This past week, I had Josh, Carl, Tom and James ask a variation of the same question:
"How do I get more people to visit my website?"
Marketing is like inviting people to a party. If you're inviting people to a party, there are three things you need to get right:
The wording on the invitation
The distribution of the invitation
The invitation might look something like this:
Come to Justin's Heavy Metal Mayhem Party
Featuring Striker, Crimson Shadows, and Terrifier
July 10th, 2014, 1pm-midnight at Paddlewheel Hall
Cost is $20 per person. RSVP by emailing Justin.
The wording is important, because it helps answer whether you (as a recipient):
Want to come (Do you like metal? Do you like those bands?)
Can come (Are you free that day? Do you have enough money?)
The wording also establishes a clear call to action: if you're willing and able to come, how do you respond? The same structure applies when you're writing a landing page or a blog post. Here are the questions you need to answer:
Who is this for?
What do they want?
Why do they want it?
How can they get it?
"People don't go to a website to admire it, they go there to get things done" - Jakob Nielsen
After you've got your message, distribution is the next important step you have to tackle.
There's this fallacy that good content always get's discovered; but the truth is that good content needs distribution in order to be seen. (Source)
So you've gone to the printers, and you've produced 1,000 flyers for your Heavy Metal Mayhem party. Where are you going to promote it? The jazz club? The library? The seniors living complex?
Nope; you're going to go to places heavy metal fans hang out: the local metal club, the record store (if you still have one in your town), and whatever liquor stores sell Pilsner.
The same is true for you when you're trying to get traffic to your website or blog. You need to go to the places where your target audience hangs out, and invite them to come to your party. Here are some examples:
If you're targeting designer: Designer News
If you're targeting retail store owners: TalesFromRetail
If you're targeting hard core developers: Lobsters
For your Heavy Metal party, you might also put up flyers in high traffic areas (telephone poles, coffee shop bulletin boards). In the same way, there's options for you to promote your website content. A few examples:
Blog comments: sometimes it's appropriate (and helpful) to leave a comment on an already popular post, with a link to your website. This comment, for example, resulted in 3,497 visitors to my blog.
Answering a forum thread: Nathan Kontny is the master of this. Look at his answer to this thread on Reddit. He provides a lot of value, but also links back to his blog.
Posting on Medium: generally I advocate using your own platform, but if you're getting started, Medium can be a good place to get some initial traction, and build up an audience.
Finally, and most important: a good Heavy Metal promoter will find influential people who already have a platform, and get them to help spread the message. Likewise, you can go and find the influential people for your niche. This could be bloggers, podcasters, or thought leaders that have already built a following. If you're offering something that would provide value for their audience, there's a chance they'll share it. Patrick McKenzie (Patio11) recently shared this script for getting the attention of influencers:
Make a list, and think about what they care about: "Make a list of a hundred people who talk about your topic all the time. If you can't find anybody on the list who would care about that thing that you're writing, then don't write that thing. Write something else."
Talk about them (not yourself): "Patrick, this blog post cites you favorably with regards to this thing you said here."
Highlight a way you've helped them: "You had a suggestion to try this in a particular blog post. And so I tried that, here is my write-up."
The aspiring Heavy Metal promoter has the wording for the invitations down, and has figured out how to get the word out. What do you do next? You remind people about the event! Go back to all the places you were hanging out: remind them the party's coming up! The same is true for promoting your content. It's not enough to just tweet about it once, and hope people hear about it.
This will surprise you, but you're going to need to remind people. Some people think it takes 7 times for someone to hear about something before they pay attention. The folks over at CoSchedule have a great schedule for how many times you should promote a given piece of content on different platforms.
I've published blog posts on a Tuesday and no one cared, only to promote it again two years later and have it blow up (that's what happened with this post). It's OK to promote something a few times, to see if it picks up any momentum.
Remember: at the end of the day, something that is remarkable will market itself.
"If your product and company are remarkable on its own getting noticed is a lot easier." - Giacomo “Peldi” Guilizzoni, founder of Balsamiq Studios (Source)
I hope this has been helpful for you!
PS: This post explained some basic principles about getting more traffic to your site. My upcoming book explains how you can apply these principles to build and market better products.