How We Tripled Our Traffic

By Kieran

Traffic - Photo by wakajawaka @ flickr

After just a couple short months, I’m thrilled to say we’ve tripled the traffic to our site.  Like any other successful business, we’ve been using various methods and tools to bring in the appropriate visitors.  The data has been gathered and analyzed via Google Analytics, and I have to admit I’m a bit surprised by the results.

Are those t-shirts you bought your employees a good form of advertising?  What about business cards and e-mail signature links?  Is tweeting worth the effort?  Being a relatively new business and having only been blogging for a handful of months, I consider these results to be based on a clean slate, not biased by historical efforts or data.  Let’s take a look!

Alexa.com currently ranks the ShuttleBox site at 1,418,571th in the world and 195,308th in the United States.  Two of our local competitors, around for over a decade now, are sitting at 1,002,426th worldwide but only 548,529th in the United States, and 8,509,521th worldwide and can’t even provide a rank within the United States.  It is important not just to bring in traffic, but to bring in the right traffic, and I think we’ve done an outstanding job of that in the past couple months that we’ve started blogging and taking a serious stab at bringing in targeted traffic.

Wanting to know what we’re doing right and where we need to improve, I’ve categorized our traffic sources into seven segments: Direct, Sharing, Search, Social, RSS, Commenting, and Link.  Below you can see how much each attributed to our total traffic.

From where does our traffic come?

From where does our traffic come?

Direct Traffic – 32.5%

The trail of URLs scattered around e-mail signatures, business cards, t-shirts, and possibly even a billboard here or there do bring in a lot of traffic.  Traffic is considered direct when someone visits your site by typing in your site’s address in their browser to get to your site.  I’ve long been a proponent of this type of marketing.  The best traffic you can get is from the folks who are trying to get to your site.  They want to get to your site to find out more information about your products or services, to read your blog, to look up your address or phone number.  They’ve found your URL somewhere and are intentionally seeking you out.

I’ve seen a lot of businesses neglect to put their URL on their stationary, advertising, and company vehicles because they figured it wouldn’t be worth it.  Don’t be one of them.  Apart from on your site, anywhere your name or logo shows up, your URL should be right there with it.  It should be a cohesive part of your branding strategy.

Sharing – 31.6%

Most folks using the Internet to market their business are dedicated to social media as one of their primary methods of marketing.  However, there is an entirely different segment that can bring in, in our case, far more traffic.  I call this segment “sharing.”  While similar to social media, this segment is often, but not always, associated with an industry or limited to professionals who have proven authoritative on a topic.

The idea is that after you write a new blog entry (you do have a blog, right?), you share it with associated sites.  For example, our blog has been accepted into Technorati.  When we write a blog entry, it is automatically included in the list of Technorati’s articles.  If someone stumbles upon it there, they may come to our site to see what else we have to offer.  Other examples of sharing sites may include Digg, Delicious, BlogEngage and NewsVine.

Because sharing your content often takes more effort that just a tweet or status update, many people shy away from this approach.  These are not good places to spam, either.  They expect good content from good people who put in an effort.  If one of your articles becomes popular on one of these sites, expect a lot of traffic to be headed your way.

How can you make sharing your content on these sites easier?  We use ByZe.us to share our articles.  While primarily a URL shortening service, once you’ve created a short URL, it allows you to quickly and easily share the page with dozens of social sharing sites.  Full disclosure: we love and use ByZe.us because we made it.  Originally created for internal use, hence the lack of visual creativity, we figured we had no reason not to open up the doors to everyone else.  Feel free to use it if you like.

Social – 12.3%

Everyone has heard of Twitter and Facebook by now, so I won’t dwell on what social marketing is in this article.  However, I find it interesting that this only constitutes about twelve percent of our traffic.  It is definitely worth the minimal effort needed to partake in social media.  It is free, takes little time (depending on your approach), and does bring in a good chunk of traffic.

There are still doubters of this approach, but I also know 1) who they are, 2) that they read our blog, and 3) that they come here from a social networking site.  Interesting, huh?  If you are a doubter, ask yourself if you are willing to throw away a percentage of visitors and the business they bring? While some doubters wraps up their bankruptcies, sell out, or worse yet close their doors for good, others around them have flourished and actually grown during the recession, some of them by 40% or just under a million dollars.  Many of these businesses are moving into bigger buildings, hiring extra helping hands, and are able to offer more enticing wages and benefits.  Which boat do you want to be in?

Granted, this isn’t entirely hinged on social marketing, by any means, but I feel those that are willing to adopt social marketing best represent the mindset of those who are willing to adapt, grow with the times, and keep an open mind.  Old-school business mindsets simply won’t get you anywhere in today’s world.

Search – 11.1%

Search engine optimization is very important.  Why though?  Because it brings people who are seeking out information on a specific topic right to your doorstep.  Someone landing on your site from a search engine should, if the search engines are doing their part well, be faced with exactly the information they were seeking.  This is targeted marketing at its finest!  Granted, it takes some time to tidy up your site but the rewards are well worth the effort.

Recently I’ve noticed a run on sites using some old Microsoft software, the name of which escapes me at the moment (if anyone knows, please comment), that fails to put in any decent metadata.  No keywords.  No description.  Nothing.  Furthermore the first part of the page, just after the body tag, is clogged with a hidden input field that is over two-thousand-ninety-eight characters long!  Considering search engines read the first couple hundred characters of a page for the context of the site, I consider this an epic fail.

The same people who use this as their solution also claim they will update weekly yet haven’t touched the site in months.  They also happen to be some of the folks who don’t believe in social marketing yet visit our blog via a social network.  Go figure.  To succeed in the search engines, you need to play the games the search engines want you to play and you need regularly updated content.  With these two things in place, you may be surprised at the results.

RSS – 6.6%

Keeping your content regularly updated does more than keep the search engines happy; it keeps the visitors to your site happy too.  By keeping the content flowing, you will develop a following, many of which will eventually subscribe to your RSS feed, either via a feed-reader or e-mail subscriptions.  These folks are believers in your business and want to be actively notified when you update your site.  This number grows slowly at first, as it typically takes people a couple of visits to realize that the content you provide is valuable to them.  I’m excited we’re getting any RSS activity so early in the game and look forward to seeing how this plays into things in the future.  What traffic source’s percentages will fall as this percentage increases?

Miscellaneous – 5.9%

Included in this section are links from our other sites, links from comments we’ve left on blogs, and other random links scattered around the ‘net.  Apart from the links on our other sites, these links are practically accidental.  When someone asks for a URL, give it to them; chances are it will be displayed on your profile or comment and will bring in some “accidental” traffic – traffic not sought but of course one is glad to have.

Summary

These are our numbers and represent the game board we’re playing on.  Because your mileage may very, the important thing to bring with you at the end of this journey is the concept that no one segment should be entirely neglected.  Any traffic is good traffic.  Not all segments should be pushed equally however.  Using Google Analytics you can determine your return on investment, be that investment time or money, and come up with a game plan that can generate some serious traffic to your site.

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2 Responses to “How We Tripled Our Traffic”

  1. Excellent….no…Brilliant! :: Raises glass of Guiness ::

    I’m shocked that you failed to include LinkedIn as one of your key social media outlets. LinkedIn, often referred to as the corporate social network site, has evolved to something big. They supply businesses the opportunity to connect with head-honchos in high places, but also allow for status updates much the same way Twitter does (in fact, the new Outlook integration with Twitter and LinkedIn is amazingly slick!).

    Beyond that, many professionals can answer questions asked by the community, which builds a reputation as being an expert. If you can associate your URL as being the source of expertise, you are bound to increase traffic to your site as it gets crawled and visited by those readers.

    Shame on you for forgetting LinkedIn. :-)

  2. Kieran says:

    Funny you would bring up LinkedIn; I was just conversing with a couple friends on the topic of LinkedIn being a viable social tool for businesses. There was a clear division in the conversation. Sole proprietors loved it as a social tool while those whose businesses had more than one employee weren’t as keen on it for that purpose.

    I do think a lot of people overlook the questions/answers section though when thinking of LinkedIn in the social sense. Be you one of one or one of many, Answers is a great area where everyone can strut their stuff, voice their opinions, and earn brownie points not just for themselves, but also for their business.

    I think, too, that some of the third-party social media tools are making it easier to have your LinkedIn profile suck in some things such as the RSS feed from a company’s blog.

    Regardless, you are very correct! LinkedIn is a great social tool to promote a business. It is just a shame that the business profiles are so static and lacking and we’re simply learning how to use our personal profiles as pseudo business profiles.
    .-= Kieran´s last blog… Changing People’s Behavior by Making Things Fun – Piano Stairs =-.

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