I’m often asked about how to get website traffic, users, and customers on the web. It’s almost always in the context of another entrepreneur that starting a new web endeavor. I almost always give the same response – from a high level perspective, there are only 3 ways to generate website traffic. You shouldn’t even bother starting an internet company unless you have a reasonably good change at succeeding at one of these 3 methods. The 3 methods are so dead simple and obvious that this blog post will likely come across as pointless to anyone in the internet space. That being said, I’m still amazed at how often I have this conversation with folks – both with semi-season internet players, VC’s, and newbies. Without further adieu, here are the 3 ways to generate website traffic:
1. Organic Search – learn how to show up in Google’s free, organic search results. In short, there’s really only a few things that will ever get you to appear organically – Content and Links. If you don’t have good content, lots of content (and I mean lots), and content that’s regularly updated (i.e. fresh and new), then don’t even try it. In addition, if you have no way to obtain a massive amount of inbound links with appropriate anchor text, then you’re better off trying methods 2 or 3 below.
2. Paid Search / Paying for Traffic – anyone with a keyboard and a wallet can get traffic from paid search (as well as PR). Sometimes the wallet things is what will trip you up (i.e. your not sitting on a big pile of money). However, if you do have a bunch of cash to literally light on fire, then load up your Google Adwords and spend away. You can get little millions and millions of unique visitors from paid search. It’s as easy as taking candy from a baby. However, if you don’t have a website that sells anything other than advertising, there’s about a 99.9% chance that there’s no arbitrage opportunity in it for you and so all you’ll be doing is loading up Google coffers. If you do actually sell a product on your website, then buy up some keywords and determine if there’s an arbitrage opportunity in it for you. Arbitrage is the point at which the following equation has a positive outcome —>
Arbitrage Opportunity = Amount Paid Per Click Minus Average Sale Amount Minus Cost of Goods Sold.
If Arbitrage Opportunity > $1 – Proceed, Otherwise – Pause, Rethink, and / or Stop.
Start by spending $100 on Adwords and be sure you have conversion tracking in place. If the outcome of the calculation is not positive, then stop buying clicks because all you’re really doing is lighting money on fire.
3. Viral Traffic – if you have a product that’s extremely entertaining and viral, you can generate free website traffic, primarily from social media. The links from social media outlets can also help with Organic SEO (item 1 above). When I say entertaining and viral, I mean funny, scandalous, cute, or even profane. This type of material performs really well on the web because people love to laugh. However, if you don’t have a product that’s funny or otherwise entertaining, forget about it. No one is going to go to your site, share your site, or talk about your site with their friends and colleagues if it’s of a boring, mundane, or otherwise un-entertaining subject matter. There are plenty of boring websites on the web already and the last thing you need to do is build another one only to hope and pray that people visit it. More specifically put, if your product is not something that’s funny enough to be discussed on late night television in a top 10 list, then you’re not going to get any amount of viral traffic that matters, and you should stick to items 1 and / or 2 above.
*Note: I consider word of mouth and PR subsets of viral traffic and paid traffic respectively.
Ryan Born is the founder and CEO of AudioMicro, and also runs Audioo. Born was VP Finance / Controller for WireImage, has served at PricewaterhouseCoopers, and is also a photographer who has had his images appear in major print publications from Rolling Stone to People Magazine. Born blogs about entrepreneurship and startups at Ryanborn.net. He originally posted this article on his blog.