5 Reasons your website is not gaining traffic (and how to fix it)

29 August 2017

New websites are launched every single day.

In fact, over 140,000 sites are created daily.

That’s an extraordinary number, but how do all these new domains get web traffic? Real users that read or engage with what is being output. Well, the simple answer is they don’t.

The majority of new sites will not get many (if any) users – regardless how informative it is, or how innovative your product or service is.

How do you get web traffic?

For the general site owner, there are two ways of getting traffic.

You can pay to run digital marketing campaigns (like pay-per-click / AdWords, or social media campaigns), or you can work on setting up your website to be found naturally via search engines (SEO).

Basically, “paid” versus “organic”.

With marketing campaigns, you’ll gain instant traffic. But you still need those users to engage and convert (complete an action) - get users to sign up for your service, read your content, buy your product, sign up for your services, etc. How well that goes, depends on your website.

Depending on your budget though, you may not want to keep spending money on advertising or PPC campaigns to attract more customers.

With natural or organic traffic, there are a lot of factors at play that will increase your site’s authority, and boost your site’s search engine rankings.

So, it doesn’t matter if you pick paid and / or organic – your website needs to be set up correctly. Whether you’re still planning a new site, or looking to improve your current one, this guide can help you gain valuable website traffic.

1) Preparing your website

The first step is to help create the best platform for your content.

As mentioned earlier, there are over 140,000 sites being launched daily. WordPress alone is used to create a tens of thousands of sites each day.

With all this competition, it’s important that your site checks each box on the “SEO-friendly” list.

Google Search Console / Analytics

To get a general idea of your site health, create a Google account for your site to set up a few key tools like Google Search Console and Google Analytics.

Google Search Console – Signing Up

Google Search Console (formerly Webmaster Tools) is a simple way to see how your site performs, and if there might be issues in how Google “sees” your site.

After creating your account, add your website address in the blank field, and click the “Add a Property” button.

You will be asked to download a small HTML file, which should be uploaded to the main folder of your website (via ftp or through your host account).

Google Search Console - Verification

After uploading, click on the provided link to double-check to see if that was correctly done. A simple page with one line of text containing the text in your html file, will appear.

Tick the “I’m not a robot” box to show you are a real user, and click the “Verify” button to finish up. If successful, this proves that you are the site owner, or at the minimum you are allowed access to the site files.

Now give Google 2 to 3 days to scan through your site, and report its finding back to you. Especially important will be the “Crawl errors” section, which will show you if there any pages / sections that Google can’t access.

Google Search Console – Crawl Errors

Google Analytics shows you how much traffic is coming through to your site, as well as where it’s coming from. You can also see how many people are engaging with your site.

Let’s familiarise you with the interface by having a look at the Google Analytics demo account.

Google Analytics Dashboard

This is the Google Analytics dashboard.

Under “Audience” you can view traffic statistics for a specified period, or compare statistics from 2 different periods to monitor traffic variations.

“Real-Time” shows you what is happening on your site right now, how many users you have, where they are browsing from, what device they are using to do so, and more.

On the “Audience -> Overview” dashboard, let’s look at the “Bounce Rate” statistic. If a visitor looks at one page and leaves your site, this counts as a bounce. Which means that the higher your bounce rate is, generally it means that they didn’t find exactly what they were looking for, or didn’t enjoy your content.

A bounce rate of around 45% is healthy, while anything above 70% shows that your site might have serious problems.

If you don’t have a Google Analytics account set up yet, try out their demo account to familiarise yourself with the interface.

Screaming Frog

Screaming Frog is a downloadable tool used to “crawl” through a website, much like a search engine does. It inspects all site elements – html pages, images, scripts and other files.

Screaming Frog – Analysing your site

You simply enter a site URL, and give it time to crawl through the entire site. The length of scanning time depends on the size of the site from less than a minute for a small site with a few pages, to over 2 hours if you’re scanning a large ecommerce site.

It generates a site report, detailing the pages and other elements. You can use this to see if you have the basic in place, or if there are errors. For example:

  • Pages should have:
    • a unique H1 Header
    • Unique meta titles and descriptions (which appear in search engines)
  • Images should have “alt” tags which describe what is contained in the image

It’s a great tool to give you a detailed overview of what is on your site. Your report can be saved, or exported to a spreadsheet for further analysis.

Conclusion

By using these tools, you can use their information to check that all the basic elements are in place and correctly used. Keep scanning and analysing your site to identify any potential issues, because user experience is very important to Google.

2) Keywords

Search engines like Google or Bing, are used to find answers to specific queries.

The basics of search engine optimisation (SEO) is to place keywords or phrases in strategic places on your site, so that it highlights to Google what can be found on your site. This should align with what users are searching for.

The catch is that each word or phrase has a certain level of competitiveness. The more popular or competitive the term is, the more difficult it is to make your website rank for it in search engines.

Meaning, just because you pick the best possible keyword, does not mean your site will get found for it.

But you can decide to use less popular / competitive terms, which are more precise (and gets a user closer to what they are looking for) – and use these to gain traffic. These phrases consist of 4-5 words, and we call these “long-tail keywords”.

Google AdWords Keyword Planner

Set up a list of possible search phrases you would like your site (and most important pages) to be found for, and use Google’s AdWords Keyword Planner to get an idea of how competitive a keyword phrase is, and how many people search for it on a monthly basis in the location you are offering your services to.

Keyword Planner - Suggestions

We’ll explain how to implement these in the next point.

Conclusion

Implementing the right keywords on your site is key to getting in more traffic. Established sites will get most of the traffic since they’re top of the pile for simple searches, but by combining less competitive and long-tail keywords you can get more traffic.

3) Creating better content

You have your list of keywords, and now it’s time to get them inserted into your content.

But you should also be improving the overall quality of your content. Especially if you’re offering content with similar subjects as other sites or blogs.

This not only means covering basics like spelling and grammar, but also working on your writing style.

From a content marketing perspective, an article consists of a few important elements:

  • Headline
  • Content
  • Meta Data

Headline

What really draws in users, is an inviting article title. Users will judge whether your article is worthy of clicking on, based on the title you pick.

Co Schedule’s Headline Analyser can evaluate how well your potential title will perform, and give it a rating out of 100.

Popular headlines include terms like “How to” or numbers like “7 Reasons to Choose Product A over Product B”. Another approach is to briefly outline what an article contains, but don’t divulge too much information so that it encourages a click-through, for example: “A popular feature has just been removed from Microsoft Word”.

Combine these with your chosen keywords, see what works best for your industry.

Content

You can use word processor software like Microsoft Word or Google Docs to quickly check your spelling and grammar. Though I would recommend asking a colleague or friend to read through as well.

Hemingway analyses your copy, and suggests which sentences are hard to understand, or could be replaced by simpler terms. This helps you break up your content so that it’s much easier to read.

Hemingway

You should aim to get an overall rating of 7 for your articles (lower is better).

Search engines scan (or crawl) your content for relevant keywords, which is why you should be including them in all of your content. But be mindful that there is a limit, otherwise your content could be labelled as spam.

For example, imagine you are selling watches from a retail space in London. If you wrote content like “Best London watch shop based in London, buy our high-quality London watches while in London”, it wouldn’t look very natural to users.

These types of techniques were used years ago to manipulate search engine rankings, but Google’s algorithms have been updated to see through these kinds of cheap.

While you should be including keywords, your content should always be written in a natural manner.

If you have a WordPress website, then an SEO plugin like Yoast SEO will give you guidelines on where to include keywords, and whether you are over or underusing them.

If you’re not sure how to create content that’s SEO-friendly, then Yoast is one of the best tools to learn with.

When editing a page or post, just navigate down to the Yoast SEO editing section, and add a “focus keyword”. The plugin will then recommend changes to enhance the article for your chosen keyword.

Yoast – Post Analysis

In general, tweak your writing to be more easily consumed.

  • Include eye-catching and relevant imagery
  • Try to avoid “walls of text” – break your written content down to smaller paragraphs.
  • Nobody likes long confusing sentences. If you have to reread a sentence twice to comprehend the meaning, split it up to multiple sentences to make it clearer. Or use commas intelligently.

Meta Data

Meta data appears in search engine results. It usually displays a title, and a brief description. There might be other internal links if Google decides they will be useful to users – these are called sitelinks. Here is an example:

Google Search Results – Lilo Meta

Depending on how your website is set up, a default value will appear there – the article or page title, perhaps followed by the name of the site. But for the best results, you should customise them. A good format to follow is: Hot

Keyword 1 | Keyword 2 (if applicable) | Company Name

Each part has a character limit (approximately 65 for meta titles, 156 for meta descriptions). This is also another section that can be optimised with ways of enticing users to click through. Include enticing call-to-actions, and also try and include the relevant keywords (if any of the words that a user searched for is located in your meta data, it will appear in bold on Google search result listings – catching the eye of users).

4) Backlinks

Each website builds up a type of “web authority”. The higher your authority, the better your website will rank in search rankings.

But how do you build up this authority?

That depends on a host of factors, but the largest one is backlinks – sites that have links that point back to your own site.

Moz has developed a rating system for this, based on their interpretation of search engine ranking factors. Each individual page has a ranking (page authority), that contributes to your overall site rating (domain authority).

If we analyse the BBC’s website, we can see they have the maximum domain authority available (100), and have over 3.6 million links.

Moz – Authority and backlink analysis

Because they have a large site with useful content, other websites will naturally create links to that content.

Because of their nature as a news site, their content will also be shared over social media platforms. This will increase their visibility, reaching more people - which can lead to even more links.

So, if there was a link to your own site from the BBC, it can boost your page and site rankings. The other key factor with backlinks, is that the site or content linking to your site, should be relevant.

For example, getting a link from a high-authority food website, will share less authority to a website containing technology content.

Links to Avoid

Years ago, the simple way of looking at it was that the more links you have pointing to your site, the higher your authority. But that has changed, because certain sites that link to yours may actually have a negative effect (or none at all).

If a website has no relevance to your own, contains poor quality content and doesn’t add value, then you’ll want to avoid having a link on that site pointing to your own. Techniques to avoid include:

  • Posting links on low quality directory websites – Search engines see these as spam
  • Building a large number of reciprocal links – this is when you are approached by another site, usually via email, stating that your site has similar content. They have already placed a link to your site, would you mind including one back on yours?
    • Since they’ve sent these out to thousands of recipients, with many creating that link back, the chances are very high that they are being penalised by Google. Which means a link back to your site will not be valuable.
  • Buying links in mass – When you see somebody advertising thousands of links for a few pounds or dollars, avoid and move on.

Easy Links that Count

Guest posting is a good way of obtaining valuable links.

Research relevant websites with a good authority rating, and approach them with an offer to supply an article (with a link back to yours). This helps boost their website content, and you improve your link profile.

If you have a decent social media presence, you can share links to good content in the hopes that others could share it. This also helps raise your brand’s visibility.

Also, building links on your OWN site to valuable content is important. This is called interlinking, and helps spread ranking power around your site.

5) User Experience

Another factor that Google and other search engines looks at, is user experience.

Is your website properly structured, is it easy to navigate? How fast does everything load?

Any of these factors can cause a user to close your site, and look for another. If somebody is not finding what they’re looking for, it counts as a negative.

Google offers a few free tools that can help improve your website.

PageSpeed Insights

Check your site’s speed with PageSpeed Insights. You’ll be wanting to aim for a rating of at least 70 for both mobile and desktop results.

Mostly it’s images which are too large, or web code that could be cleaned up in order to work faster. Google is kind enough to supply you with the right files you can use to replace your current versions.

Google Mobile-Friendly Test

Since October 2016, mobile devices have become the preferred platform to browse the internet. Which is why having a mobile-friendly website (also known as responsive websites) is important.

Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test will show whether your site is user-friendly on smaller devices. More details could possible include whether there are loading issues, if your buttons or other elements are too close to each other.

Hotjar Heatmap

To understand how users are viewing your site, and interacting with it, you can use a tool like Hotjar. It shows you a heatmap of where users are moving their mouse icon while navigating your site, and also where they click.

This gives you an idea how users are navigating through your site, or what content they prefer. Use that information to make tweaks to your website, and test the results.

Conclusion

What some site owners neglect to do is build up an organic presence, that will keep search engine users coming to your site – which means you don’t need to spend on added advertising.

While getting users to the site immediately is also important, it’s equally valuable to build your site’s authority. A multi-tiered approach works best so that your eggs aren’t all in one basket.

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