Having a professional website does not instantly mean that you have a successful online business. Like any venture, be it in the real world or online, you have to work to make your business a success.
Imagine having a shop that does not have any customers. It’s worthless. The same applies to your website. You need people to visit your website. Some will just browse around while others will make enquiries and a few will buy your product or service.
These people, or website visitors as they are referred to, reach your website through many different routes. The flow of visitors in and out of your website is referred to as traffic in internet terms. So your goal is to always increase the traffic to your website.
But it’s important to get the right traffic.
When you first launch your website you may get little or even no traffic. Don’t worry. This is how it goes with a new small business website. The first traffic may be your friends and family who may just be doing you a favour by visiting your website.
As a business you need paying customers and not just window shoppers.
These paying customers are known as targeted traffic. This simply means people who have an interest in your products or services and will most likely buy from you. It’s better to have a small volume of targetted trafic than a large volume of ‘window shopping’ traffic.
Imagine a 30 year old man searching online for a sports car but stumbles upon a website on beauty products. He does not constitute targeted traffic. His visit to the beauty product website is a waste of time. There is a chance that he may buy a beauty product for his wife or girlfriend. But the fact is that he was looking for sports cars in the first place.
So this is the idea behind targeted traffic. Get the right market segment who has an interest in your products or services to visit your website. Even then it is only some of these visitors who will buy your product. This is your target market that who most likely will either buy from you now or in the future.
The 80/20 rule applies here. Only 20% of your traffic will buy anything. The other 80% may look around but do not buy. If you set up your online business properly then the 20% of buyers will make your business a profitable venture.
There are five ways that visitors will reach your website. If you are intent on establishing a successful online business then you need to understand this concept thoroughly. You may find more success in one or two channels only but always try to maximise traffic from all five channels.
The first channel is direct traffic. These are website visitors who enter your website address and come directly to your website. They do not use Google, social media or ads to find your website. These customers know your website address because they may have seen it on your business card or were told about it by a friend.
Direct traffic is great. Any customer who chooses to come to your website directly most likely knows what they want and what you have to offer. They are therefore more likely to make a purchase immediately or at least enquire about your products and services which can later lead to a sale.
However, in most cases direct traffic constitutes the minority of traffic. It is only a profitable channel for big brands and large companies. For example, customers will visit Toyota’s website directly because they know the Toyota brand and possibly want to buy their car.
But for the average small to medium enterprise (SME), direct traffic constitutes visitors that are few and far between. Nevertheless do not ignore the direct channel. Try to get your website out there as much as possible. Print your website address on your business card and hand out as many business cards you can. Display your website address clearly on a business pamphlet or brochure.
Ensure that your website address is at the bottom of every email that you send, whether it is personal or business. If you have a car, then display your website address on the bumper, the doors and anywhere else where it will be spotted.
The second and possibly the most important channel is search traffic or also known as organic traffic. This constitutes people who come from search engines like Google and Yahoo. We will dedicate an entire lesson to optimising your website for search engine traffic.
For now we will just cover the topic briefly. Search traffic is great because it is one of the higher converting traffic. This simply means that customers who come from search engines are more likely to buy your product or service.
Why? Because they know what they’re looking for and are not just browsing aimlessly.
Imagine the typical search engine user like yourself. You want a product or service and you Google it. In response, Google serves you a list of results that are related to their search term.
If you search for ‘hamburgers’ then Google will serve you a list of results about hamburgers and cooking. Google will not serve you results about cars or houses. It is Google’s job to ensure that it shows relevant results. If it could not do this then nobody would use Google.
You can capitalise on Google’s service. If you can gain the right type of recognition by Google you will be listed in its results. The higher up you are on Google’s results, the more search traffic you will get. For now though, all you need to know is that search traffic is great for finding customers.
You can buy ads on other websites, social media platforms and even on Google’s search engine to get more customers. This is referred to as the paid traffic.
While paid ads can work very well, the fact is that it needs money. It can be very expensive depending on where you choose to advertise your business. Most new small businesses do not have a big budget to work with and paid ads are often ignored.
However, if and when finances permit then paid ads should be an option. It can grow your business to new heights in a very short space of time and ensure consistent sales.
The referral channel means traffic that is acquired from other websites. If you have an interesting website then other websites may link to you. This means that their visitors may then visit your website.
Referral traffic does not usually constitute a large volume of your website traffic. However, if you are fortunate enough to get linked to by a popular website then you could see your traffic rise almost instantly.
For example, if you developed an exciting new product that is unique you may find many news websites will start talking about you and your product. These news websites may link to you and their readers may then come through those links to you website.
Some website owners try to put their website address anywhere and everywhere on the internet – in comment boxes on news websites, online directories and so on. This is not always advisable as you may be attracting some ‘bad’ associations within poor quality websites. It can hurt your search engine rankings. Rather wait for another website to link to you and refer some of their traffic in a legitimate way.
One of the best ways to get targeted traffic is through social media. Facebook and Twitter are by far the two most popular social media networks used by South Africans. You can buy ads on Facebook and Twitter but that takes money.
Fortunately you can get free traffic from social media networks. If you create strong profiles, interact with South Africans on social media and share relevant content then more people will show interest in your business or website.
Relevance is the keyword here. If you are a selling or promoting video games then try to keep your social media interactions about video games. Also consider the market segment you should be targeting as consumers and find these people on social media.
It is pointless connecting with a 60 year old on social media and trying to sell him or her a video game. They are most likely not interested in video games and will not buy any apart from the odd gift to a grandchild. Rather find younger people on social media especially those who state that they enjoy playing video games.
You can gauge a lot about a person based on their social media profile and associations. Also try to interact with similar businesses as yours on social media. You may be able to source some customers indirectly by making business-to-business connections.
Another success story
If you are still doubting whether an online business can be a profitable enterprise then you may want to read this story about a stay-at-home mum who makes a six figure dollar income from her blog. Her name is Heather Armstrong and she has a blog known as Dooce (www.dooce.com).
Initially Heather’s blog was more of a past time than an actual business . She used to blog about her daily life every now and then. Eventually Heather wrote some “not so flattering” stuff about her boss and colleagues on her blog. When this was discovered she was fired. Heather then focused on her blog and grew it into a full time business.
She writes about everyday stuff in her life – her kids, her pets, trips to the supermarket and about her kitchen appliances. Her writing caught the attention of internet users who could relate to her life. In other words the traffic increased and Heather then capitalised on this by letting businesses place ads on her blog.
The success of dooce.com is well known to experienced ontrepreneurs. Heather Armstrong was featured on the Oprah Show and Time Magazine named her one of the twenty most influential women in media in 2009. You can read up more about Heather across the internet and there is even a page about her on Wikipedia.
Not every blogger will be a Heather Armstrong. Not every online business will be as successful as dooce.com. But it is always motivating to know that these successful ontrepreneurs exist. Heather won’t reveal her income but estimates are that it may be as much as $40,000 to $50,000 per month. That is US dollars which equates to around R600,000 to R750,000 per month.
Something to think about!