After being a webmaster for 15 years, I have recognized key ways to make a website successful. Though the knowledge comes from countless hours of effort and trial and error, I’ll share these secrets with you for free- simply for the satisfaction of helping others.
I’ve used the following steps to help multiple websites succeed in their own niches, the biggest one going from zero to 4.5 million visits per month, a laboratory site going from 10k visits/month to 100k visits/mo, a photo site from 0 to 70k/mo, a fiber optic site from 5k visits/mo to 50k/mo, a world almanac site from 0 to 50k/mo, and several others from zero to the lower tens of thousands of visits per month. Once you have traffic, you can monetize it and start making money. Then you grow it as much as you can, then start another website and try to replicate the success, but in a slightly different niche. Once your network of sites mature and earn links on their own merit, you can interlink them and see great power of sculpting link text and effecting search ranking. But that can be a long road for most people. This article is to simply help you with one website and grow it to be successful.
Follow these EXACT Steps to Grow Your Website:
1. Make sure the pages are perfectly optimized for search engines (SEO). Many people say they optimized their website, yet only do a 50% or 75% optimization. Web designers may think they know everything there is to optimize, but may be overlook key aspects of the keyword consistency or link strategy. So, how does one come to discover that they don’t know everything? …to know what you don’t know? This knowledge oversight is what causes most websites to not reach their potential. The best prevention is continual learning.
Since you likely Googled this page and read this far, this means you’re searching and are already on the right track. I bet you’re hoping to find something you didn’t know before. Well, even if you feel 100% confident you know and have done everything in SEO, let’s review the details of SEO anyway. A complete understanding and continuous learning in SEO is imperative to your site’s success and should not be taken lightly. (2 brief side notes: 1. I don’t claim to know everything, but have had success in building high traffic to multiple websites and will tell you how in this article. 2. This site isn’t selling/pushing any products, so no worries about bias or exaggeration).
SEO WARNING: Many people are told to just focus on writing good content and providing a great user experience, like Google’s SEO recommendations, and then you will magically be rewarded by increased traffic. This is false; good content is not enough! SEO is a game and those who don’t play it get left behind. You can have a great website, but if, for example, your URL looks like this: www.domain.com/blog/08/10/2010/notes?id=23102323 then you are letting the traffic go to your competitors who ARE optimized, like this: www.domain.com/specific-keyword-phrase/
It can be painful converting to make a site SEO friendly that wasn’t before, but that’s part of playing the game. The quality of the site from a visitors standpoint is the same, the user experience is the same, but you do it because that’s what Google and other search engines decided makes content relevant. It’s natural that Google wants you to think about fresh, original content and to not focus on the fact that their search algorithm has only limited signals they use to decide if a website is ‘relevant’. In fact, Google reveals many of these in the way it shows its search results. It bolds the keyword found in the search listings as though that is what makes the article relevant. So, without knowing anything about SEO at all, one look at the Google search results reveals that the keywords in the title, description, domain, URL (directory name) impact the search results. To summarize, play the game and do it right- take painstaking extra measures to make your site more optimized than your competitor and you will be rewarded greatly.
Here’s a complete break down SEO for you right now…
1a. Do keyword research! Use Google Keyword Tool to discover the phrases that are the most popular, with competition that is the least optimized and least prominent (in terms of links) and use it consistently across your site.
You don’t want to (and can’t) compete with Wikipedia, so scratch that competitor off the list. Lets say you want to compete for ‘Portland Oregon cars’, but someone already has portlandoregoncars.com and their page looks optimized for SEO and is prominent- then choose a different phrase! The keyword tool will allow you to discover phrases people type in and how many estimated people search it per month. You could assume that if you rank #1, you’ll get at least 30% of the traffic Google estimates through its Keyword Tool. Go after the low hanging fruit, so choose a phrase that’s more specific, but as general as you can with virtually no competitors with optimized sites. Once you find this, get the EXACT domain matching the keyword phrase. Like portlandoregoncars.org or something. If the .com is taken, but they didn’t optimize their site, then just get another domain extension (.org .cc .net .biz .co, etc.) and register it using godaddy or someplace. Then host it on a cheap host that allows unlimited add-on domains, like webhostingpad or hostmonster. After you build and optimize your site, you’ll likely be #1 soon after you complete the steps on this list. Simple as that. You’ll more than make up your investment of $8 domain fee + $72 hosting fee = $80/yr or $6.66/mo.
1b. SEO basics…Use your keyword phrase within:
a. Page title (make the title catchy for your real human users, and have your perfect keywords for crawlers. Try having them in ALL CAPS for getting more human clicks, or something engaging like 50 Most Dangerous Roads in Texas)
b. Meta title (update: some of these meta tags are supposedly ignored by crawlers now and are no longer w3c compliant)
c. Meta keywords
d. Meta description
e. Header tags: <h1> <h2> <h3> <h4>
f. <strong> tags and/or <b> tags
g. <em> tags and/or <i> tags
h. Three times exact in the body copy, and more with broken variations of it.
i. At least once in a URL link <a href=”link”>keyword phrase</a>
j. Make a folder with the keyword phrase as its name; use hyphens – between multiple words.
k. Image alt tags
l. Image filenames, e.g. Keyword-Phrase.jpg
m. Link ‘title’ text. title=’keyword’
n. Create multiple pages with similar variations of that keyword and inter-link those pages with the link text being the exact keyword phrase of the page title, etc. Once you’re done with internal linking, link each page (treat each separately) from social media, like Facebook, Twitter, Digg, and all other social bookmarking sites, with link text being the exact name of that page’s keyword phrase.
1c. Use a WordPress blog as your website. If you do this, a lot of the optimization is done for you, plus it ‘pings’ crawler websites and gets recognized more easily in blog searches. To quickly turn your WordPress blog into an SEO monster, follow these 10 essential steps for killer WordPress SEO.
2. Place links from Wikipedia to your website. I don’t care what anyone else says, Wikipedia links matter! Despite the fact that it has nofollows, Wikipedia is huge and if you get a relevant link to your site and it sticks (not removed), then you get 2 benefits: 1. A substantial amount of referral traffic, and 2. Even more external links from Wikipedia harvestors. That’s right, not only will you get a valuable link from Wikipedia to your site, but all the others that scrape and clone Wikipedia content may likely keep the external link to your site. So, when you put one link on Wikipedia, you may actually be getting 10 or more. Don’t listen to folks that say Wikipedia links are nofollow and don’t count. Uh, that’s bull. Wikipedia is gold and if you get a link on it that stays, believe me, you put yourself on the map and you will starting getting traffic. I have done this for many sites and works great every time. Remember that what works is usually what most others will not think of doing, or may disregard it, or say it won’t work. You can also submit your pages to bookmarking sites like Digg, Delicious, Buzz, Reddit, StumbleUpon and other bookmarking sites, but in my experience, your link will get easily buried and may never get crawled. You can always ping your links to force them to get crawled, by putting your linked page on pingomatic, but this is what spammers always do and I think is mostly a waste of time. Spammers also buy thousands of injected links (black hat stuff) from gigs on fiverr.com, but you risk getting your site banned by search engines. It’s a better use of time doing comment posts with your URL on government sites though- just search and you’ll find them- dozens of government agencies found through usa.gov. Basically start by getting the Wikipedia link.
3. Place links from Craigslist to your website. Similar to Wikipedia, Craigslist just has an enormous amount of traffic and you’ll again benefit from the immediate referrals, plus any other job sites or website portals that clone its content. If you’re even thinking about hiring someone for an odd job, consider placing a listing with a link to your website. It’s free. Or, advertise your products or services for sale under the ‘for sale’ ‘community’ or ‘services’ sections.
4. Offer something of value for free. Give away information or something intangible that is of value is a smart way to grow website traffic. It’s a simple business principle that always works and others will naturally want to link to your site. You can jumpstart the publicity of the free ‘thing’ you offer by writing a press release (you can hire someone on fiverr.com to write one for $5, the get it into Google News- which other publicists often crawl and will syndicate the press release or rewrite and submit a new version on it. How do you get your news into Google News? The cheapest way is to use WebWire.com and choose their cheapest $30 WebPost option- it will guaranteed be in Google News. Remember that you will be rewarded if you find a need and fulfill that need while using keywords consistently and effectively for SEO. Serve people and serve as many as efficiently as you can. You will then be rewarded at the end, given that you are doing all the other SEO recommendations.
5. Leverage social media. Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube carry an enormous amount of traffic, so its important to get as much of it as possible. Create a fan page for your website, optimize it for your targeted keywords, stream RSS feeds into it if possible, add a like box and share box to your website. Make sure you also read these 7 advanced SEO techniques. You can hire a developer who knows Facebook API to write yourself a script to automatically post to Facebook pages, using a ‘cron’ that runs on an Apache server. You could potentially generate thousands to millions without any management of the page, except for pre-planning what you’re going to post in advance. Keep in mind that Facebook makes your less-relevant if you post more than 3 times a day. Many pages are making themselves irrelevant and ignored in the news feeds by posting 6-8 times a day or even every hour. This results in having many people dislike your page and Facebook’s algorithm will penalize you (I know this from personal experience in monitoring like stats from a 2 million-fan page.)
When you make a Facebook fan page, you might offer something for free to give them an incentive to become a fan. Services like Woobox can add custom tabs to Facebook to offer giveaways, coupons, polls, subscription signup forms, download user emails and comments, etc.
Examples of the 5 steps in practice…
By applying the above techniques, a particular family-friendly website of general interest was able to attain the following traffic levels:
Google Analytics shows healthy traffic above 100,000 visits per month on a particular website. Yahoo! Site Explorer shows 4,505 incoming links from other websites.
For this example website receiving 100,000+ visits per month, it receives several hundred bucks a month in Google AdSense revenue. I heard of another site with similar traffic received up to 10 times this amount, but the ads were ‘too prominent’, carrying the risk of losing repeat visitors. I believe sites that get too eager to cash-in on AdSense may end up destroying their revenue stream, as people don’t trust spammy ad-filled websites as much. I prefer to keep it minimal, to keep its credibility for making more money long-term.
The Google Analytics chart shows a growth pattern of how a website grew from 3 visits a day in Nov. 24, 2007 to nearly 7,000 visits/day in Sept 23, 2010. You can see that most of the growth was in a 1-year period of time from 2009 – 2010, from getting consistent external links and visitors returning for free, interesting content, such as in the strategies outlined above.
The spike in the middle of the chart was for 1 day when the BBC posted a link to this particular website, driving approximately 2,100 additional visitors to the site. The long-term value of the link is likely responsible for even greater traffic well beyond that level.
You can also see a dip in the chart where traffic levels plummeted down to next to zero. This was from using a terrible host, which was 3ix. They frequently got their server hacked and frequently ‘throttled’ bandwidth to websites, disallowing some users from even accessing it, or destroying the website altogether. In this case, they took down the website completely without contacting the owner. After limping along until December, switching hosts suddenly resulted in a surge of traffic- the traffic the website would have received previously, had the host not cut it down. The lesson here, is if you want your site to grow, be aware of your host and make sure its fast and has the bandwidth to scale properly.
This chart shows a different website showing a web traffic spike from 300 to 7,975 visits in one day, then back to around 300-400 visits per day. It was because something was offered free on the website and it did not gain any visibility on Digg, but gained great visibility on meneame.net, a Spanish-language user-submitted news site, which referred 4,194 visits, and Delicious was 2nd source of traffic with 1,214 visits, along with a few other minor ones. None of the English-based sites would have recognized it, if it were not for the Spanish site, which once it made the front page, became posted to Delicious, StumbleUpon and a few others. It shows that even though something fails, it’s worth continuing to try, including translating your social media campaigns to posting to websites of various languages, popular outside of your own country.
If you apply the above 5 tips, your website will be on the path to success. I hope you too are able to grow your website traffic to 100,000+ visits per month. Keep trying and once you get there, you’ll enjoy the rewards.