Running a successful website in 2021 can feel like trying to be heard in a noisy bar. You're simply trying to get your site in front of audiences, but it's like jostling for the bar staff's attention, when you're already three rows back in the queue. We're here to help, with a few essential tips to sharpen your elbows, get your voice heard, and increase your web traffic.
We won't lie – this isn't easy. Audiences aren't quick to follow a brand new website they've never heard of. They're already busy scrolling through Instagram or checking their email. But, one fact makes finding an audience easier. You're not trying to get everybody. Instead, you're trying to more readers than you had yesterday, and you should only chase after people who really care about the same topics you do. Industry readers are more niche, and to get them, you just need to get your website in front of them and prove that you know what you're talking about.
Tech.co reached out to dozens of marketers, content creators, and search engine optimization experts to ask them about the best takeaways to help a newbie grow their website traffic. Here's our full list of the top tips and advice that will prove the most useful to a website owner who needs to grow their traffic numbers in 2021.
- Rewrite priority pages – be prepared to re-tweak and reinvest
- Benchmark your metrics – get the right measures and insights
- Try (selective) guest blogging – not all linkbacks are created equal
- Consider appearing on an industry podcast – raise your site's profile
- Is social media worth it? – think carefully before you share
- Go big or go home with tentpole content – know what it takes to compete
- Audit your website SEO – understand the current state of your website
- Make your website accessible – don't underestimate the importance
- Just have great content – ultimately, your quality matters most
You can use Google Analytics to find which pages on your site are performing the best, and to figure out which ones would benefit the most from a little TLC. To do this, it helps to be realistic about the competition. Find out who's winning against those search terms by typing the keywords into Google that you hope people will use to find your webpage.
First, the bad news – practically everyone (estimates vary from 75% to as much as 95% of searchers) only clicks on that first page of results. And page one of Google is hardly an equal playing field – a study by Backlinko found that the top result in Google gets 31.7% of all clicks.
The top result in Google gets 31.7% of all clicks – Backlinko analysis
But, if you're on the second page? Don't despair, as it's not bad – it's an opportunity to learn from the competition. Try studying similar articles and adding a little more information to your page in hopes of moving it up. What similar questions are people asking, according to Google? How long and detailed are the pages that rank above you? How recently were they updated? Are you using the most effective keywords in your metatags? Just a few nudges could take your page from the second page of a Google result to the first, and give you ten times the traffic in the process.
Granted, if your article is ranking on the first page of Google already, you won't want to mess with a good thing. But, if it used to be higher, and it's on the downswing, you're in a safer position to rewrite it to stay updated. Now, we don't propose doing this for every page on your site. But it's an essential maintenance task for the pages that matter most.
Google is a behemoth. If you want to generate traffic, you need to make sure your site is optimized for what the search giant wants. And no, this doesn't mean doing it once; it means optimizing on a monthly or semi-monthly basis. Google is constantly changing. Slow load times and poor mobile performance can hurt you significantly when it comes to traffic that the search giant unearths organically. Therefore, you've got to stay up to date.
~Leon Rbibo, president of online pearl jewellery retailer The Pearl Source
In addition, just the fact that the page has been updated will make Google happy, as it prioritizes the freshest content.
One factor of Google’s ranking algorithm is called the “freshness factor” which essentially evaluates how up to date the content is. If an article hasn’t been updated for 4 years, Google (fairly) assumes that the article’s information isn’t up to date. Therefore, you want to trigger the freshness factor by updating old articles (articles that haven’t been touched in 2 years or more).
~Colin Ma, Founder, Digital Software Products
Creating benchmarks is essential for any program of improvement, whether it's workout goals or gaining data-driven insights about your website. You can't know that you're successfully growing site traffic unless you know how much traffic your site was gaining to begin with.
You should check up on three main aspects of your website: organic points of access, content performance, and domain authority.
You can start by checking organic points of access. These are the ways that your potential audience might find your website. What comes up in a search result when someone Googles your brand name? What about when they Google keywords related to your website? Do those results change on desktop versus on mobile? You'll need to log out of your own Google account first or use a private search window, since you don't want your personalized search results to influence the experiment.
If you publish content regularly, you’ll need to track it to see if it’s working. Use Google Analytics to see how many sessions each page earns on a weekly or monthly (or daily) basis. Check whether any one page is doing particularly well or poorly, and see if you can figure out why.
Google Search Console is a free tool that lets you see how well your domain is performing in organic search. Other free tools for tracking domain authority include MXToolbox, Moz’s Domain Analysis and Moz’s Link Explorer, as SEO expert Deborah Carver explained in a recent newsletter.
“Benchmark these metrics. A normal domain authority for a business is usually between 20 and 50, although it may vary for your industry,” Carver writes.
“An easy way to increase traffic to your website is to write content on other websites in your vertical while linking back to your own website. By offering to write helpful content to another website, you not only help their website grow by allowing it to rank for more keywords in the search engines, but you can tap into their existing traffic and build your brand as well. More quality links to your site acts as votes for Google and other search engines. Over time, your traffic will grow because of this.”
That's advice from Mario DeAlmeida, the Director of SEO at HotHeadTech. It's a succinct explanation of the benefits to guest blogging. Want an even shorter version? You'll reach an audience interested in what you do, and Google will appreciate the links, potentially boosting your rankings.
But there's a catch. Not all guest blogs are equal.
You should only try to land a guest post on a site with a relatively high domain authority, or you’ll hurt yourself more than you’ll help. Try using a search engine that ranks domain authority – like the Moz Domain Authority tool I mentioned earlier. Or, simply watch to see which websites tend to turn up in the same Google searches that turn up your own website.
There are some things to avoid, too. Sites that overtly advertize they'll accept any guest posts for a dollar fee? Yeah, not so hot in Google's eyes. Sites that have had manual penalties imposed on them by Google in their recent history should also be avoided. Finally, watch out for sites that link to sketchier domains – think adult content and gambling sites. You don't want those same sites linking to yours.
The same logic applies when you accept guest posts on your site. If you're going to enter into a relationship with other domains, first check for high-quality websites with high domain authority.
Ultimately, link-building is all about fitting in with the right crowd. If you associate with a wholesome group of sites that care about the same kind of topics you do, that's the kind of relationship you want.
While you're putting together that list of high domain authority blogs, try checking out any podcasts in your industry as well. You don't need to start your own podcast, but you can reach out to successful ones to see if they'd consider letting you on as a guest.
Appearing on a podcast might sound like a weird way to get traffic on your website, but it helps in a few different ways. First, it boosts your online credibility, both with your potential readers and with Google, which tracks an author's expertise, authority, and trustworthiness (or EAT for short) when determining which webpages are most important.
Second, guesting on a podcast might directly gain you a backlink, if your site is listed in the show notes for that episode.
Don't go for the biggest podcasts straight away. Try the medium-sized ones that cover your specific niche. If you think there aren't any, ask around. You'd likely be surprised at how many popular podcasts are flying under the radar, just waiting to send a host of highly engaged followers your way.
One of the unorthodox methods of getting server-crushing traffic to your website in 2021 is via podcasts. While you don’t necessarily need to grab a mic and start your own podcast, you can go on other people’s shows as a guest.
As a result, you’ll gain a ton of exposure, establish yourself as an industry expert, and magnetize people to your site. As a cherry on top, the podcast host is likely to give you at least one backlink to your site in the show notes, which should help send your Google rankings to the moon.
~Roger Maftean, Career Expert & SEO Specialist at ResumeLab
In 2014, social media was everything. Today, it still works fine for most businesses, but your results will vary.
Of course, a huge audience is on social media every day – 60% of consumers between the ages of 27 and 60 are on Instagram 30 minutes or more daily, for example. But that doesn't mean they're clicking away to your website, and might even make them less likely. They're enjoying scroll through their feed uninterrupted. You'll need to give them a reason to take an action on your website in order to pull those potential readers away from their memes and cat videos.
Consider trying a few posts that require a reader to be on that website in order to take action — voting in a poll or entering a contest, for instance. It's not for everyone. If it's not a fit for your brand, I'd recommend simply considering your website traffic separate from your social media analytics.
That said, some forms of social media may be a better fit than others. Surprisingly, Pinterest is a heavy-hitter: 87% of Pinners have purchased a product because of Pinterest, and over 5% of all referral traffic to websites comes from Pinterest, according to Jessica Campos, a Forensic Digital Marketer.
Common calls to action for social media posts include “visit the link in our profile, save this post, share this post, visit our website for…” and encourage online audiences to head to your website for a specific reason. Maintaining a consistent, action-oriented social media strategy will guarantee an uptick in website visitors – you just need to give it time (like any marketing campaign).
~Michelle Keniston, cofounder of digital marketing and advertising agency Unveiled
Large, well-researched, “tentpole” or “pillar” style content remains a great way to stand out from the crowd. It should focus on a topic your audience is interested in, covering any possible question they might have.
It'll take a long time to write, as these articles are a minimum of 2,500 words and can stretch out past 10,000, but that's the point. Once they're finished, the articles are so impressive that they can earn backlinks from other websites, pushing them up so high in search results that your entire website sees the benefits, not just that particular page.
Need an example? Here's how one marketing manager explains pillar content:
A good example of long content that's performing well is this website redesign guide from Impact. Note how they have a Table of Contents, go through 5 specific steps, include internal links (links to other, related content on their blog), link out to other sites that have relevant content and finally, offer a PDF copy so they can land their content right in your inbox.
Lengthy content won't help increase your traffic overnight, but it will help position your site in the long run. Focus on the quality rather than just trying to get that wordcount up.
~Larissa Murillo, marketing manager at marketgoo
Regular SEO audits can be easy to forget, but they're more important than ever, thanks to recent Google updates that are making organic search even more difficult to obtain.
You can also use the Google Pagespeed Insights tool to get a benchmark score, and then try it again after the audit to see if your page is faster.
With recent design changes to Google's Search Engine Results Page (SERP) including making it harder to distinguish ads from organic results and de-duplicating results from the same domain, organic ‘real estate' is scarcer than ever. So, webmasters should revisit their page titles and SERP snippet to ensure they're enticing that click from their audience and improving their Click Through Rate (CTR) as best as possible to make the most of their organic search impressions.
~Cameron Blair, head of SEO at MVF
For better or for worse, the term “accessible” can mean a lot of things. For websites, it typically means making the site easily navigable for a vision-impaired audience, though it can also apply to any audiences with varying levels of ability, technology, or expertise.
Clear, simple navigation menus and plenty of useful alt-text descriptions are two important design features to fold into your website to make it easily readable by assistive technology. Invisible text can even be coded directly into infographics as well. One thing that doesn't help? Image captions that say the same thing as that image's alt-text, since it'll just be read twice by any text-to-voice reader.
Streamlining your website helps everyone, not just those with accessibility needs. Once they’re on your site, users will need to be able to find what they need fast, or they’ll leave. Further, you'll help out anyone using voice search.
“According to Google, 27% of the global online population is using voice search, while for teenagers this number rises to 55% of daily users,” says Emrecan Sanli, Technical SEO Specialist and Front-End Developer at Zety. “Therefore, using semantic HTML elements and having structured data will keep you at the forefront of traffic-building.”
Larger websites can include additional accessibility options — take the University of California, Merced, which has a small pop-up box on the lower righthand side of its homepage that can expand into a menu of well-labeled accessibility tools.
A funny thing happens when you care about helping everyone in your audience understand your website: Google starts to care that you care. Strong organic readership leads to stronger search optimization, which leads to even more readers.
Increasing the accessibility of your website boost your SEO in an organic way, and also opens your marketing to an increased market. Between 20 and 25% of the population identify as having a disability, and nearly all of us know someone who has a disability. This is a huge untapped market that you can be sure to include by making your website digitally accessible to all users.
Ultimately, the biggest way to drive traffic to your website is simply to make your content something that people really, really want to read. Sure, this sounds obvious, but it's tough to accomplish on a consistent basis.
The best way to continue sustainable organic growth that is by supporting Google’s business model – giving the most useful information to the users that want it.
“While building a strategy based on data is certainly an important component, I believe it’s a distant second to developing quality content,” says Matt Raven, VP of Marketing Technology at SHIFT Communications. “It sounds simple, but what I mean is content that is useful and delivers real value to the consumer – something that solves an acute issue or answers a challenging question. Most importantly, quality content is timely and captures interest in an incredibly saturated digital landscape.”
In other words, you'll want to write about topics that people are searching for, not just good content that won't find an audience.
“If one accountant blogs about his ‘favorite new space pen' while another accountant blogs about ‘the best accounting apps' – which do you think will get more traffic? We can assume more people are searching for accounting software than space pens. You have to blog about the keywords people are searching for to be found online,” says Jeff Shibasaki, web designer at Bento Sites.
Keyword research tools like Ubersuggest, Ahrefs, or Answer the Public could help you get started on topics. Then, armed with the high volume keywords audiences care about, it's on you to produce the best darn guide to accounting apps that 2021 has ever seen.
In the end, increasing your website traffic is slow work. You may not see the results for six to twelve months. Still, the rewards are worth it. Gaining organic traffic can boost your profile, earning you a far larger audience that follows you for what you do best: Making the most effective, relevant content around.