Category Archives for "Traffic"

Using Social Media to Promote Your Business or Cause

A few years ago I re-read Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland” and discovered how bad-tempered all the characters (including Alice) seem to be.  Users of Social Media are a bit like Alice.  Perhaps when they first fall down the rabbit hole, this new world is amazing; it affords glimpses into so many worlds!  But as the novelty wears off and Alice explores, this world becomes increasingly infuriating.

There are millions of people out there and most seem to be angry.  The Brexit vote is a recent example.  Annoyed Remainers blame Brexiters for the pointlessness of their enterprise and annoyed Brexiters blame Remainers for not seeing the reasonableness of Brexit.  The debate has rumbled on over the months and Mr and Ms Angry are still out there, although for the moment they seem to occupy the left of the political spectrum.

I’m inclined to respond to the question: how do I use Social Media to market my business? with “are you out of your mind?”  But perhaps that is an angry response.  So, I’ll offer a few thoughts that might be helpful.

A Few Social Media Guidelines

  • Remember, you do not own your chosen platforms and businesses can have their membership suspended.  Usually, this is because someone (or more likely a robot) has decided the business is spamming.  If this is not true, it can still take a long time to have your membership reinstated.  So, the message is: don’t allow your business to depend on social media alone and certainly not one platform.
  • One way to mitigate the risk is to encourage followers and friends to visit your website.  Once they are there, the ones who are interested will sign up to your email list.  You have a lot more control over your email list than you do over any social media account.
  • Have a clear goal for your social media activity
  • Be clear about your business identity on your social media site.  It is better to have at least one platform solely dedicated to your business.  Don’t mix in personal stuff or things like politics or religion.  You could decide to use Twitter for business and Facebook for personal.  Linked-In will always be a business site.  You can have personal and business Twitter accounts and on Facebook you can have a business page as well as your personal account.
  • Use your business social media to build brand awareness.  Use your website to sell stuff and social media to present your identity – preferably helpful and not angry like Alice.
  • Always post useful stuff and don’t spam, ie don’t try to sell stuff through social media, except through recognised sales channels, eg Facebook adverts.
  • If you know of businesses making similar offers to yours, look at how they use social media.  Don’t just copy them, do it better!
  • Once you’ve worked out your approach, get content posted – keep in the public eye and don’t worry too much – your postings are ephemeral and so be realistic about the time you devote to each.
  • Link your blog posts to your social media sites so that your posts appear automatically on your chosen platforms.

Do you have any tips for using social media to promote businesses or causes?


Finding Your Site Using Search Engine Optimisation

Apologies!  I included search engine optimisation (SEO) in my original article “How to Help the Right People Find Your Site” and then managed to omit it!   I missed what is possibly the most important way of increasing traffic to your site!

However, the other methods I’ve covered show seo is one of several approaches.  The key to seo is good content that people will link to from their sites, blogs and forums.  The other approaches feed into your seo strategy, so perhaps it helps for seo to come last.

I shall explain what seo is and some basic things you can do to optimise your site.  If you want me to write about anything at greater length, then ask.  There’s loads of material online about seo, so it’s also worth searching but beware; bad advice is probably as common as good.

What is seo?  When you search for information about a topic, you enter a query into the box on your browser, usually but not always labelled Google, and in a few seconds a page downloads with, among other things, the top ten websites the search engine calculates best match your query.  (There are actually more than ten but they’re on later pages and most people rarely visit them.)  The purpose of seo is to make sure your website features among those first ten sites for particular queries, ranking as high as possible.  Statistics show that the higher you rank, the more visits you get.

At the time of writing if I enter “Community Web Consultant” as a Google query, my site ranks at 6, 7 and 8.  It’s a new site and so this is not a bad result.  I could seek to improve this ranking.  I might do that, should I believe lots of people are entering “Community Web Consultant” into search engines.  But I don’t believe many people would search for that exact term, unless they have heard about my site and are seeking it.

I need to find the keywords people might be seeking that my site directly addresses.  So, if my site ranks for those keywords and someone clicks on the link, they’ll arrive at a site that meets their needs.  You will note my site needs to have good content as well as being optimised for those keywords.  There is no point getting visitors who immediately leave because they do not find what they are seeking.

So, you need to:

  1. Identify keywords and make sure your website provides high quality content that directly addresses those keywords.  This is not a one-off activity.  As you develop your site and receive feedback you will need to re-write it to find a better fit to your visitor’s expectations.
  2. You need to include the keywords in a variety of strategic places on your site.  There is a lot of debate about how important this is.  The way I look at it is this.  What your site says about itself may not be the most important thing in persuading search engines to rank your site, but if you don’t do it, the search engines won’t even consider ranking your site.  This is your entry ticket to the ranking contest!
  3. Back-links are more important and I’ve already covered them.  Their main purpose besides seo is for visitors to follow them to your site.  Search engines take a number of things into consideration.  The two main ones seem to be the authority of the site that links to yours and the link’s anchor text.  So, if you have a lot of links from rubbish sites this will not do you much good.  But a link from a site with good content will of itself increase traffic and be counted by search engines.  The anchor text is the text in the link on the other site.  If it says what your site is about, that will count.

If you’re just starting out it helps to understand some of this stuff but I wouldn’t worry too much until you have experienced how your site works in practice.  Certainly, be careful about the seo advice you receive.  A lot of it is poor because just about everyone has theories about how you can fool the search engines.  The best way to think about it is this:

Search engines are very clever programs.  The chances are they are much cleverer than anything you come up with.  So, focus on getting good content online and then optimise your website over time.  I can help you do that, let me know if you need any help.

What advice have you had about seo?  Would you say it was good or bad advice?

Finding Your Site Using Pay Per Click

This is the fifth Thursday post about how to encourage visitors to your site; pay per click.  The full list of approaches to increasing traffic is in the post “How to Help the Right People Find Your Site”.  (You may spot I’ve not covered search engines.  My mistake!  I shall correct it in the near future!)

I’m writing about Pay Per Click (PPC) so that you have a complete picture.  I don’t necessarily endorse using paid advertising and I would maximise traffic through free sources before I considered paying.  Indeed, if you’re not getting traffic through free sources it is usually a bad idea to try paid sources.

So, why use paid advertising?  PPC is usually for commercial sites, and so would normally be used for a social enterprise or other neighbourhood trading project.  There is no reason you couldn’t advertise a cause, to increase traffic to your site.  However, a cause that doesn’t pay would be a net cost to your organisation.  If you can afford it, fine.

Some Things to Consider

  • Do you have a market?  Can you name a group of people who are interested?  Can you define them in terms of sex, age, where they live, etc?
  • You need to decide how much you can spend and stick to it.  Most paid services allow you to limit your spend.
  • Increasing traffic to your site, video or social media is usually OK.  So, the advert means they arrive at your site, read the content and decide.  That’s usually fine.  What is not fine, is paying for things like ‘likes’, which imply your offer is more popular than it is.  If you are working from a social media platform, you must check out what they approve of and play by their rules or you might be thrown off it for spamming.
  • Remember it is your responsibility to check out exactly what is on offer, its costs and the likely outcomes.  Always read the small print and take whatever advice there is before you commit to anything.

Two Places Where You Can Advertise

  • Google Adwords.  I’ll write more about this later because it is useful tool whether you plan to purchase ads.
  • Facebook, which many believe is better targeted than Google, so you can select an accurate demographic.
  • And there are other opportunities on other social media, eg Twitter and YouTube.

This almost completes the list of ways to increase traffic to your site.  Have I missed any (apart from search engines!)?

Finding Your Site Using Social Media

This is the fourth Thursday post about how to encourage people to visit your site.  The full list of approaches to increasing traffic is in the earlier post “How to Help the Right People Find Your Site”.

Social media is popular because it is fun and immediately accessible to the user.  It can be an effective way to drive traffic to your site.  However, there are some issues you need to consider.  Social media can be:

  • Excessive.  There are so many social media platforms, it is impossible to use them all effectively.  So, you need to decide to use 2 or 3 really well and not spread your attention too thinly.
  • Complex.  Decide what you want to do and design your social media presence accordingly.  It is easy to be drawn into activity that distracts from your purpose.  If you are clear about your purpose the chances are people contacting you through your social media will understand it too.
  • Ephemeral.  Your followers on Twitter, likes on Facebook and whatever else you have are platform dependent.  So long as the platform persists and you keep an eye on any changes they make to way they present your material, you should be OK.  But do watch out for changes.  Remember, ultimately you have no control of your social media content.

Do not think of social media as an end in itself.  If you have a product, service or cause you can promote it effectively on social media but it is always best to encourage people who like your social media activity to visit your website and join your list.  Broadly you can approach social media in two ways.

  • produce content on your website, eg publicise blog posts on social media.  This is easy to set up and should generate traffic to your blog.
  • or post material on social media that invites followers to visit your site, eg use videos on YouTube to invite viewers to sign u[ on your site.

It is possible to have a web presence solely on social media and there may be circumstances where this makes sense.  However, your website has some advantages:

  • You can store and share all your content on your website.  It tends to be dispersed on social media.
  • You know it will always be there and not subject to changes in your social media platforms.
  • Your email lists are yours and cannot be removed by the social media platform.

Have you any examples of effective use of social media either to drive traffic to a website or making a direct sale of a product, service or cause?

Finding Your Site Using Email Lists

This is the third Thursday post where I’m looking at how to help people visit your site.  The full list of approaches to increasing traffic is in the post “How to Help the Right People Find Your Site”.

Email lists usually encourage people to revisit your site.  However, if you manage your lists effectively, people will visit your site to join your email list on the strength of recommendations from your list members.

If you are going to do this, you need an offer to encourage visitors to join your email list.  This might be a blog, where you tell them about new posts by email or it might be an email sequence, so a baker might offer recipes for example.  And of course you can offer video or audio material.

Once people are on your list, you can send emails promoting your product, service or cause in real life or on your website.

If you offer something people like, they will pass information about your email list to others and so your list will grow.

I shall write more about email lists in future posts.  They are essential to building a relationship with your market, whether you are marketing a product, a service or a cause.

Have you any examples of good email lists from you own inbox?  Or bad ones!

Finding Your Site Using Back-Links

This second Thursday post about how to encourage visitors to your site us about using back-links.  The full list of approaches to increasing traffic is in the earlier post “How to Help the Right People Find Your Site” and last time I discussed direct entry.

Back-links can be a powerful way to drive traffic to your site and they are effective locally as well as globally.  So, what is a back-link?

A link on your site, can take your visitor to another page on your site or to a page on another site.  When you link to another site, the site owners can find out about it and to them it is a back-link.  So, back-links are links from other people’s sites to yours.

They are useful for two reasons:

  1. You will get visitors directly through back-links.  They visit the other site and follow the link to yours.
  2. Search engines follow back-links and so the more you have, the more likely you are to be found by search engines.  (I’ll write about search engines in another post in this series).

Things to Consider When Seeking Back-Links

  • They are best if they come from relevant sites.  Some people look for any opportunity for a back-link but if they drive visitors to your site who are not interested in your offer, they have no value.  Some people spam websites and blogs by trying to get comments onto them to increase their back-links.  This is something to watch out for if you have a blog but don’t do it; it has no value whatsoever to your business, as well as being a nuisance.
  • A good back-link would be from a site that shares your market but not your product.  So, if you are a baker, you might have links from other local traders.
  • The anchor text is important.  This is the text highlighted and linked to your site.  Search engines read this text and if it says something like “Fred’s Bakery for Excellent Bread” (where Fred is your business name) then this will increase the value of the link.  It also encourages visitors to follow the link.  Sometimes you may be able to suggest the anchor text to the linking site.
  • Reciprocal links are a vexed question.  This is where they link to you and you link to them.  On the one hand, this could increase visitors to both sites.  Where you have the same market, eg two shops in the same row of shops, it might make sense. However, it seems search engines ignore reciprocal links.  If you’re not dependent on search engines (eg if your trade is mostly local) then reciprocal links may not be a problem.

Quality of Copy

One final point.  If your site has good copy, other sites will link to it for that reason.  So, blogs might review your site or your business.  Or some sites may link simply because they think your copy is a good read.  How have you encouraged other sites to carry links to your site?

If you have good copy regularly updated, you may find email lists helpful.  And these will be the topic of my next post.

How have you built back-links to your site?  Use comments to share your tips for good practice.

Finding Your Site by Direct Entry

Over the next few Thursday posts I shall look in detail at how to you can encourage people to visit your site.  The full list of approaches to increasing traffic is in the earlier post “How to Help the Right People Find Your Site”.

Direct entry is where your visitor types your url into their browser.  To do this  they are likely to copy your url from a document you supply.  This approach may seem to be a bit primitive compared with the others but it is important particularly for local organisations.

Three things you need to consider when you think about direct entry.

  • How local is your market?  Do your customers live or work close to your business?  Local might mean a part of a city or across a city or region.  If your market is national or global, direct entry will be less relevant to your marketing needs, although it may always have some relevance, eg at conferences or if you post out products.
  • How visible is your business?  If you have a shop front business, with people passing the entrance, this opens up extra possibilities for direct entry.  If your business is a service, perhaps from your own home, then your opportunities will be more restricted.
  • The value your site adds to your business.  If you are not visible, your site might be your main shop window.  If you have a real shop window, you will need to think about how your site enhances opportunities for customers who already use your shop.

You need to develop a marketing strategy dependent upon whether you want to find new visitors or to increase sales to existing customers.

Let’s say you have a bakery with a single outlet with plenty of footfall.  You may want to:

  • encourage visitors to come to your shop from other parts of the city.  Can you persuade them to take a detour to your shop?  For example, you might (1) collaborate with neighbouring shops to develop a portal website to promote the local area, (2) run market stalls elsewhere in the city and encourage customers to go to your website.
  • increase sales to existing customers, by increasing customer loyalty.  They might spread your news by word of mouth and buy bread from you regularly.  So, on your website you might include recipes for your bread and sell the ingredients in your shop.  Whilst some people might try to make your bread at home, whatever the results, buying bread from you is always going to be easier.  The recipes will show people what your product is really like and help them understand what goes into your baking.

You will want to build long-term relationships with your customers, so that you can tell them of future promotions and developments.

So, how might you make your url better known?

  • Business cards are essential for any business.  There will be little room to publicise your promotions but hopefully people who receive your card will check out your site and join your email list.
  • Flyers can give people a reason to visit your site.
  • Posters are possibly less successful because people need to copy your url from the poster.  However, they are permanent and may still be around when the flyers have gone.
  • Things like paper bags.  A baker might sell produce on a market stall and include their postal address and url on the bags.  Perhaps add a reason to visit the url.
  • And don’t forget to add a signature at the end of your emails with your url and line of business.  This will come up every time you create an email and it can of course be deleted if it doesn’t seem appropriate.

Getting some traction between your website and your business is important if you are a local trader.  However, if your market is further afield, you will need other methods to increase visitors to your site.  They’re up next, starting next time with back-links.

Have you any examples of brilliant online promotions for local businesses?  How did they publicise their website locally?

Who are the Right People?

Last time I listed several approaches to driving the right people to your website.  Before I describe these approaches in more detail, I shall ask: who are the right people?

Knowing your market will inform the decisions you make about how you drive traffic to your site.  There are lots of helpful tools but remember you are communicating with human beings.  No tool can do that for you.  Tools facilitate communication but they don’t do it.

I remember when I was a child, we used to tease my mother because she had a telephone voice.  I’m sure many people have heard friends or family who sound completely different when they are on the phone.  My mother wished to project a certain image when she used the phone.

Was she right?  It depends.  One school of thought is you need to be authentic, to be yourself.  Certainly, being natural in your communication helps build relationships.  On the other hand first impressions count.  Being laid back may be one of your endearing qualities in real life.  I’m not convinced it is always a positive online.

The term avatar is used online in two different ways.  They can be images (sometimes animated) generated by software that give you an online identity.  The other usage is in marketing, where avatars are your imaginary customers.

It helps to know what the people you are writing for are like.  I find my avatars emerge slowly as I write for them.  Other people are able to imagine elaborate avatars in advance.

You’re using online media to communicate, not with a machine but a real person.  Remember one person opens and reads your emails.  Usually this person is someone you have not met and so their avatar stands in for them.  They are an imaginary friend and you need to write to them as you would to a real life friend.

So, try to write your content (blog post, email, website, social media …) as if you are writing to a friend.  You won’t get it right for everyone but if you have one or more avatars they will help you find the right tone for your writing.

‘I bumped into my imaginary friend the other day.  Haven’t seen him for 50 years.  He’s put on weight.’

One way to improve your writing is to invite comments on your content.  This will help you to assess the impact of your writing.  So, invite comments and respond to them. Here are my invitations for this post but feel free to comment on whatever you like.

How do you communicate online with people you haven’t met?  Does online media help or hinder?  What are the pitfalls?

How to Help the Right People Find Your Site

Remember it’s not just about getting traffic to your site, it needs to be the right traffic.  There are several ways you can help the right people find your site.  You need to understand these approaches; their strengths and weaknesses and how to optimise them.  In this post, I’ll review several approaches and then add detail in future posts.

Direct Entry

This is where people type your url into their browser.  It can be very important, particularly for local websites.  You can publicise your site through posters, leaflets or business cards.

Search Engines

If you type the name of your business or website into a search engine, does it come top of the list or at least on the first page?  Ideally it should but if it does, all it means is you have a distinctive name.  No-one will find you by this route unless they’ve already heard of you!

It is more challenging to find the keywords people are likely to use for which you will be in the top 10, that is the first page that comes up.  But if you do appear on a page searched for by hundreds or thousands of people, you might see a significant increase in traffic to your site.


If you place a link on your site to another site, it is for them a back-link.  The immediate advantage of receiving a back-link is increased traffic to your site from the site that links to yours.  There are lots of reasons why another site might back-link to yours.  Ideally, you want your back-links to be relevant to your site.

Back-links don’t only bring more visitors to your site, they also attract search engines.  Once you have a few back-links, search engines will find your site and you may begin to appear in searches people make for certain keywords.

So, a blog might review your site or product.  Or a site might represent a common interest and have links to lots of sites like yours.  Or else someone who shares your market might include your site as a link because your service or product complements theirs.

Sometimes you might also want a link to a site that links to yours.  If two sites link to each other, this is known as a reciprocal link.  The advantage is increased traffic to both sites.  However, a mild disadvantage is that search engines don’t count it as a link.  Remember that you need some back-links that are not reciprocal!

Email Lists

Email lists can help people find your site although they are usually used to return people to your site when you want to alert them to new content or a new offer.  They can bring new visitors to your site but they normally do it indirectly.  If you tell your list of some new development on your site, your recipients will sometimes forward it.

Social Media

There are various ways of linking between your website and your social media.  If you have a lot of followers on Twitter, for example, it is worth exploring how you can encourage them to visit your site.


We’ve all be irritated by a Google search where you click on the first link on the results page and discover it’s an advert. Close inspection of the results page shows the adverts have a very pale pink background.  Grrr …

I’m not a fan of adverts but they can increase traffic to your site.  The big advantage of ads is they show you where there is a market.  Broadly if there’s lots of competition, this is a market where you too might make money.

Don’t forget you pay for ads.  Normally I would use other methods before I tried pay-per-click.

Do comment and share how you encourage people to visit your site, especially if its something I’ve missed!  If there are any approaches about which you would like more information, adding a comment will influence how soon I post about it.