We were recently asked a question that we see all the time at forums and hear in presentations: “How do you get the first traffic to your new website?”
The most recent version of this questions asked us how we first got traffic to our lab site, FreshPlans. “Friends and family?” the questioner continued.
I had to say no, but that’s not actually a bad way to start — if your friends and family happen to be part of your target market. Getting friends and family to come visit your site can make you feel as though there’s some point to keeping your site updated while your traffic grows. They can give you valuable feedback on your site. They might make comments, or tweet your posts.
However, your friends and family probably aren’t enough of a customer base for your company. They aren’t an ongoing source of converting traffic. Unless your company was specifically designed to meet the needs of your friends and family, they’re not your target market.
In fact, here’s something that may surprise you: the traffic that comes to your new website isn’t really going to be very different from the traffic that comes to your website in the future.
How can people get to your website?
Direct traffic They can come directly, because they know about your site. That’s why your friends and family might be the first visitors. If you have a physical world business, put your URL on your invoices, paper sacks, business cards, signs, TV ads, billboards, and whatever else you use to spread the word. When you have a brand new site, you can tell people, send out a press release announcing your website, and things like that. When your site has been around for a while, you can tell people about it, send out press releases announcing other things about your business, and things like that.
Referred traffic People can also come via links at other sites. Linkbuilding increases search traffic, but it also can increase referred traffic. If you have a blog, it’ll take you a few months to get it well enough established to get it listed in good blog directories and accepted into good blog rings. Your business website should be listed in all the relevant, high quality directories in which it belongs as soon as you launch it. Then you should seek links with relevant sites in your niche, participate in social media, and use press releases and other off-site content to increase your overall online visibility. This should bring traffic to your site, whether it’s new or established.
Social media Social media is a special type of referral traffic. With diligent, high quality social media, you can get significant traffic to your website. The effectiveness of social media for sending traffic varies from one industry to another and from one platform to another, but done right social media can be a powerhouse traffic source.
Search traffic People will navigate directly to their favorite websites or the sites that others recommend to them, but search engines are still the way most people find their way around the web. The high quality, unique content at your excellent website will find its way to the top of the search results for the things your customers need. This only works if you actually have high quality, unique content and an excellent website, but it does work.
Paid search Digital ads can be very effective. Adwords show up for people who are searching for what you have to offer, and they are more visually prominent that organic search results. Paid social media can be very effective for the right kind of offer.
Other “Other” in your analytics often shows people clicking on a link in an email, be it your email newsletter or a link sent by one of your customers to a friend. It can include clicks through from your RSS feed or from Twitterfeed, or specific tags you’ve created to track campaigns of various kinds. Clearly, this sort of thing works for new and old sites.
In sum, the answer to “How do you get traffic to your new website?” is the same as the answer to, “How do you get traffic to your established website?”.