Having a website is not an accomplishment. Nessie the Hamster has one. Famous dead people do too. I have even seen sites in loving memory of unfamous dead hamsters! Some of those websites get more visitors in a day, than you hope to have in a year. Here’s my question: if you have a personal website and you’re not getting any traffic, what’s the point? You might as well give the money you’re sending to your Internet Service Provider to a worthy cause.
If, on the other hand, you want to use your on line presence to your advantage, you better roll up your sleeves and get to work! Even though this article lists examples from my line of work (voice-over acting), anyone with a website should consider using these strategies. Let’s start by listening to one of the experts in the field.
iCrossing is a digital marketing agency with specific expertise in social media and 12 offices worldwide. Last year, Nilhan Jayasinghe, their VP, wrote a paper entitled; “Optimizing for users, not search engines. Building a sustainable brand in a connected world”. He says:
“As search engines become more sophisticated, they will increasingly incorporate user data to validate their results. The numbers of people visiting a site; the time that users spend on a site; the depth of their engagement; whether they return over a period of time; how many people add it to their social bookmarking tools such as Digg; all will potentially be taken into account.”
Google is already going in that direction with its latest version, code named “Caffeine”. And where Google goes, others follow. In my opinion, there are at least two things you must do to take advantage of this development. These are the things that will drive people to your website; keep them there and make them come back:
- Start writing for people, not for search engines: offer fresh & relevant content.
- Stop “telling & selling”. Instead, engage your visitors and begin a dialog.
Here are a few simple and effective ways to do it:
1. Offer FREE STUFF. Paradoxically, some companies are making lots of money by giving things away for free. It’s called the “freemium model” whereby some content is offered at no charge, while premium content is not. Seattle-based Big Fish Games distributes more on line games than anyone else, at about 1 million a day. You can try almost any Big Fish game for free; but there are add-ons that players have to pay for.
A few months ago, voice-over actor Peter O’Connell made his e-book “The Voice Over Entrance Exam” available at no charge. This brought visitors to his site that had never even heard of him. It did something else too: it established O’Connell as an expert. Here’s a third bonus: free resources get links.
2. Contests & Awards are another way to drive people to your site. Last month Videovoicebank.net had a contest, and voice-overs were invited to share their professional horror stories. Not only did the Videovoicebank-team manage to engage their community; for days, visitors could enter their email address and vote for their favorite story. I wonder what they’ll do with those email addresses…
3. Provide a resource that will benefit your target-group and (of course) offer it for free. Veteran VO-artist Mahmoud Taji compiled a voice-over directory of casting websites for “the benefit of established and up-and-coming voice over talent who want to secure more voice over work through the Internet.” He asked everyone in the industry to help out, and this is just another example of how to get people involved. So far, Taji has a list of 224 sites and he’s still counting.
4. Quizzes and Games on your site are a fun way to make people come back and spend more time with you. British talent Emma Clarke is the voice you’ll hear for a majority of the London Underground lines. Her website is terrific and it has games, spoof audios and even an on line “Emma flip book”. One of my favorites is a fridge magnet game where you can move the words around to make your own sentences and phrases – and have Emma speak them for you.
5. Actress Amy Walker became an overnight sensation when her YouTube video 21Accents went “viral”. “These days, it’s not unusual to see a search engine like Google pull up a YouTube video in its top 10 results,” says Linda Girard, co-founder of on line marketing consulting firm Pure Visibility in Ann Arbor, Michigan. “The best way to maximize this trend is by uploading your video to various sites and attach good, searchable terms to the clips in order to get those high rankings.”
6. Then there’s the old trick of offering limited Deals & Discounts. Bristol-based voice-over talent Alison Pitman offers a promotion of 25% discount on all message on hold voice-over recordings. Particularly if you’re also offering individual coaching and classes, never miss an opportunity to throw in an early bird special or a web coupon. Irresistible offers turn browsers into buyers.
7. Develop an ongoing relationship with your visitors (colleagues and clients). Answer their emails. Follow up with them. Ask them for feedback. Use social networking sites to connect. Take an active part in your community, on line and offline. Send email newsletters using a service like Constant Contact or Aweber. It’s all about building your brand and positive reinforcement.
8. There is no doubt about it: blogging benefits business. Recently, Internet marketing company Hubspot surveyed over 1500 small businesses. They found that those with blogs attracted:
- 55% more traffic
- 97% more inbound links
- 434% more indexed pages
Blogs are a very effective way to create valuable content; to connect, to interact and to build relationships based on trust. Nilhan Jayasinghe put it this way:
“The closer that Google and others get to reading real interaction, the better they will become at separating the sites that look relevant from the sites that are relevant. Inevitably, it will become ever more difficult to fake the quality of a web page. Given that this is the case, by far the best way to rank highly for a given term is to offer what the search engines are getting progressively better at finding – content that is genuinely useful to those people searching for that term.”
Seattle SEO Experts call this trend “the real-time web”. I strongly encourage you to take a long, critical look at your own site. Is it ready for the “real-time web”? Do you offer fresh content? Are you engaging your visitors? Or do you offer nothing more than a few outdated pictures and the obligatory contact info? What’s the first thing you must change to drive visitors to your site, keep them there and have them come back again and again?