We’ve all heard the statistic – around 50 percent of new small businesses fail within the first five years. But why? Well, business failure can be attributed to many different factors: poor location, insufficient capital, lack of experience, unexpected growth, competition, improper use of business funds, lack of market research, poor sales, bad investments, poor credit arrangements – the list goes on and on.
But the underlying cause of many of these problems is this – a lack of thorough or proper planning. And small businesses aren’t the only ones that are hit hard by a lack of planning – research agency Head London recently reported that Morrisons, one of the UK’s biggest supermarkets, is losing out on around £314 million by not offering online shopping or home delivery. (I think a mention of ex-bookstore Borders also goes without saying.) It literally pays to plan and adapt.
So, if you’re trying to develop an online business, getting website traffic is essential to your success. You have to plan to get this though – not only will it help prevent failure, but it will also save you time and money by avoiding practices that are unessential to your business. Luckily, there are plenty of methods for attracting traffic to your site.
Target Market Research
One of the first steps for making sure you get traffic involves conducting some market research. Who is going to be interested in your business? Where are they located and how can you get their attention? Marketing to everyone will not work – you have to find your target audience. When it comes to determining who will be interested in your product or service, think about the following factors:
- marital status
- education level
- income level
- native language
- technological expertise
- family composition
For example, if you’re trying to sell wireless Internet service, you’re probably not going to be marketing to the elderly or children. If you’re offering a “budget” type of service, you probably don’t need to spend too much time marketing to wealthy people. A bit deeper research indicates that men and women use the Internet differently, which can also affect your traffic building strategies.
Acquiring information about your target audience can be difficult, however. It’s possible to gather information by creating online polls using sites such as misterpoll.com, or by obtaining a relevant email list and sending out emails that include a survey (you might have to offer an incentive to get any responses). These usually aren’t incredibly reliable, but they’re free. You could also try passing out survey flyers at local establishments where you think members of your target audience may spend time (again, you may need incentives). Ultimately, the best way to determine your target market and get information is to use professional marketing consultants.
Site Structure and Keywords
When you’re just starting, it’s going to be very difficult to get any “direct” traffic – this means that you have to plan some strategies for getting noticed by search engines. One of the first things to consider is keywords – words or phrases that people search for and are related to your business. It’s best to use a service such as Google Adwords Keyword Tool to find the exact phrases that people are searching for.
Once you’ve found some of the most popular keyword phrases in your niche, you can begin to create content that includes those phrases. It’s best to only optimize one or two keyword phrases per web page; so, try mapping out your content before you even begin creating it. Think of your content in terms of large categories and more specific topics, like this:
Sticking with our wireless Internet example, you might find that people often search for phrases like “best wireless in San Francisco,” “fastest wireless Chicago,” or “clear internet New York.” You could then create a “category” page that deals with the state of wireless Internet in different areas of the country. The “content pages” would then deal specifically with certain areas, making it easy to include popular keyword phrases. It’s important to keep in mind, however, that quality content is incredibly important for getting traffic. Content that only exists as keyword fodder will never be successful in the long term.
Additional Methods of Getting Traffic
Once you’ve got a site up and running, there are a multitude of ways to get more traffic to your site. Of course, it’s important to think about these things before you even start creating content so that you determine which methods will work best and avoid wasting money.
- Press Releases – Sending out a release can help generate buzz about your new business. Try using a site such as PRWeb to help with this process.
- Emails – Generating an email list can be very effective for getting and maintaining traffic levels. Email potential customers and consider including an email opt-in on your site.
- Link Building – A high number of backlinks can boost your ranking in the search engine results pages. If your site is of a high enough quality, you’ll get some links naturally; however, starting a link building campaign through article marketing, blog commenting, and other methods can help get you some exposure as well.
- Advertising – The old standby. Using a service like Google Adwords is popular for online businesses, but don’t forget about offline advertisements such as flyers, radio spots, billboards, public transportation, and TV commercials.
- Promotions – People love getting a deal. For example, offering to give new customers one month of free Internet service when they sign up can generate word-of-mouth advertising as well as the ability to target phrases such as “free Internet.”
- Small Business Expos – Don’t forget about offline opportunities to meet with customers and other business owners. In-person contact can do wonders for your reputation and trustworthiness.
Whatever methods you decide to use, keep in mind that tracking and evaluating your progress is just as important as planning. Set goals for yourself and try to stick to a budget. For example, if putting up flyers is getting you nowhere, don’t waste your time and money by continuing to spread them around. Even if you surpass your goals, don’t forget to keep researching the market and plan for the future. This type of planning can prevent you from becoming the next Borders…