The Small Business Owner's Guide:

108 tips, tools and resources for getting more website traffic


by Tim Kelsey and Aron Schuhmann

Marketing your business online is serious work that can make or break the success of a company. However, it is possible to master the basics yourself and start seeing tangible results without having to bend over backwards. But where do you start? Well, you need traffic.

Our comprehensive guide is for every business owner. You can drive more traffic to your site and inevitably convert new visitors into happy customers. Try our steps below to start on your journey to more website traffic, more customers, and more growth.

Step 1: Publish

Demonstrate Your Value

Your great homepage content is not enough. To get sustained visibility and traffic, you need a regular stream of helpful and interesting content that visitors can easily find. How do you attract new visitors? Use your advantage as an expert and authority in your field.

Here are some types of content that help you (a) get found and (b) get your voice heard:

White Papers - These focus on a particular subject and/or industry vertical. White papers are specific, informative guides to help a user make a decision about your business. They're a great opportunity to show the depth of your knowledge and expertise.

eBooks - Though similar to white papers in their focused content, ebooks tend to be longer, more comprehensive—and even entertaining if they have exciting designs. Drive leads from your traffic by giving ebooks away in return for contact information. Create a landing page with your ebook offer, and send traffic from your email and advertising campaigns to it. As long as you're offering quality content, people usually don't have a problem giving away their contact information in exchange for it.

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Blog articles - Blog articles are easy to produce and can help your site in multiple ways:

  • Content is the fuel for your internet marketing engine, and blog articles are a key source of content for any business. These articles can be shared on your social media profiles or in your email newsletters. If helpful enough, they can even end up being shared by others, allowing you to reach a much wider audience than you normally would.
  • They also help with SEO in a couple ways. First, the more topics you write articles about, the more long-tail keywords you'll be able to optimize for. This means you'll have more opportunities to rank for a wider variety of keywords which ultimately means that you'll get more organic search traffic. Second, really great, helpful articles might end up earning inbound links from other websites. These links not only help that particular article rank in search engines, but also help strengthen the overall SEO of your domain.
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  • Think of blog articles as investments in the long-term success of your website. The more you write, the more chances you'll have for great conversations and tons of traffic. Not sure what to write about? Here's a list of brainstorming tactics from Copyblogger, or you might try a tool like BuzzSumo to see what topics are popular in your industry.
  • Spend time writing a great title. The best copywriters agree: You should spend half of the entire time it takes to write a piece of persuasive content on the headline. 8 out of 10 people will read your headline, while only 2 out of 10 will read the entire article. A powerful headline ensure more people will continue reading the article.

“Your advantage in attracting new visitors is that you're an expert and an authority in your field.”

Guest Post - Find one of the top publications in your field and send them an idea for a post, along with an introduction to your business and bona fides. Posting on someone else's site will get your business in front of a new audience and in many cases, you'll get an inbound link to your website. The important thing to remember: You shouldn't guest post for the sake of earning inbound links. Write guest posts because you have something genuinely useful that you want to share with a larger audience.

Webinars - Webinars provide educational content to help your potential customers identify and solve their most common problems. Webinars often require registration which is an easy way to capture contact information and prospective leads.

Videos - You might think video production is too expensive for you to get into, but that's not necessarily the case. As this guide from Wistia shows (or this one about shooting a high quality video on your iPhone), you can do video on a shoestring budget. When it comes to explaining complicated topics, videos can be much easier for your audience to digest than a dense blog article. They can also give you much-needed face time in front your prospects and clients, helping you build a stronger rapport with them.

  • A common misconception is that simply placing a video on a page will help that page rank better in search results—but this isn't actually the case. Videos don't have a direct impact on rankings, but they can help in indirect ways. As an inherently more shareable content medium, they can help you earn inbound links more often. And the higher level of engagement they encourage from website visitors can be a signal to search engines that your site providing a lot of valuable information.

Case Studies - These are specific examples of how your clients have directly benefited from your product or service. If possible, use exact data on how they benefitted. For example, if their revenue increased because of your service, add that information to the case study. Having a section on your website dedicated to case studies can help push those prospects who are on the edge of becoming new clients.

"Once you've produced a bunch of great content, don't just let it sit there. You can reach a wider audience through promotion and outreach."

Outreach - Don't be afraid to link out to other resources in your content. When you do, send a message to the author of that resource letting them know you mentioned their work. Bloggers love getting this kind of exposure and will often times share your content with their followers on social media as a thank you.

Tools

  • BuzzSumo - Find popular topics
  • Wistia - Host your videos
  • DivvyHQ - Organize your content calendar
  • PowToon - Quickly create animated videos
  • Contently - Get connected with high quality freelance writers

Step 2: Social Media

Connect with your audience

Every social media network provides businesses with a profile. These profiles or "channels" are like free pieces of real estate for your business presence. Claim them now!

First, let's look at basic rules to follow on all social networks:

Make sure your profile design is fresh, clean and up to date. Every once in a while, social networks will change their profile design requirements which can make your old banner and logo images appear pixelated or partial cropped. Keep an eye for notifications about these layout changes and make sure you prepare for them in advance.

Don't be overly self-promotional. The social web is a place where people try to help each other—and entertain each other. Start your social sharing by posting content that your audience will actually find useful, like an article from your blog or another industry leader. The majority of your posts should be helpful to your fans and followers—with an occasional promo pushed in.

Always be writing. Content is what drives internet marketing. If your blog is empty or isn't updated on a regular basis, you won't have much to share on social media.

Create and post content worth sharing. While we're discussing content, make sure that the content you write is actually something your audience will want to read and potentially share with their colleagues. Don't just spin content that's already been rehashed hundreds of times - write about your personal thoughts on current events in your industry or cover a topic that hasn't received much discussion yet.

Add sharing buttons on your blog articles. Tools like AddThis make it easy to include sharing buttons on your content. Make is easy for your readers to share it on their favorite social networks.

addthis sharing buttons

Know which social networks fit your business. With a hot new social network popping up every couple months, does that mean you need to be joining all of them? Definitely not. Make sure the social networks you participate in fit your industry. Empty profiles look bad, so only join networks that you actually plan to use on a regular basis.

“Content is what drives Internet marketing.”

How to get the most out of your social profiles

Now that we've got the basics covered, let's look at how you can leverage each of the largest social networks to gain fans, followers, and customers.

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Facebook

Getting a “like” on Facebook helps to grow your audience. Users who "like" your page can see your business' posts in their newsfeed, but with users' newsfeeds becoming increasingly crowded, you need to get maximum mileage from these posts with unique, appealing content. The result? Your post's popularity can be rewarded with a higher visibility.

Here are important things to know about Facebook:

For the experts: If you've already had some success with Facebook ads, consider learning to use the Power Editor which gives you much more control audiences and ad variations.

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Twitter

Twitter is a neverending stream of short, punchy headlines. To get attention, your headlines need to be the punchiest—and also link to additional content on your website to drive traffic.

Here are key ways to use Twitter to your advantage:

  • Keep a running bank of enticing Twitter headlines, collecting ideas whenever inspiration strikes.
  • If applicable, add Twitter Card meta data to your blog articles. Similar to Facebook's Open Graph data (although not as widely used), these HTML snippets tell Twitter how your page should be displayed when it is linked to in a tweet.
  • Include #hashtags on your tweets. Hashtags are used to link together posts regarding ongoing conversations about a specific topic. You can use a tool like hashtagify.me to see the most popular hashtags on Twitter. If one is relevant to your industry, jump into the conversation.
  • Interact with influencers in your industry. Followerwonk is a great tool that allows you to search profiles based on topics, then see how influential each of those users are. Building relationships with influencers can not only help you gain notoriety on Twitter, but can also help your business in unexpected ways.
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Linkedin

With the addition of a publishing platform functionality, LinkedIn is now a content creator's paradise, with an open feel and content-centricity.

Here are some ways to utilize LinkedIn:

  • Connect with all of your professional contacts. LinkedIn is the go-to social network for all business relationships. Don't be afraid to connect with people you worked with at previous jobs or projects or even fellow alumni from your university.
  • Participate in a LinkedIn Group discussion. LinkedIn Groups are a great way to connect with like-minded individuals. Make sure you find a group that isn't so large that you'll get drowned out in the noise but also one that isn't so small that it won't have an impact on your potential traffic gains.
  • Create a LinkedIn Group. If you can find an existing group that fits your niche, don't be afraid to start your own! Reach out to your connections and see if they'd like to join your new group.
  • Write articles for LinkedIn Pulse. Pulse is LinkedIn's publishing platform which is open to all LinkedIn users. Think of it as guest blogging but with a potential audience of millions. Make sure you post helpful, valuable and unique articles that are specific to your field.
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Google+

Google+ is Google's social network, which helps Google capture important demographic information.

Here are tips for using Google+:

  • Complete your profile, and if you're a local business, make sure you verify your location with Google. In order to do this, Google will need to mail a postcard to your business's address with a PIN on it. You'll then use that PIN to verify that your address is correct. Unverified businesses are much less likely to appear in local search results.
  • Join a Google+ Community. Similar to LinkedIn Groups, Google+ Communities focus on specific topics or niches. Find one that fits your business and start participating.
  • Host an interview or webinar on Google Hangouts. Hangouts isn't just a way to chat with your friends. When used correctly, Hangouts can be a great source of content for you. Using a screencasting tool like Snagit, you can record an entire conversation or presentation on Hangouts to be shared with your audience at a later date. Or if you'd rather have people participate in your webinar live, Hangouts on Air allows you to broadcast your presentation in real time.
  • Connect your website to your Google+ page with the rel="publisher" link attribute. This allows Google to verify your brand on Google+ and make a connection between your profile and your website.

Tools

Step 3: Email

Start a great conversation

Email gives you an immediate opportunity to kick start a conversation and invite interaction. And that opportunity to engage a users on a one-on-one basis is bigger than ever. With all the easy-to-use email marketing tools out there, email is a high-impact and low cost way to demonstrate value to a potential customers—and continue the conversation well after they converted.

How can email drive traffic and engage new customers?

  • Always be building your list. Make sure it is easy to subscribe from any page on your site or blog (but don't be annoying). Most email tools have built-in subscription forms, but SumoMe's List Builder is a great to get your subscription form in front of your readers at the right time.
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  • Talk with your audience like they're sitting in the room. Never talk at them by dumping information on them. Use conversational and personal subject lines like “Hey, you're missing out on…” People love hearing about themselves: “You” is one of the most powerful words you can use in a message.
  • Personalize your email content whenever possible based on what you know about your user. At its most basic level, many email tools allow you to enter shortcodes that will dynamically populate your salutation with their name (i.e. “Hi John”).
  • Remember that many people first read your emails and newsletters on mobile! So make sure they're crisp and easy to read. Here's an example of a design improvement: break up your text into shorter paragraphs that fit easily within the view of a mobile screen.
  • Avoid spam filters by properly formatting your email's HTML, as well as avoiding hyperbolic statements with all caps or exclamation points (i.e., BUY NOW!). For more comprehensive on how spam filters work and how to avoid them, check out this guide by MailChimp.
  • Call your readers to action. Don't just leave them wonder what to do next. Give your audience clear, concise directions about the next step, they should take. In general, calls to action should be written as just that: actions. For example, “Download your free report” is more exciting than “Learn more” or “Click here”.

Tools

Organic search engine traffic is often considered to be the most valuable because the user is actively seeking your product or service—a.k.a, they're motivated!

Top tips on “free” organic search to bring traffic to your site:

Know that organic search traffic actually isn't free. While you don't directly pay for the traffic to arrive on your site, you do pay with time and resources. Earning success in the search results takes time, knowledge, and a lot of hard work.

  • Write content that people actually want to read and share. Do that by making sure that you're helping your user solve their problem. One of the reasons why we go online is to find answers. So if you find yourself answering the same question for your clients over and over again, chances are that many other people out there have the same question. Write a blog article about that question so people researching that topic can end up on your site.
  • Educate yourself on the fundamentals of SEO. Whether you choose to optimize your own site or pay someone to do it, your understanding the basics of how SEO works can help you avoid trouble later. The Beginner's Guide to SEO from Moz is a great place to start.
  • Use tools like WordTracker to identify the top keywords people use when searching for businesses in your industry. These tools save you a ton of time you'd spend researching and refining the multitudes of potentially relevant keywords. They also uncover unique opportunities in niche keyword searches that your competitors may not be leveraging.
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  • Remember to write for people first—and search engines second. Make sure your content flows naturally. Don't shoehorn keywords or awkward phases in. Usually you'll naturally use appropriate keywords as you write, but it's important to always be thinking about what people will be searching for while you put your content together.
  • Have your website team include your top terms in the major headings, page titles, content and images alt text and files names on your site. Again, write for people first, and don't force in keywords where they don't fit. Remember, keyword density is not a real thing.
  • Earn high quality inbound links. Links are still a huge part of how search engines determine rankings; however, the old tactics of building a huge number of spammy links could result in your site being penalized. Today, links are all about quality and relevance over quantity. This comprehensive guide from Point Blank SEO covers a wide variety of tactics you can use to earn inbound links. Check out Moz's Beginner's Guide to Link Building to learn more about why links are important for SEO.

Tools

Not all the traffic arriving on your site needs to come from “free” sources. Paying for advertising can help you amplify your exposure—and ROI. If you think you don't have the budget for advertising, think again! Most platforms can be fairly inexpensive and have features to help control your budget.

Social Advertising - Here are a couple ways to use advertising on social media: You can send traffic from social media ads to landing pages for specific campaigns (as we discussed in Step 2). You can also use it to promote your content to a wider audience. Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn all have options for exposing your content to audiences within your chosen demographic—for a low cost.

Search Advertising - All the major search engines have their own advertising platforms like Google AdWords. These platforms allow you to display your ad in the search results for the keyword phrase that you choose. The best part? You only have to pay when someone actually clicks on one of your ads. Learn how to get started with AdWords.

Sponsored Content - Ever noticed the “Recommended Articles” at bottom of your favorite blog or news site? Those come from platforms like Taboola. Help drive traffic to your site from major publications—and potentially reach a huge audience—with these platforms.

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Retargeting - Don't let your great traffic go to waste. Retargeting platforms like AdRoll allow you to serve banner ads to people who already visited your site. If you've ever visited a business website, and then (ta-da!) seen an ad for that business on your favorite blog, you've been retargeted. When your traffic doesn't convert on their first visit, retargeting is great for bringing them back for a second chance.

Tools

  • Google AdWords - Reach prospects at the moment they search for your product or service
  • Facebook Ads - Target users based on dozens of personal data points
  • Facebook Power Editor - Quickly edit and manage ads
  • AdRoll - Intelligently Serve ads to your prospects after they visit your website
  • Taboola - Amplify your posts through sponsored content

Step 6: Analyze

Build. Measure. Learn. Repeat.

One of the biggest benefits of online marketing is that almost everything can be tracked. From keyword rankings and advertising clicks to website visitors and leads, there's an unbelievable amount of data to analyze and learn from. All of which will help you make your strategies more efficient.

  • Track your most important keywords—but don't focus on them too much - Business owners often get keyword tunnel vision, focusing on a couple of keywords that they think are crucial to their success. In reality, a top rank for a single search term (unless it's a hugely popular term) isn't going to make or break your success. While it's important to track the overall health of your rankings with a tool like AuthorityLabs, keep in mind that keywords are just an intermediary step towards the real goals: traffic and leads.
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  • Use an analytics tool on your website - Google Analytics is a free tool for seeing how visitors arrive on your website and how they behave once they get there. Set up Goals to track specific actions you want your visitors to complete on your site like filling out a contact form or subscribing to your email newsletter. This is an extremely important part of the puzzle as it allows you to see which of your marketing efforts are driving your success and can help you decide when to adjust your tactics if things aren't going as planned.
  • If you do use Google Analytics, make sure you use Google's URL builder on your landing pages for email and advertising campaigns. Sometimes traffic from email or ads gets routed through an intermediary source, making it hard for analytics tool to see where the traffic originally came from. The URL builder sets up URL parameters that tell Google Analytics how to categorize the traffic.

  • Build upon your successes, and learn from your failures - Marketing is a learning process. While some campaigns may succeed right away, you'll more likely see middling results (at least at first). When you meet mediocrity, it's time to dig into the data and see where you can make improvements. Maybe a series of small optimizations is all it takes to bring a campaign from okay to stellar.
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    Image from 6S Marketing.

Tools


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