There are lots of businesses that set up shop online without any clue of how to get customers. I see it happen all the time. A successful offline business decides that it’s time to put up a website, which is a great idea, and then they hire a web designer to build it. Once the site’s complete, they sit around and wait for the money to roll in.

It’s not gonna happen.

You have to market your website, just like you did for your business and products/service when you weren’t online. Just like putting up flyers on the light posts and signs in the grass, you need to get your website in front of your customers eyes. In the online world, there are tons of ways to drive traffic to your site.

There are so many different tactics it’s hard to name just a few and even harder to name one to start with. The types of activities you do to build awareness to your online business is different for everyone. It all depends on how much time you can dedicate and what type of business you run. Every tactic has varying degrees of success. One technique that is killer for one business might fall flat for another. You just have to get in there and see what you can do. Lets start with content creation.


Creating Content

Creating content for your site is one of the most important things you can do. People won’t visit your site if you don’t have anything worthwhile to offer them. Write up articles about all of your products. Tell your customers how your service can benefit them. Give them real benefits. Don’t just fill your pages with fluff and sales copy.

You should consider setting up a blog on your site, if you don’t already have one. This is a great place to create even more useful content for your visitors and it can be a little more casual than your product/service pages. Lets say for example you sell cosmetic surgery. You might not feel comfortable writing an article about the “Hottest Celebrities of 2010 and Their Cosmetic Procedures,” but it might fit fine on your blog and your visitors would love it.

There’s should never be a shortage of content ideas if you’re an expert in your field. Think about what your customers are asking you. No matter how common the question or how simple the answer, write a blog post about it, create a Power Point presentation or record a video. Just because it’s common-knowledge to you doesn’t mean that it is to everyone else.

Here are some more places to get ideas for content.

  • Google Blog Search
  • Google News
  • Yahoo Answers
  • Industry related forums
  • Ask your coworkers
  • Questions from new hires
  • Company training materials and manuals
  • Industry related or competitor newsletters

Most of these have RSS feeds for easier consumption. Learn more about setting up an RSS feed here if you don’t know how.

Link Building

The next most important thing you can do for your site is build incoming links. The more people that link to you, the more likely your site is to start ranking for your competitive keywords. The more keywords your site ranks for, the more traffic you’ll get. See how it all starts to work together?

It’s hard to say whether content creation or link building is more important than the other, but I put content first because you can’t really build links without it. This is why you create high-quality content. The better, more informational and helpful your content is, the better chance you have of someone seeing it and linking to it. If your content is crap and churned out by interns who don’t know your business, people will be able to tell. They won’t be interested and they won’t link to it.

So now that you have quality content on your site, it’s time to get some links. There are so many link building tactics around it’s sure to make your head spin. If you start doing some research, you’re sure to suffer from information overload. Keep in mind that it’s not just about the quantity of links, but the quality that’s really important. One high-quality, super-relevant link from a high authority site will make all the difference as compared to 100 crappy links from no-name, free-for-all directories or random blog comments.

How do you get these high quality links? It’s not easy, that’s for sure. If you want to be successful, you need to get that through your head. Understand that link building is hard work. Lots of link builders jump into the game looking for the next easy trick to get their sites ranked. It doesn’t exist. Those types of techniques are almost always worthless and result in wasted time and money. Instead focus on the legitimate tactics that will result in links that last for a long time.

Lets start a few simpler ideas that can result in higher quality links.

  • Research industry related blogs/website
  • Get a list of your partners/vendors
  • Build an email list
  • Give away products/services
  • Guest blogging
  • Look for top industry publications

By searching for industry related blogs and websites, you can now start to build relationships. Read through their sites and get a feel for who they are, then gather their contact information. You can build relationships/partnerships with these people and help each other out.

The same goes with your partners and vendors. These are the relationships that you already have and can utilize. See if they will link to you from their own site They obviously like the products/services you have to offer, because they use them themselves. Getting a link from them shouldn’t be too difficult.

If you aren’t already, you should be building an email list. Your list can consist of customers, prospects, or anyone else that gave you permission to own their email address. If you don’t already have a list, start by giving something away. Create an extremely helpful report or ebook that people want and the only way for them to get it is by entering their email address. I recommend using a service like Aweber to manage your list and opt-in forms. Now you have the emails of a very targeted group of people who would be most likely to buy from you. Send them an occasional email with information about a new product or perhaps even a contest you’re running. Get the word out, but don’t spam and annoy them.

Giving away products or services is another great way to build links. Find bloggers who are at least somewhat related and who do reviews of products. Ask them if they’d like to review your product. Most bloggers never turn down something free and will usually post a link to your site in their review. If they don’t, politely ask them.

One of the most popular tactics used today is guest blogging. This is where your blog research comes in handy. It’s time to start building relationships with fellow industry leaders. Contact the blog owners, by name if possible, and mention that you would like to write a guest post for them. Pitch your idea and if they accept, begin writing the best article you possibly can. Not only will you be able to include a link to your site (usually in a byline) but you’ll also attract all of their site visitors. This is a whole group of people that might have never seen your site otherwise. Make your content really good so that they want to continue following what you have to say.

Lastly, at least for purposes of this post, is to look for top industry publications. This is very similar to guest blogging. Visit the top news sites in your field and see if you can be a writer. Some might say no, but the ones who say yes can get you tons of new publicity. And if you can’t write for them, see if you can find highly related articles on their site where a link to your site would be beneficial to their readers. Send an email and mention it.

Social Media

Social media is a place to build relationships and drive more traffic to your site. While you can build lots of links on various social media sites, they won’t be high-quality or help your search rankings. You want to find people in your industry and make friends. They can help you push out your articles and increase the likelihood of it being seen by other people who would be interested in it.

The most popular social media sites that businesses focus on are usually Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, and Myspace. With all of these sites you want to be sure you follow only people interested in what you have to offer. You should take part in these networks regularly. Post interesting content, your own and others, and be social. Start with one or two networks at first so you don’t become overwhelmed, then jump into the others as you get comfortable.

Lets start with Twitter. Start a Twitter search to find people in your industry and potential customers. If they are talking about a product or service you sell, “friend” them and see if you can help. Don’t be a pushy salesman though, or they won’t like it. People come to social media platforms to talk and be social with other like-minded individuals, not to be sold to, so be careful about the way you approach potential customers.

In Facebook, you’ll want to create your own personal profile which you can use to talk with people and also to join related groups. From this profile you can create a Facebook Page for your business, which you can promote to your friends from your personal profile. LinkedIn is very similar to Facebook. You can add contacts related to your industry, you can join groups and you can participate in the Q&A section of the site and help people out. Myspace also has groups you can join, but the audience tends to be slightly younger. If this isn’t your demographic, skip it.

Social Bookmarking

In addition to social networking services, there are also social bookmarking sites. These are places where people go to submit their favorite content and vote on content submitted by others. If you get enough votes, it could hit the front page, which could drive thousands of people to your site. This isn’t easy though.

The most popular sites are, Delicious, Reddit, and StumbleUpon. If you ever hope for your content to make it “hot” on one of these site, you have to dedicate a lot of time to making friends. Search for people who submit content in categories similar to yours and begin voting on their content. They’ll notice and will hopefully start voting on your submissions. You also want to participate by commenting on other stories regularly.

This can be very time consuming, so you might instead consider searching for industry related social networking and bookmarking sites. The communities will obviously be much smaller, but the audience is more targeted and likely to pay attention to what you have to say. They are likely to be your customers or even link to your content from their own sites. If you’re having trouble finding niche social networking/bookmarking site, try searching Google for “[Your Keyword] Social Network.” If you find one, click the “Similar” link under the listing and see what else Google spits out.

As you can see, there are quite a few things you can do to drive more traffic to your site. In this post I tried sticking to the tactics that are most likely to result in qualified leads and that should result in a better ROI for your business. There are hundreds more techniques you can do for your business, but the ones above are a great place to start without becoming too overwhelmed. Start slowly and work at your own pace. Set aside 30 minutes to an hour each day and see what you can accomplish.