New websites don’t survive without a clear online marketing strategy.
Millions of ghost blogs and websites are proof of this simple fact. Getting immediate traction, with a significant amount of Web traffic, is critical to success in any new website launch.
So, bottle up that excitement over your perfect new domain name and that kickass design for a moment and get serious about getting your website some fast Web traffic.
1. Build on a Strong Web Platform
Most likely your primary objective isn’t building a website. For most of us, the website is a means to an end. You’re launching a website to generate sales leads, sell a product, build personal credibility, or some other revenue focused goal. This means finding the fastest, yet most effective way to getting that website up.
The secret to picking the right Web platform is maximizing your benefit/effort ratio.
You want a Web platform that minimizes the time and expense you spend on building the website, while maximizing the contribution it makes to your traffic generation efforts.
In my opinion, there is no bigger bang for the buck than WordPress.
WordPress is ready to install at the push of a button on most popular (cheap) Web hosting providers (i.e., HostGator, BlueHost, GoDaddy) and it gives you 90% of basic SEO best practices, right out of the box.
2. Get SEO Basics Right
SEO is so important to the visibility of your website, generating Web traffic, and getting your potential customers to the right place on your website. And the good news is that for new websites you just need to get the very basics of SEO right to see big results.
As you get more traffic and your online business grows into the center of your competitive market SEO will become more complex, but for now just do the basics well and you’ll set a strong foundation.
Here is a quick checklist of those most basic elements:
- URLs: Use short, keyword descriptive URLs (permalinks)
- Title: Optimize your page/post titles. Again, use keywords and make them short–think AdWords headlines.
- Description: Optimize your descriptions. Use keywords, write for people, and describe the benefits of coming to your page/post.
- Sitemap: Implement an XML sitemap and submit to Google Webmaster Tools
- Categories/Navigation: Create a well organized website by categorizing every page/post into keyword categories and make this part of your primary navigation.
- Headlines: Optimize these with keywords, but make them short and head turning. People are blasted with content. You have to grab their attention.
- Subheadings and Content: Sprinkle keywords into other subheadings and throughout the main text of the page/post. Vary the keywords to reflect different uses of the same concept.
- Tags: Google says they don’t look at meta-tags for page ranking. Therefore, you don’t need to use them and if you chose too, don’t overuse them.
If you want a more general education on SEO basics dig into Moz’s Beginner’s Guide to SEO.
3. Capture Your Audience
Once you have your website hosted on a solid content management platform and the basics of search engine optimization in place, I have one final recommendation for optimizing before launching and marketing your new website–implement extensive lead capture.
Lead capture may be a new concept to you, but it simply means having an extensive network of calls to action and incentives, compelling your visitors to opt-in to future marketing communication. In simpler terms, you need to get their email addresses and social connections so you can bring them back to the website on a regular basis.
No one wakes up and decides to go to your website. You have to go get them and remind them of your value.
Facebook is probably the only exception to this rule. Even news websites rely on you making it your start page or bookmark them.
Understanding this principle is super important to your overall Web marketing plan because your list, generated by lead capture, will become your highest ROI and most consistent source of revenue.
Here are my recommendations for the most basic of lead capture strategies:
- Free Content: Giving an email to get a substantial piece of content has become a standard. Leverage this. Every page should have some content for email offer.
- Newsletter: If you have great content people will welcome you into their email inbox to alert them to when you publish next. Give them an easy way to do this–everywhere.
- Questions: Ultimately, people come to your website with a question. Give them the opportunity to ask it and make sure you get them a quick reply.
- Social Media: Social networks are a low friction way of getting an opt-in. Even if they balk at giving you an email, most consumers will follow you on a social network if you ask. Given the choice get them to Like your Facebook Page.
4. Start with Friends and Family
Okay, now onto the fun part–marketing your new website.
The best, and most often missed, place to start your online marketing is your friends and family.
Particularly in this time of prolific social networking, your immediate sphere of influence is potentially significant. At any level, it will give you the initial Web traffic, social sharing, and word of mouth you need to get the ball rolling.
Via email and Facebook, let your friends and family know that you’ve just launched a new website and then tell them exactly what to do to help you grow it. Here are some of the simple things you can have them do to help your website grow:
- Like Us on Facebook – Make sure your email includes a link to the Facebook Fan Page associated with your new website and clearly request that they Like it. This simple Like will allow you to push your website content into their Facebook news feed, for free. This strategy also gives you the seeds of faster viral distribution and growth.
- Sign Up for Our Newsletter – The best way to activate your friend network is via email. Take this first email opportunity to grab an email opt-in from folks in your personal network that have a genuine interest in what you’re doing.
- Forward this Email or Share this on Facebook – Never miss an opportunity to ask anyone to share your website with their network. This, at the very least, should be the call to action on every encounter with users, customers, and visitors. Don’t fool yourself into believing that it’s too pushy or forward–people simply don’t think to do it unless you tell them to do it.
When you’re done reading here, go straight to your Facebook account and contact book and pull out those lists. It’s time to turn that joke distribution list into the first marketing campaign for your new website.
5. Get Involved in Relevant Communities
Now it’s time for the hard stuff.
At this point you have exhausted your personal marketing reach (not to be understated because it’s certain to be your best bang for the buck) and need to begin new audience development.
One of the most effective strategies is to go where the audience, which you think will be most interested in your website, already hang out. Begin doing searches in Google and on social networks for relevant communities.
The concept is to attract large groups of targeted audience with an efficient amount of marketing–avoiding the broadcasting of irrelevant marketing to irrelevant consumers.
Blogs and social networks have made this process super easy by organizing themselves with Blogrolls, Lists, Communities, and a variety of other organizational features.
Here are some of my favorite places to harvest audience from relevant communities. (These channels will vary niche, industry, and businesses–do a little research to tune into the right channels)
- Facebook – This really is a no brainer. As the world’s largest social network it is a cocked and loaded viral engine for your content. Build an audience by Liking and participating on popular Pages, Friending and promoting influential folks, and most importantly (for big growth) spending a little bit of money on promoted posts.
- Twitter – Start by searching keywords, follow relevant lists, follow the people influencers follow. Then engage. Get involved in the discussions, comment on the Tweets, and promote the interests of important influencers.
- Reddit – There are tons of highly connected and passionate communities hanging in the multitude of subreddits within Reddit.com. If you build good reputation within a few targeted subreddits you can send boatloads of relevant Web traffic to your new website.
- SlideShare – This is an rich, but often overlooked social network channel. It takes a little more work, but pump in some high quality slide presentations, follow some other great presentation makers, make a few comments (or reach out directly – they all have the authors/influencers direct contact information in the slide presentation), and you’ll be flowing out some high quality traffic.
- Quora – This is becoming a new favorite. Full of smart people and diverse discussions–communities.
These are just a few of the tons of social networks that you can leverage for highly targeted and sticky traffic. The process is always the same: get in there and start making some noise to pull out this targeted traffic.
6. Network with Real People
This is number six, but don’t be fooled.
Developing real relationships with real people is the most powerful of all marketing strategies. Interestingly enough, it’s probably the least talked about secrets of online marketing. Everything online that works, works because of networks of distribution. And people are the gatekeepers to those big distribution channels.
You can initiate a lot of these relationships online, but to really get results you have to press flesh and gain the trust and respect of these important networkers.
I’ve had the best success at big conferences. It requires most of us to venture out of our comfort zone and start discussions with as many smart people as you can.
Your goals is to get as many of these people as possible on speed dial (i.e., email, IM, or Skype) as possible. I’m constantly hitting my network via Google Chat–ping them with questions and asking little favors, and always being responsive to the same.
7. Content is King
I know it’s overused and cliche, but it’s true and you can’t forget it.
The Web is still about hyperlinking together disparate pieces of related content. If you’re not creating valuable content you’re not feeding the Web or your potential customers. If you’re not serving your market, your new website will fail.
Here’s my formula:
- Start with the competition – Most people start content marketing plans by heading over to the Google Keyword Tool, typing in their favorite keyword, dumping out a ton of keywords, and typing article after article. This strategy is like shooting BBs at the moon. I start with the competition. Using a tool like SEMrush, SpyFu, or Moz; I like to start my plan with what’s sending traffic to my soon to be competitors.
- Learn the language of your customers – Once I’ve done that, then it’s time to turn to the Google Keyword Tool to learn the language of the market. These searches, ideally seeded with your competitors top keywords, are the actual search queries thousands of people are doing every day. Even if they didn’t bring your traffic, wouldn’t you want to use the same familiar words that they use when looking for your product or service?
- Start high-level and then move into the details – “Where do I start?” is the most common question I get once a website owner takes a look and their overwhelming list of keywords. Generally, I like to start with the top-level keyword in all the clusters I’m targeting–the keyword that is the most common root keyword. Creating and posting this content will begin to bring in valuable long-tail search queries that will be a better editorial path than any gut reaction to a huge keyword list.
- Use an editorial calendar – The secret to launching and marketing any new website is discipline. There is a lot to do and content production is a big part of that workload. An editorial calendar can help you to stay on track, productively producing content and more importantly–the right content.
- Consistency and frequency is the secret – This kind of ties into the editorial calendar, but I’ll re-emphasize the point by giving diligent content creation and engagement its own category. Getting your website to grow in an explosive way requires lots of visitors to visit, revisit, and tell others about the consistently awesome experience. This kind of cycle requires you to produce a consistent experience that your visitors can expect at a regular frequency. Think of the websites you rely for various types of information and services–Facebook, Mashable, TechCrunch, New York Times, Drudge Report–even if you haven’t been there in awhile, you know exactly what you’re going to get and chances are you’ve ended up there via a friend’s email, Facebook share, Tweet, or RSS reader more often than you type in the URL. You want to try and replicate that experience.
- Get them on your email list – This might seem a little out of place when we’re talking about content being king, but that’s what makes this a bit of a marketing secret for growing your new website. Like I said before, the secret to all of this marketing plan stuff is to get visitors to your site over and over–making them loyal and viral fans. To this end there is no better mechanism than email to deliver your latest and greatest content and induce them to revisit, for another great experience. In addition, an email makes for a great viral trigger to get them to forward and make another friend. Point in case: every time I send an email out for any list that we manage, we get more new sign-ups than we do on even the best of average days.
There you have it. A complete marketing strategy for launching any new website. Embedded in this plan are also all of the essential elements to re-energize a slumping website.
Keep in mind that a website is fueled by people. Therefore, your primary objective to get any website to aggressively grow is to look for as many opportunities as possible to get in front of and impress people with your awesomeness. Which shouldn’t be too difficult, since you’re usually marketing to the mirror (people like you).
In my experience, the challenge is simply taking the first step and doing the hard work to sustain the effort. At some point you’ll hit critical momentum and it will take off. The question is how hard will you work to break through the first glass ceiling of growth?
Do you have additional questions on developing a website that generates traffic and leads?
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