google has developed a site called Google Adwords Express.
Microsoft Ad Center
For small business owners who prefer to start smaller, consider bidding for keywords on Bing, courtesy of Microsoft Ad Center. The service functions similar to Adwords but since Bing has a much smaller audience than Google, bidding is less expensive, so that even a small marketing budget can go a long way.
It’s worth noting that many paid advertising programs offer an introductory free credit that can be quite helpful. Before signing up with any PPC advertiser, do a thorough online search for discounts or offer codes, and/or give the company a call and ask about a new-advertiser credit. Competition is stiff for these companies, and the savings could be significant.
Whatever methods you choose to drive more traffic to your small business website, don’t forget to implement good, solid SEO practices so that all of your combined efforts will serve to strengthen your overall web presence and improve your search page rankings. And have a very effective strategy to turn website visitors into real paying customers.