Do you remember that movie, Field of Dreams, starring Kevin Costner?
The one where he builds a baseball field in the middle of his cornfield? You know — with the tagline, “build it and they will come”?
Well, your website is not like that at all.
Your website isn’t a field of dreams. If you build it, you need to promote the heck out of it.
The reality is is there are millions of brand-new websites on the Internet every single day. Yours is just one among billions.
To paraphrase from another famous movie, your website is not a beautiful or unique snowflake.
So how do you stand out and drive traffic to your site?
Most Websites Don’t Have A Plan For Driving Traffic
I wish I could say this isn’t true, but the reality is most brick and mortar businesses have no plan at all for driving web traffic.
More than half of the small businesses either have a terrible site that they market like crazy, or they have a decent website with no marketing plan behind it.
Neither one of those scenarios is going to benefit the business.
Just like Kevin Costner builds the ballpark in the cornfield, businesses expect to build a beautiful website, and have the money come flowing in. But in real life, Shoeless Joe Jackson isn’t going to walk out from behind a corn stalk and find your website.
You can build the most gorgeous website in the world, but unless you have a plan for driving traffic to it, it’s not going to do you any good.
The same goes for business owners who spend a ton on AdWords for a site that is unusable and unattractive. Maybe you can get the traffic to the site but if people can’t find what they need easily, or use your website on their phone, that traffic is not going to do you any favors.
The truth is you need both.
You need a well-organized, user-friendly website and a cohesive plan for driving traffic to your site.
If You Aren’t Marketing, Realize That Your Competitors Are
The most common thing I hear from business owners is they don’t have time to drive traffic to their site.
Maybe this is why so many people spend a small fortune each year on PPC (AdWords, Facebook advertising, third-party lead generation, etc.)
Those forms of marketing are fine, but not as your entire traffic strategy. And definitely not if you’re driving Traffic to a non-mobile-friendly site that looks like it was built in 1999.
Too many businesses let their niece or nephew build their website, maybe to save a few bucks. But it’s very rare that this practice actually has a positive effect on business.
When there’s tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars on the line, you have to do things that make good business sense.
SEO Is Harder Than It Looks
Most businesses are interested in SEO. They want to rank on the first page of Google. But they aren’t always ready to do the hard work it takes to get to the first page of Google.
Most business owners have heard they need to blog, and they might even publish an article or two. But it’s exceedingly rare (even in web design) to see anyone continue to publish on a regular schedule for a full year.
That’s right. A full year is the minimum amount time you should invest in blogging, or videos, or podcasting, to see results.
If you want people to find your website, you need to build a rock-solid brand. That requires a lot of content that answers your customers questions.
Remember, millions of websites debut every day. You can’t expect to drop your site in the middle of a corn field and rocket to the top of Google. You need to put stuff out there in the world, so people have a chance to hear about you and find you.
Yes, I know that sounds like a lot of work, and trust me it is.
But believe me when I say to you, that not only have I done it myself more than once, but when I see my clients do it — putting useful information out there week after week after week, for years on end, a funny thing happens. Their website starts to get traction.
SEO is a long term game, but one that you can win, if you put your mind and efforts towards it.
You Will Need To Set Aside Time For Marketing
Kicking ass at SEO and ranking high on Google means you have to have some discipline. It means you have to make time to answer customers questions via blog or video, and publish every week. It means you have to answer blog comments and set aside time to do content marketing.
This is why you see me publishing here, and recording a WordPress podcast twice a week. This is why you see me at various local Chamber of Commerce and getting involved at the Sacramento WordPress Meetup.
Instead of waiting for people to find my corn, I’m bringing my corn to people in all different ways, both online and offline.
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t spend money on online marketing and just do SEO, or just do social media, or just go to trade shows, or just do Facebook advertising.
In fact, I’m saying everything is important, and most businesses probably aren’t doing enough of one type of marketing or another.
Which marketing mix is best for you? Every business is different, so knowing your customers, and where they spend time and attention is going to be a big factor in deciding where you spend time marketing your business.
Don’t Just Think Short Term
Chances are if you are spending close to five figures a month on pay-per-click that you could be getting a lot more for your money.
Pay-per-click is like heroin. You get a rush (of traffic) from it, but you don’t build anything for the future. This is why I encourage businesses to produce content that can be reused for something like a brochure or an email marketing campaign.
The way to get people to your own corn field is to have something to draw them in with. Make it worth their while. Solve a problem for them. Answer a question. Teach them how to be better in their own businesses.
These are the things that so few businesses (in any vertical) do well.
If you want to have people come to your website, you have to offer them a compelling reason to show up.
It’s important to have a website that helps your customers get what they want, but you should have a multi-pronged strategy for getting them to your website in the first place.