Do you look at other companies’ websites in envy, wondering how they got such robust content and so much traffic? Wonder no more. Here’s the skinny on how our new business reached 1 million unique site visits two years after we launched our site.
Depending on your business and your industry, your site may generate the leads and sales you need at 10,000 unique visitors a month. It might be 50,000. In our case, we decided that 1 million uniques a year, or about 85,000 a month, was attainable and where we’d start gaining real traction in exposure and sales.
One side note: We’re talking about organic traffic here, not paid traffic through online advertising. Online ads are another way to build traffic to your site, it’s just not what we’re discussing today. We’d love to have 100 million site visitors, but that’s a high bar to reach if you’re starting from zero. Website traffic doesn’t build overnight. It takes strategy, planning and solid processes.
While setting a goal is a first step, I also feel like it’s more important to focus on the processes that will get you to your goal rather than obsessing about the numbers. Growing site traffic is a long process and you need to be open to changing your strategy as you discover what works for your audience and your site.
That’s why I’m a big believer in the rewards of building the right processes.
Processes that work
To reach our target of 1 million unique site visits, we knew we needed content. There had to be something people wanted to read and share. But we were starting with nothing. Zero. Nada.
That’s why we started by focusing on putting the right processes in place.
It took some trial and error to reach the right combination of processes we use today. But, we eventually found that a mix of keeping tasks in-house and outsourcing worked for us. Today, here’s what our content production process looks like:
- Brainstorm article ideas, make assignments and set deadlines – in-house
- Writing web content – outsourced to freelance writers
- Edits and feedback – in-house
- Revisions – outsourced
- Final edit – in-house
- Publish to blog, social media – in-house
We found that outsourcing the writing was necessary because one in-house person can’t work on 10 articles simultaneously along with their regular responsibilities. Hiring freelance writers allowed us to build interesting, sharable content more quickly.
Why not outsource all of it? By keeping the ideas, editorial review and posting in-house, we keep control of how our brand is presented in a time-efficient and affordable manner. This keeps checks and balances in place, and allowed us to achieve fantastic results.
Long-form to the rescue
In all honesty, it took us a while to figure out which type of content worked best for our site. When we started out most of our content took the form of short articles. We would take a newsworthy topic in our area of expertise and write a short piece.
For example, say the Huffington Post published a piece about the real estate market. We would write a synopsis about that article and link to the HuffPo post. We were publishing those types of articles about five times a week with a few long-form articles published occasionally. Then, we took a dive into Google Analytics. It quickly became obvious that Google was changing its formula and was starting to reward longer-form, higher-quality pages.
We’re talking articles of at least 800 words. That’s when we went in all-in with long articles because we didn’t see a scenario where Google would change away from rewarding longer content. Now, we publish 1-2 longer pieces each week.
Other steps we took to drive traffic and help us figure out our strategy were:
- Using plugins like Sumo to make it easy for readers to sign up for our newsletters and share our content.
- Publishing links to our content on social media sites consistently to drive traffic.
- Putting mechanisms in place to make it easy to track our results. In our case, we used subdomains. The News section of the site was for short-form content; The Blog section was for long-form. This made it easy to check Google Analytics and see that long-form content clearly grew traffic faster. Another technique may work for you.
- Following 2-3 search engine optimization experts and applied their knowledge to our site. Good people to follow include Rand Fishkin with Moz, Brian Dean with Backlinko and Neil Patel.
One well-known example of long content working well for a business is Tim Ferriss of The 4-Hour Work Week fame. He wrote long-form pieces from beginning because he liked it. When Google switched their preference to longer content, his readership jumped because the content was longer form and of extremely high quality.
Focus on quality and sharability, not just quantity
We’re an online property management software company, so we focused our blog posts on subjects of interest to landlords and property managers. We knew we needed lots of content to generate traffic, so we broke our article ideas into categories to keep from getting overwhelmed. These topics included tips, advice and information such as:
- Advice for landlords
- Advice for brokers and agents
- Landlord property management tips
- Information on landlord tenant laws
If you think about the questions you frequently get from clients, or trends in your industry, you’re sure to come up with a host of topics too. It was trial and error to find topics that generated traffic, but eventually if you put out good content with relevant keywords, then people will find it, read it and share it.
My final piece of advice on processes: When you find a topic or a form that works in bringing you traffic, double down on it. As we tweaked our focus from short-form to long-form content we watched our readership grow steadily.
Don’t obsess over analytics
Like I mentioned earlier, I didn’t get granular on analytics, but I did check our growth regularly. I didn’t sweat seasonal swings up or down in traffic. For instance, we found that traffic died in December and January due to a seasonal low swing in our industry. Now we know that our traffic bounces back as soon as the rental market picks up each spring.
Rather than obsess about daily or weekly numbers, I just asked, “Is traffic growing at a rate we’re cool with?” I kept a big-picture view. As long as traffic was headed in right direction, I figured we’re doing well.
If there’s one piece of advice I’d share with my fellow entrepreneurs, it’s this: Building website traffic is a long process. The first 6 months we saw small growth in our traffic, but after 12 months, we were clearly gaining traction. It took about 2 years to generate enough content and reach our goal of 1 million unique site visits. While that may sound overwhelming, I’m here to tell you that you can do it too. You just have to focus and start posting content that readers value.
Shortcuts like advertising don’t work for very long. Your site must have solid content to gain traction with readers and keep them coming back in a cost efficient, organic manner. At some point, you just have to do the work.
To replicate our success, set a goal, start writing, and keep going.