Website Traffic Sources: Oars, Motors, and Sails
The main sources of website traffic are email, social media, pay-per-click and search engine optimization, and direct traffic. The activities behind each are distinct.
Imagine your site weighing anchor and pushing off from the dock, headed out to sea for a fishing trip. The farther you go, the more fish you’ll catch. You want to go far, you want to go fast, and you want to go without breaking your back (or your bank account) in the process.
You’ve got three main options: row, sail, or fire up the motor.
Rowing: Social Media and Email Marketing
These are the activity-based traffic drivers. Stroke! Stroke! Stroke! It’s great because every time you pull those oars, you move ahead. On the other hand, if you stop, you won’t coast for long, and soon you’ll be dead in the water. It’s also hard work and requires commitment, but it gets easier. Eventually, it builds brands (and upper body strength).
Row like an Olympian:
- Coordinate. Combine social media with PR by networking with journalists. Use social and email to promote press and articles.
- Be consistent. Stick to a publishing calendar, and commit to sustainable email and social activity levels.
Sailing: Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
If sailors are at the whim of the weather, search optimizers are at the whim of Google. SEO is difficult to predict. Every page on the site has the potential to rank and build traffic like sails catching a gust, as long as it’s optimized for search. SEO is both a skill and a time-consuming task.
SEO is great because once you start ranking, it’s often durable, and you’ll continue getting traffic with much less continued effort. But it can be bad because it’s slow, especially if it’s your maiden voyage (new website, young domain) and if your targeted phrases are highly competitive (major headwinds).
Sail like an admiral:
- Make lots of sails. Write often, and write with search terms in mind. Target many keyphrases.
- Check your rigging. There are a lot of little technical details and connections that impact SEO. Make sure your crew understands URL structure (www or no www), 301 redirects (no page should come up under two addresses), broken links (check webmaster tools), and internal linking.
- Be patient. This might take a while.
Motor: Pay-Per-Click Advertising (PPC)
Pay-per-click is great because it’s fast. Anyone can set up an AdWords account and start getting traffic the day after tomorrow. Vrooom! However, it’s expensive. Think of it as buying visitors. You’ve got to put gas in that gas tank or the motor doesn’t run. Turn it off, and it stops as quickly as it started.
I’ve heard many tales of captains running huge, expensive motors full speed ahead and not catching a single fish.
Drive like a champion:
- Fine-tune that motor: PPC accounts need careful monitoring and maintenance. Tweak your ads, and target phrases and landing pages based on click-throughs and bounce rates.
- Start slow, but let it run: you can’t fine-tune until you have enough information. A small budget over several months will give you better data than a large budget for a few weeks.
There’s another way to move the ship forward: branding. Direct traffic comes from people typing your address right into the address bar. Searches for your brand don’t show up as direct traffic in Analytics, but it’s basically the same thing.
Anything that you do that builds your brand can drive traffic and move you forward, just like a current under the boat. You can help keep the current flowing by doing things offline: networking, advertising, speaking, guerilla marketing, and putting your web address on your product and everything else you can think of.
Well, That’s It, Matey.
Time to cast off and start driving traffic! But first, if you have any boating tips that would help your fellow sailors, let us know with a comment below.