A successful entrepreneur shares her thoughts on business success and failure.

How to Increase Your Web Site's Traffic

Increase web site traffic.
Increase web site traffic with these simple tips.
Traffic can really make or break your website.

If you crank out piece after piece of great content, yet no one reads it, it can be demoralizing. (This, I think, is why most bloggers quit after a few months.)

If you have a great product or service that you know can help a lot of people, but no one knows about it, and you’re on a limited budget, it can seem impossible to get your business off the ground.

I understand. I’ve been in both of those places, and in both of those cases, traffic can help. Today, I’ll take you “behind the scenes” and show you one of the big ways I grew a business in a highly competitive industry to the $1 million mark, and also how I grew this blog to one that gets massive traffic every month–in the top 0.1% of all websites by traffic, according to Alexa.

Then I’ll show you how you can do the same thing…and grow your business by leaps and bounds without killing your wallet by buying advertisements.

The Big Myth: Just Write Great Content, and the Search Engines Will Love You

This big myth gets uttered all the time. It might have been true years ago. The theory behind this is, interestingly, never explained. Basically, it goes like this: Good content gets links from other sites. Those links count as “votes” for that content, which naturally drives your content to the top of the search engines for relevant terms.

There are all sorts of holes in this theory. The biggest problem is that most content creators really haven’t matched their content to what people are searching for in Google or other search engines. You can write a really awesome article about the best hotels for people traveling with dogs, but if your article title is “How Cutesi the Chihuahua and I Traveled the Country In Style”, well, no one will find it through Google because no one is searching for those words!

So, the first step in getting Google and other search engines to recognize your content as “good content” and send you free traffic is to title your blog posts and home page appropriately. Use the free Google Keyword Tool to find what people are searching for in Google, and target those phrases.

The second step is to get backlinks.

Getting Backlinks

What are backlinks? Backlinks are simply a link from another site to your site. You might have heard that links are important, but the real key is the anchor text: the text people use in their links back to your site.

That anchor text on the other site counts as a “vote” in Google for that phrase, for your site. Here’s a real-world example: This site is named Erica.biz. So, when someone links back to my site, they often use the text erica.biz. The link looks like this: erica.biz

Unfortunately, this is nearly worthless for me in Google, because Google is counting this as a vote for the keyword “erica.biz”. I’m already ranked #1 for that keyword. Even worse, people typing in that keyword already know who I am, so it’s not a great keyword to optimize for.

People who have sites named around popular keyphrases have a built-in advantage. For instance, ever wondered how popular personal development blogger Steve Pavlina gets so much traffic? I actually don’t even think he realizes this–either that or he’s pretty coy about it–but he named his site, stevepavlina.com, “Personal Development for Smart People.”

That means a lot of people link to his site with the keywords “personal development”–so much so that he’s ranked #1 in Google for the term! That term gets tens of thousands of searches per month, driving massive traffic to his site.

He’s also ranked #2 for “polyphasic sleep”. Steve’s secret is something I doubt he even realizes: his simplistic blog titles. Instead of some fancy title like “How to get more hours out of your day”, he named his article on polyphasic sleep “Polyphasic sleep.” Then, of course, people linked out to his article, driving it to the top of the search engines.

So, if you really want to rank well in the search engines, stay away from cutesy titles and stick to short, sweet, and simple titles.

By implementing these simple strategies on my own blog, erica.biz now gets over 10,000 visitors a month from Google. About 2% of them opt in to my email list. This means I don’t have to keep posting new content to get visitors and email list subscribers. My “evergreen” content does a lot of work for me.

What If You Don’t Have (and Don’t Want) A Blog?

But what if you don’t have a blog and/or don’t want one? If you just want to sell products online, getting free traffic from Google and other search engines will possibly boost your bottom line by 6 figures or more.

You probably know that I started a web hosting company in 2001 and sold it in 2007. Before that, though, I worked for a search engine optimization company for a few years–from 1997 to 1999. Although my job didn’t require me to understand the intricacies of search engines, I learned them anyway. Back then, Google didn’t exist, and it was mostly about just getting listed in search engines–Yahoo! being one of the more important ones.

I continued my study of search engines and their mysterious traffic-directing powers, and a couple of years into running my hosting company, I decided to run an experiment. I spent 3 hours tweaking my company’s website to optimize for two simple keyphrases: bay area colocation and san jose colocation. Back then, there was no Google keyword tool, so I used the Overture tool to find that these two phrases were searched about 300 times a month total.

Then I started backlink building to my hosting company site using those terms. A few months later, Google did its PageRank update and awarded my little hosting company site a PageRank 7. (For those of you who know how PageRank works, you know how rare a 7 is.)

We ranked #1 for those two search terms pretty quickly.

Keep in mind, I didn’t blog or do anything “fancy” to get those #1 ranks. My site was static HTML, built by hand. I rearranged the text on the pages every couple months, but didn’t do anything else–except build backlinks.

I always asked our customers where they found us, and about 30% of our new customers said “Google”. But the real gold mine was one customer who found us through Google and started out with colocating one server. His company grew by leaps and bounds, and every month, he colocated a few more servers with us to keep up with demand.

When I sold the business, he was our largest customer, paying us over $12,000/month! Including the other customers who signed up with us from that ranking, that’s over a quarter of a million dollars a year of verifiable revenue from the initial 3 hours of work.

Here’s How To Do This Yourself

Here’s a summary of what works when going for a #1 rank in the search engines:

  • Don’t overlook “tiny” keywords that get a few hundred searches a month–if you can easily convert those visitors into buyers.
  • Backlinks are more important than great content. Good content with great backlinks trumps great content with no backlinks or few backlinks every time.
  • What you put in your homepage’s title and what you title your blog posts or site’s pages is of paramount importance.
  • Screwing up search engine optimization or not understanding its importance can cost you 6 figures a year or more.

Now, the really good news: I’m set to release what will become one of my flagship products for 2010. It’s called Maximum Clients, Minimum Time, and in it, I explain how you can do the same thing I’ve just described above. It’s designed for everyone who is tired of going to “networking events” and doing endless followup to get new clients. It will work for you whether you have a website right now or not–and no matter what you want to sell online.

For those of you who are still struggling with an idea, it will show you which idea to pursue. And for those of you with a website already, it will show you how to spend a little bit of time and get Google and other search engines to send you leads and clients effortlessly, month after month–without paying for ads.

In short, it’s the same procedure I used to grow my last business to a million-dollar business and the same procedure I’ve used to grow this blog to the top 0.1% of all websites on the Internet by traffic (as ranked by Alexa.)

Once you start down this path, you will realize there are a lot of nuances. For instance: Which keywords do you optimize for? How do you optimize your site for them? Once you’ve optimized your site, how do you build backlinks? I’ll be there to help you, step by step, as you get your business working for you, instead of the other way around. Best of all, Maximum Clients, Minimum Time will be easily affordable.

Look for my product launch later this month. Until then, start with the Google Keyword Tool, and figure out what keywords you want to use with your blog or business website!

Have questions? Want more information? Please leave a comment below.

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I'm Erica Douglass.
After selling my online business at age 26 for over $1 million, I created this blog to help you grow your own business quickly.

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