Many of us are using our websites to either expand our brick-and-mortar reach or to start a new business in today's climate. It's not surprising given the low costs of online stores; particularly if your product is downloadable and doesn't need a warehouse or to be shipped.
But many people wonder what they can do to bring more traffic--targeted buyers--to their web sites, and how to get them to buy more while they're online. Here are a few tips for those of us running online stores to help bring in more traffic to sell products and services on your web site.
Remember: You're an expert
You need to go where your customers are. Are they communicating on a particular blog? Do they use certain forums? Keywords on Twitter? Be sure that you're actively participating where they are spending time online. You should be posting and offering candid, honest advice and not promoting your business actively in these forums or blogs, but passively. For instance, the website address in your signature is more than enough. After you build credibility as an expert, people will go to your site and it will become viral within the community--your targeted community. But blogs and forums are only one part of the equation. I'm a big fan of creating your own groups where you can build your own forum of people sharing ideas where you're the moderator and the list owner. Don't abuse your power by selling or spamming the e-mail addresses.
The impact of Twitter has been disputed by many people, with as many as 60 percent leaving the platform within the first 30 days of using it. But, we don't know how many people come back, and the recent offers by major companies to buy Twitter leave many of us wondering if it has a stronger longevity than many of us realized. One rule in Twitter is not to sell your own goods in your tweets, but rather to have others do it for you--then retweet their tweet. You can do this through a tool like Tweetdeck. Be sure that you follow those following you, and retweet their interesting work, too. This will create a loyal following. Another option is to use a tool like Tweetlater, which will allow you to find targeted people to follow who have the same interests as you. This tool will also send a direct message to all new followers where it is considered acceptable to provide people with a link to your website.
Seek out complementary websites
If you sell shoes online, try to partner with online companies that sell handbags or clothes. Many will exchange affiliate links or just exchange banner ads (you post their ad on your site; and vice versa), which amounts to free advertising. Many website owners are glad to do this.
Once people are on your website, you want to translate the web hits into sales. One way to do that is to have rotating banner ads--not just ads through commission sites to make a small amount of extra money and offset costs of the site, but to advertise your own services and products. If you have an ad on your home page linking to a timely product, you can attract customers you might not have otherwise. Don't forget to create an area for people to comment on your products and services, too.
Danielle Babb is the founder of The Babb Group, an online entrepreneur, a professor, an author, public speaker and consultant. She has a Ph.D. in Organization and Management with a Technology emphasis, as well as an MBA with a technology emphasis. She is featured regularly on top networks such as CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, Fox Business and the Today show. She is also the author of The Online Professor's Practical Guide to Starting an Internet Business, available from Entrepreneur Press.