You’ve built an amazing website, mobile app, or online storefront. Your brick-and-mortar customers love you, and you have the Yelp reviews to promote.
Now what comes next?
If you build it, they will come.
It doesn’t matter how slick your website looks: If no one comes to it, good luck building that Web business.
JOHN BRANDON via Inc
Just kidding. If it were that easy, the multi-billion dollar internet industry would be totally useless.
Your website could be amazing, but it’s probably hiding in a digital dark corner where web traffic is like the lochness monster. As much as you want it to exist, it doesn’t.
So what should you do?
You need to actively think about how you’re going to bring new visitors to your website. You need to build your traffic acquisition strategy. From paid channel advertising to content marketing, you have a range of options. We’ll get to these topics but before we do, we want to explain a key concept:
You need to leverage your traffic acquisition strategy to connect with the right audiences — people who are most likely to become paying customers.
If you’re new to online marketing, you’ll probably read a lot about blogging, paid channel advertising, and social media marketing. This guide is going to take a different approach — we’re going to give you the holistic education you need to build a powerful marketing framework. Traffic acquisition is so much more than your SEM strategy on Google AdWords. It’s the single-most important marketing strategy for reaching your target audiences.
So let’s get to it. Here’s a bird’s eye view of the traffic acquisition landscape.
GO FIND CUSTOMERS, NOT WEB TRAFFIC
Some traffic is more valuable to your company than others. But this distinction will always be subjective and depends on the unique needs of your company.
As we keep emphasizing in this guide, you need to understand your marketing goals to determine which web traffic is right for you.
That means taking a step back and understanding your customer acquisition goals.
Who are you hoping to reach?
Answer that question first. The next step is to venture out to find where these folks are hanging out online. You might decide that the most direct and efficient way to reach your target audience is through Facebook. Or LinkedIn. Or by sharing your blog posts with a larger audience.
Marketers will frequently group their web traffic into distinct buckets — traffic that converts into sales vs. traffic that doesn’t. Traffic that converts in the long-term and traffic that converts via direct response. Spammy traffic. Good traffic. Targeted traffic.What does it all mean?
The key difference between traffic acquisition and more traditional modes of distribution is that you need to do more than just go where prospective customers are likely to be. Bring them back to your company’s website — and keep them coming back.
UNDERSTAND KEY TRAFFIC DRIVERS
Free traffic includes visitors who arrive at your website organically through word of mouth referrals, social media publicity, viral videos, and news outlets who might be covering and linking to your company online.
Paid traffic includes visitors who arrive at your website through a sponsored placement or advertising slot that your company has devoted to testing. These channels include banner advertising, social media advertising, and sponsored placements. If you’re having trouble figuring out what’s paid and what isn’t, look for the “sponsored” or “from our partners” label. By law, companies need to indicate when advertising is paid.
A myth in online marketing is that free traffic is inherently better than paid traffic. This perspective is untrue. Both types of marketing require significant investment in terms of time and money. In other words, free traffic isn’t free — you need still to dedicate time and human capital to building an intelligent strategy and executing your operations.
The next two sections include a high-level review of free and paid web traffic drives. We start with the big-picture now and dive into the details in upcoming chapters.
LEVERAGE FREE TRAFFIC DRIVERS
There are several key ‘free’ traffic drivers (also known as organic or referral traffic drivers) in online marketing.These include the following channels:
Build relationships with journalists to gain visibility in media channels. Connect with top blogs in your industry to contribute content and thought leadership on behalf of your brand.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO):
Develop a strategy to improve your website’s visibility in search engines. When prospective customers are searching for information online, your company should be the first-responder to these questions.
Develop a presence on social networks including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Quora. Focus on the networks that best position your organization to reach target audiences.
Share thought leadership and expertise in your industry. Your company blog can help you to become a trusted resource for your customers and prospects.
Create engaging videos to help explain your products and to tell the story behind your brand. Branded videos can also yield entertainment value.
Don’t have an audience for the video or blog the content that your company is producing? House it on your blog, and distribute it through a website, publication, or video channel (like YouTube) with a larger audience base. A proportion of these viewers or readers that you reach will find their way back to your website.
Bringing visitors to your website just once isn’t enough. You need to keep them coming back. An email list can help you accomplish this goal. For instance, every time your company publishes a blog post, you can send a notification to your readers, kind of like the following example:
As we mentioned in the previous section, the term ‘free’ traffic can be misleading. It isn’t magic. Companies still need to invest significant time and financial resources into building a strategy through acquiring traffic through these channels.
Take the example of the Speak2Leads company blog, for instance. As we mentioned, they syndicate their content with media channels including Business2Community and Yahoo Small Business. The company also promotes its blog posts through LinkedIn discussion groups of sales professionals, Quora threads related to CRMs, and to an extent, Twitter.
Even though the blog is new, these pieces of content send a small amount of referral traffic back to the Speak2Leads site.
Speak2Leads shares content via LinkedIn discussion group members who are interested will read the post. Readers who liked the post will share it in their own social networks.
Or, in the case of the company’s content syndication efforts:
Business2Community & Yahoo Small Business re-publish Speak2Leads article à These media channels send referral traffic back to Speak2Leads directly, or through social media.
The cost of the web traffic itself was free. Where the costs went were people-power in building this marketing engine:
- Hiring a content strategist to help oversee the editorial direction and to build the syndication relationship with Business2Community.
- Time spent developing content, which is sometimes an opportunity cost (CEO’s time spent writing) or direct cost of hiring a writer or editor.
- There is also a cost associated with building out a social media strategy, as well as a separate cost associated with maintaining social media operations.
Web traffic drivers typically fall into one of two buckets — free and paid.
IT’S COOL TO PAY FOR TRAFFIC TOO
This technique is a strong strategy for building awareness around your brand as well as bringing existing customers and prospects back to your website.
When you’re careful about your strategy, the online advertising ecosystem can be quite robust in generating significant results for your brand. If you drop an ad budget without carefully considering the end results that you want to achieve? Not so much.
Small business owners and startups are frequently hesitant to start paying for online ads.
For one, they’re skeptical that online marketing doesn’t work. And secondly, they don’t want to spend the risk of spending their funds.
But here’s the thing. If you ignore paid channel advertising, you risk missing out on a valuable user acquisition opportunity.
Facebook, for instance, runs an advertising program where marketers can acquire on a cost per install (CPI) basis. Users can install apps directly from Facebook’s mobile platform. Meanwhile, advertisers are only charged on a cost per install basis.
Paid distribution channels are powerful traffic drivers. These channels include online advertising through banners on websites, search engine marketing campaigns on Google and Bing, and retargeting campaigns for users who have visited your site before.
INBOUND MARKETING IS YOUR
COMPANY’S PULL MECHANISM
In a nutshell, inbound marketing is a lever that brings web traffic to you. This is a marketing discipline that encourages business leaders to position their companies as pull rather than push-mechanisms.
Examples of inbound marketing include branded content (through blogs and video), social media, and giveaways. Inbound marketing works for companies that can successfully position themselves as thought leaders and valuable sources of information.
As with any other marketing initiative, the critical ingredient here is quality. If your content sucks, nobody will want to read or share it (because there’s a lot of other good stuff out there). Your company can’t fake authenticity. So focus on creating value, not gimmicks that customers can see right through.
On that note, we’ve reached the perfect stopping point.
Inbound marketing is a term that HubSpot, a Boston-based company, has popularized in the last few years. The term is catchy for sure, but what exactly does it mean?
- Marketing adds visibility to your website.
- Web traffic doesn’t just happen. You need to invest time and energy in connecting with the right audiences and leading them back to your website.
- Traffic acquisition requires dedicated time and resources. You need to invest in your strategy and put muscle behind your plan.
- Marketing is a revenue-generating operation. If you’re not seeing quantifiable returns from your investment, you’re probably doing something wrong. Once your marketing strategy gains momentum, you should feel comfortable raising/lifting your budget to grow your customer acquisition.
- Don’t jump to conclusions that paid traffic is somehow inferior to organic traffic. When well-executed, paid channel advertising campaigns can be quite robust.
- Focus on developing a high quality product and robust marketing materials. When your stuff is awesome, there will be an echo effect in the form of free marketing through social media and return visits over the long-term.
- Consumers can sense BS from miles away. Give them the respect that they deserve. Start with your target customer and work backwards to define your marketing strategy.