How I tripled my website traffic in less than 90 days without spending a dime

21 Jun 2016 5:39 PM

Read this if you are a beginner to E-commerce and want more traffic to your website without paying for advertising

I was so excited when I launched my ecommerce website just over 6 months ago – I launched just in time to catch the Christmas rush. The virtual lights were on and my shop was open - 24–7. Yay! 

So where were all the online customers? Why weren't they rushing to my site to buy myawesome Australian gift hampers?

After spending a lot of money with some Ad and Social Media ‘experts’, and getting a verynegative return on my dollar, I felt really burnt by the whole experience, so I decided to teach myself a bit about it and see where that got me.

So I read, and I read, and I read, and I read. And I put what I was reading into practice.

Before I knew it my new business was ranking 1st on the 1st page of Google for my targeted keywords and intent, ahead of many established businesses in my competitive e-commerce industry.

Call it Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), call it content marketing - call it what you like -  if you want more traffic to your website (and yes, I tripled my online sales in line with my traffic), read below for the 4 steps I used without spending ANY money. If you are a new website and looking for extra clicks, I hope you can get it to work for you too.

Please note - there are heaps of other things to do outside this list to not only improve traffic, but also to increase conversion.  If you are a beginner and want some cost-effective ways to improve traffic, start here! 

1. Set up your platforms

(If you've already got Google Analytics, social platforms and blogs set up - skip to the second step!)

1.1 Set up your Google Analytics Account


Set up your platformsIn case you haven't heard - Google Analytics is the free software that monitors everything you could think of on your website including how many people come to it, who they are, where they come from, how they found you, what language they speak, how old they are, what platform they're using to view your site, their personal interests...the list of what you can find out is long. 

If you don't yet have one, get your free account.  You can ask your web guys (who will charge for setting this up) OR, like I did - set it up yourself for free - here'sGoogle's Self-Help instructions on how to do this.  You will need to make sure you have verified your site so you can see all information under ‘Audience’ and ‘Acquisition’ sections

1.2 Set up your Blog

If you don’t already Blog, set up somewhere where you can!  It really doesn’t matter which software you use to do it but it's just important whatever is, it's easy for you to get creative and do your thing.

Here’s a website that can help you set it up if you are not already blogging.

1.3 Set up your Social Media Account for your business

You are going to need to use a social media account to share your content.

For my purposes, I used LinkedIn, as I was targeting corporate and business customers. You may prefer Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc - depending on where your target audience is, that's where you need to be.

2. Baseline, test and measure

It's important if you're going to triple something, you know what numbers to watch that you are tripling, and that they're the right ones!

I baselined 3 statistics (and watched them like an obsessive compulsive until they improved)

2.1 Users on my site

Source: Google Analytics / Audience Overview / Users

Description: The number of (unique) visitors or 'users' to your site

Frequency: Okay - I admit - I watched this every day - guilty! It will go up and down every day, but what gives the most meaning is the weekly and monthly trends. Also - some days of the week seem to do better than others - just one of those things. So don't fret if your numbers occasionally go down on a daily basis rather than up. As long as your weekly and monthly trends are up, that's what you're looking out for.

Why: You will be able to measure if what you are doing is effective by how many people are coming to your site. Above is a picture of my monthly stats from March - May - as you can see, users went from 400 to 1,200. I'm a new site so these numbers are small! But it does show you how you can improve dramatically in a short space of time.

Watch out for: Make sure these are real, unique visitors to your site. You should clean out your Google Analytics account regularly for 'spam referral' or crawlers. If you don't know what I'm talking about, click here to find out how to remove unwanted 'visitors' from your Google Analytics Account

Also click here to remove traffic from your own computer as well as countries that are never going to buy from you on Google Analytics.

Also make sure you are measuring actual users, not sessions. This is because, for example, if a friend gets on your site 10 times a day this = 10 'sessions' and 1 'user'. You want to ideally just measure how many different people are coming to your site for the purposes of tripling your traffic.

2.2 Number of organic impressions

Source: Google Analytics / Acquisition / Search Console / Queries

Description: Organic impressions are the number of times you came up in a google search when keywords were entered. It doesn't matter if your site was ranked "1" for those keywords (appearing first on the first page under the ads), "10 or 11" (usually first on the second page) or 270 (way back in the ranks!) - it is all included in here.

This number only measures traffic that comes to you organically, as opposed to traffic coming to you via an Ad, or social media, for example. So this is the number that should be impacted by the changes you're making in step 3 and 4. I.e. free traffic!

Why: You want to check this number so you can ensure the increase in your traffic is actually due to the increase in organic traffic (not because, for example, one ad you put out there perfomed very well).

2.3 Average ranking of keywords

Source: Google Analytics / Acquisition / Search Console / Queries

Description: This is the same report as above, and the detail shows what the words, or 'keywords' were that people typed into the search engine when it returned your website. It also shows you how many times it showed your site for each set of words; how many clicks were made when it showed your site; and what the average ranking was for your site.  

Why: It's important to understand what people are searching for and how search engines are returning your website in response to this, so you can tailor your content accordingly.  There are some keywords that my site ranks '1' for, but only an average of 30 people search using these keywords per month. On the other hand, there's over 6,000 people searching for a keyword that my site only ranks 23 at, because it's more generic and therefore more competitive. So it then becomes clear to me what type of content I have to write to capture this audience.

What to look out for:  If the keywords you're ranking highly for are so obscure and your market so niche that only 2 people per month search for it, perhaps you better re-think your business (unless of course, you can get those people to click on your site, and 1 of them is 100% likely to buy from you and your product price and margin is pretty high!) 

3. Start blogging - the more good content the better. Make some NOISE!

This is the number one thing I did more consistently that I believe contributed the most to the increase in traffic to my site. Here's 19 reasons why you should blog according to Sprout Content, who note your blog fuels SEO. They also note:

60% of businesses who blog acquire more customers , according to a HubSpot survey. 

 

3.1  How often should I blog?

People ask 'how often should I be blogging?' Who knows the exact science - but at least once a week is good. If you're able to pump out good quality content more frequently - do it as often as you can!  Just by doing it a lot you'll get better at it AND you'll be able to assess what works. For a more indepth answer see here.  Some research shows that companies who blog 11+ times per month more than double the traffic of those that blog less than this, but when you first start out this is a hard target to get to, especially if it's just you in your spare room. To triple my traffic in 90 days, I published about 1 blog a week. 

3.2 What should I blog about?

Something that is useful, helpful and relevant to your target market. If you are in a very competitive industry, try to narrow down each blog to one specific product or service where you can perhaps offer something a bit different to your competitors. Make sure what you are writing is good quality.

For me, I sell Australian made gift hampers and deliver them overseas. My best performing blog post is "The 4 biggest mistakes Australians make when sending a gift to the UK and how to avoid them".

The 4 biggest mistakes Australians make when sending a gift to the UK and how to avoid them

This blog helps people who want to send a gift to the UK find out the best way to do it. While they may take the information and not buy from me, it sets me up as an expert in this field, and at least they will find this of value. Some may even realise it's actually cheaper and easier to send a gift through my company and might just order. Which I know from my stats, they have.

 

 

My guess is it's my best performing blog by far because

  • The title and content are fairly long and very specific
  • It's very targeted to my audience
  • It's addressing my target audience's pain points
  • It's helpful information to solve my target audience's pain points for free
  • It took me a long time to write and is full of really useful information & links to other sites to help
  • It has clear call to actions to my site
  • It has anchor text to my site for my keywords (see 3.3 below)
  • It sets me up as an expert in sending gifts to the UK from Australia

The more you write, the more you will realise what works and doesn't work. Once you see a blog that really takes off - you can recreate similar types of blogs that address a similar audience / pain point. 

3.3 What should my blog include? 

To triple my traffic in 90 days, as well as relevant, useful content in my blog, I included:

  • a 'call to action' (CTA) that is a link to your site to take a specific action (e.g. buy gift hampers sent to the UK here). I.e. the action you are 'calling' on the reader to take. See here for irresistible CTAs
  • Hyperlinks to your site using anchor text. I.e. don't just put in your web address, put in Anchor text which is the keywords you want to be found for. If you don't know what this is, learn more about anchor text here.

3.4 Where should I put my blog?

I put my blog on my website, and additionally on Linkedin as a post. Some blogs I also put on my businesses Facebook page and Twitter but they don't perform as well on there. It depends where your customers are - what social media do they use? That's where to post. I also put some directly into Linkedin Groups that are relevant for my business which has worked really well when I'm targeting an audience who all hang out in that group!

3.5 How can I tell if my blog is working?

Check your Google Analytics account - got to Acquisition / Search Console / Landing pages. Make sure you extend your date range to at least a month so you can see what's the most popular landing pages. If you're blogging on your website, you should be able to tell how many people landed on the page that is your blog.

It's therefore immediately obvious which blogs are bringing in the most traffic to your site, as this list of landing pages is sorted by popularity. If your blog is not on your site, you will have to look at the Referral section of analytics to see which blog page your best traffic is coming from.

In addition to this, Google will give your site more credibility if you are blogging relevant content about your subject, so you will naturally rank higher in search engines and you should therefore see a rise in the statistics outlined in Step 2 above.

4. Getting the basics right

If you only have time to do the steps above - just do that! However there are some other items that will have incremental positive impact -  I wish someone had told me about them when I first started! Here they are:

4.1 Set up your homepage right - Understand what users see when your default page comes up on Google and how to update it

If you don't know where the headings and description text that are coming up on Google are coming from - find out! Go into Google search and start typing in terms until your site comes up and you can see what it says. Then find out where this text appears on your site and how to update it.

Ask your website developer if you really can't tell. When you go towww.websitegrader.com it is really good at telling you where you can improve headings and description text. I would often tweak this and re-test it through website grader to see if what I'd done had a positive, negative or neutral impact on my site's effectiveness.

You should have some of your keywords coming up. This is especially important if the name of your company and landing page do not contain any of your ideal search terms. So for example, my company sells Australian hampers. But the word 'hamper' is not in my company name which is 'I Still Call Australia Home'. This means I have to work a bit harder to be ranked for this term.

4.2 Make sure your site is well structured and the terms you are using for headings are what people will be searching for. 

Every time you create a page on your site, you need to understand how your Content Management System names that page, and then optimise the name of that page for the intent or keywords you want the page to rank for. So when I created a category called 'Gourmet' under which I show all my gourmet hampers, it would have been better to set up a category called 'Gourmet gift hampers', for example, as this helps google understand what's in the category. Or even better, 'Gourmet Australian Gift Hampers'. 

4.3 Make sure the name of your Products shows search terms - the same goes for product naming conventions.

I have a hamper called 'Picnic at Hanging Rock'. When I first set it up the page name it was set up on looked like this: www.istillcallaustraliahome.com/shop/001-picnic-at-hanging-rock (please note this link won't work).

Once I realised my main keyword 'Australian Hamper' doesn't appear ANYWHERE in this page title, I updated the name of my product so the new page now readshttp://www.istillcallaustraliahome.com/shop/001-australian-gift-hamper-picnic-at-hanging-rock

Can you see the difference? 

Changes like this take time if it wasn't set up right in the first place. I wish somebody had told me when I started setting this up! You can see how if the name of your company has what you want to be found for (i.e. in my case 'hamper') - this would have worked out just fine! Unfortunately mine does not, so I just have to work that little bit harder...

4.4 Updating pictures with alternative text

'Alternative Text' is the text that describes your images on your site. Until recently, none of my images had this. Doh! It's pretty obvious when you think about it, that Google can't read images. So I went through a process (and still am) of updating the alternative text that is shown to google when an image or video appears; and making sure this is optimised for my keywords. Remember, if Google can't read it, it can't rank it!

4.5 Verifying your business on Google 

If you haven't already, it can't hurt to do this. It is Google's own verification system right? So it stands to reason they may give you a couple of extra points for using it (maybe!). If you don't know what I'm talking about - Google explains it here better than I can :-)

So that's it folks! A whistle-stop tour of making improvements that, if done right, will drive traffic to your site for free!

I hope you find this information useful. 

Is there anything else you've done to improve organic traffic to your site for free? Keen to hear your thoughts!

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