According to a number of studies published over the last 12 months, only 25% of all websites get more than 5,000 unique visitors per month, which (unfortunately!) means that 75% of the internet aren’t reaching anywhere near their traffic (and therefore their monetisation) potential.
For context, at SitePoint we tend to try to measure the performance of our articles based on a minimum of 5,000 views per article – granted we have a few more articles in the publishing pipe than normal sites, but it gives you a bit of context.
For that 75% of sites who aren’t achieving what they’d like to achieve, some thoughts on what you can do.
Understand who your audience are
Yep okay, this one sounds like it should be pretty self-explanatory, but it is the basis for everything else that you might like to do to make your site a success.
Knowing the audience you want to speak to and creating content that works well for them helps with every subsequent suggestion and is the entire basis for a great website with good levels of traffic.
Don’t understand your audience? Don’t get your tone and style right for them? Don’t create content that is of interest to them? Forget any other suggestions, you’re not going to hit the mark – and if you’re doing anything like paid search you can cost yourself a lot of money into the mix.
Ultimately this should be test and learn (like everything else you do with a digital business!) – try different approaches, test tone and style, publish different types of articles, test imagery, test structures of articles and styles, look at what is working for competing sites and try to take the best of what they are doing (don’t take their content, (a) what works for them may not work for you and (b) that’s called plagiarism, which is a poor way to create content, bad form and also is likely to get you penalised by Google (rightly!) .
There are plenty of ways to approach this kind of testing, watch the traffic for each piece, understand what works and do more of that!
Build traffic with email marketing
Email is and has always been a surprisingly goods way to engage an audience – if you’re creating content regularly a lot of users actually prefer to engage via weekly newsletters and updates and this can be one of the more effective ways to grow returning traffic to your site.
Keep in mind that if I am subscribing to receive content, you actually have to give me valuable content – as with anything else to do with the monetisation of traffic if you’re planning on using email as a monetisation stream make sure you’re not just sending ads, or you’ll have a pretty high level of unsubscribes fast!
Also, don’t overdo it – a monthly email roundup is a good start and let’s you test and learn again – if it makes sense up the cadence. Too regular can be a hard thing to hold up if you don’t have a lot of content and again it isn’t worth doing if you’re not offering value.
Remember the socials
I’ll talk about SEO and optimisation below, but it’s definitely worth keeping in mind that (unfortunately) publishing awesome content and hoping that people will find you isn’t going to get you where you want to be.
Creating social accounts on the majors (worth noting that the industry you are in will have an effect on what your major social networks are – i.e. some products are much better suited to Instagram and Pinterest than others)
Once you have your social accounts in place, share every piece of new content – if what you’re sharing is of interest it won’t take long to see visitors coming from social networks through shares and likes.
Again with these a test and learn approach is going to be important – try each of the majors and mix strategies to see what works – keep an eye on competitors and do your research, testing is great but don’t reinvent the wheel if you don’t have to.
A List of socials for driving traffic:
If you want to organic (i.e. non-paid) traffic, then your website and content itself are going to need to be optimized.
There are a couple of different ways that this is done:
- Internal (or ‘On-page’ SEO)
- This is optimizing your website and content. This is all done in templates or in your CMS/back-end (i.e. WordPress Admin) – you own it.
- External SEO
- External SEO is just that, everything that isn’t directly within the site, social mentions, social bookmarking, link-backs, link building etc etc. There are many ways to do this – suffice to say that if you aren’t doing a great job of your ‘On page’ then you’ll get a lot less value out of this. Paid search etc fits into this category as well.
Focusing on the On-page SEO side of things, there are a bunch of factors that will affect how well you’re doing with organic traffic.
- Title Tags: A good title does many things – captures attention, excites the user, makes them interested (hopefully) and importantly tells Google what you’re on about.
- Description Tag: Like your title, the description should be both interesting to the user and should contain the keywords you want to rank for. A good description can greatly increase your click-through rate.
- Headings: Both humans and search engines enjoy well formatted articles with obvious headings. Using H1, H2, H3 heading tags in your content will make your articles easier to read and search engines will be happy too. Happy readers, happy life.
- ALT Text for Images: Alternative text is is a big factor in accessibility. For that reason it is also a factor in Google rankings. Doesn’t matter how you’re creating content, use Alt tags anywhere where accessibility might be an issue
- Content: If you want to rank well in organic search, your content needs to be unique and should provide value for your visitors. Again as above, test and learn
- Site Speed: Not a small factor – optimise for speed and understand that the more there is on the page, the slower your site is likely to be – another reason not to run 100 ads on your short-form content article!
Traffic is the lifeblood of your website – good traffic brings sales , ad clicks, leads etc etc. There are many more optimisations that you can do (and software systems, both free and paid, that you can use) once you have increasing traffic, but most of what you need can be achieved through both good organic rankings and content marketing.
Working to get some of these right or at least well under way before moving to things like paid search makes good sense (and will ensure you’re getting things right before spending ad dollars).
Got comments or thoughts? Join the conversation below.
Simon was the GM and Head of Business at SitePoint, and a mentor at INCUBATE.
The Principles of Beautiful Web Design, 4th Edition
Docker for Web Developers
HTML5 Games: Novice to Ninja