As a design firm (and a relatively new one in the scheme of things) we failed early on at explaining the role of a website to some of our first clients. A small business owner would come to us and say, “I need a better presence online.” As designers, we interpreted that to mean, “I want you to make my website look better and work better for people who visit it from a phone or a computer.” But what most small business owners really mean is, “Can you do something to my website that gets my phone to start ringing and to put more money in my pocket?”
The long and short answer to that question is YES, but it probably looks a lot different than you might think. After listening to a few of the same disappointments from those early clients, we have gotten a lot better at explaining to potential customers what the role of their website should be. In terms of marketing and sales from 20 years ago… Don’t think of a website like an advertisement. It’s not jumping up and down saying ‘Look at me!’ to internet users. And it’s not a billboard that gets put in front of a certain number of people every month. A better analogy for a website is to think of it like the modern day brochure. It’s hopefully eye-catching and makes a good impression, but you have to direct people to look at it once they are already looking for information.
So let’s assume that you’ve either got a really good website, or you’re in the process of having one developed. And now let’s assume that it’s been launched and it’s ready to go… NOW WHAT!? We can assure you that your phone isn’t going to start ringing off the hook on day one. But what can you do to get the most out of your new website?
Here are THREE things you can do to drive traffic to your website. Bonus: Most of them are FREE!
1. Create a Google Business Listing.
Probably the single greatest tool you can use to drive traffic to your new website for FREE is to create a Google Business Listing. This isn’t just a suggestion - it’s more of a MUST. Google listings allow your business to add your contact information, your hours, pictures, descriptions, categories, and YES a link to your website. All of which help people get easy access to the information they’re looking for, and ultimately easy access to your website.
Your company doesn’t just want to be out there for the customers who know to look for YOU specifically. You want people who aren’t sure what company to contact to find YOU before your competitors. And ideally, to look better than they do as they shop around. There are a few different ways you can enhance your Google listing to stand out.
Include pictures of your business, your products, and your people. When I am searching for a company to hire, I do my homework online first to see who looks legit and who is popular among other people in my area. And so do MOST Americans. Adding photos and videos to your Google listing is a great way to stand out if your competition has been slacking, as long as the photos and videos are a good representation of your brand. Pictures of textures or faces will get much more attention than photos of products alone.
Get your friends and customers to review your business on Google. Over 82% of adults conduct research online before making a purchase, and 45% read reviews before making a purchase. So it’s important that you are actively seeking out positive reviews from your most loyal patrons to keep your listing active and looking popular. You can even create a custom link using a free link generator that can be sent out manually or as an automated part of your customer experience that pre-fills in a 5-star response. Be sure when you ask someone for a review, that you frame the request in a way that brings criticism back to your team and positive reviews to your Google listing. Here is an example of a brief paragraph that gets sent out by one of our optometry clients to the patients that visit their practice:
“Thank you for coming to see us today! We value your loyalty, and are always looking for better ways to serve our patients or to provide recognition to our hard working employees. If you have any suggestions for how we could make your experience better the next time you come in, please let our team know: 620-792-2020. If you were thrilled with your experience and would be willing to take 15-20 seconds to leave us a quick review on our Google listing, it would mean the world to our team!” Insert link here.
Keep active posts on your Google listing. Similar to social media, Google allows you to add “posts” to your public profile, but only one at a time and each post expires after only 7 days. The posts can be text, an image with a caption, an offer, an event, or one of a few other options. This can be a place to post sales, product information, award announcements, or you can simply re-use a post you created for your Facebook page to save time. But having a current post keeps your listing fresh and tells Google that you are an active listing. So if your competitors are not as active, that’s another way you can affect your ranking.
If you don’t have a Google Business Listing yet, it will probably take you less than an hour to create one at business.google.com. Then once you’ve verified the listing, you may need to spend another hour or two enhancing your listing with photos, posts, etc. We throw in a Google listing at no charge for any company that hires us to build them a website, but it’s certainly something you can figure out on your own and it’s definitely worth the time.
2. Improve your website’s organic SEO.
By now, I’m sure you’ve heard of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and many companies will gladly take your money in exchange for professional SEO - some are legit, and some are scams. But there are several things you can do to improve your website’s SEO all on your own.
Purchase additional domain names. For example, if a company rents out storage units under the name “ABC Leasing” in a city named Mayberry, their potential customers won’t know to look for ABC Leasing in their Google search. So in addition to www.abcleasing.com, they should also consider purchasing www.mayberrystorageunits.com. Domain names are very searchable IF they are attached to a working website.
Add more keywords to each page title and page description. The page title is the text that appears on your browser tab when you are reading a webpage. You can customize this text with keywords about the content on that page, as well as your industry and location to make that page easier for Google to find. For example, instead of just putting “HOME” or “ABOUT” in the page title, it might be better to include a longer page title such as “HOME | ABC Leasing | Storage Units in Mayberry.” Similarly, the page description is the brief paragraph of text that shows up under the page title in Google search results. So in our storage unit example, a page description for that site’s homepage might read something like:
“Need a place to store your stuff? ABC Leasing offers affordable storage units for rent in Mayberry, with 6-month or 12-month contracts. Our storage units come in several sizes with well-lit, climate controlled spaces in a secure storage facility.”
Add image descriptions to each picture on your website. Continuing down the list of items Google indexes on your website as it scans the internet for relevant content to show a search user, the next best thing you can do to improve your web traffic is to add image descriptions to every single picture on your website. Incorporate as many keywords as possible that apply to the picture and the page it is on. For example, if I were including a picture of ABC Leasing’s storage units on their website, I would name the image file “ABCLeasingMayberryStorageUnitforLease.jpg” and then include an image description with as many keywords as possible. It could read something like “Storage Unit Mayberry ABC Leasing Secure Safe Storage Facility 5x10 10x10 10x20 Units Deposit Rental Lease.” That may seem like a lot of extra work, but it’ll pay dividends on your organic SEO.
3. Drive traffic to your website as much as possible.
You can definitely help influence how quickly your new website shows up in search results by driving traffic to it regularly. New websites will undoubtedly take time to populate in search results because they haven’t been indexed by Google yet, so you should do everything you can to help your website “jump up and down” to get Google’s attention.
Make it your homepage. Make your website the homepage for every computer in your office. Or do Google searches for it often. Ask your significant other to do the same, at least for a little while right after it launches. The more traffic you get, the quicker your site will index.
Put links to your website on everything. Most businesses do this anyway, but be sure you are putting a link to your website in everything that represents your company including your letterhead, email signatures, advertising, print materials, apparel, and maybe even your logo depending on what industry you’re in. Make it easy for people to see and access from everything else your brand is touching.
Use social media to drive traffic to your website. Not only should your social media accounts all link to your website from the ‘About’ sections, but most of your content posted to your Facebook page should also link back to your website… that is, IF your website has information relevant to that post listed somewhere. For example, for ABC Leasing Company, I could link to the online application from any post that references available units. Or for a cleaning company, I could link directly to the new client enrollment form from a post about the value of hiring a housekeeper. And running paid ad campaigns is always a good idea to build your following, but if you’re selling products online or trying to fill appointments through your website, send the ad clicks directly to your website to make it easy for the person responding.
Pay for Google AdWords. If you have a lot of competition or compete with national brands for attention online, then you’d better be paying for AdWords. Depending on where you are located and what industry you are in, you may be able to spend as little as $300 per month to stay in the top 2 or 3 results on Google all the time. For others, that number may be closer to $500 or higher. How much you spend depends on how many people are searching for your products or services and how high you want to be ranked in the search results. Unlike the other tips, this one is worth paying a professional for.
Investing in a new website needs to be part of your budget every 3-4 years, and make plans to keep it updated with new content, photos, and blog posts every month. But if you’re not seeing the traffic you were expecting with a new website, try these tips or #HireAMaven to do it for you!