Unless people are visiting it, a high-quality website is nothing more than data and imagery floating in cyber-space. What makes a website the cornerstone of your business is its ability to bring people to you, and while it’s not quite as simple as ‘web traffic = online business success’, there are genuine reasons why web traffic is such a desperately sought-after commodity.
So, what is website traffic, exactly? Quite simply it’s the measure of how popular a website is, based on the number of people who visit it. It can also refer to the number of pages that people visit, and how long they spend on each one.
The concept of web traffic can be extremely simple, but for marketing managers who rely on it as a tool to reach their audience and sell products, the understanding must go considerably further.
In this article, with the help of marketing experts, you’ll learn:
In the mad rush to establish a fruitful web presence, it’s easy to lose sight of what is important and what’s going to contribute to success in the long term.
Yes, visitors are a vital part of the equation, and building your audience is definitely something you need to focus on, but there’s more to traffic than simply increasing numbers. You’re looking to increase visitor numbers whilst also increasing the relevance of that visitor (i.e. bringing in more people who also want to buy from you).
While most digital marketers will agree that it’s difficult to describe any traffic as ‘bad’, the same experts will be more than ready to argue the case for the existence of good traffic.
There’s more to traffic than simply increasing numbers. You’re looking to increase visitor numbers whilst also increasing the relevance of that visitor.
Marketing manager Michelle Hill says: “Bad traffic might be people visiting your website because of a funny image you once used on your blog. Sure, they’re now on your website, but they have no interest in your product or service.”
What you might end up with is poor website statistics – low times spent on pages, high bounce rates etc. – as the person was visiting for a reason unrelated to what your business actually does. Things like confusing adverts and badly managed marketing campaigns also encourage ‘bad’ traffic, as web design manager Wez Maynard explains.
“Bad traffic can be caused by ‘flash bangers’; this means if your website is running a promotion or competition and it gets picked up by ‘flash bang competition’ aggregation sites, you’ll get spikes in your traffic but that traffic has no interest in your business beyond the competition.”
So, bad traffic might be:
“Good traffic is relevant traffic,” says SEO manager Lee Wilson. “It’s based on the right people; those who are most likely to complete a desired end result at some stage of their interaction with your website – regardless of whether it’s the first interaction or the tenth.”
Good traffic is based on those who are most likely to complete a desired end result at some stage of their interaction with your website – regardless of whether it’s the first interaction or the tenth.
Lee Wilson, SEO manager
Indeed, web traffic spikes may look great, but if nothing comes of it then it’s not much use to you. If you can encourage more ‘good’ traffic – which might not look as impressive but ultimately gets results – your website will perform better in the long run.
Most site owners will determine quality by looking at the actions of the visitor and whether they’ve completed the desired action or not. Just because they haven’t, it doesn’t mean they weren’t interested in investing – it may just be that your website isn’t easy enough to use. For example, if people are filling their digital shopping baskets but then abandoning them soon after, you may want to streamline the checkout process or introduce new payment options. Remove unnecessary pages and reconsider the amount of data you’re requesting from customers.
See also: SEO checklist for eCommerce sites
The success with which you’re able to optimise your audience and achieve a healthier balance between good and useless traffic depends almost solely on how you go about building your audience in the first place.
Good traffic is:
Believe it or not, the ongoing development of your online presence doesn’t necessarily begin with your website. Instead, it should be built on the solid foundations of general visibility and brand awareness. Basically, the work has to start before you’ve even thought about how many visits your website receives.
Focus on everything that separates you from the competition – namely your services.
Think instead about how much visibility you already have among your target audience, and work on maximising brand awareness from there. As Coralie puts it, “You have to put your business in front of as many people as possible.” The idea here is to make people want to visit your site before they even know it exists.
“Start by building visibility around what you do best, and what you have the greatest claim for,” says Lee. “You’ll want to focus on everything that separates you from the competition – namely your services.”
Once a strong brand identity is in place, you’re in a position to lay the foundations.
It’s not possible to separate traffic based on its quality without first knowing exactly what you’re trying to achieve.
Why have you created the website? What would you like it to do? If the answer is to simply sell products, but 90 per cent of the 1,000 people who visit the site each week have no interest at all in what you have to offer, only ten percent of your traffic is good traffic. The ratio needs to be addressed. So where should you begin?
I always encourage people to think backwards; instead of thinking ‘if we get X, we might get Z’, think ‘I need to achieve Z, and to do it I must do Y’.
Your goal shouldn’t just be to increase traffic – it should be to increase quality traffic. There are plenty of cheap and easy ways to bring crowds of internet users to your site, but they’re not all worthwhile. Prioritise quantity – as so many business owners unwittingly do – and you’re making a rod for your own back. Getting it right demands a little more work than some people assume, but the increased likelihood of results more than justifies the time and effort.
“Instead of asking ‘what is a good level of traffic?’, marketing managers should think about what it is they want to achieve,” Coralie says. “I always encourage people to think backwards; instead of thinking ‘if we get X, we might get Z’, think ‘I need to achieve Z, and to do it I must do Y’.
Content promotion specialist Tom Chapman adds: “100 customers a week is fantastic to a new, small business – so that could be the goal. A larger firm, however, might expect that amount every hour, so its goals will be much higher. These goals are realistic for both.”
Think about all of the smaller, easier measures you could take to drive more people to the site over time. These are often the things that marketing managers skip over while desperately hunting for that quick fix. Without getting these basics sorted, though, it’ll be impossible to maximise the potential of other, more complex techniques.
When we say “basics”, we really do mean basic. Think about the following, for example:
All of the above measures revolve around a single theme: establishing and maintaining links with the people you would like to visit your website, and then making it easy for them to do just that. The key to success, however, is doing it all without being pushy.
As mentioned previously, your traffic means little if it’s not made up of the right people – those who could potentially complete your desired action, whether that’s buying a product or signing up to a mailing list. At the end of the day, the number of people who click through to your site is only one ingredient of your end goal. If you’re to get real results, whatever that means to you, they must also convert.
Understand what your audience is looking for through the various stages of the information-seeking and buying process.
Effective targeting, therefore, will be crucial. Who is it you want to attract to the site? Who will be most likely to take an interest in what you have to offer? Answering these questions must be a priority, as the answers will be pivotal to the success of any efforts you make to boost traffic.
“Understanding the persona of the people you intend to target and engage with (and most likely sell something to) is key,” says Lee. “From this understanding you can create targeted content, landing pages, offers/promotions, and call to actions. You can understand what your audience is looking for through the various stages of the information-seeking and buying process.
“You could then look to segment audiences to provide better user experiences and most likely generate more value from them.”
You’ll want to work on profiling your audience, but the process should involve a little more than simply taking note of age, gender and location. According to Services Director Steve Masters, you really need to get into peoples’ minds if you’re to meet their needs successfully.
What do your target customers want to know? What are they looking for? The answers will help you work out what kind of content will attract and interest them.
Steve Masters, Services Director
“What do your target customers want to know? What are they looking for? What kind of things do they like? The answers will help you work out what kind of content will attract and interest them,” he says.
Traffic targeting takeaways:
Your website needs to offer something of value to potential visitors; you can’t just sit around and expect people to find your amazing pages. Instead, think about where people tend to go when looking for information online, and meet them there. The rendezvous locations we’re alluding to are, of course, the search engines.
Search engines are seemingly very simple, but they have a hugely significant role to play in the way the internet works. They effectively help internet users find informational needles in gargantuan haystacks of data. Using complex and constantly refined algorithms, they promise to present searchers with pages of the most useful results, in order of relevance.
Making it to the top of these results pages is a way to increase traffic. According to data from online advertising network Chitika, websites on the first page of Google’s listings receive a staggering 95 per cent of the service’s search traffic.
Of course, improving your search results will require SEO expertise and a lot of hard work, which many small to medium businesses simply don’t have. While working with an agency is recommended, you could also look to:
Ensuring your website is always aligned with the major search engines’ latest preferences is a must. The priority list should be topped with the presence of relevant and original content, but this has to be complemented by a whole host of other technical measures.
The reasons to invest in a well-planned and properly executed SEO strategy are there for all to see, but the process, when done correctly, isn’t quite as instant as some business owners would like. According to content services manager Sarah Howard, there are things you should be focusing on in the meantime. “Becoming visible in search can take time, so put some spend behind PPC (pay-per-click advertising) to increase brand visibility,” she advises.
To promote your valuable content, you could:
The “valuable content” Sarah refers to will be key not only to boosting traffic to your site, but keeping users interested and engaged once they’re there. In order for it to do either of these things, however, it has to be put in front of the intended audience. In this regard, social media could well be the strongest weapon in your arsenal.
Think about where your audience goes when they are not on your site – how can you reach them to gain their attention?
Social networks are all about relationships. Traditionally, these relationships would only comprise peers: groups of friends, or distant relatives, for instance. This is no longer the case. As the concept’s popularity has grown over the past decade, its purpose has expanded hugely. Now it provides invaluable links between employees and jobseekers (LinkedIn), famous faces and their fans (Twitter), and – perhaps most importantly in this context – brands and consumers (all of the above, and more).
According to data published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), more than half (53 per cent) of all British adults participated in social networking in 2013, a figure that’s growing rapidly as devices become cheaper and connectivity more accessible. The same ONS data shows how the younger generation are particularly attached to their social profiles; the group’s researchers found that 93 per cent of 16 – 24-year-olds used social sites during the same period.
To boost your outreach on social media and increase your web traffic you could:
If you’re a marketing manager searching for the best way to reach your target audience, this kind of information simply cannot be ignored. While the days of outbound marketing are numbered – if not over – you must still make it as easy as possible for people to find their way to your site.
With help from the right analytics tools such as Google Analytics and our own deep data platform, Apollo Insights, it’s easy to keep track of your website’s traffic.
You’ll want to maintain a close eye on how the frequency changes, where the traffic is coming from and how users moving between your various pages. Only when this information has been collected will it be possible to capitalise on the techniques and strategies mentioned above.
As we’ve already discussed, traffic isn’t the be-all and end-all of online success. First, the people who visit must be the right people, but even when this is the case, the work still isn’t over – they have to be met with right things on arrival too.
In a nutshell, the purpose of your content is to continue guiding your leads towards the desired action, and this is probably going to take more than just a passing glance. With the importance of audience engagement in mind, consider inviting people to fill out simple forms in return for access to special offers, or embed a useful tool for them to play with. These kinds of things should provide a decent reason for people to stay.
You might to need to nurture people for six months before they convert, so encourage them to download guides, sign up for your newsletter, attend an event – anything that moves them along the buying cycle.
Michelle Hill, marketing manager
The journey may take time, especially if your product or service requires a higher level of investment or commitment from the buyer. You must, therefore, be prepared to try and drive repeat traffic. As marketing manager Michelle Hill says: “One-hit wonders aren’t going to add much value – you need to keep users engaged, and make sure they’ll want to come back in the future.
“You might need to nurture people for six months before they convert, so encourage them to download guides, sign up for your newsletter, attend an event – basically anything that moves them along the buying cycle a little more.”
You can significantly grow your website traffic by introducing the right content. The graph below is for Vertical Leap client Carbase, and highlights how the publication of engaging new articles, when paired with a carefully planned social campaign, can spark substantial session growth in the space of just six months.
“I’d need to have a look at the technical setup of the website before I could do anything else to help increase web traffic,” says Wez, head of design.
If the website isn’t easy to use, it will all go to waste. To improve your user-friendliness and conversion rates further, you might look to:
Also consider how people are accessing your site. Gone are the days of desktop domination; now, according to data from comScore, almost 40 per cent of internet time is spent on mobile devices. The figure’s growing too, with both handsets and data becoming more and more accessible as time goes on.
Ensure the site is optimised for use on various screen sizes and interfaces so the experience is never compromised for your users.
The importance of responsive and intuitive design is exemplified perfectly by Vertical Leap’s recent work with specialist recruitment agency Property Personnel.
The company’s website was failing in its attempts to convert leads, and was even being shunned internally due to a distinct lack of user-friendliness in the back-end content management system. After being rebuilt by Vertical Leap’s creative team, however, the improvements were obvious.
Not only did the work generate a 50.66 per cent rise in page views, but the number of users grew by 60.99 per cent and the average session duration increased 18.85 per cent. Thanks to this redesign, Property Personnel is in a better position to reach out to and engage its target audience online.
Traffic is clearly a key ingredient of online success, and thus business success in general. Increasing the popularity of your site should, therefore, be a real priority from day one.
Bad web traffic, if it exists, is:
Good web traffic is:
Create a brand identity and increase your brand awareness to lay the foundations for web traffic. Set realistic objectives and know what it is you want to achieve before you start trying to improve anything
Things you can do right now to improve web traffic include:
While hiring an SEO agency is recommended, you could start to do these things in the meantime to improve your search rankings and subsequently increase web traffic:
To improve your user-friendliness and conversion rates further, you might look to:
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