Web site owners the world over want more traffic. It’s highly unlikely that you want less traffic for your own web site, or that you are happy with the traffic you get. No matter how many people who visit your web site, you probably want more. You want crowds of people attending to your site – and acting on it.
So, how can you beat the competition and get more people visiting your site and returning to it in their droves? The answer is to start analysing those web sites that already get high traffic. Look at sites that get large volumes of visitors and have a think about what they do to achieve that.
You will find that they fall into two distinct camps: firstly there are web sites that provide an essential service to us – the likes of Google or Amazon; then there are the sites which provide us with interesting content – like the BBC, Facebook or even Twitter. If you provide an essential service to web users the answer to more traffic is simple – marketing (particularly offline). That’s how Google, Amazon and Hotmail got their traffic – massive marketing campaigns and public relations activities, almost entirely offline.
Most web site owners, though, don’t have an essential service. Instead, the vast majority of web sites that could get more traffic are those which provide content – information that other people are interested in. True, you can get more visitors using offline marketing – similar to Google and Amazon – and you ought to at least try that. However, there are some principles of successful content sites, like the BBC and Guardian Online which you could use.
The first principle – which is the same thing that printed newspapers have been doing for centuries – is to make your web site different every time someone returns. Although a daily newspaper has structure and “navigation” the content within that changes day in, day out. You wouldn’t buy a newspaper today if it were the same as yesterday’s. So why would anyone visit your web site if it were the same as yesterday’s?
One of the key reasons why successful content sites get such high levels of traffic is because those sites change every day – indeed the really good ones that get massive volumes of traffic change every hour or more. If you want more traffic, you need to emulate those successful sites and change your website content regularly – particularly the front (home) page.
The next principle of a successful content web site – which brings them in extra visits – is to highlight related material. If you are reading something and the site alerts you to additional material, or related information you realise that there is more depth to the information, making it more appealing. Newspapers have been doing this for years – running a news article on the front page and including “links” to further material such as a feature article or comment piece later in the publication. Successful content web sites also use this principle; does your web site?
Another reason why some content sites get lots of traffic is because they surprise us. Instead of providing us with “regular” content – stuff we would expect – every now and then they give us something that makes us go “wow” or “really?”. Television news has been doing this for decades – ending the bulletin with a story that makes us sit up and take notice. Web sites that gain high numbers of readers do the same; they include something unusual, interesting or thought-provoking that goes beyond their normal “run of the mill” stuff. How often does your web site do this.
However, people also like your “run of the mill” material. They expect good content web sites to have regular material they can rely on. Whether it is in the form of updated, good quality free reports, features and articles that appear on specific topics or a weekly podcast, people like web sites that have “old reliables”.
Finally, high traffic sites also allow interaction. In just the same way as newspapers and magazines have been doing for hundreds of years, you can interact with high traffic web sites. Whether it is in the form of comments (the old “reader’s letters” of newspapers) or by providing new information by adding content yourself (like Twitter or Facebook), interactivity is key. If your web site doesn’t allow interaction, you will not get the traffic you want.
So, there you have it – five principles of gaining extra traffic:
1. Change your web site regularly (preferably every day)
2. Highlight related content and point people to it
3. Provide unusual content every now and then
4. Have regular columns or features – “old reliables”
5. Allow interactivity