Web launches are so exciting. In spite of, or rather maybe because of, the intense adrenaline rush from all the tension and anxiety as the files are uploaded to the server and final testing is being completed, it’s the launch that brings the greatest satisfaction. The hours, days, weeks, and months of work involved in building an amazing site finally comes to fruition and the whole world can access it. The question, however, is can the whole world find it? Can anybody find it???
Often times, small business clients make a sizable investment in the design and development of their website, only to find that at the launch they are not prepared to spend more funds to aggressively market the site. And yet, no one seems to be visiting the website in spite of just how amazing the site is and how much money was spent to build and deploy it. Talk about let down. “Where’s my return on investment?” Naturally, this is when I get the call.
Given the current economy, even medium and large size businesses are trimming budgets, including marketing and looking for creative ways to market alternatively. Thankfully, there are several things that can be done without spending a lot of money to organically drive traffic to your site. They may seem obvious but they are good reminders, and incidentally can be implemented and reimplemented to help boost traffic throughout the life cycle of a design. And while the actual methods may not all apply specifically to medium or larger sized businesses, in principle they most certainly apply to any size business.
Let’s focus on just five organic ways to drive traffic to your site, shall we?
1. Use Your Web Address
I must admit it’s surprising to me how often I am asked by a client whether or not a web address should be on a business card or letterhead. Perhaps for small business clients that are newly entering the web arena and don’t regularly access the web themselves, the thought of having their web address on collateral seems optional. It’s not.
Use your web address everywhere. Use it on your business cards, letterhead, envelopes, ad slicks, data sheets, business checks, labels, promotional items and client gifts like pens, t-shirts and shopping bags…tattoo it on your chest, ok, well maybe not but you get the point. (no pun intended, of course) Simply put, use your web address in all of your print collateral.
And don’t forget to talk about your website. Tell your entire network you have a website. Tell them how great it is. After all, you paid good money to make your site great, so you have every right to sing its praises. Tell everyone with whom you converse why they should visit your site and why they should tell others to visit your site as well.
The bottom line is: promote your website in print and verbally. Stop and think about ways that you can incorporate your web in your existing print collateral and daily conversation and make a conscious effort to promote it.
2. Register with Local Groups and Directories
Another simple, organic way to get noticed by others, including search engines, which translate to driving traffic to your site, is to register your business with online groups and directories. These are sites that allow you to list your business and pertinent information about your business in relevant categories. Consumers, aka your potential clients, can then browse and search for businesses by category, business name, industry, specialty, location or recommendation.
These listings also rank quickly with search engines, so that often a new website can be found via a directory before the actual site has even been ranked directly by search engine crawlers.
A few good places to start:
There may likely be other local or industry specific groups and directories with exclusive audiences that include your consumers. Spend a little time researching to find them. The more lists in which your business name and website appear, the greater the exposure and subsequent traffic to your site.
3. Post Ads on Craigslist
Craigslist is a really great platform for small business owners to gain leverage online without spending dollars for advertising. Of course, Craigslist does have its limitations and is not necessarily an automatic fit for every business, but it should at least be considered before ruled out. Why? Well, for one thing, it’s FREE. It’s also very easy to use and in certain markets, it’s extremely effective as a traffic generator.
Let’s say, for example, you’re the owner of a small business daycare. If you, as a daycare owner, notice many individuals offering childcare services and listing such services in your local Craigslist directory it is likely that many individuals shopping for childcare in your locale are using Craigslist to find local providers. If you include a listing, or better yet, multiple listings without spamming, of course, using catchy headlines in your local markets, your FREE ad(s) will be among those perused by all those shopping for childcare in your region.
Some of the possible types of businesses which may benefit by utilizing Craigslist ads (depending on business locale and corresponding Craigslist usage) include childcare and related services, pet related services, electronic repair services, property management and real estate services, coaching, tutoring, gardening and landscape maintenance, personal estate and financial planning services, residential construction and maintenance services along with artisan services, photography, catering and event coordination services just to name a few.
Important Tip: Always include a direct link to your site using the proper syntax i.e. http://… in your Craigslist ads so that users can click directly from the ad to your site. Ideally, include a direct link to the landing page on your site that is most relevant to your ad viewers and voila! Watch the traffic flow.
4. Utilize Social Media
There’s quite a bit of controversy surrounding social media these days. However, social media is by no means going anywhere. That’s not to say that there are not some very important rules to follow when it comes to social media, whether for personal use or small business marketing. But that is entirely another story and shall be saved for a future blog post. (hint, hint ) For now, let’s just consider how social media can benefit small businesses.
Social media is free and relatively simply to use.
From the end-users perspective, social media provides a convenient means to receive updates from multiple sources through a single channel, i.e. Twitter or Facebook. And, with the advent of integration of Twitter and Facebook, you, as the business owner, can provide updates, value added information and site links to your consumers and potential clients from one channel as well.
Each time you post a relevant update, you are building your credibility as a legitimate player in your specific business market. Those who either “follow” you or “like” you have opted in to receive your updates, which means they want to hear from you. If you provide value in the updates that you post, your followers are likely to click the links (ahem to your site or related to your site). Plus, if your followers think that others would benefit from viewing your content, they will share your updates with their friends and followers, who may visit your site as well. If these, in turn, opt in to receive your updates via social media channels, then they will likely share your updates to their friends and followers and thus increase your potential network exposure exponentially.
5. Write Useful Blog Articles
Ok, well, even less than useful blog articles might possibly drive some traffic to your site. The problem, however, with writing articles that are less than useful and thereby irrelevant, is such articles will definitely diminish your credibility. The only clicks your sight might get will be from users who want a good look at who not to do business with. So let’s stick with useful, relevant content.
It’s important to remember that free blogging sites will not drive traffic to your site automatically as they are often not indexed by search engine robots, and understandably so, as there is an absolute glut of information being posted to the internet via blogs each day. Free blogging can drive traffic to your site, however, if you use your blog in conjunction with another medium such as social media. Reenter Twitter and Facebook.
Blogging, like social media, has some rules in order to be an effective marketing tool for small businesses. But, if you learn how to write quality content about subjects that interest your consumers, you will boost your business credibility with your clients. And if your clients find your content useful, they will share your articles with their networks thus further marketing your business from an organic perspective.
Of course, always be sure to link your blog directly to your website.