Online Marketing: Simple Rules for Higher Traffic

By Alexander Hiam

So much of the success of an online marketing campaign and website lies in whether it’s designed to be visible and easy to use. Many websites fail to follow the basic rules of navigation that ensure easy use and frequent, happy visitors.

They also tend to break the golden rule of content, which states that content should have two main aims — to communicate on a clear, simple, compelling marketing position, and to encourage direct action (such as going to a store or placing a web order). So many websites are like vastly overgrown, interactive brochures, or maybe more like a rack full of competing brochures, each on a different topic.

A website like that won’t pop up at the top of searches, and it won’t provide easy navigation or purchase options. Follow these rules to make your website a success:

  • Test and refine the copy (written content). Think of most of the website’s writing as plain and simple sales copy, writing that’s designed to generate a sale.

    Sure, it’s good to offer tabs with information and help, but layer those behind the top level of the site, and keep the home page clear and simple, with a focus on generating action. Your goal isn’t to become a popular but starving blogger. Your goal is to have visitors to your site become shoppers who buy your products or services.

  • Offer a clear entry to a very simple order process on the first page of your site. If you want to say yes to the call to action on your website, how many clicks do you have to go through? It’s common for the answer to be a dozen or more. That’s a terrible impediment to purchase!

    Try to simplify to the point that no more than three clicks are needed to get you face to face with an order amount and the option of offering your credit card. Adding more to the shopping cart then becomes an add-on option, not a barrier.

  • Ask visitors to opt in right away. Any opt-in offer is any deal that entices a website visitor to fill in a form and give you their contact information.

    It could be an offer to qualify for a consumer discount, an upgrade, an informative B2B newsletter, or a high-value, closed section of the website. A frequent buyer membership or professional club registration can also generate opt-ins.

  • Make a simple, easy sale right away. Past purchase is the best predictor of future purchase, so there’s nothing quite as valuable in the world of leads as someone who’s already become a customer, at least on a small scale.

    If your sales or adoption process is multistep and complex, consider whether you can make some simpler, smaller sale initially. Can a college sign up website visitors as prequalified candidates, for a small fee, and offer in exchange a discount off the admissions fee should they decide to apply within the next two years? You get the idea.

  • Clean up your site navigation. Most websites start out with a pretty good navigation plan and then get modified to shoehorn in more tabs, add a shopping cart, link to a blog or a Facebook page, showcase a special offer, or incorporate content from a partner business or new acquisition. Talk about messy!

    Take stock of your site’s navigation and clean it up, pruning less important tabs and options and simplifying the top level of navigation. That way, the visitor who’s serious about making a purchase or requesting a quote or proposal doesn’t have to wander in the website wilderness, clicking madly, lost, until she gets fed up and goes to a competitor’s website.

  • Take control of recruitment. The idea that Google and other search engines will consistently rank you high and send you good traffic is a bit naive. How many hundreds of thousands of web addresses do you have to beat out to be at the top of any particular search?

    Google and other search engines offer key word and searcher profile driven advertising, and you should budget for some of this, at least part of the time, to see how much you can elevate your traffic and bottom line results.

    Also use QR codes on your signage and packaging, do blogging, social marketing, and other publicity with links to your site, and direct-response advertising in a variety of web and other media. Run an ongoing campaign, with a budget and careful tracking of results, whose single purpose is to promote your website and produce elevated sales there.

  • Make sure you have a strong presence on the web and then manage that presence. A strong, consistent brand, with well-selected web addresses and other identifying names (such as YouTube, Facebook, a blogging host of your choice, and Flickr), can help make you visible on the web.

  • Provide a site map. The fewer links a search engine has to navigate to find content relevant to a specific search, the higher it’ll rate your site. A well-designed site map cuts the search engine’s journey down to just two links.

    A large website needs a separate page for its site map, whereas simpler pages can place the map on a navigation bar that’s visible from every page. On your map page or navigation bar, list all pages by title or topic and provide a direct link to each one.

  • Communicate directly with your customers to build traffic. Search engines look at traffic when ranking pages, so anything you do through direct communication with your customers to build traffic can help.

    Offer free informational or entertaining content people will want to visit and download. Consider hosting a bulletin board about your industry or product. Make your website a resource for customers and noncustomers alike, so as to maximize the amount of interaction with visitors.

  • Collect, post, and update a page of links to related sites to improve your ranking. Put a tab or button on your home page that’s labeled Links, or if you want to pump up its appeal, label it The Best Links, Recommended Links, Our Pick of Links, or something like that. To find sites to link to, do your own searches and see what sites appear in the top ten listings.

    Then visit each of them and see whether you can find appropriate places and ways to link to them from your site (and vice versa, if possible). A company that distributes products for you or a professional association in your industry is a natural to link to your site.

    Build such links and the higher-ranked sites tend to draw yours up toward them. But make sure you have useful content to justify those links! Very brief reviews of the linked-to sites may increase the value of your links page and thus build usage and traffic.

  • Build a family of sites and social networking site pages around your hub website. Doing so may capture traffic out on the rim of your web presence and direct it toward your hub.

    Include single-purpose, single-topic satellite pages and optimize the META tags for these pages so they rank higher than your hub site in searches specific to their topics.

  • Advertise steadily enough to amplify search engine traffic. Traffic increases rank on most search engines, so a promotion that drives traffic to your website gets amplified by follow-on traffic that comes from search engine visibility, which in turn creates more visibility.

It’s arguable that the previously listed points are almost all you really have to know to be a fairly good website manager. However, there are additional concerns and options that an excellent marketer may want to consider, so if you want to have a way-above-average web marketing presence, check out the following sections.