How small businesses can boost web traffic amid rising competition

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Date: 4 October 2021

Busy city traffic representing a busy website

The ability to drive a steady flow of relevant audience members to your web pages can make or break a small business. It's much easier to sell to people if they have already shown enough interest to visit your site, to get familiar with your brand and to understand what value you have to offer.

Everyone is familiar with the old tricks to boost traffic, and the competition is fiercer than ever. Millions of blogs are published every single day, which makes it increasingly difficult to get noticed. This problem is especially acute for small businesses that are trying to acquire traffic without the massive budgets of larger companies with dedicated marketing divisions.

The mistake many people make is focusing only on creating content, in the hope that people will discover them if they just keep publishing more and more. Attracting and maintaining an engaged audience is far more complex than this. Figuring out how to increase website traffic takes a whole lot more than a "if you build it they will come" approach. Simply publishing content and hoping for the best might have worked a decade ago, but today that won't cut the mustard.

Here's what it takes to build an effective strategy for driving traffic to your website today.

Collaborate with lesser influencers

When a business lacks its own following, the smart choice is to make use of other people's followings to accelerate growth.

The growth in the use of influencer marketing comes with good reason. These days people are more likely to trust the person they follow more than a brand message. It transfers some of the hard won social capital that the influencer has earned to your business. This can give a small business the initial kick to gain brand recognition.

Choosing the right influencers to work with is crucial to the success of the partnership. You need to investigate what they stand for to make sure it matches your brand values. It's a waste of time and money to send people to your website who will never purchase from you. It's worth checking what the influencer currently advertises and what the response from their followers is.

Bigger isn't always better when it comes to follower counts, as engagement rates tend to decrease the larger an account becomes. The average engagement rate for users with over 10,000 followers is just 3.6%, compared to 8.8% for influencers with between 1,000 and 5,000. It's often better to partner with several smaller influencers rather than one big one to see your money go further.

Engage with your audience

As generating views from those who don't know about your site is difficult, focusing on those who already do can be a cost-effective way to go.

Collect email addresses on your website by enticing readers with a free offer in exchange. Once you have their email address, you have a way to contact them that isn't reliant on an algorithm. Your emails can let people know about major releases but also to just build a rapport. Asking for responses to the emails and feedback is a great way to connect with your audience and work out their pain points.

Another tactic you can use is to post your content on social media where you may be more likely to get comments than on your website itself. If you use Wordpress, you can set up your posts to be automatically reshared to Instagram with minimal effort to trigger greater engagement. When replying to messages, you can direct people to your website with personal messages that relate to their exact needs.

Good customer care can turn these people into superfans who can then evangelise your business. If you can keep visitors happy, they will be more willing to tell their friends and family about your business.

You can also use the feedback gained from those who engage to improve the site and its messaging. This can help reduce your bounce rate so you lose less of your hard won audience. You may find the banner image you love so much is actually turning away or confusing your visitors. It's always best to hear directly from them rather than make assumptions.

Target long-tail keywords

A common misconception is the need to target shorter, more general keywords, and some top companies will focus solely on these. The competition is fierce here, though, because the more general searches see the most volume.

However, longer keywords are more specific which could indicate the searcher is closer to the point of purchase and more informed. A customer who enters several words that perfectly describe your product is more likely to buy than someone who is looking more generically at what is available. It makes dominating these niches potentially highly lucrative.

Long-tail keywords form a surprisingly high proportion of overall search. Indeed, some 29.13% of keywords with more than 10,000 monthly searches are made of three or more words. This is a significant proportion of searches. It also has the benefit of staying off the radar of those with the power to dominate shorter keyword searches.

The lower competition could also mean lower costs for paid search marketing campaigns, as there are fewer bids. This is great for small businesses on a budget. If you can target these highly used but potentially overlooked keywords, you may be able to drive significant valuable traffic to your blog.

There are some great ways to find good long-tail keywords using Google tools alone. The first is related searches that appear at the bottom of your search results. Next are the suggestions in Google autocomplete. You can also go to your Google Search Console and look at the performance report. This will show you the top queries people used to land on your page. Here you may find you are ranking well on some long-tail keywords without even realising it.

Differentiate PPC and SEO strategy

Pay-per-click keywords and SEO keywords represent different concepts, and as such, should have their own strategies. It's not uncommon for businesses to take a shortcut by simply bidding on ads for the same keywords they are after for organic rankings. While this may be easier, it ends up leaving a lot of potential views on the table and is a suboptimal strategy.

If you're going to pay for ads, it makes sense to make your money go as far as it possibly can.

Remember, though, that what people search for and what content they are shown in sponsored results aren't necessarily the same thing. For example, when using Facebook ads, you want to focus on the keywords which can give you access to the most relevant leads for the least spend. The cost of buying audiences with different keywords can vary significantly compared to the competition for the same keywords in SEO.

Analyse the performance of your campaigns against the different targeting parameters that you use on each channel and adapt your choices accordingly. To start, this might take you more time, but it will soon become part of a more productive routine, especially when you begin to see the results.

If you take the extra time when choosing your PPC keywords and other targeting parameters, you can make the most effective use of your budget and outperform those with less savvy choices.

Be where the competition isn't

A small business' goals aren't the same as those of the multi-billion dollar companies that are hailed as marketing angels. It's extremely difficult to compete against a giant using the same tactics on the same channels as them. They will outperform you simply because their budgets are bigger, and they have a larger team than you.

Despite this, no company can be everywhere. They will always have a stronger presence on some platforms and weaker on others. They may hire specialists in particular platforms who do not have the mandate to experiment with the same enthusiasm you can for your own small business.

Analyse the competition with the same vigour as if it were your own company. Find out what works for them and what doesn't. Pay attention to which platforms they are most active on and where they have less of a footprint.

Those areas where the competition is less active could present an opportunity for you to create a marketing strategy to dominate the niche. It's a chance to connect with an audience that is being underserved by others. No matter what the industry, there will always be gaps, and it's your job to work out if you can fill that. Your lack of bureaucracy is a strength.

It's important to do this exercise regularly so the trends on different platforms and their relative popularity can be tracked. It means when gaps open up, you can spot them quickly and fill the void.

Final thoughts

The market is competitive, but it's still possible to grow if you use these techniques.

It's hard work, but it's best to spend your limited time and resources on the strategies that are most likely to make a difference rather than trying to compete against big brands with their own tactics.

Copyright 2021. Article made possible by Jeff Broth, business writer and advisor. Jeff has consulted for SMB owners and entrepreneurs for seven years mainly covering finance, stocks and emerging fintech trends.

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