I see it time and time again: The number-one challenge faced by brand-new internet business owners is a lack of traffic. Obviously, if your website isn't getting any traffic, you're not generating any sales. And what's worse is that without traffic, you can't test the key components of your sales process. And if you roll out a large traffic campaign before you've tested your site to make sure it converts maximum visitors into buyers, you risk losing sales and looking unprofessional to potential business partners and affiliates.
So you're caught in a vicious cycle: Before ramping up a big traffic campaign, you need to test your sales process, but without any traffic, testing is difficult--if not impossible!
In this article, I'm going to give you an eight-step action plan that will show you:
- How to get cheap, instant traffic to your website so you can test key components of your sales process--your sales copy, order form, navigation and opt-in offer--before rolling out a large-scale traffic campaign;
- How to ensure that every element of your sales process is optimized to convert maximum traffic into maximum sales;
- The most effective strategies for attracting thousands of highly qualified potential buyers to your site right away; and
- The secret to putting your entire traffic campaign on autopilot.
So even if your site is getting no traffic right now, you can be testing the key elements of your sales process tomorrow--and as soon as two weeks from now, you can be rolling out your traffic campaign in full.
Sound good? Let's get you started off on the right foot!
Step 1: Get the traffic you need to test your website fast! When I talk about testing with new internet business owners, I hear the same two questions all the time:
- How do I test my site?
- What do I test on my site?
As you may already know, there are an infinite number of things you can test on your site to help you increase sales. From layout to copy to design, there are limitless combinations of changes that may improve your visitor-to-sale conversion rate. But what's "enough" when you're just starting out? What elements should you focus on testing before rolling out your traffic campaign?
My advice is to stick to the basics. Focus on testing your:
- Salescopy, especially your headline, benefits, guarantee and call to action
- Order process, which needs to be simple enough for a novice web user to place an order
- Opt-in offer, so you can determine if you're successfully capturing your visitors' contact information
- Site navigation, so you can figure out how many clicks it takes to buy. Ideally it should take less than three.
These are the four critical aspects of your sales process that need to be tested before you start driving traffic. Later on, once you've generated sales and have some steady traffic, you can move on to testing other parts of your site.
Of course, all this talk of testing your new site raises one big question: How can you test without traffic? Because if you're just getting started, chances are good that your website doesn't get much traffic yet.
The solution is simple: Buy traffic through PPC search engines. Pay-per-click search engines are a lot like auctions--they allow you to bid for top-ranking positions under keywords of your choice. For each visitor who searches the keyword(s) you bid on and then clicks through to your site, you pay whatever you bid. Prices typically range from five cents to a few dollars per click-through for popular keywords.
There are a ton of PPC search engines out there, but the two best ones to get started with are:
With PPC search engines, you get cheap, instant, qualified traffic--provided you bid on targeted keywords. Not only that, but bidding on traffic in the PPC search engines can help your site get ranked in the free search engines, too!
Here are a few tips to help you start bidding for traffic without breaking the bank:
In Yahoo Search Marketing, bid to appear in the top three listings whenever possible, since these results are also "pushed" to appear in the search results for MSN, Yahoo, AltaVista, InfoSpace, AlltheWeb and NetZero--reaching 80 percent of all internet users.
Bid on targeted, descriptive keywords. So don't just bid on "sock;" bid on "red wool sock." Not only are targeted keywords and phrases usually cheaper to bid on--they'll also attract more qualified potential buyers. Use a keyword selection tool like Google's AdWords Keyword Tool to research targeted keywords that attract maximum traffic for minimal cost-per-click.
After you've tested and tweaked your site with a limited amount of purchased traffic, it's time to start generating qualified traffic for your site on a larger scale. But how do you go from some traffic to a ton of traffic?
Step 2: Get cheap traffic quickly with PPC advertising. Once you've tested your site with limited PPC traffic, the fastest way to ramp up traffic to your site is to roll out a PPC campaign on a larger scale. Obviously, you should start with Yahoo Search Marketing and Findwhat, as mentioned above. But here are some more PPC engines to consider bidding with as you increase your investment:
This is also a great time to get started with Google AdWords --Google's own PPC contender. With Google AdWords, you get instant traffic with no waiting. Because as soon as you put the money down on your keywords, your ad goes up and starts working for you.
Step 3: Get free traffic from search engines like Google. Now that you've bid on keywords for a strong showing in the PPC search engines, it's time to tackle the organic search engines and directories. Search engines like Google and directories like Yahoo! can still be a great source of free traffic for your website. The trick is getting a competitive ranking for your best keywords.
The first step in getting a top ranking in the search engines is to submit or suggest your site to them. In other words, you have to provide them with details about your site. You want to make sure that the "spiders"--automated programs that crawl the web indexing sites for the search engines--find your site and include it in the search results.
While the spiders do index sites and pages that haven't been submitted, you certainly don't want to leave this to chance. A spider might find your website and index it next week--or it might be two years before that finally happens. So take the time to submit your site to be sure you're included. Once your site's been submitted, expect it to take two to six weeks for your listing to appear.
Every engine has a slightly different process for site submission, and it pays to follow their guidelines. For example, there's a fee to list your site in the directory at Yahoo!, but Google doesn't charge for their submission process. Here's a tip: If you submit your site exactly as they ask, you stand a better chance of getting a good listing on the first page of search results.
To submit or suggest your site to the major engines, follow the simple instructions they provide on these pages:
- For Google, go to www.google.com/addurl/?continue=/addurl
- For Yahoo Directory, go to http://docs.yahoo.com/info/suggest/
- For Yahoo! Search, go to http://submit.search.yahoo.com
- For MSN, go to http://search.msn.com/docs/submit.aspx
- For AOL, submit your site to the Open Directory Project, which uses ODP data. Here's the link: http://dmoz.org/add.html
And don't bother with companies that offer to submit your site to the search engines. Since each search engine uses a different set of criteria to rank your site, free submission services can actually end up doing you more harm than good, since they submit the same information in the same way to all the engines.
Step 4: Give away irresistible free content for priceless publicity. Believe it or not, a really easy, frequently undervalued strategy for getting traffic is giving away free content to other websites. Even just two or three well-written articles can generate truckloads of traffic, as long as they don't contain a sales pitch. You want to include rare, hard-to-get information that'll lend your articles automatic value--the kind of information that establishes you as an expert in your field.
Once you've finished an article, write a short bio paragraph about you and your business and place it at the end of your article along with--and this is the most important part--a link to your site.
To locate sites that might be interested in your content, e-mail other website owners in your industry--be sure to choose sites that receive attention and visits from your target market--and invite them to use your article on their site or in their newsletter at absolutely no cost. Many site owners need fresh content, so they'll be more than happy to post your articles--and it won't be long before those articles start driving traffic back to your site.
Another option is to give away your articles through free content websites like these:
Your articles will automatically be made available to thousands of websites seeking free, quality content--and all you have to do is submit your articles once.
Don't underestimate the power of giving away free content. And as your articles gain more exposure, don't be surprised if you're contacted by high-profile magazine and portal sites related to your industry looking for free articles to include on their sites, too.
Step 5: Get free word of mouth publicity using viral marketing. Simply defined, viral marketing is a way for you to spread your marketing message like a virus. You encourage people to pass on information about your site to others, and you use that word-of-mouth publicity to advertise your business. Once you start the "virus," it spreads without you lifting a finger.
Need an example? Try Hotmail.com , the free web-based e-mail service provider. At the bottom of every single Hotmail e-mail sent by Hotmail members, there's a simple one-line message:
"Get your free, private email from MSN at http://www.hotmail.com"
How much time do you think it took Hotmail to include that signature line as part of their e-mail service? Not much at all--but look at the impact this simple strategy had on the growth of their business. In my personal experience, more than 35 percent of all e-mail users have Hotmail accounts!
You can easily duplicate this strategy by doing something as simple as including a "pass it on link" at the end of a free newsletter, something as simple as:
"If you've enjoyed this article, please be sure to forward it to a friend!"
By simply asking readers to take action and forward your newsletter, you'll prompt free word of mouth exposure for your business without any extra cost or hassle.
How else can you put viral marketing to work for you? Here are a few simple ideas:
- Give away free articles (like the ones I describe in Step 4) that include a "pass it on" link.
- Give away free demos of your product.
- Offer a free trial of your service with a "share this great resource" button on the page.
- Hold a contest on your site, and give participants an extra entry for every friend they refer.
- Start an affiliate program (see Step 7 below).
As you can see, you don't need to be the next Hotmail to get started with viral marketing. By simply encouraging people to "share this resource with friends," you can attract some great word-of-mouth traffic.
Step 6: Get free links on other high-traffic websites. Link requests require minimal effort from you, but they can absolutely explode your traffic numbers overnight. How? If your site is a featured link on a major site in your industry--one that receives a ton of attention--your site immediately benefits from all the exposure their site receives.
Getting started with this strategy is simple, but you should follow a standard process every time you request a link. Let's break it down into a few easy steps:
- Do a Google search for your standard keywords--the ones that people generally use to find your site.
- Make detailed notes about the sites that appear regularly in the top ten listings for your major keywords.
- Use the Alexa Toolbar , LinkPopularity or Technorati to find out what other sites these sites are linking to, whose linking to them and how much traffic they're receiving, then look up their contact information.
- Before making contact, make sure you know the correct URL for the site, the URL of the sub-page on which you want your link to appear, the name of the site owner or webmaster, the date you last visited their site, and a brief description of the contents of the site.
When you're ready to contact the owners of these website and request a link, write a personal e-mail--don't use form letters. Be sure to include some positive comments about their site, information about you and your site (along with your URL), an explanation of why a link to you would benefit them, and instructions for contacting you to get started.
You want your request to be thorough and professional. If you can present a persuasive argument for why the link request benefits both of you, you stand a better chance of forging a connection. And if you're really eager to get your link on their site, be prepared to up the ante by offering them a commission or a link on your site in return. The investment could be well worth the extra exposure your marketing message receives.
When other businesses request links on your site, my advice is, be stingy. Just as links on others' sites serve as a personal recommendation of your site, links on your site are recommendations for their businesses. Only recommend the best!
Okay, now let's talk about the ultimate linking strategy.
Step 7: Get thousands of websites to promote your business for free. Imagine hundreds, even thousands, of websites promoting your product or service without spending a dime until someone refers a paying customer. You can do this with what's called an affiliate program.
Affiliate programs--also referred to as "reseller" or "associate" programs--are a great way to get other people (called "affiliates") to promote your product or service for you. For every paying customer your affiliates refer to your site, you pay them a commission. And since you only pay when you make money, it's an extremely low-risk option.
Here's how it works: Your affiliates send visitors to your site using banner ads, text links, letters of referral and so on, while you track these referrals using special software. It's an extremely powerful way to grow your business because it automates your traffic generation. To get started with your own affiliate program, you need to:
- Establish your commissions. To keep your affiliates motivated, you should pay them 40 to 50 percent of your profits per sale.
- Get software to track the traffic and sales of your affiliates so you know what to pay them.
- Provide your affiliates with tools they can use to promote your products, such as e-mails, banners and so on.
- Recruit more affiliates. Look for sites that target your market, and invite them to become affiliates.
Affiliate programs are an ideal way to automate your traffic generation because other people are marketing your site for you. Your sales increase on a daily basis--but your affiliates do all the selling for you, and it doesn't cost you a dime until they send you paying customers.
Now, for the final step, let's talk about what you need to do to keep your traffic coming back to your site again and again.
Step 8: Use e-mail marketing to attract repeat visitors. Getting lots of traffic to your site is great, but if you aren't collecting the contact information--the names and e-mail addresses--of visitors, you're wasting every single click. If visitors leave your site without buying your product, there's a good chance they won't ever be back--and you'll have absolutely no way of following up with them.
Remember: It can take up to seven points of contact to make a single sale, so you'll want to begin collecting visitors' contact information from day one using an opt-in form on your home page. Then send them e-mail messages to follow up and keep them thinking about your site. Need some ideas for e-mails you could send to follow up with your opt-in subscribers? Try these ideas:
- Monthly or bi-weekly newsletters that include tons of tips and information
- Free reports on topics your market would appreciate
- Answers to common questions people ask about your product
- Offers for products similar or complementary to ones you may have already offered them
- Free product trials that give potential customers a taste of what you have to offer
- A "downgrade" offer for a product that's less expensive or robust than your featured offer
Following up with the addresses you gather is quick, easy and simple with e-mail management and automation software. You can create e-mail messages called "autoresponders" that potential customers receive automatically as soon as they opt-in on your site--within seconds--no matter what time of day it is or whether you're even at your desk!
That's right: As soon as your visitors opt in, they'll start hearing from you on a regular basis without you having to deal with the stress of writing a ton of e-mails to individual addresses. This is a process you can put on autopilot from the very beginning.
Obviously, we've covered a lot of ground in this article, so I think it's only fair I point out that, before you dive into any of these strategies, you'll need to do a bit more reading and research on each of these topics in order to understand these tactics in depth. What I've given you is simply a clear roadmap of exactly what you need to do first, second and third to test your website to maximize conversion rates and then roll out an effective traffic campaign that attracts swarms of potential buyers--automatically--for years to come. But reading more on each topic will help figure out exactly what you need to do for your site to make it a success.
Before I wrap up this article, I'd like to make one last point. Over the years, I've noticed a common thread that links all our most successful clients who have internet businesses: They have all focused on implementing one or two marketing strategies really well.
So don't feel like you need to become an expert in all the strategies I've covered here. Focus on becoming really proficient at one or two--because this may be all you need to dramatically increase your traffic--and sales.