If you have already built your website, you may think that you have already gotten past the hard part. But simply having a website is a given in today's business environment; in fact, not having a website will hurt your ability to find customers, connect with business partners, raise capital, or establish your brand. Once your website is up and running, the more important question is: "How do I drive traffic to my business website?" Below are some tips that you can use to build website traffic and keep a loyal audience.
Build Online Connections
The Internet can be a very impersonal place where people hide behind pseudonyms and screen names. However, the Internet also has the power to connect individuals all over the world. Out of the millions of people that are online, you may have strong connections with only a few hundreds or thousands, but those connections can be quite strong and personal. One of the best ways to increase your loyal audience and increase traffic to your website is to build on those connections. Gather and keep a community of like-minded people that like to discuss similar topics, and then expand from there.
To do this, you may choose to write an ongoing blog (short for "web log"), solicit customer feedback or reviews, host contests, and encourage users to connect with your company on social media (such as TwitterTwitter and Facebook).
Give your Website Value
It is of utmost importance that you give your website value, particuarly that which targets the audience you want to retain. For example, you can create an easy-to-use, searchable database of the information on your website (with redundancies built in to make it user-friendly). In addition, look around the web and find out what kinds of information is already available in your market, then fill in gaps that you think need filling. You can also establish yourself as an expert in your field through your blog entries.
For example, if your company sells equipment and supplies for brewing your own beer at home, you could write about the various techniques and issues that interest homebrewers. You may also choose to add instructional videos of homebrewing techniques or create a database of beer recipes.
Find Other Websites in Your Market and Promote Your Site Through Them
If you are already pretty involved in your market, you will probably already know the other major players that are online. Once you have a strong list, you should reach out to these other sites to see if they are willing to allow you to advertise or link from their website to yours. In turn, you could offer to write articles for their website, or to allow them to place links in your website that would link to theirs. You may be able to double your web traffic by simply reaching out and getting other sites to link to yours.
Using the homebrew supply business example, you could run ads or even contribute information about brewing to the various websites where homebrewers exchange ideas and recipes. But remember the importance of also being active in the real world. For instance, you could look for opportunities to sponsor a homebrewing competition or even advertise in magazines devoted to the hobby. You also could send out print catalogs to capture a larger share of the market.
Join an Advertisement Exchange Group
You can also drive traffic to your website by co-promoting with other sites. An advertisement exchange group is a group of websites that all agree to promote each other's sites on their own sites. You will trade banner ads with other websites and in return, you will have your own banner ad displayed in various places around the Internet. Using the example above, you might want to look for companies with complementary products or services (or those offering products you don't carry).
By selling this ad space, the exchange group covers their overhead and operating expenses. Joining an advertisement exchange group is generally free and they can be found by simple internet searches.
Search Engine Optimization
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) refers to various methods used to get your website higher up in search rankings without having to pay for advertisement space or use "pay-per-click" strategies. Employing sound SEO practices has become a prominent way to build website traffic. There are even professionals who are devoted to SEO matters, whose main job is to optimize a website so that it can be easily "found" by your target market.
A good place to start learning about SEO is by reading some of the online treatises on the subject and visiting websites like Google's Webmaster Central.
Consider Getting Legal Help with Your Small Business
Sooner or later, you will run into one or more legal issues that require the expertise of a legal professional. In fact, there are several laws and regulations that specifically address the Internet and customers' personal data. After you learn how to drive traffic to your business website, you might want to check with a business and commercial law attorney to make sure you are in compliance with all applicable laws.