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How to increase website traffic when you’re a new retailer

Written by Russell Cragun on May 23, 2016 in Strategies & Tips
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You have finally finished all of the setup for your business and your site looks great, the catalog is up and running, and you're ready to make your first sale. Problem: no one knows about this new site of yours, and as a result no one is shopping there.

The fact is, you are not going to get thousands of visitors a day after opening shop without spending lots of money, and even then it’s not a guarantee. In order to increase website traffic, you’ll have to roll up your sleeves, and put in some work behind the scenes. Here's what you need to do:

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

SEO stands for ‘search engine optimization.’ It is the process of getting traffic from the “free,” “organic,” “editorial” or “natural” search results on search engines.

"All major search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo have primary search results, where web pages and other content such as videos or local listings are shown and ranked based on what the search engine considers most relevant to users. Payment isn’t involved, as it is with paid search ads.” - Searchengineland.com

By making sure that your on-site SEO is up to snuff you can increase the likelihood of your store popping up in results for search queries on Google, Bing, and Yahoo. To naturally build your SEO portfolio takes time, and you might not see high rankings for quite awhile. However, it is crucial to have a strong foundation. Taking the time to optimize your site for organic search in the beginning will help you get more organic traffic in the future.

SEO can be very confusing to people just getting started. There is a whole new language to learn, and clean methods to learn. The best thing you can do is make sure that things are implemented properly, and that you are doing everything by the books following white-hat practices. Google has become a lot more serious about penalizing companies and sites that try to cheat their way to the top. If you practice black hat practices then there is a possibility your site would get removed from Google and other search engines. To get relisted could take months that would require putting in countless hours fixing your site. Then there is no guarantee that your site will rank as well as it once did.

To learn about the best practices and how to get started in SEO here are some resources to help you get started.

Adwords / PPC

While you work on building up your link profile through SEO you can still improve your search results through Adwords. PPC or Pay-per-click is the method experts use to get your attention when people search specific keywords or phrases. You’ve seen these ads countless times on Google, Yahoo, and Bing.

Most companies will set a monthly budget on how much they are willing to spend on visibility and clicks, and your budget will be determined on what keywords you want to use. It is generally best to begin with -- and focus sufficient budget on -- the most specific keywords related to the products you sell. This ensures you will be visible to shoppers who are the most prepared to make a purchase.

For example, if you wanted to show up for “nike shoes” because you sell their products, you will not earn many sales because a large percentage of people searching “nike shoes” don’t yet know what shoes they want to buy. They may be comparing different models or colors, looking for consumer reviews, or just browsing for a potential future purchase. Big budget competitors like Dick’s Sporting Goods, Scheels, Foot Locker, and Nike themselves can afford to bid for visibility early in the purchase process, but you probably can’t. You’ll want to focus your ad dollars on the keywords that include the make and model, sizes, colors and so forth searched by shoppers that are ready to buy immediately.

Make sure you take advantage of Google Product Listing Ads (PLAs) that will include your products in the listings for Google’s shopping engine and often show them on the first page of the standard search results. 

Screen_Shot_2016-05-23_at_2.21.04_PM.pngAlthough this method could be costly up-front, if you manage it well, it will drive qualified traffic to your site that results in orders. Just make sure that your bids aren’t so high that you’re paying more to get the sale than the sale is worth to your business. This will take some monitoring and adjusting as you go, too. You can never set and forget these campaigns.

We also recommend that you study for and become Google Adwords Certified. By getting certified, you will understand the fundamentals of this method as well as how to use the platform well, which will save you a lot of money in the end.

In order to understand PPC better here are some resources and tools to get you started.

Social Media

The value of having a good social media presence has proved invaluable for companies and brands. A coherent social media strategy can help you understand your followers and will help facilitate authentic and meaningful conversations with customers. Not to mention, social is a great way to retain customers and build a brand presence. Through social media platforms you can promote items, sales, contests, and other promotions at a very cost effective rate.

One of the challenges with with social media is deciding what platforms your business should be on. Other than the well known Facebook and Twitter (which all brands should be on), there is Google +, Linkedin, Instagram, Snapchat, Tumblr, Youtube, Reddit, and so many more. Each platform caters to different audiences in various ways. You will need to know your customer and audience very well to understand which platforms would be a good fit for your business.

Below are some ideas to help you use Facebook and Twitter for your business. Because there are so many platforms, we’ll just stick with the two most popular.  

Related content: The importance of auditing your social media efforts

Facebook

Facebook is by far the most popular and globally used social media network, so odds are a large majority of your customers already have an account. That also means that from an advertising perspective, Facebook could be very beneficial for your company.

Having an inactive Facebook page could raise a red flag for customers. An underdeveloped Facebook page could imply your business isn’t interested in communicating with customers, or that you’re not a legitimate business. It’s important to keep an active presence on your business page as a way to legitimize your company and develop a relationship with your customer.

There is no “right way” to post on Facebook, though there are some methods that are proven to work better than others. For example, images and video content outperforms other types of media such as links and status updates.  Some companies may only post once a day, others post multiple.; content that works for some businesses may not work for you. The trick is to test what resonates with your audience; you may be surprised at the results!

Make sure to use Facebook insights and analytics to measure the success of your posts and to test different types of content.  The below image shows the insights from a video that was posted to our page. You can find analytics on all of your posts in the Facebook "Insights" tab.

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Some post ideas could be:

  • Promotions and sales
  • New products arrivals
  • Contests
  • Industry relevant articles
  • Highly shared content - memes, videos, pictures
  • Holiday wishes
  • New employees
  • Alerts - i.e. site downtime due to maintenance

Twitter

Unlike Facebook, Twitter is updated in real-time. What I mean by that is news, trending topics, and conversations update as they are occuring anywhere in the world. It is a very fast moving platform, and requires a very different posting strategy than Facebook. You’ll have to post multiple times a day to keep your brand in front of potential customers!

One of the greatest capabilities Twitter offers is the ability to communicate with customers in real-time. From a customer service perspective, this is amazing. Since customers are very outspoken with concerns and how they are treated, it is the perfect opportunity to talk with them immediately to address their problems. Be active on Twitter and address questions and concerns quickly. See a great example from Apple Support.

 

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Don’t forget about advertizing!

You can set up campaigns on both Facebook and Twitter to help gain more followers and likes, as well as to promote deals and big events. Make sure to target people that have similar or resonating interests as your company, or you’ll blow through your budget in a matter of minutes.

Here are some social media tools to help you get started with creating and managing your posts:

Blog and PR Opportunities

Another method that can help you drive traffic to your site is by blogging. Blogging is a large time commitment and not every site needs to have a blog. The purpose for having a blog is to improve SEO, establish your business as an industry expert, and provide relevant, useful information for your customers. If you don’t plan on updating your blog regularly or performing keyword research, then it might not be the right direction for you.

If you do decide to have a blog there are many opportunities you can capitalize on. For example, you can build loyal subscribers who can help boost your email list, giving you opportunities to promote your products via email marketing. There is also the opportunity for others to cite your blog and link back to your site, which proves very valuable from an SEO perspective. You also have the option to run giveaways and make special announcements on your forum.

If you decide that you don’t want to run a blog you can still contribute to industry discussion by asking other blogs to feature your webiste if your service is applicable to the blog conversation, or using services such as HARO. At HARO you can find good opportunities to share some insight, and potentially get a referral link pointing back towards your store. If you work with someone that has a large social presence you could gain additional followers and likes on your social accounts.

Here are some additional resources to help you follow trends and edit your blog and improve writing skills:

Regardless what method you focus on to increase website traffic when you’re just starting out, make sure that you do it professionally and patiently. There are a lot of easy ways to boost your social followers overnight, which would significantly damage your reputation and legitimacy. Stick it out and put in the time and research to build up your site based on some of the suggestions we have hit on. 


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