As a startup with a relatively new website, you likely want to attract traffic—and a lot of it—to your young website. Watch that you're not making any of these 10 mistakes.
1. Relying on Search Engine Submission Services
You don’t need to pay to submit your site to major search engines such as Google and Bing. Search engines are adept at discovering sites on their own. But if you wish to be sure, go here to submit your site to Google, and go here for Bing. It takes about a minute to submit to each.
As for “the dozens of free directories” that some services claim they can submit your site to, don't believe it—they won’t do any good anyway.
Even worse are paid link services. Do not use them, as they could get your site penalized. Buying links is against Google quality standards.
2. Having No Blog—or an Off-Topic Blog
Content is a crucial traffic driver today. It creates more reasons for human visitors to come to your site, and more pages to be found in search engine results. Content also gives other sites more reasons to link to your site—links are treated like “votes” by search engines helping your site appear higher in certain searches.
Incorporating a blog is the easiest way to publish content on your site. Publish regularly—at least a couple of times a month.
A common mistake is publishing irrelevant content. Be sure to cover the sorts of topics that prospects would be searching for if they wanted to find your product or service. A useful tool is a keyword list of terms to use in your content. Sticking close to a keyword list will keep your blog from drifting off topic. (Check out this tool to help you develop that list.)
3. Using Boring Headlines and Images
Today a lot of content is discovered through Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and other social media sites. Many times, all people see on such sites is your headline and a thumbnail image. From there, they decide to read—or not. If the image and headline aren’t compelling, people are less likely to click.
4. Not Participating on Other Established Sites
The Web is a giant place. You have to call attention to your site and find places to make connections with others, so your site doesn’t disappear among billions of pages. This means:
Commenting on other sites, not to drop links but to add something to the conversation, build a thought leadership reputation, and start making networking connections.
Writing articles and seeking to get them published on other sites, such as through guest blogging, so you and your site can become known to other sites’ audiences.
Curating and sharing your own content and other people’s content on social sites.
Connecting, engaging and conversing with others on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+.
5. Being Too Modest to Seek Publicity
Most startups underestimate the need to (a) work at developing something worthy of publicity, and (b) tell the world about it.
Spend some time developing and refining the “story” of what makes your company unique—how the company got started, or perhaps its unique mission. Highlight some notable accomplishment. Sponsor charities or get your team involved in supporting a cause. Publish white papers and blog posts illustrating your industry expertise. Or collect and analyze industry data that no one else does.
Then spread the word. Sign up for HARO and respond to be a source for stories that journalists are working on. Contact industry blogs and offer commentary on breaking news. Contact your local newspaper and let the business editors know what you're doing, especially if you're creating local jobs or supporting the community.
Don’t be discouraged if at first you get no response. Publicity is a numbers game. You may have to reach out repeatedly for just one thing to pan out.
6. Neglecting to Communicate With Your Email List
You’ve probably heard advice on how to build an email list. So you put a signup box on your website. You offer a free white paper or other incentive to get people to subscribe. You may even encourage people to subscribe via your Facebook page or mention it in tweets.
But one big mistake startups make is to neglect to communicate to their fledgling list, thinking they'll get around to it when the list gets larger. If you haven’t communicated in six months, that list is so stale you will lose some subscribers when you do. People forget why they subscribed in the first place! Put it on your calendar to communicate a minimum of once a quarter with your list. In your emails, try to drive people to visit your site, such as by including a link to a blog article.
7. Not Advertising
Pay per click (PPC) ads such as Google AdWords are the fastest and most certain way to get traffic to a young website. You can start seeing results almost instantly. Some startups budget for advertising at first, and gradually phase it out as other sources of traffic grow. If PPC ad campaigns are set up wisely, they pay for themselves in increased sales.
Pay per click ads are not right for every site. They can be very effective for e-commerce sites, or for B2B sites trying to grow leads. For content sites or blogs, however, consider Facebook ads or content promotion networks such as Zemanta or StumbleUpon Paid Discovery. Think of content promotion as giving a jumpstart to your content, so it gets discovered and spreads.
8. Ignoring Local Listings
If your business gets most of its customers nearby—say, within a 50-mile radius—be aware that customers are searching online and checking you out before they even reach your website, let alone visit your premises. They may find local pages or maps listings where customers have written reviews about your business, and where your contact information and hours of operation appear.
The biggest issues with these local pages are that many business owners:
- aren't even aware of these pages
- have inaccurate information listed, such as the wrong website URL
- have poor reviews that turn prospective customers away
Google, Google Maps, Facebook, online yellow pages, Yelp and other review sites all have some variation of local listings and/or consumer reviews. To get a report card showing what you can do to improve 10 of the most common places your local business information appears, visit Moz Local.
9. Not Learning
The most important thing you can do is ... more of what is working—and less of what isn’t working. The way to do that is to actually analyze your traffic and activities, so you don’t have to guess. That may sound obvious, but one of the biggest mistakes is not bothering to track traffic data or, even more common, not bothering to look at your traffic reports. Google Analytics is free. Start tracking early. Analyze regularly. Adjust often.
Hint: Set up a traffic report to be emailed to you or a staff member once a week. Getting an email report not only helps you see results conveniently, but reminds you every week about traffic.
10. Neglecting to Write a Website Marketing Plan
Always write out a website marketing plan. Start with a single sheet of paper—it doesn’t need to be complex. A plan forces us to think deliberately. Without one, we forget things. We miss the obvious. We waste time, too, because when it comes to reviewing what we have already done, we have to start all over by trying to remember everything. A plan also helps communicate internally among the rest of the team, for better coordination of efforts. A simple plan is worth the hour or so it takes to put together.
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