Tips for driving Traffic to your Website

how generate traffic to your website and tips to improve website traffic and get traffic to website quickly
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Published Date:03-08-2017
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Driving Traffic to a Website The best way to get traffic to a website is to publish great content, sit back, and let word of mouth spread the news. However, life is not always quite so simple. For one thing, generating great content is not necessarily easy. And even great content can sometimes use a head start so that it can really catch on. Effective online strategies for driving traffic to a site fall into three general categories: Promotional Intended to build buzz and word of mouth Technical SEO activities intended to increase search engine visibility and rankings and drive traffic via inbound links Advertising Such as the Google AdWords program explained in Part III of this book The first two of these strategies fall under the general rubric of SEO (Search Engine Optimization), whereas advertising with AdWords (explained in detail in Part III) is, of course, SEM (Search Engine Marketing). I discussed crafting a campaign balance between SEO and SEM in Chapter 2. This chapter explains how to publicize your site and increase traffic using techniques that do not cost money and do not involve tinkering with the HTML code or content of your pages themselves. What Price Popularity? The three kinds of activities that drive traffic to a website have very different apparent cost metrics: • Promotional activities, discussed in this chapter, are largely free, although they do take time and energy. • Technical SEO activities, explained in Chapter 4, are also largely free of out-of- pocket costs, although they do require technical expertise with websites. 45 • Advertising, covered in Part III, explicitly costs money; however, it is possible to tie cost to performance. The best advice is to use elements of all three approaches, if possible, in any effort to drive traffic. Submitting Your Sites to Search Engines Google and most other search engines use several separate mechanisms: • A program that crawls the Web to find sites, also called a crawler or a spider. Once found (crawled), sites are placed in the search engine’s index. • Software that ranks sites in the search engine’s index to determine their order of delivery when someone uses Google to search for a particular keyword or phrase. To start with, if your site hasn’t been found by a search engine, you won’t be ranked at all. So the first task is getting your site into the systems of Google and other search engines. I do not recommend participating in any programs that ask you to pay for search engine listings, regardless of whether these programs are run by search engines themselves or by third parties. At best, these programs do nothing you cannot do yourself, and at worst they are scams. If you have inbound links—links to your site—from other sites in a search engine’s index, then the search engine’s spider will find your site…eventually. But why not see if you can speed up the process? It’s peculiar but true: different search engines index different portions of the Web. Also, at any given time, it is impossible for any search engine index to include the entire Web because the Web is changing too fast The rub is that even by submitting a form to a search engine, there is no guarantee if, or when, your site will be included by a given search engine. An easy approach is to list your site using the search engine’s procedures, and check back in six months to see if you are included in the search engine’s index. If not, submit again. In other words, this is a process that requires patience and may produce limited results—but at least the price is right Google re-indexes frequently, so a better way to get listed in Google is to find a page that is already listed and get a link from it to your site. Google is, of course, the single most important index. The good news about Google is that the Googlebots (its crawlers) are hyperactive. If you put up a new site that has a 46 Chapter 3: Driving Traffic to a Website few inbound links from sites that are themselves at least somewhat linked-to, it is very unlikely that you will have to wait long to be indexed. Note, however, that this presents a cogent argument for arranging at least one or two inbound links before your site is ready to go live. Getting a site listed in an online categorized directory—particularly the Open Directory Project (ODP) or Yahoo’s directory, as I explain in “Working with Directories” on page 57—is one of the most effective ways to get included in the search engine indexes themselves. To summarize, search engines find the web pages they index by using software to follow links on the Web. Since the Web is huge, and always expanding and changing, it can be a while before this software finds your particular site. Therefore, it’s smart to speed up this process by manually submitting your site to search engines. Important Search Engines for Submission Table 3-1 shows some of the most important search engines to which you should submit your site, along with the URL for each site’s submission page. Some search engines, such as, don’t have a submission page. Their attitude is that you should prepare a site map (see “Taking Advantage of Site Map- ping” on page 54), and they’ll get to your site when they get there. But the big three— Google, Bing, and Yahoo—each do have an explicit submission mechanism. Table 3-1. Selected search engines and submission URLs Search engine Submission URL Google Bing Yahoo Submission Tools You may also want to use an automated site submission tool that submits your site to multiple search engines in one fell swoop. If you have inbound links, your site will get picked up automatically in any case, so site submission is not worth as much as it used to be. But the price is right, so what the heck? If you are hosting your web content offsite, your web hosting company may well provide a utility with this functionality that you can use to submit the URLs for your hosted domains to a group of search engines. Figure 3-1 shows the results of a site submission using the tool provided by one web host (you’ll probably find that your web host pro- vides something similar). Submitting Your Sites to Search Engines 47 Before using a site submission tool, you should prepare a short list of keywords and a one- or two-sentence summary of your site as I mentioned in “Telling a Story” on page 33 and “Creating a Plan” on page 38 (you’ll be able to reuse the keywords and site summary as keywords and description data in yourmeta tags). Alternatively, if you have already created meta information for your site, as I explain in Chapter 4, you can use the keywords and description in your meta information for search engine submissions. Figure 3-1. This web host utility lets you automatically submit your site to a number of search engines at once 48 Chapter 3: Driving Traffic to a Website If the tool is provided by your web host, you will probably be able to submit only your domain, rather than directories within the domain— for example, but not http://www.digi If you search Google with a phrase like “search engine submit,” you’ll find a few free services that submit to a group of search sites for you. You’ll also find some search engine submission services that cost money. Typically, the free submission sites try to up-sell or cross-sell you on a product or service, but since you don’t have to buy anything, why not take advantage of the free service? The best-known example of this kind of site is Submit Express, which will submit your URL to 40 sites for free (you’ll likely want to pass on the various offers you’ll find on the site). Working with Google Google wants you to succeed. Successful content websites and pages represent adver- tising target destinations. Creating new places for Google’s ads is important to Google because it is a significant revenue source for Google. Unless you have millions of visitors to your website, you probably will not receive personal advice from someone who works for Google. But any site, no matter how big or small, can take advantage of Google’s tools for webmasters. The tools that Google makes available fall into four categories (Google tends to describe “documentation” as a tool): Automatic updating tools Let you discover how Google sees your pages, and let you notify Google automat- ically when there are changes Find out how users are reaching your site Provides report information about your inbound links, and how people are reach- ing your site Understand the query path Provides information about exactly what queries drive users to your site, so you can tweak your pages to get more traffic Documentation at Webmaster Central A knowledge base that includes a blog, help section, and often-updated FAQs The best way to start taking advantage of these Google Webmaster Tools is to open the Webmaster Central page, located at and shown in Figure 3-2. Working with Google 49 Figure 3-2. Google provides a Webmaster Central page to help you navigate the Webmaster Tools offerings When you click the “Sign in to Webmaster Tools” button shown in Figure 3-2 and sign in, the Webmaster Dashboard shown in Figure 3-3 opens. Figure 3-3. The Google Webmaster Dashboard is used to launch Webmaster Tools 50 Chapter 3: Driving Traffic to a WebsiteThe Dashboard lists the sites associated with your user ID. You may notice that you can report spam and paid links using this interface. Google is essentially asking you to do its work for it, but a cleaner, less spammy Web benefits everyone. On the topic of paid links, of course Google is in the business of pro- viding paid links all the time. There’s no reason you should not accept paid advertising from parties other than Google on your site. However, in the interest of both being fair with your site users and not angering the Google Gods, it is important to mark the advertisements as such, both visually (for humans) and in HTML code (for the Googlebots). You’ll find more on this topic in Chapter 4. To get the most out of the Webmaster Tools, you’ll need to verify your sites, which means proving they are yours (or, more technically, that you at least have permission from an owner or administrator with root level access). You verify a site in one of two ways: • Add a file to the home directory of your site named as Google instructs. Google then scans for the file. • Add a meta tag generated by Google to the header section of the index page of your site, and then Google scans for the custom tag. (See Chapter 4 for more information about meta tags.) A site map is an XML guide to the pages and links in a website presented in a normalized format. Although many of the Google Webmaster Tools are available without a site map, to get the most out of the tools (as well as to improve your visibility in Google) you’ll want to upload a site map as I explain a little later in this chapter. It’s not particularly intuitive, but to get to the different sections of Webmaster Tools for a site, click the site URL in the Google Dashboard (as shown in Figure 3-3). For each URL, you’ll see a menu like that shown in Figure 3-4. Figure 3-4. After clicking a link in the Dashboard, you get access to the Webmaster Tools on a per- domain basis Working with Google 51 www.itbooksh If you haven’t yet verified your site, you won’t see much in the Dashboard mode (Figure 3-5), although Google will tell you if it is able to communicate with your home page and if it’s been indexed. Figure 3-5. To get the most out of the Webmaster Tools, you need to verify your site Once your site is verified, in Dashboard mode you’ll be able to see web crawl errors, as shown in Figure 3-6. Figure 3-6. Dashboard mode lets you know if the Googlebot found any errors while it was crawling 52 Chapter 3: Driving Traffic to a Website Clicking on the link for any of the web crawl errors found gives you specific information about the location of the problem pages so that you can fix the error. The tabs on the Dashboard control panel shown earlier in Figure 3-4 let you access utilities and information as follows: Site configuration This tab lets you access web crawl information such as site maps, crawler access, and restrictions to your site’s content. You can also change your domain address, access general settings, and see any Google-generated sitelinks that will appear in search results. Your site on the web This tab provides information about the top search queries that people use to find your site, and shows you inbound links (Google calls these external links), cross links (Google calls these internal links), and the most common keywords the Goo- glebot sees when crawling your site. You can also get a detailed breakdown of subscriber statistics. Diagnostics Any issues Google encounters when crawling your site will be listed under “Crawl errors.” These stats show Googlebot activity during the last 90 days. In addition, a new feature called “HTML suggestions” will highlight issues that may affect user experience and performance, such as meta or title tags. A typical HTML sugges- tions report is shown in Figure 3-7. Figure 3-7. HTML suggestions tell you whether you need to work on your title and meta tags Working with Google 53Labs As Google rolls out new beta features to assist webmasters, they will first appear here. For example, the “Fetch as Googlebot” and “Malware details” tools provide more information if any issues are detected on your site. Google Webmaster Central provides an easy way to access the full suite of Google Webmaster Tools, as well as Google Webmaster documen- tation including the Google Webmaster Blog, Help Center, and Dis- cussion Group. Taking Advantage of Site Mapping Simply put, site maps are a list of the pages on your site. There are two kinds of site maps: those that humans can use to navigate a site, and encoded site maps for the use of web bots and crawlers. Google encourages webmasters to create the second kind of site map, which is written in XML. If you have this kind of site map registered with Google, your site will likely be more fully and quickly indexed, and changes to your site will be noticed more frequently. Sites with certain characteristics will benefit from site mapping. Here are the kinds of sites that will benefit the most from mapping (although there is no downside, so site mapping is something all sites should do): • Sites with dynamic content • Sites that have pages that the Googlebot can’t easily crawl and process—for ex- ample, pages featuring AJAX or Flash • New sites with few inbound links (the Googlebot crawls the Web by following links from one page to another, so it may be hard for Google to discover your site if it isn’t well linked) • Sites with a large archive of content pages that are not well linked to each other or are not linked at all To get mileage with Google, the site map should conform to the standards set by At the time of this writing, the current version of the standard is Sitemap Protocol version 0.9, with the specifications found at .php. For example, here’s a sample site map containing one URL (and one page): ?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"? urlset xmlns="" url loc lastmod2009-01-01/lastmod changefreqmonthly/changefreq 54 Chapter 3: Driving Traffic to a Website/url /urlset If your eyes start to glaze over at the beginning of a discussion of XML schema and the fine points of a specific protocol, fear not. There are automated tools, many of them free, that can do it for you, and you don’t really need to know much about how site maps work to take advantage of the concept. To use site mapping while only maintaining a bare nod to the technical side of what is involved, pick one of the site mapping programs suggested by Google at http://code Many of these programs are free; if there is a fee, it is indicated on the page with a dollar sign () next to the link for the software. For example, GSiteCrawler is software on the Google-approved list that is currently available for free download on the Windows platform. You download it to your Win- dows desktop and start the New Site Wizard shown in Figure 3-8. Figure 3-8. You’ll need to enter some straightforward information before the software can begin crawling your site in order to generate a site map Taking Advantage of Site Mapping 55 Once you’ve entered basic information, the New Site Wizard crawls your site to gen- erate the site map as shown in Figure 3-9. This is a process that can take hours if your site is extensive. Once your site has been completely crawled, you’ll need to generate the site map file as shown in Figure 3-10. Save the site map file to your local computer, and then transfer it to the root directory of your website. The FTP transfer is generally accomplished using FTP software, such as Fetch for the Mac or WS_FTP for Windows. You can generate a site map for Yahoo at the same time the Google site map is created. Figure 3-9. Each page is considered when the software crawls a site to create a site map Once your site map has been uploaded to the root directory of your website, you can point Google to it using the Webmaster Dashboard (shown in Figure 3-4) and clicking on the “Site configuration” link and choosing the Sitemaps tab. You will need to be verified in relation to the website. 56 Chapter 3: Driving Traffic to a WebsiteFigure 3-10. Once a site has been crawled, the site map file is generated In the Sitemaps window, shown in Figure 3-11, enter the name of your site map and click Submit. Figure 3-11. Once the site map file is in the root directory of your website, you can submit it to Google Working with Directories It’s a not-so-well-kept secret that one of the best approaches for getting better rankings in the search engine listings is to enter through a back door by working with the two most important structured directories: the Open Directory Project (ODP) and the Yahoo Directory. Working with Directories 57Understanding Taxonomies A directory differs from the index used by a search engine because a directory uses a structured way to categorize sites, sometimes called a taxonomy. In addition, sites are included in a particular category in the ODP and Yahoo directories only after they have been reviewed by human editors. You can search within directories (just as you can search in a web index such as the one compiled by Google). But it’s common to use a directory by following its taxonomy, drilling down through subjects to find what you want. For example, suppose you wanted to find resources related to alternative photo processes, such as creating daguerreotypes (a nineteenth-century print technology). Using the Open Directory taxonomy, shown in Figure 3-12, you would drill down through the categories Arts→Photography→Techniques and Styles to find topics in- cluding Alternative Processes. You can think of the index of the Web compiled by search engines such as Google as being like the index of a nonfiction book. In contrast, a taxonomic directory is much more like the table of contents for the book: it is organized according to the book’s structure, and you can drill down by part, chapter (within the part), heading (within the chapter), and subtopic to find the information you need. Getting Open Directory Project Listings The Open Directory Project (ODP) is the most important taxonomic directory on the Web. Formally hosted and administered by the Netscape division of AOL, the ODP is run along the lines of an open source project and is inspired by the Debian Social Contract. The credo behind the ODP is that “humans do it better.” The ODP believes that web automated search is ineffective and getting worse, and that the small contingent of paid editors at commercial web search engine companies cannot keep up with the staggering rate of change on the Web—decaying, stagnant sites; link rot; new sites; sites intended as search spam; and so on. The ODP is run and maintained by a vast army of volunteer editors. These editors follow internal checks and balances to preserve the integrity of the directory. See http: // for more information about the ODP review process and guide- lines for site inclusion. You, too, can become an ODP editor in an area of your interest and expertise. See for more information about becoming an ODP editor. 58 Chapter 3: Driving Traffic to a Website Figure 3-12. You can find “Alternative Processes” and related photographic topics by drilling down through Arts, Photography, and Techniques and Styles The ODP taxonomy (categorization system) and the sites included in the categories are freely available as data for use by anyone who wants to run his own search engine, as long as the terms of the ODP’s free-use license are complied with. (For terms of the license, in case you want to use the ODP data in a search engine of your own, see http: // Google and most of the major search engines do use information derived from the ODP, but they use it in their own way. Google in particular uses information from the ODP to form one of the less well-known facets of Google, the Google Directory. Google uses its own search technology for searches within the Google Directory and, in this way, differs from the ODP. Working with Directories 59 Most significantly, inclusion within an ODP category means that your site will very likely be included within the Google web index (as well as the Google Directory and in other major web indexes). So, it’s worth submitting your site to the ODP if only because it’s the best way to get indexed (and appropriately categorized) by Google. You’ll find a FAQ about how to add your site at (this FAQ is also available via a link from the ODP home page). The first step is to locate the best category for your site. For example, suppose you have a site like the Photogram area of (Figure 3-13), whose purpose is to display images created using an alternative photographic process. Figure 3-13. The Photoblog 2.0 Photogram archive might fit in the alternative processes category on the ODP 60 Chapter 3: Driving Traffic to a WebsiteThe best category on the ODP I can find for this site is the category I’ve already shown, Arts→Photography→Techniques and Styles→Alternative Processes. The category page is shown in Figure 3-14. Figure 3-14. Click “suggest URL” to start the process of requesting an addition to an ODP category You can start looking for the right category (to get close to the best possible category) using a search term—for example, “photogram.” On the category page that you think is best for your site, click the “suggest URL” link, shown at the top of Figure 3-14. This will open the “Submit a Site to the Open Directory” page, where you will be asked to verify the category you selected (as determined by the page from which you clicked “suggest URL”). You’ll need to enter your site’s URL, title, a brief site description, and your email address. As the editors note, “A well-written, objective description will make listing your site easier.” When your listing page is complete, click Submit. The process is now complete, except for the waiting. You should check from time to time to see if you’ve been listed. If I make it sound like you might have to wait a long time to get listed in the ODP, well, you might The ODP depends on volunteer labor, and rumor is that it is getting slower and slower. However, inclusion in the ODP is a virtual guarantee of inclusion in many search engine indexes and other directories. So have patience The ODP is worth it. Working with Directories 61Getting Yahoo Directory Listings The Yahoo Directory, a somewhat lesser-known part of Yahoo, works in pretty much the same way as the ODP, except that it is privately maintained. Sites added to the Yahoo Directory tend to end up in the Yahoo index as well as other important search indexes. To suggest your site for inclusion in the Yahoo Directory, open the Yahoo Directory’s home page, shown in Figure 3-15. Figure 3-15. Yahoo Directory is not Yahoo; here’s the Yahoo Directory home page You can also find the Yahoo Directory by opening the main Yahoo home page, selecting Directory as your search category, and searching for a term. The search results you will be presented with are from the Yahoo Directory (not the Yahoo web index), and the display will show where you are in the taxonomy, so you can browse through related categories. 62 Chapter 3: Driving Traffic to a WebsiteNext, find the best category for your site, either by drilling down through the Yahoo Directory taxonomy, shown on the left of Figure 3-15, or by searching within the Yahoo Directory, using the search box shown at the top of Figure 3-15. You can use directory search results as the starting place for pinpointing the perfect category. When you find the right category page (for example, for a digital photography site, the category page for Directory→Arts→Visual Arts→Photography Digital), click the Suggest a Site link shown on the bottom right in Figure 3-16. Figure 3-16. From the appropriate category page, click the Suggest a Site link to propose your site for inclusion in the Yahoo Directory Clicking the Suggest a Site link starts the site submission process. You’ll first be asked if you want to pay for inclusion or continue for free (for noncommercial sites). You’ll have to decide for yourself whether the fee is worth inclusion. The next step is to verify that the site you want to suggest does not already appear in the Yahoo Directory. This is verified using a Yahoo Directory search. If your site cannot be found, you can continue. You’ll be asked to verify the listing category and to log in with your Yahoo username. (If you don’t have a Yahoo account, you’ll need to create one.) Finally, you can com- plete the form with information about your site, shown in Figure 3-17, and submit. Keep track of the email address you supply in the Yahoo Directory Suggest a Site form. You’ll need that address to change information about any of your sites listed in the directory. Becoming Popular by Generating Inbound Links Sometimes it seems like all of life has the same theme as high school: what’s important is being popular. A significant measure of popularity on the Web is how many inbound links—links from other sites to your site—you have. Becoming Popular by Generating Inbound Links 63Figure 3-17. You should provide a brief description of your site, along the lines of the elevator pitch described in Chapter 2 Inbound links are an important component of Google’s PageRank sys- tem, which is the way it orders the sites returned from a search. Google sometimes calls inbound links external links, although this is slightly confusing terminology. While it excludes cross links, called internal links in Google-speak, it fails to differentiate between inbound and out- bound links. Obtaining inbound links is not rocket science, but it is labor-intensive and does require some thought. An effective (but not always easy) way to get another site to link to your site is to ask for it, as obvious as that may seem. Link farms—sites that exist for the sole purpose of providing inbound links to better a page’s search ranking—will not help your site become more popular and may in fact damage your standing with Google and other search engines. It makes sense for sites to link to your site when they have similar or related content— always assuming the webmaster in charge of the site linking to you likes your content. This is a reasonable thing for the webmaster in charge of the other site to do, because 64 Chapter 3: Driving Traffic to a Website