…and 5 simple steps you can take to increase your traffic.

Having a website is almost mandatory for businesses today. People build websites for all sorts of reasons, but they usually have a few specific goals in mind. Businesses typically want their website to be a tool which helps the company grow and make money. Maybe the website is designed to capture leads, or sell product, or serve as an online portfolio to help sell services. Usually, the website doesn’t do quite as good a job at meeting these goals as we’d hope. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that no website on earth is living up to its full potential (100% conversion rate).

We get a lot of calls from companies and individuals whose websites aren’t living up to their expectations. There are two main categories of reasons for this: Low Traffic & Low Conversion Rates

This article will focus on why sites have low traffic, and some simple things you can do to build it. We’ll follow up with an article about why sites don’t convert more often.

Here are the top 5 problems we see on sites with low traffic, in no particular order:

1. Your website ignores basic on-site SEO principles

This is the biggest problem we see when someone contacts us about a site getting low traffic–which is great, actually, because it’s one of the easiest to fix. Often times, website developers aren’t familiar with all the nuances of good SEO. It’s not their fault, really, I’m not familiar with all the nuances of HTML, PHP and CSS. You can’t be an expert at everything. Building a website and SEO are not the same thing, and it’s important for developers and clients to understand this. Just like you can build a beautiful home in the middle of nowhere, you can have a gorgeous website that’s hard to find. Some common SEO problems: maybe your site is built entirely in Flash with little or no crawl-able content. Or maybe your Title Tags say things like “Home Page” or all of your text is in images.

The solution: make sure all your on-site SEO basics are covered. Usually this is something you can do without scrapping your whole site. Make sure you’ve got good, keyword-rich descriptive Title Tags on every page. Use <h1> and other headlines appropriately. Write a good Description meta tag for each page (for human readers! forget the keywords here). Have good, crawl-able, well-written and relevant content. Use your keywords, but don’t be spammy.

If all of this is Greek to you, don’t worry. Feel free to contact us about our SEO Quick Review.

2. Your website doesn’t have many incoming links

Your website traffic has to come from somewhere.

Imagine opening a restaurant, with a 5-star chef, a great atmosphere, a well-trained staff…but putting it in the middle of the woods, far away from any trail. Maybe some people who know about it, your friends and family will show up and have a meal; but it would be better if it were downtown. At a busy intersection. With lots of signage. It’s the same story with your website. The internet is a crowded place. The barriers to entry are small, far too small to slow down your competition.

The solution: Just like in the real world, it pays to be connected. There are countless opportunities to Show Up on the internet: review sites, social networking sites, social bookmarking sites, professional directories, local directories, online communities, industry profiles, article websites. Get out there, interact, engage, show that you know your stuff, voice your opinion, link to your site. Don’t be an island. Bring ‘downtown’ to you. It’s lonely in the woods, and business is terrible there.

3. Your website is small

Many websites only have 3-5 pages. I call them brochure websites, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with them. You have a Home page, an About Us page and a Contact Us page. Maybe add in a Portfolio or Menu page. That’s all you need, really, and it’s a great cornerstone when building a web-presence. It’s not, however, a huge traffic draw. There just isn’t much content. I hate to repeat the old adage, but content is king. If each one of your pages gets one organic search hit per month, and you have 10 pages, that’s not much traffic. Some sites have many thousands of pages. You don’t need a thousand pages, or even a hundred, of course. If you can organize it well, however, a site with 20 pages will probably have higher traffic than a site with 5.

The solution: Don’t leave too much unsaid. If you’re a graphic designer, and you just have a Home, About, Contact and Portfolio page, consider adding some other content. Maybe you should break your portfolio up by category. Talk about your design philosophy, or why you love designing for non-profits or for corporate clients. Write an article about why serif fonts should be used for premium brands. You’re going to show some depth, which can make you stand out, and you’ll also probably see an increase in traffic from search engines and people linking to your great site.

4. Your website is static

Many websites are built once, built well, and then left alone. This is especially true for small businesses, independent consultants, restaurants, artists, and writers. The content stays the same all the time; because the business stays the same all the time, or because it’s expensive or difficult to add new stuff. Just like having a small site, there’s nothing inherently wrong with this. Heck, sites like that are cheap and easy to maintain. Just set it and forget it, right? Trouble is, you won’t be the only one to forget it. Your audience will eventually forget, search engines will assume your content is out of date and you’ll lose out in the search results to content deemed fresh. That’s the way it should work, too. If I wrote an article about SEO in 1999, it would be utterly useless today.

The solution: Update your site. Sounds simple, right? Depending on how your site is built, it can be extremely simple, or it can be a pain. This is a major reason why we only build websites on WordPress; we believe people should be able to easily update their sites themselves, without touching a piece of code or calling their web developer. If you have a static site built in HTML, it can be a bit more difficult. Either way, adding new articles, or a section for News and Events can be a big help in drawing traffic; and starting a blog about your topic is one of the best things you can do.

5. Your visitors don’t stay long, or come back often

This can be a symptom of a few different problems. It could be that you don’t have many pages for them to visit, or that your visitors don’t connect with your site’s design. Or perhaps your navigation is unclear or confusing. Maybe the tone of your writing is too formal, or too informal, for your audience. Maybe your visitors don’t know what to do next on your site. This is a trickier problem to fix than the others mentioned, because it’s really a combination of factors at work.

The solution: Make it easy for people to stay longer.

Make sure your site’s design isn’t turning people away. You don’t need a fancy, slick, modern design to appeal to visitors. Just take a look at your design, or ask a friend to, and ask yourself, “is this appropriate for my audience and my topic?” If your design fits your content, and it’s not ugly, then your visitor should feel comfortable.

Take a look at your navigation. Have you organized your content well? Can a first-time visitor look at your navigation and get to the information they want?

Do you write articles about a certain topic? After each article, try adding some links to related articles, so if people like what they read, they can easily read some more.

Does each page on your site have a clearly defined purpose, and/or call-to-action? Help your visitors by telling them, “what next?”

You should also give your visitors both a good reason and simple way to come back often. This can be an easy thing to do: give them an option to subscribe via RSS, or have a clear place they can sign up to receive updates via email. If you provide great content, people will want more of it. Why wouldn’t they? So, make it easy.

Want help?

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