No matter how great your product or service is, there will always be a product better than yours. And even if what you’re selling or trying to promote is quite unique, someone with a less original product can still outsell you if they are better at marketing themselves or driving traffic to their site. That’s why it’s of the utmost importance that your startup understands the fundamentals of digital marketing and traffic management.
While many companies would prefer to outsource that part of their business to a team of professionals, let’s be honest: not many startups can afford to outsource to an agency or hire a team of seasoned professionals in-house. In this article, we’ll look at how you can drive traffic to your startup website within your rigid budget constraints. We’ll explain what traffic is and how to increase it, as well as cover important tools you can use to check, estimate, and predict the traffic volume.
Most of the advice listed here is based on my experience at Soshace, where we’ve been experimenting with driving and increasing traffic to our startup website for more than four years. We’ve found a log of success using SEO tactics, which we’ll explain in detail later on in the article, and we’ve figured out that PPC doesn’t suit us. You’ll need to try a lot of strategies to find out what works best for you, but we’re happy to share what we’ve learned to help you along.
What is traffic?
Website traffic is the amount of data sent and received by visitors to the site, so there’s both incoming and outgoing traffic. The reason behind tracking these metrics is to find out what pages are popular, which areas of your website need improvement, where your traffic is coming from, and when there might be a security breach or lack of bandwidth.
What is web analytics?
Web analytics is the measurement of the behavior of visitors to a website, which, in a commercial setting, focuses on the aspects that support your business objectives. The most famous apps for monitoring website analytics include Google Analytics, IBM Digital Analytics, and Adobe Omniture. They are easy to use and have a short learning curve for most. However, they may not give you a complete picture of what to change on your site, so there are other subscription-based services, like Nielsen NetRatings or Quantcast, that can produce more precise reports and insights.
There are a few basic definitions that you will need to know:
- A hit is when any file is served, where a file is a page and an image. For example, you’ll see four generated ‘hits’ for three pictures and the main page.
- A page view is when a visitor requests any page of a website. There will always be at least one page, that is the main page, but the visitor can view more than that. Tracking apps place a small piece of HTML into every page of your site to track and record incoming/outgoing traffic.
- Packet sniffing is another measurement of Internet traffic, which is based on random samples of traffic data that give you information about web traffic as a whole.
When monitoring your web traffic, you will assess the following:
- Number of visitors
- Average number of page views per visitor — the higher the number, the deeper into the site users are going
- Average visit duration — the more time visitors spend on the site, the more we can assume they find it useful
- Average page duration — the longer the page is viewed, the better.
- Domain classes — the levels of the IP Addressing information required to deliver web pages and content
- Busy times — the most popular viewing time on the site, which can help you plan for promotional campaigns and maintenance
- Most requested pages — the most popular pages
- Most requested entry pages — the first page that users visit, which shows which pages are drawing users to your site
- Most requested exit pages — the last pages seen by visitors, which could determine which pages are causing users to leave
- Top paths — the sequence of pages viewed by visitors from entry to exit
- Referrers — the apparent host of the links which generate the most traffic for a page
Why would you need all that information to analyze the traffic to your site? The amount of traffic is the most obvious measurement of your website’s popularity. But by analyzing the traffic more deeply, you’d be able to see exactly what draws people in, what keeps them there, and what makes them leave. With these insights, you can make changes that will not only increase your website’s traffic but also make it more profitable by increasing your actual sales (i.e., conversions).
How to drive traffic to your website
The main source of traffic to your site will be from search engines. People search for products, services, books, and other information every second by using keywords —a sequence of words that describe their intention. Each search engine has its own algorithm to determine where your website ranks for any particular keyword.
When a user clicks on your link in their search results, they are directed to your website, the data is transferred from your website’s server, and that visitor is counted towards the overall traffic of your website.
As previously mentioned, search engines are a primary source of website traffic, which means that in order for your site to show up in the results, you’ll need to optimize your website’s pages for certain keywords — a practice known as Search Engine Optimization (SEO). The higher your website ranks for a keyword, the earlier it shows up in the search results, the more traffic it draws to your site.
Now, this is not an article on SEO; however, we’ll outline the main strategies you can employ to improve your SEO rankings, as it’s one of the most important steps in increasing your website traffic.
Optimizing your website for SEO purposes includes:
- Adding or editing content using proper HTML tags to increase its relevance for certain keywords and reduce or eliminate the barriers for search engines’ indexing activities.
- Getting backlinks, i.e. the inbound links that lead to your site from other sources.
- Including local SEO, where you improve the search engine results locally or in your area as opposed to the international scale as is the case with national SEO.
- Making your site mobile-friendly. Because of the revolutionary shift from desktop to mobile devices, Google made a major update to its algorithms, making them mobile-first, which means the mobile version of your site becomes the starting point for what Google includes in its index. Thus, it’s incredibly important to take care of your website responsiveness and make it easily accessible and viewable on mobile devices.
These are a few more tips to help get you started improving your site’s SEO (which you can do with zero or very little budget without external help):
- Cross-linking between the pages to improve your website’s visibility
- Creating a site-map for both your users and the search engines
- Writing unique (original) and valuable content (preferably, but not necessarily, every day, but at least several times per week) that includes frequently searched keywords that are relevant to your business around different search queries will improve your website ranking
- Updating older content on a regular basis to keep older content relevant
- Adding relevant keywords to a web page’s metadata (like title tag and meta description) to improve the relevancy of a site’s listings
- Providing original custom graphics and naming your pictures/images appropriately, including adding a description of an alt tag for the website’s accessibility
- Backlinking to your site from other higher ranking sources (you can try buying backlinks or providing an original guest post on those websites with a couple of links to your website’s content) will improve the authority of your website, especially if those backlinks come from educational and organization domains, like University pages or Wikipedia.
- Spreading your original content across other sources using the canonical link (a link that proves the origin of the source). However, try to do it after your original content has already been indexed by Google (which may take up a few weeks).
Another strategy to increase traffic to your site is through paid advertising campaigns, better known as pay per click (or PPC). PPC is part of Search Engine Marketing (SEM), which is essentially about designing, running, and optimizing ad campaigns. While SEO deals with unpaid or organic search results, SEM is about paid priority searches.
Paid results show up on top of the page in search results, almost always guaranteeing the prominence of your site. While SEO takes time, sometimes up to six months or a year to really start working for your business, SEM and PPC work almost instantaneously, although they require quite a budget. The cost per click (CPC) can vary immensely by country and by keyword, but even on a small budget, you can still afford a campaign.
It doesn’t hurt to remember, though, that the search engines are not paid for organic traffic, so SEO, however great it may be for you, might not always work the same way, and there’s no guarantee for continued referrals. Exactly due to this lack of certainty, it’s better to invest in both SEO and SEM.
Another fantastic strategy for improving your website’s traffic is through social media marketing, which can increase your brand awareness and contribute to the Google search queries for your company.
Get yourself accounts with major social media companies like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Youtube, Instagram, Snapchat, and LinkedIn. Advertise on the platforms, provide valuable content (not just retweets or resharing from your own blog), and establish a media personality. Anyone from your company can represent the brand, promote diversity, argue on social issues, all of which usually generate a lot of discussion and user engagement. (interact with users and answer their questions — Quora works well for this as long as you’re not overly promotional or spammy. Overall, make your visitors, customers, and potential consumers aware that you are there for people.
Part of social media marketing can be getting a blog on Medium or similar blogging platforms where you can post content related to the services you promote. This is a great way to find new potential customers because the audience is built-in. You can use the platform with its canonical links to link back to your site or provide original content with a few links here and there that would lead to your site.
Webinars & courses
Another great marketing strategy involves creating free webinars and courses on platforms such as Udemy or Teachable. Or you can post your content on Reddit, which is a great source of social traffic, and engage in conversations with thousands of people from all over the world.
Email marketing is another great way to drive traffic to your site. Although it’s often assumed that no one opens up their promotional emails anymore, that’s simply not true. If the headline/title is catchy enough, users will open and engage. Just don’t make your titles too clickbaity. Being genuinely interesting takes a ton of imagination, but you can achieve that with just a little time and dedication.
All of the traffic strategies we’ve discussed are either completely free or require a limited budget. Of course, if you have funds to spare: outsource, hire professionals, pay for paid spots on Google with PPC, or buy some ad space and traffic on Facebook, Quora, Twitter, etc. Just remember that everything is doable with almost zero resources; it just takes more time and passion.