One of the hardest parts about starting a website is directing traffic to it. Every business needs a solid site that represents their company well. You also don’t want your polished, electronic gem to sit in a dark corner of the internet where no one is looking at it.
The easiest way to grow a following for your website is to use the lifecycle model. First figure out what stage of its lifecycle your website is in.
As each stage differs, so do the necessary actions taken to grow that website differ. Each lifecycle stage has simple steps that will help your site enjoy healthy growth. Each stage will enable you to adopt tactics that will promote your business at an improved rate.
The infographic above shows the three stages. Let's dig into each one and see what makes it tick.
Stage 1: Content Critical Mass
This is pretty straight forward. You create a site that’s worth following and shows your audience information and advertisements that they are interested in seeing. This is probably the most important stage.
If you have even just one consumer who reads an article on your website and wants to read more than one, you’ve created content that is interesting and engaging to a reader who is in your target audience. This is commonly known as Curb Appeal. You want the number of pages visited to be high and the bounce rate to be low.
How do you know whether your content is good enough?
First, you should be getting good analytics–time on site is high, pages visited is high, and bounce rate is low.
Here are some metrics on content quality taken from my Top 15 Master Marketers study:
The Top 15 are getting not quite 2 minutes of average visit duration, almost 2 pages seen, and a bounce rate of 63.03%.
By the way, those metrics are totally achievable. For comparison, I keep a list of marketing related blogs that have relatively low traffic.
Here’s what their metrics look like:
- Average Duration: 2:34
- Average Pages: 2.24
- Bounce Rate: 55.3%
That’s right–the average small blogger does better than the Top 15. All we’re looking for here is to have you get to their averages.
Along with good content metrics, you'll know you have solid content if readers are joining your email list. That's their way of voting for you and saying your content is good enough they don't want to miss out on future posts.
To help increase the number of folks who give you their email, you want to make sure you’ve placed lead magnets that increase motivation to sign up for your email list.
A lead magnet offers up extra information, or free trials on your product, or any sort of reward for investing time into learning more about your business.
Lead magnets are a great way to develop a longer-term relationship with your audience and get them to expect generosity and honesty from you.
You know the first stage of the lifecycle is complete when your list conversion is greater than 1%. You can do better, but if you're doing much worse, you need to try harder.
When visitors subscribe to an email list or follow you on social media, you've got the best shot at getting them to visit again. The more visits, the greater the chance they'll become paying customers.
This is the first big step to developing a huge consumer base, so do it right and focus until you get at least the minimum conversions to your email list!
Stage 2: Borrowed Traffic
Borrowed traffic comes from links on social media like Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. It can also come from advertisements on other sites, comments you make on blogs, and many other sources. You are borrowing subscribers from another website by inviting them via link.
Traffic that you get from people searching for your site or bookmarking it themselves is not borrowed traffic.
Borrowed traffic is great for getting started, but is not a sustainable form of growth in the long run. It’s expensive and most big businesses do not use borrowed traffic as their main source of traffic. None of the Top 15 Master Marketers live off Borrowed Traffic because it’s expensive. Here’s how the Top 15 get their traffic:
Most large websites rely on search traffic for most of their audience. It's the cheapest and most efficient way to drive traffic.
The problem with running a smaller site is that search engines don’t reward sites that aren’t already in control of high-volume keywords. You need to establish a larger audience before you rely on search results as the main way for people to find your website.
On the brighter side, borrowed traffic can be a quick and easy way to establish a consumer base that’s curious about new products and took the time to click away from what they were doing to see your site.
It’s important to test many different kinds of borrowed traffic, as they all work different. When I started my newest site, I tested 11 different traffic sources to see which would work best.
Here’s a rundown of how borrowed traffic from different sites helped grow traffic on my entrepreneurship site:
- Quora: In total, I got about 1500 visits during the 8 weeks from Quora. This was my single largest traffic driver by 2x, and I will be doubling down on it and discontinuing most of the others moving forward.
- Facebook: An old standby and not bad, but it only brought half the traffic Quora did despite my actually spending a lot more time on it.
- LinkedIn: This is the #2 for my CNCCookbook site, but only brought 1/8 the traffic of Quora for my entrepreneur’s site. CNCCookbook has a large B2B audience, and I suspect that’s why it does so well with LinkedIn.
- Pinterest: This is #1 for CNCCookbook, which makes little sense. It’s audience is dominated by women, mine is men. It’s not a B2B venue at all, but CNCCookbook is 70% B2B.
Even so, I get great traffic from it on CNCCookbook. The reason is the scarcity of photos for my topic areas so anyone who is interested comes to me quickly. I got almost nothing for the entrepreneur blog. I will try again in 6 months.
- Medium: Have heard great things about it, but I only got results about 1/8 as good as Quora for the entrepreneur blog despite a fair amount of work. Could be I haven’t found the formula yet.
- Reddit: Again, I’ve heard great things. Results were not bad—a little better than LinkedIn, but nowhere close to Quora.
- Blog Comments: Leaving blog comments is a time-honored tradition that was my main method of building CNCCookbook when I first started. It can help a lot, but I find it very time consuming relative to the other methods. I did get decent results commenting on some of Neil Patel’s posts, but again, nowhere close to Quora.
- Guest Posting: This has been my #2 for the entrepreneur blog. Very effective if you can find some good opportunities and great for link building too. Still, for raw traffic Quora wins hands down.
- Google+: Not bad, easy to do, but not huge either. I like it because it shows up often in search results where I otherwise couldn’t play.
- YouTube: Pretty decent channel, but it is a lot of work to produce videos all the time!
- Repurposing Content: This is rewriting content to different formats. For example, converting a blog post to a video or slideshow. Again, decent results, but a lot of work.
Obviously, the results vary for different kinds of websites. Most businesses lend themselves to more commercial advertising based websites, whereas more personal blog type sites are easier to promote through social media.
When the you’re in the Borrowed Traffic stage of your website you need to find what works, converge all your efforts on that and stop wasting time on what doesn’t. It always helps to research ways to make platforms that don’t work as well, work better, if you’re interest in a specific site for borrowed traffic.
What you're doing is trying to find which water coolers your audience hangs out at:
Each platform is simple and easy, and you wll follow similar steps to test it:
1. Set up a business account even if you already have a personal account and dedicate it to growing your business-related audience..
2.Share articles, pictures, videos, and other forms of entertainment that give your audience useful and engaging content. Make sure each post you make has some tie back to your website, preferably a link.
3. Rinse and repeat!
To really understand in detail how this is done on each Social Platform, read by step-by-step case study on how I did it with Quora. You'll do something similar for each platform you test.
The links in your borrowed audience sites will bring traffic back to your site. If your content on your site is good enough, your visits will link and share your site themselves, widening your audience even farther. But most importantly, those links from other sites to your site are building your domain authority.
The only way to know when you’re ready to move to stage 3 is to know your domain authority. Until it is high enough to help you win high volume keywords, you're not ready for Stage 3. Here's the relationship between domain authority, keyword volume, and website traffic:
Big name marketers get almost all of their traffic from popular search engines and direct searches on those engines. This traffic is from high volume (popular) keywords.
If you have high domain authority you can win high search ranking for popular keywords that direct people to your site. Domain authority doesn’t need to be an outrageous number, and it varies from one keyword to the next, but anything less than 30 is too weak to rank high for the popular keywords you’re looking for.
Stage 3: SEO Hypergrowth
At this point in the lifecycle of your site you’re ready to stop spending so much effort on Borrowed Traffic and start letting the search results on Google and others bring you much more traffic at a much lower cost. This is the SEO superhighway that will send you the highest number of visitors with the lowest amount of effort.
This is where you want to be for growth of more mature businesses.
The only problem is you need high volume keywords to direct more people to your site and you need a high domain authority to win those keywords from other websites.
Your domain authority is like your level in a video game. The higher your level, the stronger enemies you can take on and win more treasures!
But just like any good adventurer, make sure you research which keywords are right for your site and which ones you have the domain authority to take on and make your own.
Remember a few things:
- There are zillions of keywords out there to go after.
- Each one has a difficulty score based on who else is competing for the keyword. It’s based on the domain authority of the competitors.
- Think of your domain authority as your level in the video game example. The higher it is, the more fights you can win, and the bigger the stakes for those fights.
Based on that, life in the SEO Hypergrowth Phase is largely about:
- Keyword research to find which fights you can win.
- Writing content that wins for those keywords.
- Building backlinks so your domain authority goes up and it gets easier to win.
- Rinse and repeat.
You now have a complete roadmap for how to increase your website’s visitors. Drill down into the details for your website's lifecycle stage and start growing your traffic!