When you need more foot traffic in a brick-and-mortar store, the solutions are obvious. Get a more visible sign. Create an offer that will draw people in. Turn on the lights and increase your hours. Go bigger, better, bolder.
But for a small business website, acquiring more traffic is sometimes more art than science.
For any small business today, getting more feet in the door boils down to three things: advertising on social media, knowing your target audience, and having a website worthy of being visited in the first place. Here’s how you should tackle all three.
Strategy #1: Better Content
Quality content is the foundation. With it, you’ll find people willingly share your website with friends, willingly post your links to social media — often without you having to ask.
But a phrase like “quality content” is a loaded term. What exactly does it involve, and how can you achieve more of it? Here are a few ideas:
Long-form blog posts. Good writing that communicates interesting ideas will always have a market. A good rule of thumb to use: “Will people want to bookmark this post?” If not, you have more work to do. Personal Finance guru Ramit Sethi has admitted to spending upwards of 18 hours drafting a single post because he knows that once those 18 hours are over, that post will continue to drive traffic for as long as his website stays online.
Find what’s interesting about your small business. There’s always something you can offer people. Sell homemade soap online? Write a comprehensive blog post about how you achieved the perfect balance of suds and scents. Sell custom-made apparel? Create a quick guide for how to take the best possible care of your shirts. No matter what business you’re in, if you’re making sales, then there are also people out there who want to know more about your product.
Make your website worth browsing. A lot of entrepreneurs today treat their websites like business cards. They slap up their contact information, an “About Us” page, and call it a day. But you won’t attract real website traffic without incentives. Yes, if you have an online shop, your products can serve as the incentive. But go beyond that and have some fun. Advertise a contest on your website. Include a mortgage calculator for the homeowners seeking you out. If your website isn’t worth browsing, no amount of advertising will fix your traffic problem.
In short, create a website that you would want to visit on a regular basis. Chances are, your audience will feel the same way.
Strategy #2: Better Advertising
Note: “better” is not necessarily a synonym for “more.” Better advertising simply means improved advertising — and if you aren’t getting enough traffic to your small business website, chances are there’s more than one area in which you can improve.
But where do you start?
Look for your “1,000 true fans.” A classic article by Kevin Kelly once argued that any entrepreneur’s mission should be to find 1,000 true fans. These fans are the types who are interested in just about anything you do — and will be for a lifetime. When you create enough value from your business to receive $100 from each fan, you’ll never want for a living. If your business has more ambitious goals, remember to always think about advertising through the prism of what your “1,000 true fans” might want, not what the population at large wants.
Set a target. A lot of your success depends on your ability to accurately assess exactly who these 1,000 true fans are. If you run a cleaning business, Entrepreneur notes, then you’re necessarily going to be limited by the geographical radius in which you can provide your services. But there are other ways to find your target market, whether it be through late-night sessions on Google’s keyword tool to find what they’re looking for or simply identifying people by lists and groups on social media. Either way, you should end up with a precise idea of what one of your “true fans” really wants.
A/B Testing. Don’t just advertise — figure out what works. When you pay for an advertisement, make sure you’re paying for two things: more reach, and more knowledge. Even if your outreach fails, you’ll still be left with the knowledge of what doesn’t work. Keep testing it, even if it’s simply to find out which one of your landing pages gets more conversions or which one of the headlines you wrote seems to attract more attention. Without A/B testing, you’re only guessing, which means your success will be the result of a greater percentage of luck than any entrepreneur should want.
Once you define your target audience, many of the ancillary questions — which social media outlet to focus on, which keywords to identify, etc. — get answered. The important thing here: developing the right advertising habits.
Strategy #3: Better Social Media
You might not be able to afford a full-time social media pro like the big chains can, but you can always make an effort to increase engagement on social media.
It starts with spreading the word. If you’ve already followed through on Strategy #1 in this post, then you’ll have more than a few links to share. Think about what makes them appealing and post them up to Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
Second, always pay attention to engagement. Are you responding to customer questions? Making the occasional retweet? Customers won’t engage with you if it’s a one-way conversation.
Finally, make a special effort to create offers that are unique to social media. Polls, contests, online discounts — if you send enough out to your audience, eventually a few potential customers are going to feel like maybe you’re worth a “like” or a “follow.”
Get More Traffic
Coupled with better identification of your target audience and a more interesting website, and you should notice traffic starting to tick up. What’s more, your strategies should pay off with better quality traffic: customers who stick around. That means more conversions, more sales, and a more profitable small business.
And without a brick-and-mortar presence, you won’t even have to turn off the lights at the end of the night.