Modern businesses live or die by their websites, but it’s hard to build momentum from nothing. Even with a fantastic business idea in place and high-quality content to back it up, there’s no guarantee that you’ll be able to build up an audience that can support your ongoing efforts.
Your Biggest Milestones
One of the biggest milestones in the early stages of your website’s development will be your first thousand visitors—the first thousand people to discover your website and begin using it. If you can hit that number, and retain that audience, you should have no trouble scaling even further.
So why is that first thousand so important, and how can you get those visitors?
Why the First Thousand Is So Important?
Why is the first thousand visitors so important, when most entrepreneurs are looking for long-term gains and sustainability?
- The hardest phase.
Understand that more than 90 percent of all internet startups fail, and the majority of those failed companies fail in their earliest stages of development; once you have an established stream of traffic and revenue in place, it’s much easier to recover from a mistake or get through a period of disinterest.
In the early stages of building your company, you’re much more vulnerable, which makes the first thousand visitors the hardest to achieve. Accordingly, if you can make it past this phase, you’ll have a much higher likelihood of succeeding in future phases.
- Early momentum.
Your first thousand visitors are also important for generating some early momentum. Typically, your site’s first few months will be its most vulnerable, so if you can find some early adopters who are truly passionate about your brand, they’ll be likely to stick around for the long term.
Among those thousand visitors will be brand evangelists, who share your idea with other people, and brand loyalists, who keep coming back for more. Your chances of getting highly dedicated people in a pool of 100 are far lower.
- Testing the idea.
Your first thousand visitors also count as a live test of your business idea. Before you invest too much money or get too involved, you should be able to determine whether your idea has the capacity to scale.
If your first thousand visitors are easy to attract and they love your idea, you’ll know you’re onto something. If they’re hard to attract and they don’t stick around, you’ll know you need to readdress your idea and your presentation; you can even use their feedback as a tool to make the site better for future audiences.
So how are you going to attract those first thousand visitors? There are a handful of phases you’ll need to work through to get there.
Choosing the Value
People will only visit a website if it has something valuable to offer them, so your first job is choosing something that your audience wants. There are a handful of options here, all of which are perfectly valid, but some of which are valuable for some brands more than others:
Some sites build an audience based solely on the high-quality content they provide, whether it’s blog posts, infographics, or videos. Generally, these sites make money through advertising, affiliate links, or other traffic redirection techniques.
You could also offer some specific functionality that others can’t, such as a social media platform’s ability to help you meet other people, or a game’s ability to entertain you. There’s a wide range of options here, but they must all be valuable to users in some way if they’re going to succeed.
- Products and services.
A more direct route to generating revenue online is selling products and services directly. So long as there’s sufficient demand here, this can be the “value” that your website offers. Just make sure you have something unique, tailored to a specific target audience, and are selling it for a fair value.
Designing the Site Effectively
Once you have an idea of that value in place, you’ll need to spend some time and money designing your site effectively. If you have a solid value basis to offer your customers, but your site is poorly designed, you might still send some people away.
- Choosing the right builder.
There are dozens of free and inexpensive website builders available for entrepreneurs and marketers these days, and many of them have strong templates to use when designing your site.
However, you’ll still need to make your decision carefully. Make sure you review the top website builders, and evaluate their pre-designed templates as objectively as possible. Most templates allow you to make some significant changes, but you’ll still need good architecture in place to get started.
You also need to make sure your branding is present and obvious throughout your site, manifesting as logos, colors, fonts, and graphic elements that all speak to the core values and characteristics of your brand.
If you aren’t sure what those are, you’ll need to spend some time defining what your brand is, and why it should appeal to your target audience. From there, you’ll be able to work those elements into your core pages, and ensure that all your imagery and writing falls in line.
Templates are quick and relatively easy to use, but there’s one serious downside: they’re used by hundreds, if not thousands of other companies. You’ll want to make sure there are at least some elements in your design that set you apart from your competitors (and most other sites out there). Otherwise, you won’t be memorable.
If you’re using a website builder and have a good hosting plan, you shouldn’t have to worry too much about the functionality of your site. However, it’s still important to ensure your site works well on all platforms and for all devices; for example, make sure your content loads quickly and easily on mobile and desktop devices equally, and double check your links to make sure they work as expected.
- Connective potential.
Be sure there are at least some onsite elements that encourage people to connect with one another. For starters, you’ll want to make sure all your blog posts and products are equipped with a social share button that allows people to easily share the content with their followers on various social media platforms. Depending on the nature of your site, you may also want to include a customer-centric forum that allows people to engage with one another directly.
Proliferating Your Presence
Once you have a well-designed core website established, your next job will be building out your presence online with outlets like:
- Social media.
Claim your brand’s presence on all the major social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc.), even if you don’t plan to use them. Flesh out your profiles to maximize your discovery potential, and start making connections with people you know. If you can, plan to syndicate your content to these channels at least a few times a week to build up interest.
- Personal brands and partner sites.
You can complement your efforts by also building up personal brands related to your core brand. For example, as CEO, you might use your personal social media profiles to share your site’s main content and increase your range of influence. Similarly, you can partner up with other young sites to share each other’s content and build up your mutual circles.
- Guest posts.
Once you have some strong blog posts on your site, you can start shopping around for guest posting opportunities; guest posting is a powerful strategy for building your influence and reputation, earning backlinks to your site for SEO, and generating ongoing referral traffic. It’s a bit tricky to get started, but if you can establish a flow and work your way up to higher-authority publishers, this can be a source of enormous traffic figures.
Marketing and Advertising
Even with an “established” online presence, you’ll need to work hard to market and advertise your site. There are dozens of different blanket strategies here, but these are some of the most popular and accessible for getting your first thousand website visitors:
- Press releases.
You can start by writing up some press releases announcing your new site, and covering any newsworthy events your company is a part of. There’s a specific format to follow here, and you’ll have to pay a few hundred dollars unless you try to do the distribution yourself, but this can easily net you a few hundred initial visitors, if not more.
- Search engine optimization (SEO).
SEO is a collection of tactics that ultimately increase your site’s likelihood of ranking for relevant searches in Google and other search engines. It’s a topic unto itself, but you can get started with some basic keyword optimization strategies, ongoing site content, and building backlinks through guest posts.
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- Pay-per-click (PPC) ads. You can also generate traffic by leveraging PPC ads. You’ll have to front some money here, but since you’ll only pay for the clicks you generate, you’re guaranteed to get some initial traffic.
Hopefully, with all these important tenets and strategies in place, you should be able to take your website to 1,000 visitors without issue. If you can’t, you may need to reexamine your business plan, and analyze why your idea isn’t working.
Fortunately, you can use all the experience you gained in your first website to build a new one, or start over from scratch. As long as you’re persistent, and you have a good idea backing your site, there’s no reason why you can’t build a thriving audience.