Author Topic: Driving Traffic To Your Site  (Read 5198 times)

Offline Mark Austin

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Driving Traffic To Your Site
« on: March 11, 2011, 05:57:38 PM »
Driving Traffic To Your Site

Traffic, traffic, traffic. It's a never ending quest in the internet marketing world. If you are trying to rank well in the organic search results then you know already know that over the last couple of years Google has gotten tougher in how they rank sites.  Loading speed, broken links, bad neighborhoods, overall website quality, content quality, site design and navigation, inbound links, bounce rate, social bookmarks, age of the website, the site's past history, ... all are factors in the rankings.  But does this mean that SEO fundamentals, like the ones we learned and had put into practice five or six years ago, are now useless?

Absolutely not! As a matter of fact, SEO fundamentals have just become more important than ever in making your content visible, authoritative, and targeted to the right keywords. Updating your copy to a tightly controlled keyword density will make no sense at all if search engines can't find your site/page. You can put in as many new modules and elements to your site as you like, just make sure that everything you do to your site is grounded in visibility, authority, and incorporation/utilization of the right keywords.

And to be able to do that, you need to go back to the fundamentals of SEO, the ABC of SEM, and that's Articles, Blogs, and Checkout Optimization.

Article/Directory Submission

Article/directory submission, with reference to SEM and SEO, generally refers to writing of articles that are relevant to one's online business and submitting them to article submission directories like ezinearticles and amazines.

Article submission presents marketers with many benefits:

- It enables online marketers/entrepreneurs to attract large numbers of visitors, as well as links, to their site without shelling out large amounts of money. Think free advertising.

- It can improve a site's placement in the SERPs (i.e., rank) by increasing a site's backlinks and PR.

- It can establish a site owner as an expert in the field/industry for which he writes, thereby building the trust of potential customers and getting them to visit his/her site and possibly make a purchase.

Key Points To Consider When Writing Articles

Although article submission/marketing can be a great asset to a business/website, one cannot and should not expect that articles alone will boost his/her site's traffic and sales. Just as with any SEO/SEM strategy, article submission/marketing should be done correctly to be effective—articles should be written a certain way, good judgment should be employed when choosing directories to submit to, articles should be optimized for search engines and, most importantly, article marketing should be used in conjunction with other internet marketing strategies, etc.

Below are several points to keep in mind when writing articles:

- Never copy/use articles written by other people, much less present yourself as the writer of an article you didn't write.

- Make it a point to provide valuable/informative material in your articles. Make them worth everyone's while to read.

- Make sure that your articles contain enough keywords that are relevant to your industry/business (around one to three percent). Don't go overboard though as you will run the risk of getting recognized for keyword stuffing.

- It is always best to review the editorial guidelines of the article submission site that you wish to submit your articles to.

- If your article is longer than what an article submission site allows, break it up into smaller and more manageable sections and/or parts and submit them separately. Generally, short articles (400 to 600 words) get the most traffic.

- Always try to come up with titles that tell readers right away (within the first three or four words) what your article is all about. Also, make it a point to include an important/relevant keyword in it.

- Use subheadings and bulleted and numbered lists in your articles as these make it more presentable and easier to read.

- Always deliver what you promise. If you promised five tips, make sure you have five tips in your article.

- If your articles are reproductions of materials found on your site, make sure to modify them first before submitting them to article directories. Just modify them enough so that they will not be exactly the same as the originals.

What Makes for a Perfect Author Resource Box?

To make your article(s) "sell", you must have a well-crafted resource box that will link your article to your site and to your identity, The resource box, otherwise known as a "SIG" (or SIGnature), is (usually) located at the bottom of an article.

A resource box SHOULD contain the following:

- Your name – this should be the first thing that you

- Your site's address – in valid URL form (http://www.example.com)

- Your elevator pitch – A one- to three-sentence statement emphasizing on what makes you and your offering unique.

- Your call-to-action – This can be anything that you want your readers to accomplish—a link to your site, an link to your selling page, a link to your opt-in form, etc. But keep in mind that you must have only one call-to-action as multiple call-to-actions can confuse your readers.

Optionally, you can also include these:

- Your Ezine/newsletter subscription address – or your opt-in form address. This lets you capture your (trusting) readers' email addresses.

- Your contact information – like your business phone number, just in case someone would want to get in touch with you for interviews or your press/media kit.

- A free report – or anything FREE which could serve as either your call-to-action or your free bonus offering which can further enhance your credibility as an expert in the field you're in.

- Your email autoresponder – though be aware that spammers can (and do) take advantage of this by extracting your autoresponder address and adding it to their spam list.

- An industry-related keyword/phrase as an anchor text for a link to your site. For example, if you're in the digital camera business, you can use "digital cameras" as the anchor text of the link to your site.

A couple of additional things to keep in mind though... Article marketing is a timeless activity and, as such, it will not be easy to retract any information you put out if you should regret it later. And, do everything in moderation, overdoing things can bring you trouble.

Speaking of trouble, here are a few things that you should NOT include/do in your resource box:

- A listing of all the website you own.
- A listing of all your achievements to date.
- Advertisements or pitches for products that are not related/relevant to your article.
- Making your resource box longer than 15% of your article's length/size.

Submitting Articles to Directories

There's a huge and (constantly) growing number of article directories on the Internet that choosing which ones to submit to can easily boggle the mind—we've got free directories, we've got paid directories, we've got general directories, and we've got niche directories. So, how do we choose which directories to submit to?

Unfortunately, if you'd ask that question to ten different people, you are very likely to receive ten different answers. Some people think that free directories are better while others opt for the paid variety because links seem to last longer in them. As for choosing between general and niche directories, submitting to a combination of both is usually a good idea.

Although there isn't a clear-cut guide to choosing directories, here are some tips that can help you save on both time and effort in submitting your articles.

- Stay away from “bad” article directories. These are directories that are filled with poorly written contents (i.e., filled with spelling and grammar errors). Poorly written articles seriously affect the quality of a directory and “bad” directories are ignored by search engines. Worse, they could even be penalized by Google. And if your site is connected to these directories, Google will assume your website link is part of the “bad neighborhoods”.

- Always submit your articles manually. Stay away from “article blasting” services which claim to “automatically” submit your articles to article directories. Many, if not most of these services spam article directories.

- Find the best directories by searching for them on Google. The ones at the top of SERPs are the ones you should set your eyes on.

How to Submit Articles

The submission process varies from one article directory to another, some directories accept articles automatically and some require editorial approval. Just for illustration, here is a step-by-step guide to submitting an article to Ezine Articles. EzineArticles' editorial guidelines for submission is provided following this guide.

- Go to http://ezinearticles.com/
- Click on the Submit Articles link on the left navigation menu.
- Fill out the form with all the necessary information.
- Enter your email address in the Email Address box and re-enter it in the Verify Email box.
- Enter your desired password in the Password box and re-enter it in the Verify Password box.
- Enter your first name in the First Name box.
- Enter your last name in the Last Name box.
- Enter your complete address in the Address1, Address2, City, State/Province, Postal/Zip code, and Country boxes.
- Enter your phone number in the Phone Number box.
- You can leave the Fax Number and Business Name boxes blank as these are optional.
- Choose an answer for the question “How Did You Hear About Us?” from the drop down menu beside it.
- Enter the verification phrase in the box provided.
- Click on the Create My Account button when you're done.

After successfully creating your account, you will be asked to sign in. Simply enter your login information in the fields provided and click on the enter button.

- When you're already signed in, click on the Submit an article link
- Choose the proper category for your article from the Select A Category drop-down menu.
- Choose the proper subcategory for your article from the Subcategory drop-down menu.
- Enter the title of your article in the Article Title box.
- Enter a 3 to 5 sentence summary of your article in the Abstract/Article Summary/Teaser Copy box.
- Enter the main content of your article in the box provided under Article Body.
- Drop your keywords in the box provided under Keywords.
- Enter the details about yourself or your business in the Author SIG - Resource Box.

When you're done, scroll down to the bottom of the page and click on the tick box to signify your agreement to the terms and conditions of the site. It is advised that you read and understand fully the site's Author's Agreement so that you won't be doing anything that you shouldn't do, as well as be aware of the rights that you have on the site/directory.  Finally, click on the Submit This Article button situated above the agreement statement.
 
EzineArticles' Editorial Guidelines for Submitting Articles

For your article to qualify for inclusion on EzineArticles:

- Your article must NOT be a copy (in whole or in part) of any article written by somebody else both on- and off-line. In other words, it must be original. Additionally, your article must be informative—include tips, strategies, techniques, case-studies, analysis, opinions, and commentary. If you're submitting an article on behalf of someone else, you must submit the article as if you're the author using his/her name and email address.

- If you hired someone (a ghost writer) to write your article for you, you must have an Exclusive License to that article. Meaning, the articles that that person writes for you can only be attached with your name and no one else's. Do not buy article packs that have non-exclusive licenses as these articles will be rejected by EzineArticles.

- Press releases, advertisements, sales letters, promotional copies, self promotions are not considered as articles and will not be accepted by EzineArticles as such.

- Proper English must be observed, i.e., proper spelling, grammar, punctuation, capitalization, and sentence structure. Also, refrain from excessive use of bolded keywords/phrases. Bolding should be limited to headings and subheadings.

- Articles must not contain pornographic/adult, obscene, profane, or hate-/violence-oriented materials, or any material that suggests racial intolerance, advocate anything against or insulting/degrading to any individual or group.

- Your articles must not contain information that supports hacking, bomb creation, support/advocacy for terrorism/radicalism/religious fanaticism, illegal and prescription drugs, steroid use, weapons/firearms, and alcohol-/tobacco-related products.

- Articles must not contain information that presents/promotes a bad activity as a good thing, e.g., PLR (Private Label Rights), email Safe-Lists, bulk email spamming, paid auto-surf programs, click fraud, creation of MFAs (Made-for-AdSense) sites, and AdSense Arbitrage.

- Articles must not contain any unlawful, defamatory, libelous content or any content that infringes on the legal rights of others.

- You article must not be exactly/largely identical to an article that you have already submitted to EzineArticles.

- Your article must not contain/include a response to a personal correspondence, e.g., email and letter.

- An article title must contain two words at the very least. A single-word title will not be accepted.

- Article titles must reflect or must be indicative of what the main article content is all about.

- Proper title capitalization must be observed. Titles in all caps will not be accepted. Also, do not use quotes (" ") around your entire title. And do not end your title with a period.

- Excessive repetition of punctuation marks (e.g., exclamation "!" and question “?” marks) must be avoided.

- Presence of HTML tags, author's name, website URLs, slang terms, profanity, and names of prescription drugs in the article title is not allowed on EzineArticles.

- Article titles should read as natural language. In other words, it should be in a form that can easily be read and understood by humans. Avoid keyword stuffing. However, DO make your title "keyword-rich". The first 3-4 words of an article's title determine the success of the article (in terms of traffic generation), so choose the 3-4 words wisely.

- You must include your full name in your article--first name and last name. "First name - Last initial" or "First initial - Last name" formats will not be accepted. Proper capitalization must also be observed.

- Company names, email addresses, URLs, numbers, adjectives, nouns, or descriptors in/as the author's name will not be accepted.

- Only a doctorate-level degree title (e.g., Dr., MD, DDS, PhD, etc.) is allowed to be included in the author's name.

- Creation of multiple accounts is prohibited. To include a co-author, the author must list them as an authorized Alternate Author on his/her account.

- Articles must contain at least 250 words but no more than 5,000 words.

- Do not repeat your title and name at the top of your article body.

- Copyrights and reprint rights must be placed at the bottom of the article. Additionally, make sure that your reprint rights must not be in conflict with EzineArticles's Author Terms of Service.

- URLs and product pitches are only allowed in the Author Resource Box. EzineArticles deletes articles that contain such in the body.

- The main content of your article must deliver on what is promised in the title. Teaser links/phrases will not be accepted.

- EzineArticles allows the inclusion of only four (4) active or inactive links within the entire article, i.e., article body and the resource box combined. Furthermore, ONLY two (2) "self-serving" and two (2) non-self-serving active/inactive links/URLs are allowed. Self-serving links are those that link to sites that you personally own, control, or have an interest in. Non-self-serving links are those that link to third-part sites. It is advised that "self serving" links must be confined to the resource box.

- Links, whether active or inactive, are not allowed in the first three paragraphs of an article.

- EzineArticles does not accept links that use HTML to add style attributes to the link, URL, or text link description.

- URLs must come complete with "http://". For example, http://Your-Company-Name.com/

- Links to downloadable files of any type are not allowed.

- Duplicate links within a single article are NOT allowed. Furthermore, EzineArticles does not allow articles to contain keyword anchor text links to your domain that do not add informational value to the article.

- Anchor text link length must be limited to 3 words for articles with less than 400 words. However, for articles with more than 400 words, anchor text links  may contain up to 5 words. Common words are excluded from the word count. These include: to, is, in, on, it, and, at, by, a, an, for, and of.

- EzineArticles does not allow the inclusion of links to adult-oriented websites and sites that are under construction.

- Authors are advised to avoid the use of email "mailto:" links as spammers can and will abuse them.

- Every article must come with a 2 to 5 sentence summary but must not exceed 200 words.

- HTML tags, blatant self-promotion, author's name, URLs, and email addresses are not allowed in the article summary.

- Authors are advised to choose the best category or sub category based on the theme of their article and not the theme of their business.

- EzineArticles only allows the inclusion of affiliate links in an article ONLY IF the link is an author-owned domain name which forward/redirects to the affiliate link from the top-level of the domain name.

Blogging

Maybe it's because it's the IN thing. Maybe it's because marketers are finding it easier to reach out to their potential customers in 140-character snippets. Or, perhaps it's because social media sites (i.e., Twitter and Facebook) do not require marketers to create anything on their own (aside for signing up for an account). But as more and more marketers develop a growing preference for newer social outlets, the huge value that a company-driven blog offers seems to have already gotten lost in the shuffle.

Blogs provide commentary or news on a particular subject. They are also a tool to inform, educate, and connect people with you. As such, you can use it to help your followers/potential customers in making a decision about your product, service, or business.

Additionally, now that content quality is being factored by search engines in determining a page's ranking in SERPs, blogging has just become more important for the simple reason that blogs provide one of the easiest ways for adding quality content to a site (on a consistent basis).

But just as with article submission or any other SEO/SEM strategy, you cannot and should not expect your blog to do wonders to your site's traffic and sales. For it to be effective, you need to use it in conjunction with other internet marketing strategies and you need to do it correctly.

What's  A Blog Anyway?

The word "blog" is a contraction of the words "web log" and is used to refer to a type of website maintained by an individual or organization on which they post regular entries of commentary, description of events, announcements, and notices. Blogs are used by many corporations for marketing, branding or public relations purposes.

Setting Up A Blog

There are a couple of ways of setting up a blog. The easiest way is by signing up with a free hosted blogging service provider like Blogger(http://www.blogger.com/) and Wordpress (http://wordpress.com/). With these services, all you need to do is to sign up, choose your blog's appearance (and maybe add some additional elements to it), and write your blog entries. But, just as with most other free services, they offer limited features.

If you want more features and freedom, you need to avail of a web-hosting service (or buy your own server) and register for a domain. Then you have to choose which platform to use—Blogger, Wordpress (.org this time), or if you're just creating your site from scratch, you can use content management systems (CMS) like Drupal and Joomla which include blog modules.  Once you've got all that settled, you should be ready to post your entries.

Going back to domains, no matter which way you choose to set up your blog, it is always advisable that you register for a domain name, preferably one that's built around an industry-related keyword. For example, if you're involved in SEO, you can have a URL like http://www.seo4everybody.com.

Another important thing to keep in mind when setting up your blog is to make sure that your blog allows readers to post comments. This is the main thing that will connect you with your customers/followers.

Speaking of comments, DO NOT censor/edit (sanitize) the comments you receive on your blog. Having a combination of positive and negative comments is healthy as this will make your blog appear real and down to earth.

Filling It Up With Content

If you have enough news and content to tweet about, you have enough to blog about. A couple of things to keep in mind though is that you must keep your posts relevant to your industry/business and you must be genuinely interested in what you write about.

It is but natural to be unable to come up with things to write about from time to time... Below are five tips on how/where to get ideas for your blog posts when ideas are running dry.

Tips and the Top 10 - People love lists and we have David Letterman to thank for that. It doesn't always have to be ten, by the way. It can be "top five", it can be "three tips", it can be any number you have.

Solve Problems, Ask Questions - Determine what your followers might be wondering about, find out what questions they might have and answer them with a blog post. This not only lets you help your customers/followers but also makes your post more conversational.

Look for Growing Trends - Keeping tabs on the trends can provide you with a lot of ideas for your posts, posts that will be of interest to your readers within a specific time period. Hang around blogs and forums, and use Google Trends to find out what people are talking aboout at the moment. If your timing is right, your blog might just become the go-to blog on that topic.

Take a Poll - Your followers can be a very good source of content ideas and a very good way of harvesting those ideas from your followers is to poll them—ask a question that solicits a response, put the poll up on your site, and invite people to take your poll.

Networking and Partnerships - Go to social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, and interact with people. Find out what's on their mind and what they are talking about. Read their blogs. You'd be surprised how much it can help you in coming up with ideas for your blog's content.

Additionally, if you come across a difficult topic and you don't have the time to check for the accuracy of the data on hand, get in touch with other experts who have the answer and refer your readers to them for the specifics. This can help you build some great relationships and may also let you generate quality referrals in return.

Checkout Optimization

Shop.org posted an article (http://www.shop.org/c/journal_articles/view_article_content?groupId=1&articleId=1003&version=1.0)  containing the results of a survey conducted by Forrester Research, Inc. entitled The State of Retailing Online. The survey showed that, for the remainder of the year, eight out of ten (or 79% of) retailers are planning to focus heavily on improving customers' check-out experience.

“In today’s economy, retailers need to be one step ahead, especially when it comes to attracting shoppers who have money to spend,” said Executive Director of Shop.org Scott Silverman. “Companies are investing in their websites to set them apart from their competition and make the shopping experience informative, efficient and even fun.”

According to the survey, 88% of retailers are looking at providing more shipping information and 67% said they are going to calculate the loaded cost of an order prior to checkout.

“Retailers realize that, particularly during an economic downturn, shoppers who understand shipping charges at the beginning of the checkout process are less likely to abandon their purchases,” said Sucharita Mulpuru, Forrester Research Vice President, Principal Analyst and lead author of the report.

So, why the shift in focus? Well, retailers have learned that many shoppers are bypassing their home page (or most other pages on their site) because search engines and comparison shopping engines are directing them to specific pages on their sites. Hence, retailers are focusing more on product detail pages and search results pages.

Optimizing the Checkout Process

It doesn't help anybody to have a cumbersome checkout process. As a matter of fact, having a complicated checkout process can easily drive customers away. Bare in mind that you must make the last, most stressful part of the sale as easy, quick and painless as possible for customers if you want them to convert.

Simplify forms and design –
Only ask what is absolutely necessary and remove those that are not. Employ white spaces when designing forms, use descriptive field names and section headers, and add helpful tips where they may be needed.

De-clutter and Reduce Exit Options –
Remove what is not necessary, like sidebars and featured items, as these can easily distract customers and interrupt the checkout process. Same goes for site navigation. Limit site navigation buttons and links at an absolute minimum as providing customers with exit points increases the likelihood that they will reconsider the purchase.

Shorten the Checkout Process and Provide a Guide –
Adding a progress bar in your checkout pages will make for a more pleasant purchasing experience for your customers by making them aware of what they are going to go through.

Display Trust/Security Logos Prominently –
Trust logos can help your site earn the trust of your potential customers. Do an A/B split testing to find out which logo designs and placements are the most effective.

Show Off Professional Organizations –
Being a member of professional organizations shows your customers that you care about your profession and are invested in the industry. So, display those badges prominently. They might just net you a very high quality inbound link as a bonus.

Make Sure Your Site Has All the Standard Pages –

About us, privacy policy, security policy, shipping info, return policy, testimonials or reviews, guarantees—these information should be present and accessible on every website that has a shopping cart. Like trust and security logos/badges, these pages tell people that you are a legitimate business and that you respect their rights as a customer.

A/B test or A/B/n Test

Find out what works and what doesn't.  Better yet, let your customers tell you what they like and what they don't like. Do an A/B test.
Also known as the univariate test, version testing, or split testing, the A/B test enables you to test multiple variations of a page at the same time. What an A/B test does is that it splits your website traffic and shows them different versions of your page.

To illustrate...

Let's say you've got two versions of a page running, say page “a” and page “b”.

Visitor #1 comes along (either through an SERP or by typing your page's URL in his/her browser's URL bar) and is shown page “a”.

Visitor #2 follows, this time he/she is shown page “b”.  Visitor #3 is shown page “a” again, and Visitor #4 page “b”, and so on.

If you're thinking that tests like that cost a lot of money, you're wrong. Google's Website Optimizer is a free tool that allows you to do just that.

In a nutshell, Google Website Optimizer (http://www.google.com/websiteoptimizer) is a tool that enables you to split your website traffic in real time and show them different versions or variations of your pages. Among the other things it does are:

1.Tracking conversions –
Conversions are not limited to e-commerce, it could be any goal you've set for your site. It could be a newsletter signup, or a lead generation form submission, or having your site's visitors watch a 60-second video. If any of these goals are achieved, Website Optimizer will keep track of it for you.

2.It crunches the numbers -
It uses color coding to make the results easier for you to read and understand. Red is bad, green is good, and yellow means “hold on, you're not done yet.”

3.Cookie masking –
When a certain user visits your site, Website Optimizer sets up a cookie on his/her machine which would indicate that that person is already a part of the test and has seen a certain version of a page, say Version A. If that person comes back to visit your sit again in the next week, or the next month, or the next two years (considering that the test is still running), he/she will be shown Version A of the page every single time.

D is for Directory

A web directory, also referred to as a link directory, is a search engine of sort that is operated and maintained by humans. On the contrary, search engines are crawler-/bot-based and mostly operate without humans manning the wheels.

Web directories specialize in linking to and categorizing web sites and, as such, do not display lists of web pages based on keywords like search engines do. Instead, they list web sites by category and subcategory. Furthermore, categorization of sites is usually based on the entire site and not on individual pages or set of keywords.

Although there are not as many web directories as there are article directories, there's plenty of them. There are general directories which list websites across a wide range of categories, regions, and languages, and there are niche directories which are restricted to specific regions, languages, and specialized sectors.

So what does it mean to get listed in web directories?

Truth is, getting your site listed in a web directory may not get you a lot of traffic from the directory itself, but it will make your site more visible to crawler-based search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo. Take note, however, that being more visible doesn't mean that your site will rank high in the SERPs. You need SEO for that. Think of it like buying a lottery ticket--having a ticket doesn't mean that you are going to win the lottery, but you have to have one to have a chance at winning the pot.

Two of the most popular web directories are Yahoo! Directory and The Open Directory Project (ODP/DMOZ). Other examples of web directories are http://www.aboutus.org, http://botw.org, http://www.joeant.com, http://www.stpt.com, and http://vlib.org.

Submission Tips

The submission process of directories are generally very simple. What is not so simple is getting your site actually listed on one. As mentioned earlier, web directories are operated and maintained by humans. As such, submissions go under the close scrutiny of (human) editors and reviewers.

Here are a few strategies on how to increase your site's chances of getting listed on a directory:

- Make sure that the title accurately describe your site.
- Choose the MOST appropriate category for your site on a given directory.
- Write a concise and accurate description of your site, preferably one that resembles descriptions found in a given directory.
- Always make sure to keep your description within the allowable number of words specified by the directory.
- Use the paid/expedited submission programs whenever available and whenever possible.
- If your site hasn't been added to a directory within the specified lead time, then resubmit to the directory after 4 weeks. If your site still doesn't get listed on your third try, you can contact a representative of the directory directly.
- Make sure that your site has good quality content that clearly belongs to the category you have selected.

Submitting to Directories

The submission process varies from one directory to another but, just for example, here's a step-by-step guide on how to submit to ODP/DMOZ.

- Go to http://www.dmoz.org/
- Choose the best category for your site from the list.
- Drill down the subcategories in your chosen category until you see the Suggest URL link at the top of the page.
- Click on the Suggest URL link.
- Enter your site's URL (homepage) in the Site URL box.
- Enter the title of your site in the Title of Site box.
- Enter the description of your site in the Site Description box.
- Enter your email address in the box provided.
- In the box provided, enter the characters shown under User Verification.
- Click on the Submit button at the bottom of the page/form when you're done.


“Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that,
but the really great makes you feel that you, too, can become great.”
~ Mark Twain